How to Defeat Pridefulness

Many believe that pride is a bad thing, and it usually is, but it doesn’t have to be. We can be proud of a job well done; we can be proud of our country, our friends, or even our way of life. We can be proud of the accomplishments we have achieved during our lifetime.

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I believe there is a difference between being proud of something and being prideful. Being proud is simply feeling good about what you have accomplished, knowing that you did it skillfully. Pridefulness is thinking that because your skills are superior, YOU are superior.

This feeling of self-importance and superiority is sinful, and the way to quell it is to be humble. Not false humility, but true humility.

As Shakespeare would say, “Ah! There’s the rub!”

As a Marine, I often say (what a United States Marines can rightfully say) “It’s hard to be humble when you’re the best!”

Of course, I am joking; yet, it does raise the question of how can anyone be humble when they know they are better at something than someone else? There is nothing wrong with being more skillful than someone else at a certain thing, or for that matter, nothing wrong with being less skilled than someone else.

God gave each of us certain gifts and talents, designed and meant to be used for his glory. The special gift or skill God gave doesn’t make you or me a better person than anyone else, it just means we can do something better than someone else. And maybe that is the best way to remain humble: realizing that no one is really any better a person than anyone else, it’s just that we each have different abilities, abilities which we did not give to ourselves but which were given to us.

I know people with advanced degrees in education who can’t boil water, and people with little more than a high school education who can finish the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in under an hour. Some people are capable of doing just about any kind of handyman work but can’t balance a checkbook, and others who have a mind for mathematics but can’t change a lightbulb.

I have achieved much in my life that many never could, and I have skills and abilities that many don’t. Because of this, I fight with pridefulness because I am also a human being, infused from birth with iniquity. It is only with God’s help through his Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) indwelling in me that reminds me I am nothing special. And I really, honestly know that to be true. I am not being falsely humble, and I can say that because God has provided me, and still does, many opportunities to realize just “un-special” I really am. I have been fired more than once, I have had a failed marriage, I have been bankrupt, my children disowned me ( thanks to God I have reconciled with my son), and I have many experiences that I cannot forget which demonstrated my immaturity, selfishness, and incompetence.

And I am truly grateful to God for putting me through this tsouris in my life in order to keep me in line.

Nebuchadnezzar is a great example of learning humility, and you can read about it in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 4.

The first step to defeating pridefulness is to recognize it in yourself, and here is a simple test:

When you feel proud of something are you thinking “Look at what I can do” or are you thinking, “Thank you, Lord, for the gifts you gave me which enable me to do these wonderful things”?  

Here is today’s final lesson: we can never really defeat pridefulness, we can only control it.

It is like any other sin, which means we are always subject to backsliding. People who have overcome drug addiction will not say they are cured, they will say they are “recovered” because they know that they could slide back into that dark and deathly lifestyle at any time if they do not maintain control.

I will finish with this: we are, every single one of us, a musical instrument and when we are played by God we can make beautiful music that can change the world.  On our own, we can’t do anything. Understanding, accepting and being thankful for this truth is how you can begin to defeat pridefulness.

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe. I also welcome comments, all I ask is that you be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

WARNING: I am About to Rant

Thank you for being here, especially after I already warned you about the subject matter. If you feel a need to comment, please do not hesitate but, as you will glean from this rant, I would ask that you be respectful, or at least nice when you comment.

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Normally, on Friday I give a message on the Torah parashah, but what happened last night is so important and upsetting that I have to talk about it.  I left a discussion group that I recently joined. In fact, I was given a little Facebook star for having contributed so well to that group. So, nu? Why did I leave? Because one of the administrators of that group was such a jerk that I couldn’t continue to be in his presence.

The question of the divinity of Yeshua was posted in a discussion within this group, and he and I disagreed: he is a Trinitarian and I am not. I never said anything against him or his beliefs, just that I disagreed with him and the interpretations of the verses that he used to prove his point.

Despite my polite pleading to “agree to disagree” and start a different conversation, he was not just adamant, but obsessed with my refusal to agree with him. He told me if I deny Yeshua as a divine entity then I am denying Yeshua (really? There’s a gigantic difference between not believing Yeshua is God and denying him, altogether.) He also accused me and told me I HAD to prove my point. I repeatedly said I just disagreed, and I told him that I don’t want to discuss it. I knew that his demand for me to prove my side of this argument was merely a way to bait me so he could continue to berate me and tell me why he is correct.

Now that we have the background, it’s time for the part where I begin to rant.

People are people, and being a Believer we are expected to show more of the compassion, patience and long-suffering (Fruits of the Spirit- Galatians 5:22) that Yeshua showed, and that God has always shown. But that doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen a lot!

If someone was an ass before they accepted Yeshua, they will still be an ass after they accept Yeshua. Hopefully, that will eventually go away as they die to self and mature, both emotionally and spiritually. This happens when we are willing to carry our execution stake and follow Yeshua throughout the rest of our life (Matthew 16:24.)

Some people never want to pick up their execution stake. They refuse to die to self and continue to be prideful and arrogant, and when they discuss a topic with someone and that person disagrees, they don’t listen- they attack. They accuse the person (as I was accused) of being stubborn and not willing to listen, which is really funny when you consider that they have just done the same thing! I asked this man many times to please just let it go, but he continually came back, post after post, with his reasons why he believed what he did and demanding I do the same. In fact, I shared a post to that group that talked about a teaching series I am giving regarding the Jewish and Christian perspective on salvation, and he commented on it. However, the comment had nothing to do with the post’s subject matter, and when I replied thanking him for having an interest in my work, he said I shouldn’t flatter myself, he was only replying to let me know that I am denying the Messiah. He actually commented on a totally different discussion with a totally different topic just to let me know that he wasn’t going to allow me to escape one post thread by starting a different one. I had to leave the group and also blocked him, for my own peace of mind and so that as I continue to post articles and teach he will not interrupt and possibly confuse others.

Look- I am also a human being, and I battle every moment of every day with my own pridefulness (which I really deserve! Nah-just kidding), and because I recognize the pridefulness in myself, I am able to recognize it in others. It’s like the old expression, “It takes one to know one.” When someone cannot let go of a discussion, cannot accept to agree to disagree, and becomes aggressive and demeaning, that person has absolutely no interest in God, Yeshua or edifying you. He (or she) doesn’t care about right or wrong or your spiritual position- all that person wants is to hear someone else say, “You are right. Thank you for correcting me.”

This is a sad thing. Someone like this, a person with such low self-esteem (which is why they are so aggressive) and so emotionally and spiritually immature that they need to have someone else tell them they are right, is a pitiable person. And when they don’t receive the confirmation and gratification of being told they are right, they verbally abuse and attack the other person.

Someone who is confident in their beliefs will not have to prove it to anyone, and someone who is mature will not resort to personal attacks if the other person doesn’t agree with them.

If I believe I know something about what the Bible says, and I see that your understanding is wrong (in my opinion), then I will try to explain my side. I will give you the benefit of my learning, knowledge, and insight. However, if you don’t accept that or simply disagree, then I should allow you the right to have your own opinion. I am not in the place of God to judge you, or in the place of God to condemn you.

The people who are like the person I have described above, who think they are in God’s place, that they are correct, absolutely and undeniably, and that if you do not agree with them you are in sin…well, if they really were correct and that spiritually aware, they would have no problem shaking the dust off their feet and they would easily stop throwing their pearls at the swine. But they can’t. And why can’t they? Because it isn’t about right or wrong, it isn’t about God or Yeshua, and it isn’t about you or me- it is all about them!

As I take a deep breath and move on, I hope this rant has been helpful in identifying a problem we all will run into as we share our beliefs and contribute to discussion groups. I give everyone the right to have their own opinion, and if they disagree with me I will not force myself on them. A truly mature and confident person will not be so disrespectful as to not let someone else out of a discussion, or not argue if they ask to “agree to disagree.” Those who, like this man I am talking about, cannot accept that someone doesn’t agree with their beliefs and allow that person to have their own opinion, is not any different than the Crusaders of 1095 CE who slaughtered thousands who refused to denounce their beliefs.

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Until then, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

Is Jesus God? I Have the Definitive Answer!

I have heard people argue in person, in congregations, and on Face Book in different discussion groups whether or not Jesus (Yeshua) is God (the Father) or just the Messiah. Is He God? Is He just a human being? What does “God in the Flesh” really mean, anyway?

Before we get to what I consider the definitive answer to this unanswerable question, let’s review Bruck’s Acid Test Question for discussion topics:

How does this affect my salvation?

If I believe Yeshua is God, does that make me any more “saved” than someone who believes Yeshua is just the Messiah and a separate entity from God? Is believing in God the Father and Yeshua the Messiah as separate entities something that is dishonoring God? Will I not be saved if I only accept Yeshua as God’s son and the Messiah God promised?

If I believe Yeshua is not God the Father, am I rejecting God? If I believe Yeshua is God, why do I need to have faith in a messiah? If the Messiah is God, why do I need to identify Him as a Messiah? God is all I will need, right?  But if Yeshua is not God and I put my faith in Him as the means of my forgiveness, does that mean I am not saved?

If I have faith that Yeshua is the Messiah who provides forgiveness of sin, will it make any difference to my being forgiven whether Yeshua is God or not?

Do you see where I am going with this?

The definitive answer to the question, “Is Jesus God?” is this: It doesn’t matter!

No one can argue against the biblical fact that Yeshua lived a life and died. Even those who don’t accept Him as Messiah cannot really argue against the biblical and extra-biblical historical evidence of His life. And anyone who accepts Yeshua as their Messiah cannot argue that His sacrifice is what now provides for us the means to be forgiven of our sins (because with the Temple destroyed we have no place to offer sacrifice for sin, in accordance with Torah.)

So, whether or not Yeshua is God, He is (at least) Messiah, and it is our faith that through Yeshua we are saved. The faith in Yeshua that He is the Messiah and His sacrifice was for us, and also our faith in God that He will keep His promise to forgive those who ask for it, in Yeshua’s name. This is how we are saved: proclaiming faith that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised, that when we do T’shuvah (turn from sin) and ask God for forgiveness invoking the name of Yeshua, we will be forgiven. That is how salvation works.

So can you see that whether or not Yeshua is God doesn’t affect our salvation- we are covered one way or the other. That’s why it doesn’t really matter.

But let’s not stop now!

Ask yourself this: What value is the argument about Yeshua being God, or not being God, have to anyone? Who really benefits from this discussion? I’ll tell you who benefits from it- The enemy does!

What I have heard and seen when this topic comes up is, invariably, dissension, argumentation, dissonance, hatred, pridefulness and anger. All these emotions, especially when brothers and sisters in the Lord direct them at each other, serve only the enemy of God.  Yeshua said people will know we are His Disciples by how we love each other, but when this discussion comes up, love goes right out the window! Because any answer makes no difference to our salvation, this is a useless discussion that only causes strife every time it comes up, and as such serves no useful purpose in God’s kingdom or to a gathering of God’s people.

Whether or not Jesus is God doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is how we treat each other, how we maintain our focus on what is important and how we learn more about what God wants us to do for His kingdom and His glory. Now, I can’t talk for God, but I am willing to go out on a limb and say I really, really doubt God wants us to argue with each other about something that has nothing to do with salvation, spreading the word, making disciples or showing the peace and love that God has for everyone. Aren’t those things more important than a theological discussion about deity that doesn’t edify or help anyone?

Think about it.

Sometimes you just wanna get away from it all

I was asked, and accepted, to be a member of the Board of Directors at the church where I worship. It’s a Christian church but they are a Hebraic roots movement, which is sort of the same as a Messianic Synagogue, except where Messianic Jews accept Yeshua as Messiah and remain Jewish, Hebraic Roots Movement is where Christians want to know more about their Jewish roots and they honor Torah, but are not “converting” to Judaism. I guess they’re two sides of the same coin.

In any event, I was asked to work on getting the website for the church upgraded, updated and , well…up. I did some research, we had a reference from someone in the Congregation who had personal experience and knew the person and after meeting with him I recommended we go with him. There are three others on the Board, two of which said they were fine with what I suggested and the amount, and the third said to not pay it all up front, which we decided was a good idea. I emailed the site host and made our offer, which he accepted and said he would send us an invoice and get started.

That’s when one of the members started to waver, asked questions about other costs, said he never agreed to an amount (that was never suggested), etc. Then he started to ask why we can’t use a free site, or a cheaper site. The last straw, for me, was when he said if we all don’t agree then we have to meet and hold a formal vote. I was told, before I joined, that we did not have to be unanimous, and the issue about having to have a meeting and a formal vote when one disagrees was never even suggested.

Well, I was fuming. I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like indecision. All I saw was cold feet, even though every point he made was valid and useful. The problem I had was that he didn’t make these until we started to move. Where was he, I was thinking, over the past two weeks of emails I had been sending? Why is he making all this fuss now, when everyone else (yes, all 3 of us) had decided to go ahead.

I don’t like that. The events and how they happened, as well as the emails (the last one I sent was so hot it had to be typed with an asbestos keyboard) finally resulted with our Pastor telling us to cool it, get back to being godly in our dealings and no more emails or texts. We need to be face-to-face now. And he was, of course, absolutely correct.

So, what was my tirade about? It’s wasn’t really about the person who was blocking movement (I don’t mean that to be a derogatory statement) and it wasn’t really about having to ask the vendor to hold up starting for a little bit. It wasn’t really about anyone being a bad guy; in fact, if there is a “bad guy” to this story, it’s me.

The level of my anger was not justified. I wasn’t angry because of his suggestions, which were fine, or because of his timing, which was very bad, but I was angry because of my own pride. I felt betrayed, misled and embarrassed: here I had been asked to get this done, something they had been wanting to do for a while, and after being tasked with this, putting in time to research, meet with the vendor, and email everyone with the results, I got approval from two and the third did not say “wait on this” , but the moment I said “Go!” I was grabbed by the nape of my neck and told, “STOP!!”

I believe that the way our third member handled this was wrong- but that is no excuse for me getting so angry as to even threaten to quit (I hadn’t even been to two meetings yet.) That sort of ultimatum (usually) is the result of pridefulness, which (I have said over and over) is the mother of all sins. My pride is what caused us to be shut down, email-wise, and my pride probably made what was just bad timing, and a minor delay, into a major event. I am sure that after we can review all the information I have since sent out, comparing cheap hosted sites against professionally constructed and hosted sites (which I, in my pridefulness, already knew about), we will continue to go forward with the vendor most of us agreed would be OK.

And I expect that, because we are (well, at least they are) godly men, we will get past this with nothing more than a sense of how we can better handle disagreements in the future.

In the meantime, I have to preach this Friday night at Shabbat services and I am preaching about loving each other as God loves us- pretty much what I wrote about for this past Monday’s posting. That was before I blew my top. Now I feel really bad about myself, I feel undeserving of going before a congregation, and I feel ashamed.

So, what should I do? I’ll tell what I should do- I should get over it and get moving, again. I fell down, so what? I am getting up again, I am going forward, I still feel that I wasn’t wrong in what I said but that I was wrong in how I said it (the story of my life!) I know it’s going to be OK,  but I won’t feel better until I apologize face-to-face, shake his hand and hug him, and hear that he has forgiven me.

In the meantime, I am not going to beat myself up. I made a mistake, that’s what we do, we humans. We make mistakes. And I know that he will forgive me because he is a man of God, a man who is spiritually mature, and a man I can trust. I am glad I know him.

I hope he can feel that way about me one day.

Pride is a horrible thing, and being a horrible thing, it makes us do horrible things.  I am prideful, and I am working on it, with the help of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).

The most important lesson here is not so much to watch what we say (which we should) , or think before speaking (then shut up, anyway), but to know that we will fall, we will fail, and we will do it more than once. And after all that we must keep going and striving to improve. The Enemy wants me to feel bad, he wants me to call the Pastor and tell him I am not worthy to preach to anyone, and he wants me to quit being on the Board.

Sorry, Satan- I’m not falling for that. I will fall, but not for your line of fertilizer, Buddy-boy! I will keep at it; I will continue to preach because God has given me that gift (which has been confirmed to me by many) and I will stay on this Board because if they asked me to be on it, I should trust their judgment. They are more spiritually mature than I am. They can teach and develop me, and I can also help and enhance this Board because I am working on being better and God is behind me.

We all fall, we all do stupid things, and we all hurt someone or get hurt by someone. So what. Really- so what! I still have God, I still have Messiah, and I still have breath to praise Him and strength to keep trying to be better, for Him.

You never really fail at anything until you stop trying.

Is It Me or Him?

I was going to write about Baptism for babies because I find it ridiculous that anyone thinks God will send an infant to hell because they didn’t have a baptism, and because the idea that someone else can make statements of faith for another person, baby or not, is also not something I believe will fly with the Lord.

To get my facts straight I looked up baptism and saw a site that is about clarifying Christian thought. I figured I’d find a lot of good fodder there, but when I read it the statements were all in keeping with what I think.

Needless to say, I was surprised and disappointed, all at the same time. Here I was, ready to stand and defend God’s word and His love, show how baptism was a Jewish thing from the start (it’s called a Tevilah or a Mikvah) and rail against the anti-Semitic Church!

Now, here I am, stuck with nothing but my own preconceived (or, more correctly, ill-conceived) ideas that I can’t use because they are wrong.

That’s when it hit me- who am I really defending?  Am I doing what is right in God’s eyes or just spouting my own personal thoughts, in the name of the Lord?

OUCH! That’s a tough thing to figure: am I talking on behalf of God or on behalf of Steve? Am I feeling a righteous anger at the misuse of God’s word or am I really just exercising my influence to expound on my personal “peeves” and, as such, misusing God’s word myself?

I pray each day when I ‘blog’ that I am saying only what is right in His eyes, making points that lead people to salvation and understanding as God wants, and doing His work. Yet today I am finding myself wondering if that is what I was doing when I decided to bash baptism of babies.

BTW…for the record, baptism is important and it is a Jewish thing. The Tevilah is an outward expression of an inner change. It is a symbol of cleansing oneself, and is an important activity/ritual to go through when accepting Yeshua as your Messiah. It should be done when one has reached the age of understanding and can make one’s own decisions; as such, it cannot be done by proxy.

Back to my confession of pridefulness, which is exactly the right word to use if I am saying things I believe in order to teach people about God that may or may not be what God wants taught. Yeshua tells us that those who teach are held doubly responsible for what they do, and how influential we are and how important it is to do what is right. I don’t want to be one of the blind leading the blind, or one of those who sin and teach others to sin. Yeshua says that person will be least in the Kingdom of God. Teaching is an important responsibility. The Prophets were teachers, in a way, reminding the people of what God said they should do. And how often did God warn the prophets that if they did not tell the people what they need to do then the blood of the people would be on the Prophets own head?

I believe, and it has been confirmed often to me, that God has given me a gift of teaching, but that doesn’t mean I can’t screw things up by my pridefulness and ego. And, trust me on this, I have plenty of both. The only way I control it is by understanding that I have it and owning up to it, so I don’t forget to always be looking for it to rear it’s ugly head. It is sin crouching at my door.

So what lesson is there today from all this soul-searching? The lesson is to remember that old Greek aphorism: “Know Thyself.” When we do things in God’s name, make sure it is for His glory and in accordance with His word and what He stands for. When positive it is from God, preach it; when in doubt, don’t.  You may be doubting something that is from God, but better to not take the chance you are misusing His word or His gift. If God has a word He wants you to preach, He will make sure you get it out. Maybe the word is good but the expression is not, so just wait: if it is from God, I guarantee it will gnaw at you until you finally figure out how it should be taught.

I ask anyone reading these ministry blogs of mine, or my book, to reply and let me know if you think I am off topic, ever. I appreciate your input and ask for guidance. I always pray to God for guidance, and often He answers through the interaction of another person. So, nu… don’t be shy.

Thank you, Abba, for your gifts and your Word which You have provided, and please lead me with your Ruach to do and say only that which pleases You and gives You all the glory. Halleluyah.

Parashah Ekev (Because)

This parashah has so much, as does everything in the D’Var Adonai (Word of the Lord). For instance, it is only 4 1/2 chapters (or so) but within it Moshe orders the people to obey the Lord’s mitzvot and other commandments no less than 9 times. That seems to be important, telling them 9 times to remember to obey the Lord. But do they listen? Noooooooo.

The section I want to talk about today is 8:12-8:20. Moshe warns the people that when they have come into the land, and have all good things, that they are not to forget it is because God made it all possible. He is actually telling them their future. He is warning them that if they become prideful, thinking they have obtained all these wonderful things by their own power and worthiness, then they will forget God and stop following Him. Despite the fact that all these people know it was God who fed them in the desert, gave them water and protected them, even to the point of keeping their clothes from falling apart, yet still they will forget Him and abandon Him if they aren’t careful. And, if and when they do, God will destroy them and throw them out of the land, just as he is doing to the people living there now.

When will we learn? As we know, they did go into the land. They conquered it and took possession, and did (mostly) as God had ordered them to do. And that was because Joshua made sure they kept on track.

After he dies, as we read in Judges (Shof’tim), the people did forget God and throughout that book we are told how people did as they wanted. This is how we are, to this day. Maybe even more so.

Back then there weren’t people saying that everything we see around us, including ourselves, are the result of some mutation or haphazard arrangement of chemicals. Back then there wasn’t a government that said it is illegal to have the Ten Commandments displayed as we enter our courts of law and justice. Back then we would naturally expect that both good and bad things were a result of our worship, unlike today when everything bad that happens is because we are victims of someone else’s wrongdoing, and whatever happens that is good for us is something we deserve and should have.

When are we going to learn? When are we going to humble ourselves and accept that God is in charge? Sure, yeah- we can do things of our own. We can be proud of accomplishments we have. But we need to remember that the gifts and talents we have that allow us to accomplish things are from God. I didn’t give myself an intellect (you could make an argument God didn’t, either), you didn’t give yourself the talent for music, or an ability to draw beautifully, or whatever. God gave these to us, and more often than not, God made it possible for us to discover these gifts and to utilize them.

I think the saddest people are the ones who have gifts they haven’t discovered or had the chance to utilize. We need to remember that it is God who gives the talents and abilities, and it is God who provides. He does, that is, so long as we follow His commandments, mitzvot, regulations and rulings. When we turn from Him, we are cursed.

Not that God curses, so to speak. At least, not as a human curses. When humans curse, they wish bad things on someone. They actively desire and work to make horrible events happen in another person’s life.

Gods curses are passive. The world is a cursed place. God protects us from the cursed environment in which we live. Those are His blessings. He actively makes good things happen. When we disobey and forget (i.e., reject) Him, then the curses fall on us. Not that God makes bad things happen- He just stops protecting us from the world.

Think of Him as a Kippur (covering), like an umbrella. When we follow Him, we are under His protective covering. When we walk away from Him, we are uncovered and the rain of injustice, hatefulness, and everything else that humans do to each other falls directly on our head.

Stay under God’s kippur. Follow His steps and remain under His wings, and you will be blessed. Oh, yes, there will be times when you are doing everything correctly and you will have suffering. I didn’t say God puts us in a bubble- sometimes the winds of misfortune blow so hard the rain gets under the umbrella. That’s no reason to say the umbrella isn’t working anymore! Stay under it, keep walking in His ways, and your life will be more blessed than you can imagine.

Accept Messiah, accept God’s Grace, and follow His laws. That means all His laws- there are no Jewish laws and Christian laws. Whatever God said to do, whether in the front of the Bible or the back, are His laws. God has no religion.

Don’t forget who He is, and who you are ( I believe Isaiah said we were worms. Pretty close.) And above all, remember that whatever you have that is good is from God.

All the bad stuff in your life you can take full credit for.

Shabbat Shalom !!