Parashah Ki Tavo 2019 (When you come) Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

Deuteronomy is the final book of the Torah, and it is pretty much a recap of all that has come before it.

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Moses has been going through his Third Discourse, and reminding the people of the instructions God has given them, how they have rejected him and been punished, and how he has forgiven them when they repented and blessed them, now (finally) bringing this new generation, born into freedom, to the very edge of the Promised Land.

This parashah begins with Moses giving the instructions for presenting the Firstfruits and goes through the blessings and the curses in Chapter 28: blessings for obedience and curses for rejection of God’s instructions.

What I want to talk about is not the Blessings and Curses, which is usually my favorite chapter in the entire Torah. Today I want to talk about what is written in Chapter 26, verses 13-15:

Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.  I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me.  Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (bold print added)

This statement was to be made after the person presented the basket of firstfruits to the Levite. I have purposefully put the last sentence in bold print because it signifies, to me, the major difference between Judaism and Christianity.

Christianity stresses the personal and individual relationship between the person being saved, and their Savior. As a Christian, it is all about me and Jesus. But that is not how things are in Judaism: as we can see from this prayer, the individual takes responsibility for his or her own actions, but the resulting relationship is between God and the nation of Israel.

Jews are a nation, and act and work together as a single entity. One person’s actions affect the entire nation. We take personal responsibility, as well as social responsibility for all that we do. Christianity is a collection of individuals who have professed faith in Jesus, but Jews are a nation- one people, one purpose, one set of rules (well, with 6 sects of Judaism that all disagree, even within themselves, I confess we have screwed that part up ) and one relationship: God and Israel.

I am not saying to insult Christianity, but only to point out the significant difference in the relationship between Christians and God and Jews and God.

As an example of what I mean, after Joshua attacked Jericho, the next battle against Ai was a terrible defeat by Ai, a smaller and weaker force than the Israelites. How could that be? It was because of one man. In Joshua 7:1 we are told:

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

Notice how it says the people of Israel broke faith: not one man, but the entire nation, even though only one man sinned. God sees his people as a person, and likewise, we Jews know that one person’s sin affects us all.

The relationship you have with God and with Messiah Yeshua is a personal one, in that God knows every hair on your head and hears every prayer you submit to him. This is a good thing, and there is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with the Christian view of an individual and personal relationship with your Savior. What that relationship needs, though, is more of a Jewish perspective, which is to see the bigger picture, the one where all those who worship God must act as a single entity; one mind, one set of rules (the ones God gave) and one purpose, which is to do what pleases God.

Too often Christianity focuses on what God does for you instead of what you must do for God, and even though they often say
“It is all about God”, what they “sell” is personal salvation, personal relationship, and personal blessings all coming from God to you.

It IS all about God: the whole idea of firstfruits is not just the apples and grapes, and not even your firstborn child, but your first thought, your first motivation, and your first desire must be to please God, which is done through following his instructions. Not doing what you think Shaul (Paul) said, not doing what Timothy does, but doing what God said to do, and taking it to the next (spiritual) level, which is what Yeshua taught.

My ministry will probably never be popular because I don’t teach what God will do for you, I teach what you must do for God. People don’t want to serve but to be served, and that is the exact opposite of how it works with God. God makes promises to bless and to save us from the consequences of our sin, but we have to make the first move.

God wants to take your hand in his and have that special relationship, but you must first reach out to him.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabat Shalom!

Speaking Can’t be Erased

There is a story I once heard that provides the basis for today’s message.

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A man once spread gossip about his Rabbi. Later, he felt bad about it and went to his Rabbi to apologize. He asked if there was anything he could do to make it better, and the Rabbi asked him, “Do you have a feather pillow?” The man, a little taken back, said that he did. The Rabbi told him “Take the pillow into a large field of grass on a windy day, split the top open and swing the pillow around your head. Then, come back to me.”

The man did as he was told, and when he went back the Rabbi asked what happened. The man said, “It was really beautiful, Rabbi. The feathers floated here and there, everywhere, and it looked like snow. But, Rabbi…what does this have to do with my spreading gossip about you?”

The Rabbi said, “Go back out to that field and pick up all the feathers.”

Gossip isn’t the only thing we do that cannot be taken back. Angry words, nasty comments, and a discompassionate attitude are all things that, once done, cannot be retracted.

Oh, yes- we can apologize, and we may be forgiven, but for most people, the rule is “Once bitten, twice shy.” And many people, to their own detriment, will take the attitude that once you do something to them they don’t like, they will never have anything to do with you, at all.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean trusting again, it doesn’t mean loving again, and it doesn’t mean wanting to be friends again. Forgiving others who hurt us is something we must do, not for their sake but for our own. We will never get past the hurt until we forgive. But, as I said, forgiving doesn’t mean having to re-establish the previous relationship. I can be forgiven for saying something, but that person doesn’t have to trust me or even speak to me, ever again.

The Bible is clear that we must always watch what we say. We read about it in Proverbs, in Psalms, in the Gospels and the Epistles. We must always be wary of what we say and how we say it, if not only to avoid hurting someone but (more importantly) not to do or say anything that will dishonor God.

Remember in Psalm 51, when David asked God to forgive him for the sin he committed against Uriah, the Hittite and with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba? He said (Psalm51:4):

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

Any and all sins we commit are, first and foremost, against God because we have done something he said we must not do. And when we ask for forgiveness, it must first be from God. When we come to judgment, it will be God who is the judge, so we better make sure we have nothing for him to hold against us. If we only go to the one we sinned against to ask forgiveness, even if he (or she) forgives us, they are not God.

When God forgives us, we have re-established our relationship with him; when someone else forgives us, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with our relationship with God. It affects their relationship with God, but not ours.

No one other than God can forgive your sins, and because there is no longer any temple in Jerusalem (where the Torah commands we must bring our sin sacrifice) the only way to receive forgiveness of our sins today is through the substitutionary sacrifice that Yeshua ha Maschiach made for us.

Therefore, be very, VERY careful what you say. Always think before you speak, and if you have even the slightest doubt that what you are saying (or writing) may be taken the wrong way, then shut up!

I say this not as someone who knows how to shut up, but as someone who has made a profession of not shutting up in time.

I know all about sin because I have so much experience doing it. God forgive me for my weakness and strengthen me to sin less each day.

Amen!

Thank you for being here and please share me out to help this ministry to grow. I never ask for money, I just want to spread the truth about God so that people can make an informed decision, based not on their religious doctrine but on what God says.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!

Live through the down times and remember the up times

Have you heard the term “Selective Memory” used when referring to someone who only seems to be able to recall those events that he or she wants to recall? Usually, it is used derisively to indicate the person is using it as an excuse for not doing something.

Usually, that is the case.

However, I know people who choose to remember only those things that continue to generate frustration and anger, and by doing so don’t even allow themselves to relive the pleasant times in their life.

For instance, in my previous life, from 1984 to 1992 I was married to a woman, we had two children (whom she has successfully turned against me) and for the last 6 or 7 years of our marriage all we did was argue. Yet, I recall many enjoyable moments, before and during the bad times; I know what was bad in that marriage, yet I choose to remember the good times and allow the bad times to remain in the background. This form of selective memory, recalling the pleasant times we had together, allows me to experience joy when I recall them. She, on the other hand, not only had chosen to recall all the bad times, but greatly embellished some of them over the years so that all she felt was pain and anger regarding me. So much so that even a normal, civil conversation was not possible for her. Once my son was old enough to take a train from their house in Queens (NY) and meet me in Manhattan (my daughter had already cut me off), I was able to disconnect from my “ex”, totally. That was a number of years ago, yet I still pray for her because I don’t know anyone who needs the love of the Lord as much as that poor, pitiful and unforgiving woman who causes herself continual pain by her selective memory.

The reason I told you about this is not to complain about her, or appear to put myself in a position of “holier-than-her”, but only as a personal example of how much better it is to selectively remember only the best parts of a relationship. And let me confess this now: I have not done this well. It took me many, many years (as my wife will confirm) just to be able to not talk about it all the time, and even today I am still fighting to not dwell on the loss of my children. I have prayer and God to help, and I am relieved to say I am getting better at not dwelling on it.

If you have had someone hurt you, and have forgiven them (as we are commanded to do), you should be able to remember the good aspects of that relationship without having to refuel the fires of hurtfulness that the sin against you caused. And, if you haven’t forgiven them, it’s about time you got with the program!

Forgiving is not forgetting, as much as it is letting go of the pain and anger. Because I have forgiven I can remember many fun times with my “ex”; our honeymoon was absolutely wonderful, we had some road trips that were great, the times we spent in the Pocono’s at a timeshare were relaxing and so much fun. I also remember there was that one vacation straight from hell, and many times during the marriage I wanted to leave. There were even times I wanted to commit suicide instead of going home. Really- it was that bad. But I now choose to leave those memories alone, and try to recall only the happy times because, well… why dwell on bad times and relive the hurt when you can remember happy times and feel good?

BTW: if you choose to relive the hurt someone caused you, it is not their fault that you are in pain. Yes, they may have struck the “first blow”, but if you choose to relive that event, over and over, now the pain you feel when reliving it is your own fault.

Of course, if someone is unforgiving, for them to relive only the happy times is probably not going to be possible. No one who is unforgiving will want to let go of their pain and sorrow, so they rip the scab off the cut every time it starts to heal. If you ask me, that’s a horrible way to live. It is so much better to remember happy times- don’t you agree?

Look- we all have bad times, and we all will remember them, but the idea is to live through the bad times and then put them behind you so you can recall only the happy times and let them fill you with joy. When loved ones pass away, we should celebrate their lives and recall all the joy they brought us; when we have marriage problems we cannot solve, we should part as people recalling that once we were able to share a love and to allow that to be the start of a new relationship. Once divorced, the marriage is dead, so we are free to begin a new relationship based on what first brought us together. And if the relationship is so damaged that it cannot continue, for whatever reason, then individually relive the happy times and remember only that what you had was a blessing while it was good. All things change, but all people do not change together.

Selective memory should not be used as an excuse for irresponsibility, but should be a means of recalling the joy we found in relationships that are no longer able to be that way. If you can recall only the happy times, you will be a happier person.

Forgiveness is self-centered

We usually think of a person who is forgiving as a compassionate, selfless being who loves people more than him or her self.

Not really.

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood emotions in the world; well, at least I think that. Why? Because we have been taught that it is important to forgive someone who has hurt you so that they can feel better when they apologize. We see forgiveness, often, as something we do for their sake, but the truth is that we need to be forgiving for our own sake.

God has commanded that we be forgiving of others; read Matthew 6:14

 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

God is very clear, as Yeshua (Jesus) tells us, that we MUST forgive others their sins against us or we will not be forgiven.

The Lord’s Prayer that precedes this verse tells us we should pray for God to forgive us as we forgive others (And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), which is a statement of quid pro quo. In other words, when we pray to God (in the way Yeshua told us we should) we are telling God that He should forgive us in the same way we forgive others. So, obviously, if we are unwilling to forgive others then we are telling God it is OK to treat us the same way, i.e., do not forgive us our sins against Him. 

Yowsa!! Does that mean that even a person who has been Born Again, who has asked for forgiveness from God through Messiah and received it, can still be treated as one who has not been forgiven when he or she comes before the Throne of Judgement?

Seems that way, doesn’t it? I believe we are being told that when we pray to God to treat us as we treat others (think about Leviticus 18:19), yet we are unforgiving, then He should not forgive us, either. And that doesn’t mean forgiveness is revocable, it simply means we have told God it is OK to treat us the same way we treat others.

And here’s another important aspect to this: it makes no difference, whatsoever, whether or not the sinner asks us for forgiveness.

Essentially, we are permitting God to ignore His promise of forgiveness because we, ourselves, have failed to be forgiving. God is not reneging on His promise, we are rejecting it.

Scary, isn’t it? So, now can you see why forgiveness is self-centered? The very foundation stone of our forgiveness by God is the forgiveness we extend to others. If we refuse to forgive, we will not be forgiven. And that makes sense, when you think of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35.

Besides ensuring our own salvation, forgiving is the only way to release the pain. Understand, also, that when you forgive you don’t have to trust again- those are totally different things. Forgiveness is from God to us, and then from us to others, but trust is something that every individual has to earn.

This is also important to understand: your forgiveness of someone doesn’t make that person right with God, it makes YOU right with God. God is the only one (well, Yeshua also) who can forgive sin, and the sinner will have to ask for it from God, directly. If they repent and ask you to forgive them, it will make you both feel better, but overall it makes your relationship with God stronger and secures your salvation.

Forgiveness of others has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with you and your relationship with God, and will affect your salvation. So, Nu? -what could be more self-centered than that?

And you know what else? In this case, it’s OK to be self-centered.

 

hating is easier than loving

They say good always triumphs over evil, and love conquers everything. I believe that both are true, but only in a spiritual sense: in the real world, I have seen that hate can be stronger than love and evil often wins out.

Sometimes evil does get what’s coming to it in the real world, but it always reaps the whirlwind in the afterlife.

I know people who can’t let go of their anger or hatred, and I can see it eating away their kishka’s (intestines) slowly. Hatred is a wormwood that infects the heart, and since (biblically) the heart is the source of intelligence, when we hate we not only damage relationships, but we get stupid, too!

Anger from pridefulness leads to hatred, unforgiveness feeds the hatred, and jealousy is (maybe) the worst form of hatred. And I believe (disagree if you want- that’s OK) that hatred is stronger than love in most people. To me, love is like clear, fresh water that extinguishes all anger and pride, whereas hatred is an all-consuming fire that is never satisfied and feeds on itself, never getting smaller and always growing stronger.

If we hate someone, usually they hate us back, but love is very often unrequited. In the long run, many more people love someone who doesn’t love them back, yet hatred will almost always return hatred. That’s how it feeds on itself. And hating is easy- very easy! To hate you only need to love yourself more than others, be prideful and unforgiving, and want everything to go your way. You see anyone and anything that prevents your desires from coming to fruition as the enemy. That is almost a description of human nature, isn’t it? Hating is a curse- not to the other person, but to the one who hates. Yet- we don’t care! Once we are in “hate mode”, we are gone! We lose control of our senses, our emotions, and we do and say things that will hurt ourselves and everyone around us. Hatred is death.

Love, on the other hand, is gentle, takes strength of character and humility, is forgiving and accepts everyone as they are, whether or not we agree with their choices. No mater what, we still love them. We know that they are children of God and if you love God, you have to love (at least, a little) His children.  I am not speaking about “hold me-kiss me-marry me”  love, but love in the spiritual sense.

Shaul (Paul) says in 1 Corinthians 13 that without love, he is nothing.  Hatred eats us alive, from the inside out, and then grows beyond us affecting everything and everyone we come into contact with. Well, love does the same thing, only it strengthens us from the inside out, and our love for others will also affect everyone and everything around us, but instead of burning and hurting (as hate does), love makes people feel better about themselves and the world. It may only last a moment with them, but it makes an impression. Even those that are consumed by hatred will be convicted by our loving example and will (probably) feel uncomfortable around us.

Hate is easy because it it fits well with our sinful personality. Love is hard because it takes self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and compassion- the exact opposite of what we call “human nature.”

“So, Mr. Cynical Steve, if you are so certain that hate is easier than love, and hatred is the norm, why even bother with love? How can we possibly attain it?” The answer is that God is able to show you how to love. God loved us all, even while we were sinners, enough to forgive us over and over, and finally to allow His only son to die so we could be saved. Yeshua loved us enough to give up, for all eternity, His divinity and take on a mantle of flesh so that He could die in order to save us from ourselves.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends .” (John 15:13)

This is the example we need to live up to, and with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) dwelling inside us, we are encouraged to love. Hatred is a fire; fire can be extinguished with water; Yeshua (Jesus) said He is the Living Water, and that is what we need so we can extinguish hatred and become free of the fire. The waters of the this world can run dry, but the Living Water is always available.

The easy way is usually not the best way, just like if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. We have to fight to be loving, we have to run the race with our eyes on the prize to keep hatred behind us, we have to be willing to sacrifice our pride, and we need to understand that even when others hurt us we have to love them back. None of these things are easy to do, and are even harder to maintain when we are in a relationship that feeds on anger and unforgiveness.

I read a book once called “The Dance of Anger” (by Harriet Lerner) which said that when two people are in a relationship that is fed by negative reinforcement and destructive, when one of the two try to change it, even when that change is beneficial and good, the other person will go out of their way to bring the relationship back into disharmony because it has become comfortable. In other words, if we argue all the time and I try to stop arguing, you will be the one who constantly tries to start an argument. Or, if you try to calm me and work with me, I will do everything I can to undermine your attempts at peace so we go back to hurting each other. I read that book in my previous life, when I was in a very bad marriage, and what the book says is true. I ate crow for months, and did everything I could to avoid arguments. I even accepted that my family, my friends, and everything I ever held dear to myself (including my morals) were wrong. Yet, whenever I tried to make the relationship better, she tried to bring it back to where it was. She wanted to vent, and the more she vented, the windier it got- there was no venting because the fire of hatred and unforgiveness is unquenchable.

The answer to hatred is that you need to just stop hating, i.e. remove the fuel: that is the only way to put out the fire. With humans it is very hard- nearly impossible, but with God, all things are possible..

Starting with nothing

I am sitting here, waiting for an inspiration. I actually glanced through the newspaper- same old, same old. Nothing jumps out at me, nothing that spurs my creative juices and uplifts (or upsets) my spirit, giving me a thought or a divine inspiration with which to blog about this morning.

We have a friend from Philadelphia, who we met while being Docents together at the Zoo there, staying with us this weekend. My older sister, Wendy, has visited us often, but no one else has come down here. We have even had family as close as an hour or less away vacationing at Disney or other Florida vacation spots and, believe it or not, they never even called Donna to ask if they could meet.

There’s a message for us! Friendship, whether familial or social, is something that needs to be worked at. It is something that needs to be watered with sacrifice (I let Jeanette do my Cryptoquip in the paper this morning) and fed with constant connections.

And I don’t mean Facebook or Twitter. Those posts and notifications are essentially one-way communications. Think about it- it really is all about me me me: My opinion, where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going,  copy and share, like this page, me me me me me!!

Friendship, true friendship, true family, is not about me, it’s about you. It’s about the other person, it’s about taking time from your schedule not to tell them what you are doing or where you are going, but to ask them what they are doing, where are they going, how do they feel? Friendship is sharing, and that means being a friend to someone who needs to share their feelings, and they should be there to let you share yours.

I know people who wonder, out loud sometimes, why they can’t meet someone who will complete their life, make them happy, make them feel good about themselves and make them feel loved. My answer is that they will never find anyone to do that for them until they are able to do that for someone else. My marriage to Donna works so well because we aren’t about what the other one does for me, but what I do for the other one. I prepare her cup for when she wants her morning tea before I fix my coffee, and she will have everything I need to make coffee ready for me when I wake up (the few times I sleep later than she does.)

It’s things like this, little things, every day, that we need to do to reconnect with our family and friends. Texts and posts on social media are a cop-out.

The same is true with God. We need to reconnect with God daily, daily prayer is essential to maintaining our relationship with Him. The Torah section we are in covers the days at the end of the slavery in Egypt, and we are going to hear a lot going forward in the book about the children of Israel in the desert. They had divinely delivered food, they had water from rocks, their clothes didn’t wear out, they got to see God, Himself, on Sinai! And heard His voice! Oy!

Yet, they k’vetched and moaned and whined over and over, for months, and even years. They didn’t reconnect with God until He had to slap them upside their heads, with quails that made them sick, with snakes to bite them, with plague, and with fire from heaven. The history of God’s people, Israel, is one of taking Him for granted.

If we take God for granted, how much more so do we take each other for granted? That has to stop. This has to be nipped in the bud and we need to get our heads back on our shoulders, out of Facebook and Twitter.

These aren’t making communication better- they are destroying what makes communication worthwhile! They remove the personal and compassionate relationships we have when we take the time to sit and write, to call and speak, to connect one-to-one instead of one-to-many.

Is God important enough to you to speak with Him only? Is there anyone in your life you care enough about that you want to spend time connecting to him or her alone? Is there a friend or family member that you love so much you don’t want to share them with me, or my friends, and their friends’ friends all at the same time?

I am going to post on my Facebook page this week, once I get the wording correct in my head (you ‘d think that should be simple, given all the empty space I have to work with) a last post. I enjoy some of the posts, I like how I have connected with people who I wouldn’t have connected with, but I am going to end my FB because it is NG for me. I am in communication, but I am not communing. If the people I am reading posts from and replying to can’t take the time to write me a personal note or email, then my friendship (in their mind) must not be worth taking any extra effort to maintain. And making personal posts isn’t the answer- it’s still just a FB post, albeit a different format. And if I am that unimportant, they won’t really miss me. And, hurtful as it may be to find out that if it takes an effort to stay in touch with me I am not worth it to them, at least that will be an honest and truthful relationship. I have friends who, to me, are like family but I know I am not like family to them. I am usually the one making all the effort to communicate, and since I have known these friends for decades, I know from this long relationship that I am important to them, they just don’t take the time because that is how they are. It hurts, and sometimes it makes me really mad, but when we are together I can feel their love and friendship. They need me as much as I need them, it’s only that I am better at understanding the dynamics of the relationship. And that’s not from me, that’s from God in me.

There are those that are givers, and those that are takers- neither one is wrong or right, they are just what they are. The world needs to be in balance, and I am a giver and many of my friends are takers. They need me, and I need them- we balance and complete each other. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in life was to accept generosity as easily and quickly as I give it. It is much harder for me to accept a gift than to give one, and the way I learned was to remind myself how wonderful it makes me feel to be able to give something nice to someone. Then, I turn that around and when I am uncomfortable taking a gift, I remember how nice I feel when I share or give something to someone, and tell myself that I am being selfish and discompassionate by not letting that person have that same feeling.

We all know it is better to give than to receive, and so when we are supposed to receive something let’s “give” the other person that wonderful feeling by receiving it joyfully and appreciatively.

And stay in touch with each other; no greater love is there than that one should give one’s life for a friend- isn’t that what Yeshua tells us?

It’s a lot easier to write a personal memo or make a phone call than it is to die.

PS: If you agree, please comment after you read this. Scroll down and agree that we need to be more personal in our relationships, we need to be more about the other person than about ourself, we need to reconnect with God, friends and family in a way that makes the other person feel we are really speaking only to them. We must take the time and make the effort to communicate with them, only them, and no else but them, because they are that important to us.

Disposable Everything

Changing the baby’s diaper? The old one can be thrown away. Not to mention the food container you got from the Chinese restaurant. Also the napkins, the paper towels, and even some of the camera’s you buy on vacation.

That’s all OK, so long as you recycle the ones that can be recycled.

The problem starts when we start to have disposable relationships.

I have a relative whom I love, and I know she loves me, but I chewed her out for something on Face Book (my error) and she unfriended me. When the relationship we have is mostly digital, to just turn it off is easy. I apologized on Face Book, and in person when I saw her recently, but she still hasn’t made me her FB friend again. She didn’t see the apology because she cut me off from her (digital) life. Just like that- 26 years gone in a click.

My kids lived in NY while I lived in PA, so I saw them on weekends when I went out there: 4-5 hours of driving for 4-5 hours of being with them. Unfortunately, this was tough and my hours usually made it hard for me to call all the time. Besides, in my own defense, when I did call their mother listened in, or she took over the call and started to berate me (she never was forgiving or even willing to try and eventually turned the kids totally against me) or stood by so the kids couldn’t talk to me freely;  so, I stopped calling.  Now they have cut me off totally, another result of what is (partly) from having a disposable relationship, one that isn’t face-to-face and physically close.

The digital world has distanced us even more than the cocooning of the world that first started when the Internet took over. Now we unfriend people, we block their phone number, we can even block their email. If you’re mad at someone (and we all get mad at each other, sooner or later) it is so much easier to block them, unfriend them, and delete their contact information. A few seconds and a couple of clicks and that relationship is not just over, it is lost.

The Internet is transmitted through the air, and what is the description Shaul (Paul) gives of the enemy- isn’t he called the “Prince of the Air?”

The most important relationship anyone can have is with God, right? Oh, yeah- Mom, Dad, siblings, friends, etc. are all important- that’s why I am rambling on about how much I can’t stand the easily dismissed and immediately destroyed digital relationships we keep today- but (ultimately) they can’t save your soul. Only Yeshua’s sacrifice, and the relationship He makes possible with God Almighty, can save your soul for all Eternity. And this is the hardest relationship to keep because it is not digital, and it is not physical- it is faith based.

I have felt the presence of God, I have felt His touch, I have known the joy and the peace that His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has given me, so there is some level of physicality in my relationship with God. But not everyone has that, and for those that hear the word and are strangled by the weeds, or are poor soil, the relationship is easily broken.

That’s my concern, that’s why I am writing this today- we need to be able to maintain our relationship with God but if we can’t even keep a close relationship during hard times with family and friends, how can we learn to have the humility and maturity to keep a relationship with an unseen and untouchable God? Especially when the tribulation starts and the enemy comes in with promises, blaming God for everything wrong in our lives, and telling us all we need to do to get happy is to unfriend the Lord, and friend the enemy. If something goes terribly wrong in our lives, we just have to blame someone or something, and it is easier to blame God (since he won’t usually speak up in His own defense) than someone else because they might defend themselves and the blame won’t “stick” to them. People defend themselves, God waits for you to get real and wake up to the true cause of the problems in your life, which is YOU! Just as in my life the true cause of all my problems is ME!

For the sake of your soul, and maybe to help others save their soul, get off the stupid computer and get on the stinking phone.  Not texting, but calling. Use Skype or Face Time- that’s even better than a call. You can see each other, that will bring back many more feelings and memories than even just hearing their voice. But make the effort to be human! Talk to each other, look at each other, be people talking to people.

In the olden days they had to travel many days just to get to the next city, so letters were the main form of communication. And the letters people wrote back then, even just catching up letters, were beautiful. Well composed, thought through, and almost poetic. They never LOL’d or BTW’d each other. And they never LMAO’d, either.

Next time you want to catch up or touch base with people, call them. Talk with them, make real, human contact. Learn to work through the problems and don’t have disposable relationships. Relationships shouldn’t be disposable- they should be like a tattoo on the heart. They should be written with indelible ink on your hand and they should be fought for. They are worth keeping.

Pride, anger and lack of forgiveness destroy you from the inside out, and we all need to overcome this.

You will never be able to have a meaningful relationship with God if you can’t have a meaningful relationship with a human being.

Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean Trusting Again

Forgiveness has very little to do with the person you forgive, and everything to do about your relationship with God. Always remember that we are commanded to forgive (Mattitayu 6:14-15) and that forgiving someone demonstrates our love of God through our obedience.

Besides, forgiving is the only way to make the hurt stop.

No, really! If you know the pain of being sinned against, and feel the person that hurt you doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, then you have forgiveness all wrong. Someone hurt you once, but when you fail to forgive them you are just hurting yourself, over and over. Forgiving is how you stop the hurt, and (actually) has no effect at all on the person that hurt you. Most likely, that person doesn’t care if you forgive them or not.

Try to remind yourself that the other person, the one who hurt you, has to face God sooner or later, and nothing you do, including forgiving him or her, will change their relationship with God. The hurt they did to you was also a sin against God and they need to make that right with God; frankly, God doesn’t care if you forgive them or not, so far as their relationship with Him is concerned. He does care if you forgive them or not with regards to your relationship with God. So forgive, get past the pain and be more right with God. The blessing you receive for forgiving others is that the pain stops.

Now let’s cover another aspect of forgiveness: forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to trust them, or let them back in your life, or even deal with them, ever again. Forgiveness is what we do to improve our relationship with God. If someone has stolen from you, and you forgive them, it doesn’t mean you have to let them know the combination to your safe. That isn’t forgiveness, that’s stupidity. Shaul (Paul) says that we shouldn’t do anything to provide a stumbling block that might cause someone to stumble (into sin) so if you know someone who is hurtful, don’t give them a chance to hurt you (or themself, for that matter.) If you know someone who drinks too much, don’t offer them a second round. If you know someone who is a gossip, don’t listen to them or share a secret with them. If you know someone who is lazy, don’t give them an important job to do.

You should forgive them when their sin affects you, but that doesn’t mean you have to give them the opportunity to continue to sin against you to “prove” you have forgiven them. Your forgiveness of others is between you and God, and no one else, and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

Consequently, when you sin against someone, you should ask them for their forgiveness. Before going to that person, confess your sin and ask God for forgiveness. After all, every sin we commit is, first and foremost, against God. David knew that and said so in Psalm 51, so ask forgiveness from God, then go to that person and ask forgiveness from him or her. And know that the rule works the same way: if they do not forgive you, it has nothing to do regarding your relationship with God. You sinned against someone and you asked for God’s forgiveness and for their forgiveness.Whether they forgive you or not is between them and God, and once you do what you know to be right (in God’s eyes) you should also forgive yourself and move on.

The saying, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” is more than just an old saw- it is an accurate definition of both terms. God says many times that we are to be holy because He is holy, and one way we can do that is to be forgiving. You don’t need to allow that person back in your life or to deal with them ever again, but you do need to forgive them. It doesn’t even matter if they know that you have forgiven them.

Just so long as God knows.

Lower and Lower We Sink; Closer and Closer We Come

I read an article in the paper this morning about web sites and phone apps that are designed, essentially, as dating sites. These aren’t the kind where singles of specific age, religion or race get together; these are for married people who just want to have relationships outside their marriage without giving up their marriage.

When I was younger we called them “swingers”, or couples that liked to “swap”, so it’s not a new idea. It’s just an old idea that has met modern technology to form a more perfect union between people who are out to destroy the godly union they committed to at one time.

Oh…excuse me, they aren’t destroying it. They are just realizing their own desires for experimentation, or is it expanding their experience? No, maybe it’s enhancing their marriage by allowing them to know others so they can better appreciate what they have. Right.

After all, what does a monogamous, committed relationship give us that can match fornicating with anyone and everyone you want to? Committed relationships with fidelity can’t give you STD’s, it can’t place you in a position where you may be locked in a room with a sadist or someone who gets off on you getting hurt (that can go in either direction, by the way), or meeting a fanatical, controlling monster who will ruin your life and harm your children.

Oh, yes, and a faithful relationship can’t give you palimony suits or bastard children (yes, that is still a valid term for children born out of wedlock, which assumes the wedlock they are born from is the one you have with your spouse and not someone else’s spouse.)

As society becomes more and more accepting of sinful relationships that erode the very foundation of faithfulness, even at a human level (not to mention faith in an unseen God), we will see more and more degradation of ethical behaviour. If those who commit to a relationship before God are willing to renege on that promise of fidelity so easily, well…what’s next? If it doesn’t bother me to cheat on my spouse, how much more will it bother me to steal from work? Or steal from a friend? After all, I’m willing to sleep with his wife so what if I grab a ten-spot I see on the dresser?

If we can cheat on the very person we promised to be faithful to, forever, then how much more easily can we cheat on our taxes? After all, we never even kissed Uncle Sam, let alone promised to be faithful, right? And we can lie about it, too- what’s lying compared to adultery? Very similar, actually, so if I can do one then the other is a breeze.

The only good news in this decrepit environment we live in is that the lower we sink, as a society, and the more accepting we find sinful actions to be, the closer we come to the final judgement. That should be frightening for those who do not know the Messiah of Adonai, and it should be a source of hope for those that do.

I find these things disgusting, an abomination. Anything that erodes even the slightest ethical mores of a society will be like the hametz Yeshua warns us against which will grow, and grow, and grow until we live in a new Sodom and a resurrected Gomorrah.

Actually, we are pretty close right now, aren’t we? Instead of cutesy names like OpenMinded, Adultfriendfinder or Fullofdesire (no single men allowed on that site) they should just call themselves what they are: cheatonyourspouse, hurtyourkids, bealouse, getadisease, rejecttheLord, sinforfun.

Be prepared for even worse stuff to come. There will soon be more sinfulness, the strong will take advantage of the weak, society will begin to split into those who band together in sinful activity and those that will be rejected; the ones who refuse to take the mark of the enemy will not be able to buy anything (Revelations) and will find themselves outcasts. Family values will disintegrate into faithlessness, adultery, and probably more (sexual) child abuse and inbreeding.  This is foretold to us in the writings of the Prophets, and Yeshua confirms it in His warnings to the Disciples.

We must be prepared, and the best preparation is to know what to expect. I don’t care to read the newspapers, except for the comics and the word puzzles, but I do glance at the headlines: not so I can intelligently discuss current events, but to look for the signs of the End Days.

This article I read today is a road marker: “Destruction is just ahead.” I’m not sure how many miles we need to go before we get there, but the road is getting bumpier and more winding. It’s getting harder to stay on the straight and narrow when every road our society creates is bent out of shape and lined with brothels and low-class bars instead of family hotels and IHOP’s.

It’s rough weather ahead, Matey’s, so steer your course true and watch for sandbars along the way. We will have to go through a maelstrom before we hit quiet waters.

Why We Don’t Know How to Love

“Huh?  Why do you say we don’t know how to love, Steve? I love my spouse, I love my kids (most of the time), and I love and have loved many other people in my life. And, of course, I love the Lord!”

Good for you. But look at all the other people in the world that don’t know how to love. The terrorists can’t possibly love with all that hatred in their hearts. Oh, they may like, they may lust, they may even really adore, but I don’t believe they can possibly love, not like we learn from God, when they do such horrible things.

Read the Dear Abby, the Ask Amy, or whomever is the advice columnist in your local paper. I can’t count how many times I have read something along these lines:

I have been with this person for x years and s/he is hateful and cruel. I am yelled at for not doing anything, then yelled at for doing something wrong, even when it is exactly as they told me. I am scared of being hurt, he has had three affairs and drinks too much. She spends our money and I have seen her name on multiple dating sites. There are emails with co-workers that are sexually explicit. But they’re really a wonderful person and I love him/her. What do I do?

You are with someone who cheats, is brutish, scares you, is having affairs, keeps secrets, wastes your money and drinks too much, but you think they’re wonderful, love them and just don’t know what to do? OY!!

Look- love does not conquer all. To be in any relationship where you are considered second class and mistreated is not only a sin the other person commits against you, but is also a sin you commit against yourself! I am not saying to ditch your main squeeze at the first sign of trouble, and we are married for better or worse, but that doesn’t include debasement, infidelity, and abusiveness. These things need to be handled. Even Yeshua, who stood up for the sanctity and holiness of marriage, said that infidelity is a reason for divorce. And Shaul told us that if we are in a relationship that is unevenly yoked the Believer is allowed to leave, but only if the non-Believer wants that. He goes on further to say that they should stay together because the one may be saved by the other, but not if your safety is threatened.

This confusion about relationships, which is so prevalent it sends the love columnist’s kids through college, is rampant because reading the Bible is a rarity. God tells us how to treat each other, and through the writings of the Prophets and some of the Epistles of Shaul, we can see clearly how God loves us and how we should, thereby, love each other.

God’s love is unconditional, but not enabling. He will punish us when we are wrong and He will allow us to choose our own fate. He will protect and nourish us when we are faithful, and when we reject Him He will allow us to be on our own. But He still loves us and is always willing, and hopeful, that we will repent of our sins and turn back to Him.

The Torah shows us how God’s love is unconditional, but His blessings and presence are. We must obey and remain obedient in order to have His constant protection and blessing. Reading the book of Judges, as well as the writings of the Prophets, Kings and Chronicles shows us how God has constantly shown His love, yet allowed us to wander, to prostitute ourselves with other gods (have an affair), mistreat and berate Him (by rejecting His laws) and be abusive (taking His name in vain, choosing to work on His holy days, even watching football religiously but never attending services or reading His word.)

God loves us and wants to be with us, always. He wants us to bask in His glory and be joyful. He also provides everything we need for this to happen. Then He has to watch us throw it all in the garbage, curse Him, ignore Him, reject and even forget about Him, totally. There are many who don’t even believe He exists. Yet, He still loves us.

However, He isn’t writing to Dear Abby saying, “I have created them, I gave them the Earth and everything in it, which I created for them, and I have nurtured, protected and kept them alive for millennia, yet they don’t care a whit about me! All they want to do is what they want to do- I tell them how to be happy and they choose not to; I tell them how to treat others and they spit in my face; I tell them to keep away from the Enemy because he will lead them to ruin and they laugh at me and follow him gladly. I love them and show them my love, yet they have affairs with other gods, like money, professional sports, career activities, and they prostitute themselves with gluttony and avarice and fornication. I just don’t know what to do, Abby.”

What do you think she would say? I’ll bet that getting professional help will be in there, somewhere.

Here’s what I’d like to see them say: “READ THE BIBLE, YOU DUMMY!! Get to know what love is and what love is supposed to be, and then go find it. You can’t be loved until you learn how to love, so read about God and learn how to love so you won’t be saddled with some schmo like the one you have.”

We need to do everything we can to save our marriage, to work with our steady love interest, and to make the relationships in our life worthy of God’s blessing. But it takes two to tango, and if you are the one doing all the work, and the other side is just not caring at all about you, your feelings or you needs, you are not in a healthy, Godly relationship. If the other side is not willing to change or even try, you need to realize that, just as God allowed His loved people to wander off and nearly destroy themselves in order to come to their senses, you need to allow your other half to do the same. You need to talk, offer compromise, go to counseling, and try hard. If this is something the other side says he or she is willing to do, then be patient, show the truest form of loving in that you will abide by that person and help them, even if they are being somewhat cruel to you, and forgive them as long as they really want to change and ask for it.

If none of that is happening, though; if the other person is unwilling to try, unwilling to listen or care about you, and unwilling to love you as you should be loved, then let them do what they want to do, but let them do it on their own. The books I mention above show that God, despite His love for us, despite His unbelievable level of compassion and forgiveness, and despite His willingness to overlook our past and our many sins against Him, still underwent a series of “trial separations” from His people. He left His bride alone, naked and wallowing in her own vomit, exposed and ravaged by her enemies until she realized her wrongdoings and asked for forgiveness, promising to do as she should.

Then He gladly and joyfully accepted her back. Now that’s what love is.

In our relationship with God, we must be faithfully obedient, and in our relationship with each other, we must be loving, compassionate, forgiving and treat each other as we would want to be treated.

If you aren’t getting that in your relationship today, forget Dear Abby or Ask Amy and go to the Bible. See what God says, and bring that book to your other half. Follow what God does, what Shaul tells us love should be, and stand up for yourself.

I am not saying to call a divorce lawyer. I am saying we should all know what love is, as God tells us and not what people say. People are stupid, self-centered and sinful. People are obstinate, stiff-necked and selfish. People are always trying to get something for themselves, people are…well, they’re people!

As someone once told me: Humanity is a wonderful thing- it’s the people that ruin it.

Learn about how to love from the one who created it, who set the standards, and who is a constant source of renewal and strength: Adonai.

If you are looking for love and not finding it in your life or your relationship, stop looking around and start looking up. God is always there to show you how He loves you, and to give you the love you want. Once you have that, then you can go find it in the world because you will know what to look for.