Christian or Constantinian?

Wait a minute! Isn’t Constantine the guy who ran the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, where some of the modern Christian doctrines were first formalized?  Didn’t they say Christ was divine there? Didn’t they set up the Christian holidays, such as Easter?

(Actually, they had Easter but couldn’t decide what day to celebrate it.)

So if we are asking whether someone is Christian or Constantinian, isn’t that the same thing?

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To answer this, let’s go to the Cloud and ask Wikipedia.

Here is what it says about Constantine (I have condensed this to save space):

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Although he lived much of his life as a pagan, and later as a catechumen, he joined the Christian faith on his deathbed, being baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the statement of Christian belief known as the Nicene Creed. He has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor”, and he did heavily promote the Christian Church.

As for the definition of Christianity, Wikipedia says:

Christianity is divided between Eastern and Western theology. In these two divisions, there are six branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Assyrians. Restorationism is sometimes considered the seventh branch.

To add to what Wikipedia says, within these major divisions there are many sects, such as Amish, Mennonites, Anabaptists, etc.  In all, there are over a dozen different religions that call themselves “Christian”, even though some Christian religions have beliefs in opposition to other Christian religious beliefs.

For the record, Judaism isn’t too far behind, with Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects of Judaism would not recognize Messianic Jews as being Jews.)

Getting back to the original question, let me set some ground rules. Christianity is, for the purposes of this discussion, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is Yeshua ha Mashiach. A Constantinian is someone who follows the doctrines of “The Church”, meaning the doctrines established at the Council of Nicaea and at Ecumenical councils since then. A Constantinian is someone who celebrates Christmas, Easter, Sunday Sabbath, ignores the Torah because it is just for Jews, fasts during Lent, obeys the 8th-day baptism, goes through Catechism, etc., and so forth.

Now we need to identify what is different, if anything, from the teachings of Yeshua and the doctrines of the “Church”, which I will refer to as Constantinian doctrine.

(Yes, I know Constantine did not create all the doctrines of the modern church, but for the purposes of this discussion we will use the term “Constantinian” to refer to modern church doctrine.)

Well, this is actually pretty simple to understand. If Christianity is following the teaching of Yeshua, then whatever is in the Old Covenant is Christianity because Yeshua didn’t teach anything else. In truth, there was nothing else to teach from- even the Talmud wasn’t written down in its complete form at that time. The Talmud is composed of the Mishna and the Gemara; the Mishna was written in 200 CE and the Gemara in 500 CE.

Everything in the New Covenant was not written until well after Yeshua was resurrected and raised back into the heavens; the earliest versions of the Gospels and letters from Shaul (Paul) to his newly formed Messianic congregations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not written until sometime around 50-60 CE. So, because there was no New Covenant, Yeshua could not have taught anything from it.

You might be thinking, “Well, DUH! Steve. Of course, he didn’t teach from the New Covenant, because what he taught became the New Covenant.”  I would say that makes sense, except for one thing- it is wrong.

Within the New Covenant, we have the Gospels, which are eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Yeshua, and the letters that were written by the Apostles, ending with John’s Revelation. Nearly 2/3 of the entire N.C. is made up of the letters from Shaul to the congregations he formed, and their intent was to help these newly converted Believers to stay on the course he set them upon, with regards to learning how to follow the teachings of Yeshua, which (as I stated earlier) are the instructions in the Torah.

The major source of confusion between Christianity (following Yeshua) and modern church doctrine (Constantinian) is that Shaul’s letters were not written to become doctrine, but were only meant to help guide these neophyte Believers in learning how to go from the gluttonous, sinful, sexually perverted lifestyle that they lived their whole lives as worshipers of paganistic gods to righteous, humble and self-controlled followers of God and Messiah. That’s quite a paradigm shift, and no one could do that “cold turkey.”  Shaul’s letters were never meant to be absolute and permanent doctrine but instead just “stepping stones”, designed to help get his congregations past their immediate problems and further along the pathway to living (what we would call today) a Jewish lifestyle.

When we compartmentalize God’s instructions in the Torah as “Jewish worship” we are restricting what God wanted to give the whole world to only about one-fourth of one percent of it. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to learn so that they, as a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) could bring it to everyone.

God has no religion, only those instructions for how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is what Yeshua taught. The Pharisees had been teaching only the written word or the literal meaning of the Torah (called the P’ shat) but Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning (called the Remes) so that we would know not just what God wanted us to do, but why we should be doing it.

For me, the answer to the original question is that “true” Christianity is the religion which follows what Yeshua taught, which means following the instructions found in the Torah, which the world would call Judaism.

That means Christianity is Judaism, but with one difference: Christians accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send, and the “mainstream” Jews do not. Given how many doctrinal differences there are just between Orthodox and Reform Jews, one would think that this difference (Yeshua being the Messiah) would not keep us that far apart, but it does. The reason is because of how Constantinian doctrine has become known as Christianity, which separated itself from Judaism so much that they became totally different religions.

If you call yourself a Christian but ignore the instructions in the Torah, you are a Constantinian. If you are a Gentile who accepts Yeshua as your Messiah and lives according to the Torah (i.e., a “Jewish” lifestyle and worship), you can call yourself a Hebraic Roots follower, a Messianic Gentile, or a Christian, but you are not a Constantinian. And, if you are Jewish (by blood), live according to the Torah and believe Yeshua is the Messiah, you are not a Christian or a Constantinian- you are a Messianic Jew, which means you are still a Jew.

There you have it.  A Constantinian will follow the modern day Christian doctrines, but a “true” Christian will follow the Torah. Also, a “true” Christian and a Jew should worship and live the same way, and only disagree on the matter of Yeshua.

One day, when the Messiah comes to straighten this whole “religion” thing out once and for all, we will have no more religions, no more doctrines, no more confusion, and no more hatred and bigotry. We will only have God, Messiah, and eternal peace.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Do Referees Get More Respect than God?

How many people do you know that are more interested in watching their favorite sport on TV than going to a place of worship?

How many people do you know that spend more money on sporting event tickets, box seats, paraphernalia of their favorite team (hats, sweaters, T-shirts, etc.) than they do for charity or tithing?

How many people do you think there are who spend as much for tithing as they do when betting on a Football Pool or for their Fantasy Leagues?

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And of all the problems with the worldwide religion called “Sports”, I think the worst one is that people will be more respectful of the rulebook for their favorite sport than they are for the rulebook God gave us.

I don’t follow or watch professional sports, even though I like sports. I have been very active in sports my whole life, but it is a past time, not an obsession.  Still and all, I will sometimes be watching something on a TV somewhere outside my home and there is a sports event on it. I see people argue with the referee or umpire, and they want things to be their own way (“I was safe”, or “How could you miss that foul?”) but, when all is said and done, the Ref gets the final word. And they accept that, or they get thrown out of the game.

Yet, when you tell the same people they shouldn’t eat pork or shellfish, they give you all types of excuses why they are allowed to. They don’t tell the ref that when they got tagged they shouldn’t be made to get off the field, but when God says don’t commit adultery, they say they are unhappy in their marriage, or their spouse doesn’t understand them, or some other excuse that they accept as a legitimate reason why they didn’t break the rules.

Some people have told me that they know what they do is OK, and that they are certain God loves them and will accept them as they are. God does love you, he loves everyone, but that doesn’t mean he will allow you to do whatever you want to do!

Now here’s the weirdest part: they know the Referee will not agree with them, but they expect that God will!  Really? They know that they have to abide with the referee’s decision because that’s what the rulebook says, but when it comes to God’s rules in the Bible, well…that’s different.

Actually, they’re correct: it is different. When you ignore the referee, the worst thing that happens is that you get thrown out of the game. You still have plenty of other games you can play in. However, when you ignore God, you don’t get thrown out of a game, you get thrown out of eternity! The Ref may send you to the showers, but God will send you to the Lake of Fire. And his ruling is forever!

Yeah- I would call that a BIG difference.

I expect an unbelieving person would ignore God without any problem, but how can anyone who professes to believe in God ignore him? As for people who are part of organized religion, Gentiles have been told God’s Torah is only for Jews and many Jews have been taught the Talmud is God’s word and takes precedence. These people may be ignoring God thinking it is OK, without really understanding the consequences of their actions. I can understand how they would think they aren’t doing anything wrong, which is the perfect example of the blind leading the blind. But as the traffic cop will tell you when you say you didn’t know the speed limit was only 35 MPH, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law.” And likewise, when people will be facing God (which we all will have to do at some time) and tell him, “But that’s what they always told me!”, I can’t speak for the Almighty, but I would assume he might reply with something like this:

“I understand that’s what they told you, but it is what I say that counts!”

You may have been taught that some of God’s rules are not for you, so next time you see someone arguing with the Referee please think about this: how will you convince God that his rules are wrong?

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Have a blessed day, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Religions and Lying Have in Common

This is a simple post today, no video- just plain, old common sense backed up by the Bible.

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So, religion and lying: what they have in common is that both are designed to control others. 

Most people think that telling a lie is the way we avoid the truth. But it is a little deeper than that-  it is really a means of control designed to convince someone that there is a different truth than what they believe. As an example, I didn’t get a project I was supposed to complete done on time. You believe I am responsible, which is the truth but I tell you a lie: I say that a member of the team was late with their part and that prevented me from getting it done on time. If you believe me then I have, in effect, controlled you by changing what you believe to be the truth. I have made you believe a different “truth” than the real truth. 

Religions do the same thing. The truth is what God gave us, which is found in the Tanakh (the Old Covenant.) The Gospels confirm the laws of the Torah because that is what Yeshua taught his Disciples, and what they later taught the Gentiles who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and were (thereby) converting to Judaism. 

Remember: Yeshua was and is Jewish, lived a Jewish lifestyle and those who followed him, by definition had to live a Jewish lifestyle, too. 

Where religion has tried to control people and give them a new belief system is in how leaders of different religions twist the truth of the Tanakh and the New Covenant (in Hebrew, B’rit Chasdasha) to make people believe what the leaders want them to believe.

For instance, in Judaism there are many additional rituals that are Rabbinic, i.e. found in the Talmud, which are not directly from God. Although I do not universally condemn these traditions, they do exercise a level of control over the Jewish people who are told they must conform to these activities to be “correct.”  God never required these, so to say we must follow them is to tell a lie and exercise a form of control. 

Christianity has, for the most part, totally ignored the Torah and misinterpreted much in the B’rit Chadasha to change the form of worship from what God commanded. For instance, they kept a “7th day Sabbath” but changed it from the way it had been celebrated; it should be from Friday eve to Saturday eve but they changed it to Sunday during the day only.

Another example of controlling lies within Christianity is how it has used Kefa’s (Peter) vision of the sheet in Acts 10 to do away with the Kosher laws by saying the vision meant all food is OK to eat. The truth is that his vision had nothing to do with food and was about allowing Kefa to bring salvation to the Gentiles, but I suppose the Christian leadership desired to eat pork rinds. 

One major aspect of lying that religion has in common is this: when you tell a lie, you have to keep expanding that lie. This is because there are always “loose ends” within a lie; you need to expand the lie as more people hear it and start to question the truth of it. As the old saying goes, “What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” 

To me, this means if a religion is lying it will eventually need to “expand” itself, which will result in having to separate into different sects.

Within Judaism, there are 6 different sects: Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects won’t recognize Messianic Jews as being Jewish- another lie  that religion has created to control people.) And within the Chasidim, we can probably list the Lubavitcher, also called Chabad, as a sub-sect. 

As for all the different sects and forms of Christianity, there isn’t enough server space for me to list them all. 

If we accept that a lie grows and grows, then all these religions that are supposed to stem from what God told Moses must be some form of a lie, right?  Now if you say what God told Moses is only for Jews, then you refute what Yeshua (Jesus) taught because the Apostle John called Yeshua the Living Torah- the Word that became flesh. If Yeshua is the Living Torah, then how could he teach anything that was against himself? 

So now that I have debunked, insulted and berated all of the Judeo-Christian religions, what is left for us? Simple- what is left is what God told us to do, what Yeshua told us to do, what Micah told us to do, what The Rambam (Maimonides) told us to do, what Shaul (Paul) told us to do, which is….to love God and to love each other.

God gave the Torah to the Jewish people to bring to the world:
(Exodus 19:6- “And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites.”

The commandments found in the Torah are what Yeshua confirmed in all his teachings. Accept that the Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story, one narrative of the plan of salvation God has for his creation and accept that the “New” did not override or do away with the “Old”- it added to it. The covenants that God has made with us are not exclusive, they are cumulative.

The world was meant to obey the Torah, which I can prove by pointing out that God said not to add to or take away from the Torah:
(Deuteronomy 4:2-“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

The Messiah was sent to the world to bring us all back to God, back to repentant obedience and to lead us into salvation. We are not to change anything God said, and anything that does change it is not from God but from Man. God gave us his rules for how to worship him and how to treat each other; men created religion in order to control people. 

What God gave us is the truth and what religion gives us is a lie. The challenge for each of us is to determine which is which.  

That which is from God is “Truth”, and that which is from Man is “Religion.”

What Jews and Christians Agree on That is Wrong for Both

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How many of you have heard someone say “Jews have the Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ” when talking about the commandments in the Torah and who is supposed to obey them? I know I have, and the general understanding is that Jews and Christians are separated by this idea that Jews need to obey the Torah but Christians don’t because Jesus died for their sins.

Both sides seem to agree to this: Jews say the New Covenant is only for Christians and Christians say the Old Covenant is only for Jews.

Jews use only the Tanakh and Christians reference the Tanakh, sometimes, but generally stay only within the New Covenant. In fact, I believe the vast majority of Christians who have been taught from the Gospels and the Epistles don’t even realize that the writers of those books and letters are all quoting from the Tanakh.

So if both Jews and Christians feel “their” Bible is only for them, why is this wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you why- because the Torah is for everyone and Yeshua died for everyone. Yeshua taught the Torah and the Apostles taught the Torah: that was the only “Bible” around. The New Covenant letters and Gospels were being written as early as the middle of the First Century but didn’t come together until around 367 C.E., nearly three centuries later.

What has happened is that the “grafted in” are trying to take over the tree, and the tree is letting them!

The Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It starts with the creation of everything, then God chooses a man (Abraham) to be the father of a nation dedicated to serving God; later, God tells that nation they are to be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and he gives them the Torah, his User Manual (if you will) on how they should live their lives. As priests, of course, they are not only to live their lives in accordance with the Torah but they are to teach the rest of the world how to do that, as well. The story continues as we read how the people of God fail to perform their priestly duties, and after the nation suffers a civil war leaving two nations, Shomron in the North and Judah in the South, their constant sinning forces God to disperse them throughout the world. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

There has, from the beginning, been the promise of a Messiah to come and reconcile the chosen people to God, and then all the world will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in accordance to God’s commandments (Torah) when God regathers his people into their land, Israel. The promise of a Messiah comes to fruition in the New Covenant, which is the continuation of the Old Covenant. It starts some 400 years or so after the last entries in the Tanakh and it is Yeshua who is the Messiah. As prophesied, he is not accepted by the masses although he was supernaturally born and portrayed God’s power throughout his ministry. The prophecy that all people will come to worship God begins (properly) with the Messianic Jews (early followers of Yeshua) adding to their numbers from the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Despite what has been taught, first century Jews that followed Yeshua never converted to Christianity because Yeshua was, is and always will be a Jew teaching the Torah. As his ministry grew in strength and numbers more and more Gentiles were added as fewer and fewer Jews came to accept him as their Messiah. I suppose at some point there had to be a limit, since there were so many more Gentiles than Jews in the world then, just as it is today.

Starting around the end of the first century, the separation of Yeshua’s followers from Judaic worship to what is today Christianity begins to really “take off” and with the Council of Nicene, Christianity is a totally different religion, persecuting the Jews and re-branding Yeshua as Jesus Christ, the blue-eyed, blond-haired Teutonic image that is what people think of today.

The story ends with the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) that we read about in Revelation. And, when all is said and done, all people will recognize and proclaim Yeshua as the Messiah and worship God on his Holy Mountain in Jerusalem (the new Jerusalem) as God told us we should, which is found (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

So, nu? What’s my point? My point is this: we need to bridge that gap that people created which God never intended to exist. We need to overcome the bigotry and hatred between Jews and Christians and realize that there is one God who does not have any religion, just laws, commandments, rules, ordinances, and regulations that tell us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other.

One God, one set of laws, one people under God and one Messiah for all. The separation between Jews and Christians serves only to help the enemy of God to be able to take over the world. Anyone, therefore, who promulgates that Jews and Christians should remain separated and that following the Torah is no longer valid or needed is an agent of Satan, whether or not that person realizes it.

If you are Christian, read the whole Bible and you will see there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. If you are Jewish, rebuke the bigotry and fear that Jews have of the New Covenant. Read a Messianic version of the New Covenant (NOT the King James version, please!) and see that what Yeshua said was not in any way different from what Moses said. Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Mosaic law by using a Drash to teach the Remes (look up the exegesis system called PaRDes to see what I am talking about) but never, ever taught against the Torah. He couldn’t! He was and still is, the Living Torah.

For Jews that are waiting for Messiah, you must be open to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he already came and he will be coming back. You can still wait, and I pray you accept him when he returns, or you can open your heart and mind and just simply study about Yeshua now. Remember, the Talmud talks about the Messiah as the Son of Joseph and also as the Son of David, indicating two separate Messianic occurrences.

For Christians, you must be open to hearing that the Torah is what Yeshua taught and the Canon of Modern Christianity is not what Yeshua taught but what Constantine created. You need to read the Old Covenant to really be able to understand what Yeshua was teaching and accept that following the Torah isn’t just for Jews.

Yeshua is Messiah to the world: Jews, Gentiles, Buddhist, Muslims ….everyone! God has no religion and when all is said and done, we who will survive through faith will worship God in the way he instructed his chosen nation of priests to teach us.

Who Really Made Christianity a New Religion?

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Being raised on Long Island as a Reform Jew I was always told that Jesus was a Jew who betrayed his Jewish roots and created Christianity, a totally separate religion which has historically hated and persecuted the Jewish people. Consequently, no real Jew believes in Jesus; in fact, if you believe in Jesus you can’t be a Jew anymore!

I spent 2/3 of my life believing this; fortunately, I have learned the truth about Christianity, who Jesus really was and what he really taught. And through that study and the guiding of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) I have come to accept that Yeshua (Jesus’s real name) was a Jew, still is a Jew, and taught from the Torah. He did not create a new and separate religion at all.

As I studied the New Covenant writings, especially the Epistles of Shaul (Paul) I began to understand that he did not convert to Christianity or write against the Torah and Judaism (as most Christian teachings profess), but remained a Jew and always confirmed the importance of following the Torah. The problem with reading Shaul’s writings is that one has to get into the right “mindset” to understand what Shaul was saying, as well as be trained in biblical exegesis. Shaul wrote to Gentiles that were first learning how to be Jews; there wasn’t anything else to be at that time. You were either a Jew or a Pagan. The early churches he set up weren’t churches at all; at least, not as we understand what a church is today. The first time they were called a “church” was in the early 1600’s, when King James decided to call them that, despite the fact that his bible experts disagreed.  In my opinion, the organizations that Shaul created as he preached the Gospels would be more accurately called “Kehillot“, the plural of the Hebrew word Kehillah which means “community organizations.”  So although Shaul’s preaching has been confused and misinterpreted probably ever since he wrote the first letter, he did not create Christianity as a separate religion.

I finally came to understand that the Christian Canon of today was developed mainly by Constantine at the Council of Nicene in the 3rd Century. The rules and separation of Christian worship from it’s beginnings in Judaic worship was confirmed and finalized, so to speak, by what Constantine did. Therefore, I (and many others I know) have been accusing Constantine of being the real creator of Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism.

I have been wrong.

Constantine definitely is the creator of Christian Canon that all of the modern Christian religions are based on, but he was not the first one to identify Christianity as a religion separate and unique from Judaism. It wasn’t Ignatius of Antioch, either, although he certainly did what he could to separate it (he changed the Sabbath to Sunday and also stated that one cannot have Judaism and Christianity together.) And it wasn’t first declared separate and unique by any of the other early “church” fathers.

Sherman, warm up the WABAC Machine and let’s go back before Yeshua and just after the Maccabees revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which is the story of Hanukkah.”

 

After that last Seleucid king was defeated, there was still political upheaval in Judea and the Judeans invited the Hasmoneans to mediate, eventually leading to Roman rule over Judea. However, because the Romans were “invited” in they allowed the Jews to continue to worship in accordance to their religion. This was very unique, since almost every Roman-conquered city or province was forced to worship as Rome did. Under normal conditions, it was illegal for any Roman ruled people to have their own religion (this is important to remember.)

Now we come to the point where the power elite Judeans, who rejected Yeshua as Messiah, needed to get Pontius Pilate to convict Yeshua. So what did they say? They first accused him of blasphemy, but Pilate said that was an internal religious issue and not a legal one. They next accused him of stirring up the people and telling them not to pay taxes, making him an enemy of the Emperor. Pilate didn’t fall for that one, either. Their final accusation was that Yeshua was a King, which he admitted to being but said his kingdom was not of this world, so Pilate had no legal reason to find him guilty of treason. In truth, they couldn’t get Pilate to find Yeshua guilty of anything. They had the same problem with Shaul when they brought him before the Roman rulers of whatever province he was preaching in. But then later, the Jews in the provinces around Judea who wanted to stop the Apostles from preaching about Yeshua found the one argument they could use that got the Romans to take action: they accused the Apostles of creating a new religion! This was against Roman law. The Jewish religion was tolerated by Rome but this new “Way” was denounced as a separate religion from Judaism so Rome had to take action. By the 2nd Century, both Jews and Christians were being persecuted, but for different reasons: Jewish persecution was for political reasons (they were rebelling against Roman rule) and Christian persecution was for religious reasons (practicing a religion that wasn’t approved by Rome.)

So, who really created Christianity as a separate religion? It was the Jewish power elite of the First Century!  We created our own “Frankenstein’s Monster” which turned against us and since then caused us harm and suffering. This was a real surprise to me: imagine…it was us! Jews are the reason that Christianity has become a separate religion from its Jewish roots. Who wuddah tought it?

If the Jewish elite had only ignored the Jews and Gentiles that accepted Yeshua as Messiah, then who knows what might have happened?  But, of course, that didn’t happen and maybe it was, in the long run, for the best. After all, didn’t Shaul write to the Kihillot in Rome (Romans 11:11):

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”

This shows that God’s plan of salvation for the Gentiles could only come through the Jews and eventually we will all be one in Messiah.

Now, for those of you out there who love to take a word or sentence out of context and go off in all sorts of tangential arguments that have nothing to do with the point of the message, let me address the fact that when I say “the Jews” I am not using it as a universally descriptive term but a reference to the power elite of the Judean political system at that time. And let me also say the Jews aren’t the only ones responsible: Ignatius, Constantine and nearly every Pope and Christian leader since the 2nd Century has contributed to making Christianity a separate and different religion. Christianity has become a separate and unique religion from Judaism as the result of the work of many people over many years.

My message today is that Christianity as a separate religion wasn’t proposed or initiated by Yeshua or any of his early followers- it came about as a result of the accusation from the non-Believing Jewish power elite in order to give Rome legal justification to persecute those people who accepted Yeshua as the Messiah.

So Yeshua didn’t create a new religion. Neither did the Apostles or Shaul or Constantine- the ones who first identified Christianity as a new religion were the Jews of the First Century!

Religion is Why People Don’t Believe in God

You heard me correctly. Religion, which is defined by Webster as “An organized system of beliefs, rites and celebrations centered on a supernatural being power;” should be the means by which people come to trust and believe in God. And when religion does what it is supposed to do, i.e. bring people into a proper relationship with God through observance to His commandments and performance of the rites He requires, it works as it should.

So why do I say religion is the reason people reject God? Because we see, every day, and we hear, from many people, how their upbringing in a religion (I include all religions) has turned them off to God. In many cases, they reject not just the religion, but the power behind the religion, which they wrongly assume to be God.

That is where religion fails those who follow it, and also fails to serve God’s plan of salvation, and it happens in every religion because God has no religion! God gave us His rules for living, for worship and for interpersonal relationships. He told us how to work with each other, how to love and care for each other, and how to worship Him. He even sent His son, Yeshua ha Maschiach, to show us exactly what He meant, and (ultimately) to pay the price for our inability to do as God told us we must. Despite that, we still have different religions in the world today, all creations of men who have wanted to worship God their own way.

Even Judaism, which was given the Torah to show everyone how God wants us to be, has changed the rules; we have created Halakha (the Way to Walk, found in the Talmud, a man-made set of rules) and now have 6 different sects of Judaism: Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic.

Those people who have created different religions “sell” their religion by approaching people who are fed up with the current religion, and offer more “appealing” rites, rituals and promises. Even as far back as just after Yeshua was resurrected and ascended into the heavens, the Elders of the Messianic Community (there was no “church” in the First Century) reduced the immediate observance requirements for Gentile converts to Judaism (that is what was required when a pagan began to trust in and follow Yeshua/Jesus) to just 4 requirements (Acts 15); these were not the only expected changes in behavior but just what was needed to be done immediately after converting. When you read the entire chapter you will see that James confirmed the words of Moses would be heard by these new converts every Shabbat in the temples. That means that the requirements under the Torah were still expected to be observed, but just not all at once. This was done so that the pagans converting to a totally different religion than the one they had grown up with would not find the process so difficult that they would just give up.

And that is how all the different religions came to be- by appealing to those who found what they were doing too cumbersome, or spiritually unfulfilling. That could be the fault of the leaders, the rites that were created, or both, but it still resulted in those people rejecting the religion, and in some cases, also rejecting the god behind that religion.

I don’t need to justify that statement with surveys or formal studies because my reasoning comes from plain old common sense: when you don’t like something you are required to do, and you are offered something more attractive and enjoyable, then you go with your feelings: that’s human nature. Each new religion has taken from it’s parent and changed what needed to be done to present itself as more fulfilling, spiritually, mentally and physically. And each time a new religion is “spun-off” from the original, it changes the way they worship God and treat each other.

God, on the other hand, never changes, and therefor what He said He wants us to do never changes, either.

Finally, religion is seen as representing God, isn’t it? I mean, if I am a member of a religion, and that religion tells me I worship this way, I act this way and I believe this way, then I can only conclude that is what the god of that religion has ordered. After all, when Popes, Rabbis, Ministerial Councils- whatever religious authority is in charge- tells us these are the canon, and these are the holidays, and these are the prayers, etc. that we use when we worship God, it is not because they say ,”This is what I want you to do.”; they say it is because that is how God wants us to be.  It’s all God’s fault. So, understandably enough, when someone rejects their religion, they reject the god that religion has told them is behind all these rules and regulations. And if I go so far as to reject the validity of what a religion is telling me, obviously I must reject as valid (or existing) the god behind that religion.

I am using the small ‘g’ for God is some cases because I believe that so many religions have gone so far astray from what the true God has told us to do that their god is not the God, and as such doesn’t deserve to have the word capitalized.

Strong words… I know; strong sentiment and a truly viral accusation…I know that, too. But do you really think I am wrong when I say that religion is the reason people (end up) not believing in God?

One day, when Messiah returns and all people will do as we are told in Isaiah 45:23, then all people will be worshiping God as God said we should. There will be no more religion to confuse and cause people to reject God because there will be just the one Messiah ruling the world, and we will all know the One God and worship Him correctly, together.

Salvation Without Substance

I have joined (and left) a couple of Face Book discussion groups over the past month or two. The groups are titled as Messianic: either Messianic Jews and Christians, or Messianic Christians and Jews, or some combination, thereof. I joined them mainly because I want to get my name out there, get people interested in this website, this ministry and (most important of all) get the word of God out there to people who have only heard the word of religious leaders (which, if you haven’t guessed by now, I believe is sometimes the word of God and mostly the traditions of their particular religion.)

I believe from reading the multitude of postings that these people, except for a few nutcases who infiltrate the group, are “saved” in that they have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and are becoming more Torah observant.

My problem with much of what I read is that there is constant talk about salvation, but without any real substance. Posting after posting of biblical quotes, dressed in pretty pictures and bold fonts, but without anything else. There is always something to learn and see in the bible, God always shows us each new meanings and increases our depth of understanding as we continue to delve into His word, but to just repeat what everyone else already has read, without explanation as to the message God has given regarding that scripture, or to just post pretty, rose-colored statements over, and over, and over again, is not really helping anyone.

Oh, yes- there are the customary “Beautiful- thank you” and “Just what I needed to see this morning” replies from people, encouraging more postings. But overall, we need to educate and edify each other, not just rote-repeat bible verses.

For the record, how to pronounce God’s name, the etymology of the word “Jesus” and using Paleo-Hebrew doesn’t edify or help anyone. I believe it only tends to confuse new Believers and is more in line with Gnosticism than with salvation through faith. I also disagree with the argument (I have read) for using Paleo-Hebrew, which is that knowing the “true” name of God and Messiah will prevent the enemy from fooling us into following a false Messiah. That is really hard for me to accept, mainly because if we concentrate on the word of God instead of how to pronounce His name, we would recognize the false (or the true) Messiah, as we can recognize a false or true Believer, by the fruits he bears. And by relying on the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit)  to make sure that we aren’t fooled. Spiritual insight doesn’t come from studying Paleo-Hebrew- it comes from faith, from reading the bible to know what to expect, and from wearing the armor of God (Ephesians.)

I have found people in these groups that do have substance, but they are the remnant, so to speak, within the groups.

Another problem, which has caused me to quit at least one group, is that too often these discussions are very nasty. People have been accusatory, belittling others and highly judgmental- not what you would expect to find from a group of “Born Again” people.

You may be wondering why I stay in these groups- I do it because (and forgive me for sounding egocentric) I believe I can act as a mediator, and also bring substance into these discussions. If I do, I credit God with working through me to do so, because I don’t think, on my own, I could get through to most of these people. It seems (to me) that they wear their salvation like some coat of many colors, reveling in  flowery rhetoric and spitting out bible verses in pretty pictures with artistic backgrounds but accomplishing nothing of value.

DREK!! I say: be happy in your salvation, be joyous in knowing what God has done for you- all that is fine! More than that, if  you are going to be part of a discussion group, then discuss something, for the love of Pete! Stop worrying about useless dribble that doesn’t help save anyone, stop serving up empty calories that taste good but don’t nourish anyone, and put some meat on the table.

OY!

OK… sorry…I got a little carried away there. Whew!! Take deep breaths, Steven…deeeeep….breaths…..

I don’t want anyone who is a member of one of these groups and reading this to feel insulted- that is not my purpose. Far be it for me to insult someone while saying how bad it is that people insult others, right? I am trying to ask, in my usual tactless way, for those in discussion groups to discuss things that are relevant to salvation, that help new Believers know what God expects of them (which is found in the Torah) and to help others who have been influenced (what I really mean is brainwashed) by “religion” to get back to the basics, which are the commandments and regulations God gave us in the Torah.

Also, I am not saying we should “Judiaze” the world: maybe we can just suggest that it wouldn’t hurt for people to do what God said He wants us to do. I assume members of these groups to be Jews learning about their Messiah and Gentiles learning about their Jewish roots, and as such, we should concentrate on helping each other do just that. Quoting bible is fine, discussing modern day problems as we associate them to biblical events is fine, and even an occasional discussion about archaeological findings and historical events is OK, so long as we don’t get too zealous about it. I totally disagree with the spelling of the names of Messiah and God that I see in these groups, but I am not going to argue about it. What value will that have? If I am saying it wrong, or if they are, so long as we pray to the one that the name represents we should be OK. I think God and Messiah are big enough to handle a mispronunciation of their name.

If you are in a FB group, or thinking of joining one, please try to have discussions and give messages that have substance, that will edify and help encourage others, and don’t just throw out so much “fluff.” There is plenty of that already in religion.

Change sucks

But I do change…every day! I change my socks, my shirts, sometimes I go to work taking a different route. Why, once I even tried a new blend of coffee!

That’s all fine and good, but when was the last time you changed your job? And not because the boss suggested a different career path, but because you wanted to try something new?

When was the last time you decided to try a new food at a restaurant? To try reading a different type of book? To learn a new language?

Or, what I really would like you to try: when was the last time you tried to stop doing something you know you shouldn’t?

AHA!! Now we’re getting somewhere. AHA!! Now we’re hitting close to the mark. AHA!! Now we’re breaking a sweat just thinking about it! AHA!! Now we’re……Okay, okay, I get it: enough with the “AHA! Now we’re…” stuff.

Change does suck, mainly because we all get comfortable, even when we are talking about the miraculous workings of the Lord, God Almighty. The Israelites walked through the desert with a cloud to lead by day and a column of fire at night, and after a while all they saw was the cloud and the fire; they lost the “feeling” of wonder at what God was doing. Not only did God miraculously feed them good tasting manna every morning, but He provided water and food in the desert. And eventually they complained about how boring the manna was and how they wanted vegetables.

What has God done in your life that you have become inured to?  As for me, I miss the sense of His presence I used to feel when I was first saved. I miss His touch, which I haven’t really felt for years. That’s not His fault- His hands are always reaching out to me. It’s my fault because I am taking for granted what He has done, and what He still does. I am thankful that, every once in a while, I still get teary-eyed when I think of the moment the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) first entered me. I am thankful for the way God has protected me and Donna, and how He is answering my prayers to reconcile me to my children. Slowly, all too slowly for me, but I trust in His timing more than in my own understanding.

We come to trust God, to feel comfortable with our salvation, and to take advantage of His protection. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, said in Psalm 51, verses 10-12:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation; oh, how many times have I asked that from Thee, Oh Lord? As if You should do that, when it is really my responsibility, it is my job, my actions that will restore the joy. The joy You gave me is still there, deep inside, covered with dust from all the times I left it sitting and unused, hidden under the moss that grew as I did not move myself, spiritually, farther along the path of righteousness You have laid out before me, and rusted from my lack of care and maintenance.

I started this message with nothing, and look what You have given me, given us…a message that is straight from Your heart, Lord: “Come closer to me and I will come closer to you” We need to move, we need to change, we need to break out of our comfort zone and push the envelope, and we need to stop using so many cliches and just do it!

I must try to identify something that will please the Lord and work it into my life. I must try to pray to God to remind me of His wonderful gifts that He provides, every day, and thank Him constantly. I must try to see, what I have gotten used to seeing, in a new light, and I must commit myself to doing more in His name; at home, at work, at worship, and even at play.

This is what I must do, and I will try to do it for the rest of my life. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, and everyone needs to take a breather, now and then, to enjoy what they have. I ask you all to recognize, right at this moment, what God has given you and thank Him, reach out to Him and ask for His touch and open your heart to receive it. Even if you don’t get that sensation, that tingling all over, that sense of relief that causes you to cry tears of joy …wait for it. We are not supposed to test God, but He is right and just in testing us, After all, He never goes back on His word and we do so often it almost seems silly to even promise anything. So keep asking, as the woman asked the unrighteous judge for justice (Luke 18), because whereas even sinners will do what is right for their own sake, how much more so will God do what is right because He is righteous?

Just keep at it, keep asking, keep working towards being a little different every day, doing something a little differently now and then. Be comforted by God’s gifts and protection, but don’t get too comfortable.

Will Rogers once said that even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. So, get off your tuchas, get moving and change into what God wants you to become.

Change sucks, and it is scary, and it is disquieting, and it is hard. However, stagnation is worse.

 

 

How to eat an elephant

Have any of you heard this question before? It is similar to the statement about the elephant in the boardroom, meaning that both situations seem overwhelming. Eating an elephant and having one in your boardroom? Impossible, right?

Not impossible. Not when you understand the meanings. The elephant in the boardroom is a figure of speech alluding to a major issue that no one really wants to face, and eating an elephant is a major issue that no one wants to undertake.

In relation to today’s message, the elephant in our boardroom that we all need to eat is sin. We all are sinful, both in action and in nature. That is why God had to provide a Messiah, one anointed to lead us into communion with the Almighty Father, but first charged with bringing us back from sinfulness to righteousness. Yeshua (Jesus) was that Messiah, and He still is; having saved us all by providing the pathway back to God through His sacrificial death.

I call our sin an elephant in the boardroom because even though we all are willing to admit we are sinful, too often we don’t really “feel” it. Even those people who have no fear of the Lord and don’t care about Him at all, are open to the fact that they do things some sections of society and the “religious people” think are wrong. They are just used to rationalizing their actions, so they don’t even see the elephant.

But for Believers, the elephant is the sin we don’t want to “own”- it’s one thing to say, “Yes, we are all sinners and Jesus died for our sins”, but if the underlying feeling when you repeat that (often from rote) is that you don’t really want to “own up” to your own sin, then don’t look now, but there’s an elephant in the room! No one really wants to be “bad”, so we thank Jesus for all He has done and say we are saved. Hallelujah!

But being saved isn’t enough: too many times being saved is thought to be the end of the trail, the 19th hole, the No More Worries Inn. Sorry- that’s not how it works. Being saved is just the beginning, and the trip isn’t easy. Calling on the name of the Lord is how you start, but following the pathway of righteousness is how you travel, and eating that elephant is what you survive on.

Eating the elephant called sin, in truth, is no different than eating one in real life. The answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” is: one bite at a time.

And that is the way we turn from sinfulness to travel the path of righteousness: one bite (step) at a time. We walk a white line throughout our lives, with sin on the one side and righteousness on the other; we are constantly stepping on one side or the other. There are other lines running alongside the white line we first follow, paths that veer off to different directions. When we step too often on the side of sin, we tend to get farther and farther away from the line leading to God, and we end up on a pathway leading to damnation. But, when we walk on the side of righteousness, we find roads that all lead to salvation. What I am saying is that the way we walk becomes easier as we walk it, so if we start our trip in the right direction and keep our eyes on the goal, we find the trip easier.

Just like eating the elephant: one bite at a time, one step at a time, keeping our eyes on the elephant on the serving platter but concentrating mostly just on what is on our plate, today. Before you know it, the serving platter will not have so much on it anymore.

Maybe that’s why Yeshua said to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…”, meaning one bite at a time, one day at a time, one step at a time.

Have you heard this expression: “Slow and steady wins the race.”? It means when you constantly do the right thing the right way, you will achieve what you are trying to do.

So face up to that elephant, sit down at the table with your napkin on your lap and your knife and fork in your hands, and get to work.

Be hungry for righteousness.

(No elephants or other large mammals were hurt in the construction of this message)