Yeshua’s Death on a Stake: Was it Murder or Suicide?

I had a radical thought the other day- since Yeshua knew that going to Jerusalem on that fateful Passover would result in His death, was He actually murdered or, because He allowed Himself to be killed without protecting or defending Himself in any way, did He really commit suicide?

I thought this was an interesting question, especially when we consider that most Judeo-Christian religious beliefs state that suicide is a sin.

So, nu? What do you think?

Yeshua did say that there is no greater love than that one give up his life for a friend (John 15:13), and the shepherd will give his (or her) life to protect the flock (John 10:11), so if we do something to save others, something that we know might cause our own death, is that heroics or suicide? What about military actions that are called “suicide missions”, which offer little or no chance of the participant’s survival but are necessary to help the overall victory? If you volunteer for that mission and die, is that suicide?

The answer is: I’m not sure I know. If it is considered suicide, and suicide is a sin, then Yeshua sinned! Oy! But he couldn’t have sinned, otherwise He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice, right? Isn’t that what we have always been told? Yet, He took on the sin of the world, so if He was taking on the sin of the world, every sin that everyone did and ever will do, then really? what’s one more sin going to matter?

You know, now that I am discussing it with you, I may have an answer. My answer is the difference between sinful suicide and doing something that will result in your death is the reason why you are doing it: are you taking your life or giving it away?

If I do something that I know will lead to my death, and I do it in a state of emotional depression or to avoid facing the consequences of something I have done, that suicide is sinful. It is trying to escape from something that is part of living. However, if I do something that I know may result in my death, but the reason is to save someone else’s life or to accomplish a greater good for others, then I am giving up my life for the benefit of someone else.

For example: if I shoot myself, I have taken my life, but if I am helping someone to escape a firefight, get shot and die, I have given my life for another. The former is sinful, the latter is sacrificial and godly.

Therefore, given this difference between sinful and righteous ways to lose one’s life, it is clear that Yeshua did not commit a sinful suicide: He sacrificed His life so that giving up His life could save everyone else’s life.

We can give our life without losing it, by sacrificing our time, finances, possessions and energy in ways that will honor God’s Word (Torah), and to teach others how to do so through our example. And maybe, as the End of Days gets closer and the enemy rules the world, we will have to sacrifice our very life. Maybe, maybe not, but if we do, at least that will be a godly sacrifice.

Here’s a godly sacrifice you can do that won’t cost you your life: die to self so that there is more room for the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to live within you. Then you can be filled with God’s power and righteousness.

Loving is Easier than Forgiving

If there is one thing about God everyone knows, it is that He loves us all. If there is another thing about God everyone knows, it is is that He is willing to forgive us all, even the ones that reject and deny Him.

We, as Believers, should emulate God, right? Doesn’t He tell us, over and over, that we should be holy, as He is holy? Doesn’t Yeshua tell His Talmudim (Disciples) that they should love each other, as the Father does, so that people will know they are His Disciples?

But the old adage doesn’t say: “To Err is Human; to Love, Divine”, does it?  No, it doesn’t. It says, “To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine.”

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke we are told how even sinners do good things for those they love (specifically their children.) For instance, in Matthew 7 Yeshua says:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Contextually, Yeshua is teaching about asking God for what we need, and I do not think I am quoting out of context since we don’t need anything more than forgiveness of our sins, right? My point is this: Yeshua is teaching us that even sinners can love others.

But forgiveness? That is not easy for anyone, especially humans, since we are (generally) self-absorbed and selfish. Forgiveness is something that we must do: according to Yeshua, if we do not forgive each other here on earth, His Father in heaven will not forgive us, either. In fact, my message from the other day is all about how we give God permission to treat us as we treat others, even if God wants to give us a break (When We Give God Permission To Do Something).

I checked out my Strong’s Concordance the other day (while thinking about this topic) and counted around 100 references to “forgiveness” (in all forms of the word), but for the word “love” there were nearly three full pages of references, so it is abundantly clear that love is mentioned in the bible much more than forgiveness. But even though forgiveness is mentioned less than love, it is what we need to be saved. God’s love makes salvation available to us, but it is by His forgiveness that we are saved.

Here is what I mean: God’s love is for everyone, as we’ve mentioned already, but His love for you will not allow you to enter into His glory. The way to become justified (cleansed of sin) is not through His love, but by means of His forgiveness, which is given after we have performed the necessary sacrifice. The problem is that the sacrificial system, as outlined in the Torah, is no longer possible because of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but we are not doomed: by means of Yeshua’s once-and-for-all sacrifice we can be justified and cleansed of our sin. As a cleansed person, no longer stained with our sins, we are able to enter into God’s presence (oh, if only my Jewish Brothers and Sisters would grasp this truth and accept it.)

It is clearly stated throughout the Tanakh (and reiterated in Hebrews 9:22) that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, and without forgiveness of sin there can be no salvation.

So you see? God’s love for us is what motivated Him to send Yeshua to be a sacrifice, and Yeshua’s love for us is what sustained Him throughout His life and torturous death. God’s love for us and Yeshua’s sacrifice is what makes salvation possible, but it is forgiveness of sin that saves us.

As we live our lives trying to die to self and allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to fill us more and more, we need to work on forgiveness more than love. Frankly, I really don’t like it when people I don’t even know come up to me and hug me, and say something like “Love you, Brother!” because (to me) love is too important a word to throw around like “Wassup?” or “Howdy” or “How ya doin’?” You don’t even know me, so how can you really love me? God’s love is real, it’s complete, it’s tangible- humans can’t do that, so stop saying you love me when you can’t possibly love me. Just be nice, be cordial, and be honest with me and with yourself.

You want to know what I think is the ultimate expression of love? Forgiveness. Anyone and everyone can love others, but if you want to prove that you have the ability to love as God loves, then stop telling strangers you love them and forgive the people you already know who have sinned against you and hurt you.

That is the kind of love that God wants from each of us.

Your Salvation is Not in God’s Hands

Salvation is provided for you by God, and guaranteed to remain available to you by God, but your personal salvation is not in God’s hands- it is in your hands.

God has provided Messiah, and Messiah provided the means for us to be forgiven without the Temple ( the sin and guilt sacrifices had to be slaughtered in the courtyard of the Temple, so after it was destroyed there was no longer any place for us to sacrifice and be forgiven), so the only thing left with regard to our salvation is now in our hands.

We must be the ones to ask for it; we must do T’shuvah (repentance, literally “to turn” from sin), and we must maintain that attitude and demonstrate our true repentance by producing good fruits, which starts with observance and obedience to God’s will and commandments found in Torah and subsequent scripture. 

Too many people are taught that “once saved, always saved”, which implies that once you ask for forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice, then you have it always. No matter what you do or say or how you act, once saved…well, that ain’t the way it happens, Folks! Once saved, always saved AS LONG AS you continue to repent of your sins (which we will always do, no matter how hard we try not to) and AS LONG AS you continue to study the word, edify each other, love more than you did before and show everyone that God has changed you through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) by your actions and words. 

We must show that we are able to love more, forgive readily, glorify God, obey His word (all of it, from Genesis through Revelation), maintain an attitude of humility and servitude to God, constantly ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, and pray for the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us sin less. 

Not every one of us is going to be able to do every thing on that list, or all of it all at the same time, consistently, but these are the things we need to do. That’s a lot of things to do, and none of them are easy. It’s all up to you to demonstrate your obedience (to Torah), which includes your repentance (of your sins), through which you gain your justification (by Yeshua’s sacrifice), which provides your salvation (the Grace of God.)

The more you obey, the more blessings you get; the more you “die to self”, the more you can be filled with the Ruach haKodesh; the more you work at it, the more you will get from it. 

Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? And why not? Salvation IS life, and our life on earth is designed for one purpose- we spend time here to choose where we spend eternity. 

And that, again, is totally up to you to decide for yourself. 

 

 

PARASHAH TZAV (COMAND), LEVITICUS 6 – 9

We continue with the instructions regarding the sacrifices (burnt, sin, guilt, peace or thanksgiving, vow, and freewill); we are told the specific steps for the sacrifices and offerings, regarding how each is to be performed and the disposition of the parts of the animals that are to be sacrificed. The parashah ends with the sanctification of Aaron and his sons, inducting them officially into the Priesthood.

Leviticus 7:11-21 specifically deals with the Peace and Thanksgiving offerings. The Chumash states that the Rabbis regard thank offerings as the supreme type of sacrifice, and that in the Messianic Era this will be the only sacrifice that continues, since Messiah will have done away with all sin. Rabbinical thought is that ingratitude is a sin, and reduces a man to something below the level of a dumb animal.

It is interesting to me that in Lev. 7:16-18 God says the flesh of the peace offering must be eaten on the day of the sacrifice- none shall be left over to the next day. However, if this is a vow or freewill offering, then the meat can be eaten on the second day, but after that any left over must be burned. None of the meat from the vow or freewill offering can be eaten on the third day, because if it is then the offering will be refused.

The Talmud says the difference between a vow and a freewill offering is that when a person says they are offering a sacrifice without specifying the animal it is a “vow”, but when you specifically state, “This animal is the one I will sacrifice”, that is a freewill offering.

I find it important to note that if we eat the meat of the vow or freewill offering on the third day, the offering will be rejected and the person doing so will be cut off from the people.

I have written often, and will continue to do so, that salvation is something we can lose. Not that anyone can take it away, but we can reject it.  God is saying, right here in the Torah, that if we sacrifice appropriately it will be received, but if we violate the rules then the sacrifice that was received will be rejected. Not because God is rejecting it for no reason, or because He is reneging on His acceptance, but because we, on our part, have violated the rule and, thereby, invalidated our own sacrifice.

So, all the way back to the first giving of the Law, which Yeshua (Jesus) said He did not change at all (Matthew 5:17), we find that a sacrifice presented to, and accepted by, the Lord can be invalidated by the one offering it even after it has been accepted.

The sacrifice Yeshua made on the day after Passover was for the sin of the world, although the Passover sacrifice that the Torah calls for is not a sin or guilt sacrifice- it fits the rules for the peace offering. The offering that is for the sins of the nation is on Yom Kippur, so Yeshua accomplished the sin offering we need for later (when the final battle is over and we all come to judgment), and the peace offering we need when we come before God with thanks for His mercies (Grace.) His sacrifice was both the Yom Kippur sacrifice (to do away with all sin) and the peace offering (thanksgiving for the Grace God gives), which will be the only sacrifice left when Messiah rules the world. He accomplished two things at once- one for now and the other for later.

As we enter into the (Torah appointed) Jewish New Year and enjoy our Seder this coming Monday evening, let’s not forget what it represents: a peace offering to the Lord. The lamb’s blood was placed on the lentil not to forgive our sins, but to bring us into God’s protective custody. That blood represented our membership in the community of the Holy One of Israel, which is freedom and protection from death. If anyone of the Children of Israel living in Egypt at that time had been foolish enough to save the Passover Seder meat and bring it out with them, I wonder what would have happened to them. Would they have died the moment they ate the (now) abominable thing? Would they have been found out, and rejected from the tribes, left to go back to Egypt or wander forever in the desert, alone?

I don’t know- it is an interesting thought, and my Jewish blood is just boiling to have a heated Midrash with someone about this. Oh well, some other time.

If you have no plans to celebrate this festival, you are really missing out on a chance to experience what the bracelet many people wear says (WWJD) because He most assuredly would not miss having a Seder. And, if you really want to get closer to the way Jesus lived, then starting on Passover evening go the next 7 days without any leavened products at all- no bread, no cake, not even one cookie; skip the Ring Dings and wave “Goodbye” to the Hostess Twinkies (Oy!- what suffering I go through when I can’t eat a Twinkie!) See if you can do it. I confess this is a very hard festival for me to follow correctly, not because I just cannot go without bread (I was only kidding about the Twinkies) but because I forget! I will go to dinner with Donna and forget that I can’t eat pizza on our normal pizza night. I grab a cookie and forget I can’t eat it. I am always “biblically” Kosher, so it is easy to remember because I do it all the time, but to remember to reject one of my favorite groups of foods is hard to do. The lesson here, if nothing else, is that we need to be thinking about obedience every second of every day, and it should be foremost on our minds (…”let them be frontlets before thine eyes…”), always. Donna really helps to keep me in line- thank God for her (in so many ways!)

How about you? Would you observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread? I challenge you to obey this commandment of the Lord because I really believe if you do, at the end of the week you will find yourself receiving a blessing. God promises us blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 28), so why not get all the blessings you can? I can almost guarantee that not only will you feel closer to Yeshua, God and the Jewish people, but you will feel better about yourself, too.

As people are always saying, “Try it- maybe you’ll like it!”

Parashah V’yikra (And He called…) Leviticus 1-5:26

We begin the second book of the Pentateuch with the regulations regarding the offering of a sacrifice for atonement of sin.

Now that the Sanctuary has been completed and is in service (end of Exodus), the use of the altar and initiation of the sacrificial system is to begin. The animals allowed to be used as sacrifice are domestic animals which are clean (which will be identified later in Chapter 11, although even in Noah’s time it was already known which were clean and unclean; see Genesis 7:2.) Wild animals were not allowed because they cost the person nothing, and unclean animals were not allowed because they were, well…unclean. Also any animal that kills other animals is unacceptable, or if the animal had killed someone, such as if a bull had gored someone to death, even if it is a “clean” animal it would now be unfit to be used as a sacrifice.

God gives Moses the instructions for the burnt offering (the entire animal is burnt to demonstrate total devotion to God), thanksgiving offering, sin offering, and guilt offering.

The sin and guilt offerings are both for having sinned against God (all sins are sins directly against God, no matter who we actually sin against in our personal relationships), but the sin sacrifice was more specifically for sins such as false witnessing, becoming impure, failing to perform an oath, or failing to do as God has prescribed. The guilt offering was for sins against any of the holy things of the Sanctuary, whether intentional or not.

In all the sacrifices God has made provision for the poor, in that they are allowed to offer an animal that is in accordance with their ability to pay, i.e. a wealthy person would be required to bring a bull, whereas a poor person would be allowed to sacrifice doves or grain.

I think the way the sacrificial system works has been one of the most misunderstood things in the bible, and that is frightening when we consider that our very salvation is rooted in this system. The sacrifice was made to cleanse us of the sin we have committed, and when we sin again, we need to confess, ask forgiveness and offer the sacrifice in order to be forgiven. Most people “get” that, with regards to the Old Covenant system, but don’t really see how it relates to Yeshua’s (Jesus) sacrifice.

Under the old system, God commanded the sacrifice had to be made at the entrance to the Sanctuary, and later at the Temple in Jerusalem. After the Temple was completely destroyed by the Romans in or around 73 AD, there was no longer the opportunity to be forgiven. Imagine how devastating that was to the Jewish community! For those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah (back then as now), the need to bring the sacrifice to the Temple was no longer necessary because Yeshua’s sacrifice was a once-and-for-all sacrifice.

Here’s where it gets all screwed up: many Christian religions have been teaching that Yeshua did away with the sacrificial system and that we are now made clean by His blood, which is true, but they imply that there is nothing else that needs to be done. This is not true- you still need to try not to sin, to do T’shuvah (turn) from your sinful activities, and continually ask for forgiveness because the forgiveness of sin is available, but it is not given until the sin is confessed and forgiveness requested.

The sacrificial system is a threefold process:

  1. You come before the Lord and confess your sin;
  2. You offer the sacrifice;
  3. You ask for forgiveness, and to be made clean, through the shedding of the blood that you have just presented before the Lord.

The only part of this that Yeshua completed already is the second step- the sacrifice- but we still have to recognize and confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness by means of the blood of  Yeshua.

Don’t be suckered into the teaching that because of Yeshua you are clean forever- you can be, but you aren’t: you still have to confess your sin and ask forgiveness. Forgiveness through Yeshua is available for the asking, but it is not automatically given. That is what much of Christianity teaches, that you are automatically cleansed before the Lord by means of Yeshua’s sacrifice…..WRONG!!

You are not cleansed until you confess your sin, do T’shuvah (repent), and ask to be cleansed.

The sacrificial system is still in effect, only modified by Yeshua, in that now we do not have to take our sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. We still have to confess, repent and ask forgiveness.

As I said above, and I feel it is so important to remember: Yeshua made forgiveness available for all, and for all time, but it is not given automatically.

staying clean is more important than getting clean

I think everyone who believes in God can agree that the greatest gift God has given us is salvation through the Messiah. Whether or not you believe Yeshua (Jesus) is that Messiah or not, salvation through Messiah brings us the eternal peace we all crave.

But how many people are so focused on getting saved (cleansed from our sins) that they forget this is the least important stage of salvation? It is, you know, because (as I discussed in this post: Forgiveness is Only for the Past) getting “saved” doesn’t mean you will stay saved.

I have heard too many people, both Christian and Messianic, tell me that “once saved, always saved” because God’s gift is irrevocable. The understanding they have been given is that once you ask for salvation through Messiah, you have it, always. This is a very misleading teaching because some of the parables Yeshua tells us in the Gospels clearly point to the fact that even though we are saved, we can throw it away on our own!  Yes, we can! Salvation is irrevocable, which means simply that God will not renege on His promise; He will not retract the salvation He promised to us and we can count on Him to deliver on His promise. But, even though salvation cannot be purchased or earned, it is not unconditional: you have to ask for it, you have to really do T’shuvah (turn from your sin) and you have to maintain that new attitude for the rest of your life.

Look to the parable about the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)- the one servant that did nothing with the gift he was given was berated and thrown into the dark. The ones that used the talents to create more talents were honored and welcomed into their Master’s presence. The talents represent the salvation given, and the one that buried it never changed his lifestyle, kept doing what he had always done, so his salvation was unused, meaning he never really changed. What he was given was worthless due to his never using it.

Let’s take a look also at the parable about the fruit tree that bore no fruit (Luke 13:6-9)- there was a tree in the garden that after three years produced no fruit, so the man who owned the garden told the manager of the garden to cut it down. The manager asked for one more year to tend it and if it still didn’t produce it would be thrown out. The tree is the saved person, and being in the garden means that they have received salvation: they have a promised place in God’s presence. However, after being given a spot in the garden they did nothing to produce fruit. I believe the manager of the garden is Messiah Yeshua, who is our Intercessor and works with us to help us become holier. The extra tending is through strengthening of the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit.) Yet, even after interceding, the manager agrees to uproot and throw the tree into the fire if it continually fails to produce fruit.

The promise of salvation we receive when we ask for it is just that- the promise of salvation. It is, as I said before, conditional: though we cannot earn it in any way, we have to change our behavior (to be less sinful) so that we stay as clean as we can be AFTER being forgiven (cleaned.)

This is a hard word to hear for many, and I have had some very mature Believers argue vehemently with me about how salvation cannot be lost.

Let’s look once more in the bible for absolutely undeniable evidence, understandable without interpretation, that salvation can be lost. We find it in the book of Messianic Jews (Hebrews), Chapter 6, verses 4-8:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 

I have bold printed the part of this that shows people who are saved can throw away their salvation, and it is not taken out of context. The writer of this book is telling the believing Jews (and converted Gentiles) in the Diaspora that once someone has been saved, if they apostasice by failing to live a life devoted to sinning less and being led by the Ruach, they are like land that is barren, full of thorns and thistles and will be burned in the end. He even goes as far as to say don’t even try to “re-save” them because they have known the goodness of God, yet they still rejected it.

Living your life the same way you did before you accepted Messiah and asked for forgiveness through His sacrifice, is essentially having lied to God. You asked for forgiveness and wanted salvation, but you didn’t want to live for Messiah. Yeshua said to follow Him we have to give up what we are and carry our own execution stake (Matthew 16:24), which clearly means a lifestyle change. And we are talking about a major change, not a little change, although the change can occur a little at a time. We can’t stop sinning “cold turkey”, but every day we can sin a little less than the day before. And that’s the point I am trying to make: if you don’t change what you do, what you say and who you are, you aren’t using the salvation you were given and you will have thrown away that chance for eternity in God’s presence; it will be lost, but not by God, not by someone else, not by the Devil, but by Y-O-U!

So- keep running the good race, keep your eyes on the prize, and know that as long as you are trying to be better, as long as you are using the gift God gave you, and as long as you are trying to sin less, everyday, you are guaranteed a place in God’s presence.

When you accept Messiah Yeshua and ask for forgiveness in His name, you have received the greatest promise anyone could ever want: and when you truly do T’shuvah in your heart, you will produce fruit, you will create more talents, and you will be welcomed into your Master’s joy.

forgiveness is only for the past

Huh? Whaddaya mean, “Forgiveness is only for the past?” Can’t I be forgiven for what I might do tomorrow? Am I s’posed to be perfect from this moment on?

The answer is “Yes” to the first, and “No” to the second.

The real question should be, “Am I forgiven automatically?” The answer to that, from what I read in the Bible, is that we are not automatically forgiven. Forgiveness is something we have to ask for in order to receive. It is available, God is always willing to give it, but it is something we must ask for in order to actually receive.

And more than that, when we ask for it the asking must be genuine- it must be a true T’shuvah (turning from sin) that comes from our heart and soul. We must be more than sorry that we sinned, we must be rueful, regretful, and so upset that we did this to God (for every sin we commit is, first and foremost, against God- read what David said in Psalm 51) that we shouldn’t just ask for forgiveness, but also ask that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) strengthen and convict us in the future so that we can recognize, and overcome, the sinful desire before it becomes a sin.

Forgiveness, the Kingdom of God, Salvation: they are all here, now, and waiting for us. We are all pre-qualified and able to receive these wonderful gifts from God, the results of Messiah Yeshua’s (Jesus) sacrificial death: all we need to do is ask for them.

Where’s the catch? What do we have to give in order to receive? That’s a worldly view, isn’t it? The world doesn’t give without expecting something back, but God…..wait a minute! God does expect something back from us! After all, He’s made covenants with us. Each covenant (despite what you may have been taught) doesn’t annul the previous covenant, but instead is appended, adding to it, building upon it, so that every covenant God has made with us is still valid. From the rainbow of the Noahdic Covenant to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31): every covenant is still valid in God’s eyes, and we are expected, as with any covenant, to fulfill our side of the deal. What is our side? To fear God, honor His word (Torah), accept Messiah Yeshua as our Savior and do T’shuvah in our hearts, which should then translate to a change in our actions.

Your forgiveness is already accomplished, but you have to ask for it. Every day, every moment, when you know you have sinned and even if you don’t think you have sinned. Don’t believe for a second that just because you think you are blameless that you are- God knew our nature well enough that He even commanded there be a sacrifice for the sins we commit unintentionally (Leviticus 4.)

We all sin, we all will continue to sin, we all are born into sinfulness, we all have iniquity in our very nature, and the only humans who don’t have to worry about sinning are the dead ones. But we can overcome our nature, we can be more than just what we are; thanks be to God (and to Yeshua) for the Grace provided which will save us, and for the Holy Spirit which can guide and help us overcome who and what we are, so that we can be more of who and what God wants us to be.

We are told that if we ask, we shall receive, so, then…ask! Ask for forgiveness often, ask for yourself, ask for others, and ask with reverent thankfulness.

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..

Do you purr for God?

I have two cats, Shadow and Bowtie. Both males, both fixed (why do we say they are “fixed” when what we did is to make sure it doesn’t work anymore?), and both with different personalities. Shadow is an nudge, always crawling on the newspaper when we are reading it, always moaning at 0330 in the morning (it’s a miracle he is still alive!),  and Bowtie is the one who is the “good son”.

The other day I was petting Shadow and he started to purr. I did the same with Bowtie later in the day, and realized how often I do this. Yes, obviously they have me well trained, but here’s the interesting part: when I pet them and do good things for them, their purr tells me they appreciate what I am doing for them, and I start to purr. Not audibly, but in my heart. I like hearing them tell me how much they like what I do for them.

Then it struck me- God must also feel good when we tell and show Him how much we appreciate what He does for us.

I am not saying that God sees us as pets, but what He does for us is wonderful, and when we show that appreciation I just have to believe that he feels as good as I do, if not better, then when I hear Bowtie or Shadow purring as I do good things to them.

We don’t sacrifice lambs or bulls to show God our appreciation anymore because the Temple is gone, but we can sacrifice in other ways to show how thankful we are. We can sacrifice our time to help others through volunteering; we can sacrifice our income through charitable contributions to those organizations we know are really doing God’s work (so many charities seem to be doing good when you see their TV ads, but you need to be as wise as the Sages of old when giving to charities- make sure it is legit); we can also sacrifice our work time to be with family more often.

Yeshua told us that whatever we do to our brothers, we do to Him. And I don’t think He meant just fellow Believers; I think Yeshua and God want us to be kind and compassionate to anyone and everyone, whether they are a Believer or not.

So, nu? Do you purr for God? Do you show Him how much you appreciate all He has done, is doing, and has planned to do for you? It is all for your good, trust Him, and even when He throws you into the fire, it is to designed to make you (come out) more purified than before.

I challenge you all to think of one way you can “purr for God” today. Do something that you know will please the Lord- it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be honest and heartfelt and thankful. God loves a cheerful giver, and He is pleased when we do what is right, so go out there and purr loud and strong for God today.

Satan doesn’t make you sin

Remember Flip Wilson? Remember his femme-fatale, Geraldine? Whenever she had to explain her actions, she would say, “Thah devil made me do it! Whoo!!”

Well, Geraldine, and everyone else, that just ain’t so.

Yes, the Devil is the Prince of Lies and the Ruler of the Earth (at least, for a while longer.) And yes, Ha Satan (the Accuser) will tell you things that can lead you to sinful actions, but the devil did not make you do it- you did it because you wanted to.

And I did it because I wanted to.

Let’s go all the way back to the first time we meet this baddie, Genesis 3:2-6, in the Garden of Eden:

The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

So, did Satan cause her to eat the fruit? Not really. He did give her a reason to disobey, though. He is the accuser, and he accused God of telling a lie when He said they would die- the serpent said surely she would not die. But he NEVER said it was OK to eat the fruit! That would have then given us some justification to say Satan made her do it. But that wasn’t the case: Satan told her she would not die, but God had told her not to eat the fruit. And as we read, she chose to eat from her own desire to do so.

For the record, what would have happened if she hadn’t eaten? I think that Adam and Eve would have been allowed to eat, sooner or later, and if I am right, they would still be alive today…maybe?  In any event, there was no talk at that point of lifespans, only after, so it is clear (to me) that because she ate, and subsequently was thrown out of the garden,  what resulted from eating the fruit is that they would eventually die. So God did not lie, did he?

Look, here’s how it works: the Devil will not make you sin- you cannot use his lies or deceptive talk as an excuse for your sin. The desire to sin is already in us- all the Devil does is help us to justify and rationalize what we do of our own free will! He is an instigator, he is a deceiver, and he is a catalyst to perform sin, but he is not the cause.

When we realize this and come to confess ownership of our sins, only then can we truly begin to do T’shuvah, to turn from our sin and repent of it… and mean it.

We often hear that we should “give our sins to God”; there is sometimes a problem with this, though- you cannot give away what you do not own. There are people who blame the devil or always have some excuse for their sinful actions, and these people do not “own” their sin. As such, since they do not own it, they cannot give it away, so it sticks to them like peanut butter to the top of your palette. Only when we recognize and accept the sinfulness of our actions and desires can we even start to control them, and then we can give them to God. He is very willing to take them from us, to delete the “Steven’s Sins” file, to erase the mark of Cain from our souls. And he is able to do it, too! Through Yeshua’s sacrifice, we have an intercessor who will never go away, a Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) who will always provide the pathway back to God we need by means of His sacrificial death and the power behind His resurrection.

But until we are willing to confess our sinfulness, we can ask all we want to have forgiveness and what will be given will not last: not because of anything on God’s side, but because until we “own” our sin we can’t give it away. And if you are the type of person who finds yourself making excuses for your sin, it’s time to: “Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come!” (Isaiah), and that light is able to expose the truth of your sinfulness. It is also able to cleanse you of it.

George Carlin used to say that it’s funny how everyone thinks their own farts don’t smell that bad.  When your sin doesn’t seem to be that bad, when you tell yourself it wasn’t really your fault- someone else made you do that, or someone else should have stopped you- the truth is that your farts do stink just as bad as everyone else’s!

We all need to stop blaming the Devil for what we do and take responsibility for our actions. True repentance cannot come from blaming someone else, and true repentance is the only way that God will be able to take the sin away, once and for all. Not because God is limited, but because when you truly repent you will give it away and not take it back.

We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less.

Start sinning less today; when you hear that little voice tell you why it will be OK to do what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) tells you will not be OK, tell that little voice it’s farts stink to high heaven!