What Does God Really Want From Us?

I was reading Isaiah 56 the other day and thought about what he was saying.  It starts with “Here is what Adonai says:” and goes on to tell us:

Observe justice, do what is right, for my salvation is close to coming, my righteousness to being revealed. Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps himself from doing evil.

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As I was thinking about how simple a commandment this is, I realized that God really doesn’t expect or demand too much of us. Let’s take a look at what God tells us he really wants from us…

Matthew 18:4– Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Micah 6:8– He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Leviticus 19:18– Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. 

Exodus 19:5– Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. 

Deuteronomy 11:27– There will be blessing if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am giving you today.

Malachi 3:10- Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

There are many, many more instances throughout the Bible where I can find the same kind of message from God, but these should suffice to show that what God really wants is humility, love, and obedience. That’s it! That doesn’t seem to be too much, does it? It doesn’t require a PhD in Theology; you aren’t commanded to know how to pronounce God’s Holy name; there’s no extra credit for being able to read ancient Hebrew or to know Greek.

In fact, it is even easier than what we have already seen to find salvation through faith by doing what Yeshua told us to do:

Matthew 22:36-40Yeshua replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: what does that mean? Does that mean that loving God and others is enough? No! And the reason I say “No” is because too many people throw the word “love” around like it is a hot potato and cry at the top of their lungs how they love the Lord and they love Jesus and call each other “Brother” or “Sister”, or even “Beloved.”

Then they go home and do whatever they feel like doing, eat whatever they feel like eating, ignore the Sabbath and celebrate only those holidays that they like.

To love the Lord is to obey his commands- God told us that throughout the Tanakh and Yeshua confirmed it. Yet, even in trying to be obedient people will create their own problems.

We have seen in recent times many Gentiles desiring to get back to the Jewish Roots of Christianity because they realize just how far afield modern Christianity is from what Yeshua taught. That is a good thing. However, what is bad is that in their zeal they have created a new form of the same type of legalism that Shaul (Paul) fought against when Gentiles first started to accept Yeshua and learn about God’s instructions in the Torah.

Here is what is so remarkable about this: in the beginning, it was the Jewish Believers who were telling the Gentiles that they had to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. Today, it is the Gentile Believers who are telling everyone else, including Jews, that they have to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. And they have taken it one step further than that: just a few examples are arguing about lunar calendars, how we must pronounce God’s Holy Name, and why the names we have always used for God and Messiah are wrong. These matters have nothing to do with salvation, but to these people they (apparently) do.

Despite my exhaustive search throughout the Bible, I have not found where God says you must know how to pronounce his Holy Name to be saved. I found nothing that requires us to know the exact day of the week Yeshua rose from the grave to receive blessings and eternal life. I tried and tried but didn’t find even one commandment which says if we begin a Holy Festival based on a lunar calendar that isn’t the exact same one used in ancient Israel, then our celebration is unacceptable to God.

And I looked and I looked and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find where God tells us our salvation is based on knowing anything other than that he wants us to be faithful, humble, to love each other and obey his commandments.

And, just for the record, there is no place anywhere in any Bible that says when you tell the “truth” you are allowed to be nasty, judgmental, accusatory or insulting. If you want to use that age-old, cliche’ excuse that Yeshua told it as he saw it, then first live your life exactly as Yeshua lived his. You want to talk as he did, then live as he did; if you aren’t doing that, then either be nice or shut up!

As far as serving God is concerned, I recommend using the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Schlemiel) and just live your life trying to humbly accept God’s authority and show both God and people that you really mean it by obeying him and loving others, meaning treat all people with justice, compassion and patience.

I know that isn’t as easy to do as it sounds, but on the other hand, it ain’t that hard, either.

Thank you for being here and please go to the right-hand margin and click on the SUBSCRIBE button to be notified next time I post something. Please also go to my YouTube channel using the link above and subscribe there, as well.

I welcome any comments- just be nice- and I look forward to the next time we are together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

There is a Fine Line Between Scare Tactics and Sugar-Coating Salvation

Like it or not, those of us who are to make disciples and be a light in the darkness have to realize we are Salespeople- selling the most important product that anyone could ever have: salvation and eternal joy.

It’s remarkable when you think of the benefits of this product, yet the vast majority of people either don’t want it or are willing to buy a “knock-off” (i.e., a religion that rejects God’s word) and they are happy with it. As Hosea said:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)

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The other day on Facebook a friend posted a beautiful message, all about God’s presence in our lives and how he protects us, loves us and wants the best for us. It talked of his ability to provide and his desire to save us. I replied that we need to also remember that he is our Judge and Jury, as well as Executioner and that these promises are not all that we have to look forward to. For those people who accept God and Messiah, there will be trouble and tribulation throughout their life. Following God has many advantages, but the very best of them we will not receive in this lifetime.

In my past, I was a professional salesman (for about 15 years) and I can tell you that to have a good sale, meaning one that will not cancel on you, you must be truthful and not give wrong expectations. You can’t make it sound like accepting God and Messiah will solve all your problems, nor should you use negative selling or scare tactics; these styles will never produce a “good” sale. Preaching “fire and brimstone” scare tactics might convince some people to accept Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. In the same way, preaching that God loves you just as you are, you can be saved simply by asking for it and once saved you will receive all sorts of blessings will create unrealistic expectations, and that seed will be like the seed the weeds choked them or the birds came and ate (Matthew 13.)

To follow God faithfully we must also love him- you can’t scare people into loving someone; likewise, you will set them up for disappointment if you make salvation sound like heaven on earth. To put rose-colored glasses on unsuspecting and biblically ignorant people, convincing them that once they accept Yeshua they will be saved and blessed, is to send them into battle with a gun that has no bullets.

Following God is hard work- Yeshua didn’t say follow me and have it easy, he said we must carry our execution stake on our shoulders in order to follow him (Mark 8:34.) To obey God and follow Messiah means you might have to give up much: friends, family, sometimes your job, maybe even your life!

For those to whom we are preaching salvation, we must let them know, right at the start, that this is not going to be easy. That they will, over time, have to sacrifice things that they may not want to. We keep them interested in reminding them of the afterlife rewards, as well as the many blessings they can receive while alive. We shouldn’t sugar-coat what they are deciding to do, but we shouldn’t scare them to the point where they lose bowel control, either.

That is the thin line we must walk when we talk to non-believers about God and Messiah. We should be an example of the proper way to act towards God and each other, and we must also tell them that we are still human, frail and weak, and it is expected that we won’t always act in the godliest way; for example, the words I will probably be using when it takes me three strokes to get out of the stinking sand trap! Failing to be godly now and then doesn’t mean we aren’t trying, and this is one of the best things about God: he knows our heart, he forgives our failures and he strengthens us when we ask him to help us be better.

I always try to slide some hint or suggestion in a conversation that will let me see if there is a positive reaction from someone regarding God and the Bible. I might interject a biblical reference or repeat a proverb in a conversation and say I read it in a really good book. If they ask which book, I can then say it is in the Bible, and ask them if they have ever read it? There can be any number of ways to “test the waters” when conversing with someone to see if they are open to hearing about God without tackling them to the ground, sitting on them and asking, “Do you believe in God?”

I can tell you, absolutely, that approach will not work.

My suggestion is that you think of ways you are comfortable with when approaching people about God during a conversation that is subtle and non-threatening to them. Here are some examples of what I do:

  • I work a biblical story or proverb into the conversation and start it off with, “I read this in a book”, and if they ask what book, I tell them. Then I ask if they ever read the Bible?
  • I turn the conversation towards the current social unrest, and ask if they believe there are more problems coming in the future? Carefully I work in that the Bible has stated these sorts of things will happen and ask them if they believe the Bible or if they believe in God?
  • If someone asks advice, I give them a proverb or story from the Bible to justify my advice. I’ll then ask if they knew the Bible covers many inter-personal relationship issues.

These are just some ways I turn the conversation towards God, and I never, ever push myself on people. If they are interested, I go with the flow but slowly, and carefully. It is like walking on thin ice- if I put too much pressure on, I will fall through.

When someone talks only about how good God is and all the wonderful things he does for us, I feel bad for them and the people they are talking to because they are setting themselves up for disappointment; how often have you heard people reject God because he didn’t meet their expectations? That is what preaching only the “happy-happy” side of salvation does- it gets a lot of people to join in, but it also sets them up for disappointment and eventually doesn’t help them. On the other hand, preaching fire and brimstone only scares people, and that will also fail to help them.

There are many blessings awaiting those who love the Lord and accept Yeshua as their Messiah, both now and throughout eternity, but they come at a price. We like to say “salvation is a free gift from God”, but it really isn’t.  Oh yes- you can have it for the asking, but to keep it you will have to give up much.

We must never push people away from God, and it is just as important that we must never leave them with the wrong expectations. The saddest thing about missionary work is that when we fail to make the right impression, it isn’t we who suffer- it is those we are trying to help. If we leave a bad taste in their mouth regarding God or Messiah, we may end up causing them to lose any chance of salvation, or (at least) we might make it that much harder for the next person.

It’s a thin line we walk when trying to help people come to God.

 

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Thank you for your interest and please don’t hesitate to leave comments or suggestions (just be nice.)

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 3

So far in this series, we have looked at the meaning of salvation, the Jewish expectations of the Messiah, and why Yeshua ha Maschiach (Jesus Christ) was and has been rejected by “mainstream” Judaism since his first appearance on earth.

Today we will delve into the Christian expectations of the Messiah, who is usually referred to as “Savior” and not “Messiah.”

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One major difference we should point out right at the start between Jewish and Christian expectation and knowledge of the Messiah: Jews were, and still are, waiting and looking forward to the coming of the Messiah; however, Christians never looked forward to his coming- he was already here before Christianity started. Christians have always known who their Savior is, whereas Jews have never known who their Messiah was going to be.

Christian expectation of Messiah is not really an expectation, but more like 20/20 hindsight because what they believe about their Savior is what they have already seen.

They know he was born in a miraculous manner, being of a virgin who was impregnated by God through the Holy Spirit.

They know that he died for their sins, but since most Christian teachings are from the New Covenant, instead of referencing the Tanakh, they look to the Gospels and Epistles for the justification of their beliefs. So, instead of using Isaiah 53 to understand the sacrifice of the Messiah, they refer to 1st Corinthians 15:3. More specifically, within Catholicism, they quote John 20:21-23 not only to state that forgiveness of sin can only come through belief in Jesus but also that Jesus gave men the power to forgive sins through the priesthood. To further confirm forgiveness is only available through Jesus, Christianity references Ephesians 1:7 and Corinthians 5:17.

According to Ephesians 3:19 the Savior is all about love and complete acceptance, which lends itself to another Christian belief, which is that there is no need for the Torah or the laws God gave to Moses.

In my opinion, one of the most anti-Semitic teachings within Christianity is that Jesus did away with the “law” (the Torah) and that the “Jewish Bible” is just for Jews and doesn’t really have any meaning to Christians. It is still scripture, but they concentrate almost exclusively on the New Covenant writings.

Whereas Christians have been taught that the Jewish laws are not valid for them, one sect of Christianity takes it to the extreme. Their belief system is called Replacement Theology. This is the most virulent anti-Semitic sect of Christianity because they believe since the Jews rejected Jesus as their Savior, God has rejected the Jews as his chosen people! Christians (specifically “Born-Again” Christians) are now God’s “real” chosen people, the “Israel of God” that Shaul talks about at the very end of Galatians.

Most Christians haven’t gone this far and have been taught that the Law is really split into two types of law: Moral and Ceremonial. The moral laws are still valid for Christians, but the ceremonial laws are not. For instance, the laws of Kashrut (Kosher) are ceremonial so only Jews have to follow them, whereas murder and adultery are moral laws and they are still valid and must be followed. This belief system is justified by Matthew 5:17. This is where Yeshua said he came to fulfill the law, which has been interpreted to mean the (Mosaic) law was completed in him and therefore is no longer necessary to be followed. It is also confirmed by the teaching that when Shaul (Paul) says that our sins were “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), that meant the law was also nailed to the cross, i.e. done away with.

This is the same as saying if the car ahead of me makes a complete stop at the stop sign, thereby fulfilling the law for stop signs, then I can just go right through it. Or, if I live my entire life without murdering anyone, then murdering someone will be acceptable and not a sin when I die because I had fulfilled that law. Ain’t that da silliest thing you evah hoid?

Let’s get serious again…Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected and returned to his father in heaven, and will return to destroy the Antichrist and rule over all the earth, forever. And when this day finally arrives, Christians (and many Jews, as well) believe that they will be lifted up and live eternally in heaven.

As we can see, there is a very significant difference between Jewish and Christian understanding of who the Messiah is and what to expect from him when he arrives. How this vast chasm of belief in the same personage came about is what we will examine now.

As far as Jews are concerned, the advent of the Messiah’s coming has always been seen as a national event. He is not here for you or for me, but for Israel…for all Jews, everywhere. Christians see the relationship with their Savior as an individual and singular event: the Savior is here for me and you have to have your own relationship with him. This is a major difference in expectation: the Jewish Messiah’s relationship is with the entire nation of Israel, but the Christian Savior has a personal relationship just with me.

Judaism expects that the changes the Messiah will make will occur at or before his actual coming, and when he is here they will all come to completion. Christians believe that after someone accepts him as their Savior, then there will be some changes that happen (such as indwelling of the Holy Spirit) but most changes in the world won’t happen until his second coming.

Finally, Jews believe that Yeshua did not fulfill or meet the prophecies about the Messiah and Christians believe he met almost all of them, and the ones that he did not fulfill will be fulfilled with his second coming.

This ends our third segment in this series of teachings. In our next lesson, we will review the origins of these vastly different expectations and learn how they developed.

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Until then, l’hetraot and Baruch HaShem!

Legalism in a Nutshell

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Legalism- just what is it? Many Christians have, for centuries, been taught that it means people who follow the Torah and the Jewish lifestyle are not really saved because they don’t have faith in Jesus. To a Jewish person, following the Torah is the ultimate indication of faith.

So, what legalism is, in a nutshell, is a belief that one can achieve eternal glory and be welcomed into the presence of God (i.e., be “saved”) through the performance of activities, specifically those which God gave in the Torah. I call it performance-based salvation.

Faith is not a necessary element of legalism, but it is not absent in those who are legalistic. In other words, one can have faith in God and still be legalistic. The main issue is whether or not salvation is considered to be the result of faith, which inspires obedience, or if obedience is how we attain salvation, which also requires having faith in God.

Legalism is a form of putting the cart before the horse.

We need to have the right type of faith: is our faith in God to “save” us based only on obedience, or is it because we believe God knows what is best for us so we do as he says? Isn’t that the type of faith Abraham had? Trusting in God so much that he obeyed without question.

Here is what I see as the foundation of wrong teaching in all religions- Abraham trusted without needing to know why, but “religion” tells us why we should trust, why we should obey and that we need to do what our religion tells us is the proper thing to do. God has no religion, but men have created “religion” in order to have power over other men by pretending to know best how to do what God said to do.

I believe that organized religion is the ultimate form of legalism.

For me, salvation is the result of faith, which inspires obedience, and together they result in salvation…but that is too simplistic a definition. What I should say is that proper faith will lead us to the desire to obey God, and when we are obedient for that reason it will strengthen our faith even more; ultimately, just as iron sharpens iron, our faith will strengthen our desire to obey which will enhance our faith. It is a win-win situation.

There are more than a few times in the Bible that God has told his people, through the Prophets, that lip-service to him is unacceptable. It is clear from the Bible that just doing what God says, just to do it, is not true worship- it is nothing more than being an automaton. God doesn’t want automatons, he wants worshipful, thinking human beings who love him and show that love through faithful and unquestioning obedience.

I am not saying we cannot ask God for explanations- he is always there and always listening to us. But (I believe) with the proper faith you will ask God without demanding an answer, and be thankful if he decides to give you one. Usually, this is done through prayer, and we all know (or should) that prayers are always answered, but God’s answer may be “No”, or it could be “Maybe later, but not now”, or “Yes, but it isn’t going to be what you expect and it won’t come when you expect it.”  And sometimes we get an immediate answer that is just what we asked for- but if it should happen to you, don’t get used to it!

Legalism is still around today- not the same kind that Shaul (Paul) argued against, but from (mainly) Gentile Believers who are getting back to their Jewish roots. However, their form of legalism is so exacting that they forget faith is more important. They argue over how God’s name is pronounced, and stating that if you use what they consider to be the wrong name or pronunciation you are praying to idols. They are “anal” about when the moon sets and what calendar is the absolutely correct one. They universally reject all Jewish tradition, yet follow many traditional Christian teachings, such as Yeshua said all food is clean so we don’t have to be Kosher (Mark 7 or Acts 10), or Christians really only have to obey the 4 commands given by the Elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and other teachings like these. Their desire to be obedient is so strong that the pendulum has swung from one far side to the other, and their attempts to be correctly worshipful has caused them to stray off the path of true worship.

It is really simple: trust that God knows best, and believe that what he says is what we should do. Without question, without rationalization, without needing to know why- we should just do as God says because we trust in him and because…well, he’s God and we’re not!

Anything more than that is walking down a path that may lead us away from salvation.

Once Saved, Always Saved Results in Unsaved

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You may be asking yourself, “How can I be saved for all time and end up not saved at all?”  That’s a fair question, and the answer is that the “Once Saved, Always Saved” teaching is a lie. 

From this point I will write “once saved, always saved” as OSAS.

Here’s the reason why I say this: first off, I think we can agree that someone who doesn’t repent of their sins will continue to sin. And, as far as salvation is concerned, we all sin but those are unrepentant will not be able to be saved. The Bible is clear that God will not forgive someone who sins over and over because they choose to sin rather than to obey. 

Messiah died so that we can have a shot at salvation, and the first step in gaining salvation is to repent of our sins and desire to sin no more, which in Hebrew is called T’shuvah.  After we repent, if we haven’t already accepted Yeshua as our Messiah, that is the next step. The third step is to ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name by means of his sacrifice, and the last step is to go forth from that point working out your salvation through learning God’s word (all of it- from Genesis to Revelation) and obeying it as best as you can. 

That’s how salvation is gained, in a nutshell.

OK, Steve- I get it. That’s how we are saved, but that doesn’t tell me why OSAS is a lie.  After all, that is what many Christians have been told is how it works. We have been told, “Yeshua died for your sins which were all nailed to the Cross” (Colossians 2:14), so why should I worry anymore? 

Here’s why: the sins that were nailed to the Cross were only the ones that you already had performed. In the days when crucifixion was the standard punishment, above the head of the one being crucified was a list of the crimes against them.  So, when your sins were nailed to the Execution Stake along with the Messiah, it was only those sins (crimes) that you had committed up to that point in time. The sins that you do AFTER your T’shuvah and AFTER you receive forgiveness are not automatically forgiven. That is the lie of OSAS.

Salvation is irrevocable, which means that no one can take it away but it does NOT mean that we can’t lose it by throwing it away ourselves.

If someone believes that their sins are automatically forgiven, which is the very foundation of OSAS, then when they sin (which we all do and cannot stop doing) they will believe these new sins are already forgiven. That is what OSAS tells us; however, the truth is that the sins we commit are being listed against us until such time as we ask forgiveness. And we must ask forgiveness for every sin we commit, which (as you may recall from earlier) starts with our T’shuvah.  And without T’shuvah, which is the first step in receiving forgiveness, there can be no forgiveness.

When someone believes that their sins are automatically forgiven, they will continue to act as they always have with no regrets, with no worries and thereby without repentance. We just go along on our merry way, doing whatever we do confident in knowing that when we screw up we are automatically forgiven. 

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the danger of the OSAS lie- it removes our accountability for having sinned, and thereby our responsibility to obey God.

Salvation must be worked through- it is a gift from God, it is his Grace to us, but just like any gift that is given we can lose it. If you believe that because Yeshua died for your sins you are automatically forgiven, you are in BIG trouble and need to get on your knees right this second and ask God for forgiveness. 

God understands that you have been taught by those you trust something that is wrong, but he has told all of us what he considers to be right, and just like when you tell a cop that you didn’t know what the speed limit was, when you tell God you didn’t know OSAS was a lie, you will get the same answer: ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.

God Crashed My Pity Party

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About a month ago, when I began the Kickstarter campaign to sell my newest (third) book I was feeling rather low. I have had this online ministry for about 6 years, and only have about 70 followers. I am a member of half a dozen discussion groups (Christian and Messianic) but still haven’t made book sales or even gained subscribers. My other two books are very dear to me and writing them was a cleansing for me, similar (I suspect) to how Jeremiah felt when he gave God’s word.

Of course, we know Jeremiah wasn’t the happiest of prophets, and I felt the same way he did. I couldn’t figure out why so few people were interested in what I have to say and began to think that I wasn’t treating God’s Word, or God, with the honor he deserves. Maybe I thought I was preaching truth but I wasn’t…could that be why God hasn’t blessed this blog/ministry with more followers? 

So I sent out a post (maybe some of you remember it?) asking for confirmation. This wasn’t an Ego Trip…not at all! I wasn’t asking or fishing for compliments- I wanted to know, really, if I was doing anything that edified or helped anyone. If what I do is useless to people, why should I continue to go through the time and financial expense of doing it? Right?

I did receive some confirmation from people, and again, felt bad that I only had one or two people answer. None of my own friends and most of my family did not reply, either (then again, we all know a prophet has no honor in his home town), so even though I was somewhat uplifted by the couple of confirmations I received, I didn’t feel useful.

The Pity Party was well underway and I was praying to God (as I rode my bike to the gym) asking why he wasn’t helping me. And he answered me: I felt him telling me to look at the “popular” sites to see why they are so popular. So I did, and I also recalled many of the postings from people with many followers. And you know what I realized? 

I wasn’t a “happy” site. I don’t constantly post messages about the love of God and the forgiveness of Messiah. I don’t constantly post quotations from the Bible that relate how God saved me, how God has helped me, how God has been my shield and my salvation. I have never implied or stated that salvation is a “Come as you are” party (although, in a way, it is.) These are the types of things the “popular” sites post, and when I thought about it, it was also the type of messages you hear from the mega-churches. 

I don’t do that. Oh, well, every once in a while I do post about forgiveness, but it is mostly how God requires us to forgive others, not how he has forgiven us. I do post about God’s love, but it isn’t about how he loves us but how we should work to love others as he tells us we should. In fact, I rarely post about what God does for us and almost always post about what we are supposed to do for God.  

And that is what God was telling me: I am not popular because the messages I post aren’t about how God does things for people; I post about what people are supposed to do for God. 

In other words, I am preaching about what God wants from us instead of what God does for us. 

Yes-salvation is a “Come as you are” party, but it is NOT a “Stay as you were” party.  The popular messages are all about how Yeshua did away with the law, all food is good to eat, and you are forgiven now and always, known as “Once saved, always saved.”  The messages that are popular are the ones that tell you all about how God loves you and you don’t have to do anything different, just call on his name and be saved.  Don’t worry about changing your lifestyle or your desires, and when you make a mistake God will forgive you because Jesus loves you and died for your sins, so you are cleared for life. 

You will not hear any of that dribble from me. What I preach is what people need to know to continue in their salvation: the Torah is valid, God’s commandments are still necessary to obey, and salvation is given for free but costs a lot to keep. You must change, you must truly do T’shuvah (repent), and you must be an example to others of how God has changed you through your actions and your words. You are commanded to forgive or you will not be forgiven: how you judge will be the way you are judged: if you really want to follow Yeshua, you must pick up your execution stake and walk as he walked, which means in accordance with the Torah.

“Hey- this isn’t fun! Are you really telling me I can’t be forgiven unless I change? You’re saying that if I ask for forgiveness but I don’t change I won’t be ‘saved’ anymore? I can lose my salvation? You say I have to obey the Torah? Well, if that’s what you preach, forget you, Pal! I am going to listen to the other people who tell me how wonderful I am, how I am saved forever and no one can take it away from me. I want to hear how much God loves me just as I am; I want to be told I don’t have to do that ‘Jewish’ stuff because Jesus nailed it to the cross. I want to be assured that I will be in heaven for eternity no matter what I do because I called on Jesus’s name once.” 

Yes, that is what I am telling you. And I will take my lead from Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

That is how God crashed my Pity Party, and am I ever glad he did. I realize now that I may never be “popular” because I speak the hard truth that most people don’t want to hear. When I trained people (in the corporate world and as a mentor to volunteers) I did not hold back from telling the truth, even when it wasn’t pleasant for them to hear. I didn’t do that to hurt them but to help them become better. If everyone that takes a class passes, then the class work was too easy, and the students probably didn’t learn what they really needed to know. Just like when preachers tell all about the goodness of God and what he does for you- yes, God does much for you but he expects you to do much for him. And that is what people, who are naturally self-absorbed and selfish, do not want to hear. 

So I will remain unpopular. I will continue to speak the truth that God has, through his Ruach HaKodesh, inspired me to teach. I will not sugarcoat salvation or preach all about God’s love and forgiveness as a one-way street, only traveling from God to you.

Salvation is free to have but hard to keep. God says we are to be holy as he is holy, which means we are not to do as the world does. We are to separate ourselves from the world, spiritually and actively, so that when people see us they see what God wants us to be. Not what we want to be, but what God wants us to be. That is a message that will be popular only to the truly spiritual mature person, to the one who is humble before God, to the one who is here to serve and not to be served. 

My Pity Party was all about the fact that I wasn’t “popular” and because I didn’t have so many followers on my website and FaceBook that they were coming out of my ears. God crashed that party by showing me I would never be popular preaching the hard truths of salvation and T’shuvah.  He showed me that, like Jeremiah, like Elijah, like Elisha, and like most every single prophet we read about in the Bible, I was not going to be asked to the A-List parties.  

I was looking for human confirmation but God stepped in and took over, showing me that I was in good company by being unpopular. 
And you know what? I felt G-R-E-A-T when he did that! 

Can God Save Someone Who Doesn’t Want to be Saved?

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We are all familiar with the passage that says anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But what about those we pray for who are not saved, and who really don’t even care about it?

Maybe they don’t believe in God, maybe they don’t care, or maybe they think they are already saved because people have taught them the popular lie that many Christians have been taught, which is the “Once saved, always saved” theology.

How often have you prayed for someone who is sinning and likes it? Have you prayed that famous prayer, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do?”   Will that work? Personally, I doubt it.  I have read the Bible many times and have experienced God’s blessings and also know what it is like to live outside of his Kippah (covering), which was for the first 40 years or so of my life. 

In my opinion, God can do whatever he wants to do, but he doesn’t want to make us love him or to defy the free will he has given each one of us.  That means if we pray for someone who doesn’t want to be saved, even when we invoke the name of Yeshua ha Maschiach, God will not force someone to be saved if they don’t want to be saved. 

Another way to look at it is to ask, “Will God forgive an unrepentant sinner?” I think we can all agree that although God, in his mercy and compassion may give blessings to one who rejects him (Matthew 5:45 says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”), when it comes to forgiveness we must first do T’Shuvah (repent) in our hearts, then ask for forgiveness. When we do that, God will forgive. But if we do not repent, then he will not forgive.

I pray for my children and even for their mother (we divorced many years ago) because my children have been brought up by her to be ungodly (they’re not evil and horrid creatures, just like the rest of the world- ungodly) and I don’t know anyone who needs the love of the Lord more than that woman.  So I pray, in Yeshua’s name, over and over, nearly every day, and I trust that God is doing something. But I also know that it is, ultimately, up to them to turn to God.

He may strike them down, humble them, and give them some real Tsouris to make them realize they are not really in control and force them to look up to him. But he will not change their minds or use his awesome power to force them to worship him. He will influence their lives, but not to the point where they are made to love or worship him. Not even to the point where they have to admit he really exists.

I am not saying God will never make a miraculous appearance; he has done things like this in the past- Abraham, Jonah, Gideon, the parents of Samson, and Shaul on the road to Damascus, just to name a few. But overall, I trust that God will do exactly what needs to be done to convince someone to trust in him, but only to the point where anything more would be effectively taking away their right to choose. 

Where that fine line is drawn no one can tell, except God, and I trust him totally to do everything up to that point. If my children never turn to God or reconcile with me (my two constant prayers) then it isn’t God who I will blame, but them. They are old enough (more than old enough) to make up their own minds and even though their mother has been a constant bad influence on them, it is their own fault for rejecting God. And when I write this, believe that it hurts me to write it, and I believe it hurts God even more because he loves my children (who are also his) more than I ever could.

Does this mean we should stop praying for those that reject God? Heavens no!! We should continue to pray for those that need to be shown the path to salvation. If we do not pray for them then who will? God will intervene in their life to help them come to know and accept him, and we also should do so by showing them a good example of what it means to worship God and demonstrate to them God’s blessings in our life for obeying him.

Through our prayers and our example people can be convinced to choose God, which is to choose life. God won’t force them to choose him, but he can be very, VERY convincing. 

So, continue to pray for those that reject God and be an example of a godly person. Pray especially for those that think they are godly people because they have been taught that the Torah is only for Jews and they don’t need to obey any laws or commandments. They have been taught that they don’t need to obey anything in the Torah because are under the blood of Christ and saved by Grace. That is not true: by being told they don’t need to obey God or ask forgiveness because they are already saved, they are being taught to be unrepentant.

Be an example of an obedient, godly person, one who obeys from love and trust but not as a means of trying to earn salvation, and continue to pray for those that reject God. 

Our prayers are powerful and useful to everyone, godly or ungodly

The Best Counter-Attack Ever Made

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As a (former active duty) Company Executive Officer in the Marine Corps, I can tell you that the very first thing you do after having won a battle is to prepare for the counter-attack.  Whether you have successfully “taken the hill” or cleared the building, freed the town or whatever the objective was that you have completed, the time when you are most vulnerable is as soon as you have won. Before you attend to the wounded or do anything else, you set up your perimeter defenses and make sure that everyone on the line has their ammunition and selected zones of fire. Only after the area is secured do you then take care of the other things.

Yeshua died on the execution stake, was buried and rose three days later. That was the objective achieved- the sting of death was taken away and the pathway to salvation for the entire world was cleared. But the Enemy wasn’t done away with- he was still here, and planning his counter-attack.  That counter-attack was to split the factions between believing and unbelieving Jews to the point where those who were able to avoid the sting of death would be considered traitors and outcasts from “mainstream” Judaism. In essence, the Enemy wanted to turn salvation made possible to salvation lost to all the unbelieving Jews in the world. 

Yeshua warned us about this in Matthew 10:34

Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’…

Although Yeshua was quoting from Micah 7:6 regarding the punishment God was inflicting on a sinful Israel, I see this also as a prophetic warning as to how the Enemy will try to inflict ruin on the efforts of the believers in Yeshua to gather all people to the Messiah.

And, to a large degree, it worked. The Enemy used people to discredit the resurrection, and when Gentiles were brought to salvation he used the leaders among them, as well as the confusion that came from some of the Epistles written by Shaul, to not only cause a chasm between Believing Jews and the Gentiles converting to Judaism but to create an entirely new religion which was not what Yeshua taught. This was accomplished by the Council of Nicene, and since then the schism has grown wider, having been fueled with persecution, hatred, distrust, and bigotry…from both sides.

The objective of the Messiah was to bring people back to God; to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. This was done, but the success of that objective was damaged by the counter-attack of the Enemy. It is similar to the Battle of Iwo Jima: the Marines were successful in capturing the island, but for months afterward they were still being attacked by Japanese hidden in underground caves and it took a long time and more deaths before the island was completely safe. 

The difference in the way people worshiped between the Jews that rejected the Messiahship of Yeshua and the Jews that didn’t was small at first. There were Jews that accepted Yeshua and Jews that didn’t, but they were all Jews worshipping as Jews. However, as more and more Gentiles were added it grew to the point where the Messianic community was composed mostly of Gentiles.  At that time the Jews were being politically persecuted (because they were in revolt) so due to the political environment, the Gentile Believers were encouraged to part from their Jewish roots.  This resulted in moving the Sabbath to Sunday, the creation of “Christian” holidays to compete with the Jewish festivals and men like Ignatius of Antioch and other “church fathers” forming canon and traditions that were against the Judaic ones. At that point, the Enemy’s counter-attack had some level of success. 

But he hasn’t won. He lost the war when Yeshua rose, and the strength of his position is now starting to weaken. The Hebraic Roots movement is bringing Christians closer to their proper place within the plan of salvation, and the growth of the Messianic Jewish movement is bringing Jews back to their Messiah. The regathering of Jews to their Homeland is also part of God’s counter-counter-attack. The final battle is soon to come, and we all know who the winner is going to be. 

It is up to us, those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah, to faithfully continue the attack against the Enemy. There are many strong points that he holds, which we need to attack. One of those is the image of the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus Christ that the world believes started Christianity.  Approach Jews with the truth about their Messiah using only the name “Yeshua” and quoting only from the Tanakh regarding what the Messiah was supposed to do. You can’t convince a Jewish person about Yeshua if you call him “Jesus” and use the New Covenant writings for your proof – to a Jew, those are both false. Jesus is a false Messiah who created a religion that hates Jews and the New Covenant isn’t scripture. In fact, to a Jewish person, the New Covenant is a bunch of hooey that Christians wrote about their god.

The Enemy made an excellent counter-attack that has postponed the final accomplishment of the Messiah’s objective. The Enemy managed to postpone the End Days but did not defeat God’s plan; he just made us wait a little while longer.  The Enemy’s success in turning Gentiles converting to Judaism into a new religion that ended up persecuting Jews will be turned around by God. In fact, we are seeing that happen this very day, and eventually what the Enemy did will come down on his own head.

All we have to do is wait until God has had enough. At that time he will send Messiah Yeshua back to Earth to perform the final “mop-up operations.” 

Should We Forgive Abusers?

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As I have often said, I read Dear Abby every day because it provides great fodder for spiritual understanding and teaching.

Recently someone wrote to her who had been abused as a child by her family, and now as an adult and parent is asking how she should react to those who constantly tell her that she should try to reconcile with her family.  Abby answered that when one has been abused they do “NOT” have to forgive the abusers.

Those who are God-fearing should know better than to follow that advice. True, it is hard to forgive someone who has damaged you, whether it be physically and/or emotionally. The pain and anger, unresolved anger, is very hard to live with and even more difficult to get over. In truth, I don’t think we ever really get “over” it, we just learn to get past it.

Yet God tells us that forgiveness is what we must do. We are told to be holy as God is holy, and part of what God does is forgive. He forgives because he is a compassionate and loving God, yet if we do not ask for forgiveness, it will not be given automatically. The reason for that is simple: if we do not ask to be forgiven, that means we aren’t repentant for the sin we committed, and God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner.

Here’s is the thing about forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not understand: forgiving someone else for a sin they committed against you does not make them right with God but it does make you right with God. Each and every one of us must ask God to forgive us for the sin(s) we commit. I can ask God to forgive others, but if they are unrepentant it doesn’t seem likely that God will forgive them. We can ask him to be merciful, but God will judge fairly and mercifully, anyway, whether or not we ask him to do so. What is good about us asking God to forgive or be merciful is that we can show God we are forgiving of others.

Yeshua tells us in Matthew 6:14 that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. OUCH!! That means that we must forgive if we are to maintain our salvation.

That’s right- it sounds bad and is a hard word to hear, but it’s right there in the Bible. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. We are also told that the rod we use to measure out others will be used to measure us (Matthew 7:2), which is another way of saying the same thing. If we judge others unfairly and refuse to forgive them, that is how we will be judged and how we will receive forgiveness (or not.)

There is another aspect of forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not know: the only way to make the pain go away is to forgive! Without forgiveness, the pain will never go away. Even when you do forgive, it will take time. I try to remember that I need to pray for those that have sinned against me (per Yeshua’s command in Matthew 5:44), and when I pray for them I find that it is easier to forgive them.

The old adage, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” is absolutely correct, and totally biblical.

Usually, Dear Abby’s advice is on the mark, and I understand that her column is not a religious one, but it sure would be nice if she was less PC and more GC (God Correct) for then her advice would be truly good advice.

If Something Is Available To Us Is That The Same As We Deserve It?

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How many times do we hear on the TV or radio that the product being advertised is one that “you deserve to have?”  For instance, Lasik (the laser eye treatment) is now better than ever so you can have the eyesight you deserve.

Here are some other examples I found in an article on a Google search (italics added):

“”You deserve Virgin Mobile.”

“You deserve NEW, NOW!” shouts a billboard for a housing development in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The most original people deserve the most original vodka,” reads the tagline on a series of ads for Stoli.

Weight-loss products from motivational speaker Tony Robbins claim to give you “the body you deserve” (thin and healthy).

A 2012 book from the popular financial writer Suze Orman promises “the future you deserve” (rich and happy).”

Skipping the Internet and going “old school” I used a thing called a Dictionary to look up what “deserve” means. It says, “to be worthy of or entitled to” and the word “deserved” means “merited; earned.”

So what is my “beef” about this morning? It’s about the UN-deserved attitude of entitlement that people have today which is promulgated and enforced by advertising. The air waves bring us the news (fake and designed to disturb) as well as the TV shows we watch, whether you have cable, satellite or stream them. And who is in charge of the air waves? If you’re asking me (and I assume you are) it is not ABC, or CBS or CNN- it is the one who the Bible tells us is in charge of the air, the Prince of the Air…Satan! (Ephesians 2:2)

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and my attitude toward people is highly influenced by what I was conditioned to think watching TV as a child. Yes, I used the word “conditioned” because that is what advertising does to us. Nearly 1/3 of every hour of TV is advertising and we watch hours of TV every day. That equates to hundreds of hours of advertising every year. I was in Sales for about 15 years and learned that the career most closely related to sales is psychology. One of the most important lessons I ever learned as a sales professional is that people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want, and sales is a means of making people think what you have is what they want. The advertising focus when I grew up was that a product was needed and helpful, but now it is focused not on needing the product but deserving it. When we deserve something we think “I want what I deserve; I want what I have earned; I want what I am entitled to have- give me what is mine!”

This pseudo entitlement goes beyond just products and services- it can even influence our spiritual position. People think that they are entitled to be saved, that they have earned their salvation because they go to church every Sunday or keep a Kosher house (although they don’t stay Kosher outside the home.)  People think that they deserve to have what they want because that is what they are told (over and over) every 20 minutes while watching TV. The message that sticks in our self-absorbed and hedonistic brains is this: if I want it I deserve it! The result is that people believe because God made salvation free to have that I deserve it, I am entitled to it and I don’t have to do anything to keep it.

No, you aren’t and yes, you do! None of us automatically deserves anything. Even though salvation is free to all who ask, we don’t deserve it and we aren’t entitled to it. And we have to work hard to keep it. Salvation is here for us to have ONLY because God is gracious and loving. And very, VERY merciful.

Moses tells the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 9:6 they aren’t in the land because they deserve it but because the other nations have so terribly sinned that God is ejecting them.  He further tell them that they are stiff-necked and if (and when) they also reject God they will also be thrown out of the land.

This message isn’t just for the children of Israel going into the land- it is for every single one of us today.  Salvation comes through faith, and faith must be based on a humble and repentant attitude. We need to ask for forgiveness and we need to ask for salvation- we are not deserving or entitled to it. But because of the conditioning from advertising which we are constantly and inescapably exposed to, we begin to think that we are entitled to everything.

I am not saying that we should get rid of all advertising- we can’t. Advertising is an essential thing to have so that we can know what products and services are available to us. What I am suggesting is that we use discretion and common sense when we are exposed to advertising. And we definitely need to point out to our children how wrong are many of the things advertisers try to tell us. We need to remember that what we are told by people selling things is focused on our sinful nature- there is not one moment of advertising I can think of which appeals to our better nature, other than animal rescue commercials. Maybe those commercials that ask for funding of charitable organizations, too, but other than that it is all about me me me and what I deserve to have.

Today’s message is that you must stay humble in the light of your remarkable amount of entitlement; remain steadfast and frugal despite the fact that you deserve to have so many of these wonderful products. Remember that you really don’t deserve anything other than that which you have worked for. Salvation is something we ask for and receive freely, but it takes a lot of work to keep it. We have to live our lives for God and not for self in a world that is all about self. That, my friends, is hard work. And if you stay the course, keep your eyes focused on your eternal reward and not just something that you can get from E-Bay then you will do well.

You don’t deserve salvation and you aren’t entitled to happiness or peace of spirit, but you can have it for free because God is gracious and loving. And once we accept it we then need to work hard to keep it. Just like the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants, they received it as God’s gift but once there they had to deserve to stay in it by obeying God.

Things are no different today.