I Don’t Care That I’m Apathetic

Really.  I don’t care that there are some things I don’t care about.

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Before we go any further, I should clarify what I am apathetic about: I don’t care which politician is in charge or what any of them say; I don’t care what sports team is doing what; I don’t care that people say the economy is lousy (they always do); and I don’t care what happens in other parts of the world, either politically or socially.

I do care that our society is going to heck in a handbasket at an increasing speed, but (on the other hand) I don’t care to do anything about it.

I do care that my loved ones, friends and most of my acquaintances are pretty much doomed to the second death. Yet, other than living my life as best I can to show them the comfort and joy I receive by having God in my corner, there isn’t much else I can do.

My apathy isn’t really based in discompassion or hatred, and it’s not that I don’t have feelings for anyone other than myself. In truth, I usually come in second, so to speak, when I am with my friends and family. I am more of the ‘servant’ than the ‘master’ in my personal relationships.

What I mean by that statement is that there are two types of people in the world: givers and takers. Those who give have a servant’s heart, and those that take aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just that they take more than they give. Both of these types have many levels at which they operate. For instance, a servant may be operating anywhere from being everyone’s patsy, to being a strong leader in the community. Being a servant doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader- look at Yeshua. He was one of the greatest teachers and leaders that ever existed, and He told us He didn’t come to be served, but to serve.

So why am I apathetic? It’s actually not apathy- what I am is resolved to wait until God’s plan of salvation is completed, and that I faithfully expect the tribulations we read about in the Bible to come true. God has been telling us through the Prophets and especially in Revelation all about what is going to happen in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), and I see it all happening at this very moment.

In America, we have never been so politically opposed to each other, and the country has never been so vehemently separated as we are today. Except, maybe, during the mid-1800’s, when slavery was the issue that divided us and drove us, eventually, into civil war.  Today we still have serious race issues, and combined with the polarization of our political system, well…it seems to me we are pulling ourselves apart. And the sexual perversion that has been a cancer growing silently in our bowels is finally making itself visible to the world.

It used to be that we cared about other people, but today we are all concerned about our own feelings: we are all victims, we need “comfort” animals to travel and eat with us, and we are teaching this slave-mentality to our children. Instead of teaching them to overcome adversity, we are teaching them how to be victims, not even able to care of themselves. Our children cannot make change without a calculator, they can’t tell time using an analog clock, and many can’t even tie their own shoelaces.

If Velcro was taken off the market, we would have shoeless children everywhere!

I read people’s postings, Facebook comments, memos and reports that are an abomination of English! Poor grammar, misspellings, and a general disregard for proof-reading. All social skills that the US of A no longer seems to think are important.

As for the rest of the world, North Korea is run by a nutcase with his hand on the nuclear button; Europe is being ravaged by Islamic extremists who are taking over the entire continent, if not by terrorism than by population; and Russia has learned military power isn’t the answer to world domination- it’s cyberpower!

Taking all this into consideration, when I think about it, frankly…I don’t care!

Why? Because all of this is supposed to happen! It is all prophesied, and if I was to try to overcome or stop it, then I would be “kicking against the goads” because this is God’s plan. I do not want to go against God.

So there you have it! I don’t care that Europe is in trouble, that America still has racial issues, that Jews are still persecuted in parts of the former USSR, that Europe is being assaulted by terrorists, that Christians are persecuted in Third World countries, that the climate is what the climate is, that sports has become a new religion second only to science, both now more important to most people than God, OR that Christianity has so screwed up the teachings of Yeshua that the only thing most of Christianity has in common with Him is His nom de plume.

No, I don’t care, and in some respects I welcome it! Yes, I welcome it because the worse things become, the closer we get to Yeshua’s return. That is what I care about- the return of our Messiah. His return to earth to finish off what He started, which is the completion of God’s plan of salvation for those that have faithfully accept God, His Messiah and are faithfully obedient to His Torah.

So, nu? What do you care about?

 

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

In light of Hurricane Irma, with Hurricane (or should I say, Him-icane) Jose building up power just off the Eastern Seaboard, people are again asking that age-old question:

“If God is a loving, compassionate and protective Father, why does He let these terrible things happen to people?”

The answer is, actually, very simple…just because God is in control of everything, that doesn’t mean He will control everything.

There are multiple references in the bible to the fact that the enemy of God, Ha Satan (that devil!) is in control of the Earth. He was thrown down to it (Luke 10:18), when he offered rule of it to Yeshua (Matthew 4:9) and Yeshua didn’t say anything about Satan not having the authority to offer rule over the world, it implies Yeshua recognized Satan did have rule over the world , and Satan is called the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) There are other references, as well, all indicating that when Satan was ousted from heaven, along with 1/3 of the heavenly hosts (which are now fallen angels, or what we call “demons”), he was given authority over the Earth. Even if we skip the biblical references and just use our common sense, it is obvious that God is allowing Satan to rule. That is why there are so many terrible things happening to good people, and bad people as well. Not just destructive acts of nature, but people hurting people. I saw an an article in the paper just this past week about an 11-year old that stabbed a 9-year old to death! Clearly that can not be, in any way, something from God- it has to be of the Devil.

There have been times, no doubt, that God Himself has caused destruction: Babel, the Flood, Sodom, Pharaoh’s army, Jericho, as well as many of the battles of the Israelites against their enemies. All these terrible calamities were caused by God for a reason- to show His power, His authority and His ability to protect His chosen people when they call upon His name.

Those things God did are just “a drop in the bucket” compared to the destruction, death and devastation the enemy has caused over the millennia. God allows it because, well…I don’t know! He just does, that’s all. He has a plan, and we know what it is because He has told us all about it in the bible. However, He doesn’t always tell us why He allows these things to happen and when, exactly, He will stop them for good.

That’s where faith comes in. Our faith in God, which we demonstrate by trusting Him to make all things right in the end. And what if we have to suffer during the time between Eden and the new Jerusalem? What do we do? We suffer. We go through the fire, we get melted down so that the dross can be removed, so that through this suffering- especially the suffering caused by the enemy- we can come out more purified than before.

The enemy makes us suffer to destroy our faith, and God allows us to suffer to strengthen our faith- and when we remain faithful we come out of it stronger. That’s the big joke God is playing on the enemy: God knows that the more the enemy attacks a faithful person, the stronger the faith of that person will become. And when we remain faithful through our suffering, sooner or later the enemy will have to take a break, and that’s when God will come in with blessings to revive and refresh our spirit.

I prayed that Irma would pass by my house but when I saw it wouldn’t, I had to leave Donna in New York halfway through our road trip (which we had been planning for months), miss the friend and family gatherings we had planned, miss a niece’s wedding, and rush home to board up the house. My prayers for Irma passing were answered with, “Sorry-ain’t gonna happen.”  My next prayer was for protection from the small lake behind my house, which had risen so much it was about to flood the house (it was only about 10 feet from flooding the house just as the worst part of the hurricane started.) That prayer was given the “OK- you’re covered” (thank the Lord!) and we didn’t get flooded, although a friend in another part of town had 1 -2 feet of water throughout his house.

A little extra protection God gave, also, was that even though the winds were blowing directly from the lake to the house, all the tree branches in the backyard fell into the wind, missing my porch and house (which are only 10 feet from the tree) completely. To give you an idea of how remarkable that is, here is a shot of how much debris there was (that pile goes back a good 6 feet onto the grass):

 

So when terrible things happen on the earth, I think we shouldn’t automatically blame God because He isn’t really running the day-to-day stuff on the earth. Oh yes- He listens to us, He sees us, He protects us (when it fits into His plan) and He allows bad things to happen to us (which also fits into His plan); it is all designed to strengthen our faith and our spirit so that we can be ready for the REALLY bad stuff that is yet to come. The Book of Revelation tells us what to expect when the fecal matter hits the air circulation unit, and compared to those days, hurricane Irma, Tsunami’s, earthquakes, and all the other terrible things that have ever happened in the world’s history will seem like a walk in the park.

From now on, when someone asks you why a good God can let bad things happen, don’t let them use that as an excuse for apostasy or faithlessness- no, you tell them straight out that it isn’t God’s fault because the enemy rules the earth and God is only biding His time. Just because we don’t understand God’s ways doesn’t mean that He doesn’t exist, doesn’t care, doesn’t love us, or isn’t in control (which He is). It just means we don’t understand.

Children don’t always understand why they are punished, but their parents know that what they are doing is designed (ultimately) to teach the child how to survive. If we can acknowledge that a human parent knows how to teach it’s children how to survive, then how much more so should we trust that God knows how to teach us to survive?

 

Let’s Talk End Times for a Moment

Thursday is usually a non-posting day for me, but after I did the Crossword Puzzle, Cryptogram, and finished reading the Comics (the only really worthwhile parts of the newspaper) I decided to check out the article about how some psychiatrists say that President Trump is exhibiting narcissistic, sociopathic behavior.

Last November I didn’t think Clinton or Trump were good choices, and the rest weren’t anything to “write home to Mommy” about, either. But I accepted what the country wanted. Of course, since last November all we have heard is that what we got is not what the country wanted but what Russia wanted. Oh wait! Maybe it isn’t what Russia wanted because both Clinton and Trump had secrets with Russia, or was that Obama? No, he was secretly a terrorist benefactor. Or was it…well, I am all confused now. Seems that the last couple of Presidents and presidential hopefuls are all in cahoots with someone, and all are working against the Constitution one way or another.

So I need to ask you: is this the sign of the times? Yeshua said that we know when the weather will be good or bad but we can’t read the sign of the times.

We have a political civil war raging, and racial hatred is rising at an alarming pace. Some of the country’s professional medical associations are now publicly discussing if the president is a narcissistic sociopath, and some of his own people are publicly saying they are concerned that Trump has full and unrestricted access to the nuclear codes, implying they think he might launch a nuclear attack against another country without consulting his Cabinet or Congress beforehand.

Sign of the times? So nu? … when do we start to hear people accusing Trump of being the Anti-Christ? Or has that already happened and I just haven’t heard it yet?

I have no answers, and I have no opinion on whether or not Trump is the Anti-Christ, or if he even wants to be (I doubt he does because I think he already considers taking that job as a step down from his current position.) I don’t have any answers, but I have absolutely no doubt that we are very close to entering the End Times, if not already in the initial phases.

The world is having climate issues (regardless of one’s position on Global Warming, the climate is worsening for whatever reason), hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and social unrest globally. Worldwide terrorism is rising at an alarming rate and the worst part of all this is that the world leaders are doing nothing to stop it. In fact, some are encouraging it by allowing immigrants into their country without concern for their own people’s safety!

Everyone today is a victim of one sort or another, and everything that is wrong is wrong because someone else made it that way. We are so irresponsible, individually, that when you buy a radio the warning label has to tell you not to use it in the bath or shower!  What’s up with that?

And the biggest sign I see is that while the world’s country’s are being attacked by Islamic terrorists from the inside, the United Nations constantly holds up Israel as the reason for this unrest. They accuse Israel of violating human rights, while at the same time ignoring the Arab diatribe about how Israel has no right to exist and all Jews should be killed. The world turns a blind eye to how the Arab countries teach their children (from kindergarten age and up) that it is not only legal and useful to kill Jews, but an honor, and the accelerating terrorism attacks throughout Europe and in America by Islamic terrorists is blamed on Israel!

The bible tells us that in the End Days the entire world will come against Israel; sign of the times?

I have to admit that I am scared. I am ready to fight for God, I am ready to suffer when I refuse to take the microchip, and I am ready to die today in order that I may live forever. I am ready, but I don’t want to see this happen to my loved ones. I don’t want to be separated from those I care about because they take the mark, and I know that most everyone in my life that I love or care about will be in that group. Anyone who says otherwise is putting blinders on their eyes. For me, one of the hardest things to live with is the knowledge that I will suffer, not so much physically as emotionally, when I see my loved ones come against me. And I know what they don’t; they are destroying their eternal soul, and while the suffering I go through is temporary, the suffering they will have to endure will be eternal. That tears me up inside, so I repress it and try to go on without thinking about it.

Sign of the times, my Brothers and Sisters…sign of the times.

I call on all Believers to go to Ephesians 6:10-18 and get into the habit of wearing your armor every day. Many are already used to wearing it, and for those that aren’t, it’s time.

Forget about Eschatological studies, forget about arguing who the Anti-Christ is or might be, and give up worrying about the fate of your loved ones because none of that will make any difference or help you. All that is left today, and going forward, is to wear the armor, double your efforts to show people how much better it is when you trust God instead of people (given the current political and social environment, we have a really good chance of people listening to us now) and prepare yourself for suffering.

Protect your heart, prepare your spirit, and toughen up!

Signs of the times.

 

Parashah Terumah (donation), Exodus 25 – 27:19)

From this point on, except for Chapters 32 through 34 (the sin of the Golden Calf) the remaining chapters of this book deal with the construction of the Tabernacle and the articles in it.

The Tabernacle is where God talks to Moses. His instructions were first to built the Ark, after the Ark (which is the holiest of all the items) the rest of the construction was done from that point outwards: the Ark, then the Holy of Holies, then the articles in the area where only the priests were allowed (only the Cohen haGadol, the High Priest, was allowed in the Holy of Holies, and only once a year on Yom Kippur), then the Court, etc., all the way to the main entrance at the far end of the court.

The materials used were of dyed linens, tanned hides, acacia wood, gold, silver and bronze. The people were asked to contribute from their personal stores, much of which they received from the Egyptians when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:36); so, in a way, Egypt helped make building the Tabernacle possible. The most valuable materials were the ones closest to the Holy of Holies, with the less valuable materials being used as the Tabernacle was being built outwards.

We have all heard or used the expressions, “Closer to God” and “Farther from God”, representing, clearly enough, one’s spiritual maturity and faithful obedience to God’s commands. When I think of how the Tabernacle was built, with the purest items items being closest to the center of the Tabernacle (where God was present), I see this as representing how we need to be in our worship life: in order for us to come closer to God, we must first become purer.

Gold and silver are metals unto themselves, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and each one needs to go through a firing process in order to remove the dross so it can be in it’s purest state; gold is purified using temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, silver at about 800 degrees Celsius and bronze at a temperature between 230 and 630 degrees Celsius. The purer the metal, the higher the heat used to purify it.

I see people and their relationship to God similar to the way these metals are forged: the closer we want to come to God, the hotter the fire of purification will have to be. Yeshua tells us this when He tells us that anyone who wants to be His Disciple will have to carry His execution stake to follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23), so we are adequately warned that getting closer to God will not be easy. Consequently, as we are further from faithful obedience and fear of the Lord, we are more like the less pure metals- we will be forged, but at a lower heat. For those who may be no more spiritual than having some recognition of God, such as type who go to services during the High Holy Days only, or at Christmas and Easter, their “spiritual purity” is still full of dross and slag.

The dross is the sin inside of us: that is why, since sin is part of our nature and formed when we are formed, it must be burned out for us to be purified, separated from the world (sin) and brought closer to God.

Oy! That is a very hard word to hear. Basically, what I am saying is that the Tabernacle represents what we need to go through, spiritually and physically, when we decide to worship God as He wants us to do. We are all built with some copper, tin, silver and gold inside of us, and as we approach God, we will have the base metals separated, and the fine metals purified. This is done through Tsouris (suffering) in our lives. It sounds unfair, but that is what is needed. You can’t get rid of the dross without going through the fire, and the reason we do this is to be closer to God.

Even after we have been purified, we will still have Tsouris in our life. But as we become more purified we will be able to abide the suffering and stay focused on the reward we are all striving to receive: eternal joy and peace in the presence of God, Almighty.

I don’t mind going through the fire because I know what is on the other side.

What metal are you? Have you accepted your level of purity? Realistically, everyone wants to be gold but very few are willing to go through the fire, so if you really, really want to be gold, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Prepare yourself for troubles
  2. Read the entire bible (Genesis through Revelations) and accept that it is all one book, one God, one way to worship Him (His way) and that all the commandments, from beginning to end, are valid
  3. Accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised and ask for forgiveness of sin on your own, meaning that you ask for forgiveness from your heart and not because your Priest or your parents said you had to.
  4. Prepare for even more troubles and steel yourself (gird your loins) for a lifetime of rejection, problems, harassment and persecution.

Read Matthew 5:10, 1 Peter 4:12-19 and James 1:2– all of these verses warn us that we will be persecuted in Messiah’s name, but that it is a blessing we should all strive to achieve.

Doesn’t this sound crazy? I want to have the joy and peace of spirit that worshiping God can bring, which it does, but to get that I have to suffer. Sounds like the ultimate oxymoron- suffer persecution and hatred to have peace of mind and spirit. Huh?!?

But that’s how it works, and it does work. Ask anyone who you know to be devoted to God and they will tell you of all the problems they have had to undergo, but also of all the joy they have felt and blessings they have received from God. It sounds crazy, but that which the world thinks is right is usually the exact opposite of what is acceptable to God.

It’s all up to you- do you want to be bronze or gold? Your choice, your decision, your eternal future.

Faith ain’t easy

Have you ever read the Psalms, and looked past the P’shat (plain language) to see the Drash (underlying meanings) of the writings of David?

I read a little of the “Manual” every day, and I go from Genesis through to the end of Revelations (sometimes I even check out the maps at the end) and then I go back to Genesis, to start all over again. Currently I am in Psalms, and as I read them, I pass the beauty of the writings and see the pathos of the requests.

David is clearly in need of Prozac; he is constantly upset with the conditions of his life. And it’s no wonder: his king and father-in-law, Shaul (Saul), wants to kill him for no reason at all. David constantly talks about his enemies trying to destroy him, Shaul mainly, but there were the Philistines, too, always trying to take land or goods away from the Israeli’s. David spent years wandering in the desert, under constant fear for his life, living as a marauder, plundering the enemies of Israel to survive. He also had nearly 400 men to support. If you have ever been in a position of management or authority, it is a very heavy burden.

Let’s not forget that his own son, Absalom, tried to take over his kingdom. And almost succeeded.

And yet, David was faithful, righteous, kind and forgiving: all of the very best qualities that any God-fearing person should possess. Except for a few biggies, now and then, he was a sinless and upright man and king. So why should he have had to suffer the way he did, through almost all of his life?

The answer is the title to today’s message: faith ain’t easy; add to that righteousness takes a lot of hard work, and when you are righteous and faithful, you are so different from nearly everyone else that you will be alone, often. Not only that, but people will hate you and try to take you down to their level of sinfulness because you represent to them what they can’t, but inwardly want, to have. When someone wants to be like someone else, but they aren’t, they have two choices: they can improve on themselves, or they can make the other person become less than what they are.

Simply put, if I am dirtier than you are, and I am too lazy or sinful to clean up my act, I will throw dirt all over you so that now we are both dirty.

Despite having had so many wives and children, having the loyalty and friendship of his elite guard, having his cousin Yohav as his general ( who may have been loyal to David but was also a source of pain, killing who he believed should be killed, even when David said not to) and, of course, being the king (as Mel Brooks has said in his film “History of the World, Part I”,  “It’s good to be the king!”), overall I believe that David lived a very tough and often lonely life.

So what is the message? The message today is: stay the course! Be prepared to be lonely, to be hated and ridiculed, to be kidded even by your friends, and to suffer for the name of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) as you live a faithful and righteous life.

When you are a light in the darkness, what that means is this: think about what it is like when you have been sleeping, get up in the dark and suddenly turn the lights on. Your eyes squint, it is uncomfortable, and it is not a pleasant experience. Imagine that feeling multiplied exponentially, on an emotional and spiritual level, and you will have an idea of what it means to those who live (and are quite comfortable) in the darkness when the light of your righteousness shines upon them.

When the light enters the darkness, those who live in the darkness don’t cry out, “Welcome! Thank you for allowing us to see better.” Rather, they will be angry and will scream, “TURN OUT THAT LIGHT!!

Don’t. Don’t ever let your light go out, no matter how loud they scream, no matter how vindictively they berate you, and no matter what they do to you. Remember that Yeshua told us we will suffer for the sake of His name, but that we will be rewarded for it.

Faith ain’t easy, but after all the troubles and tribulations you will have to suffer in order to maintain your faith, the eternal reward will make it all worth the effort.

 

 

Too afraid to preach what we need to hear?

How many of you go to your place of worship and get told, over and over and over, how much God loves you? Just the way you are? And that Jesus loves you, and died for you so that you can be with Him and the Father in heaven, forever? And that your sins are forgiven the moment you call on the Name of the Lord? Forever and ever. All you need to do is call on His name and you are saved! Hallelujah!!

That’s all true, of course; God does love you, and Yeshua died for you so that you have a chance to be with Him.

But not in heaven- that is not where the bible says we will be.

And when you call on the Name of the Lord for salvation, it only works if you really mean it, and that requires you to change your ways for the rest of your life. And if you think that is hard to do, you’re right!

And when you go to a place to worship, you must tithe to that place. And not just the loose change you happen to have, but 10%! Too often people argue: 10% of gross? 10% of net? of expendable? Why not just give what you want to give, no matter what percent it represents?  That’s up to you, but you must tithe, and that tithe should be, at the very least, a significant amount of your income.

And you need to participate. You need to help clean up after an Oneg Shabbat (snacks after the services- it means ‘Joy of Sabbath’), or clean up the property, or help vacuum the sanctuary: whatever it is, you need to participate in congregational activities.

These are things that are biblically required, but how often does a Minister, Priest or Rabbi talk about tithing? Or tell you that calling on God’s name is only the start, because you have to work at it. Constantly. And how often does someone tell their congregation they need to get more people to come because we need more people to do the work?

Yes, we hear leaders pray for Yeshua (Jesus) to send more harvesters to the field, and we pray for God’s divine guidance and help to fulfill our mission, but that’s not enough. There is nothing in the bible that says we should sit around and pray, and not do anything. All the people in the bible God called, He called to DO something.

God didn’t tell Abraham to stay in Ur; God didn’t tell Jacob to stay with Laban; God didn’t tell Moses to hang around Mt. Sinai; God didn’t tell the Prophets to stay at home and pray; God didn’t tell Yeshua to stay in Bethlehem; Yeshua didn’t tell Shaul to stay at home, and God will never tell you to sit around, pray for something and wait for Him to make it happen for you. God wants you to look to Him for guidance, for help, for strength and for leadership, but He expects that you will do something with it when He gives it to you!

(Read the parable of the Talents- Matthew 25:14)

I am blessed and honored to give the message about once a month, and we usually follow the parashot in the Torah, but this year I think I need to expand that to tell people they need to get off their tuchas and do something. We need to stop going to church or synagogue on Sabbath Day and pray, sing, and kibbutz, then forget about it all until next weekend. We need to be challenging ourselves to do more during the week, as well. Bring God into conversation, ask people you know to visit with you at the next service, ask your religious leader what you can do to help him or her to accomplish the mission of your place of worship. Volunteer somewhere that does God’s work, with humans or with animals- it doesn’t matter. God likes animals, too.

And if you are a leader in your religious community, a Pastor, a Rabbi, a Council member, an Elder…whatever you are, if you are in ministry leadership, don’t be afraid to tell your congregation what they need to know. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about tithing because it is, after all, your salary, well…get over it!  God commands people to tithe, and if you don’t keep on them about it, then you aren’t spreading God’s word, and (worse than that) your fear or discomfort may be causing some to stumble into sin.

If you don’t like to talk about the hard work and suffering it takes to remain a faithful servant of God, and all you want to do is tell people the “Happy-Happy” stuff because then they tell you how much they liked the sermon, and you get more people coming in to hear about how they are OK just as they are, then you are failing to tell the truth. You are recruiting people for battle without showing them how to defend themselves or even giving them any battle armor.

If you are in leadership you need to lead. You cannot be afraid to tell the truth about salvation, that truth being that it is hard: Yeshua said we need to leave everything behind, which includes our comfort zone, and carry our own execution stake to follow Him. People need to be prepared for the fact that they will be ridiculed, excluded from friends, (maybe even) excluded from family, talked about as prudish and “holier-than-thou” by other people. They need to know they will be required to give their time and money to the place where they worship, and expected to participate in activities there.

If someone is unevenly yoked, meaning that their spouse doesn’t believe the same way they do, or maybe is just a member of a different place of worship, they need to be told that there will have to be compromise- but never compromise to the point where you do not tithe or participate. Two people who love the Lord and believe in Yeshua as their Messiah can still be unevenly yoked. Dealing with that situation ain’t gonna be easy, take it from me, but if you also show your spouse the the love, patience and understanding that God shows to you, you will make it that much easier to deal with.

Salvation is easy to get, and hard to keep. If we don’t let people know that, up front, then the good seed will not be able to take root. Living for God is living against the world, and there’s a lot more world out there than there is you, or me. But we have God on our side, so the bottom line is that, as Shaul (Paul) says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

And in Romans 8:31, Shaul also gives this word of encouragement regarding our struggle against the world:

If God is for us, who can be against us? 

So be prepared to prepare yourself, and your congregation, for what is to come. Yes, preach about God’s love and forgiveness- please don’t ever let up on that, for it is an encouraging and edifying word. But also let people know what they will be up against, and what they need to do to maintain a proper attitude of faithfulness- not just in their spirit, but from their pocket and from their sweat.

It is because God’s love for you and me is so great that it resulted in God sending His only son to die, which required Yeshua to give up His divinity in order to take on flesh, so that He could die. We often hear that God is all about love, but God isn’t all about love; He is also about sacrifice, hard work, justice, diligence, and perseverance. Don’t ever forget that.

Look at all He did for you, all He gave up, forever: is what He asks back from us so much?

after the storm

I live in Brevard County, Florida, so Matthew came through with a vengeance. However, God was good and protected us and most of the neighbors. A lot of tree debris, my screened in porch suffered a large branch falling on it and bending one of the main supports (Hello? USAA?), but other than that we had no real problems.

I am sooooo sore from moving everything that was on top of the plywood window covers, taking them out, putting them up, moving everything back so I could put the car in the garage, then taking them down, moving everything out of the way, putting them back in , ….well, you get the idea. Oh, wait! Then I had to collect all the debris, cut the big branches down to reasonable size, move it all to the street, bag up all the little stuff, and yesterday morning (before it got too hot) I was on the roof cleaning out the gutters.

Here’s what it did to the porch and the pile of leftovers all over the yard:

hurricane-matthew-damage                                                               hurricane-matthew-leftovers

 

I have been told that I look like I am only in my late 40’s (I sleep in the fridge- it helps a lot), but I am in my early 60’s and really feeling it today. Oy!

I am grateful to God for making this first hurricane we have gone through relatively easy on us, although Haiti, the Bahama’s, and sections of America have had terrible damage, and deaths have resulted. For those who say, ” Meh- this wasn’t so bad.” they should consider the people who are burying their loved ones and can’t even go home after the funeral, because they don’t have a home, anymore.

So why does God do this to people? Why do they have to die in a weather event? These are the questions we ask each other, and we ask of God, aren’t they?

“Why did You do this?”

I can only answer for myself, and this is my opinion only: it’s because God doesn’t see things the way we do.

We see barely past our own noses, for the most part- we are self-absorbed and self-centered. It’s what we are, it’s who we are, it’s what the world tells us to be. God, on the other hand, is all about His children and the salvation He has planned for us. God doesn’t see life as the whole and death as the end: He knows that there is eternity following life. He knows that what we have is only fleeting, a mist, a memory, grass that springs up in the morning and is dried out and burned at evening. God is looking at things from an eternal viewpoint, so when people die and property is destroyed, God sees that as we see a scratch: it is a little bothersome today but by tomorrow it will be past, and by next week we will have totally forgotten we ever had a scratch- as if it had never even happened.

Of course, to us having a loved one killed or our homes destroyed is more than a scratch, but as I said, that is from our perspective. Our perspective is too limited- to help us get past these kinds of traumatic events in our lives, we need to see from God’s perspective.

Try to remember that what we go through now will be nothing more than a memory, if even that, when we are in God’s presence for all eternity. I wrote a post a while ago called “SWISH“- So What, I‘m Saved: Hallelujah! If my house has damage, SWISH. If I have lost a loved one SWISH (although I agree that is really hard to SWISH by); if I have a lot of cleanup to do and I am sore, SWISH.

I don’t mean to minimize the extent of the pain, damage and cost of a hurricane, but I do want to try to minimize it’s effect on my spirit and my attitude. There are better things to come, better days ahead, and eternity in the presence of God which will be a  joy forever.

All I am saying is that in the midst of Tsouris, try to remember and focus on the future in Paradise. And if you don’t have that future, then ask God to help you attain it. The invitation is written with your name on it, all you have to do is accept it and show up wearing the proper clothes- humility, T’Shuvah (repentance) and thankfulness.

Let it go, already!

Is there something in your past that you wish hadn’t happened? Something you did? Something you said? Something someone did to you? And no matter what, it keeps popping up in your head, with no warning? And doesn’t it always seem to come back to you just after something upsetting happens?

Well, don’t you think it’s about time you let it go and got on with your life?

Ever try to drive your car looking in the rear-view mirror? You’re bound to crash, aren’t you? The same is true of walking with God (or even walking alone, for that matter, although walking with God is much, much better.) We need to learn from God how to forgive, which carries with it the obligation to forget, too. Not to be stupid about it- if someone has hurt you and is unrepentant, you don’t give them a chance to do that again. You forgive them, yes- that is what we are commanded to do, but you don’t let them have the opportunity to hurt you again. That is just foolish. So you forget it, but don’t forget about it.

Huh? Forget it but don’t forget about it? What the heck does that mean?

It means you first let go of the pain by forgiving, which is the only way the pain ever goes away. Once you forgive, you will be able to remember the event, only it won’t be painful. You will see it as a life lesson. And, if the person is repentant and shows that through his or her actions, once they have regained your trust, then you can totally forget the entire incident.

It sounds hard, but in truth, it is harder to do than it sounds. Much harder. Pride gets in the way, the desire to be avenged, to have the other person experience the pain and worry and strife and emotional upheaval that he put you through. The need to know that witch got a taste of her own medicine! Yeah- that’s what I want to see!

That’s pridefulness, not Godliness. That’s the enemy talking to you, not the Holy Spirit. Vengeance may come, because what goes around, does come around.  And sometimes God, in His mercy, allows us to see the person reap what they have sown. And I don’t mean God’s mercy as to allowing you to see this to enjoy it, but in His mercy allowing you to see it so that you can feel the regret at someone else having to endure what you did, someone who may not have the forgiveness that God gave you, someone who may not be able to fall down knowing that a loving and forgiving God is there to pick them up, over and over.

If you can see someone who has hurt you suffering as you did, and not feel pity for that person, then you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are really trying to obey God.

Forgiveness is self-centered. Really. I believe most people, especially people who don’t know the Lord, think when you forgive someone you are making what they did acceptable. They think if they forgive someone then that person is “off the hook”, so to speak.

Not true. Everyone one of us, everyone, will be held accountable to God on the Day of Judgement. Those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah will be cleansed by His righteousness, not their own, but by His! Everyone else will be all alone standing at the Throne of the Lord. And let me tell you something- the carpet they stand on will be soiled by those that stood there before them, and when they have to face their sins with no reconciliation available to them, as God judges them they will add to the stains.

If you know even a little of the forgiveness God has granted you through Messiah, how can you feel anything but pity for that poor soul. Yes, he’s a rat; yes, she’s a wicked person, but still and all, they will spend an eternity in suffering and you will spend eternity in joy. When you think about that, doesn’t the harm they did to you, which only reflects their pain and suffering, seem relatively unimportant now?

It is hard to forgive, but not as hard as it is to forget. I am here to tell this to you because I am an expert- at failing. I have learned a lot about forgiveness through reading the bible and observing what God has forgiven, and how He has forgiven. But knowing how to do something is not being able to do it.

So I am practicing. I remember the hurt people have done to me so that I can practice letting go of it. When you first learn how to play an instrument and read music, after enough practice you stop reading the notes and consciously remembering the fingering for that note, and you just do it. When you learn a second language, after speaking it enough and conversing with it, you stop interpreting it in your head and you just know what the words mean.

Forgiveness can be like that- it stops being something you need to think about doing and you just do it. But that takes a lot, I mean , A LOT, of practice. I am still working at it.

My system is to first remember that I have hurt people because I was hurting. I believe people who are hurtful and nasty are suffering with tremendous pain in their heart and soul. They are so full of pain that it seeps out of them, oozes out in their words and actions; they just can’t control themselves. They are poisoned by the wormwood of unforgiveness and controlled by pridefulness, which is never satisfied. It is a hunger that gnaws at your soul and constantly causes you pain and discomfort- nothing tastes good, nothing feels good. It is torture, and they do not have the peace that the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, can give them.

They are in great pain and have rejected the only cure that works- Messiah. Instead of accepting the healing of the Holy Spirit, they dispense pain and suffering to others so that they do not suffer alone. They reek of sin, but instead of cleaning themselves off, they throw it on everyone else around them so that they don’t notice their own stench.

Those who have accepted Messiah have a poncho over them that doesn’t let the stink penetrate, and that poncho is called “forgiveness.” When we forgive, we cleanse ourselves before the Lord. The bad guy still stinks, but not us- we can be clean before God because we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

And when we forgive them, the pain of the sin goes away; we can remember the act done against us, but the associated pain is gone. This way, if there is repentance, we can let the person know he or she is already forgiven (which demonstrates to them God’s power and love) and now we can totally forget the incident.

Forgiveness is how you get past the pain and how you get on with your life. Unforgiveness is like dragging your anchor; you may be going forward, but there is always something holding you back, slowing down your spiritual growth and maturity. One day it will catch on a rock and you will never go anywhere.

None of us will ever reach full spiritual joy until we learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

If there is unforgiveness still lingering in your heart, remember what Yeshua told the man that wanted to follow Him but said he first needed to go back and say goodbye to his family? Yeshua told him that anyone who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62.) So if there is someone you have not forgiven, do as Yeshua told you- leave your sacrifice at the altar and go make it right. And if the other person refuses to repent, that’s their problem now, not yours. You have done what you could do, what you should do, and you can move on with your life knowing that you have done the Lord’s will.

If you haven’t done so yet, please- reel in your anchor; and if it is stuck on a rock, cut the line.

You can’t go anywhere when you won’t leave where you are.

Stuff happens

One of my coworkers has to deal with his wife passing away, suddenly. They are barely 40, and he has two young, low-functioning autistic children.

When such tsouris happens, we have to think about why. Is this a judgment from God? Is it an attack from the enemy? Is it just plain lousy luck?

I choose to believe that it is all of those things. God judged Adam and Eve, so yes- living in a fallen and cursed world where stuff happens is a judgment from God. And since the enemy attacks those who do God’s work on the earth, yes- it may have been that (although neither of them are Believers.) And does it just happen to people because these things just happen to people? Yes, of course.

Stuff happens.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean He does control everything. He is not a micro-manager.  We live in a fallen and cursed world, and we sin. Many times, I would like to think most of the times, we sin because of our nature and not because we want to. I have said this many times:

I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. Bottom line: I am still a sinner.

But that’s not everyone, and where sin is concerned, I believe there is always, always, always…collateral damage. The sinner isn’t the only one who suffers. In this physical plane of existence, we all suffer the sins of those around us.

Jews suffered the sins of Hitler (along with a lot of other religions); Jim Jones was a mass murderer, and the masses he killed (his own followers) suffered because of his sin; thousands suffered from the sins of the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. I could go on and on and on- just read the newspaper. Every single day, hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are innocent suffer because of the sins of others.

If you walk through a cow field, don’t expect to reach the other side with clean shoes. No matter how carefully you watch your step, you will step into something, sooner or later. And probably more than once.

That’s how life is in a cursed and fallen world. It sucks to be here, but there’s no where else to go right now. Of course, we could be with the Lord, but if you want to serve the Lord you can’t really do it when you are with Him- His work isn’t finished here on the earth so we who serve Him must remain here. That was the problem Shaul had (Philippians 1:21), and it’s the same one we all have, too- we want to be with the Lord but the Lord needs us serving Him here.

The good news is this: we who are Believers will be with the Lord, and when we are it will be for all eternity. The lousy lot we are stuck with here on earth is temporary. Yakov (James) says it is like a mist; this life that we suffer through. It seems to take forever, but it will be such a short memory throughout eternity we will barely even notice it. It will be as nothing once we are with the Lord, so suffer through it and be patient. As Shaul advises: keep your eyes on the prize.

Be compassionate, be loving, expect to have problems. You will. But don’ let them get you down. There will be people who harm you, physically and emotionally. Don’t let them hurt your spirit.

There will be people who hurt themselves, people you care about, and it will make you suffer to see them hurting themselves. Try to help them by showing them how much you care, and by treating them with understanding, but still maintaining a firm resolution to let them know that what they are doing to themselves is unacceptable, and that it hurts you. Ultimately, it is their choice to change or remain as they are, just as it is our choice to suffer with them or leave them to their own devices. Even Shaul, who said without love he is nothing, gave up on some people at times and had nothing further to do with them.

We all make choices, whether we want to or not; for instance, abstaining is not making a decision one way or the other, but it is, in and of itself, a decision. We always have a choice, and we always make a choice.

And we will be accountable for the choices we make. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Get with the program.

I feel for my co-worker, I can’t begin to understand the stresses he is feeling. I am glad we work for a compassionate and family-oriented company who will work with him during this devastating time in his life. I also wonder how I will deal with the loss of Donna, if she should go first. I don’t think anyone who knows of someone suffering the loss of a loved one doesn’t immediately reflect on their losses, too. Life and death are natural to us; in fact, it’s to be expected, and even though we all know everyone will die sooner or later (hopefully later), it still feels like a punch in the stomach when it happens to someone we care about.

The worst thing there is, to me, is losing a loved one who has refused to accept Messiah Yeshua- that is the real loss. It’s bad enough losing the person’s company, but to know what that person is going to have to deal with when the Acharit haYamim (End Days) are done and the final judgment comes to us all, well- that is the most painful part of all.

The best thing to remember when someone close to you suffers a loss is that you need to let them know you are there for them, especially since everyone else is probably shoving their own losses down the poor persons throat. That’s what we do: we share our grief with people who are grieving, in the hope that we make them feel less alone. Trust me- they don’t feel as alone in their grief anywhere near as much as they feel like telling you to shut up!

Pray for people who are suffering, hold their hand, comfort them with silence, and when you talk with them tell them how much you loved and will also miss the one they lost. Honor the life of the lost person, and don’t share your losses. This person has enough loss- they don’t need yours, too. Talk with them normally because what they need is normality.

The loss of a loved one is hard, it is different, and it tears you out of reality. We need to comfort people suffering a loss by bringing reality back, just enough to make them feel comfortable, just by being a friend who is there.

Stuff happens; however, knowing that doesn’t make it feel any better when it does. All I can say is thank God I have God to help me though it.

 

Hate is Easy and Love is Hard

That isn’t so much of a revelation, is it?

How many of us have had a “falling out” with someone? Usually it’s over something that isn’t really that important, but was at the time we had the falling out. And how much easier is it to just accept that relationship is over than it is to make contact and try to revive that friendship? Hating is easier, hating is what comes natural to sinful beings (like all of us, myself included) and hating is safer.

Yes, safer. Safer because when we try to mend a hurt, we take the chance that we will be hurt again. At Rosh HaShanah it is a tradition to go to one you may have sinned against or hurt and ask forgiveness. I did this, once, to the mother of my children about two years after we had separated. I apologized for any hurtful things I had done and asked forgiveness. What I got was an earful of hatred, spite and anger. She yelled at me, withholding her forgiveness from me as if it was necessary for my salvation. She never knew that the forgiveness she could have given to me would have made her more right with God and had nothing to do with me and God.

Forgiveness doesn’t have anything to do, really, with the person who hurt you and their relationship to God, but it has everything to do with your relationship with God. We are not commanded to ask for forgiveness- we are commanded to forgive (see Matthew 6:14-16); forgiveness of someone else makes us right with God, not them. They have to make themselves right with God.

Hatefulness comes easy to humans for all the reasons I stated above, and for one more: it just feels better. Yes, I admit that and confess it, as well. I have some family members and friends that I need to keep in touch with or they will never call me, visit me or even send me a text. If I am not on Facebook (which, by the way, I am not) then I will never know what is happening in their lives. That knowledge hurts. I love them and miss them and want to be with them, yet they don’t give a hoot about staying in touch with me. I am the one always reaching out to them, and sometimes I just feel like if I never, ever have anything else to do with them I won’t be missing anything at all. If they can’t take a few minutes out of their oh-so-very-important lives to say “Hi” or drop me a line, give me a call or even just leave me a voice mail, then screw them and the white horse they rode in on!!

That’s why love is so much harder- it takes sacrifice, it takes compassion (not one of my strong points) and it takes a high tolerance to emotional pain. Loving is giving, loving is being there when you don’t want to be, and loving is accepting the stripes that someone else deserves. And more than that! Love is doing all that and doing it willingly, without allowing yourself to feel regret you did the “right” thing or to feel animosity against the one you suffered over.

This is the kind of love Yeshua has for all of us. This is the kind of love that God has for you, right now. And it is the kind of love that they both expect you to show to others. More than expect- they require it! If you have known the loving forgiveness of God and understand the depth of the sacrifice Yeshua made so you can be forgiven, and yet you do not show (or at least try to show)  that same love to others, then you are the man Yeshua tells us about in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

In Matthew 16:24 Yeshua tells us how hard it is to love. He says:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

This isn’t easy, this isn’t something that comes naturally to us, and this isn’t fun. We get a sense of peace and joy from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) when we are deep in worship, but what we get from the world is a load of crap, hatred, and persecution. Many churches teach all about God’s love, and paint a pretty picture of salvation. In the meantime, they aren’t preparing their flock for the wolves. Yeshua told His Talmudim (students) that they would be sheep among wolves, that they are to be as gentle as doves but as crafty as snakes.

There is an old saying, I am sure you have heard it, that goes, “Time heals all wounds.” I don’t think time alone heals wounds, but with proper care of the wound, putting the balm of God’s love and compassion on it daily, time will eventually overcome the pain and the wound will heal. There is another saying that is similar: it goes, “Time wounds all heels.”  Those who are not forgiving, those who hate and persecute, bully and confound, will eventually be wounded. They will feel God’s arrow of justice pierce their liver.

And if the thought that those who have sinned against you makes you feel somewhat avenged, you need top pick up that cross because you aren’t carrying it! I have been hated, and that hatred has poisoned my own children to the point where despite all the sacrifices I made to be with them and try to show them how to be self-sufficient and succeed in the world, they have rejected me and abandoned me. They hate me because they were fed the hatred and spite their mother had against me when I left the marriage (which at that time was a marriage in name only.) And when I think of the suffering they will have to go through, for all eternity, if they don’t do T’Shuvah before they die, I can’t possibly feel anything but sadness and remorse for them. It kills me that they will have to face God without Yeshua in their corner. And not just the kids, but their mother, too. Sure, I have every reason in the world to be glad that she will get what she deserves for doing what she did to me and to our children.  All the reason in the world!

But we’re not supposed to be of the world, are we?