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!

Parashah Mikketz 2018 (At the end of) Genesis 41 – 44:17

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The Torah reading today takes up from last Shabbat when Joseph had properly interpreted the dreams of the Baker and Cupbearer. Two years later, Pharaoh has a dream, a double-feature (so to speak) and no one in all the kingdom can interpret it. The Cupbearer remembers Joseph, and he is brought to Pharaoh. Joseph says God is the one who interprets dreams, and God gives Joseph the proper interpretation of the well-known dream: the 7 sickly cows eating up the 7 healthy cows and the seven sickly ears of corn eating up the seven full and ripe ears of corn. Joseph also consults Pharaoh on how to store the surplus from the good years to provide food during the famine to come. Pharaoh appoints Joseph ruler over all of Egypt, gives him a wife and before the famine hits Joseph has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

Eventually, his brothers are sent to Egypt by Jacob in order to get food due to the famine. Joseph immediately recognizes them but they don’t know him, and he treats them as spies, locking up Simeon (Rabbinic tradition says he picked Simeon because Simeon was the one who first suggested they kill him) and demanding that they bring their youngest brother before him to prove their story, while secretly restoring their money before they leave. Of course, Jacob doesn’t want to part with Benjamin, but sooner or later he has to in order for them to get more food. Reuben offers to give his children as a sacrifice if Benjamin doesn’t come back, but Jacob won’t do that. When Judah offers to take total responsibility for Benjamin, Jacob finally relents and lets them take Benjamin to Egypt.

Once back in Egypt, Joseph has the brothers taken to his house to eat, restores Simeon to them and sets a trap for them. When they leave he has his servant hide a cup in Benjamin’s pack, along with all their money and sends them away. Soon after they leave he sends after them and they find the cup in Benjamin’s pack, bringing all the brothers back to face the charge of theft. Joseph says Benjamin will become his slave and tells the other brothers to return home, and that is where this parashah stops.

If you aren’t aware of this, every parashah is followed with a Haftorah, which is a reading from other parts of the Tanakh which is related to the message found in the Torah reading. The Haftorah for Mikketz is 1 Kings 3:15- 4:1. This is the story (also well-known) of the two prostitutes who come before King Solomon to argue who is the rightful mother of a child who they both claim is their own. When Solomon says to bring him a sword and he will divide the child, the real mother gives up the child in order to save its life, after which Solomon judges she is the true mother.

What these two stories have in common is that people recognized the wisdom that Joseph and Solomon displayed could only have come from God. Pharaoh said of Joseph (Genesis 41:38):

And Pharaoh said unto his servants: “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the spirit of God is?”

and when Solomon revealed the true mother of the child, we are told (1 Kings 3:28):

And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice.

God uses people, ordinary people like you and me, to intervene in human affairs in order to bring about his plans much more often than he uses angels. And when God imbues us with his wisdom or power, it is something that even the spiritually empty can recognize as coming from some supernatural source. Joseph and Solomon are just two examples of this; throughout the Bible, there are many examples of God giving people the gifts, power, and talents they need to achieve God’s plans.

There is a problem, though- how do we know that the person doing these things, making these judgments, or teaching us God’s word are really getting it from God? We are told that there will be false prophets and false Messiahs, as there have been over the millennia, even to modern days: think of Jim Jones, Father Devine, Jim Bakker, or even ‘the Rebbe’ Menachem Schneerson! They were all charismatic, had many followers and were considered to be either prophets or, in the case of Schneerson, the Messiah, himself. Yet, they have all proved to be false.

It is a hard thing to know the fake from the genuine, especially when the fake is going to be empowered supernaturally by the Enemy of God to perform miraculous feats, just as God empowers his prophets and messengers. The Bible tells us that if a prophet says something will happen, and it does then the prophet is proven to be from God, but sometimes prophecies don’t come about for a long time: I mean, look how long after Isaiah told us about Yeshua until he actually came. Hundreds of years!  And the Enemy will make sure that what his messengers prophesize will happen.

So, again we ask, how do we know who is the true messenger of God?

My answer is that the only way to really know the difference is to know God as best as we can, and the way to do that is through his Word! God tells us in the Bible who he is, what is important to him, and how he expects us to behave. He gives us a really good idea of what is godly and what is not. It is up to us to read the Bible, daily, and to know what God has said so that we can hold up anyone that says they are from God against the biblical template God has provided for us.

Finally, for those of you who are like me, a teacher of the Word, we must be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny. This is why James warned us when he said (James 3:1):

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely.

I often have said, in my posts and when I spoke to my congregation, that everything I say must be verified by God’s word. And it is the responsibility of the one hearing my speech, as much as it is mine, to make sure that what I say is proven correct by God’s word. There is a basic model of communication that has three parts: the speaker, the hearer, and noise. The “noise’ is what is between the speaker and the hearer, and it can be anything from measurable sound to bias thinking to total ignorance. The Enemy will make a lot of noise when we try to hear God, and both the one speaking and also the one hearing must work to filter out that noise.

Let me leave you with what I always say when I am complimented on a post or a sermon: if what I do or say is received as being good and just, it is not me but the Holy Spirit working through me. When I totally screw something up, then I can take full credit.

 

No Way Out of This One

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I am hoping that you find this title- No Way Out of This One– interesting because it makes you wonder, “No way out of what?” And, remarkably enough, I have the answer, which is, “No way out of obedience to the Torah!”

You see, Yeshua preached and taught from the Torah, but later the Gentile Christian leadership (most notably Constantine and his cronies) changed the dogma and structure of Christianity.

When Yeshua walked the earth, what he taught was something that those Jews who accepted him as their Messiah already knew, i.e., the Torah. And that was the same thing that the Gentiles who chose to follow Messiah and worship God were being taught, which effectively meant they were converting to Judaism.  But after Constantine took charge of Christianity, he created a totally different religion based on Jesus Christ as the Messiah, rejecting everything Messianic (i.e., Jewish) about him, except for the teaching that through him we can receive forgiveness of sin.

The main difference between modern-day Christianity and its root, Judaism, is the Torah. Christians have been taught that the Torah is for Jews, and they only need the blood of Christ. Obedience to all of God’s instructions has been reduced to simply loving each other and being a “good” person; they have been taught that is all you need because this guy Jesus has got your back, so long as you ask him to forgive you.

In Catholicism you don’t even need to ask Jesus to forgive you- the local Priest can do that!

The reason I say you can’t get out of this one is that the Torah, whether anyone likes it or not, is the direct word of God given to Moses. God gave it to Moses to bring to the entire world. It is not, and never was, intended just for Jews. The Torah is not a set of laws, so much as God’s instruction to everyone about how he wants us to worship him and how he wants us to treat each other.

Let me go off on a bit of a tangent: there are parts within the Torah that are specific to a certain class of people, such as certain requirements for the High Priest and the Levites are different than for everyone else. Also, there are some instructions that apply only to women (for physiological reasons.) However, overall the Torah (which means “instruction”) was given to the Jews to learn so they could live it as an example to the rest of the world to show them how they should live.

Now that we know what God intended the Torah to be, let’s address the wrongful teaching that it is only for Jews. To do this we first have to establish some basic “givens”:

  1. God gave the Torah to the Jewish people;
  2. God has stated throughout the Bible that all who sojourn with the Jewish people (i.e., live with and worships as) are subject to the same treatment as natural-born Jews (Lev. 24:22; Numbers 15:15);
  3. God says eventually the entire world will worship him (Isaiah 60:1-3; Zech. 8: 22-23)
  4. God wants the people to learn Torah from the Jews (Deut. 4: 6-8);
  5. Yeshua’s Disciples preached obedience to the Torah (Luke 24:47; John 14:15; Romans 3:31; John 2:3-6; Rev. 22:14)

All of these statements from the Bible lead us to the same conclusion: the Torah is what God gave to the world so we can live and worship as he wants us to so that we can have eternal life.

And it is most clearly stated in Numbers 15:15 (your bible may have it as 15:14 or 15:16):

As for the congregation, there shall be one statute both for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you, a statute for ever throughout your generations; as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. 

That’s it! If you profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which means if you are a Christian you are included in that group, there is no way you can argue that God or Messiah say you are not subject to the same requirements for worship and interpersonal relationships as the Jewish people are.

God said it- one law for Jews and anyone who sojourns with them. And the New Covenant writings also confirm, absolutely, that if you have faith in God and Messiah you are an adopted son or daughter of Abraham- in other words, like it or not, as an adopted child of Abraham you are required to live subject to the same rules as his natural-born children.

Period; end of argument; close the door on your way out.

I know many of you have been taught differently, and you may not only dislike what I am saying but will passionately refute it. Go ahead- try. Look throughout the Bible and find the place where God says his commandments are just for Jews. Find where Yeshua says forget what my Father told you- it isn’t for you. Show us any place in the entire Bible where God or Yeshua or any of the Disciples say Christians don’t have to obey any of the laws or commandments in the Bible.

Obedience to Torah just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are going to worship God then you should want to do as he says. Abraham did, David did, the Prophets did, the Apostles did, and even that nice Jewish tentmaker from Tarsus did. And the Gentiles that were accepting Yeshua as their Messiah, and worshiping God instead of their pagan deities were converting to Judaism… and THEY also were doing as God said to do in the Torah. Not all at once, but slowly over time they were expected to learn it (Acts 15:21.)

Starting right now, if you have been living your life separated from God’s instructions, read the Torah. What can it hurt you to learn how God wants you to live? And once you know what is in the Torah, if what some “person” has told you is the way to worship God but it is not confirmed by the Torah, ignore it.

Most people know that if something is really easy to do it probably isn’t all that worthwhile doing, and believe me when I tell you that worshiping God correctly, as he said to do it in the Torah, is not easy. But it is the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.

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?

 

Too Much Fluff

I like the idea that God is forgiving, as well as compassionate, fair and just. I also really like the fact that Yeshua gave His life so that I can have a chance at eternal joy in the presence of the Lord of Lords. When I was told that God and Yeshua love me for who I am, as I am, and they want me to be with them, forever, well, that was the best news I have ever received. 

All of the above is wonderful, and I thank the Lord, every day, for what He has done for me in that He sent His son to die for me. Not just for me, alone, but for everyone….but still and all, even if I was the only sinner left in the world, I believe wholeheartedly that Yeshua would have done what He did, just…for…me.

That being said, I find it difficult to deal with the people who teach and preach exclusively about how much Jesus loves you.

I was told the other day about a preacher with a very large congregation, who said that when he gets calls from other religious leaders asking how he gets so many people to come, he said, “Just preach Jesus.”  What that tells me is this: he is reaching the multitudes of people who need to know that there is hope for them, but that may be all he offers. If that is the case, then he is bringing them into the fold, but sending them nowhere. The love of Jesus is something that we all need to be made aware of, and accept, but that is just the start. Hearing the word is not living the word, and preaching about how loved you are is not going to give people what they need when they go back into the world. 

Strengthening your faith is a process. Yeshua told us, in the parable about the sower of the seed (Matthew 13), that the word will be accepted by many, but then they are distracted and drawn away by the enemy or simply by the cares and Tsouris (troubles) of the world. These people need more than just hearing the word- they need careful gardening, they need empowerment, and they need to be told the truth about what it will mean to be a follower of Yeshua, because the truth is necessary to steel oneself against what will come after accepting Messiah. 

My ministry is a teaching ministry: the quote from Hosea at the footer of the Home page is exactly what I am trying to avoid. So I give the truth as I understand it from my reading, my experience and the guiding of the Holy Spirit. I also look to others who have gifts, asking them for feedback in case my “flesh” gets in the way (which I am sure happens now and then.) So, the truth is not JUST that we are loved, and it is not JUST that we are saved, but it is that we CONSTANTLY have to fight against the enemy and ourselves to maintain the proper faithful attitude of obedience and righteousness. That is the battle, that is what is coming, and to tell people only “fluff” (as I call it) about being loved and accepted, well…you are sending them into a pack of wolves with lambs blood spread all over their bodies. They need the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and they also need lessons in how to use it. When David went to fight Goliath, he didn’t use Saul’s armor because he wasn’t used to it- smart kid. He knew what he was doing, and his faith was already strong enough to guard him against anything that came better than any old suit of armor. But new Believers don’t have that faith, and they don’t have the armor, and they don’t know how to fight. 

Telling them how much they are loved is not going to get them past the problems they will face. We need to get them strengthened, we need to teach them not just what armor they have available, but how to wear it and how to use it. 

If you are hearing someone tell you about Jesus and all they talk about is how loved you are, just as you are and how you don’t need to change, recognize that this is a way to attract you (and others) to the church but it isn’t enough to save your soul. It is not much better than that commercial for business receipt management software. You know the one, right? They show a disheveled, morose man sitting at a desk overflowing with receipts and papers but then, suddenly after he buys the receipt management software, he is clean-shaven, wearing a tie, and the desk is spotless. WOW!- where do I get that?  It’s so foolish- someone who is that disorganized would never be able to use that software because they need to install the software, read how to use it, create the separate business accounts, organize the existing receipts (which is the problem they haven’t been able to overcome), feed them through the scanner, save them where they need to be saved, and once they have done all that (which, again, they have never been able to do), THEN they can easily manage the paperwork. But wait!- not being disciplined enough to manage the paperwork was the problem in the first place, wasn’t it?  The software isn’t the cure- the resolution is to teach this person how to be an organized and self-disciplined manager.  Telling them how helpful the software is is a waste. 

That’s what it is like when we talk only about the love of Christ- it is good, it is right and it is what saves us….but it is not enough. We need to teach what will happen going forward, we need to train how to exercise our faith and we need to learn how to use the armor of God. In my opinion, that is the most important thing any religious leader can do. 

 

Tradition or Torah?

Besides being fed up with their faithlessness and ignorance, Yeshua’s (Jesus) biggest complaint when He was ministering to the people was that they gave more importance to the Rabbinic traditions then they did to God’s word. It is clear throughout the Gospels how He felt, accusing the Pharisees of hypocrisy, and adding more to what God required (Matthew 23.)

We have known of Yeshua’s request to do what God has said we should do (and to beware of hypocrisy) for centuries, and after all these centuries what have we learned?

Nothing. In fact, back then it was just Jews following Yeshua and Jews not following Yeshua, but today we have so many different religions (all man-made) with so many different laws and canons and requirements and traditions that not only have we not learned, but we have exponentially made it worse!

Jews that didn’t want to follow Yeshua made it hard for the ones that did, then Rome made it worse, so the followers began to separate themselves from the Jews, which led to ignoring some of the Torah. Then they wanted to separate further, and the Council of Nicene developed their own religion, changing the Sabbath, creating their own holidays, and developing Canon, laws, commandments and rituals (all man-made) that took precedence over the Festivals of the Lord that God told us we should celebrate (Leviticus 23.) What they did was to totally ignore God’s commandments, just as Jeroboam did when God gave him the 10 Tribes of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:2.)

So Christians became Catholics, became Eastern Orthodox and Western Orthodox, became Lutherans, became Protestants, became, became, became, became….until today there are dozens of different Christian denominations; adding to the ones I mentioned above, there are Unitarians, 7th Day Adventists, Latter Day Saints, Methodists, Amish, Mennonites, AME, Baptists (Southern and others), Christian Scientists, Quakers, and the list goes on and on.

Let’s not forget the Jews: Chasidic (different groups within this), Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic (yes, my Jewish readers, Messianic Judaism IS a sect of Judaism:Messianic Jews are not Christians.)

If everyone is worshiping the same God, then how can there be all these different ways of worshiping?  All agree this is the same God, the God that doesn’t change. So, if He doesn’t change, and He told us how to worship Him when he gave the teachings to Moses (which describe how we are to worship and provides penal and moral codes we are to live by), then how can there be so many different ways to live and worship? The Torah is a constitution, but unlike a political constitution which can be amended, God’s constitution is never to be amended. He told us that in Deuteronomy 4:2.

I got on this “kick” by reading Dear Abby, where she was asked by someone who’s Grandmother believed all children need to be baptized, and another granddaughter had a baby that was not being baptized. The writer asked if it would be OK to baptize the baby in secret just so the Grandmother feels better.  Good for Abby!- she told them no way. But here is what “gets” me about this- where did anyone ever get the idea that God would send an infant to hell because it wasn’t baptized? I know that Yeshua said we must all be reborn of spirit and water, but when we read about John (Yochanan) baptizing in the Jordan, it was adults who were coming. There is nothing in the bible that even implies children were there, let alone infants. To even imply God would send an innocent infant or child to hell because some Priest or Minister didn’t have someone else promise that the kid would be raised in that religion (remember- God has no religion, so that promise can’t really mean anything to God) is nothing short of ridiculous! Maybe even blasphemous. The only one who gains anything from the baptism ceremony is the church/priest. From what I have seen, $40 is the recommended “donation”, but then again, you have the textile industry (you need to buy the baby a Baptism dress), the card company, the food industry (“Come back to our place for refreshments afterwards”), and who knows who else makes money from this ceremony?

Baptism, as it is done in the church today, is absolutely wrong. The truth about the Jewish ceremony called Tevilah, which is the baptism Yochanan did in the Jordan, is a ceremony that represents an outward expression of an inner, spiritual cleansing.  It is something that one decides to do, and an infant cannot make that decision for itself. And, since this represents a communion and relationship between the baptized and the Lord, obviously no one else can make that decision for them.

To bring it all together, I believe the traditions that people have created in order to worship God in their own way only pollutes the true spiritual meaning of worship. God told us how to act, to worship, and to treat each other, His laws and regulations are not too hard to follow, they are not too difficult to understand, and they are not to be messed with.

If you really think that God is going to send an infant to hell because it hasn’t had someone pour water on it, you don’t understand anything about God. And because the infant hasn’t made it’s own decision to be baptized, the entire ceremony is really just pouring water on the kid.

I have nothing against traditions- they help to bind us, to remind us, and to keep us acting in a proper manner. It is a comfort zone, of a kind, and when the traditions we form are in keeping with and complementing God’s commandments, they are useful, practical and can be a blessing. But when they take on more importance than what God said to do, and we follow traditions that don’t complement but compete with God’s commandments, then we are blaspheming. We are ignoring God and idolizing ourselves and expanding our own importance.

The tagline for my ministry (this blog) is designed to honor God and get you on the right path: “God has no religion.” God has given us what He wants us to do- no more, no less. And when we add to it or subtract from it, we are telling God that what He says isn’t good enough.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to face God and tell Him He didn’t get it right.

Parashah Chaiyei Sarah (the Life of Sarah) Genesis 23-25

The end of the beginning, and the beginning of the promise happen in this Parashah. Abraham and Sarah, the beginning of the Jewish faith, both die in this parashah, and between the passing of Sarah and Abraham, Isaac is married to Rivkah (Rebekah) and it is through his progeny that we have the founding of both the 12 tribes of Israel and also the nations of the Arab people (In Gen. 25:23 God tells Rebakah she has two nations in her womb.)

The burial cave of Abraham is in Hebron, a very dangerous place for Jews to visit as the majority of Hebron is Arab controlled, with a few Jewish settlements. I have been told by people who have made multiple visits to Israel that, as sad as it is, a place so important to Judaism is so dangerous to see that most Jews going to Israel will not be able to visit it.

The Chumash (a “Chumash” is a commentary of the 5 books of Moses, the Torah, as well as the Haftarah readings.  The one I have is the Soncino edition, and was a present from my Reform Temple when I had my Bar Mitzvah) states that when Sarah died the blessings and pious customs of the Patriarch stopped, and were not re-initiated until Rebekah came into the tent. This is understandable because the wife is the one in charge of the household. The Father is the leader of the family, but the wife is, traditionally, the one who runs the house.

Here is an excerpt from the chabad.org website which describes the role of the Jewish wife (I bold printed explanations I have added):

She has been entrusted with, and is completely in charge of, the kashrut (ceremonial cleanliness) of the foods and beverages that come into her kitchen and appear on the dining table. She has been given the privilege of ushering in the holy Shabbat by lighting the candles on Friday, in ample time before sunset. Thus she actually and symbolically brightens up her home with peace and harmony and with the light of Torah and mitzvot (laws, as well as good deeds). It is largely in her merits that G-d (many Jews will not misuse God’s name, even in the spelling of it) bestows the blessing of true happiness on her husband and children and the entire household. This is the great task and mission which G–d gave to Jewish women – to observe and disseminate the observance of Taharat Hamishpachah (Laws of the Family) and of the other vital institutions of Jewish family life. For besides being the fundamental mitzvot and the cornerstone of the sanctity of Jewish family life, as well as relating to the well-being of the children in body and soul, these pervade and extend through all Jewish generations to eternity.

Too often we hear people tell of the misogyny of the bible, but in truth both in the New and Old Covenants, woman are respected and honored. The problem people have with the bible is the separation of the roles of men and women. That would be, in my opinion, like saying (I really don’t like sports analogies, but have to admit they often work really well) the pitcher of a baseball team should also play in the outfield, and the catcher should be allowed to pitch. If you are not familiar with baseball, this is a ridiculous thought, since each of these positions are unique in the skills needed. True, there may be someone talented enough to pitch well and play the outfield, but you can’t do both at the same time, or do both interchangeably and do each one well. The wife has her role, the husband his role, and when they work together they can achieve something impossible to achieve when everyone does the same thing- that is called synergy.  Synergy is defined as when the total is greater than the sum of its parts.

In my world, the world of technology, we need to have anti-virus programs to protect our data. However, if you have two anti-virus programs running simultaneously (both checking every single data stream, both reading through every file for something unusual, both tracking and dissecting every attempt to read or change anything on the hard drive), instead of having twice the efficiency, what happens is that you can’t get anything done! The computer resources are so over-worked that even opening a web site takes longer, editing a Word document takes a lifetime, and you end up with less productivity than if you had no anti-virus running at all. Now, if you have an anti-virus program and you supplement it with an anti-malware program, which doesn’t interfere with the anti-virus but adds to its effectiveness by checking things the anti-virus doesn’t, now you have a synergistic effect.

This is what we want in the Jewish home. Actually, in every home there should be the proper separation of roles that husband and wife play so they can show their children how well people can get along when they are different, have different things that they do, and work together as a team.

When Sarah died, a very important team member of the family was missing, so that role, that position on the field (so to speak), was left unoccupied. When Rivkah (Rebekah) joined the family (in Hebrew, family is “Mishpachah”) that role was again filled. Hence, the blessings that the wife provides within the family unit returned to Isaac and Abraham.

This is what is so wonderful about the bible- you read about Sarah dying and with the appropriate commentary and understanding of the cultural and historical context, you receive a message that is not directly given in the text. We read about Sarah’s death and then Isaac took his new wife into his mother’s tent, indicating that Rebekah took over the role of Sarah, and with that the family was once again made whole and the blessings available that are based on the role of the wife returned to the Patriarch.

How do you distribute the responsibilities in your home? Are they seen as a burden or as a blessing?  Does the husband help the wife and the wife help the husband, or do you both just do what you want to do? I clean the dishes because Donna usually does the cooking, and since I will be retiring at the end of this year I will be able to cook more often and when I do, Donna will clean up. Donna does most of the outside gardening, and I do most of the heavy lifting and work in the yard. We know that we each have our own duties to perform as a team, which doesn’t mean we always do the same things but that we do what we each need to do and work together to accomplish getting everything done; we each work within our best skill sets. It may not be “perfectly biblical” with regards to what we each do, but it is biblical in that we each have our own role to play and we are responsible to do what we are supposed to do for , as well as with, each other.

Don’t let the world’s view rule your life. The world says that everyone should be the same, everyone gets the same treatment, and that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want to: C’mon, let’s get real!- having the right to do whatever you want to do doesn’t mean you have the ability.  The truth is that we are all different, blessed with talents that are meant to serve the Lord (not ourselves) and when we use the gifts God gave us to serve Him and each other, then we will live such a blessed existence that heaven will almost appear to be anti-climatic!

Treat each other with respect, work together to achieve synergy, do what you are supposed to do before you worry about what the other person is supposed to do, and if that person needs help, then help. Teamwork is not doing something for someone else, it is doing what you are supposed to do and then, if the other person needs help, supplementing their duties. That is how you achieve synergy, and I believe God wants us to be synergistic in our relationships with each other and with Him.

 

Where’d we go wrong?

Before we can answer where we went wrong, we need to understand what is wrong.

What is wrong is that Christianity, for the most part, isn’t following Christ. It is following Constantine. The majority of the Christian world knows the Torah saves the Jews and the Blood of Christ saves the Christians. These two are as separate from each other as East is from the West, yet the entire basis of what Jesus taught was wholly and exclusively in the Torah. What Paul wrote in Romans has always been used as a polemic against the Torah, but it is the exact opposite: it is an apologetic for the Torah. Every place that Paul talks about the Torah failing to save people (because of the Rabbinic use of a strictly legalistic interpretation) he asks if that means that the Torah is dead or no longer valid. He answers that question, in every case, with a very enthusiastic, “God forbid!”

Go on- read it for yourself! The Christian world only reads the part where he says Torah fails, it never talks about the rest of that statement where Paul confirms Torah is valid and necessary and what we should observe.

That is what has gone wrong. I liken this to the Looney Tunes cartoon where Elmer chases Bugs into a tree, and Bugs is sitting out on a branch. Elmer takes a saw, and sitting on the junction of the branch to the bole, he saws through the outer part of the branch so that Bugs will fall. However, after he cuts through, the branch miraculously stays up by itself, and the tree holding Elmer falls. This is exactly what the Christian teachings are expecting you to believe- that you can cut yourself off totally from the root of salvation, i.e. Torah, and not be affected by that.

Christianity went wrong in the Third century when Constantine decided Christianity was OK, and as a (now) reformed pagan, he commercialized Jesus (that hasn’t changed much, has it?) by changing all the major pagan holidays into Christian holidays, and by separating Christianity from Judaism, once and for all.

A little history prior to this: Rome expelled Jews for their rebellious attitude after Yeshua’s (Jesus’s real name) resurrection, and later around 132-135 CE under the Bar Kochba rebellion, Rome destroyed the Jews (580,000 dead, 50 fortified towns and 986 villages razed- it was a massive defeat.) They totaled the Temple and even renamed Judea to Philistia (Palestine) as a final insult, sort of like throwing salt in the wound as they were kicking them laying on the ground.

NOTE: Philistia, or Palestine, was the Roman equivalent of Philistine- they renamed the land God gave to His people after the historic enemies of God’s people.

Now when Constantine “converted”, being Christian went from meaning “lion’s diet” to “government approved”, but Judaism was still on the “Least Wanted List” to Rome, so as more and more Gentiles accepted Yeshua (now being called Jesus more often than His given Hebrew name, Yeshua) and being recognized as “Christians” instead of as converted pagans (converted to Judaism), Judaism was becoming something that you did not want to be associated with. So, when Constantine and the Council of Nicene (of course there wasn’t one Jew on the Council) created what is the foundation of today’s ecumenical laws and church canon, the total schism of Jews and Christians was completed.

The Council of Nicene is, to me, the “where” of where we went wrong.

So, the question now is, what do we do about it?

For the majority of the Christian world, the answer is: nothing. Why change it?

I can understand their desire to leave it as it is; after all, most people don’t like change, and especially when change means accepting that the teachings you have had, from people you trust and admire and (even) love, have been sending you father away from God than closer to Him. And, like it or not, that is what any teaching which identifies the Torah as not valid does- the Torah is God’s word to mankind. It isn’t just for Jews: it was given to the Jews to bring to everyone else.

That is what being the “Chosen” people means- chosen to bring Torah to the world.

My answer to what do we do now is what I am doing- getting the truth about Torah, about Christianity, about Judaism, and about God to you, to the person next to you, to everyone and anyone who will listen, and yes- especially to those who don’t want to hear about it! Like that nice Jewish boy from Tarsus- you know, the one who makes those beautiful tents- said: those who know Messiah have the smell of death to those who don’t accept Him.

The church I worship at is not a Messianic synagogue, it is a Hebraic roots church, For my money, these are two different terms for the same thing. We represent the “One Man” ideal- Jew and Gentile together worshiping God as He said we should, honoring Torah and knowing that what Torah cannot do for us (only because of our nature preventing us from living Torah perfectly), Yeshua has covered through His blood sacrifice.

The Christian world teaches that because Yeshua died you can be saved, and that is correct, but they teach it in a way that doesn’t give freedom from sin but gives license to sin! They teach that you are OK, that Yeshua made it all OK, and you can live your life pretty much anyway you want to, so long as you don’t murder or steal, because Jesus has got your back. They say Torah is no longer valid if you accept Jesus (which is the exact opposite of what Jesus and all His disciples taught) and what is even crazier is that, back then, if you were Gentile and accepted Yeshua, you were converting to Judaism because that’s all there was then-pagan or Jew. Today, if a Jewish person wants to accept Jesus, they are told they have to reject Judaism and convert to Christianity.  If Jesus was here in the flesh, I can only imagine what He would be telling the Popes and the Bishops and the Pastors and the A of G and WCC and all the other “Christian” organizations about what they are teaching.

And I am sure He would have a few choice words for the Jewish equivalents of those organizations,too.

What went wrong was separating Jesus from Torah, and where we went wrong was the Council of Nicene. The path to true worship of God is through obedience to the Torah and acceptance of Yeshua ha Maschiach as the Messiah.

In a nutshell: God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel and assigned them the job of Levite to the world. They were to show everyone else how to live within the laws and guidelines of Torah. Because mankind is sinful by nature, the Torah, in and of itself, was too much for us to obey perfectly, so God provided for us a second option: Yeshua the Messiah. His death was the ultimate sacrifice for sin and His resurrection the proof that His sacrifice was accepted. When we accept that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah God promised to send, and by accepting Him we worship God in accordance with God’s instruction in the Torah (to the best of our ability), we have Yeshua’s sacrifice to “fill in” where we fail to meet Torah’s guidelines.

The truth is that Yeshua’s sacrifice was not a replacement of Torah but only an addendum to it. The “New Covenant” (found in Jeremiah 31:31) did not replace the Old Covenant (Mosaic Law); it simply added to it. The covenants from God have never been exclusive of each other- they are inclusive and each new covenant from God is built on the prior covenant, confirming and expanding it. From Noah to Abraham to Moses to David to final fulfillment in Yeshua- every new covenant has been built upon and contains all the prior covenants.

Yeshua is the word of God in the flesh, and the word of God is the Torah. How could Yeshua, in any way at all, preach against Himself?

You need to decide, for yourself, what is the right path for you. I hope you see the truth in what I am saying here, which is only what God, Jesus and all His Disciples (the ones that were with Him) have said- obey Torah, worship God and accept the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah.

Ask for the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide you to know the truth and use the gifts God gave you to glorify Him in all that you say and do. I pray for you all, that God will open your eyes to what He has for you, and what He asks of you.

 

Parashah Shemini (on the eighth day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah starts with Aaron, who has been undergoing sanctification for the office of Cohen HaGadol for the past 8 days, beginning his duties as High Priest. Also his two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, were to start assisting him.

The problem is that the boys had been drinking (implied by what is commanded in 4:8-11) and offered up incense and fire that was not authorized, and which they had no right to do.

It cost them their lives, as God sent fire from heaven to kill them.

Aaron was told not to mourn, and to continue his duties so that more anger from God was not brought down on him, too.

Chapter 11 is the chapter for Kashrut, the Kosher laws and regulations regarding cleanliness. It makes sense to me that the cleanliness laws would come after the laws about sacrifice- after all, once you have presented your sacrifice and been cleansed, the next thing you need to know is how to stay clean.

What we need to understand from this parashah is how important the position of leadership is within the Jewish world, and even more so, in God’s sight. The devastating punishment that Abihu and Nadab suffered for their insult to God and disregard for His laws was commensurate with their position within the community as leaders and representatives of God to the community.  In James 3:1 we are told….no, actually we are warned….that being a teacher is a position not to be taken lightly:

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

This warning from Yacov can be traced back directly to this parashah. Moses told Aaron not to show any signs of remorse or mourning because Aaron was God’s representative, and as such to even imply he was unhappy about God’s judgment in this case would be a form of denying what God did as just. And since Aaron not only represents God before the people, but also acts as a representative of the people before God, if he was upset and unhappy with God’s judgment then the people would follow suit. And, as we have seen (and will see often during their 40 years in the desert) the people suffered for their distrust and rejection of God’s commands and judgments.

Performing ministry is a form of teaching; indeed, it is teaching the most important thing there is to know: who Messiah is and how to attain salvation and eternal peace. Therefore, ministry workers must be above-board and always represent themselves well. If you talk to people about God, then you represent God. If you tell people about being a Believer, then you represent all Believers.

And the non-believers will throw that up in your face every time you so much as sneeze without covering your mouth!

We will stumble, we will misrepresent God, and we will screw things up, royally. We may represent God’s goodness and love, but we are still human and, as such, will do stupid things. That is no reason to stop trying. A good lesson to teach anyone is that when you fall, brush yourself off, get back up, and keep walking. Maybe the best lesson we can teach about God is not all the wonderful things He has done, but to show how He strengthens us in the midst of our weakness. Just like Shaul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

We are, each of us, a member of the body of Messiah and we must do what God has placed us here to do. Seek out your gift from God and when you find it, use it. Invest the talents He has given you so that when you meet Him you can give Him back more than what He gave you (read the parable about the Talents in the Gospels.)

Be careful, be aware, but don’t be frightened or put off by the extra responsibility you have as a teacher or leader in the community- it is a great way to grow and have your spirit matured within you. Being in charge is a terrible, and terrific, responsibility, yet if you perform your duties with love, compassion, respect and humility you may be surprised to find yourself being supported by those that you are to support!  When I was a Platoon Commander in the Marine Corps, I would lead the PT (Physical Training) and we would run, as a platoon of 30 men, for miles and miles. I was always in the lead, setting the pace. I had been asked more than once how I can carry all those men with me, and I would reply that I wasn’t pulling them, they were pushing me.

Leadership in God’s community and teaching others about God is a position that is held in high regard by those you teach, is a position in which you are held doubly responsible by God for what and how you teach and live, and makes you a target to be constantly attacked by those who refuse to believe. Standing on the horizon your shadow extends farther than those who are in the valley. Be aware, be careful, and be strengthened by knowing God is not just watching you more carefully, He is strengthening you more completely.

As you do more and more for God, and humbly allow Him to work through you, the responsibility of your position will become heavier and heavier, yet at the same time His strength in your weakness will make that burden easier and easier to bear.

Parashah Tzav (Order) Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

This parashah covers sacrifice and ordination rules, but that is not what I want to talk about today.

The Torah is more than just a “book”- it is a narrative (that archaeological discoveries are proving to be historically accurate), it is a Ketubah (marriage certificate) between God and His people, it is a national constitution which outlines and sets the foundation for a nation, and it is a penal code.

It also tells us who God is, who we are, how this all started and how it will all end.

Leviticus is the most legalistic (if I may use that word) book of the Torah. In this book we are told all the laws, commandments, regulations, and ordinances that we must obey in order to receive the blessings of God and salvation. It separates the Jews from the Gentiles, sin from righteousness and death from salvation. Although Torah is often misinterpreted to mean “Law” when it really means “Teaching”, Leviticus is a very legal book. It not only covers laws regarding sacrifice, but also health code, restitution for theft and negligence, penal codes outlining the punishments for these crimes (which, by the way, was at that time the most humane of all penal codes) and generally how we should treat each other.

Too many Christian teachings are that the Torah is not valid for Christians, but how can they say that when Torah outlines how human beings are supposed to live together? Does the blood of Jesus Christ overrule common decency? Does the sacrifice of the Messiah mean that we don’t have to obey laws? Does the promise of salvation through Jesus’s death mean that we can ignore everything else God told us to do?

I don’t think so! Christians are always saying, “Do as Jesus did” but there are almost none who do. Hey! Get with the program, Folks- what Jesus did was to follow the Torah! He kept every single commandment, and (like it or not) He also taught everyone else to keep every single commandment. That’s right- He never once preached anything against or in lieu of Torah.

Jesus is called the Living Word, is He not? Well, what “word” do you think He is? Torah! That was the only “word” that existed, that was the “word” He taught from, that was the “word” He taught about, and that is the “word” He was. Jesus was Torah in the flesh.

Yeshua (that’s Jesus’s real name, in case you didn’t know) also said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. If that is true, and He is the Living Torah, then for Him to preach or teach or even suggest doing anything against or in opposition to all that is in the Torah would be preaching against Himself, and if that is what He did then His kingdom cannot stand.

But that can’t be, because His kingdom will always stand, our words will fade away but His words will never fade away, and He built His kingdom on a rock (Kefa) that the gates of Hell cannot overpower.

Read Isaiah 40:8; read Daniel 2:44; Read 1 Peter 1:25; for that matter, read any part of the Bible where it talks about the kingdom of God and you will see that God will place all kingdoms under the feet of the Messiah, and that he will rule forever.

It is impossible for us humans to be perfect according to the Torah. That is why Yeshua had to do what He did, so that we could have this eternal “Get Out of Jail Free” card. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the Torah. The Torah is where God tells us how He wants us to live: how we are to worship Him, how we are to treat each other, what is good for us, what is not good for us, and how to live long, fruitful, and joyful lives.

Why would anyone want to ignore that?

If you have been told that you are saved by the Blood of Jesus and that the Jews are saved by their Torah, you have been led down the path to destruction. Torah is for everyone and everyone who professes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not to mention accept His son, Yeshua, as their Messiah and Savior, is required to honor and follow the way God says we should live, which is (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

Here is the Torah, in a nutshell:

  • Genesis and Exodus take us from the beginning of existence to God giving us His rulings and instructions regarding how we are to worship Him and live together.
  • Leviticus specifies and explains those instructions.
  • Numbers is the historical narrative of the things that happened while in the desert
  • Deuteronomy is a recap of everything up to just before they enter the Land God promised, ending with the promise of the Messiah to come.

Read Leviticus. It is somewhat long, a little boring in parts (I can’t believe how many different things that skin disease can infect) and very detailed, but it is important to know because, well, it is what God tells us to do. It is what Moses did, it is what the Prophets did, it is what (most of) the Kings of Judah did, and it is what Yeshua did.

And it is what we should do, too!