Christian or Constantinian?

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the definition of Christianity, Wikipedia says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Thank you for being here and please remember to subscribe. Comments are always welcomed, so long as you can be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

By Direction of the Commanding Officer

For those who have served in the military, the signature line “By Direction of the Commanding Officer” should be very familiar. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it means that whatever has been written has been done so by someone under the authority of higher command and although the letter (or orders, whatever) come directly from the writer, they are done so as if the commanding officer had issued them, personally.

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For example, when I was in the Marine Corps I was a Company XO (Executive Officer), and as such, I had authority over 350 men and millions of dollars in equipment. What I said, went, but I was under the authority of the Company Commander. I was most often the one issuing commands, but when the CO (Commanding Officer) issued a command through me, written below my name was the signature line “ByDir“, which meant that what I said was an order directly from the Company Commander.

Yeshua is the Messiah God sent to the world: to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. What Yeshua told us about how to live, worship and treat each other was not just from his own authority as Messiah, but was “ByDir” of God.

And when Yeshua used “ByDir” it was from the universe’s Million-Star General, the Lord, God Almighty!

Many times Yeshua told us that he does only what his father in heaven tells him to do or to say. There are too many references in the Gospels to annotate each time this is done, but when you read the Gospels (especially in John) you see this often. We read how people say of Yeshua that he speaks as no one ever did and that his teachings have the tone of authority to them. Well, of course, they do! He is speaking ByDir of the Lord! Yeshua’s every teaching, parable, riddle or lesson was directly from Adonai.

When we consider the above, we have to ask this question:

“How can anyone say that Yeshua did away with the instructions God gave us in the Torah if he was always speaking “ByDir” from God?”

Anything Yeshua said that was not in accordance with the “commands” God had already given would be like disobeying a direct order, wouldn’t it? If God told us to eat certain foods, but Yeshua said we didn’t have to do that, then he would have been disobeying God, right? Or, if Yeshua had taught that the Sabbath was on the first day of the week and not the 7th, he would have been in a state of sin, wouldn’t he?

The fact is Yeshua never disobeyed God or taught anyone to do so. His authority was given to him directly from God and was evident in the miracles he performed. And when people praised him, Yeshua always gave the credit to that person’s faith in God and in Yeshua, who was only acting under the ByDir authority from God as God’s Messiah.

When people preach to us, they should be preaching not from their own authority but ByDir; however, too often they don’t. They preach what they want to, such as when the Shabbat day was changed, the kosher laws were said to be only for Jews, and the festivals God ordered to be celebrated should be replaced with man-made “Christian” celebrations. These, and many other unauthorized doctrines and teachings have polluted God’s word and his plans for humanity. The ByDir from God has been misused and abused by those who teach not to edify but to create and maintain power over others.

We all have the God-given right to choose what we will believe, and God has given us all the information we need to make a choice. He has instructed us how to live and how to worship and how to treat each other. And through the Prophets, he has advised us to choose life (meaning obedience) because the only other option is death.

Don’t find yourself in the Brig for all eternity by refusing to accept the ByDir of Yeshua. Always question what your religious leaders tell you God meant and read it for yourself in the Bible, asking God to show you what he really meant.

God is the ultimate power and authority in the Universe, and there have only been two XO’s God has assigned: Moses and Yeshua. Those two, and only those two had God’s ByDir authority Remember that when you are reading the New Covenant Epistles, so you can understand them correctly, or when you hear people telling you that you are saved by the “Blood of Jesus” and the Torah is just for Jews.

Those people do not have ByDir and you don’t have to listen to what they say.  You are responsible for what you do, and what you don’t do, so make sure you know exactly who gave what commands so you follow the ones that are under God’s ByDir.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is John 1 Talking About a Person or an Idea?

In the Gospel of John, we are told that the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1-2). We are also told that the Word became a human being and lived with us (John 1:14.) This same “Word” was with God from the beginning and all things were made through him; in fact, nothing had any being without him.

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Spoiler alert!! Today’s message may be hard to understand so please try to stay with me.

The traditional understanding of this is that it is all about the Messiah, whose name is Yeshua (please don’t argue over the “real” name of the Messiah- it is not relevant to this discussion) and who was sent by God to bring the path to salvation to the world.

I don’t disagree with this at all; in fact, the entire Gospel of John tells us about the Messiah God sent, his life and his teachings.

What I want to talk about is the confusion over whether or not Yeshua was with God since the beginning. Because the entire Gospel of John is one long, on-going use of metaphor, I wonder if he was really referring to Yeshua the person or to the plan of God regarding a Messiah to come.

Here is what I am thinking: God knew his plan of salvation would involve a Messiah from the very start. He told Abraham this, in not so many words, when he said his descendants would be a blessing to the world. He told David, absolutely, that one of his descendants would have an everlasting kingdom. There are some 135 or more Messianic passages in the Tanakh, and everything we read in the Tanakh points to the coming of a Messiah to bring the Jewish people back into communion with God, who promises (through the Prophets) to regather his people, change our hearts and forgive us our sins.

Everything in the Tanakh is about the Messiah and God’s promise to “save” us from our sins.  The New Covenant (B’rit Chadashah) is the narrative about the Messiah who God promised to send. We are given the narrative of his life in the 4 Gospels, and the rest is about the influence his Disciples had in the world. The main thing about the writings in the New Covenant is that the salvation provided for by the Messiah has been expanded to the rest of the world, i.e. the Gentiles.

I do not know if Yeshua was a spiritual being from the beginning, which would then (by definition) equate him with God, or if his future existence was just part of the original plan God had for saving the human race from our own sinfulness.  If we take what John wrote, literally, then the Messiah either is God, or God is not unique, which he couldn’t be if another spiritual being was with him all the time.

I believe God has no beginning and no end, as he is described to us in the Torah, and that the Messiah had to have come later. As a person, the Messiah did not come until when we are told, in the New Covenant. As an idea, though, I believe the Messiah existed- in God’s mind- since the very first time God decided he would create the world and humans.

Therefore, what I believe John meant when he said the Word was with God and all things were made through him, is that God’s plan for humanity has always included the need for a Messiah, and as such everything that was created was done so with the Messiah in mind. Not the person of a Messiah, but the need of a Messiah, and when God knew the time for this Messiah to stop being a promise and become a living, flesh-and-blood entity, he created him through a virgin, in accordance with the prophecy he gave us through Isaiah.

This may seem somewhat radical to many, and I guess it is. I don’t believe Messiah is God, and I don’t believe he pre-existed himself. However, I don’t believe I am absolutely certain about that, either. Frankly, I don’t think it matters one iota if Yeshua pre-existed his human form or not.

We are not saved by belief in whether or not the Messiah had some form of pre-existence, or whether or not he, God and the Holy Spirit are one and the same entity, but only through faith in him as the Messiah who was born in the flesh, who walked the earth, died on an execution stake and was resurrected. If you can keep your focus on that, the other things become less important.

I will end with this other radical thought: personally, I think when people have to know absolutely everything about God, the Messiah and every single thing in the Bible, it will not result in holiness or be useful to save others, but it will feed one’s pridefulness. Being full of knowledge that has no practical use in saving people is just a form of Gnosticism which doesn’t feed the soul, it only enlarges the ego.

Here’s what you can do: write a long list of everything you want to know the answer to, and when you are in the presence of God and the Messiah you can ask them for the answers. I guarantee you that when you are there, in their presence, you will fold up your list and throw it away because you will realize the answers are important at all anymore.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

How to Deal with Being a Sinner

Like it or not, you are a sinner. I am a sinner, and we all are not only sinners but sinful, filled with the desire to sin (which is called “iniquity”.)

So, how do we deal with this? We do that by, well…dealing with it. We can’t escape it, we can’t stop it, but we can learn to control it better than we used to.

The best answer I can give you is what I always say:  We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less. 

(No video today.)

Grace is what we call forgiveness from the sins we commit, but it is on a spiritual level; in the physical realm, we will always have to suffer from the consequences of our sins. And even worse than that- many times it will be the innocent people who we care about that suffer, as well.

There exists within Christianity a very popular teaching (popular because it removes any feeling of guilt or responsibility) that says once we have asked forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, we are forgiven forever. The term used is OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved), and it is a lie from the pit of Sheol.  It makes one feel good about sinning and removes any feelings of repentance.

How?  Simple: when we think no matter what we do, we are automatically forgiven then we don’t worry about what we do. This is NOT the way to deal with your sinfulness.

Oh, yes, there are some who will make the excuse that the Holy Spirit will guide us and prevent us from doing wrong; others will say the Torah was already written on our hearts the moment we accepted Jesus.  Both are wrong.  Salvation is not a momentary change of heart, it is a life-long process. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) may warn us when we are about to sin, but if someone has been taught their sins are automatically forgiven why would they worry about listening to the little angel on their shoulder saying, “Uh, uh, uh- you really shouldn’t!”?  Especially when the little devil on the other shoulder is saying, “Don’t listen to that one- you are already saved by the blood of Christ! If you think you have to obey God to be saved, you are not under the blood but under the law!”

That’s the same guy who told Eve, “You certainly won’t die.”

What do you think? If I continue to sin because I think I am already saved, is God going to accept me into his presence? Will my ignorance be forgiven and my sinfulness ignored because the reason I rejected his instructions in the Torah was a result of someone telling me I didn’t have to obey them?

I don’t think so.

I can’t speak for God, but I’m pretty sure that if I came before him on Judgement Day and said, “I am sorry I rejected your instructions, but my (Priest/Minister/Pastor/whatever) told me I didn’t have to obey them”, he might say something like: “I understand, my child, that someone told you what to do, but it’s what I say that counts!”

What was “nailed to the cross”, as Shaul (Paul) tells us, was not every sin we will ever commit, but only every sin we have already committed. The past is forgiven, but the future remains open. We can continually work at being better or we can continue to sin and make excuses. This is a very important truth to understand or you cannot properly deal with your sinning.

Let me remind you of the main point in this message- we WILL continue to sin. One way or the other, we each have to deal with this.

When we face up to the fact that we are sinful, the way to deal with it is the way God tells us to in the Torah: obey the instructions he gave us and when we sin, repent and ask forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice. When we do that we can trust his promise that we will have life, eternal.

God says in Ezekiel 18 and elsewhere, throughout the Tanakh, that if we obey we will have life, meaning life eternal. We still suffer from sins on earth, yet we will be forgiven in the resurrection. BUT..only if we remain repentant and continually ask for forgiveness, demonstrating the genuineness of our repentance by working, every day until we are dead, to sin less each day.

Most of Christianity teaches an easy path to salvation: trust in Jesus and you’re saved forever. That sounds nice, but you know the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yeshua said that if we want to follow him, we must each of us pick up our execution stake and walk after him. If that sounds like a cake-walk to you, you have a real problem with comprehension!

And the Enemy? He wants you to believe that, and sometimes he will try to make you feel so bad about sinning that you might just think, “I can never stop sinning, no matter how hard I try! I might as well chuck it all and just enjoy myself. Why should I beat myself up any more for something I can’t control?”  It should be obvious this is not how to deal with your sin.

We are sinners, we always will be, and that’s not okay but it is the way things are. We deal with it, first of all, by taking possession of our own iniquity, owning up to our weaknesses, and asking God’s help to be obedient to his instructions.

Think about it: God created this game called “Life, Death, and Resurrection”, and he gave us the instructions telling us how to win it.  So, nu?  why would anyone want to ignore them?

Amen?….AMEN!!

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I welcome comments, just be nice, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Zealousness Misdirected

To be zealous means to have an overriding desire for something. You could be zealous for a sports team, collecting paraphernalia until you have a roomful of it. You could be zealous for work, staying late and starting early every day of the week and never going on vacation. You could be zealous for the Lord- worshiping daily, attending every community function that your house of worship holds, being on every committee, and talking about God and his plan of salvation to everyone and anyone you can.

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We are told that zealousness for the Lord is good. David talks about it in the Psalms 69 and 119; Isaiah mentions it in his writings (Isaiah 37, 59 and 63); and Pinchus was rewarded for his zealousness for the Lord in Numbers 25:11-13.

Now, as wonderful as it may be to be zealous for something, when that zealousness is misdirected whatever good may have come from it will be turned to evil.

We see this in the letter Shaul (Paul) wrote to the Galatians. This letter was written to protect the Messianic community in Galatia, which Shaul founded, from the Messianic Jews who were not trying to dissuade them from following Yeshua but to burden them with wrongful teaching about the necessity of following the Torah. This is what we have come to call “legalism”, which is the idea that without exact and literal obedience to the instructions in the Torah, we cannot be saved. Whereas it is true that we should do everything we can to obey the Torah instructions, it is not the path to salvation. Shaul was writing to remind the Galatians that faith comes before obedience, and obedience then comes as a result of that faith.

In Galatians 4:17-18 he says the following:

True, these teachers are zealous for you, but their motives are not good. They want to separate you from us so that you will become zealous for them. To be zealous is good, provided always that the cause is good. 

The issue of legalism that was a problem to these early Messianic Gentile communities has been replaced with the doctrine of Constantinian Christianity, created at the Council of Nicene in the year 325 C.E. From then on, legalism no longer mattered because by that time Christianity had become so separated from its’ Jewish roots that it was a totally different religion, which pretty much rejected the instructions in the Torah, altogether.

You would think that that would be the end of legalism, but it wasn’t. Today, Gentile Believers who want to worship as Messiah did, and want to go back to their Jewish roots, have resurrected legalism.

They aren’t so worried about following the Torah as they are about the minutia within the Torah.  For example, we see many arguments about something that would never even be a consideration for a Jewish Believer, or even a “mainstream” Jew, which is the way to pronounce God’s holy name, the Tetragrammaton. I have seen so many arguments about the difference between the Paleo-Hebraic spelling (Y-H-W-H) and the modern Hebrew spelling (Y-H-V-H) that I wonder if they even realize that none of the early Messianic communities ever pronounced that name, at all? Jews do not use that name because we respect it, yet Gentiles who suddenly feel the need to get back to their Jewish roots show no respect at all for God’s name. They misinterpret the use of “the name of the Lord” that is in the Tanakh to justify pronouncing the Tetragrammaton: their zealousness to know God better is misdirected and becomes disrespectful to God, and also to all the Jewish Believers who are told they are wrong not to pronounce God’s holy name.
I’m sorry, but we have been the chosen people for nearly Six Thousand years: not to sound self-centered, but maybe Gentiles should consider we know what we are doing?

I also see so many arguments about when the festivals start. The modern Jewish calendar is accepted by almost every Jew in the world and yet, Gentiles who are just beginning to observe God’s commanded festivals (which is a good thing) are now arguing over when they really start (which is a legalistic thing.)

I am saying “Gentiles” but I am sure there are Jews within these groups also who are of the same mindset, but from my experience, it is almost exclusively Gentile Believers who are arguing for this modern form of legalism.

For instance, Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of the new month, which begins with the sighting of the moon in the new moon phase. Today we have science to show us exactly when this happens, unlike the ancient days when it was required to have three witnesses agree that the moon is in phase. Yet, I see so many people argue over when it really is a new moon, and when that festival really begins.  OY!!

Don’t they know that in the olden days, which they are trying to legalistic recreate, the new moon and festival beginnings had a “grace period” of some three days?  There might have been clouds in the sky obscuring the view or it could have been raining, in either case, the moon could not be seen. Once the ones responsible for officially stating when a festival began (who were in Jerusalem) agreed it was time, they would light signal fires on mountaintops throughout the land of Israel to announce the beginning of that festival. This means that the exact phase of the moon wasn’t really as important as everyone celebrating at the same time.

Think of the harvest festivals- no harvest is at the exact same day as the prior year. Shavuot is one of the most important holy days of the year, one of the three pilgrimage holy days requiring us to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. It begins 50 days after Habikkurim (First Fruits), yet first fruits depended on when the harvest was done, which was never the exact same time every year. Today we celebrate Pesach, Habikkurim, and Shavuot based on the calendar days and not on any harvest. That means that no one who uses the Jewish calendar is exactly right about when First Fruits and Shavuot begin. So, nu? Do you think that God is going to send every person who observes his festivals based on the Jewish calendar to Sheol?

Here’s the problem with this modern form of legalism: it is misdirected zealousness. The zealousness to be obedient to the Torah has been perverted to obedience for the sake of obedience, which leads to faithlessness. I believe this to be true, and just as Shaul told the Galatians that they were being made zealous for someone else, the Enemy of the Lord wants to make us zealous for him. And how can he do that to faithful Believers? By separating them from God through misdirected zealousness.

When we are arguing amongst ourselves over things that have no relationship to our salvation, such as exactly when the moon is in a certain phase, or how to pronounce a name, or when a festival begins we separate ourselves from each other. Haven’t you ever heard the term “divide and conquer”? Well, that is what this legalism is doing within the Messianic and Christian Believing communities.

It is good to be zealous for proper worship, which I define as worship the way God said to do so. He gave us a User Manual to teach us how to worship him properly, which is called the Torah. All we need to do is follow the instructions as best as we can. I cannot speak for God, but since he constantly tells us throughout the Tanakh that he is not interested in the blood of bulls or sheep (meaning obedience for the sake of being obedient) and that he sees the heart, I think it is safe to say as long as your heart is zealous for God he will understand and forgive you if you celebrate a festival day early or a day late. To be safe, just use the same calendar that every other Jew in the world uses.

Also, if you want to get back to your Jewish roots, don’t reinvent the wheel by doing what Jews don’t do, such as pronouncing the holy name of the Lord. Use Adonai, Lord, God, Elohim, HaShem or some other biblical name for God. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t use transliteration spellings that are wrong, like Quodash or Alohim- OY!! If you use a transliteration, use the ones Jews use because they are based on the Hebrew spelling, which is the correct pronunciation.

Legalism is trying to do things exactly as instructed for the sake of being correct. God really doesn’t care about performance, he cares about the reasons for that performance. If your desire to be obedient is zealousness for God as a direct result of faithfulness, then that is good. You don’t have to be perfect, just willing to try from a heartfelt desire to show God you love him.

If your zealousness for God leads you to obedience for the sake of obedience, that is legalism and zealousness misdirected.

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I welcome comments, just be nice, and until the next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Using Shaul’s Letters as a Weapon Against the Torah

The New Covenant writings are the historical record of Yeshua’s ministry and teachings, as well as a narrative of the travels (and travails) of some of the Apostles. The majority of the New Covenant is made up of the Epistles (letters) written by Shaul (Paul) to the congregations of Messianic/Believing Gentiles that he founded throughout Asia.

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These letters have been used to form much of the doctrine of modern, or Constantinian Christianity, and are considered, by many Christian denominations, to be more important than God’s instructions in the Torah.

I liken it to Judaism and the Talmud: the Orthodox and Hasidic sects of Judaism will often go to the Talmud for spiritual guidance before they go to the Torah; in fact, the rabbinic doctrine in the Talmud is called Halacha- the Way to Walk. Most Jews live more in accordance with opinions from the great Rabbis written in the Talmud than they do to the instructions God gave us in the Torah.

The same thing has happened with the letters Shaul wrote, except for one major difference: the Talmud tells us how to live in accordance with the Torah, whereas each letter from Shaul addressed only specific problems within the congregation he wrote to. His references within his letters to the Mosaic Law were never intended to tell people they were no longer necessary or valid for Gentile Believers, but to explain that they are not the path to salvation (anti-legalism) but the result of a faithful desire to please the Lord.

The instructions Shaul gave to his congregations was supposed to be used as a weapon, loaded with bullets from the Torah to shoot down and kill the wrongful teachings and ideas that were infiltrating his congregations, such as Gnosticism, Legalism, incorrect understanding of the Kashrut instructions, and internal dissension caused by individual political agendas.

What happened was that the early “church” leaders took Shaul’s weapon, reloaded it with bullets of wrongful teachings and used it to murder the Torah!

We must read the letters from Shaul as what they were designed to be: not instructions establishing religious doctrine but condemnation for incorrect worship and personal relationships. These letters were addressing problems within the congregation, and instead of seeing them for what they are, Christianity has turned them inside-out and made them appear to be doctrinal commandments. That is why instead of doing what Shaul meant them to do, which was to help his Gentile Believers live in accordance to God’s instructions properly, they have been misused in order to deny the necessity of following the Torah.

It doesn’t help that it is very hard to understand much of what Shaul wrote because he used what I call “Jewish logic.” Jewish logic is how we Jews argue- we never tell you what something is until we first tell you everything that it isn’t. If you read Shaul’s letters carefully, parsing the sentences and separating thought by thought, you will see that he starts his discussion with the negative aspects (the “Anti” side) of the Torah, then he comes back to show how the things he just said might be true, aren’t.  This form of argument, as well as implied cultural and religious meanings which Jews would understand but the Gentiles couldn’t, is why it has been easy for Christian leadership to twist the intent of Shaul’s letters.

If you don’t believe me, just read the postings within Christian or Messianic discussion groups or talk to Gentiles who DO want to follow the Torah, and I will bet you dollars-to-donuts that the vast majority of passages they use to prove their doctrinal beliefs will be from the Epistles of Shaul! They won’t pull from where he quoted, the Torah, but they will use his letters as justification for what they say. When you talk to most any Christian about the Bible, they will quote exclusively from the New Covenant because most Christian teachings won’t even include the Tanakh.

When I do an Internet search for something I know is in the Torah, the majority of the “hits” I get are from the New Covenant, where the writer is quoting from the Torah but I won’t see the original passage from the Torah.

Going forward, if you have been able to see the truth in the letters Shaul wrote, that truth being confirmation of the Torah and not condemnation of it, then please help others (compassionately and with love) to see this truth, as well. And, if you are saying to yourself that what I have been saying here is a bunch of hooey, I would ask you to test my statements and read Galatians, or Romans, or any other Epistle and look specifically for the method of argument I said Shaul uses. If you are able to read these with an open mind and not-prejudging the outcome, I believe God will open your eyes to what I and many others believe is the true meaning of those letters.

Thank you for being here, and I do welcome comments and discussion- all I ask is that you be nice.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Changing the Way I Talk About the Torah

The Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible, which most of you already know, and it contains all the commandments (also referred to as “laws”) God has given to us. The rest of the Old Covenant is more of a historical narration, which shows us how we have failed to live up to our side of the covenant God made with us, in which those laws reside.

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For Jews, there is no problem with the Torah being God’s laws because the Torah is all that almost every non-Messianic Jew in the world cares about, meaning they do not accept anything from the New Covenant as scripture or even valid.  So, for those Jews who do not accept Yeshua as their Messiah, law=Torah=commandments=regulations, and that is fine.

The problem I want to talk about today is that Christians, in general, have traditionally been taught that the Torah- in truth, the entire Tanakh- is just for Jews. Jews have the Torah and Christians have Jesus Christ.Add to that the traditional Christian teaching of the Epistles Shaul (Paul) wrote, which is that obedience to the ‘Law” is legalism and wrong because faith and love are all you need to be saved, and you have the incorrect belief that law=Torah and neither apply to Christians.

As a Messianic Jew, I understand the truth about the relationship between Yeshua (Jesus) and the Torah, in that Yeshua was (as John tells us in John 1) the living example of the way we are to live in accordance to the Torah. Not only did he NOT do away with Torah, but he confirmed it in everything he did and said.

Consequently, understanding the above I also know the truth about the letters Shaul wrote, which (again) did NOT deny the validity of the Torah, but confirmed it. Albeit, the way he did so was very convoluted and confusing to Gentiles who couldn’t grasp the underlying cultural and religious meanings of much of what he wrote.

So, what I have decided to do (which will take me a while to incorporate into my messages) is to not refer to the Torah as “law”, or “commandments” or even “regulations” (which, by the way, they are) but simply as God’s instructions to us.

When we look at how God tells us what we are to do, it isn’t so much a decree as a choice. There are way too many passages to quote, but I doubt that anyone with any knowledge or familiarity with the Bible will be surprised when I say God tells us (repeatedly) what we are to do and what will happen if we don’t. To some, this may be a decree or even seen as a threat, but to me, it is a choice.

Through all the Prophets, God constantly told his people that he wanted them to choose life so that they would live. When he says to choose life, he means to obey his instructions in the Torah. Yeshua did not give any new instructions: yes, I know he said: “I give this new command, to love one another” (John 13:34) but that really isn’t “new”- it is from Leviticus 19:18. Yeshua did not create a new religion (this is what Jews are taught), nor did he change any of the existing instructions from the Torah or do away with them (this is what Gentiles are taught), so since Torah and Law and commandments all have the same connotation to both Jews and Gentiles, I will use “instructions” because that won’t sound like the same rhetoric everyone has already heard.

Maybe, just maybe, if people take a new view of the Torah as just instruction, which we have the right to choose or refuse, then maybe they will begin to see the entire Bible in a different light, one that might shine the truth through the cloudy and darkened misinterpretations that both Jews and Gentiles have been force-fed for generations.

One last thing: there are probably some of you out there who are thinking that I am wrong to refer to God’s commandments as something that is not mandatory, and I can understand why you would feel that way.  After all, he is God, right? The Almighty! The Creator of the Universe! The holy I Am! And when God says we should do something, it isn’t a suggestion, so where do I get off saying we have a choice?  The reason I say we have a choice is, well…because God tells us we do. When God says we should “choose life” he is giving us an option. If God didn’t want us to have an option, he would have not told us we have a choice. And he would not have given us Free Will, either. But God doesn’t want automatons, and he won’t make us love him; the only thing we can give God that he doesn’t already have is our love. He wants our worship, obedience, and love for him to be our choice.

Following God’s instructions shouldn’t be done because you are afraid of punishment but as a love-response.

The Torah is God’s instructions to the world (not just the Jews) teaching us how to worship him and treat each other. It is like the instructions you get when you have to put a child’s toy together: you can do the usual manly thing and ignore them, or you can read them carefully and follow them. And for all of you (like me) who have tried to put something together without reading the instructions, you know how that almost always turns out.

The question I leave you with is this: knowing how the toy turns out when you don’t read and obey the instructions, do you want your eternal soul to end up the same way?

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I welcome comments and discussion, and all I ask is that you be nice.

I look forward to the next time we are together, and until then…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Pekudey 2019 (These are the accounts) Exodus 38:21 – 40

We come to the final reading in the Book of Exodus. For the last couple of chapters, we have read about the details of the building of the Sanctuary, as per God’s instructions, and in this reading, we are told how the work was completed, exactly as God had instructed.

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The parashah ends with the separate parts of the Tabernacle being put together and the entire structure being set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the freedom from Egypt. Once built, the holy items are placed inside the tent, and God’s Shekinah glory fills the tent, so much so, that even Moses cannot enter it. At the end of this book, we are told how the cloud stays over the tent during the day, and fire during the night, and how the people moved only when the cloud moved.

When I read this parashah, and came to Chapter 39, verses 42-43 I thought about Nehemiah. In Exodus we are told:

And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

What struck me about these two passages is what they have in common: when the people did exactly as God had commanded them to do, with glad hearts and zeal to please God, they accomplished great works in a very short time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows about God and certainly isn’t some great revelation that I have had, but it is significant and important (I believe) for us to remember and repeat.  When we do as God instructs, we accomplish much that we would never have been able to do if it was just for us, alone.

I love my wife, and when I do something that I know will please her, I put much more effort into it than I would if it was just something I wanted for myself. We are told throughout the Bible about love; we are told God loves us, we are told to love each other, and we are even told that without love we are nothing. All good stuff, no doubt. But there is something else about love that we aren’t told, which is obvious in the two passages, above: when we do something out of love for God, we are capable of performing miracles.

I am sure that I could wax prolific about that one sentence, but I won’t. It is something that you either understand and agree with, or you don’t. For those that do understand and agree, there is nothing else I need to say; for those that don’t, there is nothing I can say.

So I will leave today’s message with this: when you love God and show it through your actions and obedience to his instructions (which is what “Torah” really means) you will accomplish so much more than you ever thought possible, and just as Moses blessed the people, God will shower you with blessings.

I wish you a joyous and peaceful Shabbat, and as we say after reading a book of the Torah:

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

                                         (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!) 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Beshallach 2019 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are now out of Egypt, and roaming in the desert. God places them against the Red Sea and Pharaoh decides he wants them back, so sends his entire army against them. God splits the sea and the Israelites walk safely across, with the army of Egypt following. God brings the waters down on the Egyptians and they are destroyed.

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After this miraculous salvation, Moses composes a song of praise to the Lord. The people continue on, and start to complain about no food or water. God sends manna and quails for them to eat, and when they come to a large pool of poisoned water God shows Moses how to make it potable. The parashah ends with the attack upon the Jews by Amalek, and through God’s help, Amalek is defeated.

Before I talk about today’s message, I would like to share a bit of interesting information regarding Amalek and the Torah. Some of you may be familiar with the stringent requirements for writing a Torah, which is done by a specially trained scribe called a Sofer. To test the ink and the quill pen used, the Sofer will write the name “Amalek” on a piece of parchment and then he crosses it out with a number of strokes in order to fulfill the commandment of blotting out the name of Amalek, in accordance with what is written in Deuteronomy 25:19.

 

What I want to point out from this Torah reading are the events just before the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-16), which is when the Israelites saw the army coming after them and cried out to Moses, asking why he brought them into the desert to die. Moses, faithfully believing God will do something, tells them not to cry to him but to wait for the salvation that God will provide. Then what does God do? He asks Moses, essentially, “What are you waiting for?  Raise your rod and part the sea, then walk across it.”

We are continually told throughout the Bible to be faithful and trust in God, which Moses unquestionable did when in the face of certain destruction he told the people to wait for God to take care of them. But God wasn’t happy with that- he chided Moses for not taking action. That is a problem I see with too many people who profess to trust in the Lord, but who really think he is a God of enablement. He is not! He is a God of action.

In Isaiah 40:31 we are told to wait upon the Lord for renewed strength, but that doesn’t mean to literally sit around on your tuchas and wait for God to do something. Yes, sometimes we are to be patient and wait, such as when waiting for an answer to prayer, but for the most part, we are to walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7.)

We have all heard the expression “Take a leap of faith”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean to trust someone without any reason to do so? Yes, it can. Does it mean to take a chance and hope for the best? Yes, it can mean that, too. Does it mean to blindly rush into a situation and pray to God that he will make it come out alright? Well, that might be a little further than I would take it, but I suppose you could do that as well. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

A real leap of faith is when we trust God, as he tells us we should, but not to the point where we are foolishly taking chances and expecting him to make it turn out well- that isn’t faithfully walking, that is testing the Lord. And we all know that is not something we should do (Deuteronomy 6:16, and again in Matthew 4:7.) What we should do is to trust in God by asking for his help in what we have discerned is the right thing to do, then instead of throwing the fleece before the Lord, we should just go ahead and start doing what we ask God to bless. If we are doing what is right, he will support and help us. If what we are doing is not in his will or is wrong in his eyes, we will fail. But, either way, we should be walking in faith by taking that first step to getting the ball rolling, and trusting in God to provide as we go.

Do not be like those people who always seem to be complaining that they are cursed or the Enemy is ruining their chances to do anything: sometimes they may be right, but in my experience I believe that most of the time people are just making up their own excuses and faithlessly waiting for some sign from God that he approves. They want to do something but are, in truth, afraid and faithless, so they blame God for their inaction by saying they are waiting for his sign of approval.

They will probably be waiting a long time- God wants us to walk and he will clear the path, but not until we start walking. It is our act of faith that generates God’s provision.

Therefore, if you have something you want to do that you believe is a calling from God, don’t be like the man in Matthew 8:22 who told Yeshua he wanted to follow him but first had to bury his father; if you feel a calling from God to do something, get out there and do it! Don’t wait for confirmation from people or from God- just get started. If God is with you, you will know it. And if God is not with you, then you will know that, too. I believe that when you ask for guidance and discernment from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), both before you start and all during your work, God will answer you.

We are to walk in faith, not sit around waiting in faith, so as the old song lyric says, “Boots- start walking!”

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch haShem!

Why the Good Die Young (Maybe)

Billy Joel had a hit song with the title, “Only the good die young.” We have heard this phrase used many times over the years, and always wondered if it was based in truth. After consideration, I think it may be a valid conclusion.

If you prefer to watch a video, I am not doing one today. Please keep reading- this will be short.

The premise for my argument has a few “givens”:

  1. God has a plan for everyone;
  2. God has given each of us the talents and gifts to achieve his plan;
  3. God isn’t concerned with how others would feel if you were dead.

Working with these foundational premises, the idea that God wants us to achieve something for his glory means that, once we have achieved it, he will either give us a new job to do or “take us home.” Consequently, those who are godly early in life, and who perform wondrous activities for God’s glory, might just beat their own deadline, and as such get called to God sooner than what any human would consider being “fair.”

How many times have you heard or known of a young person who was so angelic he or she made everyone they met love them? Or maybe you have read about a child being killed in an accident and thinking, “How sad- taken away at such a young age. Why would God allow that?”

My point is that maybe, just maybe, God didn’t allow it but caused it. Maybe that young person, or that wonderful adult, had performed all that God wanted that person to perform, and as such their reward was to be with God?

Shaul (Paul) tells us in Philippians 1:21 that he would rather be dead:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? 

Of course, he isn’t really saying he would rather die, but he certainly won’t be upset by it! He is living his life to perform God’s work, and when that work is done, he will be done, as well. God even tells Shaul that he has a job to do in Rome (Acts 23:11). And we know that once that job was done, that was it for Shaul. At least, that was it for this life.

So when you read or hear or know of someone who is a wonderful, godly person dying, don’t feel bad for them or think they were “cheated”- be glad for that person! It might be that they have fulfilled what God wanted them to do and now are receiving the reward they deserve. On the other hand, when you feel called to do something, don’t hesitate because you think that doing God’s will may kill you-you will be fine, and so will the ones left behind. And you may have more than one thing God wants you to do.

Shaul was a pretty smart fellow, and he knew it is better to be with God than on the earth; I believe he is right, don’t you?

Thank you for being here; I welcome any comments or questions (so long as you are nice) and if you like what you read, please share me out. Don’t forget to click on the SUBSCRIBE button in the right-hand margin.

Until our next time together, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

(Oy gevalt- now I am going to have the song in my head all day!)