Parashah Miketz 2019 (At the end) Genesis 41 – 44:17

Joseph is still in jail after the Cupbearer was restored to his position, yet forgot to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh, as he had promised to do.

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Two years pass and Pharaoh has a dream, the dream of the 7 healthy and 7 sickly cows, followed by the second dream of the 7 healthy and 7 sickly ears of corn. No one in his kingdom, none of the Soothsayers or magicians, can interpret these dreams. Now, the Cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh, who summons Joseph.

Joseph interprets the dreams and tells Pharaoh to appoint a wise man to store grain during the years of plenty. Of course, who else could do this but Joseph (maybe that’s why he suggested it to Pharaoh?), so Pharaoh appoints Joseph as second in charge of all Egypt. No one except Pharaoh is above Joseph throughout the land. He also renames Joseph with an Egyptian name (my Chumash suggests that being given a new name, which was standard in those days to do when someone was promoted in status, may have helped hide his identity from his brothers.)

Joseph is given a wife who bears him two sons, the first one named Manasseh, which means “making to forget”, for Joseph says (Genesis 41:51) “…for God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.”  In other words, the blessings that God provided to Joseph overtook the tsouris, injustice, and pain he suffered for years.

After the years of plenty the famine starts, and Jacob sends all his sons to Egypt, except Benjamin, to buy grain. Joseph immediately recognizes them, but they have no idea who this Egyptian in charge of the food supply is. Joseph accuses them of being spies and puts them all in jail. After three days he tells them he will keep one as a hostage, and if they bring the missing brother back to him he will believe they aren’t spies. Otherwise, they will never be allowed in the land, again. He takes Simeon as a hostage until they return with their youngest brother to prove they aren’t spies. In the meantime, he returns their money in their sacks and when they are almost home they realize this. They are frightened when they see this, thinking Joseph will assume they stole their money back. They return Simeon-less to their father and say they must bring Benjamin with them to get Simeon released and to buy more grain. Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go, and only after Judah promises to take full responsibility for Benjamin’s safety and tells Jacob that if they don’t take him they will all starve to death.  Jacob relents and allows Benjamin to go back to Egypt with the brothers. This is where today’s parashah ends.

We all go through painful times in our lives, we all suffer some form of injustice, and we all receive blessings from God. Too often we concentrate on the painful things and ignore the blessings, causing us to not be as thankful to God as we should be.

Joseph suffered the worst kinds of emotional pain: his brothers hated him and tried to kill him, he was sold into slavery, he was wrongly accused of a heinous crime, his boss unjustly threw him in jail, and the man Joseph helped while in jail forgot his promise to return the favor.  Yet throughout all this, Joseph remained faithful and eventually, he was lifted up from being a slave in jail to being the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.

Now his brothers come before him and they need his help to survive. What does Joseph do? He throws them in jail! But this is important to know: he doesn’t throw them in jail as punishment or revenge, and he does so at his own personal, emotional pain. We know it causes him pain because we are told that Joseph cries when he does this. And we know he doesn’t do it as revenge because, as we were told earlier, with the birth of Manasseh Joseph has forgotten (or we could also say forgiven) his brother’s cruelty to him. The reason he threw them in jail, we later learn, is to test their loyalty to Jacob and to see if they have changed their attitude of jealousy to one of brotherly love.

We all suffer pain in our lives, both emotional and physical, and that pain never leaves until we forgive the ones that caused it. That sounds nearly impossible to do, but the only way to be rid of the pain is through forgiveness. Joseph was able to rid himself of his pain through forgiveness, and the motivation for his forgiveness was the blessings God gave to him. He was given authority and power, he was given a wife, two sons, and a boss that held him in the highest esteem. These blessings came as a result of his faithfulness and patience (two of the fruits of the spirit Shaul tells us about in Galatians), and what is most important for us to remember is that he recognized these blessings and was thankful for them, despite all the pain and suffering he underwent.

People have a tendency to dwell on the bad things and ignore the good, but what we, as faithful and trusting Believers, need to do is the opposite: we need to look to the future, to trust in God that these tough times will be replaced by times of plenty and rest, and stay the course, so to speak, until we receive those blessings. This is what Joseph did, and we can see how well it worked out for him.

Forgive those who have wronged and pained you. It isn’t easy, I know, but we MUST forgive. It is what God wants from us more than most anything else, and if you don’t think I am correct in saying that, read Matthew 6:14-15.

Let me share with you the two ways in which I have learned to make forgiving someone possible: First, I remind myself that the one who hurt me must be in terrible pain because people aren’t mean and thoughtless by nature. The mean people in the world have to have suffered much pain themselves, and whatever they did to me is probably less painful than what they have gone through. When I consider the pain they must be in, I can actually feel for them, and as such I know they need the love of God more than most, and that is why I can pray for them and mean it.

The second way I help myself to forgive someone is to think of all the blessings that God has given me, and how I have him to turn to whereas the one who wronged me probably has no one to turn to but him (or her) self. I have God on my side, and they have no one but themselves, so who really is worse off? Who really needs to be prayed for?

One other motivation for me to try to forgive someone is, as I mentioned above, Matthew 6:14-15. If you aren’t sure what that says, I sincerely recommend you read it, now.

Joseph is a wonderful example to us of how remaining patient, faithful and trusting in God to know what to do and when to do it will result in blessings that far outweigh the suffering we go through while waiting for him to act.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share me out to everyone you know, and if you like what you hear then you will like my books, which you can order directly from my website.

Until next time, Shabbat shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyashev 2019 (And he dwelt) Genesis 37 – 40

The rest of Genesis is about Joseph. We all know the story: he is hated by his brothers because he is the favorite of his father. Not to mention he is also a bit of a snitch, having once given a bad report to his father regarding his brothers. We can add that sharing his dreams with his brothers also didn’t help the situation since the dreams indicated they would all bow down to him.

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When given the chance, the brothers were going to kill him, but instead decided to sell him to a caravan of Yishmaelim However, before they could do that, some other Arabs found him in the cistern the brothers dumped him into, and they sold him. He ended up as the slave to Potiphar, one of the military generals of the Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the brothers dipped his coat of many colors into some blood and presented it to Jacob to make him believe Joseph was killed by a wild animal.

The Bible tells us that God was with Joseph, which is why everything he did was successful. I think it would be more accurate to say that Joseph was with God. In any event, Joseph is promoted to the position of trustee for Potiphar’s entire household and finances. But, trouble brews when Potipher’s wife gets the hots for Joseph and constantly demands he sleep with her.  Because Joseph was too righteous to sleep with her, she got revenge by accusing him of attempted rape. It is likely that because Potiphar liked Joseph that instead of having him killed, which would have been the standard punishment, he simply placed him in jail.

Even in jail, falsely accused and wrongfully punished, Joseph maintained his faith and was appointed a trustee. When two of the officers of Pharaoh in jail with him had dreams, he interpreted their dreams. The interpretations came true, with the Baker being hanged and the Cupbearer restored to his prior position. However, although the Cupbearer had promised Joseph to tell Pharoah about him, once restored to his position he forgot all about Joseph.

This is where this Parashah ends, and we learn later that two years pass before the Cupbearer remembers Joseph.

Here we have a righteous and trustworthy man, Joseph, who did nothing wrong yet was attacked by his own brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused of a crime that he didn’t commit, and all because he did what he knew to be right.  He never lost his faith in God, which was evident when Joseph told the Baker and the Cupbearer that God is the one who can interpret dreams.

I see a lesson here for all of us: when tsouris (Yiddish for troubles) comes into our life, and we know we have done nothing wrong, we have to maintain our faith in God that these trials are temporary and will lead to something better. So long as we do what is right in God’s eyes, even when the world is against us, we can survive and come out on top.

Because 1 John 4:4 says

 ...he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

and Romans 8:28 tells us

Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;

we can be assured that when we are having troubles and going through a bad time, God is still there, he is aware of what is happening, and he has a plan for us.

There are so many verses in the Bible, as well as stories like this one, that confirm God is always aware of what is happening in our life. We need to trust that God is in charge and even when he allows bad things to happen, we probably won’t understand why they happened until God’s plan comes to fruition.

In Joseph’s case, the sale into slavery placed him in Egypt, and the false accusation put him where he could, eventually, find his way to the Pharaoh, which resulted in the entire family of Jacob being saved from starvation. Not to mention most of the population of Egypt and the surrounding countries. Joseph came to understand this later and in Genesis 45 he tells his brothers that it wasn’t really them who put him where he was, but God, in order to save them all.

Job is another good example of bad things happening to a good person, and he also learned that God does what God does for God’s own reasons. Kohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, learned this lesson the hard way, spending years seeking to understand why things are as they are, realizing that the effort was as useless as chasing the wind. His conclusion was to simply enjoy that which God gives you.

Too often I hear people who are going through some sort of tribulation blame it on a Satanic attack, which it could be, or they blame God, saying he is punishing them for something they did wrong. God does punish those who do wrong, especially the ones who are unrepentant, but for the most part, I believe that when we are trying to walk in the path of righteousness we will have troubles, but God will always be there to help us back on our feet.

It isn’t for nothing Yeshua told his Talmudim that anyone who wants to follow him (in other words, live a godly life) will have to carry their own execution stake.

Here’s what we need to take home from today’s message: when something bad happens to you, don’t blame God. And don’t blame Satan. In fact, don’t look to blame anyone, but instead look to the future because if you maintain your faith in God, the Bible proves that God will bring you out of this desert of tsouris you are in and place you in a garden of everlasting joy. It may not be right away, it may not even happen in your lifetime, but when we maintain our faith in God and do what is right in his eyes, we will spend eternity joyfully in his presence.

Thank you for being here; please remember to subscribe and I welcome your comments. It’s always nice to know someone takes the time to let me know what they think of my message. Even if you disagree with me.

Until next time, Shabbat shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Can We Have Too Much Knowledge?

I know there are probably (at least) some of you who are thinking to yourselves, “We can never have too much knowledge!”, and you may be right. I think knowledge is a weapon, and like any other weapon -knife, gun, club – it isn’t the weapon itself that is dangerous but how we use it.

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I accepted that Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah Adonai (Y-H-V-H) promised to send us and that as a Jewish man I could accept him and not be a traitor to my people or to our 5,000-year-old history.  That was about 21 years ago, and since then I have constantly been learning more about God, the Bible, and the history and culture of my people.

I have also joined more than a few (and left more than a few) “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups on Facebook. I have done this so I can spread my ministry and also learn from others. In all this, I learned one thing that I believe is absolutely necessary for all of us to be aware of: everyone thinks that what they know is the absolute truth.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, except I do give myself credit for this…I know I may not always be right. I still think what I think is right, but I leave room for doubt, and that is why I believe I can say to you that you need to leave room for doubt, as well.

Too much knowledge can lead us to idolatry. Really! In our heartfelt desire to know more about God and what he wants from us, we can become so obsessed with knowing that we begin to worship learning instead of the one we are learning about. We get crazy over the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton; we get crazy over the proper calendar; we get crazy when someone disagrees with us; and we get crazy when someone else tells us it isn’t that important, which I have done many times and am doing again now.

I think the most important thing to know is what is important to know.

For example, let’s say someone learned something new about the pronunciation of God’s name, do you think that when you prayed to him before, using that “bad” name, he ignored you? Do you believe that if you had never learned what you believe now to be the correct pronunciation that despite your prayers, worship, and works you would have gone to hell because you used that “wrong” name?

I hope not! From what I have learned about God, he is not just compassionate and understanding but he desires to forgive us when we repent of something we did that was wrong. And if you are thinking about Leviticus 5:17, where he tells us that even if we are ignorant of sin we committed, we are still guilty, well…you’re right! So, what do we do then?

We ask for forgiveness of the sins we did not know we committed, and (this is what I do) pray to be guided by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to recognize sin before we do it, and to be given the strength to overcome it.

Yeshua says that unless we come to him as a child, meaning innocent and trusting, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If you believe that, then the search for knowledge is dangerous in that a child is not a scholar. Wanting to know everything will drive you crazy, just as it did Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), and may lead you down the wrong path. What I mean by that is this: what if, just IF, what you think you know is wrong? Then you would be sinning against God while trying to be obedient. People who ignore the instructions God gave because they have been taught that could be in that group, as well as those who do what God instructs only because they want to be “right” instead of doing it because they want to honor God.

The Gnostics believed in secret messages within the Scriptures, and that this special knowledge was necessary for salvation. It wasn’t, and it still isn’t.

For the record, and to make sure no one misunderstands me, I am not saying knowledge is a bad thing, or that learning should not be a life-long endeavor. What I am saying is that you need to be careful when you are learning not to become so obsessed with learning that you neglect to trust the one you are learning about; trust that he is more concerned about your desires than your pronunciation, trust that he knows your heart and what you truly want, and trust that God can lead you where you need to go, even if you don’t know the way.

And, finally, trusting God enough to not need to know why.

I have used the pronunciation of God’s holy name as an example, and I will, undoubtedly, get responses justifying a particular pronunciation of his name, which will be a shame. It will only prove that the ones responding with that are so obsessed with their desire to demonstrate their knowledge that they have completely missed my point, which is that the search for knowledge can lead to idolatry and Gnosticism, and take us away from the path of righteousness.

Continue to read, continue to study, and continue to seek out God and knowledge of him. There is nothing wrong with this. My warning is that you need to make sure that your need to know doesn’t outweigh your ability to simply trust without knowing.

As for me, I like to learn and will continue to do so, and the most important thing I have learned is what I don’t need to know.

Thank you for being here and please, if you like what you hear, subscribe and help this ministry to grow. I also welcome your comments and suggestions.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah D’varim 2019 (Words) Deuteronomy 1-3:22

This is the final book of the Torah. Moses recalls all that has happened and also reviews all that is to be done when the people enter the land that God has promised them.

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There are three separate discourses in this book. The first recounts the past 40 years in the desert. The second discourse deals with the code of laws regarding worship, government, the penal code, and domestic life. The third discourse is all about the enforcement of the laws, with special attention paid to both the blessings for obedience and the punishment for disobedience. At the end of this last book of the Torah, we are told about the death of Moses.

In this parashah, Moses begins with retelling how he appointed men over the tribes to help him with judging and managing of the people. Next, he reminds them of how when, coming to the land, the people requested that Moses send out spies before they enter in. He relented to their request, which he said seemed good to him to do, but when the spies came back they gave a bad report which caused the people to rebel and refuse to enter. He reminds them that God sent them into the desert for that generation to die, and talks about their travels through the desert. This parashah ends with Moses telling of the destruction of Og and Sihon, the kings on the East side of the Jordan and his giving of their land to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.

Something is in here that was not in the Book of Numbers, where we first are told of the spies going into the land. The very first line of Numbers 13 says that the Lord told Moses to send out 12 men, leaders from each of the 12 tribes, to reconnoiter the land. Now, Moses is saying that it wasn’t God’s idea, but the people who suggested sending spies. Does that mean that the Torah is wrong? No, it doesn’t, but it does mean that an understanding of Hebrew and the cultural idioms of that time will result in a better understanding of the Torah.

The (alleged) order by God to send men uses the Hebrew words shelach lecha, which mean “you send out”, or in a more ancient form, “send for yourself.”  In other words, God was saying, “If you really want to, then go ahead and do it.” He wasn’t prohibiting this, but he certainly wasn’t commanding it. He was going along with what Moses decided was a good idea.

Now, in this parashah (Deut. 1:29-34) some 40 years later, as Moses recalls this, he chides the people for not having trusted in God in the first place. Yet, didn’t Moses allow these spies to go? Didn’t he think it was a good idea? So, even though the people initiated what turned out to be a rebellion and caused them to wander for 40 years in the desert, Moses was just as much at fault. Being the leader, whatever the people do he is, ultimately, responsible for. In this case, he wasn’t just responsible but an active participant. He also showed a lack of faith in God by allowing the spies to go. He should have simply said, “No! We dun need no stinkin’ spies! All we need to do is to trust in God, go in and take the land.”

What at first seemed to be something God commanded turns out to be what the people wanted, and what Moses agreed to allow despite God not confirming it. This is why I said before it is so important to read the entire bible, and it really, REALLY helps to know Hebrew (and Greek, I suppose, for the New Covenant writings) as well as the cultural norms of that time in order to have a proper and complete understanding of God’s word.

I am not saying you need to be a biblical Hebrew scholar or have to learn Greek in order to understand God and the Bible. I am saying that we all need to do more than just read the Bible, we need to study it. We need to have a library of biblical study materials, such as a Chumash, a Tikkun, the Interlinear Bible set and a good Concordance. These will help us to see the many diversified connections within the word of God. Hermeneutically, the entire Bible (Genesis through Revelation) is homogeneous, and no one part contradicts any other part. However, there are many places where it seems to be contradictory, which is why we need to study and examine everything in the Bible using good biblical references and study materials. Only through a detailed and thorough examination of the passages in the Bible can we find the real meaning of God’s word, and overcome the superficial misunderstandings that a cursory reading can sometimes result in.

Of course, the first and most important thing to do is pray for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide you and for God to show you what he wants you to know. Secondarily, use these study guides, Who knows? Maybe what God wants you to know he wil show you through one of these other books.

If you don’t have the study materials I listed, please consider investing in them. You don’t have to get them all at once, but when you use even just one of them, you will find more substance and have a better understanding of God’s word than you will ever get just by listening to someone else tell you what it means. Besides, how do you know that they even know what they are talking about? How many misinterpretations and outright wrong teachings have been promulgated throughout the centuries?

Each one of us will come before the Lord on Judgement Day, and each of us will have to account for what we have done during our lifetime. Those who have Yeshua as their Intercessor will be saved, but those who have not obeyed God’s word will have to stand on their own, and when they say “I was just doing what I was told to do”, I suppose God might reply with something like this:

“I understand you were doing what they told you to do, but it’s what I say that counts! And I told you everything you need to know in the Torah”

So, don’t miss out on what God is saying because you don’t want to invest the time in really getting to know the Bible. What you might be missing just may be the one thing that saves you from destruction.

Thank you for being here and please SUBSCRIBE if you haven’t done so, already, I welcome comments and only ask that you be nice.

I wish you all Shabbat shalom and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does it Mean to Strain Out a Gnat and Swallow a Camel?

In the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 23), Yeshua is chastising the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and false teachings. One of the things he accuses them of is straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24.)

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The use of this hyperbole was to show the people that although the Pharisees were knowledgeable and well trained in Torah, while they did things in a legally correct manner they taught (by example) to do things that were not in accordance with what the Torah really wanted. Whereas they gave their tithe carefully measured out, they neglected the spirit of the law with regards to how they treated others.

I see this same straining/swallowing problem in the Messianic and Hebraic Roots movements, mostly from Gentiles, and not from ignorance or hypocrisy, but from a misdirected zealousness to know God better and be obedient to the Torah.

I see arguments, passionate and even hateful at times, regarding how to spell and/or pronounce God’s Holy Name, the Tetragrammaton. God never said that our salvation was based on our pronunciation.

I see people arguing over exactly which day Yeshua was raised, and was it at night or in the light of dawn? When Thomas doubted Yeshua’s resurrection, at the time Yeshua met him he didn’t tell him what the time was when he left the tomb to prove he was raised.

I see people arguing over the calendar days, solar or lunar, and even within the lunar calendar, they argue over which day a certain festival really starts on. Don’t they know that in the ancient days no one knew when the days started or ended until they saw a signal fire? There was a 2-3 day “grace period” for every important festival simply because they had to have 3 witnesses in Jerusalem agree that the moon phase was verified. If that was OK with God then, why would it be any more important now?

I see people arguing over topics that have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with their salvation- it is just biblical trivia. And the worst thing of all is the biblically knowledgeable people arguing over these irrelevant and non-salvation issues as if they were as important as faith in God and trusting that Yeshua is the Messiah!

What do you think this does to neophyte Believers? I have read posts by people complaining that they joined a “Believers” discussion group to get answers and help and all they see are arguments, where people are nasty to and insulting each other, and are now more confused than ever.

If you think you are biblically knowledgeable and want to help others know the truth about God and Yeshua, and also about the Torah, then PLEASE stick to the important things. What are the important things?  They are the things that God told us we need to do, which are the same things Yeshua taught about.

God taught us how to worship him and how to treat each other, and Yeshua taught us the deeper, more spiritual meaning of the instructions God gave us, which he discussed in the Sermon on the Mount. Neither God nor Yeshua are into minutia, but they are very much into compassion, trust, faith, love, forgiveness, and just living humbly and with treating each other with respect.

God and Yeshua were never concerned with how to pronounce The Name, or when the moon is really in phase, or even whether you tithe from gross income or net.  All God or Yeshua cares about is how you treat others and your faithfulness, which is demonstrated by obedience and accepting that what God said we need to know is all that we need to know.

We don’t need to know when the End Times will start; we don’t need to know when Yeshua will return; we don’t need to know if ducks are kosher or not (yes- I have seen that question); and we don’t need to know “Why” about anything!

All we need to know is that God wants us to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8.)

And if you aren’t sure what walking humbly with God means, it means to stop asking so many useless questions in order to poof up your own pride and to show off how knowledgeable you are. It means to accept that all you need is to be faithfully obedient, faithfully trusting (without asking why) and faithfully treating each other with respect, love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.

If you find yourself asking things that are not directly related to salvation, think about whether or not you really need to know the answer.

I know what I am talking about because I have always been the “Duty Expert” in every job I have worked; I have been the one with the technical knowledge of every detail. I still want to know everything about everything, but when it comes to God, Yeshua and my own salvation I have learned what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) learned the hard way: trying to know everything about everything is like chasing the wind.

I have taught myself to be satisfied knowing that God exists, that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised, that I am to do my best to obey the Torah (which I read every day, along with the rest of the Bible), and that I can learn about the culture and history of the people in the Bible but when it comes down to it what matters is to trust God to do as he said he would, if I do as he said I should.

That is all you need to know to be- and to stay- saved.

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I welcome your comments, even if you disagree: all I ask is that you be nice.

Until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Do Bible Verses Really Prove Anything?

Based on the title of today’s message, I promise not to give one verse or quote from the Bible.

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There are many, many people who believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. Yet, how can that be if there are literally dozens of different versions of the Bible and under the law of copyright, each version has to have a significant difference from the other versions?

Also, we have interpretations of the original Hebrew and Greek into many different languages, and we all know that there is no such thing as an exact translation from one language to another due to cultural and linguistic differences between the many different people of the world.

So, in light of these facts, how can we even think that what we are reading in our Bible (whichever version it may be) is truly infallible?

The truth is…it can’t be! After all, the Bible is just a book. It is not God, himself. It tells us about God, it tells us what God wants us to know, it even tells us how to live our lives in the way that pleases God, but it is not God. It is not infallible, and it is not exactly what he said, even when it is supposed to be a quote.

Now that I have angered a number of you who are absolutely fixated on the Bible as being the absolute, infallible word of God, let’s raise the bar on your frustration.

When someone tries to prove a position, spiritual, ceremonial or social, that is based on what is written in the Bible, their argument may not trustworthy. And I am not talking about just those arguments that I don’t agree with. Why do I say this? Because the way people use Bible verses to support their position is too often an improper use of biblical exegesis.

As an example of what I mean, let’s take two of the most hotly argued issues regarding the Bible: the Trinity and Mosaic Law.

There are many people who argue that the Bible tells us, absolutely, that God, Messiah and the Holy Spirit are three-in-one, all the same entity but appearing in different forms. Then again, there are just as many people who say the Bible tells us, absolutely, that God, Messiah and the Holy Spirit are separate and unique entities, that there is only One God, one Messiah who is not God, and the Holy Spirit. Both sides have biblical evidence that supports their argument, and often the Bible verses they use as support for each side of these polar opposite beliefs are the same verses!

As far as the “Law”, meaning the commandments given to Moses on the mountain which are written in the Torah, still being required for those who have accepted Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) as their Savior, there is the one side quoting from the New Covenant to show the law was done away with when Yeshua was crucified, and there are those who use quotes from the New Covenant to show that those who accept Yeshua are still required to obey God’s Torah.

Now…before you start to comment on which position is correct, please stop right there and remember this message is NOT about the Trinity or the Law- it is about the fact that Bible quotes cannot be trusted as absolute proof of a position. The reason why I say this should now be obvious: because the same verses can be used to support either side they can’t really support any side.

The reason this can be is because there is so much in the Bible, so many different messages and ideas and statements, that if I want to prove whatever I choose to believe in, if I take enough time, look long enough, and pull enough words and statements out of context, I can make the Bible “say” pretty much anything I want it to say.

So, nu?  If this is true, then how can anyone learn anything from the Bible? How can we use the Bible to show what God wants us to know and how he wants us to behave? How can we trust anything anyone tells us about God?

We do so by interpreting the Bible correctly. We use proper biblical exegesis, which is a combination of Circles of Context and Hermeneutics.

Circles of Context is the system where we take the word within the sentence, the sentence within the paragraph, the paragraph within the book, and the book within the entire Bible. We make sure that when we are reading or quoting anything from the Bible that the interpretation considers who is writing it and to whom is it addressed. We have to consider what the topic is; for instance, Shaul (Paul) wrote to the different Messianic congregations he formed that were having problems. Each letter he wrote was specifically meant to deal with that congregation’s problems, and so each letter is unique to that audience. What he wrote to the Jews in Rome has to be interpreted and understood using Jewish culture, linguistic, and religious context. On the other hand, the letter to the Galatians was to a congregation of mostly Gentiles in the process of converting to Judaism. In that case, Shaul wrote using a form of Greek logic and terms from the Septuagint because the Gentiles there would not understand the nuances and cultural mores of a Jewish argument.

Once we have reviewed the biblical passage in its full context, we also need to ensure it is hermeneutically validated. Hermeneutics, simply stated, is the idea that everything we find in the Bible will be consistent with everything else in the Bible. As such, what is said to be a sin in Genesis will still be considered a sin in Revelation; what Shaul says is in the Torah in his letter to the Philippians will be consistent with what Moses tells us is in the Torah in Exodus.

Just as we are told that God is the same then, now and always, hermeneutics uses this same idea to validate what we read in the Bible- the meaning of the passage we read here must be the same everywhere else in the book. The true word of God does not contramand itself.

When we read the Bible, we need to always use these two exegetical practices. We must consider the cultural and linguistic usage of the words and events we read about that were used at the time they were written. We cannot use current or modern definitions of words or, for that matter, current social and moral values for what was done in ancient days. We must accept what we read in the Bible from the viewpoint, morally, culturally and linguistically, of the people that lived back then. If we really want to understand what we read in the Bible, we need to transplant ourselves into the culture and walk a mile in the shoes, or sandals as the case may be, of the people at that time.

Can we trust the Bible? Yes, we can. We can trust what is in the Bible when we use the proper tools I have given you today. And always, ask God to show you what he wants you to see. There is a legitimate argument that God may give a different message or meaning to you than he will to me, even when we read the same passage. So long as what we each believe that passage to mean is contextually accurate and hermeneutically validated, we can both be right. For instance, some prophecies have dual-meanings, and if you see the current meaning and I see the future meaning, we are both saying something different about the same thing, and we are both correct.

I know this is confusing and may make some of you feel uneasy and doubtful. That is good! Never accept what anyone says as correct, not even me- always verify it for yourself in the Bible using the proper tools of interpretation. And always, always, always ask God for guidance and understanding.

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Share me out and please don’t hesitate to make comments: all I ask is that you be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Being in Control Doesn’t Mean You’re Controlling Everything

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

 

How often do we proclaim that God is in control?

How many times (you don’t really have to count) does the Bible tell us that God is in control?

Yet, it seems that too many times we see things happening in the world that would indicate God is not in control. We see good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good ones.  We see mass murders, crimes go unpunished, people in positions of authority abuse that authority and no one does anything about it.

The writer of the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) asked about these things as well, and his conclusion was that nothing really matters- all our efforts are as useless as chasing the wind. His final statement is that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

With all due respect to the writer of Kohelet, I have the answer to why it seems God is not in control:

Being in Control Doesn’t Mean You’re Controlling Everything

I was in the business world for some 40 plus years and most of that time was in control of something: my own office, a department, a number of different departments, and anywhere from 12 to over 350 people at one time or another. And what I learned from that is when you are the one in charge, to develop your people and give them the skills and understanding that they need to improve themselves, you sometimes have to leave them in control and let them screw up on their own.

Of course, you don’t let them screw up anything really important, or anything that would cause harm to themselves or others, but just let them have their way with the little things and give them the chance to swim, or sink.

And always be there to fish them out if they need you to.

With God and humanity, it is the same. God is in control of everything- there is nothing he cannot do or make happen. But just because he can make anything happen doesn’t mean he will make anything happen. He will often leave us to our own devices to allow us to learn the important lessons we need to learn.

What are those lessons? Well, for one, we need to learn to depend on God and not on our own strength. What better way to do that then leave us alone to totally mess things up to the point where we have to call on him for help?

Another lesson we need to learn is patience, as in waiting on God for justice. What better way to do that than to allow evil to propagate and let us see it happen?

I like to say, “Proverbs 20:22 tells us, ‘Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.‘, and sometimes God actually let’s us see that happen.”

One of the most important lessons we need to learn is about forgiveness. How can we learn that unless someone hurts us?

God is unquestionably able to control everything that happens everywhere, but he doesn’t. He controls everything by not controlling everything and allowing us to control those things that will lead us to better understand God, his ways and our role in his plan of salvation.

Don’t let yourself be fooled by those that argue because of all the evil and wrong done in the world God doesn’t exist because if he did, he would not allow it. They just don’t understand how it works. They are trying to box God into their own understanding and desires and that will never work. God is so far above us that we cannot even imagine or ever understand his ways, and we shouldn’t be able to.

I once read that a God who can be understood by the mind of Man is not worthy of the worship of Man. I totally agree.

I am not all that upset when I see the evil that is being done in the world, but it is not because I like or condone it. Just like you, I would love to see evil excised from our lives but it ain’t gonna happen until God is ready to take out his righteous vengeance on the nations.  My response to evil is not apathy, but trusting confidence that God will render justice when he is ready, and that his justice will be perfect.

I know that God will let me control whatever things he puts in my power to control, and as long as I try to let God lead me I know he is there waiting to catch me if (and when) I mess up.

 

Pruning hurts, but it is a necessary pain

I wonder if the place where I worship will even be here in a year. We have a very small congregation, and need to disassociate ourselves with the Assembly of God, which will result in a significant loss of available funds. It’s a long story and not for print, but suffice it to say we are being “realigned” (as our Senior Pastor calls it), and this realignment is painful.

Maybe lethal- who knows?

Some of the people who have been faithful and constant are feeling led to serve in other congregations and churches; even though they still come on Friday nights, they also go to other places to help on some Friday’s (so we don’t see them) and Sunday services. One or two have indicated they will probably leave completely (on good terms, of course) because they feel led to go elsewhere.

I don’t see this, as some might, as a rebellion or desertion: it is pruning. When a branch gives forth good fruit, it is cut off from the main trunk and replanted elsewhere, so that it can grow more than it would be able to on the tree that first nourished it. It is painful but it is necessary for growth. Of course, being cut off and replanted is tough- it hurts, you miss the regular flow of nourishment you first received, and it is scary. The root that has fed you for many years is now gone, and you are on your own.

It’s like finally moving out of your Mother’s basement.

We are in a realignment, in that the mission of the Zionist Revival Center (our website is: zionistrevivalcenter.org) has moved from the cookie-cutter “Save-the-World” Christian mission to being a teaching ministry. Not just to teach Christians about their Hebraic Roots (which is a major part), but to teach Christian churches what is their true role in the plan of Salvation. That being that the “Church” is grafted onto the Tree of Life, which is the Torah. And, as is taught throughout the New Covenant writings, being grafted on means feeding from that one root, which God provided to all in His Word.  To be able to do what God has planned for the Gentiles who have been saved by Messiah Yeshua, all churches need to be one with Israel and support the Jewish people. This is, unfortunately, not the standard teaching in most Christian churches, who reject Judaism (Israel, the Jewish people and the Torah) because of nearly two thousand years of wrongful teaching.

Since we are teaching “against the tide” of traditional Christian understanding, getting the word out will be difficult; getting congregants will be even more difficult, and we really need to trust God to help us. You see, there are so many churches in Melbourne (Florida) that if you spit in any direction on a windy day, it will land on some church. We want to teach the “Church” it’s role in God’s plan of salvation, and we also want our congregation to grow, but we don’t want to “steal” the sheep from other places, so it is a sort of balancing act. We need to work with the other churches, and stealing their members is not going to help us reach that goal, so we are facing a difficult road.

But, then again, with God all things are possible. I see us fulfilling an essential role and I totally agree with our vision/mission.

For our own people, we are going to have different Shabbat services to “mix it up”; one Friday will be song worship, one Friday teaching, one Friday testimonials, one Friday prayer worship, etc. We will have five different types of Shabbat services, scheduled ahead of time, and we expect that those who like music will come to that worship service, but those who don’t, won’t (on that Friday); those who like prayer will come to prayer services but those that don’t want to be in prayer for an hour or so, won’t (on that Friday.)

In the long run, who knows what this will do? That is why I started out saying that we may end up pruning ourselves- the scary thought is when you cut yourself off, how do you replant yourself?

This blog is my ministry, and I would love for it to grow. I guess I need to get back on Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus (and whatever) other social media in order to gain wider exposure. I trust in God to make things happen, but I also believe He expects us to show that trust by stepping out as if we already knew what was going to happen. Abraham didn’t call AAA for a Trip Tik when God told him to leave Ur- he just up and left. That’s what real faith is- leaping without looking because you trust God to make sure there is something there to land on.

Please pray for our center, for our mission to be fulfilled, and for the Gentile world to come back to it’s roots- too many churches have cut themselves off from the very root that feeds them. I talk about this in my book, in the chapter called, “You Can’t Get Pears from an Apple Tree”- if the Gentiles that have been saved by Jesus want to be like Jesus, then they need to live and worship as Jesus did.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what traditional Christianity teaches.

Parashah Shmot (the names) Exodus 1-6:1

We all know this story- the Pharaoh that was hundreds of years after Joseph was of a totally different people and enslaves the Israelites from fear of their size. All the male babies are to be killed, Moses is hidden then sent down the Nile by his mother who trusts in God to protect her son. He is found by a daughter of Pharaoh, raised for the first years of his life by his mother, then returned to the Princess to be adopted into the royal family. Years later, as an adult, Moses sees one of his countrymen being beaten by an Egyptian (his mother had taught him about the God of Israel and his heritage), loses it and kills the Egyptian, then runs for his life. He goes to Midian, marries and becomes a shepherd. Years later he sees the burning bush, and is told by God that he will be God’s spokesman in order to get Pharaoh to free the people.

NOTE: If you feel you don’t know what your calling from God is, just be patient: Moses was 80 years of age before he found out.

He goes back to Egypt, faces Pharaoh and declares to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

Pharaoh doesn’t take too well to this, and orders that the Israelites are to now make bricks without being provided the straw, so instead of going home at sundown to rest they had to glean the fields all night. That didn’t make them very happy at all, and the Parashah ends with Moses about to get stoned by the people for making their lives even more miserable than before he came to free them.

I want to take one little line, just a few words from this Parashah, and talk about them today. They are found in Chapter 3, verse 14, when God tells Moses His name. The exact translation is: Ehyeh asher ehyeh– I am that I am.

This seems to be a simple statement, but it is in reality, vast. Popeye the Sailor says, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam…”and in his case, his statement is simple. Popeye is his own man, he is a modest and simple person who doesn’t profess to be anything other than what we see.

However, when God says “I am that I am” He means that He is now what He is, He has always been what He is, and He will always be what He is. Popeye is Popeye only during his lifetime, but God is God, God has been God, and God will always be God- there is no timeline for God.

When we try to put a timeline on God we end up upset and disappointed with Him. But how can we ever expect God to be constrained to our parameters of time and space? He is beyond physics, He is beyond restrictions, He is beyond understanding.

I can count to a Million, but can I really understand what a Million is? I can know who God is, but can I understand Him? Not a chance. He is beyond human understanding; as such, we must trust in His knowledge and timing, and ability to do that which He says He will do. Such was the lesson Moses was learning when he first went to Pharaoh. He had the staff that turned into a snake and the hand-leprosy trick: to Moses that must have seemed like more than enough to get Pharaoh’s attention. When it failed, and failed miserably, I am sure Moses was having second thoughts. In fact, we read how he asks God, essentially, what’s the story? Why isn’t this working as you said it would?

That’s because God had more planned to happen then Moses was aware of, and God kept it that way. God told Moses what He was going to do, but didn’t spell out every step of the procedure. He didn’t need to because He is (after all) God, and Moses didn’t have a “Need to Know” at that time. Faith is walking in complete darkness and trusting God to tell you where to step. Moses needed to develop that level of trust, which is why (in my opinion) God took Moses step by step through the Plagues, telling Moses only that which he needed to know, and only when he needed to know it.

We should be walking as Moses did (once he caught on), trusting in God to tell us where to step and where to avoid stepping. Moses was the most blessed of people in that he got to speak with God, face-to-face, but what we have is the very next best thing- we have the in-dwelling Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to be our spiritual GPS, leading us in the way God wants us to walk. The hard part, for us, is to listen to it.

Well, maybe not for you, maybe you can hear and obey the Ruach, but I confess it is very hard for me to continually be led by the Spirit. Even my language is hard to control (we could do an entire year of lessons on the difficulty of controlling the tongue), so you can imagine how much more difficult is it for me to control my actions. I am happy to report that I am making progress, slow as molasses going uphill against the wind in February, but still, it is progress. Three steps forward and two steps backsliding is still one step closer to God, and that is all we can hope for- getting closer to God, day by day, step by step.

When you feel that God isn’t doing as you thought He should, or you are getting impatient waiting for a prayer to be fulfilled, remember that God is eternal and we are mortal- apples and oranges- and it is unfair to God (and to us) to expect that we will be able to understand what is happening in our lives as God directs us. Work on following God’s instructions, remembering and trusting in the fact that He is what He was, and He will always be that which He is. That’s a really difficult concept to wrap your head around, but don’t worry about understanding it. You don’t need to.

Understanding what God is going to do is not necessary to accomplishing what God is calling you to do: all you need to do is trust Him and follow His lead.

“What if…” thinking is faithless living

What do you think about when something is about to occur? Do you look forward to change? Do you embrace new ideas and new challenges?

Or are you the type who thinks, “What if…?” whenever something different is about to happen, or you need to do something?

Those of us who profess to believe in God and trust in Him should not be living out a  “What if…?” life.

So what if “what if…” happens?  Do you really trust in God? Do you really believe that there isn’t anything on the earth, or in the heavens above, or in the depth of the seas that God is not in control of?

When I read the Psalms, and the Prophets, and the letters from Shaul (Paul) to the newly formed Messianic communities (there was no “church” in the first century) I can read what is in-between the lines: they all suffered much. The Prophets suffered much, as did Moses (emotionally), as did Jeremiah (emotionally and physically), as did David, as did Shaul, as did Kefa (Peter), as did…well, just about every righteous person we read about in the bible experienced suffering. Being righteous in an unrighteous world is asking for Tsouris (Yiddish for “troubles”) and even Yeshua (Jesus) tells us that if we wish to follow Him we must be prepared to carry our own execution stake (Matthew 16:24); Jesus is telling us that to follow Him is no bed of roses, and will, in fact, cause us strife and difficulty.

So if you want to wonder “What if..”, you don’t need to: if what you are going to do is pleasing to God, it will be difficult, you will have troubles, you will have to suffer, emotionally, physically, maybe even both, and you will not like it.

So, you may ask, if doing what pleases God will cause us pain and suffering in the world, why should we do that? The answer is: because it is pleasing to God. Because it is what leads to righteousness, it moves away from sin, it works to bring you closer to God, and in the long run (meaning eternity) it will bring rewards that are so much greater than the level of suffering that the suffering will be forgotten.

In other words, keep your eyes on the prize, look towards the goal, and do not hang your head and see nothing but where your feet are walking. Tunnel vision is a handicap and dangerous when walking. With regards to your spiritual life, having tunnel vision (i.e., looking only at what is directly in front of you and not seeing the end result) is more than dangerous- it can lead to spiritual suicide.

We need to keep walking in God’s will, along the pathway He designed for us, individually and corporately. God’s path is a straight path, it is a narrow path, and we can always see the end. When we walk with our heads hanging down, looking only at each step we take, trusting only in our own ability to walk, we are forced to wonder “What if…” because we can’t see where we are going. People- you can’t see where the path leads when you are only looking at your feet! It’s no wonder that you wonder what will happen with each and every step you take.

Keep your spiritual eyes ahead of you, trust in God, I mean, REALLY trust in God and show Him you trust in Him (as you will also be showing others) by confidently walking in faith. Walk tall, walk securely, walk with confidence that no matter what dangers or trials you will encounter on the road, you know God is there, walking alongside you and guiding you. It’s like the poem about footprints in the sand; trusting in God means walking looking ahead and never questioning or doubting God’s presence and help.

We all want to be like fine gold and pure silver; the good news is that we will be, so long as we continue to walk in God’s will; the bad news is that it can’t happen without going through the furnace. So, Brothers and Sisters, look forward to going through the furnace, and never ask “What if…” because God already knows what will happen, and He always allows whatever happens to work to the good for those that trust in Him and are called in accordance with His word (Romans 8:28): so, be confident, be sure, be faithful.

Living a “What if..” life is living a faithless life.