Can You Handle the Truth?

Was the first thing you thought of when you read today’s title the movie, “A Few Good Men?”  Jack Nicholson, when told by Tom Cruise that he only wants the truth, delivers the now-iconic line, “You can’t handle the truth!”, which meant Cruise’s character wasn’t able to properly understand or appreciate the truth.

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I want to look at this statement from an entirely different viewpoint, i.e. not that someone cannot handle hearing the truth, but can we who know the truth handle it? And what I mean is, can we handle it correctly?

Often we know someone who states a biblical “truth” that we know, absolutely, is wrong. Now, of course, we can never ignore the option that we are wrong, but when we know in our spirit, and when we can confirm it objectively (that is an important part of being “right”) from what is said in the Bible (and not just once in one sentence, but hermeneutically throughout the Bible), and also when it is confirmed to be truthful by others who we know are spiritually mature and biblically knowledgeable (wow, what a long sentence!), THEN we can be absolutely certain of what we believe.

Where was I? Oh, yeah- so, when we know someone says something that is wrong, do we handle the truth by stating it in a way that it can be handled by the one hearing it?

Do you see what I mean? Handling the truth is a two-way street: the one hearing it must hear the truth in a way that makes it possible for him or her to understand and accept it, and that will depend almost exclusively on how well the one with the truth presents it.

I was a salesman for many years, and I sold high-priced items on a one-call close basis. I was very successful because I did not tell the customer what they should do but instead, I presented my product in a way that allowed them to decide it was the best thing for them.  The way I did that, which is how we must teach others, is to start with finding out what they think about something, then make them doubt their position by asking leading questions. The questions must be delivered in such a way that the only answer they can give is one that shows they aren’t certain about why they think something is true.

Here is what I have learned to be the best way to teach someone: don’t start by telling them what you know, start by asking them what they know, and then ask them why they believe it to be true?  Only after you know what they think they know can you begin to show them that what they know is, as the song says, ain’t necessarily so.

You cannot get anyone to believe what you say until you get them to doubt what they say. 

Once they realize that they might not be correct, THEN you have an opening to slowly, compassionately and respectfully tell them what you believe and immediately follow it up with why. Hopefully, the proof of your belief will convict them and then, and only then, it is possible they will realize they were wrong. That is if they’re willing to do so because, after all the work you have done, if they really don’t want to know anything other than what they believe you will not be able to change their mind.

And when they can’t handle the truth, do not try to force it upon them. Many people, if not most, will not want to hear the truth because they don’t want to move out of their comfort zone. They will refuse to relearn what they already think they know because they do not want to know anything different; they do not want to stop doing what they have always done, and they most certainly do not want to chance losing friends and family by separating themselves from their current environment.

And, as we all know, being holy means to be separated from the common.

The truth is something that will set us free; what is a hard truth to handle is that most people do not want to be free. They want to remain slaves to sin because it is a lot easier (and in many ways more fun) than being a slave to God. Besides, most people don’t even realize they are slaves, and that truth is the hardest thing to initially overcome when we minister to the unsaved.

You may disagree with what I am saying, but I know from experience and from confirmation (having been a top salesperson) that your truth cannot be accepted until after their truth is proven to be wrong.

So, nu? …now that you know the truth about handling the truth, can you handle the truth?

Thank you for being here and please, if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to this ministry using the icons on the YouTube channel and the SUBSCRIBE button in the right-hand margin on the website. I also welcome comments and suggestions: I would like to know if you feel these messages are helpful.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

When Do We Stop?

Today, as I was reviewing Facebook, someone posted this message:

In life, it’s important to know when to stop arguing with people and simply let them be wrong

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I thought about this with regard to the many times I have seen a discussion devolve into an argument, all because one person wouldn’t stop trying to get the other person to agree. The exchange of ideas was corrupted into an exchange of insults because of one person’s stubborn pridefulness not allowing the other person to have their own view.

For those who profess to be Believers, meaning people who are supposed to be God-fearing, respectful, compassionate, and loving of others to argue about things to the point where their pride takes over is a very poor way to represent God. It doesn’t glorify him, at all! What makes it worse is that the person who refuses to stop arguing will, more often than not, say they are just telling the truth, which they proclaim justifies their rude behavior.

Shaul tells us that righteous anger is fine, and it is, but it is no excuse for being nasty or disrespectful to someone. The same goes for telling the truth; as far as I am concerned, if you are unable to tell someone your understanding of “the truth” without having to yell at or insult them, then not only have you already lost the argument but your truth might not really be the truth.

Now, someone may say that Yeshua insulted the Pharisees and Scribes and Torah-teachers often, and that is true. My answer to that point of fact is this: you ain’t Yeshua! And when he spoke, even those who were against him could not argue with him because his truth was God’s truth and stood on its own. When you or I discuss God with others and they don’t accept what we say, or tell us we are wrong,  before we start to insult them we might consider that if what we say isn’t strong enough to stand on its own, maybe what we think is right is actually wrong. Or maybe what we are saying is right but we are saying it in a wrong way.

I learned this lesson many years ago when I received a left-handed compliment from my boss. I was a Sales Manager for Home Depot’s At-Home Services and the Senior Vice President I was working for told me that what I say is almost always correct, but (here comes the down-side) it becomes impotent because of the way I say it. You see, I was just telling the truth, but the way I told it rendered it useless because it made people upset.

God gave each and every one of us Free Will because he wants us to choose to worship him. We also can choose to reject God and all he says. That means God, himself, allows someone to be wrong if they choose to be wrong. So who are we to disallow that which God allows?

Your truth may not be my truth, and (truthfully) both may still be true. What is important is that we don’t tell someone the truth in order to show how correct we are, but to help them come closer to God. It is all about bringing people into proper relationship with God and Messiah, so when someone chooses to reject what you say, go ahead and make an argument without arguing. Allow them a minute or so to take it in, and if they are willing to continue to listen then you are doing well. If they reject what you say, and refuse to accept any proof from you, then before the discussion becomes an argument, do as God does and allow them to be wrong.

One last point: remember how God told the prophets that if they did not tell the people to repent, then their blood would be on his head? But, if after telling them to repent, they decided to reject God’s warnings and continued to sin, then the prophet would be free of their blood and it would be on their own heads? This rule holds true for us, as well. We are to try to bring people into the Kingdom of God but not by force, coercion, fear, or bribery (such as telling them about all the blessings they receive for being Believers.)

As purveyors of God’s truth, your job and mine is simply to tell the truth as God has shown it to us and allow people to make up their own minds.

Thank you for being here, and please share this out to your friends and family, and SUBSCRIBE so that when I post you will be notified. And I always welcome comments, all I ask is that you be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Who’s Truth is the Real Truth?

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What is the truth?  Often, what was “truth” at one time was later shown to be a lie: the earth is flat; cigarettes are good for you; the moon is made of cheese; I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.

Even those things that have been taken as absolute Gospel, for instance, well…uh..the Gospels- even within these there have been truths that have been proven false. For instance, Jesus was the name of the Messiah- that’s wrong, it was and still is Yeshua (or, to be fair, some form of this name.) We celebrated (and still do) his birth as being on December 25th- that is wrong; most every biblical scholar today agrees he was born in the fall, sometime around Sukkot.

The Bible is known to be the true word of God, yet there are over 2 dozen different English translations of the Bible, each one with significant differences in many of the verses. And these English versions are translations of the Hebrew and Greek versions that came before them. Then we have to include the translations from English into many different languages, making dozens upon dozens of different translations. And as we all know, Hebrew to Greek to English to whatever other languages won’t translate exactly the same. When we look at any one line within the Bible, we can find many different ways to say it, each with its own cultural, linguistic, and historical influence which can significantly change the understanding of that line.

So even with the Bible, how can we know the REAL truth about God, Messiah, and God’s plan of salvation?

I know the real truth of it all, but that is only my truth. Your truth may be slightly different. Your truth may be slightly different from mine, but someone else’s truth may be way out there!

As an example, what about the law being “fulfilled?” Matthew 5:17 is one of the most misused verses there is in the entire set of Gospels: some people say “fulfilled” (as in the law being fulfilled) means that it is done away with. Others say that the term means that the law was properly interpreted. Still, others say that the “moral” laws remain in force but the ceremonial laws (as if anyone is able to know one from the other) are done away with.

So who do we believe? Who really knows the absolute, undeniable truth of God’s Word? There is only one who does know the absolute truth about everything in the Bible, and that is- God.

And he isn’t talking about it. Why? Because he has already said all he needs to say.

God doesn’t have the ego problems we humans have; he can say what he wants to say and stop there. Humans, mainly the ones who insist they know the truth, can’t shut up about it. You discuss it with them, but they ignore what you say and keep going on with their version. If you disagree and cite biblical verses to prove your point, even if you do this properly by explaining within the written, linguistic, spiritual, and cultural context, they still insist that you are wrong. And when you say that it is time to agree to disagree, they keep at it, still saying you are wrong, pagan, stupid, need to study…whatever insulting and condescending verbiage they can muster in order to make you admit that they are telling the truth.

And maybe they are, but it’s not for them to say. In fact, I don’t think anyone should say what is the absolute truth or what is an absolute lie. We each should believe what we choose to believe, and allow others to believe what they chose to believe. Yes, we should (if we are certain we are correct) try to show them why we believe what we do, but they have a right to disagree. That is from God, who gave each of us Free Will to choose what to believe. We have to respect that right, even if we are absolutely, undeniably, and positively correct (in our own mind) about the truth.

What is the real truth? Who cares! Really! What matters is not so much truth, as faith.

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8 Yeshua talks about saying only what the Father has told him to say. He says in John 8:31-32 (CJB):

So Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, “If you obey what I say, then you are really my Talmudim, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

The “truth” Yeshua is talking about here is the truth that he is the Messiah God promised to send and to obey what he said meant to honor the Torah, of which he is the living representative. In other words, when Yeshua said to obey him he was saying that we should obey the Torah, and that obedience has nothing to do with earning salvation but is the result of believing, faithfully, that Yeshua is the Messiah.

But, then again, that is my truth. That is what I believe, and you can accept that as your truth or reject it altogether as a lie. That is your choice.

Let me conclude by saying, straight-out, what today’s message is: speak your truth, listen to the truth of others, and choose to believe what you will. No matter what anyone else says, God is the only one who knows absolutely what he meant, what he means, and what he wants you to know from his Word. And that may be different for you than it is for me.

Each one of us will choose truth and justify it for ourselves. What we choose may be wrong, and if so we will have to face God when the time comes and explain why we chose that particular “truth.” And, although I can’t speak for God, as I have said many times, if what we chose to believe is only what someone else told us, we will still be held accountable for it.

So whatever you choose to believe, make sure that belief system is founded in the belief in God, the belief in the Messiah that he sent, and the trusting belief that God’s promises are forever and trustworthy. That’s your starting point- from there, you better be able to verify and justify anything else with proper biblical exegesis and understanding, which you can get from the author when you ask for it.

And that’s the truth!

What Religions and Lying Have in Common

This is a simple post today, no video- just plain, old common sense backed up by the Bible.

Before we start, though, if you haven’t subscribed please do so today because any day now I will be posting my new book deals and you don’t want to miss out on that.

So, religion and lying: what they have in common is that both are designed to control others. 

Most people think that telling a lie is the way we avoid the truth. But it is a little deeper than that-  it is really a means of control designed to convince someone that there is a different truth than what they believe. As an example, I didn’t get a project I was supposed to complete done on time. You believe I am responsible, which is the truth but I tell you a lie: I say that a member of the team was late with their part and that prevented me from getting it done on time. If you believe me then I have, in effect, controlled you by changing what you believe to be the truth. I have made you believe a different “truth” than the real truth. 

Religions do the same thing. The truth is what God gave us, which is found in the Tanakh (the Old Covenant.) The Gospels confirm the laws of the Torah because that is what Yeshua taught his Disciples, and what they later taught the Gentiles who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and were (thereby) converting to Judaism. 

Remember: Yeshua was and is Jewish, lived a Jewish lifestyle and those who followed him, by definition had to live a Jewish lifestyle, too. 

Where religion has tried to control people and give them a new belief system is in how leaders of different religions twist the truth of the Tanakh and the New Covenant (in Hebrew, B’rit Chasdasha) to make people believe what the leaders want them to believe.

For instance, in Judaism there are many additional rituals that are Rabbinic, i.e. found in the Talmud, which are not directly from God. Although I do not universally condemn these traditions, they do exercise a level of control over the Jewish people who are told they must conform to these activities to be “correct.”  God never required these, so to say we must follow them is to tell a lie and exercise a form of control. 

Christianity has, for the most part, totally ignored the Torah and misinterpreted much in the B’rit Chadasha to change the form of worship from what God commanded. For instance, they kept a “7th day Sabbath” but changed it from the way it had been celebrated; it should be from Friday eve to Saturday eve but they changed it to Sunday during the day only.

Another example of controlling lies within Christianity is how it has used Kefa’s (Peter) vision of the sheet in Acts 10 to do away with the Kosher laws by saying the vision meant all food is OK to eat. The truth is that his vision had nothing to do with food and was about allowing Kefa to bring salvation to the Gentiles, but I suppose the Christian leadership desired to eat pork rinds. 

One major aspect of lying that religion has in common is this: when you tell a lie, you have to keep expanding that lie. This is because there are always “loose ends” within a lie; you need to expand the lie as more people hear it and start to question the truth of it. As the old saying goes, “What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” 

To me, this means if a religion is lying it will eventually need to “expand” itself, which will result in having to separate into different sects.

Within Judaism, there are 6 different sects: Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects won’t recognize Messianic Jews as being Jewish- another lie  that religion has created to control people.) And within the Chasidim, we can probably list the Lubavitcher, also called Chabad, as a sub-sect. 

As for all the different sects and forms of Christianity, there isn’t enough server space for me to list them all. 

If we accept that a lie grows and grows, then all these religions that are supposed to stem from what God told Moses must be some form of a lie, right?  Now if you say what God told Moses is only for Jews, then you refute what Yeshua (Jesus) taught because the Apostle John called Yeshua the Living Torah- the Word that became flesh. If Yeshua is the Living Torah, then how could he teach anything that was against himself? 

So now that I have debunked, insulted and berated all of the Judeo-Christian religions, what is left for us? Simple- what is left is what God told us to do, what Yeshua told us to do, what Micah told us to do, what The Rambam (Maimonides) told us to do, what Shaul (Paul) told us to do, which is….to love God and to love each other.

God gave the Torah to the Jewish people to bring to the world:
(Exodus 19:6- “And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites.”

The commandments found in the Torah are what Yeshua confirmed in all his teachings. Accept that the Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story, one narrative of the plan of salvation God has for his creation and accept that the “New” did not override or do away with the “Old”- it added to it. The covenants that God has made with us are not exclusive, they are cumulative.

The world was meant to obey the Torah, which I can prove by pointing out that God said not to add to or take away from the Torah:
(Deuteronomy 4:2-“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

The Messiah was sent to the world to bring us all back to God, back to repentant obedience and to lead us into salvation. We are not to change anything God said, and anything that does change it is not from God but from Man. God gave us his rules for how to worship him and how to treat each other; men created religion in order to control people. 

What God gave us is the truth and what religion gives us is a lie. The challenge for each of us is to determine which is which.  

That which is from God is “Truth”, and that which is from Man is “Religion.”

The Problem People Have With God

This title is a little misleading- it’s not really the problem people have with God, it’s the problem people have accepting the truth about God.

That truth is simply that He is in charge, wants to do the best for us, but also will make the rules and enforce them.

And God will do what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, and how He wants it to be done, despite what, when or how we want Him to!

Talk in a Worldly Way About Unworldly Things

Before I was saved, one of the things that always turned me off, right away, to those “Born-Again” people was that they talked so “spiritually” about everything.

When you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you can’t relate to it, or to people who talk using spiritual terminology.

We need to take a lesson from Shaul (Paul), and talk to people in a way that they can relate to us if we want to be able to open their ears and minds to the truth of God’s plan of salvation.

Introduction to Messianic Judaism

I am not an expert in Messianic Judaism, but I do hold a Certificate of Messianic Studies (if I paid dues I would “officially” be a Messianic Minister) and I have been a Believer for over 20 years. I have been a Ministry head (Shamash) for multiple ministries and once was “Rabbi Pro Tem” for almost 2 years. I have been at two places of worship over these years and been asked to be a Council member at both. I am currently on the Council where I worship (a Hebraic Roots congregation here in Melbourne, Florida) where I help teach and lead the liturgy with the Senior Pastor.

I say all this not to brag, but simply to validate that what I am writing has some substance, both from theological training and experience.

Now that all that is out of the way, I want to approach those who are new Believers, either in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) or who are already Believers and now feeling the pull back to their Jewish roots, wanting to know more about the truth of who Yeshua was and is, and how they fit (as Gentiles) in God’s plan of salvation.

First off, let’s get the important basics covered:

  1. Yeshua is a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a criminal on a stake, and was resurrected as a Jew who still worshiped His Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The “Jesus” that most Christians know is not the real Yeshua who walked the earth and died for them. Christianity, today, doesn’t come from Yeshua’s teachings, it comes from Constantine’s establishment of the Christian Canon at the Council of Nicene. This is an important truth that you must know to understand why Jews want nothing to do with Christianity. Since as early as 98 AD, the Gentile leaders of the newly forming Christian religion have theologically and ritually separated themselves from Judaism, and persecuted their Jewish brothers and sisters.
  2. Yeshua never said anything against the Torah. His teachings were not as the Pharisees taught, which was only the P’shat (literal meaning of the words); Yeshua taught us the Remez, or Drash, which is the spiritual meaning underneath the written, literal meaning of the words.
  3. When we are “saved” through our repentance and acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah (whose sacrifice provides forgiveness of our sins), that does not mean we are saved once and forever. When Yeshua died and was resurrected, His sacrifice did not replace the entire sacrificial system designed by God in the Torah. What He replaced was the need to bring a sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem: we still need to ask forgiveness from God, the Father when we sin, and that is for every sin we commit. We are sinful in nature, and even though as Believers we do not want to sin, we do. And when we sin we need to confess, repent (do T’Shuvah) and ask forgiveness, which we do now (since there is no Temple) through the sacrifice that Yeshua made for us. Salvation is a free gift from God which He will never take back, but through our lack of repentance (assuming that all sins are automatically forgiven and, thereby, failing to repent of the ones we perform) we can throw it away.
  4. You will get many to argue against what I am now about to say, and ultimately you must study, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and understanding, and make your own decision, but as for me, whatever Yeshua was before He came to earth, conceived by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and born of a woman, when He came out of Miryam (Mary) He was 100% human, and was (and still is) separate from God, the Father. Yeshua is our Lord, but He is not THE LORD. This is clear from all the greetings in the letters Shaul writes (he always says “from God, the Father and Yeshua, the Messiah”- clearly two entities) and from 2 John 1:7:
    1.   “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not acknowledge Yeshua the Messiah’s coming as a human being. Such a person is a deceiver and an anti-Messiah” (Complete Jewish Bible)

Messianic Judaism is, simply put, living a Jewish lifestyle according to the Torah, and accepting that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised us throughout the Tanakh (Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim- the teachings, the writings of the Prophets, and the other writings); remember that “Torah” does not mean “law”, but “teaching” so through honoring God by obeying what is in the Torah we learn what God wants from us, meaning how to worship Him, how to live, and how to treat each other. Most Jews (I call them ‘Mainstream Jews”) will refuse to accept Yeshua because of the thousands of years of bigotry, persecution and misleading teachings that the “Church” has taught their own. I am a Jew, born a Jew by blood, circumcised, a Bar Mitzvah, and living a Jewish lifestyle in accordance with the Torah, yet if I told another Jew (one who doesn’t believe Yeshua is the Messiah) that I believe Yeshua is the Messiah, then that Jew would call me a traitor and a Christian. To a Jew, another Jew who accepts Yeshua is no longer a Jew. Of course that is ridiculous, but it is what they are taught. It is what I was taught, and believed, for over 40 years.

To a Christian, if I say I am “saved by the blood of Jesus Christ” but still obey the Torah and live a Jewish lifestyle, they accuse me of not really being “saved” because I live as a Jew, so I am not “under the blood” but “under the law!” They have ben taught Yeshua did away with Torah. Again, millennia of misleading teachings and lack of understanding.

There are a few books you could find on this topic that will help you. One I suggest is “Hebraic Roots” by Ken Garrison; it is an easy to read history of how today’s Christianity has become totally separated from Judaism. You can also read “The Jewish Manifesto” by Dr. Daniel Stern, as well as his other books, “The Complete Jewish Bible” and his “Jewish New Testament Commentary.”  This will help you understand Messianic Jewish viewpoints and the writings of Shaul (Paul) much better than an NIV or KJV bible ever will.

Finally (since this is just a brief introduction) understand that Judaism is as diverse and confusing as Christianity, in that within Christianity there are so many different religions and within Judaism there are so many different sects. There are the Chasidic Jews (ultra-Orthodox and mystical), Orthodox (the remains of the Pharisees), the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist (mostly interested in the traditions of Judaism.) I include Messianic Jews as a sect of Judaism, but the mainstream Jews won’t. In fact, even within Messianic Judaism, there are different organizations, each one with a different viewpoint of who Yeshua was/is with regard to His divinity, position, etc. There is the  Chosen People Ministries, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC). There are other Messianic organizations, as well, but these three are the major ones you may hear about.

If you look these up in Wikipedia, it will say these are Evangelistic Christian organizations, which is an example of the subtle Anti-Semitic tone that most Christians take towards Jews, even today.

What is interesting is that if you visit a Messianic Synagogue, you will find (as I have in my experience) that the majority of the people there are Gentiles wanting to get back to their Jewish roots and actually live as Yeshua lived. This is the role the “church” has in God’s plan of salvation: to make their Jewish brothers and sisters “jealous” for their own Messiah by seeing the Gentiles (the Goyim, or Nations) worshiping God and honoring Torah as they do, but with the closeness and relationship that Jews cannot have because they maintain their need for the Temple (in Jerusalem) instead of accepting Yeshua as their substitution for the The Temple, through whom they can be cleansed of their sin.

I have given you a lot to think about, and done so in a very blatant, open teaching. If I may add one last thing, my own definition of what Messianic Judaism is to me: Messianic Judaism is Judaism that has come full circle: living as God told us all we should live (as the Torah says) and being saved from the death we all deserve from our sinful lives through the Messiah God promised us he would send, who is Yeshua. I am not a “Born Again Christian”- I am a “Born Anew Jew!”

GOD HAS NO RELIGION!!  He gave the Torah to the descendants of Abraham in order to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham, which was that all people would be blessed by Abraham’s seed. The Torah is for all living beings, and Judaism is a religion only because other man-made religions arose, causing the need for labels.

Finally, please constantly read the bible, verify EVERYTHING (including all I have said) and accept nothing without asking God to show you the truth of it. Always remember that what you hear from people is going to be what they heard from people- rarely does anyone do any real research. People have been misled and lied to by people who thought they knew the truth, and who learned it from people who thought they knew the truth, who learned it from people who…well, you get the point. Humans, if you tell them something often enough, no matter how ridiculous it may sound, will eventually accept it as true.

Good luck, and may God send His Ruach HaKodesh to you to guide you in your journey to find the truth God has for you.

No One is Replaceable

We have heard the old adage, “No one is irreplaceable” many times in work, in sports, at church or synagogue, but it is not correct because the focus of this saying is on the person, not the position.

You see, the position a person holds in the world can always be taken over by someone else. Maybe not as well, maybe better, but one way or another, if I hold a position of authority or importance, someone else out there can do that job, too.

But me, you, whomever is the person holding that position, well…that person is irreplaceable. We are all individuals, each one of us blessed with different gifts so that the entire human race has all it needs to survive.

Unfortunately, we aren’t doing the best job we can with the gifts we have.

We need to learn to appreciate people for their uniqueness, whether that is a good thing about them or a bad thing. Even the most evil of all God’s creations, people like Hitler, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Xerxes, Caligula, Nero, Herod (and the list goes on) all were in positions that other people took over for them, although they, themselves, were irreplaceable (thank goodness for that! One of each of them was more than enough.)

All the political upheaval with Clinton, Obama, Trump, e-mails, Russian hacking, etc. is all a lot of fluff that means nothing. It has gone on before, and will continue to be a part of our culture. Yes, it is in our very culture- I believe any student of History will confirm that political unrest and underhanded activities are part and parcel of the American culture. These sneaky, illegal and nasty things that politicians (and many business executives) do are still a gift, although a misused gift, that these people have for getting things they want done, done.

Now, for those of us who follow God’s word, we need to demonstrate the gifts God gives us in ways that please the LORD, not in ways that please the world. The evil use of God’s gifts is a satanic activity, not because Satan is totally behind it, but that whatever isn’t for God is against Him, so anything we do that doesn’t honor and glorify God, honors and glorifies the enemy of God (scary thought when you really think on it), so we need to be aware of everything we do and also how we react to what others do. We need to show distaste for evil, and compassion for those subjected to evil, but not to get overly maudlin about it. After all, as bad as things are, we are to be in the world but not of it, and if we let the world get to us, then we are reacting in a worldly way.

The point is this: don’t get all caught-up in politics and the bad things that are happening in the world. The reason I say this is because getting all riled up because of what happens in the world is like working in a fish market- the more exposure to the fish, the more you will smell like one. We need to keep a distance, emotionally, from the evil in the world so that we can shine forth and demonstrate that with God, we are above and out of reach of the enemy’s activities. Even if we are tortured and put to death, it is only our bodies that are being affected, not our souls. That is what Yeshua told us to be prepared for, and I believe (hopefully you agree) that if we allow ourselves to have our kishka’s  (intestines, or guts) churned up over the things happening in the world, we will become too involved with it to remain out of it. In other words, the more we allow ourselves to be lured into the problems of the world, the more we are like everyone else and less like God.

That’s not where we want to be.

I don’t read the news, except once in a while, and I don’t get myself involved in political discussions (all right, maybe once in a while, but rarely) because I know that things will get worse before they get resolved. Yeshua is the resolution to the world, the end of the problems, and the beginning of an eternity of peace, so I will stay as far away from the drek of the world as I can, and remain focused on what is really important- glorifying God and honoring Yeshua with the way I talk, I work, I live and how I treat others.

How about you?

 

Are You a Flashlight in the Daytime or a Candle in the Evening?

What the heck kind of question is that?

Well, let’s see: what do a candle and a flashlight have in common? Right- they both put out light. And aren’t we told that we should be a light unto the world? (Matthew 5:14-16)

“Yes, Steve, that’s right, so if both are a light, why worry about the difference? Whether I am a flashlight or a candle, aren’t I still being “a light” to people?” 

Yes, you’re still a light. But which is more effective?

That’s the point- if I shine a flashlight on something that is in the sunlight, how effective is the light I add? Obviously, it won’t make a very big difference, if any.

But a candle in the dark of evening can be seen by the unaided human eye from over a mile away! And the closer the candle, the more effective the candle light becomes.

Here’s what I want to say….many of us are doing our best at being good representatives of God, trying to be separated (i.e., holy) from the world while living in it (John 17:16), but we aren’t really going where we are needed to be a more effective light. It’s easy to talk with other Believers, and it’s easy (and safe) to hang out with all the people we know are righteous and trustworthy. But when we do that we are no better than a flashlight in the bright midday sun. 

We need (and I am preaching to myself here) to get out into the darkness- to talk with people who do not believe as we do, to demonstrate the way the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) affects us and helps us be more like God, and to go where we are needed most. 

Now, don’t get me wrong- I am not saying to go to the nearest biker bar and preach the Word, or to walk the streets at night in the worst parts of town and hand out tracts. That’s not being a light, that’s being suicidal!

What I do mean is that we need to have the courage to talk about God and our beliefs to people we meet everyday. Don’t become one of those “Bible Thumpers” who can’t hold a normal conversation, but do try to fit something God-related into the discussion every now and then.  

For instance, when I know I can relate a biblical saying or story to the conversation, I just say something to the effect of, “You know, there was this book I read that said this…” or “I once heard a story about ….” and not even imply it’s from the bible. Then, when I am done, if I see so much as a spark of interest, I will ask if they know where that came from. Now they are leading me into the discussion, and I have their permission to talk about God, even though they didn’t necessarily mean to let me.

And when that happens, go slow.  Don’t jump down their throats about God and Hell and all that stuff, just follow their lead and ask, “Have you ever heard that story? Where did you hear it? Oh, you heard it when you were a kid in Sunday School? Why did you stop going? Do you still go to church/synagogue? ” Again, don’t non-stop grill them, just let them take the lead, and dance them around to what you want to get to, which is how much God has helped you in your everyday life.

 Missionary work is hard, selling is hard, and if you don’t like the idea that as a missionary you are selling, then you need to have an attitude adjustment. Read Og Mandino’s book, “The Greatest Salesman In the World” and it will make your missionary work much more effective.

Today’s message is really a simple message, it’s not too hard to understand, and it takes guts to act on it. We need to make sure that every moment of every day we are candles in the darkness, because being a flashlight in the sunshine is easy, but useless. 

Here is a wonderful paradox: in the real world fruit can’t grow without sunshine, but spiritually you can only produce fruit in the darkness. 

Think about it. 

sometimes stuff just happens

You know, we live in a world that has been cursed. Sometimes the ground is like brass, the sky often holds back its rain, and there are terrible weather occurrences, such as snowstorm Stella in the Northeast today.

Last night as I was watching TV and thinking I had some popcorn stuck between my teeth (we’ve all been there, right?) I loosened it up and what came out wasn’t popcorn at all- it was a piece of my molar. Fortunately, the entire center of that tooth is amalgam (filling) so I don’t have any exposed roots or nerves, but still and all, it’s never fun to have a piece of your tooth come off.

So did God punish me? Did I perform some terrible sin that caused this to happen, which may very well interfere with whatever plans I had for today?

I don’t think so- I feel certain that, although God does know everything that happens to me, He has more important things to do than cause me tsouris (Yiddish for “troubles”) this morning.

That’s why I am sharing this event in my life with you today, because I have known people over the years who seem to think that everything that happens, whether for good or for bad, is a direct result of something God did to them. Whenever they have a little trouble in their life, they blame God. If the car breaks down, it’s because they were traveling on Shabbat; if the water heater needs repair, it’s because they sinned against someone; if they get sick and miss some event, it’s because God didn’t want them to go to it.

Now, maybe (just maybe) God did intervene- He does that now and then, but for everything? I don’t see that happening, do you?  Just because God is in control of everything doesn’t mean that He causes everything that happens. Often enough, I am certain (although I cannot speak for God- read Job to find out how God feels about people speaking for Him) that God often allows things to take their own course. He knows what will come from it, and there must be times, just like every parent goes through, when He knows that His children are doing something that will eventually harm them, but as a parent you allow it to run it’s course so that the child learns. It’s called Tough Love, and it is a necessary means to an end, which is that the child learns a valuable lesson so it’s life will be better. Coddling and over-protecting a child will never allow that child to develop self-dependence, or teach it to be responsible for it’s actions.

My plan for today, which was to clean and restore a rotor-tiller motor with a friend who is a good mechanic, may be quashed as I wait for the dentist’s office to return my call for an emergency visit. And who knows what the dentist will say needs to be done. He will most likely want to try to save the tooth or replace it ($$$) while I would rather just have him pull the problem tooth out and be done with it: after all, it’s all the way in the back of my mouth, has no cosmetic value and I have two other molars there to handle the workload.

But no matter what happens, I do not blame God for this, and do not feel that it happened because I was eating too much popcorn. I just can’t believe that God punished me because I was glutenous. As silly as that sounds, I know you have met people (as I have) that would actually believe that is why this happened. God broke my tooth because I went off my diet. Really? Are things that slow in the universe God has to take time to break my tooth as a punishment for eating too much popcorn?

So what’s my point? It’s this: things happen to us and to other people, and more often than not the cause is something we have done to ourselves and not some Divine intervention designed to change our behavior. The question is: how do we know when it is Divine intervention?

I can’t answer that one; I suppose we all just have to look at the event, and the causes of that event, and ask the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to show us the reason. I would say that most of the time it’s probably your own fault, since humans are so prone to doing the wrong thing, and to evaluate the event in terms of how serious it is. For example, my tooth breaking isn’t exactly a change of life event- it happens all the time, to nearly everyone. Now, if every tooth in my mouth broke, that would be something more along the lines of a miraculous happening, something so unique and devastating that I would realistically have to consider God having a hand in it.

Don’t blame God for everything that happens- He is always there for you, He never abandons or forgets you, but He also has other things to attend to and more often than not will allow you to choose your own path. And He will also allow you to walk that path. If He has a definitive plan for you, something that He wants you to do, He will intervene to move you in that direction, but, in the end, we have free will to decide what we will or will not do. So, listen to the Ruach HaKodesh, pay attention to what you are doing, and always check with yourself to make sure that what you are doing is in keeping with how God told us to live our lives. Even when we are walking the path God told us to walk, we will still have troubles- Yeshua (Jesus) tells us so in His teachings.

It’s not how many trials you have that matter- it’s how you come through them that is important. God is there, He is watching, but He is not causing everything that goes wrong. Things will always go wrong when you follow God because you live in a world that rejects God’s ways, so (naturally) when you worship God as He said to worship Him, you are swimming against the tide.

Here’s what I do: I constantly try to remember that what I do now affects where I get to go later, and I concentrate on overcoming obstacles instead of trying to figure out why they are there. If you can do the same, I guaranty it will help you keep on the right path.