Parashah Pinchas 2018 (Pinchas) Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

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We left the last parashah with Phinehas (Pinchas) killing the Israelite man and Midianite woman to stop the plague. Now God makes a covenant that the lineage of Pinchas will be the High priests forever because of his jealousy for God. God commands Moses to go to war with Midian but first, a new census is taken because the prior generation has died in the desert.  No further mention of the war is given at this point but we return to it in Chapter 31.

The daughters of the Zelophead (who had no sons) request an inheritance and God makes a new statute which identifies the Order of Inheritance regarding family inheritance of land in Israel.

God tells Moses his time has come so Moses asks God to place someone in charge of the people, and God chooses Joshua.

This parashah ends with God having Moses remind the people of the requirements for the offerings that were to be made daily, as well as the festivals that he first told us to honor in Leviticus.

Moses is told he is going to die and his first thought is of the people he has led for the past 40 years. He isn’t concerned about how will he die, will it hurt, will he be taken up into God’s bosom- no thoughts for himself and total concern for those that he will leave behind. This action on Moses’ part shows us the type of person he was: thoughtful, concerned for others, humble even unto death (sound familiar?) and obedient.

Today what I would like to talk about is why God is having Moses repeat the offering instructions to the people before he dies. When I read this I had to ask myself, “Why? Why is God having Moses remind the people about something that they already have been told and have written down for them?”  The answer seems to be because God knew that these offerings were a central part of the daily life of the Children of Israel and, as such, must be followed. They are so important they bear repeating.

Again, why? Because without those daily activities of worship and annual celebrations of the Lord the people would easily fall into corruption. And we see that happening throughout the remainder of the Tanakh: when the leadership fails to enforce the daily offerings and festivals, the people fall into sin and worship the gods of their neighbors.

It is like the old adage: good habits are hard to develop and easy to lose, whereas bad habits are easy to develop and hard to lose.

We need to remember to pray daily, to worship the festivals God gave and when we celebrate holidays (not to be confused with Holy Days: the former are man-made and the latter are God commanded) we should celebrate only those that still honor God and do not replace the festivals he gave us in Leviticus, which are repeated here in this parashah. Only by repetitive worship can we maintain our faith and the strength of that faith, especially in light of our leader’s sinfulness and distracting activities.

When I say “repetitive” I do not mean to repeat prayers and perform actions robotically: what I mean is that we need to develop a regular prayer life and to remember the festivals God told us to celebrate. The ones he reminds us of in this parashah are the daily offerings, Shabbat and new moon, New Year, Day of Atonement and the pilgrimage festivals. Daily, monthly and annually we perform these rites and celebrate these festivals so that worship becomes a regular part of our lives. Every time throughout history that this cycle of worship was broken, the people fell into corruption.

What is your personal worship cycle? Do you pray every day? Do you honor the Lord by celebrating his festivals as he said you should? Too many people (both Christians and Jews) do not honor the Lord by celebrating the festivals as instructed. God isn’t very pleased with a half-way attitude when it comes to our worship of him. Another thing I have noticed: when you pray, who are you praying to? Is it to God or is it to Jesus? Jesus isn’t the answerer of our prayers- he is the intercessor. There is a big difference between intercession of prayer and interception of prayer.

The take-away for today is that we all need to develop a regular cycle of worship: daily and continual prayer, festival celebration as God said to (excepting for the sacrifices, of course) and constant reading of the Bible to remind us of who we are worshiping. Look at your life with spiritual eyes and see all that God has done, and is doing for you, and above all be appreciative for whatever you have. It may be great or it may be small, but if you have anything then thank God for it. He will hear and, knowing what you need, provide what is best for you.

Sometimes it is very hard for us to believe God is working for good in our lives, and that is what faith is all about- steadfastly believing God loves you and wants only the best for you when your life at that moment makes it impossible to believe. These are the times when the cycle of worship we have been talking about today helps us maintain our faith.

 

Jesus was ……what?

I mentioned in my last post about Jesus (real name is Yeshua) being a man. I believe that He had to be a flesh-and-blood human being, and I know that many are taught He was God in the flesh, which (by definition) agrees with me about Him being flesh and blood.

But many people state He was and is God. I just can’t accept that, and I thought I should explain why.

To begin with, let me say that I capitalize the “H” when referring to Yeshua in the third party as a form of respect; I capitalize the “G” in God when talking about Elohim, Adonai- the one and only God. If I was talking about any other god, it is (well, as I just did here) with a small “g” instead.

I believe that Yeshua had to be a total human being, but He also had to be of a supernatural birth if, for no other reason, He had to be born outside of the original sin we all carry with us from the womb. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but He came from a human egg, matured in the womb as a human does, was born from a human and grew as a human grows. Isaiah 53 says this about the Messiah (bold added by me):

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,  and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with painLike one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our sufferingyet we considered him punished by Godstricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healedWe all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the livingfor the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his deaththough he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to sufferand though the Lord makes his life an offering for sinhe will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the greatand he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto deathand was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53 is considered by almost everyone to be purely Messianic. Not about a king, not about a prophet, but about the Messiah. All of the areas where I have bold printed the words indicate, unquestionably, that whomever Isaiah was talking about was human; totally separated from ,and couldn’t possibly be, God. The Messiah was to be crushed and punished by God (how do you punish yourself?), pierced, he had wounds (God is not human so cannot be killed or hurt), the “Lord laid on him”, i.e., there is someone doing something to someone else here. It was the Lord’s will to crush him, the Lord made his life an offering, he poured out his life unto death. This is someone who is not the Lord because the Lord is doing things to him.

Everything that the Messiah was to go through as God’s sacrificial lamb could not be done to God, and God could not do that to Himself. God cannot suffer sin or be sinful, yet Yeshua had to take on the sin of the world. No one argues that Yeshua took on the sin of the world, so if He did that how could He be God? He couldn’t be- He had to be human.

What did He cry from the execution stake just before He gave up His spirit (oh, wait! If you are God, how can you give up your spirit?): “My God, my God- why have You forsaken me?” Yes, He was quoting the 22 Psalm, which also indicates that there is someone else He was speaking to who had a superior position.

The Messiah is the servant of God, not God. He is of supernatural birth, but human, He performed miracles not from his own power but by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Yeshua didn’t perform any miracles that prophets (no one argues they aren’t human) performed before Him, and nothing that the Talmudim (Apostles) didn’t perform after He ascended.

And since the time that Yeshua ascended, He has been sitting at the right hand of God. OK- so, if He is God, how can He sit at His own right hand? Maybe He can scratch His ear with His elbow, too?

What is the function of God?- to run the universe. What is the function of the Messiah?- to bring people into reconciliation with God and to be our Intercessor, our Cohen HaGadol (High Priest.) These are two separate and unique things, and one of them has to be superior to the other. You can’t be the drone and the Queen Bee at the same time, and even though God is above any laws of physics or science that we understand, still and all, He doesn’t sit on the throne and at His own right hand at the same time. Everything God has had people write about Him in the bible, both Old and New Covenants, indicates absolutely that He and the Messiah are different. God is the CO, and Messiah is the XO.

God can’t die, and if a sacrifice doesn’t die, then it isn’t a sacrifice. So, if Yeshua is God, His sacrificial death didn’t really occur; therefore, we have no absolution from our sins. It comes down to this: if Yeshua is God, we have no hope of salvation through Him.

If Yeshua is God, then why did he tell us to pray to the Father using His name (Yeshua’s name, that is)? When we reference someone, such as “Joe sent me” we are using the credentials and reputation of the one we mention as the means to justify our acceptance. When “Joe sent me” is used, that means since Joe is OK, and he said I was OK, then I am OK. If Yeshua is God, then there is no reason for Him to say to pray to the Father in His name because He is the Father, and we don’t need to mention Yeshua in our prayers because we are praying to Yeshua, right? It just makes no sense , even on a spiritual and ethereal level.

Anyway you look at it, when you read the bible and accept the P’shat (the literal meaning) as valid, the Messiah had to be a human being to be the Messiah. God could not do what the Messiah had to do, namely be completely human to make His sinless life meaningful to all the rest of us humans as an example of how we are to live. I mean, so what if God lives a sinless life? He is sinless; that is not something He manages to do, it is what He is. God could not accept the sin of the world on His shoulders because God cannot associate with sin in any way, whatsoever.

How about this? God cannot die, so if God cannot die, then God cannot be resurrected. But Yeshua was resurrected, so either He wasn’t resurrected (hence: no salvation) or He wasn’t God (hence: we are saved.)

Everything that Messiah had to do, God can’t, so Yeshua (if you believe He is the Messiah) had to be human. And although He is resurrected, He is still not God- He is still the Messiah. The 1,000 year rule has not come, the Tribulation is not over, the enemy still rules the earth (how can anyone argue against that- just read the newspaper!) and the new Jerusalem is still in heaven. And we still need the Messiah.

Let’s finish with this thought: idolatry is placing something in a position of more importance or in place of God. To pray to anyone or anything other than God is idolatry, a violation of the 2nd Commandment. Praying to Yeshua, just like praying to a saint, is idolatry. To claim (and worse, to teach!) that Yeshua, Jesus, is God and that it is all about Jesus, and we should worship and pray to Jesus, is placing Jesus in the position of the Father. This is what we are told the Antichrist is going to do: he (or she, who knows?) will come and present himself as the Messiah, then eventually will take hold of everyone and force them to worship him instead of, or as, God, Himself.  As such, anyone preaching that we should pray to anyone other than God the Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is preaching blasphemy and idolatry, and preparing the way for the enemy of God.

If you pray to God, and invoke the name of Yeshua the Messiah, you are honoring them both. If you pray to Yeshua in lieu of God, then you are dishonoring them both and doing Satan’s work.

That leaves just one question: Who’s your Daddy?

Parashot Tazria / Metzora Leviticus 12:1-15:33

This Shabbat is a double parashah reading. There are times when we read two parashot instead of one to sort of “catch up” so that we stay on the annual schedule. We read out of sequence for the Pesach Shabbat, and now we are reading two parashot so we can get back on schedule.

These parashot deal with cleanliness of women after childbirth, as well as leprosy (which might be any skin-related infection or disease, from leprosy to a rash of some sort that looks similar) on people, clothes and even their homes (perhaps this is a form of mildew? We know today there are some forms of mildew that are deadly.) Finally there are the laws about issuances from the body, such as oozing sores and chronic loss of fluids. The readings tell us how to identify the contagious from the non-contagious forms, and what sacrifices should be made to complete the cleansing of the person or article that was unclean.

What I want to talk about is really simple- it has (pretty much) nothing to do with these laws, but it does have it’s basis in why we have these laws.

The reason for these laws is….I don’t know why. Do you? Obviously, we don’t want people with contagious diseases being allowed to walk amongst the non-infected, but why does a girl birth require a longer period of waiting before being cleansed than a boy? How can killing an animal and placing it’s blood on my ear, thumb and toe clean me?

These laws fall into the category (for me, at least) of Chukim: laws for which we do not understand the reason. And what I want to say about these today is simply this: it doesn’t matter why. That’s right- do you really think that understanding why God gave us these laws and what their meaning is all about will get you any closer to salvation?  All it can do is satisfy our curiosity, and (maybe) make us feel a little more desirous to obey. I think we can easily understand that these laws of cleanliness are another form of making sure the people of God are separated from the rest of the world, of clean not being soiled by the unclean, where our physical cleanliness represents our spiritual cleanliness.

But, again, if we ask the “Acid Test” question, “How does this affect my salvation?”, the answer has to be that understanding the reasons behind these laws will not “save” us. Obedience is how we get blessings, but it is faith alone that saves us. Faithful observance is how we demonstrate our faith, so it doesn’t matter why God wants a woman to wait a month after giving birth to a girl but only two weeks after a boy before she presents herself to the Kohan for cleansing. It doesn’t matter why we wait outside the camp 7 days and not 10, or 3, or at all. It doesn’t matter why God gave us these laws and it doesn’t matter why He wants us to do these things.

What does matter is that He tells us these are to be done. That’s it; that’s all we need, and all anyone should be concerned about. I once read that any god that can be understood by the mind of Man is not worthy of the worship of Man. I think that’s a great statement- it certainly makes sense to me. If I can understand God’s purposes, and I can understand all that He does and why, how much more “holy” can He be than me? The Bible tells us God is holy and high above us, that our holiness is but filthy rags compared to His holiness. I mean, just looking upon His presence will kill us! So how can I expect, in any way, to understand Him? To be at the same level with God, intellectually or spiritually, to make sense of everything He says and demands?

How many people have you met during your lifetime that drive themselves crazy (and eventually those around them, too) worrying about things that they have no right or need to worry about? Don’t they drive you nuts, along with themselves, when they worry about the price of eggs in China, or how someone may feel about something that someone else might do or say? If I do this, then someone, somewhere, might have some problem with it so I better not do it. Oy! I hate that! There’s nothing wrong with being compassionate, but don’t waste compassion on self-doubt and a poor self-image. And don’t waste your intellectual and spiritual energy trying to make sense of something that you will never understand. Stay focused on what you need to do to keep yourself right with God.

These laws in Leviticus, as well as other places in the Torah, are given to us by God to separate us from the rest of the world, to show us how to be holy because He is holy and because we are to represent Him; they are to guide us in our everyday lives with regard to worshipping God and treating each other. That’s it. That’s all we need to know.

And if that isn’t enough for you, then the strength of your faith is what you should be worrying about, and not why turtle doves can be an acceptable substitute for lambs.

Parasha Vayikra (He Called) Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26

This book is also known as the Torat Kohanim, or Laws of the Priests. It is all about the Priesthood, regulations for how they are to act, how they get paid and also how to identify clean from unclean. The 7th Sabbatical year known as the Jubilee Year, as well as rules on tithing and redemption of the first born, all are part of being holy unto the Lord and for being a priest.

Of course, it’s good to know stuff even if you aren’t a priest.

The most important parts of this book, to me, are Chapter 11 (Kosher regulations), Chapter 23 (God’s Festivals, or Holy Days) and verse 19:18 (love they neighbor as thyself.)

What is important about this book is that we can learn what God’s perspective is about things. Men have interpreted the word of God so differently for so long that now we have all these different religions and teachings, and His word has become so polluted that we have lost His perspective. Reading Leviticus will help us see what God wants us to do.

For instance, Chapter 11 does NOT tell us what foods are clean and what foods are not- it tells us what IS food. In other words, what God says is unclean is not even to be considered “food.” He uses the word “unclean”, but also “abomination” and “detestable” to describe what we are not to eat. The Hebrew word that identifies the beasts (not food, but beasts) that are unclean is the same Hebrew word used in Exodus in the story of the rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah, where it said she had been violated by the son of the Hivite king. The word is used to mean eating these unclean things results in a total violation, physically and spiritually, of the person- eating an unclean thing is a violation of all that is holy, from God’s perspective. It is not food we are not supposed to eat- it is simply not “food” at all. This is important when we read in Mark when Yeshua declared all food clean- although the story has nothing to do with kosher laws (it was about a hand washing ceremony.) When Mark said Yeshua declared all food clean, he did not mean pork and shellfish. To a First Century Jew that was not “food”, because God says it is not “food” here in Leviticus. Without understanding God’s perspective correctly by understanding Leviticus, we can be misled and taught incorrectly  without even knowing it.

There is also a difference between holy days and a holiday- the former is what God says we should celebrate to honor Him and the latter are what humans made up to honor God. The 7 Holy Days in Leviticus (Chapter 23) are the ones, and the way, we should honor God as He said we should. Two of those have been altered by the Rabbi’s: Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot. Rosh Hashanah is not a Jewish New Year according to God. God said that Pesach (Passover) is the beginning of our year. Rosh Hashanah is, from God’s perspective, Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) and a memorial day. It is the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe during which we review our failure to do as God has commanded, in preparation for Yom Kippur. Also Shavuot is different- the traditional celebration is that of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai, but God said it is to be a spring harvest festival and a presentation of the first fruits.

Hey- there’s nothing wrong with holidays (well, maybe Easter and Christmas need a strong review, but they have become so socialized and commercialized I don’t know if anyone really thinks they are religious anymore, except from a historical viewpoint), as long as we know which are the true Holy Days God wants us to celebrate, and we celebrate them as He said we should.

The Golden Rule is also found here, which is one of the two most important commandments that exist, according to Yeshua (and many of the great Jewish Rabbi’s, as well.) Even this simple and easy to understand rule has been attacked by Bible critics, stating that Hillel and Tobit stated the rule in a negative way (do not do unto others as you would not want them to do to you) but Jesus said it “correctly” by stating it in a positive way (do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) Horse apples! In the days when these arguments were made, it was considered the same to say it either way. People just have to screw up everything. Oy!

This book tells us how we should live- wholly holy, because our God is holy. How many times does God say that we should be holy because He is holy? I can’t even count that high. This book tells the Priests (Kohanim) how they should live and their duties as Priest, and since the nation of Israel is to be a nation of Priests to the world, this book is as important to know and follow to any member of the other 11 tribes as it is to the members of the Tribe of Levi. And it also applies to anyone who sojourns with the Jewish people (that means anyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), whom God said is no different than a “natural born Jew” when it comes to both the rights under the Torah, as well as the obligations under the Torah.

That’s what makes it so hard for Christian-raised people who are trying to get back to their Hebraic roots (or become Messianic Jews)- they like being given the same rights under Torah that the Jewish people have always had, but they often balk when it comes to living under the same regulations that the Torah demands.

You can’t have one without the other, so if you want to worship God as He said to worship Him, you need to live by this book (remember- God has no religion, only His commandments, regulations and ordinances which He declared in the Torah.)

To worship God as He says we should, we must stop choosing and picking what are ceremonial laws (Mishpatim) from moral laws (mitzvot) from civil laws, from other laws we can’t understand (Hukkim), from whatever- whether moral, ceremonial or any other “type” of law, these are the ways God said we should live and how to worship Him. Anything else, ANYTHING ELSE, is not from God.

So, nu? Do you want to worship God as He said to, or not? What would…no, make that what did…. Jesus do?

What to Say When You Have Nothing to Say

Obviously… you say nothing.

You provide a presence that is caring, compassionate, and silent. Think of when you are in God’s presence- do you hear a lot of noise? Maybe there is worship music in the background, maybe there is someone singing, or maybe (as I find it most effective) you are under your Tallit, wrapped around your head as if in a cocoon of worship, and all the background noise is just a whisper to you as you feel God’s warmth, His love, His overwhelming joy being absorbed into your very soul.

There is no way any of us can give that wonderful, totally peaceful experience, but we can take a hint from the Lord and be that quiet presence that soothes and helps. When someone is in pain, either physically or emotionally, people think they should say something. We watch too much TV and too many movies, where someone says something that is a vitally pointed remark, one that empowers and helps the poor wretch to come back to reality, or see the truth; commercial break , and then back to the show where now everyone is happy.

That’s all make-believe! There are many people reviewing the words used, creating the emotional situation, as well as the circumstances- it is all staged, all planned, all fake! TV and movies are not real life.

In real life we have to deal with the idiots who hurt others and don’t care- no amount of talking will make them see the light, and on TV after the commercial it is years later while in real life it is just the very next second- nothing has changed, and we have to continue to suffer with these dolts and bullies just as before we said anything. And the people who we try to help still hurt. Sometimes they never get over it, sometimes they never want to get over it, and more often than not nothing we do will make a difference.

And you can’t change the channel, either!

So what do you do? You stay silent. Yeshua tells us not to throw pearls before swine and not to continue to kick against the goads. I think we owe it to people to try to help with our experience and understanding, but not to nag and not to feel upset or chided when they refuse to listen. Everyone has free will, and if God can teach us anything about treating others, it is to allow them to make their own choices and respect their right to do so enough where we aren’t pridefully insulted if they don’t do what we think is best.

I write email responses that I usually delete because I have learned (and believe me- it took a long time and a lot of chewing out’s before I finally got the message) that when I am not sure what to say, I should say nothing.  And also that when I know exactly what I want to say, it is usually best if I still say nothing.

The most powerful feeling and experience I have ever had is when I am quietly in the presence of God. I cannot give that feeling to anyone because, well, I’m not God. Duh!! But I can “be there” for someone, I can gently hold their hand, put my arm around them, or just sit, quietly, next to them without saying or doing anything other than being there. They will feel my presence, and they will be able to find some small comfort in that.

That’s the best we can do, and more often than not, I think it’s all we should do.

Nothing else to say.

WWJD? Probably Not What You Are Doing.

Ooh- what a nasty title, Steve! How dare you say I am not doing what Jesus did! You don’t even know me.

That’s right- I don’t know how you worship, but (as the title says) from my experience watching and hearing about “Christian” service, you are probably not doing what Jesus (Yeshua) did when He worshiped God.

That’s the emphasis here- is your worship life the same as Yeshua’s?

*  Do you read the Torah parashah every Saturday?

*  Do you pray morning, afternoon and evening?

*  Do you pray to Saints?

*  Do you kneel to a wooden cross?

*  Do you celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday?

And here’s the BIG question: Do you worship God or do you worship Yeshua?

If you are saying “No” to the first two, and “Yes” to the others, and if you worship Jesus (what I am mean by this is are you praying to God in Yeshua’s name, or are you praying directly to Yeshua for the answers you want?), then you are NOT doing what Jesus did, at least with regards to worship.

Yeshua never prayed to Himself, and never, ever said we should pray to Him. What He said (look it up if you don’t believe me) was to pray IN HIS NAME, not pray to Him. That means we worship God, the Father, and pray to God, the Father, and no one else. We do not ask saints to intercede- why would you even want to? They are not God’s son, they are not the Messiah, it is not their job to intercede. They are, if anything, soldiers for God. They are the martyrs under the altar, they are waiting for the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), they are praying to God for their own retribution and for justice. They are not intercessors, and they are not who you should pray to if you want to do as Jesus did.

Did you enjoy your Christmas ham? Ever think that what you ate and shared with others as a celebration of the birth of the Messiah would be an abomination to Him?  He would never even have it in His house, let alone on His table. How would you feel if someone wanted to honor you and did so by inviting your enemies to have a good time and to eat and drink foods that you found disgusting? Would you feel honored?

You want to do as Jesus did? Than stop listening to people telling you what to do, and read the Bible. Read the whole Bible, starting at Genesis. That’s where you will learn how Yeshua did things.

You want to be able to answer the question: “Do you do as Jesus did?” with a resounding “YES!!”, then start with your worship life. If you worship correctly, you will know how to live correctly. That means to read the Bible, not just hear what others tell you it says. You also have to ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide your understanding.

You need to live as Yeshua lived. Try, even if it is just an experiment, or as a religious fast, if you will, to eat according to what you are told to eat in Leviticus 11. Just that one thing.

I am not trying to be a “Judaizer”, or proselytize you into becoming Messianic. I only want to help you see that there is a major, identifiable, and gigantic difference between the way Christians live and worship (traditionally) and how Yeshua lived and worshiped.

I am Messianic, and my worship is made up of an opening prayer, followed by music, singing and dancing (most of which was likely part of Yeshua’s worship, but I can’t accept that He would be singing for an hour before getting into the real meat- the Torah), then we read the portion of the Torah that is specified and the sermon/drash/messages on that parashah. Here is where we separate from what Yeshua would have done, since in His time there was no New Covenant to enhance and define the Torah reading. The Haftorah we read is just as often from the New Covenant as it is the traditional one for the Torah parashah. Also, we may not read the Parashah and delve into a different topic. That is the major difference, but I feel confident in saying that what we are discussing would be acceptable by Yeshua. After all, the Gospels (Besorah, or Good News) are the life of Yeshua and His teachings, and the rest are spirit-led revelations and witness to the teachings of Yeshua.

That is where I am different, where I do not do what Jesus did in His worship life. Frankly, I love studying and paying attention to the teachings of Yeshua as part of my worship life. I pray to God, as Yeshua did; I ask for things from God, and ask them referencing the name of Yeshua and (respectfully) reminding God that Yeshua, His son, said that He would honor what we asked for if we did so in Yeshua’s name; I read the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, and I celebrate the Sabbath the way Yeshua did- Friday night to Saturday night. I have a diet in accordance with Leviticus 11, I celebrate the festivals of the Lord as defined and commanded of us in Leviticus 23. And I call myself a Jewish man- I am NOT a Christian-Jew, Hebrew-Christian, or any other non-defined, wavering sort of hybrid religion. What I really am is a Believer- I believe in God, I believe Yeshua is the Messiah, and I believe that I should worship and live as Yeshua did, to the best of my abilities, faithfully trying to obey God’s commandments. All His commandments, because they are all valid and current.

There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant, and God has no religion. Only rules and laws and commandments.

I do not live a sinless life, and in that way I most certainly do not do as Yeshua did. But, thanks to Yeshua, and the grace of God that allows me to have the indwelling Ruach, I am getting better.

WWJD? If you want to do as Jesus did, if you want to know how He lived, ate, and worshiped, then DAYD- Do As Yeshua Did. You don’t have to convert to Judaism; actually, you would need to be Messianic because traditional, or as I like to call it, “mainstream” Judaism doesn’t do exactly what Yeshua did,either. But just try it for awhile.

Really? Will it kill you to give up pork and shellfish for a week? That’s all it really comes down to to maintain the proper Kosher laws, according to the Bible. Or read the Torah portion on Saturday mornings as well as whatever normal biblical reading you do. The traditional Jewish prayers during the day are the morning prayer (shacharit), afternoon prayer (minchah) and evening prayer (arvith or maariv.) You don’t need to recite them verbatim, or do them exactly at sunrise, noon and sunset. You don’t need to spend from $250 up to maybe $400 for a set of Tefillin. Just try to pray these three times during the day, maybe 5 or 10 minutes each time, for a week.  You do need to pray only to God, the Father. Ask in Yeshua’s name, but pray to God, just as Yeshua did. Trust me, He is there, at the right hand of God, interceding for you. Just go to the source of everything and Yeshua will be involved. 

If you are serious about wanting to know Yeshua, about wanting to follow in His footsteps, and about wanting to do as He did, take this challenge. It’s not too hard, and it only has to be for a week- Shabbat to Shabbat (uh, that would be Friday night to Friday night) and see how you feel. Honestly, if it doesn’t make you feel any closer to Yeshua than you had been, I suggest you might want to consider how close you were before you tried. I say that because I really believe that anyone who does this will feel closer to God, closer to Yeshua, and more “complete” as a Believer than they felt before. It doesn’t have to be forever, it doesn’t have to change your life (although it might), it just has to be for a week.

Do it as a Nazarite vow; do it as a sign of devotion, do it as a special fast; do it as a spiritual adventure.

Please…just do it. Nu? Try it;  maybe you’ll like it!

No Pain; No Gain

Having been very active in sports during High School, and throughout my life, I have a deep and intimate understanding of the title for today’s Drash.

It’s not wise to hurt yourself, but when you push your muscles to their limit, you will feel it over the next couple of days. It is a “good” hurt because, although having sore muscles does hurt, it represents that you have done a good job, you pushed yourself to the limits of your ability, and (so far as physical exercise is concerned) that means you will gain more muscle and endurance.

Real muscle grows when you destroy it. When you feel that “burn” and your muscle is “pumped”, the excess blood flow that causes that feeling is going there in order to help the destroyed tissue. The destroyed tissue isn’t just replaced; the body builds more tissue than there was originally. That is how body-builders get those large muscles (even without the ‘roids’). The constant destroying of muscle and careful rebuilding through proper diet and rest results in larger and stronger muscles, with greater endurance.

Faith is a spiritual muscle that we need to work with, every day. And, just like biceps, pecs and abs, we need to push it to it’s limits; indeed, we need to destroy it so that we can rebuild it to be stronger and more enduring. The way we exercise our faith is to live  in a way that pushes us to do more than we want to do. In other words, we need to force ourselves to get outside our spiritual comfort zone.

Get more involved in activities at the place where you worship, witness to friends and family, even strangers, more often. Risk their disapproval. Go on mission trips, help the homeless and needy, volunteer, just get off your butts and do something that takes faith. Pray more often (see my section on Prayer for some ideas about that), read the Bible more often, trust more often (oh, that is a hard one). And here’s the really difficult one: forgive more often, and more completely.

Exercise your faith by using it. I gave you some ideas above, but I don’t know what you need to do. I don’t know where your faith is weak…but you do. You know what makes you feel uncomfortable, you know what you don’t like to do, and you know what God is telling you to do. Finally: it’s all about you now.

Search your heart, seek those things that God tells us we should all be doing and that you know you don’t do, and do it!

That’s pushing your spiritual muscles to the limit. And just like the professionals, rest and eat properly. The proper diet is to read the Word of God (Man doesn’t live on bread alone but every word from the mouth of God) for food to nourish your spirit, and rest through intimate and private prayer time with the Lord. Prayer is refreshing to both your soul and your spirit, and even to your physical body.

So get on out there and work those spiritual muscles! Feel the burn, get pumped; Yeshua worked His spiritual muscles completely and showed us how we are to do it. Stop being a Weakling of Worship, and become a Schwarzenegger of Spirit!

Remember: Yeshua was the first one to say, “I’ll be back!”

Why Me?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Why me?

When something bad happens to us, don’t we ask, “Why me?”  And, if something bad happens to someone else, we might ask ourselves, “Why them?” Like in war, when a buddy is killed by a random bullet right next to you and you have to ask yourself, “Why him? Why did I survive?”

Or maybe when something really good happens to us, we wonder if someone “up there” likes us and ask, “Why me? What did I do that was so wonderful I got this?”

Or the selfish side of that, when something wonderful happens to someone else and you ask,”Why them? Why not me?”

I think the answer, and probably the answer that is best most of the time, is simply, “Because.” Because you were where you were, because you weren’t where that other person was, because you did something nice, because you did something not so nice, because it just happened that way.

Faith is the way we explain the unexplainable. Shaul said that faith is believing in things unseen and unproven, although there is plenty of proof that God exists and is working in the lives of people. All people, not just Believers. Now that my eyes are open, I can see God’s hand and help in many, many areas of my life long before I knew Him as I do now.

In fact, even when I was rejecting Him, He was not rejecting me.

This is a simple Drash, an easy to grasp but hard to live by idealism- don’t think about why. Just keep going. Otherwise, you will drive yourself crazy.

Ask Kohelet, the writer of the book by the same name. Or maybe you know it as Ecclesiastes. The reason he is so upset and fed up with everything (as he says, it is all just “chasing the wind” and useless) is because he was trying to understand life from God’s perspective. He was trying to know why, he wanted to understand the “Why me?” from God’s level of understanding, which is (of course) impossible for any human to achieve. So, what was he left with? Not knowing the “why me”, and only seeing that everything done under the sun was useless because money you save gets spent by others when you die, the things you build when you are alive don’t last, the work you do and leave behind gets changed by those who are now doing it. Nothing stays the same, nothing is dependable, nothing lasts…nothing except God. God is the only thing that doesn’t change, and He provides for us. He gives us the fruits of our labor, so we should just enjoy them. He provides for us, so we should just accept what He gives and enjoy it. He is all that matters, and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That’s the conclusion of the book, and that is what most people find to be “the” lesson. I disagree; I think the real lesson from Kohelet is that we need to stop asking “why” and just accept that God is in charge. We can’t understand, and the truth is, we don’t have the need to know. It’s not our place to question God, although He is big enough to handle it, and loving enough to let us, now and then. He may even answer you, if it is something He feels like doing.

Stop asking, “Why me?” Oh, yes…and stop asking, “Why not me?” , too. That’s right- you can’t ask, “Why them”, either. Just stop asking “why”, altogether.  Do what God put you here to do, which is to worship Him, use the gifts He has given you to bring glory to His name: make Disciples, teach, intercede, pastor, whatever talents and gifts He has given you with which you can proclaim His goodness, love, mercy and glory, use them. When things happen in your life, don’t start whining that God is punishing you, or feel guilty that you are so blessed while others aren’t (remember that Yeshua said you will always have the poor amongst you.) Just do what God says to do, and keep on doing it through all the good and all the bad times.

We live in a cursed world, and if you feel that you are really being attacked, don’t ask ,”Why me?” but ask if you have wandered away from God. God provides His kippur, His covering (blessings, if you will) to protect us from the cursed world we live in. He does this when we are walking alongside Him, when we are living in His will. God has His path to walk, and when we wander off He will not wander off with us, so we find ourselves outside the kippur of His goodness and mercy. That’s when we should be asking ourselves something, but not, “Why me?” We need to ask, “Where did I get off track?” And, “How do I get back on track?” Those are the questions we need to constantly ask; we need to always question our motives, our desires, our actions, and understand that God is always there, He is always the same, and when things happen that we feel are not what we expected, it isn’t about God changing- it’s about us changing.

Starting today, ask “What am I doing?” instead of “Why me?” If things go wrong, ask ,”What did I do that may have caused this?”  If things are going great, ask yourself, “What am I doing that must be good in God’s eyes?”

God is in charge, but we have the freedom to do what we please. That often means we will go in the wrong direction, or we will actually do something really worthy of blessing. I like to say when I have done something really well, it is God doing it through me and He deserves the glory. When I screw-up royally, then I can take full credit. But I don’t ask, “Why me?”

Frankly, I don’t care why me or why not me, or why them…I only care about staying in God’s will and doing what pleases Him. I don’t ask “why”, I ask “what”, as in,”What did I do to get off track?” and then”What must I do to get back on track?” Sometimes I can ask the best question of all, “What am I doing that is so wonderful in God’s eyes, and how do I keep on doing it?”

“What” is the question that helps; “Why me?” is self-defeating and leads to inaction, guilt, and sadness whereas”What should I do?” encourages us to take action, improve and work towards demonstrating God’s glory.