Secular Judaism is an Oxymoron

One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.

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Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.

When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.

Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:

According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.

As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:

Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.

To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?”  This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle?  Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?

Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.

Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.

So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”

This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.

You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!

Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.

The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.

We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.

Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yom Kippur 2019 Message

Today I would like to share a message that I had given every Yom Kippur service when I was still living in Northeast Philadelphia and attending Beth Emmanuel Messianic Synagogue. For about 2 years we didn’t have a Rabbi and the Council members (of which I was one) kept the temple going, with me serving (pretty much) as Rabbi-pro-tem. The following is an updated version of the sermon I had been giving on this day.

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There is an undeniable relationship between Yom Kippur and Passover, and together they provide total atonement which allows us to have life everlasting. Yeshua is called the Lamb of God, the Pesach Lamb, and by means of his death and the blood he shed, we can find atonement for our sins. But, it wasn’t just as the Passover lamb that He accomplished this.

It’s important to know that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, as we read of it in Exodus, Chapter 12, was not a sin sacrifice: it was a thanksgiving sacrifice. And the blood was not a sin atonement, but rather a kippur, a covering, which was meant to identify the people of God. It was spread on the sides and over the doorway of the house and as the identification of God’s people, it protected those people from being killed by the angel of death.

The blood from the sacrificed lamb on Passover provided protection from physical death for the people of God, and today Yeshua’s blood not only identifies us as God’s people, but also protects us from spiritual death. Yeshua’s sacrificial death may have occurred on Passover but is actually what the sacrifice of the Yom Kippur goats is all about.

The Yom Kippur goats (the one killed and the one released) together provide for our atonement (Lev. 16:9-10.) The scapegoat (which is the one released into the desert) had the sins of all the people transferred to it before being released into the desert, or as the Bible tells us, to Azazel. Let’s take a moment and talk a little about Azazel:

  • The Talmud interprets this word to mean a steep mountain, and for many years the scapegoat was not released into the desert but instead was thrown off of a steep mountain;
  • In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel. Of course, it is unthinkable that we would be told by God to sacrifice a goat to a god-like satyr in the desert;
  • According to Rabbi Hertz, the Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, in his 1965 edition of the Chumash, Azazel is a rare Hebrew noun that means “dismissal”, or “entire removal”. The transference of the sins of Israel by the Cohen HaGadol onto the goat released into the desert symbolized the total removal of sin from the community of God’s people.

I had always wondered why we needed two goats. If all the sins were removed by the scapegoat why kill another one? It’s because sin can only be forgiven by the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11) so the goat’s blood had to be shed.  That still leaves me with the question, what did the scapegoat represent?

The scapegoat released into the desert represents our T’ShuvahIt represents our willingness to let go of our sinful desires and remove them totally from our lives. That is why all the people were present when the goat was released. It meant that we all were giving up our sinful ways and desires.

Atonement is a five-step process:

  1.  You commit a sin (after all, without sin there is nothing to be forgiven for);
  2. Recognizing and taking responsibility for that sin;
  3. Doing T’shuvah (repentance);
  4.  Shedding innocent blood to atone for the sin, and finally
  5.  Asking forgiveness from God by means of the first four steps we took.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was more than just as the “Passover Lamb”; his death fulfilled the meaning of the two Holy Days most associated with freedom from both physical and spiritual death: Passover and Yom Kippur.

On the execution stake, Yeshua took upon himself all our sins just as the Yom Kippur scapegoat does, and when he died, just as the scapegoat sacrificed to Azazel, he carried them not just into the desert but beyond the grave. He also fulfilled the role of the goat sacrificed on the altar, the one whose blood atoned for the sins and made it possible for God to forgive us.

The blood of the Passover lamb gave protection from death and the Yom Kippur blood allows forgiveness of sin. Passover and Yom Kippur, although two separate Holy Days, through Yeshua have become spiritually one and the same thing.

In the Acharit HaYamim (the End Times) when Yeshua returns and we are all gathered up into the clouds with Him, then will the ultimate fulfillment of both of these festivals be realized. Yeshua is both the Passover Lamb and the Yom Kippur scapegoat. When He said He was the beginning and the end it meant more than just some timeline: he is the beginning of our eternal life and the end of our sin.

Praise God for his goodness and mercy, and give thanks to Yeshua, ha Maschiach for his sacrifice so that we could all be saved.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and may you have an easy fast.

Do We Really Drink His Blood and Eat His Flesh?

In each of the 4 Gospels, there is a statement that Yeshua makes where he tells his Talmudim (Disciples) that they are to drink the wine of the Kiddush, which is now his blood, the blood of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31), and they should eat the bread (actually, it was matzo) which is his flesh and his body.

Sounds really pagan and disgusting, doesn’t it? Nothing at all that any self-respecting, God-fearing Jew would ever do.

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Of course, we all know he was speaking metaphorically. Or do we?

The Roman Catholic Church believes in Transubstantiation, which is the transformation of the bread and wine into the actual flesh and blood of Yeshua. Yuck!! They explain this in the same way they explain most of the doctrine they have created: it is what it is and we can’t understand how it is that way. In other words, I ain’t got no idea where this came from but I was taught this is how it is, so don’t ask questions and just believe what you are told to believe.  Typical RCC stuff.

(Sorry, Pope your Grace, but Yeshua would never tell anyone to actually eat flesh or drink blood, which is a sin.)

Let’s get back on topic…Yeshua says this in Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:20, Mark 14:24, and John 6:55. It is also repeated by Shaul (Paul) in 1 Corinthians and elsewhere in other Epistles of the New Covenant.

To understand why Yeshua said this, which was meant to be metaphorical, we need to go back to the Tanakh, then to John’s Gospel.

Let’s start at Leviticus 17:11, which says this:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Next, let’s go to Deuteronomy 8:3 (Moses is talking to the Israelites just before they enter the land of Canaan):

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

And the last thing we need to read is John 1:14:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

When we take these three verses and put them in their proper perspective, Yeshua’s blood is the life we gain by reason of the atonement he performed for us on the execution stake, and his body is the word of God which we must take “inside” ourselves, meaning to have it be a part of us, indwelling and written on our hearts.

Yeshua was talking about the new covenant as God promised it should be, from way back when Jeremiah first told us about it.  Yeshua was speaking to Jewish men using terms that they could understand because they knew what the blood and the body represented. The ones we read about in John 6:53-59 who thought he was speaking literally did not have the spiritual sekhel to know what Yeshua meant.

Many acceptance ceremonies within societies include toasting and sharing food; maybe they are based on the Kiddush? We can cite anything from a wedding to a Bar Mitzvah, to a military Hail and Farewell at the Officer’s Club (this is when new officers coming into the company and officers being transferred out get together for drinks and dinner.)  The ceremony where Yeshua shared drink and food was the Passover Seder, so it was very appropriate at that time for him to make this “toast”, which would be the way for all people to enter into communion with him and the Lord throughout all eternity.

Whenever we, those who have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, perform the Kiddush prayer, we do it in memory of him. Whereas we are literally eating bread and drinking wine, we are metaphorically taking into ourselves the word of God and the life that it gives us.

To answer the question posed in today’s message title, what Yeshua meant when he said to drink his blood and eat his flesh is that when we accept him as the Messiah we will have eternal life (yeah, there is a little more to it than just that, but that is for a different message.)

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

My Problem with the Gospel of John

In case you didn’t get the hint from the title, let me give a caveat to those reading this who are infatuated with the Gospel of John: you ain’t gonna like what I am about to say.

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Before we begin I want to point out that many scholars doubt the authenticity of the author of pretty much every book in the Bible. From my research, it seems most scholars agree that the Gospels were not written by the ones they are named for, and the true writers of the Epistles in the New Covenant are also subject to doubt. We know for certain that scribes interpreted the Codex’s and letters they had been given when formulating the New Covenant and that men decided which books and letters should be included, and which should be excluded (meaning not a divinely-inspired item), and those men were mainly Gentiles who had accepted Yeshua. I have found anything to indicate that there was a single Jewish person who was part of the group that decided what would be included in the New Covenant.

So is the Bible the exact word of God? Is it God-inspired teaching? Or is it the work of men writing what they think God meant? The answer is this: each of us must choose what we will believe.

Let me tell you a little something about me, so you know where I am coming from.

I was brought up in a Jewish home, am Jewish by descent, and over 20 years ago I accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send to the Jews, and then to the world.  I have been studying the Bible ever since; I have a Certificate of Messianic Studies and have served in two separate houses of worship (a Messianic synagogue and a Hebraic Roots church) on their Counsel and as one of the leaders of the Shabbat services. I say this to establish that I do believe in Yeshua (Jesus) and have a good, working knowledge and understanding of the entire Bible, which has been independently confirmed to me by more than just a handful of spiritually mature people.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the Bible so we are all on the same page.

The Torah (first 5 books) is more than just a set of laws: it is a historical narrative that tells us how God created everything, made mankind to be a steward of the world he created, and gave us free will so we could choose to love and worship him. He chose a man (Abraham) and told him his descendants would become a nation (“The Jews”) and be a blessing to the world (Genesis 22:18), and God told Moses that the Jews are to be his nation of priests to the world (Ex. 19:6.) For that to happen, God gave Moses the Torah, which is the instructions from God telling us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other; Moses was to teach the Torah to the Jewish people so they could teach it to the world.

Before Moses dies he tells us of one who will come to lead the people and will be a prophet like him, and throughout the books of the Prophets we read of God’s continual confirmation of this promise to send us a Messiah, who will gather the Jews back into their nation and, with them, all the Goyim (the other nations) into eternal communion with God.

The Old Covenant, which is misnamed “The Jewish Bible”, ends about 400 years before the coming of Yeshua, with the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The New Covenant is the continuation of this narrative, which begins with the Gospels, telling of the arrival of Yeshua, his ministry, teachings, death and resurrection which (along with the miracles he performed during his ministry) prove that he is the Messiah God promised to send.

The rest of the New Covenant is composed of one book telling of the events that occurred during the early years of the acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah (Acts), followed by the letters written by Shaul (Paul) to the congregations of Messianic Gentiles he formed throughout Asia and the Middle East, as well as letters which were written by other disciples to both Believing Gentiles and Believing Jews. It ends with (in my opinion) the almost impossible to interpret or understand Book of Revelation, the spiritual vision given to John on Patmos of the End Times, known in Judaism as the Acharit HaYamim.

Now let’s get into the main point of today’s rather long message, and thank you for staying with me this far.

The first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are fairly straight-forward in their style and writing. Matthew is the most “Jewish” identifying Yeshua as King (some 35 times), Mark identifies him as a servant, and Luke identifies him as the Savior. All three are written in a way that is easy to follow.

Now we come to the Gospel of John, called the Spiritual Gospel. It is anything but easy to follow, using many series of verses that are so circular that by the time one is done reading it one forgets what the point was. Another difference is that the other three show Yeshua to be human endowed with power from God, but in John, we are told that Yeshua and God are one. This is a significant difference between John and the other Gospels and has been misinterpreted (or purposefully misused?) to provide the basis for forming the Doctrine of Trinity.

John isn’t just different from the other three Gospels, it is in opposition to them; let me give you some examples.

In the three, Yeshua does not make public the fact that he is the Messiah.

After cleansing men of their diseases:

Mark 1:43-44Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Matthew 8:4…Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 

After exorcising demons:

Mark 1:23-25… Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”

Luke 4:41...Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

After Kefa (Peter) proclaims he is the Messiah:

Matthew 16:20…Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

However, in John Yeshua publically announces he is the Messiah on more than one occasion:

With the woman at the well:

John 4:25-26The woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

In the synagogue:

John 5:46…If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

At the temple in Jerusalem:

John 7:28-29Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

One exception is in Luke 4 when we read how Yeshua, after reading from the scroll of Isaiah about the Messiah, tells the people there that what he read to them is now fulfilled.

One other major difference between the three and John is that in the three, Yeshua never claimed to be divine, yet in John, he constantly claims to be one with the Father, implying he is the father. In the three, here are examples of where he talks of the father as a separate entity:

Matthew 11:27…All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Matthew 26:39…Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Luke 23:34…Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Matthew 18:14…In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Yet in John, Yeshua constantly claims he is divine and that he the Father are the same:

John 10:30…I and the Father are one.”

John 8:58Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!
                    (In Judaism, God is often referred to as “the great I am!”)

John 1:1…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

I am sure we can find more such examples within the Gospels, but I am not trying to overload people with biblical quotes, only to show the difference in the intent of these Gospels: the first three show Yeshua to be a man empowered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and who tells no one (except his Disciples) that he is the Messiah, and never claims to be God. Whereas in John’s Gospel, Yeshua constantly makes a public announcement that he is the Messiah and claims to be equal with God.

How much more in opposition can you get?

A more subtle issue I have with John is John 8:17, where Yeshua is arguing with the Pharisees and says, “In your own Law (some versions have Torah) it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true.” Now, at the very beginning of this Gospel John tells us that Yeshua is the Torah come to life (John 1:14) so why then does Yeshua say “your law”? Why didn’t he say “in the law”? Or better yet, because he is Jewish, say “in our law”? The way this verse is worded is a subtle implication that separates Yeshua from the Law (Torah), which became one of the foundation stones on which the early “church” built the teaching that Yeshua and Christians are separate from Judaism, altogether.

And THAT is my major problem with the Gospel of John – its wording and the constant reference to Yeshua and God as one entity is so far afield of Judaic thought that I cannot believe it was written by a Jewish follower of Yeshua.

We also have to consider that it is the youngest of the four Gospels, written probably at the very end of the First Century, certainly not by the same John that lived with Yeshua, and during a time when the (now called) Christians, composed mainly of Gentiles, began to separate themselves from the mainstream Jewish population. John was written around the same time Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed Sunday as the Sabbath and that Christians and Jews cannot possibly be together.

These were the days when the Gentile Messianic congregations, who were initially converting to Judaism (since there was no other religion except the Roman one) wanted to be seen as separate from the Jews in Judea. They didn’t want Rome to come after them like they were going after the non-believing Jewish population, which was in a political rebellion.

The separation between followers of Yeshua and Judaism was made complete at the Council of Nicene when Emperor Constantine created the dogma, traditions, holidays, and doctrine that is modern Christianity.

My opinion is that the Gospel of John was written by Gentile Believers who wanted to turn followers of Yeshua away from Judaism.

If it was up to me, I would take the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation, add them to the Tanakh and that would make the Bible complete. It would be a homogeneous narrative of God and his works, from creation through mankind, their failures and their successes, the Messiah coming and the final Judgement.

The letters from Shaul and the other items aren’t really necessary for the completion of the narrative God gave us through Moses and the Prophets.  The letters from the apostles were all written mostly to Gentiles converting to a form of Judaism who were confused and having troubles within their congregations. These letters speak of God and his laws, and of Yeshua and his teachings, but they have nothing “new” in them. And because Gentiles back then didn’t understand the cultural nuances and forms of argumentation that Jews use, and also (as I mentioned earlier) because they wanted to separate themselves from the Jews Rome was persecuting, they misinterpreted these letters and  have taught this wrongful understanding throughout the centuries, so that today Christians believe the Jews have their Torah and Christians have Jesus.

I don’t think the letters of the Apostles are valid as scripture and I would get rid of the Gospel of John, too, which (from my experience) many Christians I have known find to be the “best” Gospel for new Believers to read. And I can see why- it confirms Trinitarianism and separates Jesus from Jews. Add to that the traditional Christian misinterpretations of the Epistles and you come up with the “Jesus nailed the Law to the Cross” and the “Once saved, always saved” lies, leading people away from God’s instructions and into lawlessness.

So there you have it! Label me a heretic!

You have to decide if you think I have a valid point or not, and if you want to discuss it I am open to discussion, but I can tell you right now that you will not change my mind about this. I have prayed an awful lot on it, and if I am doing John, God or Yeshua an injustice, then that will be between them and me.

Today I wanted to share with you my misgivings about the Gospels of John, and that is what I have done.

Thank you for being here and especially for staying through this message, one of the longest I have ever given through this ministry.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

 

What is the Real Meaning of the Talents Given?

I am sure many here know the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but how many really understand what is being said here?

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On the Internet I found this etymology of the word “Talent”:

The use of the word “talent” to mean “gift or skill” in English and other languages originated from an interpretation of this parable (referencing Matthew-Ed.)  sometime late in the 13th century.

I found that very interesting, as I believe most people recognize that the meaning behind this parable is that what God gives us we should use. The one servant who didn’t use what was given to him was thrown out into the darkness, whereas the ones that gave back the talents they received, with interest, were welcomed into their Master’s joy, which means they were to share in the joy that God feels when his children do what pleases him.

Nice story. And I am sure that most people concentrate on the two faithful servants who were welcomed into their Master’s joy. I mean, really…who wouldn’t want to associate themselves with those two?

The question is: what makes us think we can be like those two?

Is being a “good person” good enough? I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why.

Yeshua himself said that no one is good except his Father in heaven (Mark 10:18), so we can be pretty sure that no human is ever going to be “good”, at least not in the eyes of the Lord. That kills the “be a good person and you go to heaven” argument right there.

So, nu?  If no one can be good, then what do we need to do to be considered a good and faithful servant? The answer is right here in this parable: we need to take the talents God has given us and increase them. This is where the idea that a talent is more than a unit of monetary measure comes in- it is a gift, something that we receive from God without asking, and which God wants us to use for his glory.

My talent is teaching. I have had this confirmed to me by many people over the years, and also (believe it or not) God has given me a sense of humor, which has helped me in being able to maintain interest during my teaching. It has also gotten me into a lot of trouble when I didn’t use it in a way that glorifies God. The talents God has given me are increased each time I get a new subscriber to my website or YouTube channel (hint…hint) or when someone buys one of my books, which I believe (and pray) are glorifying God and helping people to understand his word better. That is why on the bottom of my Home page I quote from Hosea 4:6:  “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” This ministry is a teaching ministry: I am not trying to make converts or to be a missionary: I just want to give people the correct information and they can decide what they are going to do with it.

What talents did God give you? Don’t feel bad if you aren’t sure, and don’t cop-out by saying, “I am good parent” or “I am a good friend”, because Yeshua already killed that argument when he said even sinners will not give their child a snake if they ask for a fish or a friend a stone if they ask for bread. Even sinners share good things with those whom they love and who love them, so just being what the world considers to be a “good person” is no different than burying your talents.

When God spoke to Abraham, he did what God said. Not after thinking about it, not after waiting for the harvest, but the very next morning. And even though Moses took some convincing, he (eventually) learned to do as God said right away. Many of our biblical heroes did as God said pretty much as soon as God said it, and the ones that didn’t or hesitated for a while, well…we don’t know who they are because they didn’t make it into the Bible.

Our God is a God of action, not of sitting around watching for signs and waiting to be given what you need. He wants us to demonstrate our faith by starting something as if we already knew what was going to happen.

You need to determine what talent(s) God has given you and increase them. If you are compassionate, volunteer at a Senior’s Home or with people in need; if you are good with money, volunteer to help at your house of worship with the accounting, or at non-profits who could use the help. If you are good with animals, volunteer at an animal hospital (my wife, Donna, has been volunteering for about 4 years at a local wildlife hospital.) The idea is that you need to increase your talents so that when you face the Lord you will have something to give him that shows you have increased what he gave you.

Here is one last thought that most people don’t want to consider: These three servants were ALREADY members of the Master’s household! Think about that; it means that they were all already “saved”, but the one who failed to do anything with the talents God gave was kicked out!

Think about what that means.

So go forth this very day and if you know what talents God has given you, start to increase them. If you’re not sure what your talents are, think of what you do that makes you feel really good and start there.  Anyone can bring glory to God simply by showing how “talented” you are and giving the credit to the Lord.

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Should We Praise Yeshua?

First off, I think we can all agree that if there was anyone worthy of the praise of people, it certainly would be Yeshua.

But did Yeshua think he was to be praised? Or worshiped?

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I can’t find anything anywhere in the Gospels where Yeshua said that we should praise him, or (for that matter) where the people praised him. What we read is that after they witnessed the miraculous healing by Yeshua, they praised God.

Lets’ look at some examples:

(NIV) Luke 18:43…”Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

(CJB) Ephesians 1:5-6 …”He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons -in keeping with his pleasure and purpose- so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace he gave us through the Beloved One.”

(TLB) Rev. 19:5… “And out of the throne came a voice that said, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, small and great, who fear him.’”

When we read the Gospels, almost every single time Yeshua healed someone, he told them that it was their faith that healed them and that they should do as the Torah commands (for those healed of uncleanliness) as an example to the people. He never, ever, not even once, took credit for the work of God done through him.

Well, maybe once- in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 5 we read of a man with Tzara’at (leprosy) who approached Yeshua and said if he was willing, he could make him clean. Yeshua said he was willing and then healed the man. This is the only time I can find where Yeshua seemed to take credit, if you will, for the miracle he performed.

Praise and worship belong to God, and God, alone. This is clear throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, and even though most every Christian I have ever met or every Christian service I have ever attended has praised and even said to worship Yeshua, the Bible does not support this.

And I believe that Yeshua, himself, would tell us to praise God, not him. He does just that, in a way, in Mark 10:18 when a man comes to him and addresses him as “Good Rabbi”; Yeshua asks the man, “Why are calling me ‘good? No one is good except God!”

Yeshua never praised himself, never asked for praise, and in fact, rejected the praise he was given. Constantly he told people that they should praise God, and as I stated earlier, most of the time we read of the people’s reaction to the miracles he performed, they knew to praise God.

We human beings enjoy receiving praise, but isn’t it true that whatever talent or gift we have that is praiseworthy was given to us from God?  When someone plays beautiful music, do you praise the instrument? When you see a masterful work of art, do you praise the canvas? Of course not; what we do is praise the person playing the instrument or the artist who painted the picture. And that is wrong! We should be praising God for giving that person such a wonderful talent.

The same goes for Yeshua. He is worthy of thanks, for sure, and worthy of respect and admiration…for sure! But Yeshua always gave the glory and praise to God, and since we are to follow in his footsteps isn’t that what we should be doing, also?

Praise the Lord, God, now and always, forever and ever, amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

And Now for the Rest of the Story….

I’m thinking I should make this title a separate category, and include in it all the other parts of Bible passages that are ignored. Such as the one where Yacov (James) says that the new Believers will learn the rest of the Mosaic laws they should follow because they will be attending the Shabbat services at their local synagogue (Acts 15:21.)

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

Today I want to talk about Matthew 23:23, where Yeshua said:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

The traditional Christian teaching stops at “…justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” They talk about the love of the Messiah and how we are to love each other, that love is all we need for salvation because the law was nailed to the cross with Jesus.

But how does that work with the rest of Yeshua’s statement, i.e. that they should have considered those things WITHOUT neglecting the tithes?

Yeshua is clear that the law regarding tithing (which implicitly means all of the instructions God gave in the Torah) is not replaced by love, justice mercy, and faithfulness. These things are weightier matters, but not exclusive or secondary.

The truth is that to love justice, be merciful and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8) one would, by necessity, observe and follow the instructions God gave us in the Torah because they tell us how to be just, how to be merciful, and what faithfulness entails.

This is where Christianity has misled those who want to trust in God and Yeshua as their savior: by teaching that the “law” was done away with, or that love and Grace replace obedience, the Christian “church” has led its adherents away from God and into lawlessness.

Look- not eating ham will not get you into heaven, and eating ham will not send you to hell. The actions we perform are representative of the way we believe. It’s like I always say: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do.

Just as Yeshua said in the Gospels, what goes into us doesn’t make us unclean, but what is in our hearts does. My heart desires to please God, but whereas my spirit is willing, my flesh is weak. Because my flesh is weak, I sin. I don’t do what I want to do and do what I don’t want to do (sound familiar? Check out Romans 7:15-20.)

Eating ham, technically, is a sin and deserves punishment, but because my heart wants to please God, when I do wrong I repent of my sin. That repentance causes me to ask forgiveness, and through Yeshua’s sacrificial death I can receive that forgiveness, preventing me from going to hell. So it isn’t so much the sin I commit that is the problem, it is the reason I do it and the level of repentance I feel after I do it.

This is what Yeshua meant when he said to deal with the weightier matters of the law without neglecting the rest. Justice, mercy, faithfulness- can you see how these are things that come from the heart? Someone who cares nothing for people will not be just, they will be self-centered and selfish. People who are not repentant will not be merciful or concerned with other’s feelings, and will not have faith in anyone but themselves.

Only those who care about God and about people and have faith in God and others will be merciful and act justly. They will repent of their wrongdoing and try to improve. They will also feel the desire to please God, which he tells us we can do by being obedient, by following the instructions he gave us which tell us how to be faithful (i.e., how to worship him) and how to treat each other.

Those are found in the Torah.

It is up to you to choose what kind of a heart you will have: it will either be open to God or closed to salvation. No one can have two masters.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

You’re Always You

Did you miss me? The last two weeks I have been spending time out of the country: one week at a timeshare with my friend in Cabo san Lucas, and the other week on a cruise celebrating the marriage of a co-worker and friend.

It’s nice to be back home.

Many, many years ago I saw a book entitled “If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.”  I thought the title interesting so I bought it and read it. The point of the book was, simply enough, that no one who promises you enlightenment and total change is telling you the truth, and is, in fact, just selling you a bag full of lies. You will always be you, and you will always mentally and emotionally react as you have, but you can change how you act after the reaction.

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A Christian co-worker and friend who was helping to lead me to God and Messiah when I was still searching told me that what is wonderful about accepting Messiah is that your brain gets rewired by God. I really wanted that and still do, in some ways, but have realized that except for a few rare cases it doesn’t really work that way.

I am who I have always been. I can’t change who I am, I can’t change the immediate thoughts that enter my head, and I will always think and react the way I have for my entire life, sans some brainwashing techniques that may be used on me. Even then, I am still me, only conditioned to be different, which isn’t really me, in the end.

So if you are always you, and I am always me, what good is trying? The answer is: trying is what comes from God. On our own, we don’t try to resist. We don’t repent, we rationalize. I have often said that before I was saved I was a sinner who rationalized my sins, now I am a sinner who regrets my sins.

And that is what makes the difference: repentance. The desire NOT to sin is what is rewired in our brains. Our reactions, our desires, and our thoughts will always be what they are, but the difference that God makes in our lives is that instead of accepting that we do wrong, we resist doing wrong.

And we often fail, but we keep on trying. Taking three steps forward then backsliding two steps is still one step closer to the way we want to be!!

So accept that you will always be you, and instead of trying to be perfect, just work on being a better you.

God tells all of us how he wants us to act towards him and towards each other, so read the Bible and work at being a better you, the “you” that God wants you to be.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Divine Inspiration or Divine Dictation?

The Bible is known by many as “The Word of God.” That implies that it is exactly what God has said; but, in fact, that is not what most of it is made up of. And the problem with this is that people who don’t study or read the Bible themselves don’t know the difference between the divine dictations and the divinely inspired writings.

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Inspiration is an intangible thing that is filtered through the individual’s experience, culture, language, and understanding. Divine inspiration is when someone receives a message from God, but being an inspiration means when they write it down or repeat it they are not going to be quoting God exactly.

For instance, the Ten Commandments written on the two tablets given to Moses (which he copied into the Torah) were written with the finger of God (Ex. 31:18), so they are divine dictations. From God directly to us: no interpretation, no personal bias, no filtering, and not even a typo or two. Divinely dictated, meaning presented to us, directly from God exactly as he said it.

On the other hand, when we read the letters written by Shaul, most of the time he is speaking to Gentiles who do not know the divine dictations that occur in the Torah, so he more often than not interprets what God has said. His meaning and words are divinely inspired, but they are not directly from God. He has rebranded God’s words in a way that will make sense to pagans just learning about God.

And he tells us this is what he is doing. In 1st Corinthians 9:20-22, he says that he will be whatever he needs to be in order to win people over to Messiah. Essentially, he is saying that he will teach and say whatever he needs to in whichever way his audience will understand, in order to win over souls to Messiah. In other words, he knows what God ‘s dictated words are but he is rephrasing them so that his audience can understand and relate to it.

So the question is: which is more important? Divine dictation or divine inspiration?

My answer is: obviously it is more important to know what God, himself, says than what someone thinks God meant. Divine inspiration is certainly going to be important, but it will be, by definition, in the person’s own words and stated in a way that is influenced by that person’s experience, language, culture, and understanding of the Bible, in general.

What is most important of all is that the one listening knows the difference between what God said and what someone says God said. 

The Bible is composed mostly of divinely inspired writing. The New Covenant has very little that is a direct quote of God’s own words. Because Yeshua is the Messiah, he taught from divine knowledge. However, much of what he quoted from the Tanakh came from the divinely inspired writings.

God’s direct instructions to all people are found in the Torah. I believe that when Moses wrote “The Lord says…” that what he wrote was directly dictated by God. Anything and everything else Moses wrote, as well as most of what is in the Prophets and other books, is divinely inspired.

So, nu? What’s the point? The point is, as I say so very, very often, you need to read the Bible every day and ask God for his divine understanding so that you know which is which.

The many different religions that have come into existence have created man-made doctrines but pass them off as divinely dictated commandments. And those who do not read the Bible are blind, being led by the blind, and we all know where they end up.

Divine dictation is not something anyone can afford to ignore or reinterpret, whereas divinely inspired writing can be rephrased and taught using different terms and cultural identifiers so that it can be understood by people with varied backgrounds. In just the same way that Shaul taught his Messianic congregations.

When we know the difference between what God said and what people say God meant we will not be easily fooled by the Enemy of God when he tries to turn us from the path of righteousness.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Hashem!

What Are New Wineskins, Really?

I have read the Bible many times, and every time I came to Matthew 9:16-17 I always wondered what it really meant. As I was reading this passage again the other day, I asked God to show me what it meant, and I believe he has.

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Before I tell you what he showed me, let’s look at this passage, together:

No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunk cloth, because the patch tears away from the coat and leaves a worse hole. Nor do people put new wine in old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine spills and the wineskins are ruined. No, they pour new wine into freshly prepared wineskins, and in this way both are preserved. 

Most of the Christian interpretations I have heard say Yeshua was making the point that his teachings and commandments are new, and override the existing, older commandments. The new patch and the new wine are now the commandments that we must obey, and (again, this is a Christian interpretation) therefor the old laws and traditions have been done away with to make room for the new ones.

Of course, being Jewish and Messianic, I know that this interpretation is false. First off, Yeshua taught from the Torah, and if he had said or done anything that even implied we shouldn’t obey the Torah, then he would have been in rebellion against his Father, God, and in sin. If that was true, then his sacrifice would not have been accepted, and we all would be in a lot of trouble today. Fortunately, that isn’t the way it is.

Secondly, although Yeshua did speak against many of the traditions of the elders, which later would become Talmudic doctrine and practice, he did not universally condemn all traditions. For instance, we know he celebrated the Festival of Lights, which is a traditional, man-made holiday and not even in the Bible.

So, what did Yeshua mean when he said new wine has to go into new wineskins?

He meant that his teachings, which were based entirely on the Torah, were being interpreted in a new way. And, as such, he couldn’t properly “fit” them into the old wineskins, meaning the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were too used to and comfortable with their understanding to accept what he was saying.

The “new wine” he taught was the spiritual understanding of the Torah, called the Remes. This is from a Jewish method of biblical exegesis called PaRDeS, which represents different levels of meaning. There is the Pashat or literal meaning of the words- what you see is what it means. A deeper understanding is Remes or spiritual meaning. For instance, Yeshua said we have been told not to commit adultery (Pashat) but when we lust with our eyes, we have already done so (Remes.) The other levels, Drash (a story with a spiritual or moral meaning) and Sod, which is such a deep meaning it is mystical.

The new wineskins are the Am Ha’aretz, meaning the people of the land, those who are not formally trained in the Torah and the Tanakh. These are receptacles that can accept the new wine because they haven’t been “stretched” to their limits from having contained the older wine. These new wineskins were familiar with the traditions, but not affected by them so much that having known them they were not able to accept new wine without bursting. That is why Yeshua prayed:

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated and revealed them to ordinary folks. (Matthew 11:25)

Today, the knowledge of God’s word is not much more, and probably a lot less, than it was in those days. Christianity has so skewed and misinterpreted the meaning of the letters from Shaul (Paul) and taught disobedience to God’s Torah that the world is more sinful and decrepit than ever. Instead of serving the wine of truth, traditional Christian teachings have caused people to become drunk with the beer of hedonism and ignorance.

Christians (I am not talking about every Christian, but I do mean most of them) need to become new wineskins; they need to be able to accept that what Yeshua taught did not do away with the law, but confirmed it! That means to let go of the teachings that Christians have been filled with, such as Sunday Sabbath, Christian holidays, and Constantinian doctrine and practices, and become new wineskins able to accept the new wine of proper interpretation of Yeshua’s teachings, and of the Epistles in the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant.)

Yeshua’s teachings may be considered new wine, but it was the exact same vintage as the Torah; all Yeshua did was market it differently.

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