Can We Have Too Much Knowledge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What God Cannot Do

“What? What are you talking about? How can you say that the creator of the Universe, the all-mighty and all-powerful God of our Fathers can’t do something? He can do anything!”

No, he can’t.

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He can’t sin. He can’t abide with sin. He can’t judge unfairly. He can’t allow the unrepentant to go unpunished. He can’t do evil, although he will allow evil to be done.

He is all-powerful, true, but he is also restricted by both his faithfulness and his holiness to do only those things that he allows himself to do.

“But what about what he says in Deuteronomy 28? He promises to curse us if we are disobedient, and his curses are terrible. That’s evil, isn’t it?”

The curses he promises to fall on the disobedient are terrible, but God doesn’t actively curse us. He actively protects us from the curses that are already in the world.

We live in a fallen and cursed place, and those who live in the world without the protection of God will be affected by the curses that already exist. The reason the world is a cursed place is that this is where HaSatan was thrown when he was ejected from heaven (Revelation 12:7) and he is the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) Satan rules the world (for the time being) and anyone living in the world is subject to his cursed realm. When we are obedient to God, God will protect us from the world.

That is why when we read the blessings and the curses in Deuteronomy 28, we see that the curses are the exact opposite of the blessings.

For the record: there is a difference between failing to follow God’s instructions and refusing to follow them, so don’t think that you will be punished every time you mess up. Yes, God tells us in Leviticus that anyone who sins, whether they know it or not, is guilty. But God is understanding of our weaknesses and is very compassionate; he isn’t just willing to forgive, he desires to forgive the repentant sinner. Therefore, when you mess up, repent and ask forgiveness (in Yeshua’s name, of course) so you will not have to suffer the curses.

When we have health problems or tsouris in our life, we shouldn’t automatically blame God, and we shouldn’t automatically assume we are under satanic attack, either. Sometimes bad things happen for no other reason than we live in a bad place, and you can’t walk through a sheep pen without getting something on your shoes, no matter how careful you are.

The great comic George Carlin once asked, “If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” I have always thought that to be a wonderfully thoughtful and funny joke. I don’t see it as impertinent or disrespectful, but as something for us to ponder simply because it raises a legitimate point, i.e. is there something that God can’t do?

Today’s drash is all about what God can’t do. But what is even more important is to realize that those things God can’t do should be a comfort for us. Because he can’t sin, we can trust him to always be there for us in a supportive way.

Because he can’t do evil, we can always count on him to keep evil away from us (when we walk in his will.)

Because he can’t judge unfairly, we know that those who sin against others will be punished.

There are so many things that God can be counted on because there are things he can’t do.

Trust God to always be there for you, and even in the midst of your trials and tribulations, God is standing by with a towel and a refreshing drink of cool water for you when you turn to him, and that is because one other thing that God cannot do is to not love you.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Thanksgiving Day 2019 Message

Here in the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day.

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It was originally a day that our first President, George Washington, designated as a day to give thanks for the creation of our National Constitution. Today most people believe it started when the earliest settlers in this country shared their first harvest with the Native Americans who literally saved their lives by showing them how to farm the land.

I believe the most important thing people should be thankful for is the sacrifice that Yeshua (Jesus) made when he allowed himself to be crucified, becoming a substitution for the animal that was to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

The Torah states that we can only sacrifice to God where he has placed his name (Deut. 12:14):

Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings just anywhere you see, but do it in the place Adonai will choose in one of your tribal territories; there is where you are to offer your burnt offerings and do everything I order you to do.

When Yeshua rose from the grave, that was proof that his sacrifice was accepted by God, and from that moment on, we were able to receive forgiveness of sin through Yeshua’s sacrifice, which meant that receiving forgiveness was no longer geographically restricted. After the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, only those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah are able to receive forgiveness of sin.

As a Jew, I am exceptionally thankful to Yeshua for what he did for me, as well as the many people God placed in my life, both for good and for evil, who eventually helped me find and accept Yeshua. It is very hard for a Jewish person to accept Yeshua because of what Christianity has done to him. They have removed everything Jewish from him, and modern Christianity is based not on what Yeshua taught, but what Constantine (and all those who followed after him) created. Not to mention how many millions of Jews have been tortured and murdered over the past two millennia, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

We should be thankful for what we have, and not worry about what we don’t have. Sometimes we want more than we really can afford and even though we make ends meet, we find that the sacrifice we have to make to have something, just to have it, isn’t really worth it. Instead of being thankful for that thing, we begin to resent it because of all the other things we might have had.

We should also be thankful for all that we don’t have: if you’re not sure what I mean, think of everyone you know or have heard of with tsouris in their life that you don’t have in your life, and I think you will understand.

The apostle Shaul (Paul) once wrote (Philippians 4:12-13):

I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation— to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. “

He accredited this to finding his needs and strength in the Messiah. That is what we can do, as well.

Finally, just as everything else humans get their grubby little hands on, this day dedicated to thanksgiving has been polluted with sports events, parades, and marketing mania. Instead of being a day we can get together with family to give thanks for so many things, we get together with family, all right, but it’s to watch football and eat until we burst. Maybe there is a general sense of being thankful, but is it real? Are we genuinely taking the time to thank God for all we have? Even if all we have is a little, it is better than nothing, and even those with nothing still have their life and the opportunity to make it better.

As you enjoy your holiday (and yes, the turkey, too), be thankful for all that you have and all that you have yet to receive. Today is for you to appreciate what God has given you, and whether you have a lot or a little, whatever you have is more than someone else has, so be thankful.

One last thought: this holiday is just one day of the year, but we should be thankful every moment of every day, all year long.

I am thankful for you, and appreciate you being here. Please subscribe and share this ministry with others, and remember that I always welcome your comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Obedience or Legalism?

I suppose before we begin this discussion you should know what I mean by “legalism.”

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For the purpose of this discussion, legalism is obeying the instructions God gave in the Torah, but not because we want to do what pleases God. On the contrary, legalistic obedience is when we obey because we want to earn God’s acceptance; in other words, faithfully and respectfully doing what God says because we recognize his authority and only want to do what pleases him is NOT the motivation behind legalistic obedience. Legalistic obedience is doing what we are told to do in order to earn salvation, and to be a “good little Believer.”

Obedience is also something that we need to identify. I wrote about obedience recently, and if you haven’t already read it, I suggest you take a moment or three and read it now before we go on. Here is a quick link to it: obedience message.

Now that we have these definitions out of the way, the question I want to discuss is this: Can our faithful desire to be obedient mutate into legalism?  I believe it can, and it does once we become more interested in the details of how to observe than the reason why we observe.

As an example: I have seen many people who are absolutely infatuated and obsessed with the lunar calendar. They are asking which lunar cycle to observe, and when a festival or Shabbat really begins. This is, in my opinion, a form of legalism because the moon phases aren’t what God wants us to observe- he wants us to observe the festival that the moon phases initiate.

In the ancient days, they didn’t have ABC news and weather to tell them the exact moment the new moon begins. They didn’t have the Internet or even a set of walkie-talkies so that the northern tribes could know when the moon was seen over Jerusalem.

What they had was a system of lighting fires on the tops of selected mountains as a signal to the other parts of Israel. Once the new moon (Rosh Chadosh) was officially spotted over Jerusalem, the word went out to the other parts of the country by means of these alert fires. And if the night sky was cloudy or they had bad weather, the new moon might have been already a day or two in that phase before the word went out that the festival started. Yet, we don’t read about God denying the people rains and making them infertile because they were a day late when celebrating Sukkot, do we? No, we don’t.

God, himself, tells us that legalistic obedience means nothing to him. The best place we see this is in Isaiah 1: 11-17 (CJB):

“Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” asks Adonai“I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs and goats! Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! Rosh-Hodesh, Shabbat, calling convocations — I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals; they are a burden to me — I’m tired of putting up with them! “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil, learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.”

God is not looking for the type of obedience that is performance-oriented. He wants us to do what is right! He wants us to treat each other with love and compassion, and understanding…just as he does when we try to do what he wants from us. That is why if your observance is a day late, or based on the Gregorian calendar instead of a lunar calendar perfectly oriented to Jerusalem, God doesn’t care. What he cares about is that you do observe the festival.

Remember that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day to God (Psalm 90:4); do you really think he is so nick-picky that a couple of hours or starting your celebration half-a-day or so off from Jerusalem will make it unacceptable to him?
I don’t think so.

Other legalistic activities that I have seen deal with God’s holy name, which is the four letters we call the Tetragrammaton. Too many people want to use his name as often as they would use anyone else’s name. They justify it with the improper interpretation of the biblical terms that are similar to “call on his name” or “proclaim his name”; the proper meaning of those types of terms, given the cultural usage at that time, was meant to proclaim who and what God is, with regards to his renown, his authority and his reputation. To call on the name of the Lord doesn’t mean to pronounce the Tetragrammaton; no, it means to look to God for salvation, help, and guidance. To call upon his name is to pray to God. It doesn’t mean you have to know how to pronounce his name, and it certainly doesn’t mean to use his name whenever and as often as you want to. In my opinion, those who we would label as “Holy Namers” are being legalistic and missing what calling on the name of the Lord really means.

There are other versions of legalism, and there is probably at least one version of legalistic observance for every commandment God gave. The difference is not in what you do, but why you do it.

If you are really into details and want to be as perfectly observant as you can be, there is nothing wrong with that SO LONG AS your heart is set on pleasing God and doing what he says because he says to do it. That is faithful obedience. Even when you miss the mark, forget a festival, eat a Hostess pie during Hag haMatzot (by accident, of course) or go out to buy something you need on Shabbat, God understands. I am not saying that to sin is OK, but being perfectly obedient to earn God’s acceptance will not be accepted.

God knows the heart, and he knows who you are praying to when you seek him. Don’t get so involved in the details of what you are doing that you lose sight of why you are doing it. Be obedient because you love God and your obedience is the result of your trust in his judgment, your desire to please him, and your faithful belief that whatever God says to do, it is for your own good. Don’t try to understand why, don’t make excuses why you don’t have to, just be honest with God and with yourself and do what you can because God said you should.

Anything more than obedience from love, thankfulness, respect, submission to his authority, or desire to please him will lead you to legalism, and then no matter what you do or how well you do it, it will be a waste of time.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Grace isn’t Forgiveness

Too often I hear people talking about grace as if it is synonymous with forgiveness, and forgiveness as if it is synonymous with mercy.  It isn’t, and they aren’t.

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Grace is the way God shows his love for us. The best form of grace we have is that God sent Yeshua the Messiah to make a way for us to be able to avoid the punishment we all deserve.

Grace isn’t mercy, either. Mercy is nothing more than a reduction in the severity of some action, such as being punished. For example, we may be eligible for 10 years of hard labor, but a merciful punishment will take into account extenuating circumstances and maybe reduce the time to 5 years. Mercy doesn’t absolve us from punishment, it simply makes the punishment less severe.

Forgiveness is not grace or mercy- it is the removal of guilt. When we do something wrong, we are guilty and forgiveness removes that guilt. On a spiritual level, it allows us to come back into communion with God. On a physical level, it can allow a relationship to be restored, either fully or partially.

Forgiveness does not automatically absolve us from the consequences of what we did wrong. In the physical world, we almost always will have to face the consequence of our sin, whether forgiven or not; however, in the spiritual realm, when God forgives our sin it means our guilt against God is removed, meaning there will be no eternal consequences.

Grace is what God feels because he loves us so much, and because of his grace he will have mercy on us when we do wrong, and when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, through him God will forgive our sins and remove our guilt.

So, in a nutshell, here is how it works: God’s mercy results in people being punished less than they deserve for their sins, and his forgiveness is available to remove our guilt when we accept the ultimate form of his grace, which is Yeshua the Messiah.

Any questions?

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Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

Faith is Only the Beginning

We are saved by faith…how many times have you heard that said? When you hear it, do you ever think “Am I really faithful?”

I do. Every day I try to be more faithful, but what does that mean, really?

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Is being faithful believing in God? Is it enough to believe he exists and that the Bible accurately describes him and all he has done? That is not enough- every demon from hell has seen him on his throne and was there when he created everything. And they’re not saved.

Does it mean believing that Yeshua is the Messiah? Yes, that is necessary, but that’s not enough (again) because every demon from hell doesn’t just believe Yeshua is the Messiah, they know it…absolutely! They have seen him and they know he is God’s son. But they’re not saved.

So, nu?  If believing in God and Yeshua as the Messiah isn’t enough, what do I have to do to be “faithful” enough to be saved?

The answer was given to us two millennia ago when Yacov (James) wrote in his letter to the Messianic Jews in the Diaspora that faith without works is dead.

James notes that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness not only because he believed what God told him, but because he acted on it! Abraham took his belief to the next, and necessary step to be faithful, by doing what God told him to do. His belief wasn’t just passive, it was active and demonstrated by his actions.

You may say, “But God knows the heart, and if I really want to be good and if I fail, God will know and forgive me.”

I have heard this from people more than a few times, and I worry for them because they are, without realizing it, telling God what he will do. I recall how God felt about the friends of Job when they assumed to know what God does and why.

God is forgiving, and he will forgive, but not automatically- you have to ask for it. And, you have to really be repentant in order to receive it.

When it comes to being faithful, we have to have a LOT more than just believing that God is God and Yeshua is the Messiah: we have to become better. And when I hear people say they will try to be better, my answer to them is the same as Jedi Master Yoda gave to Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not: there is no try.”

“But I am weak, I am a sinner from birth, no one is without sin!” Yes, that is all true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be better than you are. If you want to be with God forever, you need to do more than just believe: you must have faith that is strong enough to spur you to action.

“But what must I do? How do I know what God expects of me?” The answer is in the Bible, specifically the first 5 books, which we call the Torah. No one can perform every law, regulation, commandment, and requirement that is in the Torah, but we can certainly do more than we are doing now.  When your faith causes you to become more of what God wants you to be by acting more in the way God wants you to act, then your faith is strong enough to ensure your salvation.

So long as you maintain it. Faith is something that comes to us with difficulty because it means giving up what we are used to, and for that very same reason, it is something that is too easily lost.

Shaul’s letters were written to Gentiles just learning about God and his instructions. Their faith was tested daily because their entire environment was against them, and they had to make a total U-turn in their behavior to show their faithfulness. You can see this in every letter Shaul wrote to the Gentile Believer congregations he started because he addressed the problems that their weak faith caused, which was human selfishness and other sinful activities. His admonishments regarding the Torah were not meant to teach people to ignore it but slowly learn how to live it. He was teaching people raised in a hedonistic and sexually perverted lifestyle how to live in a completely righteous way. Not an easy task, and so he didn’t try to force the entire Torah down their throats all at once, but instead to have them drink milk until they could have pureed Torah, and eventually they would be able to handle the “meat” of God’s word.

But a discussion of Shaul’s influence on the early Gentile Believers is beyond the scope of this message.

Your faith is measurable by your actions. There is a scale that God will use to judge each and every one of us, so we need to make sure that the side of the scale we want to be heavy on is our obedience to God’s instructions.  That is what James tells us is the true measure of our faith.

I will leave you with this last question: if you saw a hand writing a message on the wall, are you absolutely positive that the things you have said and done will demonstrate that your faith is enough to measure up?

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Can You Handle the Truth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Lech Lecha 2019 (Get thee out) Genesis 12 – 17

There is so much that happens in this parashah:

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  1. Abram (not yet called Abraham) is called by God to leave his father’s house, and he does so, receiving the promise from God that his seed will be a blessing to the entire world (which, by the way, has certainly been proven true);
  2. Abram gains wealth when the Pharaoh of Egypt takes Sarai (not yet called Sarah) as a wife, but God causes a plague to fall on his house so that Sarai is protected;
  3. Abram returns to Canaan and he and Lot separate, then God promises Abram his descendants will inherit all the land Abram can see, in all directions;
  4. There is a war with Sodom and Lot, with his whole family and possession, are taken captive, but Abram saves him;
  5. We are introduced to Melchizedek;
  6. God makes a physical covenant with Abram reiterating the promise to inherit the land and also tells Abram of the Egyptian bondage that will happen later;
  7. Abram gives birth to Ishmael, Hagar runs from Sarai but God has her return, promising her son will also be the progenitor of many nations, but will always be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against every other person, and their hands against him;
  8. When Abram is 99 years old, God tells him that he will now be called Abraham (and Sarai wil be called Sarah) and that he and all his descendants are to be circumcised;
  9. God promises Abraham that Ishmael will become the father of many nations, but it will be his own son, Isaac who will be the inheritor of the promises God made with Abraham.

Well, that should be enough to keep us talking for what? a year? Don’t worry- I won’t keep you here that long.

The challenge of having a teaching ministry is that there is so much to teach, and it is often difficult to determine what to teach about. I try to do everything in a way that glorifies God and edifies those who hear me, and more often than not I count on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to have something “hit” me when I am reading through the parashah.

What hit me today was how Abraham was not only willing to do as God told him but that he did it…immediately.

When God told Abraham to leave everything he knew, where he was comfortable, where his family and friends were, and go somewhere that God will show him when he gets there, he goes. Just like that; packs up everything and leaves. He doesn’t even know where he is going, but he goes, all the same (Gen. 12:1.)

When God tells him after he has set up camp coming out of Egypt, to go walk the length and breadth of the land, he goes (Gen. 13:17.)

When God tells him he will be a father of many nations, he believes him, which is counted to Abraham as righteousness (Gen. 15:6.)

I know that isn’t really doing anything, but it is such an important foundational aspect of salvation, I had to make sure I added it.

When God tells Abraham to circumcise every male as the sign of the covenant God has made with him, that very same day he circumcises himself, Isaac, and all the males in his household (Gen. 17:26.)

Abraham is the ultimate example of faithfully obeying God. Moses asked not to go to Egypt, then hesitated on the way; Gideon threw the fleece before the Lord (twice!) to test him; Jonah ran in the opposite direction; and even the great prophet, Isaiah, asked God to kill him because he felt wasn’t making a difference (he was wrong, of course.)

So many of the great Bible heroes showed some form of hesitation when called by God, but Abraham never hesitated for a second. Whatever he was told to do, he did ASAP.

How many of us can claim to have faith that strong?  Of course, to be fair, how many of us have heard God calling us to do something? I haven’t had a divine revelation to teach, but it came about slowly as I grew more and more in the Lord. Yet, I have had a calling on me, twice, when I was asked to be a member of the Council at the places where I have worshiped. And you know what I did? I hesitated. I asked if they were sure, not because I felt unable to do the job, but because I didn’t really want to. I knew it would involve me putting in extra time and energy and would carry great responsibility.  It was a calling that I didn’t answer immediately. Eventually, I did accept and what I thought would happen did; when in Philadelphia, I ended up taking on the job of the Rabbi when our Rabbi left to have his own ministry, and here in Florida I ended up holding three of the four executive positions on the Council and also teaching every other week.

This isn’t about me, though, it is supposed to be about you. I shared my own experience with you so you can see that I am no Abraham. But what about you? Have you been called by God to serve in some way? Did you answer right away or hesitate? Did you make excuses or immediately “pack up and leave”, as Abraham did?

Do you even think you have a calling from God? I ask God to not only show me what he wants from me but strengthen me to do it because I know whatever God wants me to do, it will be outside my comfort zone and will entail work that will get in the way of what I want to do.

But that is how it has to be. Staying inside our comfort zone is the same as never going anywhere; to be comfortable all the time is to be stagnant. To serve God we have to be more than willing to do something, we have to actually DO IT!!

I am going to conclude today’s lesson from this week’s parashah with this: when you hear the calling from God, don’t think about it, just do it.  I know, really, how easy that sounds and how hard it is to do, so you need to prepare yourself. The best way to do that is just read the Bible every day to see how, throughout history, God has taken care of those that obey his calling. Trust in God and demonstrate that trust through faithful obedience (I just posted about obedience yesterday) and no matter what God asks of you when you obey his calling you will be blessed beyond your understanding.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you like what you are hearing. Also, share me out and visit my website to check out other articles and videos. I always welcome comments and would love to hear what you think of this ministry.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

What is Obedience?

What is obedience?

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According to the Webster dictionary, it is willing to do as one is told; when I looked it up on the Internet, it says obedience is compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.

The Bible tells us to be obedient to the commands, laws, and regulations that God has given to us in the Torah. The question of whether or not Yeshua (Jesus) made those laws obsolete is not part of this discussion, but we are basing this entire message on the idea that the Torah was not done away with, as many Christian religions have taught.

The real problem with obedience to God is that the Bible tells us to be obedient, if for no other reason than to receive blessings (Deut. 28), but then it also tells us that we are all sinners from birth. You can find this in Ecclesiastes 7:20 or Romans 3:10 or Psalm 143:2 or Jeremiah 32:30, just to name a few places, so we are told to be obedient but the Bible tells us we can’t be obedient. At least, not all the time.

Do you remember the drash Yeshua told in Matthew 21:28-32 about the father and his two sons? The father asks his two sons to help in the field, one says he will do it but never does, the other says he won’t, but later changes his mind and goes out to help. Yeshua asked which son was obedient and they answered the one who actually went out to help. The point is that it doesn’t matter what we say, what matters is what we actually do. Even if we initially decide not to obey God, when we do it is considered to be obedience. And those who say they will obey, even if they want to when they say it, if they don’t actually obey then they are disobedient.

But, I gotta go back to the Bible telling us we are all sinners, which is the same as saying disobedient. So if I want to be obedient, but I cannot be obedient, then what’s the use of trying?

My take on this is that we have to be a little bit of both: willing to be obedient and being obedient as best as we can. No one will ever be sinless, no one will ever be perfect, and no one will ever not sin. That is, by definition, being disobedient, yet there are so many sinners throughout the Bible who were considered righteous! Abraham pimped out his wife… twice! Jacob disrespected his father when he lied to him. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law. Moses was a murderer. Samson had serious anger management issues. Need I go on?

I believe that true obedience begins with the desire to obey. Shaul (Paul) wrote about being “under the law”, which meant obeying as the means to gain righteousness and, thereby, salvation. The desire to obey had nothing to do with this form of obedience- it is what we would call “going through the motions.” The Prophets tell us, continually, that God sees the heart and cares not for the blood of bulls and sheep but that he desires our obedience. I believe this means that God doesn’t want us to just go through the motions but expects us to want to obey, and whether we do so perfectly or only partially if our heart is in the right place then we are considered to be obedient.  We can say faith is more than just believing that Yeshua is the Messiah, it also incorporates a heartfelt desire to obey God. And, as James says, when we have faith we will have works that demonstrate that faith.

My belief (and you may disagree) is that the kind of obedience God expects from us is, first and foremost, a willingness and desire to do as he says. Then we must do as he instructs us which, because of our innate iniquity, means we will never be able to do so perfectly. This is where God’s compassion and understanding come into the mix. Just as loving parents know their children will do wrong, even when they want to do right, God understands our weaknesses and incompetence. He accepts us when we want to do what he has told us we should, and do so to the best of our individual ability. Of course, we must also feel true remorse when we fail to obey and have a humble, contrite spirit when we come to God to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Time out for a moment…let me ask you: Do you ever apologize to God? I do. I don’t just come to ask for forgiveness, but because I really feel bad when I screw up I also apologize to God for not doing what he wants me to do.  After all, if I apologize to people to show respect for their feelings doesn’t God deserve at least that much?

Let’s finish up today’s message with the answer I would give to the original question “What is obedience?”, and that answer is: obedience is first and foremost the willingness to do what one is told and secondly, actually doing what one is told as best as one is able.

My friends, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less, so go forth with both the willingness to obey God and demonstrating how genuine that willingness is by actually doing what he says, as best as you can. That is the kind of obedience that, I believe, God will honor.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share me out, buy my books, and make comments so I know if what I am doing is actually helping anyone to better know God and what he expects of us.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Too Lazy to be Saved

Have you wondered why people who have intelligence and profess to believe in God still hold to the wrongful teachings that their religion has given them? Even when they admit they don’t really think their religion is all that great?

Why do these intelligent people continue to reject the simple, and easy to understand, Word of God for the difficult and obtuse traditions their religion teaches? Why?

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If you ask me (and since this is my ministry, even if you don’t ask I am going to tell you), the reason is that they are too lazy to change. Even though what they know is more difficult to practice than what God says to do, they are comfortable with it because they have done it all their life. They don’t want to relearn, they don’t want to develop new habits while dropping old, bad ones, and they fall back on the old, lame excuse that God is a forgiving God and will accept them.

Oh, yes – God is a forgiving God, but he is also a Judge who is fair and will obey the rules he has set up. He may be merciful, but mercy (I have written about this before) is not absolution. Mercy is not just simply forgetting about it, it is not allowing sin to proliferate, and it is not going to get you off the hook. The mercy that God gives is that when he punishes the unrepentant sinner, his mercy will make the punishment less than the sinner really deserves.

But punish, he will!

Now, forgiveness is not mercy. Forgiveness comes when we ask for it with a truly repentant heart, and we ask for forgiveness by means of the blood that Yeshua gave on our behalf. Forgiveness cleanses us of the sin we committed when we ask for it correctly, and mercy is receiving less of the punishment we deserve when we have to be punished.

This is a simple truth that those who are too lazy to want to change will learn when they face the Lord at the final judgment. The sad thing is at that time, it will be too late to stop being too lazy.

If you know someone who is like Herod was, a man who listened to Yochanan the Immerser and felt convicted by him but was too lazy to take action on what he heard because he was too immersed in his own comfort zone, tell that person that they are lazy. Smile when you do it, and do not judge them as being unfaithful or sinful, just tell them they seem to be too lazy to want to change what they have learned, even though in their heart they know that what they have learned is wrong.

You most likely will not change them; in truth, no one can change anyone else, the one that needs to change has to be the one who wants to change. It’s like the old joke:

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

Maybe we all should take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves what is it that we feel led to change but haven’t because it is too hard or too uncomfortable? If you even think there is something that fits that description, ask yourself if it is serious enough to keep you from your salvation?

If you are already “saved”, are you really doing what a “saved” person should be doing? Are you acting saved? Are you still holding onto something that is of the world, which is always going to be against God, but that you just can’t let go of?

These are tough questions to answer. I confess that there are still things that I am too lazy or too comfortable with to change, even though I want to. It is all up to me to get it together and develop the self-discipline to make that change. Fortunately, these are relatively minor things that I do not believe will affect my salvation, and I do come before God every day and ask forgiveness for my weaknesses. And I am sharing this with you because I am not any better than you are, probably a little worse.

James tells us in his letter to the Messianic Jews in the Diaspora that teachers, of which I am one, are held up to scrutiny by God much more than those who do not teach, so I have to become better than I am.

And on that thought, let me end today’s message with what I think this is the best prayer anyone can pray:

“Dear Lord, help me to be just a little bit better in your eyes tomorrow than I am today.”

Amen.

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe, share out this message and please consider buying my books if you like what you receive from this ministry. I haven’t sold many, but I can honestly say those who have read them tell me they liked what they read.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!