Believing Isn’t Accepting

Do you recall where, in the Bible, we are told that just believing in Yeshua as the Messiah and Son of God isn’t enough? It is followed by the fact that even the demons believe He is the Son of God (I’ll give you a hint- look for it in the Book of Yakov.)

When I talk to people about salvation, even though I call myself a “Believer”, what I really should start to do is call myself an “Acceptor” because I don’t just believe that God exists, and I just don’t believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah God promised us, but I accept this. That means I adopt it, I embrace it, I am committed to living my life differently because of it.

When I accepted that Yeshua is the Messiah, I realized that my life would have to change. When you stop denying your car needs to go to the shop, when you know that you’re overweight and a glucose count of 3,000 is something you cannot live with…whenever you have a “truth” you don’t want to acknowledge, but have to, that is what it is like when you accept the truth (if you will) about Yeshua.

It’s something that, once accepted, can no longer be ignored. You have to make a choice- be a slave to sin or a slave to God.

I think that’s why so many people will believe, but not accept. They live in a sort of partial acceptance and partial denial: they believe Yeshua is the Messiah and Son of God, and that God is real, but they deny to themselves that there are consequences for ignoring God’s rules and laws. They go with, “I believe in Jesus- He died for my sins. And besides that, I’m a good person; I don’t commit murder and I don’t steal, so I will go to heaven.”

WRONG!!! No one is good, everyone sins, and there are 613 commandments in the Old Covenant: take away the 1/3 (thereabouts) of them that deal with the sacrificial system and you still have a lot more commandments, rules and regulations than just not murdering or lying. According to God, and to Yeshua, and to Shaul (St. Paul), if you have violated so much as one stroke of the pen of the Torah you have violated the entire Torah.

God is bi-nomial: it is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, day or night…there is no “middle ground” with God. If there was, we probably wouldn’t need Yeshua.

The truth is we are all sinners, inside and out, and without Yeshua/ Jesus/ the Messiah we wouldn’t have a chance of surviving the second death. That is what people hear, many believe it but so many still don’t accept it as really real.

When you feel a cold coming on, don’t you tell yourself it’s just a sore throat from talking and that you will feel better tomorrow?  We know it’s a cold, but we tell ourselves it isn’t. And we keep saying that until we are sick as a dog and now have to face the truth. And by the time we accept the truth, it is too late to avoid the consequences.  When I am coughing, nose running and throat sore for two days, it is too late to take the Cold Eeze to avoid the sickness. Now I will have to suffer through instead of either having it much easier or maybe having been able to avoid it, altogether.

If you believe Yeshua is the Son of God and the Messiah God promised, well, big deal. That won’t do it. You need to accept His Messiahship, you need to change how you see sin, you need to do T’Shuvah (turning from sin) and you need to do it now. Who knows when it will be too late?

I used to sell Revocable Living Trusts, which protect an estate from most of the expenses of Probate, and when people would tell me they believe it is a good idea, but they aren’t ready to accept it (i.e., commit to getting it done) just yet, I would say, “That’s right- why spend the money until you absolutely need to? So, since this takes about 3 months to complete (as I pull out my calendar) tell me when you are going to die and I will make an appointment three months before then.”

Unless you know, absolutely, when you are going to die, you need to accept Yeshua now! Don’t just “believe”- that’s not enough. You need to accept, to commit, to do T’Shuvah.

When I was an active duty Marine, I learned that “close” only counts in two games: horseshoes and handgrenades. Believing is close, but won’t get you there. Only accepting will save you.

WWJD? Probably Not What You Are Doing.

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

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

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

*  Do you read the Torah parashah every Saturday?

*  Do you pray morning, afternoon and evening?

*  Do you pray to Saints?

*  Do you kneel to a wooden cross?

*  Do you celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Needs Godly People

What do you think would have happened if Joseph was not a Godly person? Who would have interpreted the dream Pharaoh had?

And if Daniel wasn’t a real man of God? Would good old’ Nebbie-what’s-his-name ever have found out about the different kingdoms that would follow his? Or his dementia episode? Or would we have been able to trace exactly the time Messiah would appear?

And Gideon? And Elijah? And all the other Prophets and men of God that shaped the world, from Abraham to Yeshua, to maybe even Billy Graham, or Martin Luther King, or someone not even born yet that will help to spread God’s word?

God is able to do everything, and there is nothing that He can’t do, and He doesn’t need any help in any way to accomplish His goals. But… He does restrict Himself, more often than not, to using people to get His message across. And in that way, He does need help. He needs people that are godly and worshipful, people who allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to rule in their lives because they know how to hear it and that have the courage and faithfulness to do what it says. These people are almost as much a saviour as Yeshua, Himself, in that they move us in the direction God wants us to go.

Since we are talking about human beings here, the general rule is that the prophets and godly people are not popular when they are doing their “thing”, but only in retrospect can we see how wonderful and useful were the things that they told us. As a rule, humans don’t like being told what to do, and when a true prophet of God is talking to us it is almost always to get us back on track. I don’t recall God using a prophet to go to the leaders and the peoples and say something like, “Hey, just wanted to let you know you’re doing great! Good work, keep it up!”

Don’t expect that to happen any time. In fact, Yeshua tells a parable about a slave working in the fields all day, and when he and his master come in to supper, the slave prepares everything and serves the master first because that is what he is supposed to do. No special thank you or reward was given, and no special thank you or reward is to be expected: the message is that when you do what you are supposed to do you don’t get special treatment.  If only we could get that idea into the heads of people in the corporate world, who think that just showing up on time rates them a raise. We expect too much for just doing what we are supposed to do, which indicates the lazy and self-centered attitude of humans. We want to be praised for just barely doing our job. Well, that’s a topic in and of itself…maybe down the road. Back to today’s message.

How many people believed Noah before it was too late? And how many people thought Ezekiel a total nut-case: laying on only one side of his body for over a year, and eating food cooked on a fire fueled with dung? Vas eine Meshuggah!!

Let’s not forget about Isaiah, walking around with his butt exposed (given the way the youth wear their pants today, maybe there is a message we are all missing?)

But these people did what the Ruach, what God, told them to do, and we don’t know how many people they helped reconcile to God.

God needs godly people. These are the ones He chooses to do His work on the Earth, the ones who are truly listening to Him. Their lives usually are very hard and they don’t get a lot of credit; in fact, the publicity they get is usually bad. But their reward in heaven must be great!

Oh, yes- God can use ungodly people, as well. He used Pharaoh to show His greatness, He used Nebbie-can’t spell-it-right to show His rule and authority, He used Xerces and other kings to demonstrate how He protects His people, and all through these attempts to destroy the Jewish people- Hanukkah, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust- through all these, right up to today with the constant terrorist attacks against the Land,  God still keeps His people alive and kicking. And overcoming!!

I’ll bet if you really look, today you will find godly people doing things for God. For instance, organizations that help Jewish people migrate to Israel (it’s called making “aliyah”; literally, “going up”) and people risking their lives to deliver tzedakah (charity) to poor Jewish people in the FSU, Poland and Ethiopia (where Jewish persecution is still a very real threat) to buy food and necessities for themselves.

You don’t need to be an Elijah, or a David, or a Deborah…you just need to do what God puts on your heart to do. When he told Moshe to ask the people for gifts and contributions to the Tabernacle they had to build in the desert, the request (not a command) was that only people willing to give should give, and only what they wanted to give from their heart. This wasn’t a command, like the 1/2 shekel tithe for their lives, or the temple tax, but it was open-ended. People should give what they want to give. And do you remember what happened? Moses had to tell them to stop! He said to them that they had more than was needed! The people knew how to listen, how to obey, and they did so cheerfully. What a shame that attitude didn’t last. 🙁

If you really want to help God, be a godly person. Teach yourself to hear with your heart, be courageous enough to do what you know God wants of you. You probably won’t need to build an arc, or fight a giant, or interpret the President’s dreams, but whatever God asks of you, when you do it you are helping the Lord, God, Almighty. Imagine! God needs your help; how cool is that?

So, help God out, OK? Be a pal, be a chum, be a servant of the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great to go to bed at the end of the day saying to yourself, “Today, I helped God.”

Pleasant dreams.

Parashah Vayeshev (and he dwelt) ) Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

It seems that every parasha I read has more than I could ever write or speak about in less than a tome.

On Fridays I always go through the readings: first I read, then I glance through, and finally (if I still need to) I scan. I read comments in my Chumash and wait for the Ruach to reveal something to me. Today what I feel I want to talk about is not a specific part of this reading, but a generic lesson we can learn from the story of Joseph’s life:

When you always do what is right, and do them wisely, things will turn out right for you.

Joseph showed a divine wisdom when he was older, but as a child I think we can question his common sense because he went to his brothers and told them his dreams, dreams in which he announces they will all be subjugated to him. He even tells his father, Jacob, that he will bow down to his own son. Jacob chides him for even thinking such a disrespectful thought. We can also wonder if he was a dutiful son or a tattle-tale; we are told he gave a bad report about his brothers, so if he did that once can’t we assume it wasn’t a singular event?

I think he was a bit of a spoiled brat, myself. Why? Well, let’s look at his father and grandfather- Jacob was a Momma’s boy, as was his father, Isaac, before him. Isaac was the favorite of his father and Jacob was the favorite of his mother, Isaac lied about his marriage (“my wife is my sister”), Jacob lied about himself (“I am your son, Esau”- right!), so why not think that Joseph, noted in the Bible as Jacob’s favorite (coat of many colors and all) would follow in the footsteps, if you will, of his ancestors?

I am not being disrespectful here, at least, that is not my intent. The Bible is not a fairy tale book where the hero’s are perfect in every way. Joseph did what was right in reporting on his brothers if they did, indeed, screw-up royally. However, it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, and the telling of his dreams was just plain stupid. I mean, really- “Hey guys, I know you hate my guts, but I had a dream and one day you will all bow down before me. Ain’t that cool?”  Sheesh- where were his brains?

So, Joseph is setting himself up for a fall and it comes when he is all alone in the desert with those that hate him. Reuben plans to rescue him later, Judah also helps to keep him alive (remember what Shimon and Levi did, so there was a real threat to Joseph’s life) but God intervenes and takes Joseph away from his brothers and sets him on the path to salvation. Not his own salvation but the salvation of God’s Chosen people, even though there were only about 70 or so of them. At that time, though, that was all of them and they were a nation not yet a nation.

Doing the right thing the right way was the lesson Joseph learned, and it started with his life of slavery, lasting throughout the rest of his days. Evidently he learned from the way his brothers treated him that being right isn’t always the end-all of it. I had been told once, and this is one of the most valuable lessons I was ever given (which I am still trying to learn to use), that what I said was almost always the right thing, but I just never said it the right way. Essentially, I may have been right in what I said about things but because I didn’t use wisdom in how I said it the point was lost in the emotional “stir” I created by the way I said it.  Joseph seems to have learned this lesson. It is shown in how he gained the trust of Potiphar, how he addressed the Baker and Cup Bearer, and in how he talked to Pharaoh. I like how Joseph suggested to Pharaoh that Pharaoh should find someone with wisdom to run the collection of food, while here he is, telling Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams that no one else can interpret. That’s like saying I am obviously the only one here who can handle this, and you should find someone who is capable of doing what I am doing to run this program I am designing.

And it worked. His wisdom in telling Pharaoh about the dreams, the solution to the problem, and how Pharaoh should approach it pretty much assured that he would be appointed.

Finally, Joseph did the most proper and forgiving thing, demonstrating his fullness of faith, spirit, and compassion, in that he forgave his brothers because he understood that God runs the show, and that what they did for evil God turned to good because He can! Joseph learned that doing the right thing, the right way, and always accepting that God is behind everything, led him from slavery to the second highest position of power and authority in the known world at that time. Yet he remained humble, respectful and compassionate.

They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, if and when that power is based on human activities. When we think we are the source of our power, it will corrupt us. Joseph teaches us that power does not have to corrupt when we realize the source of that power is God, that God put us where we are, God is really the powerful one (we are nothing more than a conduit: empty inside, so that His power can flow through us) and God is in charge. He can take that power away in a heartbeat (remember Nebuchadnezzar? He went from the most powerful ruler in the world to eating grass like a donkey.)

Do what God tells us is right, always. Ask God to guide you with His Ruach; do what you know He wants you to do, in a Godly way, and even if you are in slavery (whatever kind of “slavery” that may be) you will accomplish great things for God. Who knows who we can save, who we can influence, or who we can lead to salvation simply by obeying God and always doing (well, always trying to do) what is right in His eyes?

Remember to Forget

Have you heard the one where two guys are talking about their ex-wives. The first one says, “My Ex isn’t too bad to me. She is still mad at me but she is getting over it.” The other guys says, “My Ex is the kind to forgive and forget- only she never lets me forget what she forgave!”

God forgives and forgets, and He tells us we should forgive, also. In fact, it is a commandment. Check out Mattitayu 6. After Yeshua gives us a template for prayer, He warns us that we are to forgive otherwise we won’t be forgiven.

Do as you would have others do means not just be a nice guy, but treat and consider the other people in your life, all the other people, as you would want them to do to you. That means don’t remember their sins that you have “forgiven” and move on with your life. And I am not talking about reminding them of what you’ve forgiven, as in the story above; what I am saying is that we all must really forget. We have to put it totally out of our mind.

I think God gave us scabs over our wounds to help us remember to forget. Ever peel off a scab too soon? It hurts, and then the wound starts to bleed, all over again. It’s the same way with sin and forgiveness- the sin hurts, we forgive (which forms a scab over the painful part) but if we keep picking at the scab, eventually it starts to bleed again and we have to try to heal all over. And if the wound is deep enough, and we keep working at it, we can not only take much longer to heal (if we ever do) but we may end up scaring ourselves in the process.

Sounds really stupid when you sit back and think about it, doesn’t it?

Forgiveness takes work; it doesn’t come naturally or easily. It requires humility, strength, and compassion. It is the Godly thing to do. Don’t you recall the old saying: To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine? Methinks there’s a lot more truth in that old Saw then we realize. God forgives our sins when we ask for forgiveness, Yeshua took on our sins to provide forgiveness that is now an everlasting forgiveness, and after all they did for us, the Father and Son simply ask that we do what they did, also.

There’s the parable about the man who owed a fortune and was forgiven the fortune, but then he didn’t forgive a measly sum he was owed. Do you remember what happened to him?

Leave the scab alone. Make an effort to forgive. I say this not because I am better at it than you are, but because I am no better at it! I still have some level of anger about things that happened to me from many, many years ago. The people who sinned against me are probably dead now, and when I think about what their final fate may be, it does make it easier to forgive them for what they did to me because what they will be going through for eternity is so much less than what they did to me, and so much worse than anything imaginable. How can I still have any animosity against them? I can only feel pity for them. Even if it is a deserved torture, it is torture and I don’t think anyone who professes to love God and follow Yeshua can see another living creature suffer and not feel compassion for it.

I don’t believe I can have the Ruach HaKodesh inside me but not feel pity and remorse at knowing about the suffering of another. It just doesn’t seem possible. I know that we will always have the poor, and that suffering is natural in a cursed world. I also probably won’t do a whole lot about most of it. But I still should feel that remorse and pity, otherwise I need to ask myself if I really have accepted Yeshua, if I really have the Ruach HaKodesh inside me, and if I really have done T’Shuvah.

In the criminal justice system, to prove a person is guilty of a crime you need three things: a motive, a means (to commit the crime), and the opportunity.

Salvation is our motive, Yeshua is the means by which we can receive salvation, and God will constantly provide us the opportunity to show we have done T’Shuvah. We live in a sinful and corrupted world, so there will always be someone more than willing to sin against us. There’s the opportunity for you- that’s where you can do what is Godly and right, that’s where you can please the Lord, and that’s where you can show your holiness by forgiving. That’s where you can obey the commandment.

All we need to remember is to forget.

Why they hate us

Why does who hate us? There is so much hatred in the world, who are you talking about, Steve?

I am talking about the Jewish people, and anyone else who believes in God and is faithful. The world is the one hating, and Jews and Believers are the ones it hates.

Why? The explanation is simple: They are shooting the messenger.

The Jewish people were chosen by God to be His representatives to the world; a nation of Priests. They were the first custodians of God’s Word, and through the Jewish people we receive the Messiah. Through the Messiah we receive forgiveness of sins and salvation. The “Christian” (usually interpreted as Born Again) people are in a similar role because they also bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the world (note I say similar- they did not, do not, and never will replace the Jewish people as God’s chosen people. Replacement Theology is a lie from the pit of hell.)

The problem is that the world doesn’t want to hear about it. The world is cursed, self-absorbed and hedonistic. It is wretched and perverse. The world prefers sin to salvation.

When we talk about our beliefs and demonstrate our faithfulness, to the world it is like poking them in the eye with a sharp stick. It brings to their attention, and to their dismay, the truth about who and what they are. It reminds them of the eventual payment they will have to make at the final judgement.

To restate what a nice Jewish boy from Tarsus once said: to those who do not believe, we who do believe have the smell of death upon us. It is not the smell of our death, it is the smell of their death!

That’s why the Jewish people are hated and persecuted. That is why Believers, whether Messianic Jews, Christian, Catholic, Episcopalian, Protestant, whatever, who are not ashamed of the Gospel, who try to save the souls of the unfortunate non-Believers, are hated, despised, persecuted and ostracized. No one wants to hear the truth when it comes to them having to suffer eternal damnation. I really can’t blame them for that- who wants to hear that your life choices will lead you to eternal suffering in hell’s fire and you will be tormented forever?

So, nu? What do they do? Do they change for the better? Do they worship the God of their Fathers and do T’Shuvah, so they can be saved? Nooooooo!!!  They kill the messenger. They exercise Ostrich Management by sticking their head in the sand and pretending that the truth doesn’t exist.

{By the way, since Donna and I have been Zoo Docents for over 15 years, I have to tell you that ostriches don’t really stick their head in the sand when they are threatened.}

It’s probably not a big surprise to anyone that the world hates those who love God, especially if you have tried to save someone from their fate. It is almost so obvious that it doesn’t need to be mentioned, yet I mention it because, all too often, those things that are right in front of our face are the ones we get so used to seeing we fail to notice them anymore.

If you are reading this and you are not one of the “messengers” I am talking about, please consider the message. You can ignore the truth about God and the Messiah all you want, but it doesn’t change what the truth is. You will never get scientific, definitive proof that God exists. This is how faith works- you become faithful, then you receive confirmation.

Actually, confirmation is all around you- the trees, the wonderful beauty of a sunset, the fact that you can eat something and get nutrition from it, the respiratory system, the wondrous mysteries of the Universe, reproduction of living things, the tremendous diversity of life… everything around and about you demonstrates God exists. The lie that the Enemy has been very successful at spreading is that just because we can explain how something works means it is just science, and not God.

I can explain how an internal combustion engine works, but I don’t know how to create it. I can’t think it into existence, and just because I can fix a broken one doesn’t mean I can make one from nothing.

There is a cute story I heard once: the leading geneticists of the world came together and decided that since they could map out the human genome, and knew about recombinant DNA, they figured they could cure any disease and form humans as they wanted to. They told God they didn’t really need Him anymore. God replied, asking if they thought they could create a human being using just a handful of clay. They thought it over and answered that they could, so God say, “Go ahead- show me!” They picked up a handful of clay and God said, “Oh no! That clay is mine- you have to make your own.”

The truth is all around us. The oldest truth is that God chose the Jewish people to be His messengers. The truth is that they will never be replaced as such, and will eventually accept their own Messiah, Yeshua. Not all, but those who do will be part of the remnant that has always been faithful. Of the billions of people that have been born, have died, and those that haven’t even yet been conceived, only a remnant, a small percentage, have or will accept the truth about God. And even from them, only a remnant will survive faithfully to receive the ultimate prize- eternity with God. It isn’t joyful news, it isn’t comfortable, it isn’t all rosy-wonderful-Pollyanna-happy news. Yeshua never said that following Him would be fun. In fact, He said we would need to pick up our execution stake to follow Him. That’s not a very pretty picture, and if I were a hedonistic, self-absorbed person who was enjoying the fruits of my sin, I would not find that a desirable alternative.

In fact, it sucks. Those who believe and are faithful will endure a lifetime on Earth of being persecuted, ostracized, hated, and many of us will lose our lives because of our belief in God. Those we try to save will kill us. When all is said and done, the world works this way: if you don’t like the message, kill the messenger.

Then, again, what can the world do to us? If we save a life, we will both be blessed, and if we lose our life doing so, we will be with God.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

One for the Road?

Some mornings I am just blank. Nothing has happened in the past day or so to give me an inspiration, nothing in my prayers comes up that I feel is a message worth sharing, and worse than all that: this morning the comics section (with the crossword) was missing and I have to wait an hour before I can even call them and complain.

When these “brain-fart” days occur, I go into my “God Stuff” folder and look for things that I have done over the years to see if I can find a message in there God wants me to share. Please don’t think I mean God talks to me all the time, but I do believe He is guiding me when I write, and I usually find something in there I sense I should share. That’s how it is this morning.

I reviewed one of the chapters in my book (my blog’s Home page has links to the book- it’s not expensive and comes in digital form) and want to share something I believe is timely, and also a little controversial (Lord forbid I shouldn’t stir up the hornets nest now and then.)  🙂

With the holiday season full upon us, turkey still be used for leftovers and Christmas light season officially started,  one of the things that happens so much during this season is…no, I am not going to say good will abounds and people start to act like they should (although sometimes we see that)…people drink alcohol more than they usually do.

Here is an excerpt from my book, from the chapter about drinking:

Before we even get started I need you to know that I agree with anyone who says that drunkenness is a sin, and the Manual tells us this is so. It represents laziness, lack of self-control (two Fruits of the Spirit already missing), and under the influence we all do the wrong things. We act foolishly, we sometimes become mean and cruel to others, we sometimes act in sexually inappropriate ways, and many other activities that are a sin against God and others.

   It’s also just as important to remember that a sin against someone else is always and foremost a sin against God. David knew this when he wrote Psalm 51. In it he said (to God) that it was against Him that he sinned, Him and no one else. He wasn’t ignoring what he did to Uriah and Bathsheba. He was emphasizing the importance of knowing that sinning is always against God, no matter who it is directed at. Yeshua confirms this when He tells us that what we do to the least of His brothers we do to Him.

   There are some Christian sects that will not allow drinking at all. This is not a biblical commandment; at least I have not found anywhere in the Manual where it tells us to drink intoxicating liquids is a sin. It does tell us in more than one place about the sinfulness of drinking to excess; however, I haven’t found any commandment against having a martini.

As you can see, I do not believe that drinking, in and of itself, is a sin. I also did not find anything in the Bible that says drinking is a sin. There are, however, more than one or two places where we see drinking to excess is a sin. So where is the line drawn?

I don’t want to give away everything, or you won’t ever buy the book, but I will say this: in my opinion it comes down to your intentions when you take the first drink, and your self-control with regards to the next one.

In AA they say one drink is too many, and two drinks aren’t enough (or something to that effect), which is a strict mantra for people who have a serious problem with stopping when they start. I have not had any problems stopping, although I have (more than once) drank enough to get myself in trouble.  Not legal issues, or anything substantial, but socially damaging.

I don’t believe drinking is a sin. After all, if it was sinful to drink alcohol, why did Yeshua turn water into wine? Oh, yes, there are those that argue the “wine” was grape juice and there are those that can interpret the original Greek and say sometimes “wine” is a fermented drink and other time “wine” can be interpreted as a juice drink without fermentation. I do not doubt they are correct, as they are scholars, they can speak Greek and Hebrew, and they are trying to interpret in a way that glorifies God.

I don’t think it really matters, because my belief is that what we do when we sin is the lesser part of that sin because to God it is our intentions that matter.  I justify this belief by pointing to the Beatitudes (Matityahu 5), where Yeshua told us that what we do or don’t do isn’t all there is to it; it is also what we think and feel that matters. We should not commit adultery but if we lust, we have; we should not commit murder but if we hate in our heart, we have. These are clear statements that God is looking at our intentions, at our heart, to see the origin of the sin we commit. I don’t think anyone will argue that the Bible is rife with references to how God doesn’t see us as we see each other, but that He “sees the heart” and knows what we are thinking and feeling.

Therefore, it isn’t having a drink that is a sin, but what you want to happen when you take that drink. If you drink with control and responsibility, you are not committing any sin against God. If you drink with the intention of getting so totally wasted that you won’t be able to lie on the floor without help, you are sinning because a Believer that is that far out of control is not glorifying God in any way, whatsoever. If you want to have a social drink and it hits you before you know it, and you act a fool, your intentions were OK but you still sinned because of what you did. Not wanting to sin is good, but if you sin anyway, it’s still a sin. Remember that the sacrificial system includes a sacrifice for the sin we didn’t even know we committed. Clearly God doesn’t like sin, whether by volition or accident. A sin is a sin, period.

Intending to sin is a sin, even if you don’t end up doing the sin. King David asked God to create a clean heart in him, and renew a right spirit within him.  He also asked that God make the words of his mouth and the meditations of his heart acceptable at all times. Yeshua verified this as a proper attitude when He told us that it is what comes out of the mouth, which comes from the heart, that makes us clean or unclean.

Look to your heart and call upon the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide not just your actions, but your intentions. We need to fill ourselves with the Ruach, constantly becoming more like Yeshua and less like ourselves. When we are spirit led, we don’t lose who we are. I haven’t lost who I am- all that nastiness and sinful desire is still there. I have learned to repress it, and to get rid of some of it. All this through the Spirit. Not by me, but by us- God and me.

Letting God and the Ruach rule over your thoughts (and thereby, your actions) doesn’t mean you have to lose who you are; you’re still you, just a better you.

So, as the TV commercials say, drink responsibly. Actually, as Believers, let’s take it a step further- if you drink, do so with the proper intentions, and maintain the proper control. Don’t drink to get drunk, and when you start to hear the beehive in your head, put the glass down and grab a coffee. Use Godly discernment, don’t drink on an empty stomach, and for the love of God, make sure there is a designated driver. Enjoy this season, enjoy the company parties and the get-togethers. Be appropriate, be of good cheer, and have good intentions followed up with self-control. That way you will not only have a good time, but will be a good example to others.

The greatest joy we can feel doesn’t come from a holiday, or a sale, or a bottle- it comes from Yeshua ha Mashiach, it comes from the Ruach HaKodesh, and it comes from God.


Parashah Vayetze (He went out) Genesis 28:10-32:2

There is always, when we refer to the Word of God, just so much in here.

We could talk about God’s repetition of His covenant: first to Abraham, then to Yitzchak, and now this third time to Jacob. This was the last time (that I can recall) God repeated this covenant directly to anyone. Jacob is the last of the Patriarchs. In all our prayers that reference the Patriarchs it is always, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There must be something in that.

We also have a lesson about the need to live honest lives and receiving retribution, in that we reap what we sow. We see this in how Jacob fooled his father to gain the blessing, then Laban fooled Jacob to gain more of his servitude, then Rachel fooled Laban to get the family gods. There is a lot for us to learn about human nature and how God intervenes to use our nature to fulfill His plans.

The thing that struck me, and what I would like to talk about today, is Genesis 28:16. Right from the start of this Parashah I sensed a message in what Jacob said when he awoke from his dream about that place being a house of God, and he wasn’t aware of it.

The Soncino version of the Chumash has a footnote about this, which states popular belief is that the presence of God was restricted only to particular, or sacred, places. Many people still see the church, synagogue or some place of worship as a holy location, more sacred than the home, or some “normal” place.

We see this here, and we see it also when Naaman was cured of leprosy by Elisha (well, actually by God through Elisha) in 2 Kings. Naaman takes soil from the land to bring back to Aram so that he can worship the God of Israel. He assumes the dirt is especially holy, placing a geographical restriction to God’s abilities and presence. I think it is still a practice of people making a trip to Israel to bring back some of the dirt of the Land.

God is not restricted to geography. He is everywhere, all the time. I read once the Rabbi’s of old used to say that God could not “go down” to a place or “go up” from somewhere because He was already there.

I have known Conservative Jews who are Kosher in their homes, but at Denny’s will go for the bacon lover’s special. I know other people who say they worship God but ignore those laws they don’t want to follow, explaining that they are no longer valid for one reason or another.

Hypocrites! Liars! Faithless and foolish people.

Don’t get me wrong, in that I think I am an example of righteousness- oh no! I do not follow every commandment, either. I try to follow them, and there are some, I confess, I do not want to follow. I know this, and the difference between me confessing I sin voluntarily and those I am talking about above is that I acknowledge the laws are just and right and I am the one who is wrong and sinful. These people do not confess their weaknesses or their sin; what they do is attack God’s laws as old and no longer valid in today’s world, or unjust, or misogynistic, or unfair to certain types of people. Or worse!- they say Yeshua did away with “the Law.”

They do not say they are in the wrong for failing to obey God, but instead declare that God is in the wrong for asking them to do these things! Oy!! What a bunch of  meshuganahs!

Jacob demonstrated that age-old idea that God is not omniscient when he thought he was in a uniquely holy place after awaking from his dream. God is everywhere, all the time; He always has been and always will be. He is right here, within arm’s length. Just reach out to Him; His hand is always open and reaching out to you. You don’t need to go to a building to get close to God. You don’t need to travel to Ha Eretz (the Land) to be close to God. All you need to do is acknowledge Him, reach out to Him, and be willing to be led by Him, through the Ruach (spirit) we receive that indwells after we have acknowledged and received the Messiah He sent, Yeshua.

I do not like and have no patience for the hypocrites who blame God for their lack of faith. I say lack of faith because disobedience is a symptom of faithlessness, just as obedience is sign of faithfulness. Remember that Yeshua said if His Disciples loved Him then they would obey Him. After we sing the Sh’ma in services we repeat the Ve’ahavta, which tells us we should love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, all our soul and all our might. It is in Deuteronomy 6 and in Numbers, as well, Go find it and see for yourself.

God is everywhere, and if you profess to worship Him then when you fail to do what he says, please don’t be a hypocrite and blame Him for your failure. When we sin, we need to confess it. I believe, after worshiping God for nearly 19 years, and reading the Bible dozens of times, and training to be a Messianic Minister, that God would prefer an honest confession of my failure to obey any one of His commandments, then to hear me rationalize my failure by blaming His laws to be outdated or unfair.  King David said, in Psalm 51, that a contrite heart God will not turn away. A prideful and arrogant heart will not provide a pathway to forgiveness, and will separate us from the salvation that God has provided.

The Enemy convinced Eve (and through her, Adam) to sin by saying that God’s law was unfair. He taught them how to rationalize God’s commandment to fit their desires. Let this be a warning to you: if you are being taught any commandments are outdated or unfair,  you know one thing absolutely- you know who the teacher is. I wouldn’t stay in that class if I were you.

God is everywhere, His laws (ALL His laws) are just as valid today as they were when He gave them to Moshe, and they are valid for all our generations- none have ever been changed. Even the laws regarding sacrifice are still valid, which is the very reason we can’t perform them- they are supposed to be done at the Temple and the Temple is not there anymore.

Do not listen to those who teach that any of God’s laws are invalid or don’t apply, or were done away with when Yeshua was risen. That is from the depth of Sheol and those teachings will not bring you closer to God but will serve the Enemy of God. Read the Bible, accept His sovereignty and His rule, and listen to Him.

Yeshua said we are all slaves to something; either to God or to sin. Choose your Boss wisely.

why are you happy God loves you?

Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? I mean, really? Why shouldn’t I be happy that God loves me? What’s it matter why I am happy?

Maybe it doesn’t matter, in the long run. Maybe I am on a personal bent here, but I think it is important that we understand our reasons for choosing to accept God’s Grace and to follow Messiah Yeshua because if we don’t understand why we do something, when challenged we may not be strong enough to keep the faith that first saved us.

I know why I am happy God loves me, and why I am so grateful to both God and Yeshua for all they did to provide for me the only option I have to reconcile with Him forever. My reason is simple- He has saved my soul; beyond that, He has made my life on Earth better, my love for my wife, Donna, richer and deeper and more intimate than I could have done in my normally sinful and self-absorbed emotional state, and He has strengthened me constantly through the indwelling Ruach (Spirit) so that I may server Him better.

Although my joy and appreciation is for what He has done for me, it is also for what He has made possible for me to do for others. I can love more deeply, I can forgive more readily, I can be more patient and compassionate. All of these aren’t for my sake, but by me being so much better than I was I can show how God has changed me. I can relate to people that He has made me different and better, both to the world and to Him, but I am still myself. There is nothing to be afraid of, and all of this is designed to give glory to God.

That is why I am so happy God loves me- because through His love and salvation I can be an example to others of the wonder and glory of the Lord. I can be a mirror of Torah (although I really have a long way to go) and I can, through my witness and testimony, maybe save a soul from condemnation and eternal suffering.

One soul would be enough, many souls would be a blessing beyond what I could have ever hoped for. Of course, I can always count my own soul as one, since it was my choice to save it. I guess that means that every other soul I may help bring to salvation is a blessing, right?

What is really at the crux of my concern for you to understand your reasons why you are happy that God loves you is so that you will not falter when the challenge comes. When you are asked to take the mark, for we all will be asked, will you still understand why you shouldn’t? Even to the point of death? That’s what will happen. If you are happy that God loves you because it makes you feel good, because no one has really loved you like the Lord does, and the reasons all seem to be centered (you need to take a good look at yourself when you do this) on you and how you feel, your reasons are based in self-importance and are weak. And there is a good chance, if the joy of your salvation is only for what it has done for you and not what it has done for God and others, then you will be fooled into taking the mark.

Let’s get real, people: the Enemy isn’t going to walk up to you and say, “Hi, there! I’m Satan, the Evil One, and I want to separate you from God so that you will suffer eternal torture in Sheol. Sounds good, right? Just sign here….”

Not going to happen! He is sneaky, he is wily, he is so well versed in God’s word and ways that he will come up from behind, he will gently push you based on your selfish and sinful desires (which we all have and will always have while in this body) and before you know it, you will be kneeling before the wrong guy and thinking you are doing God’s will.

This is a hard word to hear: the fact that we (I include myself here) may be happy God loves us for selfish reasons and not because our salvation gives glory and honor to God. It is all about Him, and not at all about us. He made it possible, Yeshua suffered for us and we should be happy He did the job correctly, but at the same time we should feel small and useless remembering what Yeshua had to endure because of our weaknesses and selfishness.  As for me, the joy of my salvation is a bitter-sweet emotion: joy at what God and Yeshua accomplished for me, yet also sadness and remorse at what He had to suffer through to accomplish it.

When I was a child I was often called “Christ Killer” by some Gentile friends I had. Now that I am older, and I know the word of God, I am saved by Yeshua’s blood, and I have the Ruach HaKodesh living inside of me and guiding me, I know that what those children called me out of ignorance and bigotry is, in fact, true. I did kill Christ. I caused Him to suffer by taking on the flesh, and living a tortured existence as a sinless person in a sinful world, and having to undergo a painful and humiliating death. All just for me. All just for you.

If you feel a little “down” right now, a little sad, and you want to say, “C’mon, Steve- it’s early in the morning. I felt really happy and now you are making me feel unhappy reminding me that Yeshua had to undergo all that suffering. Lighten up, Man! Be happy!”, my (loving) response is, “Grow up!”  I am happy, but not so much that I will forget what Yeshua did for my sake and that my salvation is for His glory and good. If I don’t remember that even for a second, the Enemy can get a finger hold on my eternal soul. Our joy must be balanced with the constant understanding and feeling of sadness that Yeshua went through all this and it is by His actions we are saved, so our salvation is about Him, not about us.

Let your joy be centered on God and what Yeshua did for you, and let your joy also be tempered with the sadness of all He had to endure to secure your salvation. These two things keep you focused on God and not yourself, and when we are looking at God we can’t see anything else which will distract us from the goal.

Shaul (Paul) said to keep our eyes on the prize and to run the good race. You win a race by focusing on the finish line and not on the things around you. If you stay focused on God, if you let your joy be for Him and not for you, then the Enemy will not be able to turn you from the goal because when he tries to tempt you or deceive you, you will be looking at the finish line and you won’t see the goodies all around you with which he will try to win you over.

It’s all about God, it’s all for His glory, and while we can be happy we are saved so that we won’t be separated from God after the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), we need to be happy for unselfish reasons. We are here to serve God, and that service should be the real foundation of our joy.

Are you defragging your spiritual hard drive?

I am that guy you call when you don’t know why your computer isn’t doing what you expect it to do. One of my personal peeves is that people work with their computers all day, and it’s almost impossible to find a job, other than manual labor, that doesn’t require you to have a modicum of skills when operating a computer. Yet, all I hear all day long is, “I just don’t know anything about computers.”

You know to check the oil, water and tire pressure in your car, you know to oil the iron cooking pan, to change the filters in your air conditioning system (you should know these things, you know!), but people don’t know how to care for their computers! Think about it: you can take a bus to work if you don’t care for your car and if your pots and pans are rusty and filthy you can order food in, but if your computer isn’t working you can’t do your job. And what happens to people who don’t do their jobs? Do you think it’s important to know enough to (at least) maintain the computer in fairly good working order?

One of the things that is important to keeping the computer running well (not so much with Windows 7 and newer operating systems) is defragging the hard drive. All this is, essentially, is removing all the space between the bits of data (all zero’s and one’s) so that all the little bits line up neatly. This saves space and makes searching for the data faster.

So, nu? What’s any of this got to do with my spiritual life?

We hear so much stuff every day; there is so much information in the world, and so much of it is so easily absorbed through web sites, ebooks, radio, cable TV news that is 24/7. Yet, out of all this information, there is so very little of it which you can trust. We get all types of fertilizer coming into our brains, and to sort it all out is nearly impossible. We hear televangelists telling us to touch the screen so they can heal us, our own Rabbi’s, Pastors, Ministers and Priests telling us what we should believe because this is what our religion teaches us, and then we have the everyday people, telling us that these laws were for health reasons, those don’t count because the world is changed (although they forget that God doesn’t change), and the worst part is the Discovery Channel. Although Discovery, History and TLC are some of my favorite channels, I never watch anything they do regarding the Bible or religious history. That’s because they are TV, the air waves are controlled by the Enemy (he is called the Prince of the Air, remember?) and their point, always, is to make God seems like a fantasy, explaining away His wonderful works and interventions and making science the real cause for celebrity.

All of these bits and bytes of data going into our brains, every day. And we can’t really stop it, unless we wear blindfolds and stuff our ears with wax. That would give us some peace, but it makes getting anything done really, really hard to do.

That’s why we need to defrag our spiritual hard drive. We need to clean out and delete the stuff that is wasteful, not-edifying and confusing. Then, after a good clean up of the temp files and deleted items folder, we need to re-arrange the data that we want to keep. We do this by getting back to basics (hmmmm…nice title for a book- check out the one I wrote) and re-establishing our relationship with God by simply sitting, in a quiet place, turning off all the data-streaming drek in the area, and letting God come in and clean up our spiritual hard drive. Let the Ruach take over- you can pray, think of heaven, concentrate on your favorite scripture, meditate on His word (King David did that often) or (one of my favorites) create a list of all the things you are grateful to God for giving you. Start with your birth and work your way forward.

We need to keep it simple (the KISS Rule) when we worship. No fancy-schmancy prayers; get real, people- we don’t live in the 17th Century so don’t pray like you are reading from the Kings James Bible. How can you be pouring your heart out to the Lord when you need to concentrate on getting all the fancy words right? God sees the heart, He knows what we want and (thank God) He gives us what we need, so just let Him do what He does best. Let His shalom fill your soul.

Be careful, also, what you download. The best way to keep a computer running well is to “feed” it correctly- no viruses, no malware, be careful what you buy, and watch where you “surf.” Always have a good anti-virus running that keeps up to date. This translates, spiritually, into reading the Bible every day. The best antivirus, in this case ‘anti-Satan software’, is the Word of God.  Read it every day to keep your spiritual hard-drive clean. Be careful of what you download means when you are watching the TV specials or reading extra-Biblical books and magazines about where the Ark is, who Jesus really was, and all the other apparently useful shows to help us understand the truth about God and the Bible, be very cautious and wary. Never take what they say as valid or truthful, and check it out against the Bible. If there is archaeological proof, or at least evidence, of a biblical event, that is fine, but listen carefully. I have rarely gotten more than 10 minutes into one of these shows before I start to hear the message between the lines of script. That message is (almost) always that there is some physiological reason for the event, that science can explain it and their “experts” are almost always agnostic in their approach. The one or two “religious” people that will give glory to God are made to seem like fools. By the end of the show miracles and Glory to God are reduced to seismic events and explainable anomalies.

Science thinks that because it can explain something and understand how it happens that means God didn’t have anything to do with it. That’s something we have to overcome- the thinking that says if it can be explained it isn’t a miracle or a divine intervention. God created everything, including science. So why can’t He use what He created to intervene? How many cancer patients die after undergoing every known treatment type? Yet, others go into remission and the cancer never returns. They’re both humans, they’re both treated the same way, yet it works in one and not in the other. And no one can explain that, but no one sees the cure as a miracle. It’s science, it’s modern medicine, it’s explainable so it can’t be divine. Oy!

There is so much garbage, so many bits and bytes of data that we take in, without even knowing it is happening, and we need to defrag ourselves daily. Meditate, read the Word (best bet for success) and pray to God. Pray simply, pray honestly, and don’t try to be different than who you are when you pray. Just pray from your heart, do it without interruption, and get all those little zeros and ones in your spirit back in alignment.

Computers are binomial- it all boils down to a zero or a one. God is also binomial: it’s His way or the hell-way. Don’t let your spiritual hard drive become corrupted with the viruses and malware of the world; keep it defragged through prayer and keep it clean with a daily install and upgrade of God’s word. It’s the best anti-Satan software in the universe.