Yom Kippur Midrash

The Day of Atonement. The day when Jews all over the world congregate and corporately ask God for forgiveness. One of the holiest days of the Jewish year, if not the holiest.

And how many of the millions of Jews that are celebrating, solemnly, this holy day are doing so waiting for the Messiah who has already come for them, but whom they do not not know?

I celebrate this day with fasting and solemn introspection, reflection and requests for forgiveness for myself and all my people. That is what this day is really about- not forgiveness just for my sins, but forgiveness for our sins.

The prophets all asked forgiveness for the people, Moses stood before God and asked forgiveness for the people, Yeshua asked forgiveness for the ones that crucified Him. Those who are godly and worship God ask forgiveness not just for themselves, but for their people and for others. And more than that- they forgive them, too.

We are not commanded to ask for forgiveness, we are commanded to be forgiving. When we ask God to forgive our people of the sins that we read in the Ashamnu and Al Chet prayers, are we also forgiving them?

When you pray to God for forgiveness of your sins, are you also praying that you forgive the sins of those that have done evil to you? That’s right, I didn’t get it backwards: do you pray for God to help you forgive them?

I think that’s what we should do- pray for God to forgive us, and for Him to help us to forgive them, too. That’s the hard part, isn’t it? After all, even Jonah knew that God is not just willing to forgive, but that God desires to forgive: it is paramount in His heart to forgive the sinner. Maybe that’s why we read the book of Jonah on this day; it’s about forgiveness, and not just from God.  Jonah ran away from God’s calling and we know exactly why (Jonah 4:2.) He told God he knew God was compassionate and gracious, and that if Nineveh did repent God would forgive them. Jonah, on the other hand, was clearly not in a forgiving mood. Jonah did not want to pray for Nineveh, he wanted them destroyed. But, after some slight additional motivation, he followed God’s command to warn them.  And then, when God forgave them, Jonah was angry.

We need to be less like Jonah and more like God. We need, also, to pray to God for the strength, compassion and humility that will help us to be more forgiving of others. Humility, forgiveness, meekness and compassion all require great strength. A fool is easily angered, talks without thinking, and is more interested in his or her own opinion than listening to others (there’s a lot more about what a fool is like in Proverbs.)  Being loud, self-absorbed, discompassionate and unforgiving is easy for us. It is all part of our sin nature, our inherent iniquity.

The Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is the only thing that can help us to overcome the natural tendencies we have to be sinful and ungodly.

That brings us back to the earlier statement I made about so many Jews asking for forgiveness, waiting for the Messiah and not knowing or acknowledging that He already has come. It’s really sad: Jewish culture is founded on the belief of a Messiah to come and bring us back to God, to overcome our sins and reconcile us to the Holy One of Israel, and yet the historical teachings have been totally against the idea that Yeshua/Jesus is that Messiah. The Tanakh is full of references and descriptions, and Yeshua fulfilled them, yet He is still ignored and rejected by “mainstream” Judaism. Only the Messianic Jews, and many Christians who are seeking their Hebraic roots, really understand and know the true Messiah of Israel (and the world) and worship God as God said to do in the Torah. Which is exactly how Yeshua/Jesus said to worship God, as well.

Today is a day to ask forgiveness, so I ask God to forgive those of His people who have been taught, wrongfully, that Yeshua is not His Messiah. I also pray, O Lord, you forgive those that have taught and continue to teach others to reject Yeshua, for (as Yeshua said) they know not what they are doing. And, finally, O Lord, I ask that you help me and everyone reading this to forgive them, as well, for leading so many from righteousness directly to Sheol. Please forgive them, and show Your forgiveness by opening their eyes, their ears, and their hearts to the truth about Yeshua Ha Meshiach.

Thank you, Father God, for the forgiveness that You give to us, the forgiveness you provided to us through Yeshua, and for helping us to be able to forgive others.

May You Have an Easy Fast

Tomorrow night is Erev Yom Kippur- the evening that begins the Holy Day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.  It is a commanded day of gathering together (although this is not one of the “Big Three” where you need to go to the Temple)  and “afflicting one’s soul”, which has been interpreted as fasting. No food, no water, nothing from sundown tomorrow until sundown Wednesday.

You may be thinking, “But Steve- you’re already saved. Your sins are forgiven. Why bother?” and the question is not unwarranted: I am saved. My sins are forgiven and will continue to be forgiven because I belong to Yeshua. So long as I am trying harder and harder to be what God wants, to obey His laws and do T’Shuvah (turn from sin), I will be forgiven whenever I call on God and ask forgiveness in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

And that is the very reason I fast and worship as all the “unsaved” Jews do- because I do belong to Yeshua, and Yeshua did not do away with Torah, and the Torah says I should fast.

How many of you out there can say you are without sin at any given time? Do you really think that once forgiven never held responsible again? If so, you’ve got a really nasty surprise coming. Sin separates us from God, and every time that we sin, we are that much more separated from God. Forgiveness is available but it isn’t shoved down our throat. God will not automatically forgive you just because in 1993 at 10 AM on a Tuesday you “found Jesus.” That’s great that you did, and once forgiven, all those prior sins are not going to be held against you. They were paid for. And the sins you commit afterwards, well, you have to ask forgiveness of them, too. You still need to confess and ask forgiveness. This isn’t revolving credit where you make a payment, run a debt, then make a payment. We sin every day and every day we need to ask forgiveness.

Yom Kippur is a day when we don’t ask just for individual forgiveness, but for corporate forgiveness. Read the prayers in the Machzor (the special prayer book for High Holy Days); read the books of the Prophets, who always asked forgiveness for the people; this is not just a day of asking for personal forgiveness. That’s why we are commanded to have a communal day of prayer, to gather together and confess to God our failure to meet our end of the Covenant He made with our Fathers. It is a communal request to forgive all of us, therefore, everyone who is saved should be even more willing to obey this commandment because we need to show the unsaved our desire for them to be forgiven and reconciled to God (through Messiah.)

Oh, by the way, did you catch that part about “we are commanded”? The best reason to do what God says is because He said to do it! How many times do you hear people say ( or maybe you’ve said it yourself), “Oh Lord, oh Yeshua, oh Jesus- I love you!”  Do you love Yeshua? Do you love Jesus? Are you one of His flock?

Then read John 14:15 (“If you love me, keep my commands.“)  And what commands did Yeshua give? The same ones that His Daddy gave to Moshe. John knew this and the Gospel he wrote began making sure that the very first truth of the Good News that he told us was this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings- it is all the same stuff as in the Torah and the Prophets. That is what Yeshua taught from, that is what Yeshua taught about, and that is what Yeshua told us to obey. When Yeshua told us to prove our love for Him by obeying His commands, He was talking about the Torah. Yeshua/Jesus IS the living Torah!

That is why I fast and worship on Yom Kippur. For the same reason I do so on every Holy Day God has commanded us to celebrate- because He has commanded it. That is all the reason any one needs. Because I love and worship God, and because I belong to Yeshua, I do as my Master tells me to do. And I do so willingly, happily and faithfully, to the very best of my abilities, which are incompetence and failure. In truth, as much as I try, the best I can hope for and the best I can do, is better than what I have already done.

And that is good enough. Don’t try to be perfect- it ain’t gonna happen. I just want to be better than I was, I want to wake up and sin at least one less sin each day. I will walk three steps forward, but backslide two steps because it is my very nature to do so, yet as long as I net out one step closer, I am performing T’Shuvah. I am getting better, I am sinning less, I am becoming more spiritually mature and growing closer to God.

Tomorrow night I will fast. By Wednesday around, oh, let’s say 1130 or 1200, I will have a killer caffeine headache. My stomach will be grumbling and I may become a little testy. But I will be worshiping. Although the place where I worship cannot hold services because of a special needs school it runs during the day (services would be disruptive and disturbing to the children) I will worship in my home. I will read the Machzor, I will sit on my porch and enjoy the Sabbath rest that this day has for me, and I will commune with the Lord. I will recite the Ashamnu and the Al Chet, prayers listing the many sins we have committed against God and prayers asking forgiveness.

And I will demonstrate my love for Yeshua and for God by being faithfully obedient, and I will demonstrate my solidarity with my people by joining them in corporate prayer, even if I am not with them physically, as our prayers reach up to heaven and are presented to God on a golden patter held by Yeshua, Himself.

And I will do as every Jew should do on this day; actually, as everyone who says they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should do on this day.

Because God said we should.

Bruck’s 3 Rules of Prayer

Everyone has rules, and I have my own rules for prayer.

Rule #1: God always hears your prayers.

There are places in the Bible where God says He will not hear us. For instance:

1 Samuel 8:18 (And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. KJV);

Isaiah 1:15 (When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. NIV);

Jeremiah 7:16 (So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. NIV)

But does this mean God doesn’t hear your prayers? I don’t think that is what He means- He always hears us, He is just not listening, as in paying attention.

He always hears us, but when we have rejected Him and have sinned so often and so purposefully that we have thrown a wedge between us and God, He will have no option but to ignore our pleas. Think of it this way- we are calling to Him, He hears us but holds up His mighty right arm to our face and says, “Speaketh thou to the hand!”

God always, always, always hears our prayers, but how he acts is His choice. Which brings us to the second rule.

Rule #2: God always answers your prayers.

And sometimes that answer is, “No.”  As above, God hears you, alright, but decides to answer with silence. Or maybe He will just say, “Nope! Ain’t gonna happen.” And at other times His answer will be “You got it, babe!” and that answer will be wonderful, confirming, and blissfully full of blessings. Or it may be something totally unexpected, which leads to the last rule of prayer.

Rule #3: The answer usually isn’t what you expect or when you expect it, but it will always be just what you need and just when you need it.

God knows what we need better than we do, better than we can, and better than we ever will. And because He is a loving and compassionate Father, Judge and Savior , He will provide not what we want (which is usually not good for us) but what we need. And whereas our timing is usually lousy, God’s timing is always perfect because He knows what will happen and when it will happen, so He can make things occur just when they should. We won’t always get what we want, and we rarely will get it when we want it, but we will have a much better batting average if we learn to pray more in line with God’s plan for us. Look at the prayers of Abraham, Moshe, the Prophets, Yeshua’s prayers and those of His Disciples: their prayers were answered not only when they were asked, but often exactly as they requested. That’s because they were praying for something that was within God’s plan. And yet, there were other prayers which were not answered as requested. Take Shaul as an example, in 2nd Corinthians 12:7:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Here is one good reason for us to expect God to decide what He will answer and when: God, and God alone, knows the best time to do something and the best time not to do anything, because it is all about Him. Shaul’s prayer was for himself, but God turned it into something that gave the glory where it belonged- to God.

God always hears, God always answers, and the answer is rarely what you expect or when you expect it. But it is always perfectly suited to help you and to glorify God. So, keep praying. Just because you don’t get the answer you want or expect doesn’t mean He didn’t answer you. It may be ,”Yes, but not yet”; it may be, “No. Now stop bothering me.”; and it may be, “As you request, it shall be done.”  And when we pray in Yeshua’s name we will receive what we ask for, SO LONG AS what we ask for is in God’s will and glorifies God. If you pray in Yeshua’s name to win the lottery, don’t be disappointed if you don’t, and don’t blame God. Winning the lottery isn’t what God is about. However, if you pray for salvation for yourself or someone else, God will listen, and He will answer.

I pray every day for the salvation and reconciliation of my children with God, and Donna and I, and that we will be a family centered on God. I know that God will answer my prayer by giving my children every possible opportunity to come to Him, but in the end, it is their choice. God will not force someone to ask for salvation. I pray in Yeshua’s name for the salvation of my wife and children, but they have to choose it. God will answer me, I faithfully trust that He will send angels of mercy to them, that He will make sure they have every opportunity to recognize Him, His work in their lives, and that He will protect them from evil, both physical and spiritual. And I know that He hears and He is answering this very moment, but since they have to choose, if they never come to salvation it is not because God didn’t hear and answer my prayer.

Make your prayers “God-worthy” by keeping them in line with God’s plan for you, as best as you understand what it is. And keep praying- you never know what the answer may be or when the answer will come, but if you pay as close attention to what God is doing in your life as you want Him to pay attention to your prayer, I believe that you will, eventually, see the answer.

Whatever it is.

SWISH

How many times do we find ourselves looking back at a situation and thinking, “Why did I get so upset?” I know I do, and then I add to that, “And what was I thinking (or not thinking) when I said/wrote that?”

It’s funny how we always blow everything up from manageable to unmanageable. You know what I mean? We get to a new job, we settle in a little and see everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and we think to ourselves, “What’s the big deal? This isn’t so bad.” Then, a few months later, once we are fully settled in and as emotionally invested (so to speak) as everyone else, we are the ones running around and the new guy is thinking to himself, “What’s all the hubbub about? This isn’t so bad.”

Give it a few months, buddy, just give it a few months.

By now you are thinking, “Yeah, I know what you mean, but what the heck does that have to do with SWISH?”

I’m glad you asked.

So What, I‘m Saved…Hallelujah! That’s what SWISH is- keeping things in control, not going crazy, or getting upset, or allowing our self-absorbed ego’s to make us so frustrated that we say or do things we shouldn’t. SWISH is how we say, “Stand at ease!!” to ourselves.

The server is down and the clients are screaming they can’t work…SWISH.

I’m late and the car won’t start…SWISH.

My kids are driving me crazy and I need to get all this housework done, with no one helping me…SWISH

I’m broke, the bills are piling up and my marriage is falling apart…SWISH  (if you can SWISH with all that going on, you are a pro at it.)

This is hard to do, but we can all get there if we try hard enough and pray often enough.

SWISH isn’t to be used in a negative way, meaning we shouldn’t be apathetic, unconcerned or uncooperative. It is a way for us to be able to go through what is happening now without having to experience the emotional upheaval we feel at this moment (check out this post: https://messianicmoment.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/see-today-through-tomorrows-eyes/). It’s a way to keep things in perspective, to maintain control of ourselves and our feelings, and to demonstrate what it really means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, by keeping our heads on when everyone else is running around with their heads, well, somewhere other than between their shoulders.

It’s really easy to understand, but intensely hard to do. It takes practice (believe me, I am a novice at this myself) and dedication. And it takes more than human dedication- it takes a divine dedication, like when we first were imbued with His spirit, like when we came to salvation, like the first moment we felt His presence. Doesn’t it make you feel relaxed and joyful just thinking about that moment?

That’s SWISH. When you find yourself in the middle of “This is all wrong” or “All this bad stuff is happening” and you are thinking, “The world is falling in all around me: even Job had it better than I do!” When you get there (and we all do, sooner or later) just think for a second how it will all seem so insignificant when you are in your resurrected body, living in the New Creation and constantly in the presence of God. Imagine how silly you will think you acted when you look back at this very moment and remember what it was like to be human, as you sit in judgement over the Nations.

Have you experienced the overwhelming joy and total relaxation of  being held in the arms of the Lord of lords and King of kings?

Can you remember that feeling? Can you feel it? Right now?

That, my friends, is what SWISH is all about.

Parashah Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:15) When you set up…

We begin this portion of the Torah with the lighting of the menorah. The Tabernacle has been constructed and anointed, then Aaron and his sons, now the menorah is lit and Aaron is told that he and his descendants are the ones blessed and honored to perform that duty. The Levites are separated, cleansed and appointed (officially) to their duties, and the people are reminded that God has separated the Levites unto Himself for serving Him, as a ransom for all the firstborn that were killed in Egypt. The term of service is to be between the ages of 25 and 50, after which the Levite is still to serve as a teacher and leader, but not physically to work in the Tabernacle or move it.

The beginning of the second year God tells Moses to have everyone celebrate the Pesach festival, and the ruling is given that if a person is unclean and cannot celebrate it in the first month, then that person is to do so on the 14th day of the second month. The rule is the same for both the native and the person who sojourns (a convert) with the people. This is repeated many times throughout the Torah: whether born Jewish or converted, once you have chosen to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob you are an adopted child, and you are not only privileged to be given all the rights of a native, but you are also responsible to follow all the laws.

As an aside, here’s where this has ended up today:

– Christianity wants to be accepted as a child of the same God that the Jewish people worship, have accepted that Yeshua is their Messiah, but worship Him instead of God and have rejected Torah;

– Judaism worships God, follows Torah, yet they have (for the most part) rejected Yeshua as their Messiah;

– the only ones who have it right (in my opinion) are the Messianic Jews and Hebraic Roots movement Christians, who worship God, have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and also follow Torah, just as Yeshua did.

Back to the Parashah: now it’s the second year since leaving Egypt, the second month so everyone has had the chance to celebrate Passover, the Tabernacle has been up for a while, the Levites are serving and the Cloud has been over the Tabernacle all this time. Now is the first move. We read about how the tribes march out, the Ark of the Covenant in the lead and the wonderful invocation that Moses gives when the Ark leads, and when it comes to rest. These words are still repeated to this day when the Torah is removed from the Ark, and when it is returned.

God commands that two silver trumpets be made for calling the people to gather and to prepare for war. These are ceremonial trumpets, and different from Shofarot.

As the people start to move, they begin to grumble, as they will often, against Moses and their situation. This time it is about not having any meat. I personally think that if they had asked God respectfully He would have obliged them, but as such, with their faithless and selfish grumbling and kvetching, God sent them meat and then made them sick of (and from) it to the point where a plague broke out against the people. Maybe it was a form of Avian Flu? Whatever it was, it wasn’t pleasant, or maybe I should say, it wasn’t pheasant (ouch!)

The final chapter relates how Aaron and Miriam complain against Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. Most likely that means she was Ethiopian, although it could refer to Zipporah, a Midianite. It was either a second marriage or just that Zipporah was from Midian- we do not know for sure, but we do not for certain that Miriam is the instigator and Aaron is drawn into the issue by her. That is clear from the Kumash. Miriam is summarily punished by God for speaking against Moses, and Moses immediately asks God to forgive her. Here we learn about how meek and humble Moses is. God allows her to be healed of the leprosy He inflicted on her and makes her wait outside the camp, as one unclean, for 7 days.

The lesson for us today from this that I want to talk about is how simple and manifest the prayer of Moses was to heal his sister. All he said was, “Heal her now, oh Lord, I beseech thee!” Simple, heartfelt, and (if I may use the word) …pure. It is a pure prayer, asking what is needed for both the person making the prayer and the person for whom the prayer is offered for.

How many times do we hear people pray on and on, andonandonandonandon….sometimes I can sense them stumbling, trying to think of something else, anything else, to say. As if the Lord doesn’t get it, like God doesn’t know what we want so while we have His attention let’s just get everything we possibly can out. Sometimes after a service, when we are going to do the blessings over the wine and bread (the Kiddush) the leader will go on praying about the sermon, the communion act, and other things, and I wish that he would just give the blessings. Those blessings are simple and say it all- thank you, Lord, for bringing forth bread from the earth and for creating the fruit of the vine. Maybe a quickie reminder, that this is what we do not just to thank God but in memory of the Messiah’s request that we remember Him, also, when we do this. Communion is not communion with Yeshua, it is communion with God, and serves additionally as a memorial to Yeshua’s sacrifice. Together, the prayers and Yeshua’s sacrifice bring us into communion with God.

When you pray, don’t go on. Your Father in heaven knows what you need (didn’t Yeshua tell us that in Matthew 6:8?) so just ask with a simple, heartfelt request for what you need now. Don’t go on about tomorrow- today has enough problems of it’s own (oh, my- didn’t Yeshua say that, too?) and we are only to ask for what we need now. And don’t ramble on (Yikes! Yeshua said that, too!) We can’t possible need so much that a prayer to God will take more than a few minutes. It should take no time at all. The only thing that should take up a lot of time is recounting all the wonderful blessings God has given us. If I was to thank God, one-by-one, for all the blessings He has bestowed on me (most every one of them undeserved) I would be praying non-stop, 24/7/365 (366 on leap years) from now until I died, and I would still be short.

Make your prayer meaningful by filling it full of meaning. When we say to somone, “I love you”, is there really anything else to say? We all know what that means, the words evoke the myriad emotions and feelings and memories of what loving and being loved has meant to each individual who says those three words. If humans can understand so fully what it means to tell someone you love them, then how much more can the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, our very Creator, know about what we want, need and feel when we talk to Him?

Let your prayer life conform to the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Schmo!

God knows what you want and he knows what you need, so ask for what you want and He will give you what you need. Don’t try to speak in perfect Shakespearian language, don’t try to emulate Solomon, don’t make King James roll over in his grave listening to you. Just pray as Moses prayed, and as Yeshua told us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-14.

Start by giving honor to God, ask for forgiveness (to cleanse yourself before Him), then ask Him for only that which you need right now, and only what you need to survive, tell God what you desire, and then finish with praising the Lord and recognizing His worthiness and power. Finally, invoke the name of Yeshua ha Mashiach, for we were told that when we pray in Yeshua’s name, God will grant us whatever we ask for. That’s it- if you are praying much more than 1-2 minutes, you’re probably getting off the mark.

I have prayed to God for more than 2 minutes, but it was more like talking with Him. I converse with Him (well, I talk and He listens) and sometimes it does go on for a while, but it is a conversation. And it is totally private. But my prayers, my orisons, my requests and my deepest feelings that I pour out to Him are simple and short.

Do what you feel good about; if you really feel good when you pray for a long time, than don’t let anything I do or say get between you, your prayer life and your communion with God. I just ask that you review what you are doing, and if Moses was comfortable with a 5 or 6 word prayer to heal his sister from a death-like existence, then maybe we should be comfortable with asking God simply and honestly for what we need.

Prayer only has to be from the heart, from a broken and contrite spirit, honest, heartfelt and to God. That’s all it takes.

Parashah Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) “Take”

This reading starts with a census of the Levitical clans so that the number of those who are able to do service in the Tent of Meeting can be counted. The age range for service is from 30 to 50 years old.

It also outlines the regulations about restitution for sin against each other, the Water of Jealousy and the Nazarite vows. It finishes with the tabernacle being completed, and the gifts bestowed by the 12 tribes, which were exactly the same gifts from each tribe. The Chumash says the gifts were exactly the same so that no one tribe would outrival the other.

Verses 6:23-28 is the only place in the entire bible where God specifically tells us how we are to be blessed. No where else are we told exactly what to pray (the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew is really more of a template describing the manner in which we are to pray than an actual prayer, although on it’s own it is a really good prayer) or how to bless someone. These three sentences, which God told Moses to have Aaron use when blessing the people, are God’s own words that we are to use when placing His name on the people.

The Talmud goes into detail about the underlying meaning of each of these three blessings. If I may shorten the commentary a bit, the first line is in the singular to represent that the entire nation of Israel is one in the eyes of God, and we are to feel that we are a single entity. God’s face shining upon us is a symbol of not just happiness and purity (light) but friendship, as well. Yeshua also uses light this way, in telling us that those full of light have compassion and charity.  When God’s face is turned towards us He is showing and pouring out to us His love and salvation. The bible talks much, especially in the books of the Prophets, about how when God turns His face away from us we are left on our own and unprotected by  Him. So, to turn His face , to shine it upon us, is a symbol of His protection, love and divine intervention for our good. And to be gracious unto us is to provide in abundance both our physical and spiritual needs. Finally, to give us peace means more than relaxation: it is peace for us and peace from us to others, it is individual, familial and national. It means to be healthy, financially secure, without fear and tranquil.

God said this is how the Kohanim are to place His name upon the people; the Talmud is clear that even though it is the Kohen who pronounces the blessing, it is God who does the blessing. The Priests are only the channel through which God’s word and blessings are conveyed to the people.

The majority of religions I have studied and experienced, including Judaism, have forgotten this fact, i.e. that God is the one who we worship and God is the one who forgives and God is the one who is the origin and source of our blessings. How many religions have made God secondary to the Priests (or Saints) when it comes to asking for forgiveness, blessings or help? The Rabbi’s are the ones who decree what the bible means in the Orthodox and Chasidic religions, with the Talmud often taking precedence over the Tanakh; in Catholicism the Priests forgive sins and the Pope is the one who determines what God’s will is for the church. In the other Christian religions Yeshua/Jesus has been lifted up (just like He said He would be) like the serpent in the desert to where He is prayed to, and He is asked for forgiveness from sin instead of God. Yeshua never said to pray to Him, but to pray to God in His name- meaning to invoke His righteousness as our intercessor, not as the source and origin of our salvation. Yeshua is to be a Kohen like Melchizedek- not in place of God but as intercessor to God on our behalf.

Christianity and Judaism have placed their Priests and Rabbis in a position of status higher than God- the people go to the priest for forgiveness and they pray to Jesus, and the Rabbis quote Talmud instead of Torah. We are to pray to God, and not to anyone else. We pray to God, we ask for God’s favor and for God’s forgiveness, and we invoke the name of the Messiah as our mediator and as our intercessor. We should NOT pray to Jesus instead of God; we should pray to God in Jesus’s name , which means to have Jesus bring our requests to God; praying this way it will be Yeshua’s righteousness God sees when our request is before Him, and not our own sinfulness.

Don’t pray ‘retail’:  get factory-direct blessings and forgiveness. No one can do for you what God can do for you, so why ask anyone else?

Power of Prayer or Power of God?

I was waiting at the hospital yesterday for Donna to finish a procedure and the TV had on one of those “daily” shows, which was talking about a “miracle” kid whose parents state that he has survived because of the power of prayer. Although I was intently playing on my laptop, I stopped to listen for a bit.

They even had a medical doctor who was confirming that study after study has shown people who believe in the power of prayer have remarkable results. He went as far as to say medicine and religion are a powerful combination. It’s about time someone who works in a scientifically-based profession is willing to speak up for prayer.

It was then that I thought- is it really “prayer” we should be giving the glory? Isn’t prayer just a spiritual conduit to God? Shouldn’t we really be saying that it was the power of God that caused the miraculous survival, and not the power of prayer? The family that was being interviewed, and the young man who was the one surviving, knew who to credit as they constantly said it was God who has done this. Yet, don’t we hear often about how powerful prayer is, and it almost seems as though it is prayer that is given the credit. I am afraid that some people are giving the glory to prayer instead of the one being prayed to.

The inherent danger I see in this is that not everyone prays to God; at least, not the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob. If people believe that prayer is their salvation, to whom are they praying? Is it God? Is it Allah? Is it the Enemy? Is it just a generic activity, some “New World” idealism that we are able to heal ourselves through some mystical biofeedback mechanism called “prayer?” All of these are viable concerns, don’t you think?  The Enemy has the power (and will have the authority) to perform miraculous signs, so if I am just praying for something to happen, not praying to anyone in particular, and it happens, could it have come from the Enemy? He will do good things for you if it can lead you to trust him enough to accept his mark.

We need to stay focused on the giver of salvation and not (so much) the means. We say we are “saved by the blood of Yeshua”, but in reality we aren’t saved by his blood, we are saved by the fact that He gave it on our behalf. We are not saved by Yeshua, but by God. It was God who resurrected Yeshua (because He was a proper sacrifice) and because Yeshua performed works and lived (and gave) His life in order to make it possible for God to save us; we are saved, ultimately and wholly, by God. Yes, the blood was important, as was the life Yeshua led to make the blood acceptable. The suffering, the passion, everything about Yeshua’s life and death was what made the salvation through His sacrifice possible, and it is because of Yeshua that we can be saved. But it was, it is, and it always will be God who saves us through His Messiah, Yeshua.

In a nutshell, it isn’t prayer or blood or anything other than God who saves. Read the Psalms, listen to the Prophets, and hear what Yeshua is telling us.

The problem with humans is that we always try to complicate things, and add our own meaning. Remember the snake in the desert (Numbers 21)  that Moshe made at God’s command? When people were bitten by the snakes God sent as punishment for their rebellion, if they looked at the bronze statue they would not die. The snake didn’t save them, it was God- the snake was nothing more than a symbol of His mercy. Later, though, we read about how the Israelites worshipped the snake (2 Kings 18) and even gave it a name, Nehushtan. The snake was to be a symbol, just like the blood of Yeshua and the Cross, but these have become almost like idols to many people today. Didn’t God say not to bow to other gods, yet in the Catholic church they bow and worship a graven image on a wooden cross! I know they don’t mean to do wrong, but isn’t that exactly what God said not to do? No graven images, of anything? No bowing down to anyone or anything else? When did they miss that part? Do you think Yeshua is happy that many Christians (forget the Catholics, this is Christian-wide) pray to Him not to intercede with God, but instead of God? Yeshua is the Messiah of God, not the replacement. He is Lord, yes, but not the Lord. His Father is who He worshipped, and still worships, and still gives the glory, and to Yeshua God still is “The Man.”  We pray to Yeshua to intercede, to ask of God, so when we pray to God in Yeshua’s name we are doing what Yeshua would do, aren’t we?

When you talk to people about the power of prayer and the wonderful things that Yeshua did, please make sure that you do not create stumbling blocks by making prayer, blood, even Yeshua, an “idol” that replaces God’s true part in the plan of salvation.  Prayer, by itself, is useless; you must be praying to God, the one, true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you pray to Him, you are to pray in the name of Yeshua. That is the promise Yeshua made- when we pray in His name; that doesn’t mean pray to Him to deliver you, it means pray to God, the one who grants your prayer, the one who is the giver of salvation, the one who is Judge. Pray to God and not to anyone or anything else, and ask Him to answer your prayer, and ask it in the name of Yeshua. Don’t pray to someone else to ask Yeshua to ask God. That’s just silly: why pray “retail” when the manufacturer of your salvation says you can get it “wholesale.”

Maybe I am being over-cautious. Maybe I am making something out of nothing, but I believe we should always be vigilant and careful not to create idols and stumbling blocks in our spiritual lives. In John, Yeshua said that whatever we ask Him to do He will do when we ask in His name, but that doesn’t mean to pray to Him instead of God because Yeshua then adds that it is so He can glorify the Father. It is still all about God. And the easiest way to avoid misdirected prayer is to keep focused on God, pray only to God and ask that God grant your prayer by invoking the name of Yeshua.

You have to decide if you want to pray to a saint, or Yeshua or to God. It is going to be your decision, and you will have to square it away with God, individually. As for me, I pray to God and I ask that He grant my prayers in the name of Yeshua Ha Maschiach. That has worked for me.

Prayer is powerful only because of the one to whom the prayer goes, so when you are talking about how powerful prayer can be, please remember to give the glory not to prayer but to the one who answers your prayers.

Do You Really Mean It?

Have you ever complimented someone, then they returned a compliment to you, but you knew that they were just saying something because they thought they should? Did it really mean anything to you?

When you pray to the Lord, do you really mean it? I’m not talking about when you ask for something you want, or when you have a dire need or are praying for someone else’s dire need. Stuff we pray for that we want, we do really want and we do really pray for, earnestly.

I’m talking about the “regular” prayers; you know, thanks for the food, thanks for the job, etc. When we give thanks for something do we really feel the emotions that we state, or are we just doing what we were taught we should do?

Are we just zombie praying? Are we just going through the motions without the e-motions?

I like to thank the Lord for the medicines I take each morning, and especially for the fact that there are so few of them. I like to thank God for the veggie egg wrap I get each morning from Dunkin Donuts each workday on my way to work (and occasionally I really, really pray they will bring back the turkey sausage one.) And when I thank God for the job I have, the people I work with, my wife, our love, the life He has given us together, and everything, (not to brag) I really mean it.

I have been blessed in having to scrounge up enough coins to buy a Dinty Moore Beef Stew can for my meal that day. I have juggled bills so well I could have starred on the Ed Sullivan Show (ooh- I am really dating myself now.) I have been bankrupt, came back and gained a good financial foothold, then lost all the money I saved to alimony and child support, only to see it go to smoke because I paid a ton of money for 2 years and my son was still wearing T-shirts for diapers, even though his mother lived rent-free.

I say this not to engender pity or respect, but to point out that, yes- it was a blessing to go through those trials because they taught me how to be really thankful. Someone who never has had a lack of anything (I believe) can not be truly thankful for anything. How can you appreciate having what you have never lacked?

And, since we are talking about God, about ethereal things, about salvation and eternity- all things that we humans can’t appreciate as much as we could if we were ,oh, say…a fallen angel, then how can we pray and really feel it?

It is possible, but you need to allow the Ruach to help you. I know what  it feels like to be with the Lord- when the Ruach entered my body, I was ethereal, I was in the Spirit, and I was there for a second or two. But I will never forget what it felt like.

I have felt God’s touch, His embrace, and it brought me to tears of joy. I haven’t felt that so much in the past few years, most likely because I have become inured in my prayer life and in my worship. I pray as David prayed, to be given a clean heart and have a right spirit renewed in me, to remember the joy of my salvation. And because I knew God’s touch, I know how much I miss it when my worship is half-baked (my fault), and so when I pray for it I really mean it.

I don’t wish hardship on anyone but, well…I lied. I do wish everyone would go through hardships in their life. The gold will never be refined if it doesn’t pass through the fire, and metal will never stand up to stress if the slag isn’t removed. I pray (and I mean it, too!) that everyone who wants to be blessed by God go through want, and depression, and suffering (both physical and emotional), and hunger, and unrequited love. All the worst things that can happen to a person, only so that they will all the more appreciate and be thankful, truly thankful, for when they receive from God all that they had lacked.

If life is good and nothing is wrong, pray with thanks to God for His protection, but also realize that the Enemy will leave you alone if you aren’t doing anything for God. Trials and tribulations strengthen us- just ask Jimmy (his book is in the New Covenant writings) and pray that God will strengthen you. And get started doing more for God.

I am really thankful when I am thankful, and I hope that you can say the same. Look deep into your soul, because that’s where God sees you, and make sure that you are truly thankful when you pray. If not, I think it would be better to just not say anything.

Better a truthful lack of thanks than a hypocritical attempt to be “correct”, so don’t pray just to pray- pray as you feel.

The Ultimate Anger Management Tool: Prayer

There are a number of things that just can’t be done in this life:

1. You can’t scratch your ear with your elbow;

2. You can’t make a leopard change its spots;

3. You can’t make the person ahead of you in line go faster; and

4. You can’t stay angry with someone when you pray for them.

I have a few people in my life that have not only worked hard to earn my anger, but no matter how many times I have tried to overcome their nastiness and bad manners, they always prove their extraordinary talent for obstinacy and spitefulness is more powerful than my meager attempts to ignore them.

That’s when I pray for them. Not always, mind you- I ain’t no saint; not by a long shot. But there are times when I remember the title of this blog and pray for them.

When you pray for someone you need to “get in their shoes” so that your prayer is appropriately aimed at helping them overcome the very thing that gets you so mad at them.

I have a previous life, with two children and an “ex” that has constantly, and consistently, overcome all my attempts to ignore and diffuse her spite, anger and hatred, which she has instilled in my children against me and my family members. I pray for the kids every day, waiting patiently and prayerfully for their reconciliation with me and their turning to God, in whichever order He thinks is best. And sometimes, I am happy to say, I remember to pray for her. Since the day we separated she refused to let us buy things for them and do things for them, insisting she get the money instead of the children getting the clothes , furniture, or whatever we wanted them to have. Over the years she had proven that giving her money is the same as throwing it away, so in the end, the kids have lost out. The worst part is that the kids think everything she has told them is true, and they actually are just as brainwashed as if they had been growing up in a cult. Someone that mean, that hateful, and so hurt that she will eat her own children in order to hurt me is so desperately in need of the love of God that I cannot possibly refuse to pray for her.

And during those 20 plus years of trying to overcome her, the courts were useless (the mother always wins unless she is a drug addict or something like that.) Now the kids are long past majority, and I am helpless. All I have left is prayer. I haven’t even talked to them for a few years now.

All of this kvetching is not to vent or ask for pity, but to give you an idea of the background, so that when I say I have plenty of ammunition for hating and being angry with someone, you can understand just how powerful prayer is, because when I pray for her and for them all I can feel is pity. The anger is gone, and a genuine desire for them to find forgiveness and peace, as I have, is paramount in my heart and spirit.

When I have one of those conversations (you know, the kind where you tell the person what you have always wanted to say and they listen attentively, because it’s all in your mind) and feel myself getting a little worked up, I can now (thanks to the Ruach inside me) stop because I realize what I should be doing is not “getting it off my chest” (which, by the way, never works- you don’t put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it) but placing it before God and asking His intervention. Not for retribution, or even the justice that is deserved, but for help. And not for me, but for her.

For this to work you have to really mean the prayer, and the way I do that is to recall what I have that she doesn’t. I have the Lord; I have Yeshua as my intercessor, and I have salvation with a guaranteed seat at the table. I have everything that is important in death (that’s not a typo- what is important in life is to make sure you know where you go when life is over. Life is short, death is forever, so I want what is important in death more than what is important in life. Don’t you?) and all she has is her hatred and anger. And that is useless to her; it brings no warmth, no love, and no satisfaction since she can’t hurt me anymore. She has used up all her cards, laid them out on the table, and the other players are already gone.

She has nothing. Even though she has the children, what she has taught them is to be self-centered and unappreciative of anything and everyone. She has not shown them how to be useful members of a relationship, how to love properly, how to be independant and self-assured. She has only taught them the way to grow old and alone, with no friends and no God. If they should ever come to their senses, she may lose them, leaving her absolutely nothing. I have already lost them, and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. Not even her.

How can anyone be angry with someone so pitiful? And when I pray for her, and for my kids, I can feel the pain she feels. I can realize how hurt she is. I even feel (sometimes) useless and ashamed that I didn’t make more attempts than I did (and believe me, I made a lot of them) to apologize and help more. All I did is not relevant here, so please understand that I did a lot, travelled a lot, spent extra time and money trying to help them and be as close as one can be when two states away.

It is prayer that has helped me, too, to be less angry and vengeful. I know that God is a loving Father and a merciful Judge, but He is, when all is said and done, God. He will judge mercifully but fairly, and those that have come up short and rejected Him will get the short end of the stick and be, themselves, rejected by Him. Without a significant change in their lives, my ex and my children, blind leading the blind, will all fall into the pit and spend eternity in Sheol. I am not happy with that thought…not happy at all.

So I pray. I pray everyday for my children, and I pray now and then for her. As I said, I’m not a saint and do not pray for her as earnestly as I pray for my children. After all, it is anger management, not anger removal. I think it takes more than just prayer to remove the anger totally; prayer is just one of the tools God gives us to do that. There are still things, even from decades ago, that get under my skin, to to speak, and I try to release it all to the Lord, but I seem to have sticky fingers.

Maybe one day I will be cleansed enough by the Living Water, Yeshua Ha Mashiach, so that my fingers will no longer be sticky.

Are you still angry about something? Are you still feeling a need for justice and yes, wanting revenge? Or maybe just to see someone get their “comeuppance?” If you want to get over it, pray for them. Pray earnestly, pray as you know Yeshua would pray for them (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”), and if you are having a hard time with that, think about this: you get to be in Paradise forever, and they will be in eternal suffering with no chance for parole. Think about how close you came to their fate, how much better your position than theirs, and much more love you have in your life because you have the Lord, Yeshua and the Ruach HaKodesh. Think about all that you have and all that they don’t, and if you don’t feel pity and remorse for them, well, you should question your own salvation!

I don’t want to believe that anyone who knows the love of God, the suffering of Messiah and the forgiveness we have received could possibly want to deny that to anyone. No matter what they did.

Anger is not a sin, and Shaul tells us that we should not sin in our anger. Be angry if you are mistreated, misjudged, hurt and humiliated. It’s natural to be angry, just don’t sin in your anger. If you want to get rid of it, pray for the person who did it to you. Anger and vengeance are a wormwood that will eat you up from the inside out, so let God have it.

Proverbs says to not return evil for evil, but wait upon the Lord. It’s good advice. Pray for those that have hurt you and made you angry and you will see that it really is the ultimate anger management tool.

 

Don’t Ask To Be Forgiven If You Are Planning On Doing It Again

I was praying yesterday and, as usual, asked for forgiveness for sins I have committed. I like to first ask to be forgiven my sins, then I raise up those I love to be forgiven for what they do, especially Alex and Bryce, my children who have rejected me and don’t even know the Lord. I do it in this order because in the Torah the Cohen HaGadol (Head Priest) had to be cleansed first before he could act as intercessor for the people, so I ask to be cleansed before I intercede for those I pray for.

That’s when it hit me…I had done something that morning that is, by technical standards, a sinful act. It is not terrible; it’s one of those “minor” sins (if you will be kind enough to accept that term, even though we all know any sin is a sin) that I find myself doing on occasion because, well, I like it. As I was going to ask for forgiveness, the realization that I intend to do this again made me feel that I was wrong to ask God to forgive me.  To ask forgiveness for something that I do not want to stop doing, something for which I have not done T’Shuvah, seems wrong to me. It is like throwing the fleece before God. I mean, really…forgive me for this but I am going to do it again, so forgive me then, too. Is that right? Is it fair to ask God to forgive me for purposefully rejecting His instructions, especially when I fully intend to do it again?

I decided I was wrong on two counts- wrong for doing something that is not Godly and correct in His eyes, and even more wrong for asking Him to forgive me when I don’t intend to stop doing it.

I know, I know… now you all think I am less than what you hoped for. I have sinned, I sin and I will continue to sin (I sound like Caesar saying, “Veni, vidi, vici”) and that is why I think it is wrong of me to ask God to forgive me for this thing. I’m not perfect. I am getting better, but still, I am not perfect. I’m not bragging about it, and I am not beating myself up over it. I would like to be able to overcome this one little thing, but I haven’t, and that’s probably because I don’t want to stop.

After I felt that I shouldn’t ask forgiveness, I asked God to show me a sign (I was on a roll for doing wrong, wasn’t I?) The sign I asked for was to demonstrate His forgiveness by taking away all desire to do the thing I won’t ask forgiveness for. In other words, I feel unjustified to ask forgiveness for doing something I know I will purposefully do again, so I asked Him to show His forgiveness by taking away the desire to do this. Don’t just forgive me, but change me so I won’t need to ask forgiveness for this again. Rewire my brain to no longer be satisfied by this act, to no longer feel the need for the “worldly” satisfaction derived from this act.

Here’s the difference: I will ask for forgiveness for doing things I shouldn’t do and that I don’t want to do; for instance, using bad language, having mean thoughts, for being the sarcastic, cynical and attitudinal New Yorker I am at heart.  I won’t ask forgiveness for doing the things I shouldn’t do that I still want to do. Why? Because if I still want to do them I haven’t turned, I haven’t given them up, I haven’t chosen God’s way over my way. I don’t feel right in asking for forgiveness for doing something which I choose to not stop doing. It’s not fair to God, and I feel like it is stomping the blood of Messiah into the dirt. He suffered and died so that I can be forgiven, and if I ask for His blood covering for something that I choose to keep on doing, well, to me that would be more of a sin than the thing I actually am doing.

What do you think? If we choose, willingly and willfully, to perform an act which we know is sinful, whether it be eating ham, cursing out the neighbor, or as terrible as having an affair, and we know we will continue to do that, are we justified in asking for forgiveness? More than that, if we choose to continue to do it, will we be forgiven if we ask for it? Will God forgive something that we are NOT sincerely sorry about?

Yeshua said that if your brother asks to be forgiven, you should forgive him, not 7 times but 70 times 7 times. However, I have always thought the underlying assumption is that the brother asking for forgiveness is sorry for the sin he committed. If he isn’t sorry, if he isn’t truly doing T’Shuvah, then should/will he be forgiven?

There’s the parable that follows this about the servant who was forgiven a debt and refused to forgive the debt owed to him. For his unforgiveness his own debt was recalled against him. My interpretation of this parable is that the servant was sinfully selfish, in that (1) he borrowed a large sum he couldn’t pay back and (2) did not forgive a small debt that was owed to him. He did not do T’Shuvah from his sin, as demonstrated by his actions. And, not being repentant, his sin was laid back upon him. He wasn’t forgiven because he didn’t want to repent of his sin.

I will not ask forgiveness for things that I know I shouldn’t be doing but choose to continue to do, whatever they are. I will, however, ask God to help me do T’Shuvah, to give faith to my faithlessness, to strengthen me through the Ruach to not just overcome sin, but to hate it to the point where sinning is painful to me. Any sin. And if I ever reach that point, then and only then can I justly ask for forgiveness for a sin I keep committing.

I like to say that before I was saved I was a sinner who rationalized my sins, and now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. To all of you, and before God, here and now I confess: there are some sins I still choose to do.

The bottom line is we will be forgiven anything, over and over, when we are truly repentant, when we come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, and when we choose to stop doing what it is we are doing. When I reach the point that Shaul reached, confessing he was a wretch because he did the things he didn’t want to do, and did not do the things he wanted to do, then and only then will I be able to ask forgiveness for anything and everything I do wrong.

I have a rather long and arduous journey ahead of me. What about you?