Still Crazy After All These Years

Yes, Mr. Simon, I am also guilty of suffering from this condition.

I have been a “Believer” for nearly 18 years. My testimony is available for you to see from when I was “newly reborn” on the About Steven page of this blog. I have read the Bible dozens of times, been involved in Ministry leadership, been on a Council (twice), and acted as Rabbi-Pro-Tem for about a year and a half. I also have a Certificate of Messianic Studies.

And after all that, I am still the same jerk I was before I was saved. I am just a saved jerk.

Why this confession? Last night I had a dream (oh- how I hate dreams sometimes!) and in it I had said something that hurt another person. It wasn’t a break-down-and-cry hurt I caused, it was just the truth spoken truthfully in a way that cut to the bone. I don’t know what I said, but I remember I was justifying and apologizing at the same time, which in real life can’t be done. I have often stated that I am passionate about my beliefs and opinions.

Passionate=discompassionate. At least, in my case.

Recently I have been reading in Shaul’s letters to the Philippians and Ephesians, and realized that passionate discourse doesn’t cut it if it is cutting to someone else. I think I have good ideas, and I am usually ahead of the crowd in meetings when we are discussing how to handle a situation. What I mean is, I will make a suggestion that is straight to the point, without sugar-coating it, and usually it comes across so straight-forward that people don’t understand it because,well, people don’t want to hear truths: they want to hear roses and serenity and everyone loves everyone else, and my answer would have to be, “World Peace!” Then, after about 10 minutes, someone else will say the same thing; it will be “smoothed out” and presented in a tactful and polite manner, and everyone will say, “Ooh- what a good idea.” My wife, Donna, has been with me during some of these meetings. She will look at me and I will look at her and we just smile. Thank God I have gotten to the point where I no longer really need (although I do like) the accolades for having “the idea.”

In any event, it’s nearly two decades later and I am still talking with my New Yorker attitude (Oh yeah? What’s it to ya?) and I should know better. I should know that we are to deal with each other with loving kindness and compassion. That we should think of the other person’s feelings before we think of our own. That we should be forgiving not just in what others have done to us, but in how we treat others who don’t really deserve to be treated nicely. Proverbs says to treat your enemy nicely- to give him food and water and it will be like pouring hot coals on his head. In other words, the enemy will be so surprised that he may stop to think about wanting to be an enemy any more.

They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That may be true, but who wants a bunch of flies hanging around? I would rather get a zapper and listen to them fry.

There, you see? I still think the way I used to, I still talk (less but too much like) the way I used to, and I still have those jokes in my head that got me in so much trouble when I was younger. It’s all still there.

I have prayed and prayed, and asked the Lord to excise the bad parts of my brain that make me think thoughts that aren’t proper, or look at people more like produce than images of God, and I asked Him, over and over, why he won’t just make it all go away. I told the Lord I want to give it up to Him: Please, take it!.

A few years ago he answered me. He said, “It doesn’t work that way.” And I knew what He meant. He was telling me that I need to learn to surrender to the Ruach, to learn to draw on it rather than allow my own thoughts and desires to rule what I say and think and do. And the reason why was because if God was to simply take away the parts I don’t want, how would I ever learn to rely on His Spirit for strength. And when the Day of Judgement comes, and the Tribulations are here, I will need to draw on the strength of the Spirit to survive. My life, and yours, should be Boot Camp for the End Days.

Shaul said that when he is weak, then he is strong. That’s because in our weakness God’s strength is made manifest. It’s another one of those spiritual truths that non-spiritual people think to be foolish: it is my weakness that makes me strong. Not because I am strong, but because God is all-powerful, and when I get out of His way (i.e., die to self) then through me He can do remarkable things.

When I am strong, God cannot do as much.

I am getting weaker, I see it, but like losing weight it is slow to work, and quick to fail. I can gain 3 pounds in a sitting, and it will take three weeks to lose it, only to get it back again. I just can’t seem to get it to pick up speed and keep going down.

I have the same problem with dying to self. I can do it sometimes, but I keep making these stinking lousy recoveries!

How’s your spiritual health? Are you dead to the world and alive and kicking in the Lord? If you are, Hallelujah for you! Really. There is great encouragement in seeing people who have been successful in allowing the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to fill them. It reminds me that there is still a prize to be won.

If you, like me, are not yet in that crowd, don’t despair. I really am not dissatisfied with myself, I am just impatient. I can find solace in knowing that God will not give me more than I can handle, and that His timing is perfect. And, I trust Him more than I do myself to know when the timing is right. In the meantime, I will keep running the good race and doing what I can.

I may be a jerk, but I am a saved jerk. As we read in Psalm 84, one day in the tent of the Lord is better than a thousand days elsewhere.  Even the court jester of old got to live in the castle, so I will be happy in my salvation and grateful to God for whatever improvements I make. Because, when it comes down to it, every step closer to God is worth whatever it takes to get there.

If I take three steps closer to God, then backslide for two of them, I am still one step closer. And if the rest of my life ends up as just one step closer, I will be very happy. So should you.

Can You See the Wind?

Have you ever felt that there is just so much going on right now, and none of it is going right, that you wonder if God took a vacation? The world is a cursed place, and I think, because often God will bless us with good times, we forget that. When the day is sunny, just the right temperature, and we are with loved ones enjoying ourselves, we forget about all the strife in the world,  war, diseases, bigotry, etc. All we are thinking about is how much fun we are having and how wonderful life is.

Then reality hits, and we think, “How can God allow this to happen to me?”

Sometimes it seems that the Almighty is mighty…far away!

Do you know that poetic story, the one about the man and God walking side-by-side on the beach? I think it is called, “Footprints in the Sand.” It tells of a man walking with God, seeing both sets of footprints in the sand, when suddenly as troubles come upon the man he sees only one set of footprints in the sand. Later, after the troubles are gone, he sees two sets of footprints, again. He asks God, ‘Where were you when I needed you? I only saw my footprints in the sand”, and God answered, lovingly, “My child, those were My footprints- during those times of trouble I was carrying you.”

We can’t see the wind, but we can feel it’s presence and see it’s effect. Sometimes the wind is so light you can barely feel it, and other times it seems to not be there at all; we don’t feel the slightest hint of a breeze. But the wind is still there. And other times the wind is so strong that we can’t stand in its presence. At the worst, the wind can be deadly.

Yet, it is always the same thing- it is air. It is all around us, always. Without the air, we die. And when the air is in motion, it is the wind, and we can then most acutely feel its presence.

That is how it is with God. He is always there, He is always surrounding us, and when He moves we can sense His presence.

God doesn’t need us to do anything for Him to move, and often He will show His presence in astounding ways without us doing anything. He will bless us when we don’t expect it, or He may allow us to fall under the cursed world in order to test us. He does what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, and if He doesn’t want to do something, who can make Him do it? No one. This is one of the truths about God that many people refuse to accept, which is a wedge between them and their salvation: God does what He wants to do and we can’t do anything about that.  We can’t make God do anything, but we can influence Him.

We can influence Him into action through faithful prayer. When we come under tsouris (problems) and feel that God must have abandoned us, we need to remember that the wind is never gone, even when we can’t feel it. It just isn’t moving. There are many factors that can affect the wind and cause it to stir, but there is only one thing that we need in order to cause God to move- faithful prayer. When people ask for a sign, or atheists and agnostics say they need to see proof of God’s existence, they just don’t understand about wind. When you move air, it causes wind, and the winds’ effects can be seen, proving that it is there. With God, faithful prayer is the fan that moves Him into action, and His actions are the proof that He exists. The reason these people don’t see proof of God is because they have no faith. They can have all the proof they will ever need, but they won’t do what is necessary. It is as the prophets have said: they have ears but cannot hear, and eyes but cannot see.

I loved the Three Stooges. I especially remember when Moe would poke Curly in the eyes and Curly would cry out,”Moe! Larry! I can’t see! I can’t see!” and when Moe and Larry asked what’s wrong, Curly smiled and said, “‘Cause my eyes are closed.” That’s when Moe would slap him across the head. Exactly what I think many people in the world need today- a good slap to the head while screaming in their ears, “WAKE UP!!!  You’re almost out of time and you’d better stop this foolishness.”

Did you know that when the Bible refers to foolishness it doesn’t mean making funny faces and performing silly antics? It refers to people who refuse to accept God’s existence and power. The Biblical definition of a  foolish person is one who rejects God.

We all suffer dry spells, we all go through our own “desert”, and sometimes we find ourselves back in the same desert over and over. Yet, even the most desolate desert has wind.

God is always here. I read once the ancient Rabbi’s said that it is impossible for God to go down to Earth because He is already there. He is everywhere, all the time, and the reason we don’t see Him is because we are too stubborn or too hardhearted to be able to see Him. Just like air, God is all around us, even when we don’t feel His presence.

If you want to know His presence, faithfully pray to Him. Fan the Lord with your faith, prod Him with your prayers, and watch Him move mountains for you.

Am I Praying Correctly?

Prayer is the way we communicate with God. He communicates with us differently- through visions, sometimes audibly, sometimes (as I believe I hear Him) it is a small, quiet voice in the back of my head that tells me what to do. I figure it’s God, through the Ruach, because the answer is usually not what I was hoping for but what I realize I need to hear. If it doesn’t make sense, in a worldly way, then it has a good chance of being from God.

But is it? I ask myself this all the time- I am almost jealous of those people who say they heard God talking to them and He told them what to do. I more often than not write it off to people wanting so badly to be able to brag about being godly that I take all these clams with a grain of salt. It’s unfortunate, too, because I really want to believe that God is talking to people. If he is, then maybe one day I will hear Him, myself, in a way that will leave no room for doubt.

It’s because I doubt, because I need to ask as the man did in the Gospels, to have Yeshua give faith to my faithlessness that I think I may not pray correctly. There are examples in the Manual where the Tzaddikim (righteous ones) asked God to help strengthen their resolve.  Even Yeshua asked God to strengthen Him when He prayed at Golgotha. So who am I to think I could hear God any clearer, or that I could have as much faith as these?

That’s why I keep asking myself, and God, too, “Am I praying correctly?”  My answer is, “No; not really.” I believe I should be in a quiet place, alone and undisturbed, and concentrating on my prayers. Instead, I usually start my morning prayer (traditional Jewish prayers are done three times daily: Shaharit , the morning service;  Minchah, the afternoon service; and Maariv, the evening service) in the car as I drive to work. Before we moved to Florida I worked a 90 minute drive away from home, and sometimes the prayers lasted all the way to work. Sometimes I just do a “quickie”. I think the one thing I do correctly is to start by thanking God and end by thanking God. The problem with this, I feel, is that I am in a quiet place but not concentrating solely on God. I can’t close my eyes  while driving (Thou shalt not test the Lord, thy God) and if I get into it and begin to “auto pilot”, that can be dangerous, too.

I need to really try to sit and pray, alone, before the rush of the day begins. And I need to pray continuously all day, as I feel the need for His Ruach to help me calm myself. Actually, I do that, I mean, pray continuously (didn’t Shaul tell us we should pray that way?) and I try to remember to pray for others.

I am not a good intercessor- I don’t have the compassion or concern for others that an real intercessor has. Now that I think about it, I am really blessed in one way- I am so far from where I should be that I have so much potential. Potential is good, realization of potential is better; so, nu? At least I have potential!

Anyway, back to prayer…it should be honest, heartfelt, and we should approach God with a contrite spirit. David said that a broken spirit and a contrite heart God will not turn away; of course, I am not saying we should only pray when we are down. We should pray constantly  and we should follow the template that Yeshua gave us (see Matthew 6). When His Talmudim asked Yeshua in what manner should they pray, the answer He gave was not just what to pray, but how to pray.

It starts with recognizing God’s greatness and authority, it asks for forgiveness, it reminds us to forgive others, it asks for only what we need (implying our faith in God to provide what we need and when we need it- no need to store up extra) and it ends as it began, acknowledging God as the Almighty.

Maybe that’s all we need to do? Just acknowledge God as our King, and remember to forgive others so when we ask for forgiveness “as we forgive others” we have something to show for it, and to thank God for His gifts and provisioning. Even if we feel that we need more, we should thank God for what we have. Remember the parable about the servants and the talents they were given- even those that have nothing, what they do have will be taken from them. You can always have less, so be thankful for whatever you do have. Even if your life seems to be full of tsouris, you’re alive and being alive means having hope. I feel so bad for those people (when I am feeling compassionate, which does happen now and then) who refuse to accept God’s existence, or my own people who refuse, vehemently, to accept their Messiah Yeshua (which I did for over 40 years, too) because without God and Yeshua, there is no hope.

I know that the Jewish people are fervently praying for Messiah to come. He will return, and for them (I guess) it will be the first coming.  That’s the problem- the first coming has come and gone, and when he returns there won’t be a lot of time to realize they missed the boat. I do pray for my people, not nearly enough, so to you reading this blog I ask that you also pray for Israel and the Jewish people to accept their Messiah. Also for the Gentiles to continue as I see many doing, which is to support Israel and get closer to their Hebraic roots. God has no religion, and we need to come together against the Enemy of God, who will unquestionable have a unified following. If we don’t get our heads together and start to worship God uniformly, without all these traditions and policies and pomp and ceremonies that men created, whitewashing God’s laws and commandments and trying to humanize God with all types of  excuses and reasoning about what he wants and why, we will not stand before the Enemy and his armies.

The Enemy will not allow his followers to be divided, he will not allow them to have free will and he will not allow them to think on their own. He will be ruthless, and if you think Nazi Germany was bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  We who believe in God, who have been saved by the sacrificial death of Yeshua, and who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob need to unify- God has no religion! When we get religion out of the way, we will be strong.

God confused mankind at the Tower of Babel and said that He did so because if we were left to our own devices, all speaking the same language and all together as one, we could do anything. I think He confused us because it was too soon for us to be that way. But now, with the End Days approaching quickly, I believe it is time, and God is waiting for us to get together again. We have different languages and cultures, but one Torah, one Messiah and the one God. If we become one under God and Yeshua, we will defeat the Enemy, both corporately and individually.

Prayer is how we strengthen ourselves. Even when done as sloppily and incompetently as I do it, my prayer time strengthens me. It helps me stay in touch with God, and if He chooses to answer me in a still, small voice or slap me upside my head, it is His answer.  Even His silence is an answer, in that His silence will make me pray harder and to seek Him more. I know He’s there,  I know He’s listening. It’s like Hide and Seek- sometimes you just have to seek harder.

I guess, in the end, praying to God, no matter how you do it, is what praying is all about. Maybe there really isn’t a “right” way or a “wrong” way. Maybe just praying is what we should do, and since we are all different, if we pray honestly, earnestly, humbly, and constantly God will honor that.

I think that’s good. Just pray from your heart, and you are praying correctly. What do you think?

Spiritual Aspirin

When someone hurts us by being cruel, or spiteful, or just by accident, it is hard to let it go. I know about this because I have been hurt, and seen my children used and abused (given medications they didn’t need and emotionally conditioned) as an attempt to “get back” at me. Now they don’t even want any part of me, except my money. Yeah- it’s OK to send them money but don’t have any other contact.

Sorry, kids- Luv ‘ya but it don’t work that way.

I am sure many of you have had similar experiences- shunned at work, exploited at home, maybe much worse. By strangers or friends, or even family.

It hurts and all we want to do is make it stop hurting. But how?

The cure is almost harder to accept than the hurt: we need to forgive. Forgiving the person who hurts us is, really, the only way to make the pain go away. You may always be a little “sore” but the pain will fade as you get better at forgiving.

“That jerk doesn’t deserve my forgiveness! Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to forgive them.”  Understood. Acknowledged, and I will even go as far as to say I know just how you feel. But it’s not your choice- God commands us to forgive. In Mattiyahu (Matthew) we are told that if we don’t forgive on Earth our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. And the Lord’s Prayer asks God to forgive us as we forgive others; in other words, measure out to us as we measure out to others. That means if we don’t, He won’t. Hmm….maybe I should revisit my attitude.

In Proverbs we are told that we should give our enemies food and drink, and it will be like pouring hot coals on their head. The idea (I think) is not to be vengeful but to wake them up- make them suffer the indignity of what they did to us by being compassionate to them. Perhaps they will do T’Shuva, and save themselves from Sheol.

In Ezekiel God says He gets no pleasure from seeing the sinner die; rather, he would prefer that the sinner turn from his sinful ways and live. Aren’t we supposed to be holy, as He is holy? We can get closer to God by forgiving.

To err is human; to forgive, Divine. DUH !!!

The other thing to remember is that Proverbs tells us not to return evil for evil, but wait upon the Lord. He will judge. If you think that someone doesn’t deserve forgiveness, you are actually taking the place of God. Not something He is very likely to appreciate, ya know?

I have found, for myself, that forgiveness is one of the hardest things I have to do as a Believer. I discovered something that makes it easier, and I would like to share that with you, hopefully to make it easier for you, too.

Pray for them. That’s right- pray earnestly for the people who hate you and have done you wrong; who have hurt you; who have hurt those you love. When I pray for them, I don’t ask God to forgive them because that decision is actually between them and God. That’s not my place to tell God what to do, but I can ask Him to help them come to Him. I pray they find salvation.

Another way I help myself into being able to pray for someone who has hurt me is to look into the future, and imagine what that person will be facing when they come to judgement. The hurt they caused is finite, and the quicker I pray for them and forgive them for what they did to me, the quicker I will stop hurting. Emotional pain is like a log in my eye: when I remove the log (through forgiveness) I can see the truth about what they will have to endure, for all Eternity. That certainly is nothing compared to what they did to me, which will be nothing more than a faded memory, if even that, when I come into His Glory in the Acharit HaYamim.

It sounds easy enough, but so does anything else until you try it. Truth is, I still get angry and feel the pain of certain things. Deep cuts take a long time to heal, and they always leave a scar. But with God’s help (yes, you most certainly can ask God to help you forgive), the guidance found in His Word, and the peace I receive from the Ruach, I am getting better and better at forgiving.

The more I forgive, the less it hurts. Forgiveness is spiritual aspirin that makes the pain go away.

Here’s another way to look at it: when you forgive something it is easier to forget about it. When you don’t forgive, you end up reliving it, and the pain just keeps coming back. It’s like tearing off the scab before it can heal. And here’s a hard truth that you must accept- if you keep reliving the pain, it is not their fault anymore! That’s right- they hurt you, that was a one-time deal. If the person, or people, hurt you over and over, it is still the same thing.  Each time you relive it, you are now the one hurting yourself. Now it’s your fault, not theirs. Rehearsing our anger is like throwing gasoline on a fire about to die.

If you want to stop hurting, you need to stop reliving the event and forgive the person. Start out by praying for their salvation, and move on. Let their ultimate forgiveness stay between them and God; you do what is right in God’s eyes regarding your own actions. He wants…no, He commands… you to forgive those who hurt you. Obey the Lord. It ain’t easy! Man-o-Manischevitz , it is hard to do!  But do it, we must.

Forgiveness is the only way to make the hurt go away. I know it’s a lousy turn of events. First this piece of work, this sorry excuse for a human being, this so-and-so does horrible things to me and now God tells me I have to forgive them. And if I don’t, I will never feel better. It sounds like a no-win situation.

It’s not; in fact, it’s a win-win because when you forgive you not only make the hurt go away, but you receive God’s blessings in your life. He will bless you for your obedience, and you will be so much better off that you will even start to think (maybe) that the sin against you was itself a blessing in disguise because of the spiritual maturity it helped you to achieve.

Okay, maybe that’s a little far-fetched. But not too much.

Look back in your life and see if there are still scabs that are haven’t healed, wounds festering in your heart and hurts that won’t go away. Pray for that person who sinned against you and see if you don’t feel better. Do it honestly, do it heart-fully, do it trustingly. I really believe that you will feel better, because it has worked for me.

Take spiritual aspirin and call on Him in the morning.

Take 2 Prayers, and Call Me in the Morning

Oy! What a mishigas!! Work was rough, I got yelled at by the boss, my spouse is in a bad mood and wants to tell me about it. I want to listen but have been hearing complaints all day long from customers and my compassion gauge is at FULL. Just, everyone….leave me alone!!!

Ever feel that way?  Really? That often? Welcome to the Club, Brothers and Sisters.

In today’s fast..faster..fastest world I think we all get too caught up in a whirlwind of events that just keep coming at us. We feel like we are in an emotional spiral, either revving up to an explosion or falling into oblivion. It’s just too much too much, and too often.

Sometimes I wish I lived in simpler times. I am a Baby Boomer at the end of the cycle, born in the mid-50’s. I remember the innocence of the times and miss that slower, more congenial way of life. Yeah, we were more than innocent- we were naive. We were lied to and all the social tribulations, domestic abuse, pornography and underhanded activities in government that we expose so much today were happening then, too.

But the “feel” of life was nicer. Maybe it’s just Escapism- that desire to go back to a time we recall (truthfully or not) as happier.

The sad truth is, as Thomas Wolfe said, you can’t go home again.

There is a way to feel calmer, to get to a more relaxed state of mind, and to overcome the stress of today’s problems and exhaustive schedule. No, it’s not TM or Tai Chi or Yoga (although there’s nothing wrong with those). What I am talking about is prayer. And not the kind of prayer where you ask God to give you something, but the kind of prayer where you just thank God for all He has given you.

Huh? What’s that? I need help, I need to relax, I’ve got all this stress and all these problems and I need them to go away. And you want me to thank God? You crazy, or what?

No, I’m not crazy (there could be arguments made against that statement, though): I’m right. I know I’m right because it works for me, it works for my wife, and it will work for you, too.

The problem with problems is that they blind us to our blessings. They are like the glare from the sun on your car windshield, which makes it impossible to see what is directly ahead of you. When you focus on your blessings, it’s like putting on polarized sunglasses; once you have them on, you can see everything clearly. It’s that simple.

Prayer, especially thankful prayer, is the way to get passed the world and see the spiritual. It is balm for the soul. When you feel overwhelmed by the world, your life and your problems, you are blinded to the wonderful things that God has provided. It’s normal to feel that way; that’s why God has given us the ability to come into His throneroom through prayer. By the atonement we receive from Yeshua’s sacrifice, we can come boldly before the Lord. In fact, even if you are not “saved”, God will hear your prayer when you come before Him humbly and with a contrite spirit. That’s the way He rolls.

When I was still searching for God, I started to pray. Not because I was a firm believer in God, but because I thought it would help me. I remembered hearing somewhere that if you felt unhappy, smile. If you smile, even if you are unhappy, eventually by smiling you will become happier. I thought, “Why not do the same with prayer? Maybe if I pray like I believe in God, I will start believing more?” Funny thing is, it worked. And I felt better, too. Emotionally, even before I was blessed with the indwelling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), I felt better. I was relaxed, as if a weight had been lifted. It doesn’t last forever, the weight comes back. Living in the world is like working at the fish market. By the time you come home, you stink of fish. You may wash and wash, eventually getting the smell off of you, but by midday tomorrow you will stink, again.

Prayer is the spiritual soap that cleanses us of the stench from the cursed world we live in.

And, as your Mother always told you, you should wash every day. So, with that thought in mind, start to wash yourself with prayer every day. Start the day clean, and go to bed cleansed from the world. Just say, “Thank you, Father, for all that You do for me. For my salvation, for my health (if you are alive you are healthier than a dead person), for my situation (it can always be worse), for everything You have done, for what You are doing right now, and for everything that You have planned for me.”

As the old saying goes, just count your blessings. In thankful prayer you will find peace, so long as you honestly thank God for whatever He has done for you. In the midst of the worst trials and tribulations, God is there. Remember that poem, “Footprints in the Sand?” When there was only one set of footprints, the writer asks where God was when he was walking all alone through his problems. God’s answer was that the footprints weren’t those of the man, but they were God’s footprints; there was only one set because God was carrying the man through those troubled times.

God carries us through our problems, and there is a reason that Yeshua called the Ruach the “Comforter”. It’s because that’s what it does; it comforts us, it relaxes us, it takes away the worries and the strife. Maybe only temporarily, but that’s another thing to be thankful for- the Spirit, like God, is always there for you. When those feelings of complete and utter despair come back, the Ruach is ready for it.

Feeling out of it? Ready to call it a day and you just woke up? Wanna go to Petsmart after work, pick up something small and defenseless, take it home and KILL IT!!!  Please don’t. Just find a quiet corner somewhere, and thank God for all you have. It may take some effort, I know (believe me…I know!), but it is worth the effort. Let the Comforter comfort, ease into an emotional hot tub, put on your spiritual sunglasses and see through the haze of the world all the wonderful things God has done, and is doing, for you right now.

When you offer up to the Lord thankful prayer, He will give you peace of spirit. Unlike the hard truth that you can’t “go back home again”, thankful prayer is something that will never be gone and will always make you feel better. It is constantly here, easily within reach, and  it works. Try it right now- why wait? Nu? What could it hoit?

Forgiveness is For Later

The Bible says that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. That’s comforting to know, but what does it mean, really?

It doesn’t mean that you are going to be free of the consequence of your sin. At least, not until you are dead.

Oh, my! That’s not quite as comforting. Can’t we change that? Sorry, no. Forgiveness of sins is something that God does for us, and through the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua we are all able to ask for, and receive, forgiveness of sins. But the actual, temporal consequences of our sins are something we can’t avoid. When we sin, it is always, and foremost, against God. The next level is against someone else. When God forgives us, it is the sin against Him for which we are forgiven, and that forgiveness will be realized most when we meet Him at Judgement Day.

In the meantime, we have to deal with what we did, here and now. Look at David, who sinned against God (he knew the proper order, as you can see in Psalm 51), against Bathsheba, and against Urriah.  The result of his sin was the birth of a baby boy, and the consequence of his sin was the death of the innocent baby.

Sin is bad, and the worst part (I think) is that the one who seems to suffer the most from my sin is the one I sin against. Sometimes it’s just an innocent. Well, wait a minute! That kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? Not that this is a good thing, but doesn’t the Manual require the blood, i.e. the very life, of an innocent to atone for sin?  Isn’t that absolutely clear? You would think that knowing this we would be more careful, right? On the other hand, sinfulness implies that the person doing the sinning doesn’t really care, doesn’t it?

I sin, and I don’t want to. I know I am a sinner, the Bible tells me everyone sins, we are all born with a sinful nature (whether the Christian thought of original sin or the Talmudic thought of the Yetzer Hara), and we have no hope for overcoming this ourselves. God knew that from the beginning, which is why we can see His promise of a Messiah all the way back to Abraham. The Old Covenant tells us what happened right up to before Messiah comes, and the New Covenant tells us of the Messiah and what will happen when it all comes to an end. That’s one of the many things I love about the Bible,: it takes us from the very beginning to the very end, from what has happened to what will happen, and all the time we see what it is like, even today, in how things and people were then.

Hmmmm….that sounds like “was, is, and shall be”. That should sound familiar to you: it is how we describe God. He was, He is, and He always shall be.  Yochanan (John) tells us (at the beginning of his Gospel) there was the Word, and the Word became flesh. In the D’var Adonai (Word of God) we see this description of the Almighty, and the Word tells us of what was, which we can relate to what is now, and it also describes what will be.

Nice correlation, don’t you think?

Anyway, back to sin.

This is an easy lesson for us to learn. The consequence of our sin is twofold: there is the immediate, earthly consequence and the future, spiritual consequence. We are saved from the spiritual punishment sin deserves by Messiah, but there is no escape from the physical, here and now, consequence. The person(s) sinned against will suffer, and (hopefully) the sinner will also suffer. I don’t mean that as a vengeful statement, but as a hopeful one- if the sinner feels the pain of the sin he or she committed, then there is a hope for the future. Maybe they will do T’Shuvah and save themselves. For the sinner that doesn’t care, the future will only get darker.

I don’t think that anyone who sins against God and doesn’t care is really going to feel the pain of their sin, whereas I know, for a fact, that others will feel it. We need to first and foremost ask forgiveness from God, then we need to ask it from those we have sinned against.

With the approach of Rosh Hashanah, I am reminded of a tradition performed at this festival. We are to go to those we may have sinned against and ask for forgiveness. It is an old Jewish tradition, and for those who don’t think that Yeshua did Jewish things, read Matthew 5:24. Yeshua tells the people to do exactly what this tradition says to do. It’s as I always say (besides “God has no religion”): there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant.

Those of you who think that you may have sinned against someone, either in word or thought or deed, go ask for forgiveness. First from God, then from the person. If your heart is truly repentant, God will grant you forgiveness when you ask in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. However, you don’t know what will happen when you go to the human being you sinned against. That person may not forgive you; in fact, you may get a real tongue-lashing. Accept it, and move on. You did right in God’s eyes by asking for forgiveness, and you will do much, much better in His eyes when you forgive those who sinned against you. It doesn’t matter whether they ask you or not. You are commanded, as we all are, to forgive. Check it out in Matthew 6:14-15. There are other places, too, throughout the Tanakh and B’rit Chadashah: check it out for yourself.

Since we are commanded to forgive, if we don’t forgive, we are actually sinning, aren’t we? Isn’t a sin defined as doing something God said not to do?  If so, then is not doing something God said we should do the same thing? A sin? I think so…what do you think?

Heck, why argue? Just forgive; if for no other reason, it is the only way to make the pain go away. Anywho, this is getting into a totally different topic.

Sin stinks. It reeks to High Heaven. Fortunately, God provided a way for us to avoid the Eternal consequences of our sins. Praise Him and thank you, Yeshuah!

In the meantime, be careful. Guard your tongue, control your feelings, always pray to Adonai that He guide you with the Ruach HaKodesh. And if you haven’t accepted your own sinfulness and come before Yeshua asking for Him to intercede with God, you better hurry up. The times, they are a’changin’, and not for the better.  Think about it: since the End Days are in the future, that means every day brings us closer, not further, from the time we will all face God at His judgement throne.  If Yeshua isn’t your defence attorney(everyone wants a Jewish lawyer) , you is in big trouble!


Be Careful What You Pray For Because You Might Just Get It!

That’s right. I know that whatever we pray for, when we pray in Yeshua’s Name, we will receive.  That’s Yeshua’s promise to us and His Father will honor it.

That doesn’t mean we will get what we expect, or even what we want.

In my life, I have found that God answers prayer in one of three ways:

  1. God says,” OK. Here’s what you asked for, as you asked for it, when you asked for it.” This is rare, I mean, really rare.
  2. God answers the prayer, but not the way I expected, and (usually) not when I was hoping. This is the usual case, and although it normally isn’t what I asked for or when, it always seems to be exactly what I need and exactly when I need it.
  3. God just says, “No.” That’s right- God can do that; really, He can. He can just say “Not doing it” and that is it.

Wait a minute here! Yeshua said we would get whatever we ask for. How can God say no if I ask in Yeshua’s name? Wouldn’t that make Him a liar?

On the surface, it would seem so, wouldn’t it? Let me ask you this: if you asked for something that was against God’s will, and you asked in Yeshua’s name, would God have to acquiesce? Would the Almighty change His universal plan just because you or I want something?

One of the Big 10 (I’m not talking basketball, here) says do not use the Lord’s name in vain. That could mean more than just not screaming it out when you are angry, or using it when trying to make a point. It could mean, as I learned this past Shabbat from a Pastor I listen to and respect, not doing something representative of God and making a shambles of it, causing His name to be disrespected. For instance, asking in prayer for something that is not really keeping with His holiness. Asking God to do something that is not keeping with His holiness, and using Yeshua’s name, is taking the Name in vain.

Let’s say I pray for a new car. Is that really something we would expect to be in God’s plan? It might, but more likely wouldn’t God prepare a means for me to get where I need to instead of miraculously making a new Mustang (4 on the floor with a hemi, of course) just appear in the driveway? Or, what if I prayed to win the mega-millions lottery, and that no one else win so I get the whole prize? Is that really a Godly prayer? Do you really think if we prayed in Yeshua’s name to win the lottery and we didn’t, that would make Yeshua a liar and God a cheat? Puh-leeze!! We need to grow up.

Let’s get real- God wants only the best for us, but He is holy and won’t do as humans do. And when we pray we need to remember that prayer should rise as a fragrant aroma to the Lord. Selfish, ego-centric, and hateful prayers are not fragrant- they stink. They stink to high heaven.

God will answer prayer, but (I believe) only prayers that are worthy of His actions. I pray often for the salvation of, and reconciliation with, my children, who have cut me out of their lives. To pray for someone’s salvation is holy, right? I faithfully look forward to His answer, and I believe it will be as I am hoping for. However, He gave us free will and if my children reject Him, despite the fact that I faithfully and completely believe He will send His angels to talk with them and give them a spirit of desire to know Him (that is my prayer), if my prayer doesn’t come to fruition during my lifetime, it’s not God’s fault. My kids have free will, and they can reject Him. My prayer is a righteous one, and God will answer, but he won’t force the kids to act. That choice is up to them.

He will answer my prayer, but the result may not be what I prayed for because I am asking for something where humans have to make a decision.

I once prayed for God to teach me how to call upon His Ruach (Spirit) for peace when I am troubled. He answered almost immediately: the next day my workload doubled. I was forced to work harder and the stress was terrible. It wasn’t until a few days later, when I recovered enough to think, that I realized this tsuris (troubles) was God’s answer. He was teaching me to call on His Spirit for peace by giving me so much stress there was no human way to relax so I would have to call on Him.

Actually, Lord, that wasn’t what I was thinking.

God will always answer righteous prayer, and when we pray as He would want, His name will not be used in vain.

But you still never know what the answer will be, and sometimes you may not even recognize it as His answer.

So… be careful  what you pray for.

Politics and Religion Should Mix

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem (Shalu Shalom Yerushalayim). I hear this, we pray it, it’s written on my Tallit. It is even commanded for us to do, is it not? Yet, in the Acharit HaYamim (The End Days) won’t the whole world come against Jerusalem? Isn’t nearly 2/3 of the Earth (and people) to be destroyed, and a new Earth and a new Jerusalem to be created?

When we pray for Yeshua to return, isn’t that going to happen only at the very end of the near total destruction of the World and of the “religious” center of the Universe (that’s Jerusalem, by the way), according to Revelations?

The Bill of Rights guarantees that there will be a separation of church and state. That is a fundamental right of all Americans. But is that a fundamental right of all believers? It shouldn’t be, should it? After all, isn’t the way God wants us to live politically called a Theocracy? A God-led government? The Torah is our Constitution, it is our Penal Code, it is our Miss Manners, it is our Ketubah (Marriage Certificate) with God: it is all we need.

When the Israelites wanted a King, didn’t Shmuel (Samuel) warn them? Wasn’t having a separation between God and Government, in fact, a rejection of God’s authority in our everyday lives?

When people ask me if I am going to a Pro-Israel meeting or event, I usually refuse. Why? Am I against Israel? Certainly not! I don’t do politics, I do God.

You probably won’t agree, but because I want Yeshua to return as soon as possible, to me praying for the (immediate) peace of Jerusalem is almost tantamount to telling Yeshua to stay away. I know…I know…how can I think that? We are commanded to pray for the peace  of Jerusalem. Well, I do. But not for now. I want Jerusalem to have the ultimate peace, an eternal peace, and that will only come with the End Times. Right now what we should expect is anything but peace.

If you believe, as I do, that we are in prophetic times, that we are getting nearer to the End Times (of course, that’s an oxymoron- since the End Times are in the future, by definition every day brings us closer) I look forward to the return of Messiah. I don’t look forward to what that means to us- tribulation, war, death and destruction on a scale never before witnessed by human beings. Not a pretty picture. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Shaul (Paul) told us to keep our eyes on the prize, i.e, the final victory.

When you play golf and you come to a hole with sand traps and water all over it, the methodology is simple- don’t look at where you don’t want to go, keep focused only on the areas you want to hit to. If you look at the sand trap, you will be in it. Let’s look to the end of the end, the new Earth and the new Jerusalem.

I can’t tell you what to do when it comes to praying for Jerusalem or attending political events. If you want to be told, get religion. They’re good at telling you what to do, how to do it, and what will happen if you don’t. This blog/ministry won’t tell you anything but what I see in God’s Word, and to make up your own mind. I don’t want to put myself on a level with the Prophets , but I feel the same responsibility that they had: God told them if they spoke His words they were innocent of the blood that will be shed for disobedience, but if they didn’t they would have the sinners blood on their head. I want you to know what God says, but it is still me interpreting God’s word for you. And I’m a sinner and a bit of a Shlemiel, so you can’t take what I say as an a priori truth.

You need to make up your own minds because, ultimately, it will be you before God and He will hold you responsible for what you do and don’t do. There are no excuses, and what you do or don’t do is your decision. He gave us all Free Will, and he gave us His word to read and , by reading, to understand Him and what He wants from us. Which means we are accountable for ourselves, and it’s no one else’s fault.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, by all means, if for no other reason than we are told to do so. Which “peace” you pray for, the peace made by men (how long has that ever lasted?) or the peace that God promises, is up to you.

Hidden Idolotry

The below is an excerpt from my book, “Back to Basics: God’s Word vs. Religion” (there is a link to it somewhere around here, and it’s on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites):

I must have read at least four different versions of the Bible over the years, and read the Bible itself from cover to cover over 2 dozen times, not to mention all the commentaries I’ve read to prepare a Bible study or a sermon.  And yet, after all that reading and study, I don’t recall anywhere where Yeshua said to worship Him (Yeshua). Yes, He says He is the Son of God, and He says He is the Messiah, and He told His Talmudim (Disciples) that they should call Him Lord, for He is their Lord, but He never told anyone to worship anybody or anything other than His Father in heaven. If we worship anyone or anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we are guilty of idolatry.

    Strong words. And words that might make some readers uncomfortable, since most of the Christians I know almost always pray to Jesus, exclusively. Yet, as I said, I have never found anywhere in the Manual the instructions for praying to Yeshua. All I have ever read is how we should be praying to God.

   But didn’t Yeshua tell us that anything we ask for in His name we will receive? (John 14:13) Yes, He did, but that’s not the same as saying, “Pray to me and you will receive what you ask for.” Far from it! He is simply saying that what we ask for from God will be given when we ask Yeshua to intercede for us (there is an implied understanding here that what we ask for “in His name” will be something that is within God’s will, and not just for selfish or evil purposes). We are to utilize the fact that Yeshua sacrificed Himself for us, and by means of that sacrifice we are able to receive the salvation that used to be attainable only through the sacrificial system with the Temple. Yeshua is the one and last, ultimate sacrifice, and he sits at God’s right hand, interceding for us. That is why we pray in His name, to utilize the pathway He has provided. Maybe that’s why He both instructs and reminds us that the only way to the Father is through the Son ( John 14:6).

   It was by Yeshua’s death that we can now get past the Parokhet, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the average person. That’s why the curtain was torn from the top down, from God to us, when Yeshua died. He provides the pathway, He says to follow Him (and no one else), and He is the one who tells us how to pray (Matthew 6:9), which is to “Our Father, who art in Heaven…”.  He didn’t say, “pray to me”. He told us to pray to God. If we pray to anyone else, we are placing a barrier between God and us. Yeshua is an intercessor, not a barrier.”

I hear people, especially in one of the oldest “Christian” religions, where the prayer is almost always to Yeshua/Jesus. They also pray to saints, people. Not God, Adonai, El Elyon, but to people. They ask people to ask Jesus to ask God! But they kneel before a graven image and pray to that person. And they see nothing wrong with that!

Oy!! No graven images, pray to Our Father, ask in my name…what part of this don’t they understand? Where do they come up with this stuff?

Who do you pray to?  Is it God, the Father? Is it Jesus/Yeshua? Is it somebody that is supposed to intercede with Yeshua to ask the Father? Why so many middlemen? No wonder Jewish people are uncomfortable with this program- we would never purposely do retail when wholesale is available!

Think about the hidden idols in your life, and I’m not talking about statues of Ba’al in the living room.Is football more important than Church? Do you read the Bible for a few minutes each morning or the newspaper (which is always the same?)

Think about it, and if you see the hidden idols in your life, get rid of them.

How Long Does Prayer Have to Be?

How many times have you heard people pray? and pray…and pray…and pray…and pray!  “Father God” this, and “Father God” that, and “Father God”, and (more) “Father God”.

I think He knows who you are talking to.

I also think that prayer doesn’t have to be long and drawn out to be effective. In fact, in Numbers (B’Midbar) 12:13, when Miryam was struck with leprosy, here was Moshe’s big sister, who risked her life following him down the Nile (Nile Crocodiles bask on the river’s edge, where she was walking, and they can get to be 12 feet long and weigh over a ton- yes, she risked her life for him) and when he saw her, white as death, did he cry out in a long and Shakespearean manner? No, he simply said, “Oh Lord, please heal her!” That was it. Five words and God said He would heal her.

Solomon made a long and beautiful prayer when he dedicated the Temple. Even though it was long, it was inclusive of what he was asking for- that God not just bless and sanctify the house they made for His presence, but that in the future when Jews all over the world prayed in the direction of the Temple (prophetic, wasn’t it?) that God listen. And Solomon went through the different problems we may have to cause us to pray to God for relief. That was what most of the prayer was about, which is why I said it was inclusive.

We don’t need to pray until we run out of things to say. I hear, so often (haven’t you?) people searching for things to add. It’s sad, to me. Why can’t they have the faith that God knows what we want, and just ask for that? If we were to intercede for everyone we know, and ask for everything that we think God would want us to ask for, we won’t have time to live any of it. When Yeshua taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:11) He said to just ask for our daily bread. If I can make a quickie Drash on this, I would say it’s not just today’s bread we should ask for, trusting in Ha Shem (God, or literally ‘The Name”) to provide for tomorrow when it comes, but that we should only ask for what is needed, now. With prayer, that means don’t go on and on, asking for this person, and that person, and for this, and for that, ad infinitum. Just use the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Schlemiel!  Pray about what is most important to you. Yeshua also tells us later in Matthew that God knows what we need and what we want.

Personally, I think he wants us to pray, even though He knows what we want, so we can show not just faithful belief that He is listening, but to show that we can be humble in our requests, and that we don’t ask for everything to make ourselves look “holy”. I am not holy, you are not holy. God says to “be thou holy, for I am holy” but it is not possible for humans. That isn’t so much a command as a goal. We can reach it, but only thanks to Yeshua and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that dwells in those who have accepted God’s gift of Grace.

Well, I would be a hypocrite if I kept on at this topic any longer. Keep your prayer simple, keep it honest, and if you don’t find the words coming easily and on their own, stop.

When I pray what is truly on my heart, I cry. If you pray and find yourself crying, well, THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!!