Do you purr for God?

I have two cats, Shadow and Bowtie. Both males, both fixed (why do we say they are “fixed” when what we did is to make sure it doesn’t work anymore?), and both with different personalities. Shadow is an nudge, always crawling on the newspaper when we are reading it, always moaning at 0330 in the morning (it’s a miracle he is still alive!),  and Bowtie is the one who is the “good son”.

The other day I was petting Shadow and he started to purr. I did the same with Bowtie later in the day, and realized how often I do this. Yes, obviously they have me well trained, but here’s the interesting part: when I pet them and do good things for them, their purr tells me they appreciate what I am doing for them, and I start to purr. Not audibly, but in my heart. I like hearing them tell me how much they like what I do for them.

Then it struck me- God must also feel good when we tell and show Him how much we appreciate what He does for us.

I am not saying that God sees us as pets, but what He does for us is wonderful, and when we show that appreciation I just have to believe that he feels as good as I do, if not better, then when I hear Bowtie or Shadow purring as I do good things to them.

We don’t sacrifice lambs or bulls to show God our appreciation anymore because the Temple is gone, but we can sacrifice in other ways to show how thankful we are. We can sacrifice our time to help others through volunteering; we can sacrifice our income through charitable contributions to those organizations we know are really doing God’s work (so many charities seem to be doing good when you see their TV ads, but you need to be as wise as the Sages of old when giving to charities- make sure it is legit); we can also sacrifice our work time to be with family more often.

Yeshua told us that whatever we do to our brothers, we do to Him. And I don’t think He meant just fellow Believers; I think Yeshua and God want us to be kind and compassionate to anyone and everyone, whether they are a Believer or not.

So, nu? Do you purr for God? Do you show Him how much you appreciate all He has done, is doing, and has planned to do for you? It is all for your good, trust Him, and even when He throws you into the fire, it is to designed to make you (come out) more purified than before.

I challenge you all to think of one way you can “purr for God” today. Do something that you know will please the Lord- it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be honest and heartfelt and thankful. God loves a cheerful giver, and He is pleased when we do what is right, so go out there and purr loud and strong for God today.

I don’t deserve this

The parashah this coming Shabbat tells of the sin of the Golden Calf at Mt. Sinai. We see in this one of the less spoken about aspects of Moshe (Moses), which is his courage. We haven’t really seen that too much; I mean, when he first met the Lord at the burning bush all he wanted to do was get out of the calling. He did something along the way to Egypt that got God so mad He almost killed Moses (the Chumash suggests that Moses pretended to be sick to delay going), and even though he appeared before Pharaoh, it was Aaron that did most of the talking and doing. It took Moshe a while before he really stood up and took charge.

At the mountain after the people sin, God tells Moses to stand back so God can destroy these rebellious and stiff-necked people, then make a nation out of Moses. So, what does Moses do? He doesn’t stand out of the way, he stands in the breach! He places himself between a rebellious and sinful people deserving of death and the Lord, God Almighty, who is all powerful and, I should add, pretty pissed off at the moment.

Pretty gutsy, says I.

You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with the title? What doesn’t he deserve?”

The same thing that you don’t deserve- salvation.

The people deserved death, and they weren’t worthy to have God’s presence with them, but thanks to Moses they not only got to survive their sin, but also had God’s presence travel with them for the next 40 years.

Moses stood between God and the sin of the people to save them, and what they got they got because of Moses.

Yeshua stood between God and all the people in the world, and every sin that ever happened and ever will. Because of Yeshua we all have the hope of salvation- what we have we have because of Yeshua.

Shaul tells the Gentile Roman Believers in Romans 11 that they aren’t to be proud or haughty when thinking about how they have salvation that the Jewish people don’t because if it weren’t for the Jews (not accepting Yeshua fully), they wouldn’t have anything. They have what they have because of the Jewish people.

In Deuteronomy 9: 5-6 Moses tells the people that they are going to enter a wonderful land of milk and honey, which they don’t deserve to enter. The only reason they are entering is because of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I don’t deserve what I have: salvation from my sinful nature, peace of spirit from the Comforter Yeshua sent to me (The Ruach HaKodesh, or Holy Spirit) and hope for my loved ones that comes only from the promise Yeshua made that whatever we ask for in His name we shall receive. Even though I know it comes down to these people choosing to accept God and Yeshua, and that because God gave us all free will they may never be saved, I have no hope for what I can do and every hope that God can do what I can’t. I trust that He is answering my prayers, and that if anyone can get my children to accept God and reconcile to me, it is God. And if  (and when ) they do, I won’t deserve it- it will be because of what God does.

We don’t deserve what we have, and we don’t have what we deserve. Thank God for that! We all should remember to remember this: we don’t deserve what we have with God. This is not something we should beat ourselves down with, it is something which we can use to continually raise ourselves up! When we understand and appreciate all that others have done for us it should encourage us to do better, ourselves.

We owe it to God, to Yeshua, to Moses, to Abraham, to the Prophets, to everyone and anyone who has stood in the breach between us and God to make our salvation possible. And because they have risked and (more often than not) lost their lives for us, we need to do everything we can to honor their sacrifice, every moment of every day.

I am saved by the Grace of God, by the sacrificial death of Yeshua, by the courage of Moses, with the guidance of friends and strangers who knew the Lord, by my Rabbi, who helped me to see how to maintain and strengthen my faith, by so many people. I owe it to them to continue, faithfully, to be a better me and to help others as they have helped me.

I don’t deserve what I have been given, and neither do you. Let’s show our gratitude by running the good race, keeping our eyes on the prize, and doing for others what others have done for us.

Why Do You Love God?

Maybe we should ask, “Why do we love, at all?”

What is it that can create both a strong attraction, and then an equally strong revulsion, often at the same time, and with the same person?

Before we can answer why we love God, we first need to know why we love.

I guess that’s it for today, then…I have no idea how to explain, define or even make a guess at why we love.

Let’s try this from a different angle: let’s ask , “How should we love the Lord?”

I think I can do this one, especially because God tells us exactly how to love Him: we love the Lord by obeying Him. In Yochanan (John) 14:15 through to 14:26 Yeshua tells His Talmudim (Disciples) that if they love Him they will obey Him. He further says (I paraphrase here) that the love they show Him will be shown to them by God, and they will all be together. Also they will receive the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as a comforter.

Let’s not get confused here, with regards to chronology: God loved us first and foremost.  Yeshua said that when we love Him we show our love to God, which makes sense since He also said, throughout the Brit Chadashah (Gospels, or Good News) that when we look at Him we see the Father, and to know Him is to know the Father. Loving Yeshua is loving God, but it was, always has been, and forever shall be that God, who forms us and knows us while we are still in the womb, loves us before we are even born.

God gives us Grace, forgiveness, and the rules telling us how to live and treat each other: these rules aren’t given so God can control us, they are given so we can become more holy and, thereby, be with God for all eternity. His laws and commandments aren’t really restrictions; in fact, they are the path to freedom and joyfulness. God blesses us when we obey (check Deuteronomy 28)  and His blessings are never ending. Maybe one of the reasons we love God is because of all the love He shows us. It is hard to dislike someone who constantly does good for you and shows you love and compassion.

However, since He is also the righteous Judge, when He disciplines His children (as all loving parents should do) we often turn against Him, reject and even curse Him.

I know when I was growing up my parents did the best they could for me- they had their own “demons” to overcome from their parents, and as I grew up I was very difficult, rebellious, extremely disrespectful and I did not feel love for them in any way, shape or form. It took quite a while, but when I was old enough and mature enough to understand them and where they were “coming from”, it made forgiving and appreciating them much, much easier. And I felt better about my relationship with them, too, because it had been reconciled. They are both gone now, but for years before they died they knew, and heard me say, I loved them. And for that I also love God, because He was a big part in my spiritual growth and maturity, and He showed me how to love. My love for the Lord is based on who He is and what He has done for me.

Loving God is not (and I think should not) be a romantic love- that’s just weird. As I said, I can’t define absolutely why we love someone or something, but I do believe the love we feel for God should be ‘above’ human love. It should be with respect and awe (doesn’t the one you truly love often inspire you, and sometimes just make you feel so proud to be loved by him or her?) and appreciation for all that He has done. We also need, as I did, to mature, emotionally and spiritually, so that we can begin to glean a little of the reasoning behind why God allows bad things to happen in the world, and bad things to happen to good people. It takes a very high level of spiritual maturity to accept that the gold must be refined through fire. Even though going through the fire is just a little less enjoyable than root canal without the benefit of anesthesia, those who love God with a mature, unselfish and spiritual love understand that the suffering and pain can be overcome by maintaining their loving trust in Him, which comes from the faithful understanding and acceptance that God only wants the best for us. It is that faithful trust and the love we feel for Him that strengthens us and enables us  to endure.

Why do you love God? If you haven’t asked yourself that question, you should. Is it only because of what He does for you? Do you feel love, or thankfulness? Do you accept God’s judgements, do you allow Him to make judgements and wait upon the Lord (as Proverbs says we should do?) or do you cry out for justice? Is it justice or revenge?

Or, would you rather be able to forgive as God does? As God commands we should?

Do you love God or do you just love what you want from Him?

The way God will know how much you love Him is to count how often you obey His commandments (He is talking about the ones in the Torah.) If you are obeying more than rejecting, then you are loving God. If you reject more than you obey, well….time to reflect on how much you want to love the Lord.

How many people scream out, “I love you, Jesus! Oh Lord! My God! How I love you!”, then they go home and do whatever they feel like doing, eat what they want to eat, and rationalize their sins.

I used to be a sinner who rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. It is that regret, my personal T’Shuvah, that enables me to obey God, and it is my obedience that demonstrates my love for the Lord. And it was His love for me that I (finally) came to recognize and accept, that made me want to love Him back.

Do you love the Lord? If you say, “Yes”, the next question you need to ask yourself is: “Does my obedience to the Lord show it?”