Salvation is an “IF…, THEN” statement

I used to be a programmer back in the Nineties, and when you write a program the most basic and useful command is called the “If…, Then” statement. This is the one command that, in my opinion, drives the entire program because it is what directs the program by telling it when there is something it has to do, and where to go to do it.

If the number if greater than 5, Then go to this module; If the input is not the required type, Then go to “Error Processing”, and so on.

We live our lives the same way, don’t we? When you come down to the lowest common denominator of decision making, we decide what to do by reviewing our options: If I have a salad, Then I won’t have room for desert (consequently, I eat very few salads); If  I don’t get the report out in time, Then I will have to deal with an upset Boss; If I tell my spouse what I really think right now, Then I will be sleeping on the couch for a week.

Salvation is no different: everything God tells us about how to live, how to worship and how to act is an “If…,Then” statement. If you do as I say, Then you will have blessings. If you do as you want, Then you will have no blessings.

God gave us all Free Will and I believe He really likes to see us use it wisely. Foolishness, according to the way it is used in the bible, is not acting silly- it is refusing to accept the existence and sovereignty of God. When you think about it, that is the ultimate silliness- refusing to accept that God exists and that He is the King of kings. When we use our Free Will to accept God’s existence and sovereignty, then He is pleased with us. When we do that and also choose to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, better still. And when we believe in God, accept that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah God promised, do T’shuvah (turning from the desire to sin) in our hearts, and live our lives trying to sin less- well, IF we do all that, THEN we will be saved.

That’s the eternal IF…, THEN command: trust in God, accept the gift of Grace provided by the sacrificial death of Yeshua, do T’shuvah, and show it in how you live your life (which means to respect and honor the Torah- that has to be in there, too), and you will be saved from eternal damnation. It’s that simple, it’s that complete, and it’s the hardest thing you will ever do.

But it’s worth doing. And not when you have time, and not when you are ready, but right now. This very moment. Stop reading this-well, actually, don’t stop reading until I finish telling you what to do- so, after you stop reading this, close your eyes and tell God that you are sorry for not obeying Him. Tell God you are sorry that you have never really tried to stop sinning, and (this is especially important if you are Jewish) tell God that you believe Yeshua is the Messiah Adonai promised to send to the Jewish people and the world. Lastly, ask for the forgiveness Yeshua provided for you and ask to receive the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) because you want it to lead your life from this moment on.

IF you do that and mean it, THEN you are set on the pathway that will lead to earthly blessings, peace of spirit and the comfort of knowing that you will be spend eternity in the presence of the Lord, God Almighty.

IF you don’t, THEN you’re screwed!

How to eat an elephant

Have any of you heard this question before? It is similar to the statement about the elephant in the boardroom, meaning that both situations seem overwhelming. Eating an elephant and having one in your boardroom? Impossible, right?

Not impossible. Not when you understand the meanings. The elephant in the boardroom is a figure of speech alluding to a major issue that no one really wants to face, and eating an elephant is a major issue that no one wants to undertake.

In relation to today’s message, the elephant in our boardroom that we all need to eat is sin. We all are sinful, both in action and in nature. That is why God had to provide a Messiah, one anointed to lead us into communion with the Almighty Father, but first charged with bringing us back from sinfulness to righteousness. Yeshua (Jesus) was that Messiah, and He still is; having saved us all by providing the pathway back to God through His sacrificial death.

I call our sin an elephant in the boardroom because even though we all are willing to admit we are sinful, too often we don’t really “feel” it. Even those people who have no fear of the Lord and don’t care about Him at all, are open to the fact that they do things some sections of society and the “religious people” think are wrong. They are just used to rationalizing their actions, so they don’t even see the elephant.

But for Believers, the elephant is the sin we don’t want to “own”- it’s one thing to say, “Yes, we are all sinners and Jesus died for our sins”, but if the underlying feeling when you repeat that (often from rote) is that you don’t really want to “own up” to your own sin, then don’t look now, but there’s an elephant in the room! No one really wants to be “bad”, so we thank Jesus for all He has done and say we are saved. Hallelujah!

But being saved isn’t enough: too many times being saved is thought to be the end of the trail, the 19th hole, the No More Worries Inn. Sorry- that’s not how it works. Being saved is just the beginning, and the trip isn’t easy. Calling on the name of the Lord is how you start, but following the pathway of righteousness is how you travel, and eating that elephant is what you survive on.

Eating the elephant called sin, in truth, is no different than eating one in real life. The answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” is: one bite at a time.

And that is the way we turn from sinfulness to travel the path of righteousness: one bite (step) at a time. We walk a white line throughout our lives, with sin on the one side and righteousness on the other; we are constantly stepping on one side or the other. There are other lines running alongside the white line we first follow, paths that veer off to different directions. When we step too often on the side of sin, we tend to get farther and farther away from the line leading to God, and we end up on a pathway leading to damnation. But, when we walk on the side of righteousness, we find roads that all lead to salvation. What I am saying is that the way we walk becomes easier as we walk it, so if we start our trip in the right direction and keep our eyes on the goal, we find the trip easier.

Just like eating the elephant: one bite at a time, one step at a time, keeping our eyes on the elephant on the serving platter but concentrating mostly just on what is on our plate, today. Before you know it, the serving platter will not have so much on it anymore.

Maybe that’s why Yeshua said to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…”, meaning one bite at a time, one day at a time, one step at a time.

Have you heard this expression: “Slow and steady wins the race.”? It means when you constantly do the right thing the right way, you will achieve what you are trying to do.

So face up to that elephant, sit down at the table with your napkin on your lap and your knife and fork in your hands, and get to work.

Be hungry for righteousness.

(No elephants or other large mammals were hurt in the construction of this message)

Parashah Nitzavim (standing) Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30

Moses foretells the future, and warns the people about turning from God to idols. He tells them that they are making a covenant with God not just for themselves, but for their descendants, as well. The world will offer them opportunity to turn from God, and if they do then all the curses of the book shall come down on them. Yet, after God has justifiably thrown them out of the land and ravaged the land, if they turn back to God with all their heart and soul, God will regather them from the farthest parts of the world and resettle them in the Land. The curses that fell on them will fall on their enemies and the people shall again find favor in God’s sight.

Finally, Moses tells them that these laws and commandments, which provide life, abundance and blessing, are not far away or hard to do; they are right there, in reach, and the offer God is making is life or death: life through obedience and death through rejection.

Moses suggests they choose life.

So, Nu? How much more can I say than what Moses has said? Here we are, again, a people blessed by God that are about to receive the greatest blessing that God has for us-life in a land of prosperity. And life forever after that. So what do we do?

We screw it all up. This generation that has seen so much makes the covenant and under Joshua, for the most part, this covenant is kept. But after Joshua dies, very quickly they devolve into a rabble of sinfulness- that is in the Book of Judges. Up and down, love the Lord then love the idols, in and out of sin and rebellion for generations. God raises a Judge to save, they do well under that Judge, the Judge dies and the people fall back into sin.

Today we see the prophetic promise of returning to the land that Moses told of coming to fruition. We see Israel being regathered, and the curses coming down on the nations. America isn’t being left out of those curses, either, because we have stopped being a godly country.

Moses said the people there were making a covenant, but also the people not there- in other words, the children and their children’s children were also to be under this covenant. I think that is where things went wrong.

When I read the bible it seems that for every generation that did well, the next one did poorly. One king does what is evil, the son does what is right, then his son does what is evil. And it seems that there is always some chametz (leaven, representing sin) left over from the evil generation that survives. Either the queen mother, or the wife of the past king, or a relationship with another evil king. The Northern tribes (Israel, later called Shomron, now referred to as the West Bank) never had a righteous king, but the Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin had a number of “good” kings, whose children weren’t always the same.

My point is that we can’t really make a covenant for someone else. The baptism rights for babies today are, to me, a waste. First of all, I cannot see God sending an infant to hell because his or her parents failed to have a clergyman pour water on their head. Baptism is an outward expression of an inner desire, a desire to be cleansed of sin and turn to God. An infant can’t make that decision, and I think the history of the Jewish people proves that a child’s parents can’t make that decision, either. Godparents standing in for the child and making oaths of servitude to God are never going to be binding on the child because God gave us all Free Will. It is up to the child to make that decision, and only after the age of decision has been reached. Until the child is old enough to make up his (or her) own mind, that child is a child of God and will not be sent to eternal damnation in the event it dies.

That is my opinion- I have nothing in the bible to quote to you to prove it true, but everything I have read and feel and know about God tells me it must be so.

The best way for us to ensure the life (eternal) of our children is to be an example to them of God’s goodness and love, as well as demonstrating the truth regarding His promise of justice. God is all about love, and all about truth, and all about trust and all about faith. That means that as faithful as God is to forgive when someone truly does T’Shuvah (turn from sin), He is just as faithful to punish those who reject Him.

The world wants what it considers to be fair: “If I choose to love and obey You, then bless me. However, if I choose to ignore and reject You, then just leave me alone.” That’s what the world wants, but that isn’t how the game is played. God is supreme, whether or not someone wants to accept that is irrelevant. God reigns supreme: you obey and live or you reject and die: that’s how it is; that’s how He is; that’s why His name is “I am.”

We can’t choose for others, but we can be an example and a light to others. That’s how the covenant we make with God can be applied to others- through our example. It is up to them to choose for themselves.

That’s a hard word to hear, but the history of mankind and the stories in the bible, I believe, prove it to be true. We all are responsible to make up our own minds, and we all will be held accountable for our decisions. If someone else tells you what to do, and you do it, it is your decision to do it. It is your responsibility. Likewise, if you are told not to do something and you don’t, it is, again, ultimately your choice.

I often say that when you go before God, and we all will, and tell Him, “But that’s what the (fill in religious leader title) said I should do”, God will look gently and lovingly upon you and say, “I understand that, My child, but it is what I say that counts. Here’s some SPF 10,000 and a bottle of cold water; take the elevator to your left going down. Next?”

Every single day, from this moment forward, we each have before us the blessings and the curses, life and death- I have chosen life.

What is your choice?



Beware of Advice: Part 2

Yesterday we talked about how just because something seems to be alright or feels “right”, that doesn’t make it right.

We need to know what God tells us is right, and what God tells us is wrong. I do believe that “going with your gut feeling” is often the right thing to do, but only when our “guts” are in the right frame of mind.

What I mean is this: if I was someone who had a moral foundation, a conscience, and a sense of right from wrong according to normal societal mores and biblical beliefs, then my “gut” would be trustworthy. On the other hand, if I was immoral, hedonistic, and did not know or care what happened to others, my “gut” should be the last thing I listen to.

The problem, as you most likely already know, is that the people with the least trustworthy guts are the ones that believe their guts are fine. Too often we have the inmates running the asylum instead of the other way around.

There will come a time in everyone’s death (not during their lifetime, only after) when they will be in THE court- God’s courtroom. God will be sitting on His Throne of Judgement, and on one side will be the prosecution (HaSatan, the Devil, himself) and the other side will be the Defence Attorney. Satan, which means the Accuser, all throughout your life has been trying to tell you that God is a liar; he accuses God of not telling you the truth. He started that way in Eden, telling Eve that she wouldn’t die if she ate the apple (effectively saying God lied to her, right?) Now, when you need him most, he will accuse you– he will accuse you of failing to do as God commanded. And if you say that he was the one who told you to “go with your feelings”, that “if it feels good, do it”, or that you don’t need to obey the Torah because the law was done away with when Yeshua was resurrected, God will say something like, “I understand, but what he told you is not what I told you, and what I say counts!” At that  point you’re only chance to escape damnation is the argument from your defence attorney.

But wait! Where’s the defence attorney? In the courts that men run, a defence attorney is appointed to you if you don’t have one of your own, but God’s court is not like man’s court- if you don’t have a defence attorney, you are defending yourself. And if you have to defend yourself against God’s Torah, and His judgement of how well you have obeyed Torah….OY! You’re in hot water now, Baby!

However, if you have accepted Yeshua as your Messiah and asked Him to be your Saviour, you have the best defence lawyer there is, ever has been, or ever will. He makes Darrow look like a dork, Dershkowitz look like a dweeb,  and Webster look like a wimp.  Yeshua has only one argument for the defence, and it is all He needs. He says, “Father, this one is mine.”

Not guilty by means of the sacrifice; case closed (gavel slams and shofar blows); who’s next on the docket?

Here is good advice you can trust: Yeshua really is the Messiah God promised all those many, many years ago. I know if you are Jewish this is a hard word to accept, but please take it from me, a Jew who didn’t even care for most of my life, it is the truth. We have been told a lie since we were born, by people we trusted, who were told the same lie by people they trusted since they were born, back and back and back, all the way to somewhere around 100 CE. That’s my guess when the “Christian” religions started being developed by men, and Judaism and Christianity began to separate.

It went from: Jews who accepted Yeshua as Messiah and Jews who didn’t, the rest being Gentiles who were pagans;

to: Jews, Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus but were being separated from Torah by religion, and the Gentiles who were still pagans.

And the enemy has been trying to widen that gap ever since. He has been very successful at keeping both Gentiles and Jews from the truth, which makes his “kingdom” grow, meaning that there are more and more people being led away from God, and thereby, worshipping what the enemy stands for instead of what God stands for.

That’s how this works: there is no “middle ground”, there are no minor sins and major sins, there is only God’s way or the hell-way. The enemy doesn’t have to make you worship him, he only has to make you disobey God. It isn’t a choice to be bad, it’s only the choice not to do as God says. You can be a “good person” as far as the World is concerned: a loving parent, a faithful friend, go to worship every weekend, and even tithe. In fact, you can believe in Jesus, too! All of this won’t save you if you disobey God and ignore His commandments.

It takes more than just saying you believe. You need to want to do as God says, you need to provide good fruit, and you really, really need to read the Bible (the whole Bible) and accept that what God said is the way to be is as valid now as it always has been.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, any individual human being can do to save him or her self from the sin we are born into, and from our sinful nature. On our own we have no defence before the Lord. But when we have Yeshua as our defence attorney, it is His actions that save us. But we need to have him in our corner, and the way to do that is to accept His messianic calling as true, to accept we are sinners who can’t stop and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name (because we have no righteousness on our own), and to do T’Shuvah (to turn) from our sinfulness and live our lives as best we can doing what God said we should do.

And I mean what God said we should do, not what the Rabbi, Priest or Pastor tells you. Not what your “whatever” guru says, not what Cosmo recommends and certainly not what any other, non-Believing person tells you is alright to do.

You need to read the Bible and believe that God is in charge, Yeshua will stand for you if you stand for Him, and the enemy will do whatever he can to get you to ignore God’s commandments.

When I used to sell siding and window replacements, off telemarketed leads, often I was stopped at the front door and told that no matter what I said that person was not buying anything from me, so if I was going to try to sell him something (it was always the man who said this) I might as well leave right now. My answer was to ask him a question: “When you buy something, do you do it with no information at all about the product or do you want to know what you are buying?” The answer was, as I designed the question to elicit, always that they bought something they knew about. That was my lead to then say, “Of course you do- that’s the sensible way to buy. So, you do whatever you want to do- it’s not my decision and I won’t tell you how to spend your money. All I ask is that you let me give you the information you need to make a wise buying decision when you are ready. Is that OK?”

More often than not, the more obstinate someone was about not buying that day, the more likely I was going to make a sale.

The enemy is a better salesman than I ever was. I sold windows, I sold siding, I sold insurance, I sold estate planning, I sold advertising…all the things I sold were good products that helped people. The enemy sells pleasure, he sells ease, he sells hedonistic rewards and he sells sin, which is what we are made up of. What he sells looks like fun, it seems to be okay to have, it feels good, tastes good, and we want it. But what he is really selling is death and damnation.

God doesn’t sell anything- He is giving it away. But it costs you- you need to separate yourself from the world, you need to obey, you need to let go of friendships and family, you need to be alone in many ways from those you know and work with. The free gift of salvation is very costly in human terms; whereas the enemy sells you something that looks good but kills you, God gives you something that is hard to accept and costly in human terms, but will result in everlasting joy.

Tough call; yes, it is. It goes against our nature, but it is essential for us to make that choice. That’s why you need to know about what you are buying.

There is death for sale and salvation for the taking: learn about each so you can choose well.

why are you happy God loves you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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