Parashah Vayyekhel 2019 (And he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses has come down from Mt. Sinai with the second set of tablets, and he assembles the people to ask for them to voluntarily give the materials needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. The people give all that is required, and so much so that even though Moses asked them to contribute what they would be willing to give, he had to command them to stop giving.

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This parashah tells us that Bezalel (Judah) and Oholiab (Dan) were the main leaders of the people constructing the Tabernacle and making all the accouterments for the service, therein. The entire reading is a repetition, in some ways, of Chapter 25 where God explains the detailed requirements of the tabernacle, to include the menorahs, the articles used for the sacrifice, the size and color of the tent skins, etc.

Some may ask how these slaves, being sent out of Egypt in a single night, had all these jewels, expensive skins, gemstones, gold, silver, etc.?  The answer is that when they left Egypt, God commanded Moses to have them go to the Egyptians and ask for these items (Exodus 12:35-36), which they did. The Egyptians were so glad to see them go they gave anything and everything the Jews asked for.

Normally, when one group conquers another group in battle, the winners despoil the losers. We see this all the time throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles. So, then, this taking of the valuables of the Egyptians as the Jews left, having conquered Egypt (well, actually we know that God conquered Egypt) is a culturally correct activity. But they didn’t take the items- they asked for them! Without a doubt, that is different than despoiling or (as some versions state) stripping them of their valuables.

I see something different at work here in God having the Jews ask for and receive these valuables. I see more than just a cultural activity- I see providence. As far back as Exodus 3:19-22, even before Moses went to Egypt, God knew what the people would need to make the tabernacle, and knowing that they had nothing of their own he commanded that they take spoil from the Egyptians. All through Moses’ debate with Pharaoh, he never once said that when they left they would take anything other than their wives, children, and cattle. Yet, when the time came to leave, the people took the last remnants of anything valuable the Egyptians had left.

God knows what we will need before we even know we will be needing it. That’s no surprise, and I am sure when you look back you can see God’s work in your life which led you to where you are today. And what is happening right now- at this very moment- may be something God is doing in your life that you will not realize he is doing until after it is done.

The lesson I am taking away from this parashah today is that I will probably never know what God is doing in my life at the moment he is doing it. Just as the Jewish slaves were thinking they would be set free, and happy for that, little did they know as the plagues started that when they left they would be richly gifted with all sorts of precious jewels and other materials. Neither can I know, even as I write this, what effect this message will have on someone or on myself down the road.

So what should we do? We should just keep walking and trust in God that so long as we walk the path he has given us he will direct our feet to his salvation. And, if I may, just to make sure we are all on the same page, walking the path God gives us means to obey God’s commandments. Specifically, the ones in the Torah.

To finish, let me share with you that when I pray, I don’t thank God only for what he has done for me throughout my life, but also for what he has planned for me. Whether his plans are blessings, or more fire to go through, I know that he sees where I will be and he is working to get me there. And for that, I am VERY thankful!

Thank you, too, for being here and please SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Not that I do this for money, but if I get enough YouTube subscribers they will put advertising on my channel and I will receive some income, which I can use to send my books to people in third world countries who have asked for them, as I have been doing when I can afford to.

This being Friday I wish you Shabbat Shalom and until next time: L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Your Past Isn’t Your Future

I would not disagree with the statement that we are all shaped by our past. The specific experiences each one of us have lived through definitely affect us, forming our viewpoints and our beliefs. However, I disagree with the old expression that experience is the best teacher: that isn’t really accurate. Experience is the best database, and it only serves to offer us the opportunity to learn. We must force ourselves to learn from our experience in order for it to be useful.

I was blessed to meet a young man the other day who has recently converted to Judaism and is a Believer. He is covered with tattoos, many of which imply that he has lived a rough life. His girlfriend is a Christian, and it was she who introduced us. This occurred at a New Jersey hotel where Donna and I were staying over the weekend while attending a family wedding in Philadelphia.

He is a neophyte regarding the Bible and salvation and I sense he is also a fine young man. I was impressed and happy to see that he is open to hearing about Judaism, God and Messiah. His past has shaped him and left it’s scars (visually, as well as emotionally) yet he has learned from his experience and is now on the right path. Hopefully, he will see this post and know that I am talking about him, and how I am proud of him for his courage and devotion to not allowing his past to shape his future.

This is just one of the multitude of wondrous things about God: He is willing to forget the past. In fact, God is very Existential. To be existential means to be living in the moment, in the “existence” of things. No past, no future, just now. When he grants forgiveness he forgets the past and only sees the heart as it is at this moment. Of course, God is beyond time so he knows all that has happened and all that will happen, but he chooses to forget the sins in an individual’s past when that person repentantly asks to be forgiven of them.

This holds true also for the good we have done- no “sitting on one’s laurels” with God! If you did wrong, your wrong will be forgiven when you do right. And if you have always done right, but now do wrong, you are guilty! Your past good deeds are forgotten when you sin just as thoroughly as one’s past bad deeds are forgotten when they repent.

He tells us this! In Ezekiel 18:21-24 God says:

But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.  None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?  “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

The past will not be remembered, whether that past was a righteous one or a sinful one. God sees our heart at the moment we are committing our sins just as much as when we are asking for forgiveness. Each moment is a new one, each event is individual and unique, and each time we ask for forgiveness we are given a clean past.

So do not dwell on your past sins, and do not count on your good deeds to help you. If you have accepted Yeshua as your Messiah and asked forgiveness with a repentant heart in his name, as far as God is concerned you have no past. Likewise, if you have been doing good but have sinned, you still need to ask forgiveness because what you did that was right is no longer of any value to you.

Each and every time you look to God for forgiveness, your past is gone and you are given a future that you can shape any way you want to.

And if I may suggest?….asking God to show you how he wants it shaped is the best way to start your new life.



You can’t change the past

I know that sounds like a, “Duh! Really?” statement, but how many people do you know that seem to live in their past, always regretting things that can’t be changed?

I often review my life, and there are many, many, MANY things I would like to have done differently, and I confess that I am preaching to myself when I say that reliving past issues which cannot be changed is just plain stupid.

The emotional frustration that results from wanting something to be different, coupled with the sense of helplessness when you know that you can’t do anything about it, is maddening. It is a waste not only of time, but of emotional energy and it drains our spirits. It leaves us open to attack from the enemy, which is really not something we want to do.

So, nu? What is the answer? It is so simple to do, and so hard to do: just let it go.

“Sure, Steve- just ‘let it go’. Gee whiz, why didn’t I think of that?”

Yes, it is stating the obvious, but the obvious things in life are so often overlooked, aren’t they? We need to let it go, to give up trying to change what can’t be changed. For those rare cases where we may be able to get passed the past, to re-connect and start anew, we should be willing to apologize and/or forgive. That is the first step, then we can work towards building that relationship up again. Depending on the situation, it may never be the same relationship as before, but that may not be such a bad thing, after all. Some people change, some people don’t, and if you have one dynamic person with a static person, somethings gotta give, sooner or later.

God is wonderfully static- He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. And what is really great about that is that God doesn’t have to change because He is perfect! We need to change because we aren’t perfect, and change can go in either direction: for the better, or for the worse. When something happens that changes a relationship in our life, whether we caused it or not, once done it can’t be undone. It can be worked around, it can be forgiven and forgotten, or it can cause pain and frustration for the rest of your life.

But you can’t change the past.

And it’s not just your choice- something that happens between two or more people cannot be overcome if even just one of the participants refuses to work towards repairing the rift. In that case, you move on. You allow them the right to choose how they want to live, you forgive them (to get rid of your pain- the only way to get past a hurt is to forgive) and you move on, keeping your eyes on the prize, calling on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to help you (remember- Yeshua called it the Comforter, so use it to comfort yourself) and praying for the other people involved.

I have found that no matter how badly someone has hurt me, when I pray for them it is easier to forgive them, and when I forgive them (even though I still have trouble getting totally over it) it is easier to let go. Try it- you’ll like it. It really works!

Letting go means forgiving: you may need to forgive the other person, or you may need to forgive yourself. Through forgiving you can let go of the pain, and when you pray for them you are doing what God wants you to do (Matthew 5:44, Proverbs 25:22), because God knows it will help you.

Those who can’t stop living in the past can’t have a fulfilling future- don’t drag your anchor all through life. Let it go, ask God for help, and move on. Salvation is just around the corner, so why are you still sitting there?

Without Tsouris we wouldn’t know joy

As lousy a situation as it is, the absence of tsouris (troubles) in our lives results in the absence of joy.

Joy is what we feel when we are relieved of stress, there are no problems, no “issues” to overcome…complete relaxation, physical, mental and spiritual.

But if we didn’t know about stress, if we never had “issues” to worry about and overcome, and if we never were sad, downtrodden, upset or stressed-out, then how would we be able to feel joy? It wouldn’t be anything other than the same old, same old. And even joy can be boring and useless if that’s all there is.

When a woman gives birth, the pains are remarkable (so I’ve heard- not being able to tell you from experience, of course) and the total joy after, when the baby has come out, is just as overwhelming. Not just because of the birth of your child, but because there is no more pain. The cessation of pain is, in and of itself, a joyful feeling.

We go through the fire to remove the slag, and we must be melted down to our basic elements for that to happen. We must be destroyed, so that we can congeal into a more pure form of ourselves. This is what Tsouris is all about- getting rid of the dross so that the purity can be realized. We need to call on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) during these times to help us die to self so that God can more completely live in us.

The problem is, despite how wonderful the result, going through the process sucks! It sucks in every way: painfully, emotionally, physically, spiritually- every bad “ly” you can think of happens to us when going through the tsouris of life. And there isn’t much to do about it- you can’t run away from it, you can’t avoid it, and you have to wait until it runs it’s course. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and calling out to God may not help because God may be behind it.

Not always. Remember, we live in a cursed world, and sometimes that means having to deal with it. God isn’t always to blame. In fact, my personal opinion from reading about God all these years, is that He isn’t so petty as to cause your car to break down if you sinned, or the ladder to fall if you are working on the Sabbath, or have you suffer through “Montezuma’s Revenge” because you ate a ham sandwich for lunch when you knew you shouldn’t have. Maybe, sometimes, little things will happen that (as we look back later) we can see led us to something that was a Godly blessing or prevented us from tsouris, and yes- maybe, just maybe, God did make sure that little thing happened to protect us. Maybe the car did break down so that we didn’t get stuck in that 10 car pile-up on Interstate 95 that we would have been in. But, then again, maybe it just happened.

I don’t drive myself crazy (which, in my case, is a very short ride) with thinking about these things. God is very busy running the Universe, and although I know He happily makes time to hear my prayers, He is multi-tasking all the time. And I just don’t see Him going out of His way to cause something small to happen to me as a punishment for a sin. If that was true, at the rate I sin, He would have a full-time job.

Tsouris sucks- there’s no doubt about it. The only way to get through it is to understand it. By that I mean we need to remember we live in a cursed world, that we are separated from it, that the enemy does make time to do many, small annoying things to get us to curse the world and to curse God, and the enemy runs the world. He wasn’t thrown down to hell, but to the Earth, and he is the Prince of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) What goes through the air? TV, radio, advertising, cell phone usage, Internet-all of these are controlled by the enemy, by definition of his kingdom, and we are bombarded by it constantly, day after day, year after year, until we think that, just like Mick Jagger says in that famous song, “He can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarette as me!”  We compare ourselves to others instead of to what God says we should be. And often it seems, just like the song says, we can’t get no satisfaction.

But you can get satisfaction! The satisfaction of knowing that the tsouris is temporary and the joy tsouris allows us to feel will be eternal! I wrote a blog about SWISHSo What, I‘m Saved, Halleluyah! We need to remember not just that tsouris happens, but that it makes us better and that it is part of being alive. And more than that, we need to remember that the pain we feel now will allow us to feel the total and pure joy of salvation when that time comes.

Shaul tells us in Philippians 3:14:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Messiah Yeshua.”

We need to keep our gaze focused not on what is behind, or even what is here now, but on what is coming. That is how we get through tsouris- not concerning ourselves with what is happening as much as looking forward to when it is over. Things always seem so far away when we wait for them, and when we look back it all seems to have happened so quickly. Keep focused on the future, remind yourself that this is going to be over and think about the joy you will have when that happens.

We need to make our own time machine, but one that only works in one direction- the future. When in the midst of tsouris, get into your time machine and travel to the future; don’t look back, just wait there. Before you know it, the present will be with you in the future and the tsouris will be over.

When the tsouris of life is over, your joy in salvation will be complete! That is a promise from God.

Keep that in mind when you feel down and you will be uplifted.

Judgement isn’t Coming- It’s Here

Paris, Paris, Paris- that’s all the rage now. People change their FaceBook page to reflect the Parisian flag, they post requests to pray for Paris, it’s the top story in all the papers.

I remember Paris back in the day when it was the safe house for all terrorists. The Parisian government allowed known terrorists to go there and would not extradite them. Now the ones who were protected are biting the hand that fed them, because these terrorists have no honor, no concern for anyone, and no morals.

Sounds like the ancient Babylonians, or the Assyrians, doesn’t it? And didn’t God use those people, as horrible as they were, to exact His judgement?

I am not against sympathizing with those who lost loved ones in Paris. I am fed up with the superficial sympathy we feel. We are all so “damaged” today, but by Tuesday the top story will be about some dog found stuck in a ditch, or some cutesy kid who is collecting for the homeless. And those people in France who are attending funerals and recovering in hospitals will be totally forgotten.

In one day hundreds were killed or hurt in Paris, that’s true. On the other hand, in 2013 the number of American deaths, PER DAY, was almost 90 people. From automobile accidents. You can’t really stop someone from setting off a bomb, but you can drive more carefully, you can drive without texting, you can drive only when you’re sober. We can prevent more automobile accidents, but you can’t really prevent someone who is determined to hurt other people. Oh, maybe now and then, with good intel and a very liberal attitude about privacy, you might. Still, over a hundred died  that one day in Paris, in an attack that is totally unique in current Parisian history. The Paris deaths were from one day of terror, and only the one day- it started, it’s over.

Ninety Americans die every-single-day!  From something that is preventable.

We need to keep things in perspective- murder is murder, whether terrorists do it to us in public places or we do it to each other in cars. The difference, to me, is that there is so much violence of humans against humans that we can’t always see when it is human based or if it is an act of God.

Yes, I am saying that I believe these terrorist groups, groups like ISIS, Al-Queda, or whoever they are, are being used by God as His weapon of judgement. He has done this throughout the past, using powerful enemies that are ruthless, destructive, immoral and unrighteous to render His totally righteous judgement on those that have earned His wrath. America has rejected God, France and God, well, what’s to say about that? And the other countries of the world being attacked are just as worthy of judgement as the ones who have been attacked.

“Yeah, well, then why is Israel being attacked, huh?  If Israel is being regathered and they have already been judged, which you have said before, Steve, then why is Israel being attacked? Huh? Why? Yeah, Answer that one. Huh?”

Good question, here’s the answer- because they are God’s’ people. They are being attacked by the forces of the enemy: they are not being judged by God. That’s the difference- Israel is being attacked, as they always have been, by the forces of the enemy, especially now as they draw closer to God and are starting to acknowledge the truth about His Messiah. Israel is under demonic attack, whereas (I believe) the nations of the world are now coming under judgement.

Remember that the Prophets told us eventually the entire world will come against Israel- that is part of the plan, and it has not happened yet. It is still in the future (and, I believe, not the distant future.)  The judgement against the Goyim (the nations) is already happening.

We should prepare ourselves for the real battle, which isn’t of governments or nations, but of the spiritual world. The way to defeat terrorism is not to be terrorized. That can’t happen without God, without accepting His Grace and knowing that whatever a person does against you, you are secure in the future because you have been saved from the second death- that is the one to be afraid of. The first death comes to all, it is natural, it is transitory. It is the second death, the eternal death that results with either being in God’s presence or in the Lake of Fire, which is what we should be terrorized of!

Terrorists are nothing- they are a bunch of murderers who use their god as an excuse to kill others so they feel better about themselves. Their judgement will come, too- just as it has happened in the past. If they read the bible that counts, they would think twice about what they are doing because no one who has come against Israel has survived. No one. They are doing God’s work against the Nations now, but their time will come, and their judgement will be terrible. Just ask the Assyrians (oh, wait- they’re totally destroyed); well, then, ask any Babylonian about….oh, no, you can’t . They’re gone, too.  The Romans? Nah- all their military are Swiss. Maybe the Egyptians? They’re still here, but not much of a military power anymore.

Mark my words, it won’t be God who will stop these terrorists- the enemy will be the one to overpower these terrorists! They are nothing more than the warm-up act for the big show, when the enemy of God creates the one-world rule. He will do so by eliminating these groups to secure his position as a man of peace. He will seem to save the world, to bring peace and order, and to be the one we should worship since he did what God could not. This will be his demonstration of power, and it will fool many, even many of the righteous will turn to the enemy, because they expect God to stop the terror so when the enemy does this they will mistake him for Messiah.

I believe this is what will happen in the very near future, maybe even in our lifetimes. I did not gain this “knowledge” from a dream, or a vision. In fact, I think it is just common sense . It’s the logical conclusion that one should come to when one reads the word of God, looks at what He has done in the past, and understands He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. Think about that- if God is the same, always and forever, then doesn’t it just make sense that what he has done in the past he will do in the present, and continue to do in the future, in the same way?

Terrorism is terrible- duh! That’s why they call it, “Terrorism”. And it is not new- it may have a new name but it is the same as it has always been; at it’s roots it is bad people doing bad things to innocent people. It started with Cain and hasn’t changed since then.

We can’t stop terrorism- it is a part of civilization, it is the way humans are, and it can be the rod of judgement that God uses. It will never go away, it will only change it’s shape, it’s name and it’s targets. But what we sow, we shall reap, and God will judge those He is using to bring judgement upon the Nations. Be assured, be comforted in the midst of the terror, that vengeance will be taken and judgement will be done to those who are performing these terrible acts of murder.

In the meantime, don’t get confused by those pushing for less gun control or those blaming President Obama, or any other policy reform stemming from these events. This isn’t about any of them, and it’s certainly not about Paris. This is about the truth of God’s word, the prophecies of the bible, the arrival of the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

The time to think spiritual is upon you- get your head out of the Earth and into the Clouds.

Why It’s So hard To Remain Faithful: Part 2 of 2

The first reason I gave why maintaining our faith is so difficult (Nov 9, 2015 post) was because we live in a disposable world.

This second reason is similar: we want immediate gratification.  I know that all good things come to those who wait, but I  don’t want to wait. I want it all, and I want it NOW NOW NOW!!!

We are very much like the nasty little Verucha Salt in the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (personally, I preferred the “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” movie with Gene Wilder.) She was the little selfish brat who wanted everything and she wanted it all now. It was all given to her, and as such, it didn’t seem that anything she received had any real value for her.

Faith is something that takes time to develop. It needs to be nurtured, supported, and practiced. Definitely needs to be practiced! Faith is the belief in things unseen.  I believe the greatest way to strengthen our faith is to have our prayers answered. What better proof of God’s existence and willingness to help us? But…we need to be patient for our prayers to be answered.

God’s covenant with Abraham was when Abraham was 75, and it took another 85 years before he saw his descendants in the land (his son Isaac was born when he was 100 and his descendants/grandchildren, Jacob and Esau, were born when he was 160.)

Not exactly what one would designate as immediately gratifying.

We need to be patient (hopefully not as patient as Abraham had to be) when we ask for answers to prayer, and when we begin to faithfully obey the Lord.  Patience is one of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and it helps us to develop spiritual maturity, too.

But the world doesn’t want patience, or maturity, and especially not anything spiritual (unless it is demonic- that’s all the rage today.) The world says we should have it now, and when we don’t get it to blame God, and to blame those who tell us to wait on God. God isn’t real, God doesn’t care, God’s promises are false- that is what the world wants you to believe. In fact, it wants you to reject God and the idea of God altogether. It’s all about me, Numero Uno, I am my own Messiah, yadda-yadda-yadda.

That’s so much fertilizer you could grow crops to feed a small nation with it.

God exists, and He will answer your prayers so long as you present them faithfully and honestly. What we ask for in Yeshua’s (Jesus) name we will receive, and when we pray in His name we are to faithfully believe it will be ours; when we do, it is ours already. Daniel prayed but it took three weeks before the angel appeared to Daniel because of the interference of the enemy. Daniel was patiently praying, even though the answer was on it’s way the moment Daniel asked for it.

The human sense of timing isn’t always trustworthy (said the man with many children) and we need to trust in God to know the best time for things to happen. I have been praying for reconciliation with my children for over two years since they threw me out of their lives, and I continue to pray. I only hope that God will answer me before I die, and I also know that even if this prayer is never fulfilled, it is not God’s fault. I trust faithfully that God is providing the angels and people to talk to my children, but it is, ultimately, up to each and every one of us to make our own decision about God, and life. So, despite how many times I know God is providing the opportunity for my children to let go of their hatred and unforgiveness, it is their choice to do so, or not to do so.

That’s a hard lesson for all of us to learn- people make their own choices and we can’t force them to do what we think they should. And what makes it even harder: they have the right to make their own choices. 

We choose life (Torah observance) or we choose death (purposefully ignoring Torah and choosing a sinful life.) How many times in the bible do we hear God ask us to choose life? Dozens of times.

Just because your prayers aren’t answered right away doesn’t mean the answer isn’t already on it’s way, or already approved but the time to deliver it isn’t right yet. We don’t know when we will receive the answer to prayer or what it will be until we get it, but we can be sure it will be answered. Even if the answer is “No.”

The world and the enemy (not much difference) want us to seek immediate gratification, and if something can’t be gotten here and now it’s best to forget about it, it isn’t worthwhile, and to go for something easier, cheaper, and more immediate.

God is worth waiting for; salvation is worth waiting for; God’s existence should not be based on how quickly a prayer is answered but on the fact that so many others have had their prayers answered. He exists, He is,He always has been and He always will be. When you are a spiritual being with no lineal timeline to live by (as we humans do), then everything is immediate.

That’s the ticket! You want immediate gratification? Isn’t immediate gratification when there is no waiting for anything? When now, later, back then, soon, past, future, present…all occur at the same instant, isn’t that the ultimate form of immediate gratification? Well, you can have that! In the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), after Yeshua does away with the enemy and we are all in our resurrected bodies and the new heaven and new earth are established, time will no longer exist. That’s when everything will be now; there will be no past, no future, everything will be right this very second!

You just have to wait for it.

Forget the Past

My undergraduate degree is in History, and one of the things we historians say is that history tends to repeat itself. This is (usually) because people don’t know their own history, so when the same types of events that caused one historical tragedy begin to coalesce once more, people can’t “read the warning signs” of the beginnings of another tragedy.

That’s a “world” view, meaning what we humans are taught. But God’s view is different.

God says to forget the past, and I think He has the better idea. After all, how can one look towards the future when you are always reviewing the past? I never liked the Jewish ….what do I call it? A celebration? a Holiday? I am thinking of Yom Hashoah, the remembrance of the Holocaust. It is a day where I have seen the Sanctuary of a synagogue covered in black and with pictures of the concentration camps. A day devoted to the past, with people reliving the horrors, they cry over things from half a century ago and their anger burns anew.

I don’t really want to remember the past because when we do we get mired in it. Yeshua said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back isn’t fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62) so if we want to grow in the Lord and do more for God, we need to forget the past.

Doesn’t God forget the past? You bet He does, and thank Him for that! He tells us that when we are forgiven our past sins are as far from us as the East is from the West; that although we are stained scarlet red, we will be washed clean as new snow; that He will blot out the memory of our sins and they will be no more. That’s what forgetting the past is all about.

Forgetting the past means we have to let it go. If you hold on to something old, you can only have one hand left for reaching out to grab something new.  I remember in the martial arts classes I took that when someone grabs you with both hands, like you always see in the movies, that means both their hands are unable to protect them, and both your hands are free to attack them. It’s like the story of the person in the water holding on to their heavy bag of valuables- they want to be saved but they are dragged down to their death because they won’t let go. What they are saving from their past is preventing them from having a future.

Whatever has happened to us in the past, happy or sad, we need to let it go in order to grow in the Spirit. Given a choice, I would prefer to hold on to the happy memories and forget the bad ones, but even happy memories can be a hidden trap. You can’t hold on to something and let it go at the same time, so anything and everything of the past, good and bad, must be released so we have both hands free to grab hold of the future.

This is a hard word to hear, and even harder to do. I am no further along than you are, believe me, and I wish I could just forget so many things. Actually, I do forget a lot of things, but they are recent and important, like the names of people I see when worshipping every Friday, what I was supposed to bring home from work, and to turn the alarm on at night. I DO remember Donna’s birthday, our wedding anniversary and when we had our first date. I may be forgetful, but I’m not suicidal!

The point of today’s Drash is that we need to remember to forget. Put the pain behind us, put the sadness behind us, and look to the future. I know people, one in particular, who can’t forget the past because she wants it to be different. Apologies never helped make her feel better, and “venting” didn’t vent out the anger; it only added oxygen to the fire. I truly believe that “getting it off our chest” is a lie from the pit of Sheol- when we relive the pain, the frustration and the anger all it does is re-open the wound. You can’t heal a cut by pulling at it- you cover it, and forget about it.

God tells us, over and over, to look to the future. He says when we return and ask forgiveness for the past, He will forgive and it will be no more. Not an event, not a memory, not even a faint recollection of something that once happened. It will be as if it never was. All the Prophets told of the upcoming judgements, and they always ended up with a promise of future reconcilement, a regathering of the people and the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth. The Bible is chock-full of God telling us to forget our past and concentrate on our future with Him.

There is no hope in the past, the present is over in a heartbeat, so the future is all that is left to us if we want to make things better. The world says to remember the past and memorialize that which has happened; God says to look to Him for a better future and to work towards the goal: as Shaul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24, we must run the race in such a way as to win the prize.

No one wins a race looking back.

Hope is a Future Thing

I was rearranging some papers the other day and came upon a book of sermons and Bible teachings I have composed over the years. I couldn’t help but glance through and saw some good stuff in there (of course, it’s from the word of God so how can it be bad?) and thought I might share some now and then with you. Today it’s about hope and faith.}

The past is just that- the past. It can’t be changed and there is no hope for it: the best we can do is learn from it and let go those things that need to be let go of.

The present is just one heartbeat away from being the past. There isn’t that much hope in the present, and the best we can do is pray that we make good decisions as we react to what is happening this very second.

The future is where it’s at! It is wide open, it hasn’t been written and it can be changed. We can plan for the future (although there is the old adage: if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans) and the idea of what may lay ahead should be exciting.

There are those, however, who fear the future because it is unknown. They worry about what may happen.

Yeshua tells us in Mattitayu 6:25 not to worry about anything because we have no control over it- we can’t even add one hour to our lives. He also reminds us that God cares about every bird that falls to the ground, and He cares even more about us. We are also told that no child of God will go hungry or without a roof over his head, and that God has provided for the birds and the flowers, and He will provide for us, too.

Yet, we still worry. Why is that? Simple: lack of faith. We feel uncomfortable and worry about the future because we are still trying to control things ourselves, and since we don’t know what is coming we can’t control it. We are looking to our own power, not to God, for protection and help.

Romans 5:2 and Galatians 5:5 both talk to us about this. Faith is believing in things unseen and unproven. It was through faith, not through human endeavors, that the Patriarchs survived, that the nation of Israel lived 40 years in a desert, and the people of Judea were saved over and over from the Assyrians and Babylonians; up to the days when they stopped acting in faith. When they deserted their God, and rejected faith in Adonai, they didn’t survive.

Faith is the process by which we receive salvation: First, faith in a God unseen, then faith in His works that are seen, then faith in His justice we see when we are obstinate and reject Him, then faith in His mercy and compassion when we do T’Shuvah, then faith in Yeshua who showed Himself to be the Messiah, then faith in His crucifixion and resurrection, as the sacrifice for all of us that was accepted, and finally faith in the promise of salvation that is possible by that sacrificial death.

As we go through life we need to show this faith, and strengthen it. When you feel concerned about things, remember those times when God rescued you, recount your blessings when you are worried about the future, and remind yourself, daily, to thank God for all that He has done, is doing, and especially for what He has planned for you. God only does what is good for us, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is there with us, guiding us to the light. He will never forget nor forsake us.

If these things don’t strengthen you and give you hope for the future, then you need a good slap to the side of your head! Get with the program, and don’t you dare profess to be a good, spiritual person, a Believer in the Lord, then show people your fear and trembling. You desecrate the name of the Lord when you do that. You need to stand firm- how many times did God tell His prophets to stand firm, to be iron against the kings of the day? To speak the truth even in the face of public disgrace and anger?

You don’t have to walk around half-naked as Isaiah, or wear a yoke around your neck like Jeremiah did, but you do, if you profess to be a Believer, have to walk around without stooping in fear, you do have to show courage and trust in God, faith in His provision, so you can show the world that being a child of God is the best way to control your future.

That’s what it comes down to- control. Those who want to be in control are doomed from the start, which is why there is so much fear and anger (from frustration) in the world- we want to control that which we can’t. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

But those who trust in God, who give control over to Him, are secure and free from worry because God is the only one who can control the future- to God, the future has already happened, so He already knows exactly what is coming long before it gets to us.

Exercise your faith so that it becomes stronger. Recount your blessing, forgive people, give hope to their hopelessness through your trust in God, remember Psalm 27:1, and fear not.

God gives us a spirit of victory, not of fear, so be victorious.

Remember what Yeshua tells us in Mattitayu 19:26- “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Trust in God, lead by faith, walk fearlessly into the lions den. Daniel survived, and with faith, you will, too!

Live for Today: Plan for Eternity

One of the things I like about living in Florida is that I can ride my bike nearly every day. It’s during these times, when I am in prayer (as much talking to God as I am asking Him to keep me from being run over by the rush hour fanatics), that some of the inspirations I have for this blog-ministry come to me.

Yesterday as I was babbling to myself on the Pineda Causeway I was thinking about how we are told, over and over, to take each day as it comes. This came from reviewing my work schedule; being an IT Remote Assistance Engineer (Help Desk) I never really can control my workload. When the calls come, I have to manage them. And that is about the best I can do- try to manage what comes to me. That’s when it hit me: what I do at work is pretty much what we do in life, i.e., we really can’t do much more than manage what happens to us.

I remember the parable about the man who told Yeshua about all the plans he had for his family and his home. Yeshua said the man was foolish making all those plans because his soul would be required of him that very night. There’s the “Lord’s Prayer” (we ask only for our daily bread), and the manna God provided (which was to be collected only for one day at a time.)

We are told to trust God day by day, and at the same time we are told to focus on eternal things, too. We are to live our lives with our focus on heaven (for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.) Keep your eyes on the prize, run the good race, seek ye first the things of heaven.

To me the word of God is clearly telling us to trust God every day, and only day by day, to provide for us. Manage what happens as best we can and always take one day at a time (Yeshua also said not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough tsouris of it’s own.) However, every day we should also look to the future: not the immediate future, but our eternal future. We are to honor God in everything we do and say. These are things that are not just day to day, but throughout our generations. The commandments God gave us are for everyone, forever. Not some just for Jews, and not some just for Christians, but every one of them for everyone who says they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And throughout their generations.

Yeshua (Jesus) also lived each day as it came, but His focus was on Eternity as He preached about the Kingdom of God. Always, and in all ways, Yeshua stayed focused on Eternity, even as He simply managed what came, day to day (the fox has it’s hole and the bird has it’s nest, but the Son of Man has nowhere upon which to lay his head.) If we truly want to “do as Jesus did” then we should take each day as it comes, doing what God commanded us to do. And those commandments are the ones in Torah. We can’t do every one of them, and the ones we can do we can’t do every day: that’s why we need Yeshua to cover our stains of sin with the cleansing blood of His sacrifice. But that’s no excuse not to try. As I have said often (and probably will often repeat), we cannot be sinless but we can sin less.

Just as Abraham wandered a foreign land, Moshe led us through the desert, David ran from Saul, and Yeshua preached the coming kingdom, we are shown that we should live for today and plan for Eternity. Trust in God to provide what we need today (I have been young, and now am old, and I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread) and always be focused on Eternal things.

Don’t try to control what you cannot control (do not kick against the goads.) We live in a reactive environment, and the best we can do (also the least stressful on us) is to manage what comes our way, as best we can. Trust in God to provide and protect you as you try to stay in control of yourself (which is the only thing we can control, as hard as that is), and remember to keep your focus on Eternity.

It’s really quite refreshing, and relaxing, to take things in proper perspective- whatever tsouris you are going through, it is temporary. In fact, it’s probably not even going to last for as long as you think. Looking forward always seems longer than looking back, and when we are looking back from Eternity, well…you probably won’t even remember what you are going through now.

Work as well as you can today with what you have to do today, and remember that no matter how bad it gets God is in control: He will protect and provide for you. And, when all is said and done, nothing you are going through now will even matter.


When the Hot Tub Stops Working

We got back from a long weekend in Washington, DC attending an annual holiday party the company I work for throws. It’ s a good company, good people, and they give a good party.

All during a long day of travelling we looked forward to getting home and relaxing in our hot tub. In fact, one of the reasons we bought this house was because there was a hot tub.

So, need I ask you to guess what happened last night? You’ve got it- the water jets didn’t work. I wasn’t even in the tub, and when I pushed the button to turn on the jets, nothing happened. I reset the breakers, and still nothing happened. The water is hot, but that’s it. From relaxing spa to outside bathtub.

We enjoyed the tub just last week, and now it’s broken. More money we didn’t expect to spend, and worse than that, there’s the disappointment and frustration that comes along with it.

There was no warning. No jets haphazardly going on and off, no bad sounds, no nothin’!  It worked one day, then the next day it didn’t.

Isn’t that how life is? Often there are no warnings, no advanced notice. You are doing something you enjoy one day, and then BAM!! It’s gone! The hot tub doesn’t work, the tire is flat, you spouse is dead. All the same, in one respect- you suffer the loss of something you didn’t expect to lose.

Of course, losing a loved one is much worse than having to fix the hot tub, but emotionally it hits the same spot. What we liked, what we were used to having whenever we wanted, what we expected to be able to do…gone in a second. Just like that!

We do have some warning: Yeshua tells us the parable about a man who was so proud of all the things he was going to do and Yeshua called him foolish because his soul was going to be required of him that very night. I like to tell a funny, and yet very true, saying: If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

That’s how life is, whether you are a God-fearing person or not. I think a big difference between those of us who worship the Lord and those who worship the world is that the world can only promise you what you can have when you are alive. God can promise you things that are eternal. Finite vs. infinite.

It’s no wonder that people can get so worked up over missing something worldly if they don’t have an eternal perspective on their life. After all, when all you have is what you have and you lose it, that’s all there is. You had it, now you don’t, and you will probably never have it again. There’s nothing you can do to fix it and there’s nothing else to replace it.

However, if you worship God and accept the grace He offers through Messiah Yeshua, you will spend eternity in total joy and peace. It still stinks that my lousy hot tub isn’t working, but in light of the eternal picture, I can get by.

That’s one of the reasons why I began to search for God when I was in my 40’s and fed up with this life and all the tsouris it brings. I saw people who were Believers and had the same problems I did, some much worse, but they endured with dignity and grace (I am still working to achieve that level. Believe me, I am not even close) and suffered through whatever they were experiencing well. I wanted the inner peace that they had.

I don’t do a good job of handling frustration and disappointment, but I am getting better. The important thing is that I understand the difference between now and forever, and although I appreciate what I have in this world, I do not count on it. Not that I am pessimistic, I am just focused more on things that are eternal and less on those that are physical. The here and now is not something we should ignore, and we should always be thankful for what we have, but the down the road and forever is what God promises us and that is better.

We should be aware of the present, mindful of the past, and focused on the future. It’s OK to make plans; in fact, I believe that a sign of faithfulness is not just to make plans, but to go forward with them even if you aren’t fully assured they will work. That is a real sign of faith, just like Abraham left all he knew to go somewhere he didn’t know, just like Moses followed the cloud, not knowing where it would lead, just like David faced Goliath counting not on his power but on God’s, just like Gideon left behind the vast majority of the men following him to do battle with only a handful, just like Yochanan, Kefa, Shimon, Mattitayu and the other Talmudim (Students, Apostles)  left work and family to follow Yeshua. They knew and enjoyed what they had, but they left it in a heartbeat to have the greater, infinite prize: salvation, and eternity with God.

Being saved doesn’t mean you will have to give up the hot tub’s in your life, but you should be prepared to lose things that are of the world because to be of God is to be outside and separate from the world. The world is today and God is tomorrow. The world is now and God is forever.  The world promises a lifetime in a cursed and difficult place full of loss and sadness and God promises eternity in paradise.

Not a very hard choice when you put them side-by-side, is it?  So deal with the hardships and losses, no matter how significant or insignificant, with your focus not on what was lost but on what is to come. Shaul said that he learned how to be satisfied in any situation; perhaps his secret was that he kept focused on the “yet-to-be” instead of the “not-any-more.”