Should Anyone Be Rewarded for Doing What They Are Supposed To Do?

We have all heard of the Millennials, and how they feel entitled to everything. But where did they get that from?
Dr. Spock? Mr. Rogers? Their parents?  I mean, really, who thinks that you should be proud for receiving a participation trophy? Oy!

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When I was working I saw the worst form of entitlement, which they called a meritorious pay system.

I believe that system was the brainchild of lazy managers who didn’t want to spend time writing an evaluation and was accepted by lazy HR departments (they used to be OK when they were called Personnel) who didn’t want to review the documents. So many managers can’t write a good evaluation because they were never trained on how to do it correctly, and today it isn’t even their job since the employee is the one writing down what their objectives are and how well they accomplished them.

And here’s the kicker: if you simply meet your objectives, you get a raise!

It sounds good, except for the fact that a meritorious system means you should do more than just what you are supposed to do in order to earn a raise; doing the job you are supposed to do isn’t earning anything. Meeting your objectives is not meritorious, it is expected! No one should receive a meritorious raise for simply doing what they are supposed to do.

Of course, this being a ministry, let’s see what the Bible says about doing what you are supposed to do. In Luke 17:7-10 (CJB) Yeshua told his talmudim (Hebrew for “students”):

If one of you has a slave tending the sheep or plowing, when he comes back from the field, will you say to him, ‘Come along now, sit down and eat’?  No, you’ll say, ‘Get my supper ready, dress for work, and serve me until I have finished eating and drinking; after that, you may eat and drink.’  Does he thank the slave because he did what he was told to do? No!  It’s the same with you — when you have done everything you were told to do, you should be saying, ‘We’re just ordinary slaves, we have only done our duty.’

Are you wondering where I am going with this?  Good question.

I don’t care what happens at your job, but I am concerned about what happens between you and God. People are being taught that simply doing something the way it is supposed to be done is deserving of praise, but that is not how it is with God. God wants us to do more than just what we are supposed to do.

Yes, if you accept Yeshua as your Messiah and observe the Ten Commandments, you can be saved, but that is no more than what you are expected to do.

Remember the parable about the Talents (Matthew 25:14)? The men who gave back more than what they received were praised but the one who gave back only what he was given was punished. Why? I believe he was punished for having wasted his chance to profit from what he had been given.

I believe God expects us to do more than just accept Yeshua as our Messiah and keep the Big Ten. I believe he wants us to grow in spirit and to produce fruit, and the only way to do that is to do more. We have to be willing to be ostracized and ridiculed for the way we act, the way we worship, and the things we say; in other words, we have to publically declare our belief in God and show it in how we live our lives.

If we silently worship God, we don’t provide any real fruit. If we praise God and make him part of our daily speech, keeping his name always on our lips, we will distribute seeds that may grow into fruit trees. I do something very simple, which I believe to be effective in publically praising God for others to see: when leaving friends and they say “See you next time.” I reply, “God willing.”

That’s all. It’s a simple but effective way to remind them that I know God is in charge.

Many are taught that so long as they are a “good person” they go to heaven. You may go to heaven, but if you do, don’t expect any applause or a limo to take you to a large mansion when you get there.

Have you ever heard the song about the man who goes to heaven and is taken to a small, run-down hut that is barely big enough to house him? When he asks why it is so shoddy he’s told because that’s all the wood he sent.

Yeshua said we should store up our treasure for heaven (Matthew 6:19), which I take as meaning what we do on earth is what we get in heaven.

And unlike the corporate world, God will not give you a raise for doing only what you are supposed to do.

So make a choice: go through life without doing more than just going through life, or do more for the Kingdom of God and be rewarded in heaven, as well as blessed on earth.

You may ask, “What should I do? How do I make the talents given to me worth more?” The answer is one that only you can decide, because only you know what talents (pun intended) God has given you. Whatever you decide, it should be something that will further God’s kingdom.

You are not entitled to anything but you have unlimited access to opportunities, which can lead to blessings when you do what you can for God’s glory and praise.

I don’t know about you, but when I come before the Lord, I want to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Va-ayra 2020 (I appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9

In the previous parashah, Moses had complained to God asking why God hasn’t freed the people but instead, now they are treated worse than ever before. God told Moses that this was all designed so that God could now show his might.

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This parashah starts with God telling Moses that he and Aaron will bring the people out, and that to Pharaoh Moses will be like God, and Aaron will be his prophet (we will come back to this later.)

From this point on we begin one of the most well-known and wonderful events in all of human history: Moses and Aaron continue to ask Pharaoh to let the people go, he refuses, and God sends his plagues on Egypt. These plagues start easily enough, meaning that Pharaoh’s magicians can mimic the miracles, but soon even the magicians cannot duplicate these events and by the 4th plague, everyone within Pharaoh’s government is asking Pharaoh to let the people go, but he refuses.

This parashah ends with the plague of hail that turns to fire when it lands.

We all know the story of the 10 Plagues. These plagues showed God’s strength as each plague overpowered one of the many Egyptian animal gods. First, they were duplicatable, then they were not, and soon enough God demonstrated not only his power to send these plagues on Egypt but his ability to keep his own people safe from them.

When I read a parashah I ask for some message, some insight that might be new, and today I think I received something. That’s what great about reading the Bible over and over – you never know when something you have read a million times will suddenly have a different meaning for you.

For me, it was when I read Chapter 7 in the book of Exodus, which begins with this:

And the Lord said unto Moses: “See, I have set thee in God’s stead to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shall speak all that I command thee; and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.”

If we imagine that Pharaoh represents the people in the world, and Moses and Aaron are God and his prophet, respectively, then this can represent more than just God giving Moses and Aaron roles to play. What is interesting is that nowhere does it even imply Aaron was considered to be the progenitor of those miracles. No, it was always Moses who got the credit for the miracle: Moses turned the water into blood, Moses brought the locusts, Moses stopped the locusts, etc.

Throughout the ages we have seen prophets and judges perform great miracles, and when you think about it, how many times have those miracles been credited to the person? Elijah and the 400 Prophets of Ba’al, Gideon and his military victory, Samson and his strength: these and other stories are about the prophets and judges who performed great deeds, but wasn’t it God who actually did it all?

Too often we ignore the “man behind the curtain” and give credit to the false wizard who demonstrates the fearsome feats.

And the best example, which could just as well be called the worst example, is how so many people worship Jesus Christ and give him all the credit for what God wrought through him.

Messiah was no different from any of the prophets or judges God sent to do his work in the world.  True, Yeshua was a miracle baby, and he was the only prophet from God who died and was resurrected to life (Samuel being called from Sheol by Saul doesn’t count), and it’s true that Yeshua was the only one of all God’s prophets who was acceptable to act as a substitutionary sacrifice for us all.

But when it comes down to it, Yeshua tells us over and over, and over again throughout the Gospels that he was only doing what he was told to do. Just the same way that Aaron did what Moses told him to do. Yeshua should NOT be worshiped any more than Aaron should have been, or Moses (for that matter) because only God is deserving of worship.

Yes, I know the Bible tells us that people at times bowed down and worshiped Yeshua, but when I looked at dozens of biblical verses regarding the worship of Yeshua, the only place that I found anything indicating that Yeshua was worshiped was in the New Covenant.

One day I shall write about how the New Covenant, which is scripture which quotes from and is based upon the Tanakh, was composed by non-Jews for Gentiles who didn’t want to be Jewish anymore, and has many questionable references, such as making it seem to be okay to worship a man instead of God.
But…that is for another time.

How many times have you heard it said by people, Pastor’s, Ministers, Priests, or Rabbis that God deserves all the credit and our worship? I know that in my experience, almost every single time we have a Shabbat or Holy Day service, somewhere in there we are told that it is all about God.

Then we hear people pray to saints or to Yeshua for help, or ask a human being to provide forgiveness, or worship the Messiah and call him our God. In some places, people actually bow down before a graven image of a human being and pray to it.

There is only one savior- God. There is only one who can help us and forgive us- God. Even when someone performs a miracle, that person is only the tool through which the real power is working, and that real power is- God.

There is one God whose power is often manifested through whomever he chooses, and the rest of the world can accept that or reject it. And, for the record, when you reject the true originator of the power behind the Messiah, you have placed a wedge between you and God and are practicing idolatry.

Moses was, in fact, the prophet through whom God worked his power, and eventually (as we get further along in Exodus) we see that Aaron’s position changes from performing God’s miracles to being the intermediary between the people and God, teaching and leading them in the proper worship of God.

We are not saved by the sacrificial death of the Messiah, but in fact by his resurrection. That resurrection was not brought about by Yeshua but by God. So, you see, even though it is true that through Yeshua we can be saved, the actual “savior” is God because God provided the Messiah.

Always give credit to God, worship God alone, and ask God for what you need. Remember: Yeshua never said pray to him to receive, but when we pray (meaning to God) we are to ask for what we need in Yeshua’s name. When God answers a prayer that is made invoking the name of his Messiah, not only does it honor the Messiah but that, in turn, will glorify God.

We can credit Yeshua for all the suffering he endured on our behalf, and we can be thankful to him; we can honor him and praise him for what he did, but we cannot worship him or put him in the place of God, who is our true rock and redeemer.

To paraphrase the famous line from the Wizard of Oz,  “Don’t ignore the man behind the curtain.”

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Until next time, Shabbat shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Should We Praise Yeshua?

First off, I think we can all agree that if there was anyone worthy of the praise of people, it certainly would be Yeshua.

But did Yeshua think he was to be praised? Or worshiped?

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I can’t find anything anywhere in the Gospels where Yeshua said that we should praise him, or (for that matter) where the people praised him. What we read is that after they witnessed the miraculous healing by Yeshua, they praised God.

Lets’ look at some examples:

(NIV) Luke 18:43…”Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

(CJB) Ephesians 1:5-6 …”He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons -in keeping with his pleasure and purpose- so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace he gave us through the Beloved One.”

(TLB) Rev. 19:5… “And out of the throne came a voice that said, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, small and great, who fear him.’”

When we read the Gospels, almost every single time Yeshua healed someone, he told them that it was their faith that healed them and that they should do as the Torah commands (for those healed of uncleanliness) as an example to the people. He never, ever, not even once, took credit for the work of God done through him.

Well, maybe once- in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 5 we read of a man with Tzara’at (leprosy) who approached Yeshua and said if he was willing, he could make him clean. Yeshua said he was willing and then healed the man. This is the only time I can find where Yeshua seemed to take credit, if you will, for the miracle he performed.

Praise and worship belong to God, and God, alone. This is clear throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, and even though most every Christian I have ever met or every Christian service I have ever attended has praised and even said to worship Yeshua, the Bible does not support this.

And I believe that Yeshua, himself, would tell us to praise God, not him. He does just that, in a way, in Mark 10:18 when a man comes to him and addresses him as “Good Rabbi”; Yeshua asks the man, “Why are calling me ‘good? No one is good except God!”

Yeshua never praised himself, never asked for praise, and in fact, rejected the praise he was given. Constantly he told people that they should praise God, and as I stated earlier, most of the time we read of the people’s reaction to the miracles he performed, they knew to praise God.

We human beings enjoy receiving praise, but isn’t it true that whatever talent or gift we have that is praiseworthy was given to us from God?  When someone plays beautiful music, do you praise the instrument? When you see a masterful work of art, do you praise the canvas? Of course not; what we do is praise the person playing the instrument or the artist who painted the picture. And that is wrong! We should be praising God for giving that person such a wonderful talent.

The same goes for Yeshua. He is worthy of thanks, for sure, and worthy of respect and admiration…for sure! But Yeshua always gave the glory and praise to God, and since we are to follow in his footsteps isn’t that what we should be doing, also?

Praise the Lord, God, now and always, forever and ever, amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

A modern day Christmas Message from the past: Isaiah 29:13

I am going to skip the Parashah teaching today because , it being Christmas Day, I feel there is a more important message the Lord would have me deliver.

Isaiah was a Prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and tried to help the people realize the hypocrisy of their worship. He lived during the reign of 4 kings of Judah and within 100 years or so of his ministry, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was destroyed.

Isaiah was telling the people that their worship was useless because they were only paying lip service to God. The above-referenced passage says it all:

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

This message was about how sacrifice had become corrupted and polluted into a meaningless rote activity that had no real love or worship of God attached to it.

Sounds exactly like what Christmas is today, doesn’t it?

Look at what Christmas is today: there is nothing “godly” about it anymore, except the occasional bumper sticker that says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Even that has become passe and meaningless to most- it’s something akin to the beauty pageant answer, “What I would like most is to have world peace.”

Most of us know that Christmas is not a Holy Day, nor is it a biblically commanded festival to God; it is a celebratory event created by Constantine in the Third Century (or thereabouts) to help rebrand the pagan celebration of the Solstice to a more “Christian” event.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be a wonderful thing. The music of Christmas is some of the most beautiful and heartfelt devotion to God I have heard from any religion, and the spirit of goodwill that comes on people during this season is unique, and refreshing. There is a magic to Christmas.

Unfortunately, even that is more from social conditioning than a desire to be closer to God, and how many of us really feel the impact of what Christmas means? Heck, if we really thought about what Christmas is supposed to stand for, celebration and thankfulness for the birth of the Messiah, we should all feel sad and dejected that someone was born into this world to suffer for us, to accept the blame and physical abuse that our sins deserved, and that this miraculous birth, this proof of prophecy, this wonderful and merciful living gift of salvation would have to die a horribly painful and lingering death because of what we have done.  That’s really what Christmas is about: thankfulness for the Messiah coming into the world, but tempered with the sadness of knowing what this tender, innocent baby would have to endure. Christmas should make me feel remorse and repentance that this baby had to live the life He lived because of what I have done.

Personally, I don’t think Christmas s such a happy time when you think about what will happen to Yeshua. Yes, I am thankful for His birth, and I am disgusted with myself for causing His death. It’s true: I killed Yeshua. In fact, you killed Yeshua. Each and every one of us killed Yeshua because if there had been but one sinner in all the world, Yeshua would have done what He did for the sake of that one person. His parables about finding the one lost sheep, the woman who found the missing coin, the statement that there is no greater love than that one will give his life for a friend (note that He didn’t say for many, or for friends, but for a friend- even saving one life is worth dying for); all the teachings Yeshua gave us, all of which are directly from the Torah, teach us that it is what we do and what we feel that add up to who we truly are.

I hope that you all have a merry and joyful Christmas- the birth of the Messiah is truly a wonderful event, the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation for the world, and the proof that biblical prophecy is valid and trustworthy. The fact that it is not a biblical Holy Day, that Yeshua was probably born during Sukkot, that Constantine created it as a theo-political event, and that it has become totally corrupted in modern society is something we can get past. If we worship God from our hearts, if we ignore the retail sales events, the presents to each other and all the schmaltz, and instead concentrate on thanking God for His Son, and thanking His Son for all He suffered for us, then…just maybe then…Christmas can be the joyful and penitent celebration it should be.

Yeshua said that we should give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God. Thankfulness and worship from the heart belongs to God, sacrifice belongs to God, honor and glory belong to God. Give each other niceties, sure, but first give to God that which He is entitled to. Celebrate Christmas with heartfelt thankfulness to God and conscious recognition of how far short we come to measuring up to what God expects of us.

If you really want to show God that you are thankful for the birth of the Messiah, than go visit the sick, help the needy, dress the naked, feed the hungry. Instead of spending thousands of dollars at Kohl’s and Walmart and Macy’s, spend a few hundred at the soup kitchens and food pantries, give your time to bring food to the hungry, give to charities you know are doing good for people.

Today Christmas is all about what I get from you; let’s make Christmas all about what I can give to those who are in need.

That would be a Christmas present to God and Yeshua that I just know they would love to receive. Remember that Yeshua told us in Mattitayu 25:40:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Why we don’t start a new tradition of giving Christmas presents to God instead of each other?