Parashah Vayetze 2019 (He went out) Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

Jacob leaves his home and travels to his uncle, Laban. On the way, he rests and dreams of a ladder to heaven with the angels going up and down on it, and he names that place Beit-El (House of God.)  When he arrives at Paddan-Aram, he first sees Rachel and helps her water her sheep. He is invited back to Laban’s house and after a month Laban offers to pay him for his work.

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They make a deal that Jacob will work 7 years in exchange for Rachel, but when the time comes to marry her Laban places Leah, her older sister, in the tent with Jacob. In the dark and veiled, Jacob can’t see he was tricked (karma?) and when he brings this to Laban’s attention, Laban says it is customary to give the older away before the younger, but if Jacob works another 7 years he can also have Rachel. This time, though, after the marriage week with Leah Jacob marries Rachel then and there, so he is now married to both as he works the second 7 years.

Jacob and Laban agree again about wages, this time Jacob offers to take the less-desirable goats and sheep, the ones with speckles and stripes, which are born in Laban’s flock. Although Laban changes the agreement several times, Jacob manages to make sure that he has the healthiest and strongest animals in his flock, leaving the weaker ones in Laban’s flock.  Laban’s sons conspire against Jacob, who hears of it, and he secretly leaves during the shearing celebration. Laban finds out about this (in the meantime, Rachel stole the household gods from her father’s tent) and chases after Jacob, but God tells Laban (in a dream) not to harm him.

After searching for the gods and not finding them because Rachel hid them under her saddle and said she couldn’t rise because she was in her time of Niddah, Laban and Jacob make a pact not to cross over a standing stone to do harm to each other, and they both go on their way. Laban goes back to his home and Jacob with his family and belongings back to the home of his father, Isaac.

During the time Jacob worked for Laban, between Leah, her handmaiden, Rachel, and her handmaiden Jacob fathered 11 sons. Benjamin was born on the way back to Canaan, but Rachel died during childbirth.

As I often say, there is just so much in here to work with. When I read the parashah before writing my message, I open my heart and mind to the Ruach hoping that something “hits” me, and today what hit me was that Leah suffered much and seemed to be more righteous than Rachel. And for that, she was rewarded (although she never saw it) with her sons being the ones that had the most influence on the children of Israel throughout the ages – Judah and Levi, the kings and priests of Israel.

Yes, Joseph (who was born from Rachel) saved the children of Jacob from starvation, as well as most of the known world, and his children were given the honor (by Jacob) of becoming the means of a blessing (“May they be like Ephraim and Manasseh…”), but that was it. They ended up being dispersed throughout the world and having no beneficial influence on the Israelites, having been centered outside of the land God promised (half of Manasseh) and the rest in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was never anything more than a cesspool of sinfulness.

Leah was not loved by Jacob, nor was she as pretty as her sister, yet she faithfully endured through this and was (in my opinion) humble and grateful before God. Leah named her sons Reuben (see! a son), Shimon (hearing, showing gratitude that God heard her), Levi (joining, thinking now that she has given Jacob three sons he will be joined to her), and Judah, which means “praise.”  Every son she bore she named in a manner that gave thanks to God.

Rachel remained infertile for a long time but after God smiled on her and gave her a son, she named him Joseph, which means “may he add”, as in add another son. In other words, give me more, which isn’t quite as humble or grateful as Leah was.

When I read through this and realized that Leah, the less loved and more humble of the two, was honored with her sons being ones given the leadership of Israel, it reminded me of Psalm 149:4, which says:

For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

and Proverbs 3:34:

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Leah showed faithful suffering, being unloved by her husband even after fulfilling her role as a wife better than her sister did.  It was Rachel that stole the family gods, Rachel that lied to her father (to hide what she had stolen) and Rachel who sold her own husband’s conjugal duties for some mandrakes. Yet we don’t read anything about Leah, other than about her suffering as an unloved wife, not even living in the same tent as her husband.

We all suffer some ingratitude from those we have helped; we all sometimes suffer ungratefulness for the good things we have done, and we all feel unloved by someone we love, at least once in our lifetime. And our lesson today is that we need to be like Leah, suffering faithfully and never losing trust in God that the tsouris we are going through now will yield rewards in the future. And we may not see those rewards in our lifetime, as Leah didn’t, but we can learn from Leah that they will come. The humble will be honored and the prideful will be brought low.

One last point: Rachel was loved more, but buried alone in the desert, while Leah was buried with the Patriarchs of Judaism and their wives, and while separated from Jacob during her lifetime, she is now with him throughout eternity.

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I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!


How to Defeat Pridefulness

Many believe that pride is a bad thing, and it usually is, but it doesn’t have to be. We can be proud of a job well done; we can be proud of our country, our friends, or even our way of life. We can be proud of the accomplishments we have achieved during our lifetime.

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I believe there is a difference between being proud of something and being prideful. Being proud is simply feeling good about what you have accomplished, knowing that you did it skillfully. Pridefulness is thinking that because your skills are superior, YOU are superior.

This feeling of self-importance and superiority is sinful, and the way to quell it is to be humble. Not false humility, but true humility.

As Shakespeare would say, “Ah! There’s the rub!”

As a Marine, I often say (what a United States Marines can rightfully say) “It’s hard to be humble when you’re the best!”

Of course, I am joking; yet, it does raise the question of how can anyone be humble when they know they are better at something than someone else? There is nothing wrong with being more skillful than someone else at a certain thing, or for that matter, nothing wrong with being less skilled than someone else.

God gave each of us certain gifts and talents, designed and meant to be used for his glory. The special gift or skill God gave doesn’t make you or me a better person than anyone else, it just means we can do something better than someone else. And maybe that is the best way to remain humble: realizing that no one is really any better a person than anyone else, it’s just that we each have different abilities, abilities which we did not give to ourselves but which were given to us.

I know people with advanced degrees in education who can’t boil water, and people with little more than a high school education who can finish the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in under an hour. Some people are capable of doing just about any kind of handyman work but can’t balance a checkbook, and others who have a mind for mathematics but can’t change a lightbulb.

I have achieved much in my life that many never could, and I have skills and abilities that many don’t. Because of this, I fight with pridefulness because I am also a human being, infused from birth with iniquity. It is only with God’s help through his Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) indwelling in me that reminds me I am nothing special. And I really, honestly know that to be true. I am not being falsely humble, and I can say that because God has provided me, and still does, many opportunities to realize just “un-special” I really am. I have been fired more than once, I have had a failed marriage, I have been bankrupt, my children disowned me ( thanks to God I have reconciled with my son), and I have many experiences that I cannot forget which demonstrated my immaturity, selfishness, and incompetence.

And I am truly grateful to God for putting me through this tsouris in my life in order to keep me in line.

Nebuchadnezzar is a great example of learning humility, and you can read about it in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 4.

The first step to defeating pridefulness is to recognize it in yourself, and here is a simple test:

When you feel proud of something are you thinking “Look at what I can do” or are you thinking, “Thank you, Lord, for the gifts you gave me which enable me to do these wonderful things”?  

Here is today’s final lesson: we can never really defeat pridefulness, we can only control it.

It is like any other sin, which means we are always subject to backsliding. People who have overcome drug addiction will not say they are cured, they will say they are “recovered” because they know that they could slide back into that dark and deathly lifestyle at any time if they do not maintain control.

I will finish with this: we are, every single one of us, a musical instrument and when we are played by God we can make beautiful music that can change the world.  On our own, we can’t do anything. Understanding, accepting and being thankful for this truth is how you can begin to defeat pridefulness.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does God Really Want From Us?

I was reading Isaiah 56 the other day and thought about what he was saying.  It starts with “Here is what Adonai says:” and goes on to tell us:

Observe justice, do what is right, for my salvation is close to coming, my righteousness to being revealed. Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps himself from doing evil.

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As I was thinking about how simple a commandment this is, I realized that God really doesn’t expect or demand too much of us. Let’s take a look at what God tells us he really wants from us…

Matthew 18:4– Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Micah 6:8– He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Leviticus 19:18– Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. 

Exodus 19:5– Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. 

Deuteronomy 11:27– There will be blessing if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am giving you today.

Malachi 3:10- Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

There are many, many more instances throughout the Bible where I can find the same kind of message from God, but these should suffice to show that what God really wants is humility, love, and obedience. That’s it! That doesn’t seem to be too much, does it? It doesn’t require a PhD in Theology; you aren’t commanded to know how to pronounce God’s Holy name; there’s no extra credit for being able to read ancient Hebrew or to know Greek.

In fact, it is even easier than what we have already seen to find salvation through faith by doing what Yeshua told us to do:

Matthew 22:36-40Yeshua replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: what does that mean? Does that mean that loving God and others is enough? No! And the reason I say “No” is because too many people throw the word “love” around like it is a hot potato and cry at the top of their lungs how they love the Lord and they love Jesus and call each other “Brother” or “Sister”, or even “Beloved.”

Then they go home and do whatever they feel like doing, eat whatever they feel like eating, ignore the Sabbath and celebrate only those holidays that they like.

To love the Lord is to obey his commands- God told us that throughout the Tanakh and Yeshua confirmed it. Yet, even in trying to be obedient people will create their own problems.

We have seen in recent times many Gentiles desiring to get back to the Jewish Roots of Christianity because they realize just how far afield modern Christianity is from what Yeshua taught. That is a good thing. However, what is bad is that in their zeal they have created a new form of the same type of legalism that Shaul (Paul) fought against when Gentiles first started to accept Yeshua and learn about God’s instructions in the Torah.

Here is what is so remarkable about this: in the beginning, it was the Jewish Believers who were telling the Gentiles that they had to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. Today, it is the Gentile Believers who are telling everyone else, including Jews, that they have to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. And they have taken it one step further than that: just a few examples are arguing about lunar calendars, how we must pronounce God’s Holy Name, and why the names we have always used for God and Messiah are wrong. These matters have nothing to do with salvation, but to these people they (apparently) do.

Despite my exhaustive search throughout the Bible, I have not found where God says you must know how to pronounce his Holy Name to be saved. I found nothing that requires us to know the exact day of the week Yeshua rose from the grave to receive blessings and eternal life. I tried and tried but didn’t find even one commandment which says if we begin a Holy Festival based on a lunar calendar that isn’t the exact same one used in ancient Israel, then our celebration is unacceptable to God.

And I looked and I looked and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find where God tells us our salvation is based on knowing anything other than that he wants us to be faithful, humble, to love each other and obey his commandments.

And, just for the record, there is no place anywhere in any Bible that says when you tell the “truth” you are allowed to be nasty, judgmental, accusatory or insulting. If you want to use that age-old, cliche’ excuse that Yeshua told it as he saw it, then first live your life exactly as Yeshua lived his. You want to talk as he did, then live as he did; if you aren’t doing that, then either be nice or shut up!

As far as serving God is concerned, I recommend using the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Schlemiel) and just live your life trying to humbly accept God’s authority and show both God and people that you really mean it by obeying him and loving others, meaning treat all people with justice, compassion and patience.

I know that isn’t as easy to do as it sounds, but on the other hand, it ain’t that hard, either.

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I welcome any comments- just be nice- and I look forward to the next time we are together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!


Parashah Va-Ethchanan 2018 (I pleaded) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11)

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Moses is telling the people that they must remember the commandments that God has given them. He warns them against adding to or taking away from any of these commandments, as well as worshiping anything else, in any form, other than God. He also prophesies about their future, telling them that when they forget God they will be scattered throughout the earth, but when they later remember God he will gather them back into the land of their fathers.

Moses reminds them that he is not allowed to enter the land because of the incident at Meribah, and again warns them against becoming ensnared by the surrounding peoples when they enter Canaan and that those who God tells them to destroy must be destroyed completely to prevent pollution of the Holy people by pagan ways. They are not to marry or enter into covenant with any of the people living in the land now.

This parashah ends with Moses telling the people- actually, chiding them- that they need remember they aren’t in this beautiful land flowing with milk and honey because of anything they did or because they deserve it. In truth, they get to be all comfy-cozy in houses they didn’t build, with cisterns they didn’t dig out, and vineyards they didn’t plant only because God loves them.

Within this parashah are some of the most important Judaic teachings and prayers (for both Jews and Christians) found anywhere else in scripture. Specifically, I am talking about the 10 Commandments, the Shema, and the V’Ahavtah. This book is all about remembering, all about warnings to do as God commanded, and all about obedience to God in order to remain in the land. Deuteronomy can be considered the heart of all that is in the Torah, with regards to obedience and worship. It is a recap of all that happened and a prophetic warning of all that will happen once the people have settled in the land.

Of all that there is in here to talk about, what struck me today is right at the beginning, verse 3:26, which says (Chumash translation):

But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and hearkened not unto me; and the Lord said unto me: “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.”

This was God’s answer to Moses when he, again, pleaded with God to allow him to go over into the land. There were a few times that Moses tried to get God to change his mind regarding his judgment against Moses that he will not enter the land because of the faithlessness he showed at Meribah (Numbers 20:10-13) in front of all the people.

This reminds me of the prayer of another one of God’s people, many centuries later, who also pleaded with God for something and was told, “My Grace is sufficient for thee.”  That’s right- I am talking about 2 Corinthians 12:8 where Shaul (Paul) asked God 3 times to remove a “thorn from his side” (whatever that was) and this is what happened:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

Moses showed what would be considered to be his own strength when he struck the rock, even to the point of saying “Must we bring you water out of this rock?”  Clearly, the people would have thought that it was through Moses and Aaron that the water came forth, not from God. Shaul was in a similar position, explaining that the “thorn” was placed there by God to keep him humble.

This thought, about remaining humble in the light of receiving God’s Grace and blessings, is exactly what Moses was saying to the people throughout this parashah, and continues to repeat throughout the entire book of D’Varim (Deuteronomy.) We will be blessed when we do as God commands (which he tells us later in Chapter 28) and those blessings can easily be turned into pridefulness if we forget that God is behind them.

God may give you a talent for music that makes you a big star, but with all the worldly accolades you receive will you remember that without the gift from God you wouldn’t be there?

God may give you a gift for teaching and you might have a large gathering of followers on your online ministry (I wish!), but when you are “Liked” all over FaceBook and have thousands of subscribers, will you remember that without God giving you that insight and directing people to your website, you couldn’t accomplish anything?

When we have tsouris (troubles) in our lives we are fast to go to God for help. Sometimes we may even find ourselves blaming him for letting us suffer and ask, “Why me?” when we should already know the answer. But what about when we are in the midst of blessings? When the job is good, family life is joyful, finances are secure and the car doesn’t even make funny noises anymore, do we thank God? Do we give him the credit and the glory for the wonderful life we have?

The answer to that question is one for each of us to fathom on our own. At this moment, are you thanking God for whatever is in your life now? If you are in the middle of a difficult time, can you still recognize the blessings that God has given to you? I start every prayer with a “Thank You” to God, no matter what the situation. Even if I am praying from a broken heart and in the midst of a terrible situation, I thank God for all he has already done for me and for the way he will save me from my current problems. That is the sort of faith we are supposed to have, isn’t it?

I am not saying this to puff myself up- Lord knows, as should all of you, that I confess my weaknesses often in this blog and screw things up (royally!) often enough that I am not a great example of a godly person. But this one thing I am happy to say I remember- to thank God no matter what the situation. If for no other reason, the fact that I am in that situation means I am not dead. That, alone, is something to be thankful for, although at times it doesn’t feel like it.

Let’s go forth from this moment on taking Moses’ advice to remain humble and thankful, in all situations and at all times in our life. If you can do that you will find it much easier to do as God has commanded you to do, which will result in even more blessings.

Parashah Korach 2018 (Korah) Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

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The great mutiny.

Korach, Abiram and Dathan were all leaders within their respective tribes. Korach was a Levite and the other two were from the tribe of Reuben. They came against Moses and Aaron with accusations of tyranny, in that they accused Moses and Aaron of taking on all the authority of leadership. Korach said that they all God’s people should share in the leadership and offerings, not just Moses and Aaron.

Essentially, they were saying, “Who died and left you both in charge?”

These three had convinced 250 other men, all leaders within the 12 tribes, to follow them and God had them all bring their offering pans to the front of the Tent of Meeting. What happened next was terrible: at the tent of the three who started this rebellion Moses said if these men were correct then they would live long lives, but if they were wrong then the earth would split open and swallow them alive. As soon as he was done speaking, the earth did split open and swallowed Korach, Dathan and Abiram and their family alive, then it came back over them. At the same moment, fire came out from the Tent of Meeting and incinerated the 250 men. The fire was so hot the fire pans, made of bronze, were all melted.

You would think that would satisfy the people that Moses and Aaron were God’s choice, but it didn’t. The very next morning the people accuse Moses and Aaron of murdering God’s people, and God is so angry he sends a plague out that kills tens of thousands. The plague was stopped only when Aaron risked his life by carrying embers from the eternal flame in his fire pan directly into the crowd where the plague was running wild to stop it.  God commanded that the 12 tribal leaders and Aaron place their staffs in the Tent of Meeting to show God’s choice of leader, and in the morning nothing changed except for Aaron’s staff, which not only grew buds but had ripened almonds on it. God then charged the Levites to surround the Tent of Meeting and that they should not allow any of the common people (non-Levites) to come close to it, or to inter-marry with them or have them partake of any of the holy foods. The Levites were to be separated and apart from the rest of the tribes, with no inheritance or job other than the service of the Tabernacle. They are also to give a tithe from the tithes they receive.

The Haftorah reading for this parashah is 1 Samuel, 11-13, which is the story of Samuel anointing Shaul as the first king.  The reasoning is that both Moses and Samuel had to take a rag-tag group of people and form them into a nation, all the while being accountable to God and subject to the same rules and laws that the people were. Whereas Korah rebelled against the leadership of Moses, the people (in the Haftorah) rebelled against Samuel by asking for a king.

I think this Haftorah choice is a good one, but I would add one more thing. I would add Micah 6:8 to the reading, which says:

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Today’s drash is about the motivation behind Korach’s rebellion, which is obviously jealousy and an over-active desire for power. He thought he was also entitled to be in charge. It is obvious from the influence he had that he was, indeed, an authoritative and important person in his own right. But that wasn’t enough. He found like-minded men in Dathan and Abiram, and their combined influence allowed their little rebellion to grow from just those 3 to a total of 250 people. Jealousy and a desire for power were the motivations, but was that the real cause of their rebellion?

I believe this rebellion was not the result of desiring something but from the lack of something. That something that was lacking was…humility.

The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence and we humans don’t seem to be satisfied with anything. It is ironic that sometimes those who have the least are generally the ones that are most satisfied with what they do have. The rich only want to get richer and when we have plenty we still want to have more. Proverbs 15:17 tells us it is better to have a meal of vegetable in a house full of love than meat in a house full of strife, meaning that appreciating what you have it is better than having but not appreciating it. We also get this same message in Ecclesiastes, where no less than three times we are told to simply eat, drink and be merry and to enjoy whatever God has provided, for that is our lot in life.

Clearly the men in this rebellion did not have the humility to accept God’s chosen leaders or what God had provided for them. Korach was a leader in the tribe of Levite, but he wanted more because he didn’t appreciate the position of importance God had given him. The same went for Abiram and Dathan. As for the 250 men that followed them we are not really told anything about their motivation, but it seems safe to say they were also wanting to have more.

I have often said pridefulness is the mother of all sin, and lack of humility is a symptom of pridefulness.  We must be humble in our lives if we are to be able to serve the Lord. That means accepting what we have and appreciating what God has done for us, every day. I am not saying we should sit by idly and not try to improve ourselves or our financial situations. I am saying that we are to be appreciative for what God has given us and share it willingly with others. We are to respect God’s choice of leadership just as Shaul (Paul) said we should in Romans 13:1:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Finally, trust that God is in charge and will provide what you need. If you want a better job, ask yourself why? Is it only to make more money and have more “toys”? If so, maybe that’s not the best reason. However, if you want a new job so you can be a better provider for your family that is unquestionably a proper reason for wanting more, and when you pray to God for help he will help you.

We must remain humble in our attitude towards God and towards each other. We must be satisfied with God’s provision and make sure that whatever we want, it is for the proper reasons. We can want more, but not if it is for selfish reasons, such as just to have more money, power or influence.

Wanting that is a result of prideful desire will only lead to ruin, whereas a humble desire to do more to please God and provide for others will yield blessings.

Pridefullness is nothing to be proud of

I’m proud of the many accomplishments I have had in my life. I am proud of being a Marine Corps Officer, of having been top salesman for 2 years in a row, for being in the top 10% of (almost) every thing I do, of having made my second marriage the one that lasts, of having written and (self) published a book, and for being asked to teach and be a Council member in every place of worship I have attended.

Actually, I’ve only worshiped at two places in the last 20 years, but I am still batting 1,000 on that score.

So, am I bragging? I am not- I am saying all this to make a point: I am proud of these accomplishments, but I never announce them as being of my own doing or that these are talents I have created. I have been able to accomplish these things, and will accomplish more, only because these are talents that God has given me.

The difference between proud and prideful is that being proud is feeling good about what you have done while giving the credit to God for the talents you have, and being prideful is feeling good about what you have done and taking all the credit for it. The former glorifies God, the latter glorifies yourself.

Taking credit for what someone else has done is nothing to be proud of. Like it or not, God has given you a job to do for Him, and whether or not you believe in Him or worship Him is inconsequential. God has a plan for every one of us, a role to play in His production called “Salvation”, and if we refuse to play that part, well….there is always the understudy. But in any case, you have the talents you need for that role given to you by God. How you use them is up to you.

If you are good at anything, it is because God gave you that talent, and that talent is best used in His name, for His purposes, and to glorify Him. When I give a message on Shabbat, and I am told that it has touched someone’s heart, or testified to them, or just made sense, I know that it is because God has led me to give that message through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and so I have to say (even when my sinful pride wants to take credit), “If I do something good, it’s because of the Holy Spirit leading me; when I really screw up, then I can take full credit.”

And yes, my sinful pride wants to say, “Thank you- I really worked hard on that message.” but I can’t. In my natural being I want to take all the credit, but the truth (which I now know) is that my ability to create and deliver that message in a positive and effective manner comes from God. The message comes from God (if not, I shouldn’t deliver it) and the humor, drama, and effective public speaking skills I have honed are, at their root, from God.

It really is true- the only thing I can take credit for is screwing up.

Humility takes strength of character, and bragging is what the weak of spirit and insecure do. They tell others how great they are to help convince themselves, and even when they have accomplished a lot, by refusing to acknowledge the real source of their skills, they are just being prideful.

I am not going to quote the numerous verses in the bible that tell us the problems with being prideful because I think everyone knows enough of them to get the point. I just want to end with the best way to receive blessings from God is to share what He has given you, and the best way to receive honor is to become the least of all, and the best way to prove how wonderful you are is to let other’s tell about it. When a person relates their accomplishments, it is always taken with a grain of salt, but when someone else relates how wonderfully you do something, or what a nice person you are, or says anything complimentary about you, it is taken as Gospel.

So, then, let others tell about how wonderful you are, while you know you are really nothing much, you’re just God’s tool that is being used as He designed you to be used.

Now that would be something to brag about.


PS: If you like what you read here, and you believe that I am speaking a word that glorifies God, then please buy my book. I wrote it to give everyone the opportunity to know what God says about how to live, outside of the religious diatribe, so that when they make a decision they are at least basing it on good information.

PPS: And, if I may ask, please forward this to everyone you know, even non-Believers, because we all started off not believing and someone, somewhere led us to the Lord. If you are grateful for that, then pass it forward.

Disposable Everything

Changing the baby’s diaper? The old one can be thrown away. Not to mention the food container you got from the Chinese restaurant. Also the napkins, the paper towels, and even some of the camera’s you buy on vacation.

That’s all OK, so long as you recycle the ones that can be recycled.

The problem starts when we start to have disposable relationships.

I have a relative whom I love, and I know she loves me, but I chewed her out for something on Face Book (my error) and she unfriended me. When the relationship we have is mostly digital, to just turn it off is easy. I apologized on Face Book, and in person when I saw her recently, but she still hasn’t made me her FB friend again. She didn’t see the apology because she cut me off from her (digital) life. Just like that- 26 years gone in a click.

My kids lived in NY while I lived in PA, so I saw them on weekends when I went out there: 4-5 hours of driving for 4-5 hours of being with them. Unfortunately, this was tough and my hours usually made it hard for me to call all the time. Besides, in my own defense, when I did call their mother listened in, or she took over the call and started to berate me (she never was forgiving or even willing to try and eventually turned the kids totally against me) or stood by so the kids couldn’t talk to me freely;  so, I stopped calling.  Now they have cut me off totally, another result of what is (partly) from having a disposable relationship, one that isn’t face-to-face and physically close.

The digital world has distanced us even more than the cocooning of the world that first started when the Internet took over. Now we unfriend people, we block their phone number, we can even block their email. If you’re mad at someone (and we all get mad at each other, sooner or later) it is so much easier to block them, unfriend them, and delete their contact information. A few seconds and a couple of clicks and that relationship is not just over, it is lost.

The Internet is transmitted through the air, and what is the description Shaul (Paul) gives of the enemy- isn’t he called the “Prince of the Air?”

The most important relationship anyone can have is with God, right? Oh, yeah- Mom, Dad, siblings, friends, etc. are all important- that’s why I am rambling on about how much I can’t stand the easily dismissed and immediately destroyed digital relationships we keep today- but (ultimately) they can’t save your soul. Only Yeshua’s sacrifice, and the relationship He makes possible with God Almighty, can save your soul for all Eternity. And this is the hardest relationship to keep because it is not digital, and it is not physical- it is faith based.

I have felt the presence of God, I have felt His touch, I have known the joy and the peace that His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has given me, so there is some level of physicality in my relationship with God. But not everyone has that, and for those that hear the word and are strangled by the weeds, or are poor soil, the relationship is easily broken.

That’s my concern, that’s why I am writing this today- we need to be able to maintain our relationship with God but if we can’t even keep a close relationship during hard times with family and friends, how can we learn to have the humility and maturity to keep a relationship with an unseen and untouchable God? Especially when the tribulation starts and the enemy comes in with promises, blaming God for everything wrong in our lives, and telling us all we need to do to get happy is to unfriend the Lord, and friend the enemy. If something goes terribly wrong in our lives, we just have to blame someone or something, and it is easier to blame God (since he won’t usually speak up in His own defense) than someone else because they might defend themselves and the blame won’t “stick” to them. People defend themselves, God waits for you to get real and wake up to the true cause of the problems in your life, which is YOU! Just as in my life the true cause of all my problems is ME!

For the sake of your soul, and maybe to help others save their soul, get off the stupid computer and get on the stinking phone.  Not texting, but calling. Use Skype or Face Time- that’s even better than a call. You can see each other, that will bring back many more feelings and memories than even just hearing their voice. But make the effort to be human! Talk to each other, look at each other, be people talking to people.

In the olden days they had to travel many days just to get to the next city, so letters were the main form of communication. And the letters people wrote back then, even just catching up letters, were beautiful. Well composed, thought through, and almost poetic. They never LOL’d or BTW’d each other. And they never LMAO’d, either.

Next time you want to catch up or touch base with people, call them. Talk with them, make real, human contact. Learn to work through the problems and don’t have disposable relationships. Relationships shouldn’t be disposable- they should be like a tattoo on the heart. They should be written with indelible ink on your hand and they should be fought for. They are worth keeping.

Pride, anger and lack of forgiveness destroy you from the inside out, and we all need to overcome this.

You will never be able to have a meaningful relationship with God if you can’t have a meaningful relationship with a human being.

Peace in the Midst of Turmoil

I am attending a Bible study on the Prophets and prophecy. It is a short study, just during the summer, and already I am learning new things.

One of the things I enjoy about this class is how it brings out that the prophets always left us with God’s promise of the regathering of Israel and the coming of the New Creation. However, there is a lot of Tsouris before that happens and none of it is very enjoyable. Death, famine, mutilation, sexual abuses, murdering babies…sounds more like some video game than real life.

But it is going to be real life. It may happen during our lifetime, it may happen to our children, but whenever it happens, it is not going to be spiritualized or quick. It will be devastating to people, animals and the Earth, itself.

The upside to this is that for those who accept Messiah Yeshua as God’s Messiah, and are working to be more of what God requires of us, we can find peace in the midst of this turmoil.

We have armor that God has provided to us to wear and protect us during the battle (see Ephesians 6) and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which Yeshua called “the Comforter” (John 14 – 16) to guide and help us in times of trial and need to find that peace that comes with knowing Yeshua.

If I was to try to define what it was that I saw in Believers, before I was one, that attracted me to them it wasn’t the promise of heaven, nor the threat of hell, but the peace that they found even when they had the same troubles and situations I had. I was frantic, angry and frustrated, striking out against anyone and everyone, using cruelly cynical and “dirty” humor and really bad language. Since I have accepted Yeshua, and was given the Ruach, I have calmed down tremendously. Except, maybe, for my language when I am trying to get something down and these stupid, slow and uncooperative computers that I am working with just don’t want to do what I want them to do when I want them to do it so I start to get crazy and then I have to let it all out and say, “$^&&^$##@#&^(**&^$$$#%^^$##%%!!!!!!

Um…where was I?  Oh, yes…peace in the midst of turmoil….

The Ruach helps us to stay in touch, spiritually and, yes, even physically, with God. Haven’t you ever felt the calming touch of the Lord? I miss it so much, so often, and realize it’s because I am not reaching out. So at Shabbat services, I will now and then cover my head with my Tallit, and sit during worship music under my own Kippur and pray to God for His touch. I try to open my heart and my emotions; I try not to think of anything else except asking Him to touch me. That’s all, just touch me. And when I am open, when my spirit is broken, my heart is appealing and my request is genuinely, humbly presented….He responds. I feel that tingling, that sudden emotional “rush” that feels like the waters of life have washed over me, leaving me sparkling clean. I feel the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders, and I have to cry tears of joy and peace.

Yes, the big, tough Marine cries. Heck, I cry if the TV commercial has a happy ending. I can’t cry at real life, but I can cry over a movie or a stupid TV show. One day I’ll have to figure out why that is.

Have you felt God’s presence? Do you know His touch? If you do, then you can understand, and I’ll bet as you are reading this you are feeling exactly as I feel writing it, thinking just how nice it would be to feel that way right now! But if you don’t know what I am talking about, you need to ask God for His intervention in your spiritual growth; ask God to send the Ruach and have an open heart and mind to accept it. Also ask the Ruach, itself, to let you know it is there. I remember reading somewhere that we can ask the Ruach, the Holy Spirit, to come to us. It is a sort of self-help, with the Ruach’s help: you stop what you are doing, you close your eyes (obviously you don’t want to do this while driving or operating heavy equipment) and you ask the Ruach to give you peace, to help you overcome the moment. Breathe deeply and slowly, relax, prepare yourself for whatever the Ruach is going to do, and faithfully expect that your prayer will be answered. I really believe, from my own experience, that if you genuinely ask and trust in the Spirit, the Spirit will answer you with a sense of peace and relaxation. Maybe even joy, in the midst of your Tsouris.

That’s what we can look forward to; in the middle of the destruction, we will be at peace. God gives us a spirit not of fear but of victory. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will have no fear, for Thou are with me.

Those are very powerful words, and they should be a reminder to us that the power of God is living within us, and greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

When the world starts to fall apart, which it is already doing, don’t look to yourself for the strength to survive: ask the Ruach for help.

For any human to find peace during the Tribulation times, it is impossible, but with God, well…you know how that one ends, don’t you?


Living in Fear

How many people do you know that always think the worst that can happen? When they hear about a plane crash they say, “I don’t know if I want to fly anymore.” Or when they get a call late at night, the first thing they say is, “Oh no! Someone must have died!” (The first thing I say when I get a call late at night is, “Someone better had died!”)

Maybe it’s more subtle, maybe it’s something as seemingly innocuous as not driving a car, or refusing to travel, or even something as silly as never ordering anything different at a restaurant. Sometimes this is personal preference, and sometimes it’s just doing what one wants. If someone is brave enough to go their own way, and eat only what they like, that’s fine. But if their resasoning is that they are afraid they won’t like something, or that something bad might happen, then they are living in fear.

Fear is a very strong emotion, and it is like fire; it can be a friend or a foe. Oh, yes- there are things to be afraid of, and someone without fear is a fool. Fear is what keeps us aware, fear is what protects us from running foolishly into trouble or personal harm. Fear can be a lifesaver, or a life-ruiner. It all depends on who is on control: are we controlling our fears or are our fears controlling us?

There is one verse from the B’rit Chadashah (Good News) that I try to remember and tell people I know who profess to believe in God and worship Him: It’s 2 Timothy 1:7, where Shaul reminds Timothy that, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.” Within the context of the letter, Shaul (Paul) is empowering Timothy, a young Disciple and someone struggling to preach the word. Paul is in jail and stating how he has been abandoned by friends. This letter is to encourage and strengthen Timothy to continue preaching with confidence and zeal, despite the suffering that Paul is going through.

The Bible is rife with statements and encouragements by God to those who have faith:

Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 118:6; Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 41:13; and on and on and on…

Fear that controls us, that keeps us from trying new things, that runs our life…this is not fear of the Lord, it is faithlessness. Yes- that’s exactly what it is. If you are a person who says you worship the Lord, then you are not to be afraid. The angels that went to Gideon and Joshua began by telling them not to be afraid. Why? Because they were afraid, because they did not trust. God sent His angels to be a physical sign to them that God is with them. After which they acted faithfully, took hold of that encouragement and fearlessly ran with it. Look what they did with it!

We all have fear in us. Abraham was as faithful as anyone ever was, yet he had fear- he “pimped” his wife two times out of fear! And when Moshe first saw the burning bush he was told not to be afraid to go to Pharaoh. Moses took a little more convincing than Abraham, but once he devoted himself to doing God’s will, even the failure to free the people after 9 plagues did not dissuade Moses from facing a Pharaoh that said he would kill him and a people that wanted to stone him. And in the desert, did the people not revolt? Did they not want to stone him and Aaron (at least) a few times? Did not Pharaoh’s army pursue them? All this time Moses grew stronger in faith, and fear left him. By the time they reach the land, Moses was unshakable.

I work with someone who assigns the incoming calls to the system engineers (if she is reading this do not be disheartened- please take hold of what I am saying and be strong, for yourself. I only want you to be happy and faith is the path to joy.) Each time she calls me to say someone is on the phone for me, she whines my name and sounds apologetic. I have told her, over and over, there is nothing to be afraid of. She is constantly afraid that she will “bother” me because she knows how busy I am. Well, DUH!! Of course I’m busy- it’s a help desk, there are barely enough techies to handle the calls and I am always busy. I tell her to just let me know if someone is calling for me, and I will let her know if she can send them through or to please take a message.  Yet, despite my constantly telling her it’s OK, and just say, “Steven: so-and-so is on the phone, do you want to take it?” Instead I constantly get, “Steeeeve? I’m sorry to bother you, I know how busy you are, but so-and-so is calling. They are asking for you and I know you’re busy and I don’t know if you want to take this or not? Do you want to take it?”

This is what I mean about living in fear. Despite the many times I have told this person that it is OK to just tell me who is on the phone, she refuses to accept that she can approach me openly. She thinks she is being courteous, but the truth is she is afraid of upsetting me, or getting yelled at, or upsetting the caller, and it is all founded in her overriding fear of being rejected. Of not being “liked.”  If only she showed faithfulness. She says she is a Believer, but yet, she is ruled by her fears and not by the spirit of victory that we all have in God .

Yes, even something as small and seemingly insignificant as transferring a phone call can indicate if one is living in fear or not.

Here is Zechariah 4:6, “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”  We mere humans have little to nothing with which to accomplish great things, but God has everything that ever was and is, and whatever He needs he can create with a thought. It’s true! When He is with us, who can stand against us? Shaul tells us this in Romans 8:31, the basis for which is found in Isaiah 41. Whether we are battling the demons of the Enemy, or just asking someone to do something for us, we need to be firm and faithful.

How do you get this faith? It’s actually quite simple: do what God says you should do. Follow His commandments and He will bless you here on Earth. He promises that throughout the Torah, throughout the books of the Prophets and Yeshua confirms all this in His teachings, as well.

God has provided all you will ever need, and if you are afraid, remember who is on your side. If you are ashamed of God, Yeshua says that He will be ashamed of you (Mark 8:38) so stand firm and be faithful.

Being afraid of everything is not humility: humility takes strength and faithfulness (search “humility” on this page to read more.)  Being afraid does not serve God; it serves the Enemy of God. Being ruled by fear is when your actions are based not on, “How will this reflect on God?” but on, “What will happen to me and what will people think of me?”

It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it is all about God. Be faithful, trust in God, and he will justify your trust. Live in fear and the Enemy will eat you alive (Matthew 10:28.)

When you stop living in fear you can be truly free. When you reach out to grab hold of God you have to let go of your fear, first. So let it go, reach for God, and His hand will grab yours.

Fear of the world (being afraid of everything) will enslave you, slowly kill you and destroy your soul, whereas fear of the Lord (meaning faithful and obedient) will give you courage, strength and freedom.

You choose.