What Jews and Christians Agree on That is Wrong for Both

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How many of you have heard someone say “Jews have the Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ” when talking about the commandments in the Torah and who is supposed to obey them? I know I have, and the general understanding is that Jews and Christians are separated by this idea that Jews need to obey the Torah but Christians don’t because Jesus died for their sins.

Both sides seem to agree to this: Jews say the New Covenant is only for Christians and Christians say the Old Covenant is only for Jews.

Jews use only the Tanakh and Christians reference the Tanakh, sometimes, but generally stay only within the New Covenant. In fact, I believe the vast majority of Christians who have been taught from the Gospels and the Epistles don’t even realize that the writers of those books and letters are all quoting from the Tanakh.

So if both Jews and Christians feel “their” Bible is only for them, why is this wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you why- because the Torah is for everyone and Yeshua died for everyone. Yeshua taught the Torah and the Apostles taught the Torah: that was the only “Bible” around. The New Covenant letters and Gospels were being written as early as the middle of the First Century but didn’t come together until around 367 C.E., nearly three centuries later.

What has happened is that the “grafted in” are trying to take over the tree, and the tree is letting them!

The Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It starts with the creation of everything, then God chooses a man (Abraham) to be the father of a nation dedicated to serving God; later, God tells that nation they are to be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and he gives them the Torah, his User Manual (if you will) on how they should live their lives. As priests, of course, they are not only to live their lives in accordance with the Torah but they are to teach the rest of the world how to do that, as well. The story continues as we read how the people of God fail to perform their priestly duties, and after the nation suffers a civil war leaving two nations, Shomron in the North and Judah in the South, their constant sinning forces God to disperse them throughout the world. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

There has, from the beginning, been the promise of a Messiah to come and reconcile the chosen people to God, and then all the world will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in accordance to God’s commandments (Torah) when God regathers his people into their land, Israel. The promise of a Messiah comes to fruition in the New Covenant, which is the continuation of the Old Covenant. It starts some 400 years or so after the last entries in the Tanakh and it is Yeshua who is the Messiah. As prophesied, he is not accepted by the masses although he was supernaturally born and portrayed God’s power throughout his ministry. The prophecy that all people will come to worship God begins (properly) with the Messianic Jews (early followers of Yeshua) adding to their numbers from the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Despite what has been taught, first century Jews that followed Yeshua never converted to Christianity because Yeshua was, is and always will be a Jew teaching the Torah. As his ministry grew in strength and numbers more and more Gentiles were added as fewer and fewer Jews came to accept him as their Messiah. I suppose at some point there had to be a limit, since there were so many more Gentiles than Jews in the world then, just as it is today.

Starting around the end of the first century, the separation of Yeshua’s followers from Judaic worship to what is today Christianity begins to really “take off” and with the Council of Nicene, Christianity is a totally different religion, persecuting the Jews and re-branding Yeshua as Jesus Christ, the blue-eyed, blond-haired Teutonic image that is what people think of today.

The story ends with the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) that we read about in Revelation. And, when all is said and done, all people will recognize and proclaim Yeshua as the Messiah and worship God on his Holy Mountain in Jerusalem (the new Jerusalem) as God told us we should, which is found (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

So, nu? What’s my point? My point is this: we need to bridge that gap that people created which God never intended to exist. We need to overcome the bigotry and hatred between Jews and Christians and realize that there is one God who does not have any religion, just laws, commandments, rules, ordinances, and regulations that tell us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other.

One God, one set of laws, one people under God and one Messiah for all. The separation between Jews and Christians serves only to help the enemy of God to be able to take over the world. Anyone, therefore, who promulgates that Jews and Christians should remain separated and that following the Torah is no longer valid or needed is an agent of Satan, whether or not that person realizes it.

If you are Christian, read the whole Bible and you will see there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. If you are Jewish, rebuke the bigotry and fear that Jews have of the New Covenant. Read a Messianic version of the New Covenant (NOT the King James version, please!) and see that what Yeshua said was not in any way different from what Moses said. Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Mosaic law by using a Drash to teach the Remes (look up the exegesis system called PaRDes to see what I am talking about) but never, ever taught against the Torah. He couldn’t! He was and still is, the Living Torah.

For Jews that are waiting for Messiah, you must be open to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he already came and he will be coming back. You can still wait, and I pray you accept him when he returns, or you can open your heart and mind and just simply study about Yeshua now. Remember, the Talmud talks about the Messiah as the Son of Joseph and also as the Son of David, indicating two separate Messianic occurrences.

For Christians, you must be open to hearing that the Torah is what Yeshua taught and the Canon of Modern Christianity is not what Yeshua taught but what Constantine created. You need to read the Old Covenant to really be able to understand what Yeshua was teaching and accept that following the Torah isn’t just for Jews.

Yeshua is Messiah to the world: Jews, Gentiles, Buddhist, Muslims ….everyone! God has no religion and when all is said and done, we who will survive through faith will worship God in the way he instructed his chosen nation of priests to teach us.

Sheep Without a Shepherd

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Do any of you read Dear Abby? Or maybe Ask Ann Landers? I read these every morning, but not because I like to get some voyeuristic pleasure from sharing other’s problems with their lives. I see it as a thermometer, measuring the degree to which people in our society have no guidance, mostly regarding interpersonal relationships.

Often I get inspiration from the multitude of personal issues people present publically to a total stranger. I am always thinking of one of my favorite verses from the Tanakh, Hosea 4:6:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

The knowledge they lack is the knowledge of God, the knowledge that comes from reading His Word every day, the understanding of the human condition that we see exemplified through the stories in the Bible. This is important stuff!

I feel saddened and frustrated when I read the almost inane situations people get themselves into; and then, as if they haven’t hurt themselves enough already, they go to Ann or Abby for help. For the record? I’ve got nothing against Ann or Abby. I think, overall, they do a wonderful job. And even though I wish they had more spiritual answers, they are usually spot on with their advice.

However, I can’t help thinking that if the people who write these letters stopped asking humans and went to God for help, they would find that God has the best answers.  All the time.

So, nu?  What can we do? We can make ourselves available to our own family and friends, to let them know that we have the same problems in our life but we also have the best answers, Then show them where the answers to their problems are found in the Bible.  When we relate our own story, not forcing it on anyone but just using it as an example of what worked for us, we can lead them to a better answer, a greener pasture.

And we should be prepared to be rejected and (maybe even) laughed at. That goes along with the territory and is part of the job when you live your life to help others.

Life is tough; there are many times we get ourselves into a situation we don’t want to be in. And when we are there, we cannot fathom how to get out of it.

That’s when we need to go to God. As we read in Matthew 19:26:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Be a good shepherd to your family and friends and lead them to the answers they really need, which are always found in the Bible.

A Friend in Need….

I am certainly blessed to have friends that I have been close with for many years. Some date back to my childhood, as far back as elementary school.

One of these friends is a quiet, private person who takes on many things without sharing or even thinking of calling, just to blow off some steam or have a friendly ear to listen to his problems. He is solitary and sometimes a little self-absorbed: not in an egotistical or narcissistic way, but in that he will force himself to take on responsibilities and do too much for caring for family, and he does this at the expense of his time for friends.

The reason I am sharing this with you is because as Believers, we will often have people in our lives that ignore us because of what we believe, and will change conversations with us because they are uncomfortable with talking about God and salvation. Even if we are just blowing off steam, kvetching about the world from our viewpoint, and only want them to lend an ear. And when they do that, or when (like with my friend) they do not tell us things that are going on in their life, we feel sort of insulted. Not really insulted …how do I put it? I guess we feel unimportant in their life. Yes, that is how I feel when he doesn’t even call me to let me know that a close family member passed away.  In this specific case, more than one.

So, although he says it isn’t anything personal, and I believe absolutely in his mind he never thought to purposefully leave me out of his life, I still felt left out. Did it bother me? Yes. Will it affect my friendship? No.

Why? Because a friend in need is a friend indeed, even when that friend doesn’t want to recognize that he (or she) is in need. My friend needs me to be there in case anything happens where he does need to reach out to someone. I need to be there for him whether he wants me to be or not because that is how I show my love for him. And whether or not he loves me as much as I love him (I am taking brotherly) doesn’t matter, and (frankly) shouldn’t matter. Loving and friendship is great when it is reciprocal, but it is godly when it is not reciprocal. I am not talking about unrequited love, but about the difference in a relationship where two people are friends but one seems to be the giver and one is the taker. I have friendships like that, and they aren’t completely one-sided, but it feels often like I am the one” chasing them down” to stay in touch.

I have asked one or two if they still want to be friends, and they have said they do, so I still do most of the  work to stay in touch. And that is why these friendships are so dear to me- they help me to see God’s side of relationships. Many, in fact most, people reject God, His word, His commandments and even those that are “religious” have turned their back on God and Messiah simply because they go through the motions without the emotions. Yet God loves every one of them. He is the ultimate example of unrequited love, which we learn when we read the bible.  God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die so we have a chance to live, and He did that not because we were sinless, but because we can’t stop sinning! Think of that…would you die for someone who acts as though he or she doesn’t care if you are alive or not?

The best way to show the love of God is to love like God- without requiring that the other person love you back, or pay for the next meal, or even return your calls. I am not talking about the ones that take advantage of you or the ones that do not want you to be part of their life and have said so. I am talking about those people you know, friends and family, who are still interested in having a relationship with you but make it really hard to get together. They are the ones who are always busy doing something (I often think they are so busy doing things so that they don’t have to face up to things), or rarely return calls or emails, or just “disappear” sometimes.

These are the ones who need us the most, even though they don’t know it. Because one day they will find themselves with nowhere to go, and no one else will still be putting up with the “I’ve got too much I am dealing with right now” excuse to be there for them anymore. That’s why we need to always be there, just as God is always there for them, too.

If you truly know the love and forgiveness of God, then you have to show it to others. That’s how it works.

sometimes stuff just happens

You know, we live in a world that has been cursed. Sometimes the ground is like brass, the sky often holds back its rain, and there are terrible weather occurrences, such as snowstorm Stella in the Northeast today.

Last night as I was watching TV and thinking I had some popcorn stuck between my teeth (we’ve all been there, right?) I loosened it up and what came out wasn’t popcorn at all- it was a piece of my molar. Fortunately, the entire center of that tooth is amalgam (filling) so I don’t have any exposed roots or nerves, but still and all, it’s never fun to have a piece of your tooth come off.

So did God punish me? Did I perform some terrible sin that caused this to happen, which may very well interfere with whatever plans I had for today?

I don’t think so- I feel certain that, although God does know everything that happens to me, He has more important things to do than cause me tsouris (Yiddish for “troubles”) this morning.

That’s why I am sharing this event in my life with you today, because I have known people over the years who seem to think that everything that happens, whether for good or for bad, is a direct result of something God did to them. Whenever they have a little trouble in their life, they blame God. If the car breaks down, it’s because they were traveling on Shabbat; if the water heater needs repair, it’s because they sinned against someone; if they get sick and miss some event, it’s because God didn’t want them to go to it.

Now, maybe (just maybe) God did intervene- He does that now and then, but for everything? I don’t see that happening, do you?  Just because God is in control of everything doesn’t mean that He causes everything that happens. Often enough, I am certain (although I cannot speak for God- read Job to find out how God feels about people speaking for Him) that God often allows things to take their own course. He knows what will come from it, and there must be times, just like every parent goes through, when He knows that His children are doing something that will eventually harm them, but as a parent you allow it to run it’s course so that the child learns. It’s called Tough Love, and it is a necessary means to an end, which is that the child learns a valuable lesson so it’s life will be better. Coddling and over-protecting a child will never allow that child to develop self-dependence, or teach it to be responsible for it’s actions.

My plan for today, which was to clean and restore a rotor-tiller motor with a friend who is a good mechanic, may be quashed as I wait for the dentist’s office to return my call for an emergency visit. And who knows what the dentist will say needs to be done. He will most likely want to try to save the tooth or replace it ($$$) while I would rather just have him pull the problem tooth out and be done with it: after all, it’s all the way in the back of my mouth, has no cosmetic value and I have two other molars there to handle the workload.

But no matter what happens, I do not blame God for this, and do not feel that it happened because I was eating too much popcorn. I just can’t believe that God punished me because I was glutenous. As silly as that sounds, I know you have met people (as I have) that would actually believe that is why this happened. God broke my tooth because I went off my diet. Really? Are things that slow in the universe God has to take time to break my tooth as a punishment for eating too much popcorn?

So what’s my point? It’s this: things happen to us and to other people, and more often than not the cause is something we have done to ourselves and not some Divine intervention designed to change our behavior. The question is: how do we know when it is Divine intervention?

I can’t answer that one; I suppose we all just have to look at the event, and the causes of that event, and ask the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to show us the reason. I would say that most of the time it’s probably your own fault, since humans are so prone to doing the wrong thing, and to evaluate the event in terms of how serious it is. For example, my tooth breaking isn’t exactly a change of life event- it happens all the time, to nearly everyone. Now, if every tooth in my mouth broke, that would be something more along the lines of a miraculous happening, something so unique and devastating that I would realistically have to consider God having a hand in it.

Don’t blame God for everything that happens- He is always there for you, He never abandons or forgets you, but He also has other things to attend to and more often than not will allow you to choose your own path. And He will also allow you to walk that path. If He has a definitive plan for you, something that He wants you to do, He will intervene to move you in that direction, but, in the end, we have free will to decide what we will or will not do. So, listen to the Ruach HaKodesh, pay attention to what you are doing, and always check with yourself to make sure that what you are doing is in keeping with how God told us to live our lives. Even when we are walking the path God told us to walk, we will still have troubles- Yeshua (Jesus) tells us so in His teachings.

It’s not how many trials you have that matter- it’s how you come through them that is important. God is there, He is watching, but He is not causing everything that goes wrong. Things will always go wrong when you follow God because you live in a world that rejects God’s ways, so (naturally) when you worship God as He said to worship Him, you are swimming against the tide.

Here’s what I do: I constantly try to remember that what I do now affects where I get to go later, and I concentrate on overcoming obstacles instead of trying to figure out why they are there. If you can do the same, I guaranty it will help you keep on the right path.

Take 2 Prayers, and Call Me in the Morning

Oy! What a mishigas!! Work was rough, I got yelled at by the boss, my spouse is in a bad mood and wants to tell me about it. I want to listen but have been hearing complaints all day long from customers and my compassion gauge is at FULL. Just, everyone….leave me alone!!!

Ever feel that way?  Really? That often? Welcome to the Club, Brothers and Sisters.

In today’s fast..faster..fastest world I think we all get too caught up in a whirlwind of events that just keep coming at us. We feel like we are in an emotional spiral, either revving up to an explosion or falling into oblivion. It’s just too much too much, and too often.

Sometimes I wish I lived in simpler times. I am a Baby Boomer at the end of the cycle, born in the mid-50’s. I remember the innocence of the times and miss that slower, more congenial way of life. Yeah, we were more than innocent- we were naive. We were lied to and all the social tribulations, domestic abuse, pornography and underhanded activities in government that we expose so much today were happening then, too.

But the “feel” of life was nicer. Maybe it’s just Escapism- that desire to go back to a time we recall (truthfully or not) as happier.

The sad truth is, as Thomas Wolfe said, you can’t go home again.

There is a way to feel calmer, to get to a more relaxed state of mind, and to overcome the stress of today’s problems and exhaustive schedule. No, it’s not TM or Tai Chi or Yoga (although there’s nothing wrong with those). What I am talking about is prayer. And not the kind of prayer where you ask God to give you something, but the kind of prayer where you just thank God for all He has given you.

Huh? What’s that? I need help, I need to relax, I’ve got all this stress and all these problems and I need them to go away. And you want me to thank God? You crazy, or what?

No, I’m not crazy (there could be arguments made against that statement, though): I’m right. I know I’m right because it works for me, it works for my wife, and it will work for you, too.

The problem with problems is that they blind us to our blessings. They are like the glare from the sun on your car windshield, which makes it impossible to see what is directly ahead of you. When you focus on your blessings, it’s like putting on polarized sunglasses; once you have them on, you can see everything clearly. It’s that simple.

Prayer, especially thankful prayer, is the way to get passed the world and see the spiritual. It is balm for the soul. When you feel overwhelmed by the world, your life and your problems, you are blinded to the wonderful things that God has provided. It’s normal to feel that way; that’s why God has given us the ability to come into His throneroom through prayer. By the atonement we receive from Yeshua’s sacrifice, we can come boldly before the Lord. In fact, even if you are not “saved”, God will hear your prayer when you come before Him humbly and with a contrite spirit. That’s the way He rolls.

When I was still searching for God, I started to pray. Not because I was a firm believer in God, but because I thought it would help me. I remembered hearing somewhere that if you felt unhappy, smile. If you smile, even if you are unhappy, eventually by smiling you will become happier. I thought, “Why not do the same with prayer? Maybe if I pray like I believe in God, I will start believing more?” Funny thing is, it worked. And I felt better, too. Emotionally, even before I was blessed with the indwelling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), I felt better. I was relaxed, as if a weight had been lifted. It doesn’t last forever, the weight comes back. Living in the world is like working at the fish market. By the time you come home, you stink of fish. You may wash and wash, eventually getting the smell off of you, but by midday tomorrow you will stink, again.

Prayer is the spiritual soap that cleanses us of the stench from the cursed world we live in.

And, as your Mother always told you, you should wash every day. So, with that thought in mind, start to wash yourself with prayer every day. Start the day clean, and go to bed cleansed from the world. Just say, “Thank you, Father, for all that You do for me. For my salvation, for my health (if you are alive you are healthier than a dead person), for my situation (it can always be worse), for everything You have done, for what You are doing right now, and for everything that You have planned for me.”

As the old saying goes, just count your blessings. In thankful prayer you will find peace, so long as you honestly thank God for whatever He has done for you. In the midst of the worst trials and tribulations, God is there. Remember that poem, “Footprints in the Sand?” When there was only one set of footprints, the writer asks where God was when he was walking all alone through his problems. God’s answer was that the footprints weren’t those of the man, but they were God’s footprints; there was only one set because God was carrying the man through those troubled times.

God carries us through our problems, and there is a reason that Yeshua called the Ruach the “Comforter”. It’s because that’s what it does; it comforts us, it relaxes us, it takes away the worries and the strife. Maybe only temporarily, but that’s another thing to be thankful for- the Spirit, like God, is always there for you. When those feelings of complete and utter despair come back, the Ruach is ready for it.

Feeling out of it? Ready to call it a day and you just woke up? Wanna go to Petsmart after work, pick up something small and defenseless, take it home and KILL IT!!!  Please don’t. Just find a quiet corner somewhere, and thank God for all you have. It may take some effort, I know (believe me…I know!), but it is worth the effort. Let the Comforter comfort, ease into an emotional hot tub, put on your spiritual sunglasses and see through the haze of the world all the wonderful things God has done, and is doing, for you right now.

When you offer up to the Lord thankful prayer, He will give you peace of spirit. Unlike the hard truth that you can’t “go back home again”, thankful prayer is something that will never be gone and will always make you feel better. It is constantly here, easily within reach, and  it works. Try it right now- why wait? Nu? What could it hoit?