Thousands of Years Old, Yet Still Fresh and New

No, I am not talking about myself.  (By the way, no video today.)

I am talking about the Bible, of course. I read a part of it every day. As I have often mentioned, I keep my Bible in the bathroom because that is where I am guaranteed to have some time alone every day; no one bothers me, no outside distractions, and I have all the time I want to read my Bible.

What I still find amazing, after having read the Bible over and over again for more than 20 years, is that I can read a passage that I have read scores of times and suddenly BAM!!!… I see an entirely new meaning, a deeper understanding of what God is saying through his word. Whether I am reading a direct quote from God or part of a letter Shaul wrote, or even just some historical event, an understanding comes to me through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and I am (again) amazed at just how fresh and wonderfully exciting that same old passage suddenly becomes.

The only “down-side” to this is that you can’t experience it unless you actually read your Bible. That’s right- you have to sit down somewhere (your bathroom is a good place!), open the book (to anywhere) and begin to read. It also helps with a short request to God to have the Ruach show you what he has in there for you.  I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for every single person in the world, and as such every single person in the world may read something in the Bible and get a totally different message from it. And each one of those different messages will be correct, for that person.

I am not saying that a passage or interpretation of a passage can’t be the same for multiple people, just that multiple people can read the same thing and get something different from it. There is no rule or mitzvot that states everything in the Bible can have only one meaning for everyone.

Oh, yes- for those of you who want to nit-pick and over-analyze everything, ‘do not kill’ means do not kill for everyone, and ‘do not worship other gods’ means no one should worship any god other than the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Let’s not strain out a gnat and swallow a camel- you know what I mean when I say God can have a different message for everyone.

So, nuWhy are you still sitting there? Grab your Bible, ask God to show you something new, open it up and start reading.


Remember one of the first things we learned as children was to say “Please” and “Thank you?” Once learned, we do it so often it just comes out. Unfortunately, when it becomes automatic, it also becomes somewhat meaningless, doesn’t it?

God has given us more than anyone on earth ever could or ever will. Despite the wonderful things I have received from friends and family, they can’t compare with life, love, health, continued work and (most important) salvation through Messiah Yeshua- all of that is from God.

So I thank God every day; in fact, multiple times during the day. And, yes…sometimes it is rote, it is automatic. I thank him for medicines that work when I take my Zocor in the morning, I thank him for the food He provides whenever I eat a meal or just have a nosh (snack), and I thank Him at the beginning and end of every prayer. I don’t say this to show off or brag about how “holy” or thankful I am, I share this with you to ask if you are as thankful as you should be? The truth is, God has done so much for me that if I was to thank Him for everything He has done, one thing at a time, and once every minute, I would have to live to be older than Methuselah!

When I am praying at worship services, and I cover myself with my Tallit to be in my own little Sukkah, I thank God and cry. Oh, yes, I have Tsouris in my life, I have aches and pains, my hair is thinning at the top and I live in a cursed and fallen world, which is getting worse by the minute. There are many terrible things that happen, and I am more often than not falling short of what I am sure God wants from me. If I concentrated and thought about all the evil I have done to others, and how much I have hurt people, I could go through a ton of anti-depressants and still feel bad.

But thank God (there I go again- thanking God!) that He has taught me that to concentrate on the bad things is to work with the enemy- to berate and belittle myself for being human is to help the enemy steal my soul. This is one of the greatest gifts I have received from the Lord through His Ruach (Spirit): I have realized that when you look to the bad all you see is bad, and when you look to the good then you get to see the good. It’s selective reasoning, selective sight, and selective attitude.

My blood type is B Positive, which may explain why even though I am a cynical so-and-so, I try to see the best outcome, the bright side, the positive. Just like air rushes to fill a vacuum and moths are drawn to the light, I must try to see the best outcome, to explain the reason something is happening is from the the Holy One’s influence. And very often, I have to accept that what I see in the world is not the work of the Holy One, but the work of HaSatan.

When God is absent in a person, there is a vacuum- a spiritual vacuum that cries out to be filled. If the person doesn’t fill it with God’s spirit, then the enemy fills it with himself. Yeshua told the parable of the man who’s house was swept clean, but after the evil spirit left, the man didn’t fill it with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) so the demon that was evicted came back, with 7 more demons worse than himself and took over, again (Matthew 12:45 and Luke 11:26.)

So, nu? In this world of tsouris and hate, evil and self-importance where the legal powers have rejected God and the godless are held in esteem, how do we stay focused on keeping a positive and God-fearing attitude? The answer is: be thankful. Count your blessings and you will be surprised how many of them there are.

You have to count them correctly, though- you need to be thankful for the way God has protected you. If you have aches and pains, see the positive side of that- you aren’t dead! You don’t have missing limbs, and even if you do, do you have any other limbs that are still working? If you have illness, do you know people who are sicker than you?

In a nutshell, just remember the old adage, “I used to be sad because I had no shoes, then I saw a person who had no feet.” Being thankful, being happy (especially in this world) and being positive is not easy- it is stinking hard! Yeshua didn’t say let’s have a party together, He said pick up your execution stake and follow me. We need to work at seeing the bright side; and when you do, and when you become good at it, you will not only be happier but you will help make others happy, too.

They say to every cloud there is a silver lining. The silver lining is seen when the sun hidden by the cloud comes out from behind it. Every cloud in our life has the Son behind it, waiting to come out and show you the silver lining. We all know that on the cloudiest day, the sun is just behind the cloud waiting to break forth in light. In the same way we need to look for and wait on the Son of God, and God, Himself, to break forth through the clouds of despair and frustration that living in a cursed world will have on all of us. We all become depressed, we all feel out of sorts and desperate now and then. It’s a human thing.  Don’t let it get you down.

When we are thirsty we look for water, and when we drink we feel revived. When your soul is thirsty for joy and relief, look for the Living Water and drink your fill.

The way to have joy and spiritual relief is to thank God for all you do have. Don’t get hung-up on the bad stuff but look right through it for the light behind it- seek ye first the things of heaven. There is always something to be thankful for, so go and find it!

If you are sad and depressed, it is no one’s fault but your own. Fight against it! God gives us a spirit of victory, not of fear. The enemy wants you to belittle yourself, to be afraid, to feel alone and unloved. Don’t you dare buy it! God has everything you need, everything that is important and more of it than you can ever use in your entire lifetime. It’s all there for you, already wrapped and waiting for you to open it.

Seek and ye shall find, so get your butt out there and seek! Be thankful, praise God and look for Him in everything. When you do that you find the joy He has for you.

We all need a scorecard

Ever been to a baseball game? You’ll hear vendors crying out, “Hey! beeeeer heeeere!” or “Hot dawgs! Git yer hot dawgs!” They also scream, “Scorecards! Can’t tell the players widout a scorecard!” (you may have noticed my experience at baseball games has been exclusively in New York stadiums.)

It’s the scorecard that tells you who is who on the teams. And with the scorecard you can also keep track of the each play, marking down who scored when, which players (and in what order) played the ball in the field, and later this record can help you to relive the game and re-familiarize yourself with the players you had seen.

In real life we all need a scorecard, but not for baseball players. We need to know who the spiritual players are, the good guys from the bad guys, if you will.

The legions of the enemy don’t have uniforms, and (frankly) neither do the angels of God. The way we tell who is who is by following the advice that Yeshua gave in Matthew 7:16. In the same way you tell an orange tree from a lemon tree by looking at the fruit that grows on it, we can tell the good guys from the bad guys by looking at their fruit. A good tree gives forth good fruit, so look at the fruit of the person.

And remember that most everyone we look at is human, and like humans, not every fruit from even the best tree will always be good. And also remember that a good tree can sometimes be attacked by bad bugs, turning their fruit rotten even as it hangs on the branch (Job would be a good example of this allegory- he was treated with disdain by his friends because of the suffering God allowed to test his faith, so even though his fruit seemed bad because of the tsouris he was going through, Job was still a good tree and once the ‘bugs’ were removed, he again put forth good fruit.)

This is a hard thing to do because no one always has good fruit. The bad tree can produce fruit that seems good, but may be full of worms. As they say, the only thing worse than biting into an apple and finding a worm is finding half a worm. Sometimes we end up knowing that the fruit is bad only after having taken that bite.

The thing to do is throw the fruit away once we realize it is bad, but not let that turn us off to trying new fruits, or trusting in trees that seem to have good fruit.

The enemy will turn out what seems to be good fruit to get us to bite into it, and once we taste his fruits, we are in big trouble. That’s because the fruit of the enemy is extremely habit-forming. It tastes good, it makes us feel good and we want more of it because it appeals to our sinful nature, the natural part of us that is hedonistic and self-absorbed.

How do we tell the fruit of the enemy from godly fruit? Well, you keep score with your scorecard and you learn the players.

The scorecard we all need, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is the Word of God- the Bible. And we also need the announcer, who is the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to keep us aware of all that is happening, play-by-play, so we know what is happening as we watch the game unfold.

Reading the bible is so important- you have heard me preach this to you hundreds of times, and I will never stop saying it. Reading the bible is so important (oops- there it is, again!) because it is the best way to know the good guys from the bad guys.

The fruits of the spirit are told to us by Shaul (Paul) in Galatians 5:22-23; and the 13 attributes of God are related by Moshe (Moses) in Exodus 34: 6-7. This is the “fruit” that we should look for. And no one will have all of these, but the ones who regularly show most of these fruits are the ones we should trust. The ones who only show a little are the ones we should watch very closely.

You don’t need to watch your friends, and you should never take your eyes off your enemies.

If you haven’t been using your scorecard, now is the time to get it out and track this game (like it or not, you are in the game of salvation and you need to pick a side.) Read Galatians and Exodus (as referenced above) to start, if nothing else. But that’s not enough- you really need to read the entire bible, that’s from Genesis to Revelations. Even if you aren’t Christian (i.e. you’re Jewish and not Messianic) go ahead and read the New Covenant writings. If you can, get a Messianic version so the subtle anti-Semitic references aren’t so distasteful, but read it. Yeshua (Jesus) did not create a new religion- that was Constantine. Yeshua preached and taught Torah because that was the only scripture there was. In fact, Yeshua was, is, and always will be the Living Torah.

Here’s a pre-game warmup for you regarding the time from Yeshua’s birth to about the Third Century: when He was born there were Jews and Pagans. That’s was all. After He started His ministry, there were Jews who did not accept Him as their Messiah, Jews who did, Gentiles (i.e., pagans) who accepted him and were converting to Judaism, and pagans who kept to their religion.  After Constantine “legalized” (what at that time was being called) Christianity, at the Council of Nicea it was Constantine who created the “Christian” religion which totally separated the Jews and the (now called) Christians.

When you read the entire bible, more than once, and memorize the attributes of God and the fruits of the spirit, then you will be able to hear the Ruach tell you who to trust and who to watch out for.

As Sherlock Holmes used to say at the beginning of a case, “The game’s afoot!” This game is afoot, and has been since Adam and Eve got their eviction notice. But we’re in the Ninth inning, and the game is going to end soon.

The bible tells us that the loser will have a tremendous rally in the top of the ninth inning, and it will look as if the home team (God owns the earth so He is the home team) will be too far behind to catch up. But don’t worry- this scorecard is already filled. Yeshua will hit the ultimate Grand Slam that will defeat the challengers, and everyone on God’s team will win the universe, for all eternity.

You know that credit card that ends it’s commercials with the catch phrase, “What’s in your wallet?” Well, here’s my catch phrase: “Who’s team are you on?” And don’t be fooled by anyone who says you don’t have to choose a side because that is a lie. Yeshua tells us, clearly, that whoever is not with Him is against Him. And when you read the Tanakh, that is clearly what God says, as well. Just go to Exodus 20 and read the first two commandments, if you think God is willing to cede any part of His authority or uniqueness.

So, nu? Who’s team are you on?

Yom Kippur Midrash

The Day of Atonement. The day when Jews all over the world congregate and corporately ask God for forgiveness. One of the holiest days of the Jewish year, if not the holiest.

And how many of the millions of Jews that are celebrating, solemnly, this holy day are doing so waiting for the Messiah who has already come for them, but whom they do not not know?

I celebrate this day with fasting and solemn introspection, reflection and requests for forgiveness for myself and all my people. That is what this day is really about- not forgiveness just for my sins, but forgiveness for our sins.

The prophets all asked forgiveness for the people, Moses stood before God and asked forgiveness for the people, Yeshua asked forgiveness for the ones that crucified Him. Those who are godly and worship God ask forgiveness not just for themselves, but for their people and for others. And more than that- they forgive them, too.

We are not commanded to ask for forgiveness, we are commanded to be forgiving. When we ask God to forgive our people of the sins that we read in the Ashamnu and Al Chet prayers, are we also forgiving them?

When you pray to God for forgiveness of your sins, are you also praying that you forgive the sins of those that have done evil to you? That’s right, I didn’t get it backwards: do you pray for God to help you forgive them?

I think that’s what we should do- pray for God to forgive us, and for Him to help us to forgive them, too. That’s the hard part, isn’t it? After all, even Jonah knew that God is not just willing to forgive, but that God desires to forgive: it is paramount in His heart to forgive the sinner. Maybe that’s why we read the book of Jonah on this day; it’s about forgiveness, and not just from God.  Jonah ran away from God’s calling and we know exactly why (Jonah 4:2.) He told God he knew God was compassionate and gracious, and that if Nineveh did repent God would forgive them. Jonah, on the other hand, was clearly not in a forgiving mood. Jonah did not want to pray for Nineveh, he wanted them destroyed. But, after some slight additional motivation, he followed God’s command to warn them.  And then, when God forgave them, Jonah was angry.

We need to be less like Jonah and more like God. We need, also, to pray to God for the strength, compassion and humility that will help us to be more forgiving of others. Humility, forgiveness, meekness and compassion all require great strength. A fool is easily angered, talks without thinking, and is more interested in his or her own opinion than listening to others (there’s a lot more about what a fool is like in Proverbs.)  Being loud, self-absorbed, discompassionate and unforgiving is easy for us. It is all part of our sin nature, our inherent iniquity.

The Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is the only thing that can help us to overcome the natural tendencies we have to be sinful and ungodly.

That brings us back to the earlier statement I made about so many Jews asking for forgiveness, waiting for the Messiah and not knowing or acknowledging that He already has come. It’s really sad: Jewish culture is founded on the belief of a Messiah to come and bring us back to God, to overcome our sins and reconcile us to the Holy One of Israel, and yet the historical teachings have been totally against the idea that Yeshua/Jesus is that Messiah. The Tanakh is full of references and descriptions, and Yeshua fulfilled them, yet He is still ignored and rejected by “mainstream” Judaism. Only the Messianic Jews, and many Christians who are seeking their Hebraic roots, really understand and know the true Messiah of Israel (and the world) and worship God as God said to do in the Torah. Which is exactly how Yeshua/Jesus said to worship God, as well.

Today is a day to ask forgiveness, so I ask God to forgive those of His people who have been taught, wrongfully, that Yeshua is not His Messiah. I also pray, O Lord, you forgive those that have taught and continue to teach others to reject Yeshua, for (as Yeshua said) they know not what they are doing. And, finally, O Lord, I ask that you help me and everyone reading this to forgive them, as well, for leading so many from righteousness directly to Sheol. Please forgive them, and show Your forgiveness by opening their eyes, their ears, and their hearts to the truth about Yeshua Ha Meshiach.

Thank you, Father God, for the forgiveness that You give to us, the forgiveness you provided to us through Yeshua, and for helping us to be able to forgive others.

How Are You Looking?

How many of you are thinking I am asking about your appearance? If you are, don’t feel bad but that shows how self-centered we are, as a people.

And, for the record, I would have been thinking about my appearance, too.

What I am asking is how do we look, meaning do we look at others with eyes of flesh or with spiritual eyes?

For Shabbat services on June 19th I am giving the message, and will be talking about the Torah Parashah called Korach; he’s the guy who rebelled against Moses and Aaron and took about 250 or so others down with him when God punished them. My sermon/message/drash is going to be about sight. Not the physical sight we have to see objects, but the spiritual sight we need to develop.

Physical sight is easy enough- we are born with it. It lets us see the things around us. Spiritual sight is much harder to achieve, and we don’t get it until we have the Spirit (Ruach) that God gives us when we are “Born Again.” This sight came to the Talmudim (Disciples) of Yeshua at the Pentecost. But they weren’t the first to have it.

Moses had spiritual sight, Elisha did, too. And Elisha showed us how anyone can have spiritual sight, if they are open to receiving it. In 2 Kings, 6:15 we read about the servant of Elisha being frightened because he saw the hundreds of troops surrounding the city to capture Elisha. But when Elisha, who had spiritual sight and was unafraid, asked God to open the eyes of the servant, then spiritual sight was given and the servant saw the thousands of angels in chariots of fire surrounding the troops. And with this vision, he was comforted and unafraid.

Kefa (Peter) had spiritual sight for a moment (Peter always was a slow learner, wasn’t he?) when Yeshua (Mattitayu 16) asked His Talmudim who they thought He was. Kefa came right out and declared Him the Son of God, the Messiah. Yeshua said Kefa was blessed that he said this because the knowledge was from God; in other words, Kefa saw the spiritual truth that was hidden from those with only eyes of flesh.

Remember the blind men along the road? They did not have physical sight but I think they did have spiritual sight because they called Yeshua the Son of David- only the Messiah would be called that. They showed that spiritual sight is independent of physical sight. To take that a little further along, I believe that the real sight Yeshua gave wasn’t just restoration of physical (fleshly) sight alone: I think that the real blessing was that of spiritual sight. That came from helping people to “see” the truth of the Torah, not just in His teachings but in His very life, how He lived, talked and treated others.

We need to work on our spiritual sight. I don’t know about you, but I want to see those thousands of angels. I want to see what God sees in people instead of what the worldly, fleshly sight allows me to see- just objects. I want to see more.

Just like anything else that we want to get better at, we need to practice and exercise our spiritual sight. This is done by first and foremost accepting the Ruach HaKodesh from God- the Holy Spirit, which guides us and helps us. The things of the world can only show you what is in the world, but to see the things of the Spirit you need to have the Spirit.

Next you need to know the Word of God, if for no other reason than to give you a historical basis for understanding what is happening right now. The main reason that history repeats itself is simply because we don’t learn from the past, and much of that is caused by the fact we don’t know it! If we read and re-read God’s Word, daily, we will know what happened before, and that will help us spiritually ‘see’ it when it is happening, again. We also will get to know God better, understand how He intercedes, and how He doesn’t.

By the way, just because God is in control of everything doesn’t mean He is the reason everything happens. Sometimes He just sits back and lets things take their own course. Praying for spiritual sight, and developing it, will help you discern which event is from God and which is just from living in a cursed world.

We also need to exercise our spiritual sight by looking at everything we do, every day, and trying to see God’s purpose in our being there. Do you see God’s purpose in having you work where you work? God’s purpose in placing you with the people there? How about at home? How about in your place of worship?

We also need to pray, constantly (just like that nice Jewish boy from Tarsus told us we should do) for God to show us His purpose in our life.

Developing your spiritual sight is not easy to do, so don’t expect it to happen overnight. We are born into flesh; we see, hear, smell and taste flesh everyday. The truth is that whatever feels right, natural and easy is going to be of the flesh because that is our natural state of existence. We may have the Spirit of the Holy God inside us, but we are still flesh, so to develop spiritual sight that will overcome our fleshly sight is working against our very nature.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done; that which is in us is greater than that which is in the world, and for Man it is impossible but with God all things are possible.

So get to it! Start those spiritual sight exercises today, and do them every day, constantly during the day. Just like exercising your muscles, it takes a while to get bigger and stronger, but the more you work at it the stronger you become.

Take this challenge: pray for the Ruach to give you spiritual sight, then read your Bible. Go to a passage you haven’t understood, or just open it up and start reading. I believe that if you pray earnestly for God to show you something you haven’t seen before, to give you spiritual sight to see something in His Word just for you, that you will, eventually, get to see it. Maybe not right away, maybe not for a while, but if you faithfully ask and keep asking, and keep exercising your spiritual sight, you will see the Drash instead of the P’shat. Maybe, even, the Sod!

No one can see something if their eyes are closed, so learn to open your spiritual eyes and you will see God, everywhere.

Empty Is A Good Start

I got nottin! Usually, I have some idea of what I am going to say. I rode my bike both Saturday and Sunday, and when riding I pray and get inspiration for these blogs, but this morning all I have is a deep desire for December 31, 2016. That’s the day I am planning to be my last, official working day. As for inspiration, a word from the Lord, or even a good idea of how to get my lazy tuchas in gear to go to work this morning, I’ve got “nut’n’ honey!”

That’s why I titled this the way I did, because I realized, as soon as I started writing, that being empty isn’t a bad place to be, because being empty allows one to be filled (as He is doing to me right this minute!)

There’s the old question, “Is the cup half-empty or is it half-filled?” My answer is simply that there isn’t enough there. Being unfilled (or unfulfilled, as the case may be) can mean, with the proper attitude, that you are ready to be filled.

It’s what we fill ourselves with that matters: some fill themselves up with the Holy Spirit, some fill themselves up with themselves, and some are like the parable of the man who was freed from the evil spirit and his house swept clean (meaning he was void of evil thoughts) but he didn’t fill himself up with anything of value. Being empty, but not filling himself correctly, the same spirit that once filled him filled him again, but it brought with it seven other spirits, all worse than itself.

We need to die to self in order for Yeshua to live more within us, meaning to be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit.) This doesn’t mean that we are replaced, but that we are changed. I was scared to death about being “replaced” if I was to give myself to God. What I have learned is that there is so much of who I am that I want to give up, that I would love for the Lord to take away, but He hasn’t. That’s what I have come to realize in my spiritual maturity (what there is of it): we need to be able to call on the Spirit and use the strength and power it gives us, but we are still in charge of who we are and what we do. I asked God over and over to take away sexual thoughts and seeing people as objects, I have prayed that He excise this part of my thinking, remove it, just take it away! And He answered my prayer: He told me that isn’t how it works. I have to overcome my sin. Even way back in the days of the Garden, didn’t God tell Cain that sin crouched at his door and he had to overcome it? God can, if He so chooses, rewire our brains in a heartbeat, but then we don’t learn anything, do we? If it is done for us, how will we find the strength to overcome the Tribulation Days? Where will we find the strength to refuse to take “The Mark?” If one doesn’t exercise the body, how can they ever expect to be strong?

No, God will not just make it happen, He will coach us, He will help us and guide us, He will supply the Ruach to strengthen and empower us with wisdom, discernment and knowledge.

But He will not do it all for us.

That’s why the Prophets and the Psalms talk about being tested in the fire, about burning off the dross, about walking through the valley of the shadow of death- we have to, each one of us- be prepared to do our own battle with evil. God is the coach, He is there to help us, to pick us up, to strengthen and encourage us, but He will not do it all for us. We need to be filled with Him, we need to empty ourselves of much of ourselves, not everything, but enough so that what is left will mix well with the Ruach.

God has given each of us talents and gifts, those need to stay; by being empty of the other things, the things of the world, we leave room for more of Him and that emptiness is a good emptiness, that is, as long as we fill it with His Spirit.

If you’re feeling a quart or two low on Spirit, there is plenty to go around. Being empty or feeling void of God’s spirit is not something to be sad about- that is working with the enemy. When you feel “down” and like you just aren’t making any progress, do not allow yourself to become morose and sad because that evil spirit and his buddies are just waiting for that door to open to them. If you feel that your “house” is empty, when you think you are not measuring up, or any time you just feel “empty”, drive yourself to God’s gas station, get on your knees, look up and say, “Fill ‘er up with high test!”

God never has an embargo on Spirit, and it is always free for the asking.

Always remember this: being empty is the first, and a very important step, to being filled with the Spirit of the living God.

Humility Doesn’t Come From Self-Doubt

Moses was the most humble of men, yet he was a strong and powerful leader. And not just because He had God for a Boss.

Humility is often confused, I believe, with meekness, and meekness is confused with self-doubt and weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It takes great strength and confidence to be humble. Why? Because those who are humble can put others before themselves, not because they believe others are more important or deserving, but because they treat others as they would want to be treated. People who lack self-confidence are weak and do not treat others well because they want to do what they know is right: they treat others with a higher sense of importance and with more respect than they have for themselves because they lack self-respect. They also will do the opposite- they will “lord it over others”, as Yeshua said people do, to make themselves feel important. Humble people have the strength to do what they know to be right because they know they are no more important or better than anyone else, and to do that you have to have a strong sense of self.

Now, I ‘m no psychologist and I may not be absolutely on the money with this personal diagnosis, but I have been around the block more than once, and I know people. I also know myself, as such, I recognize my weaknesses and remember how it was when I felt less important than others. We have friends who are more influential, we have friends who are richer, and we have friends who are less influential and with less money. The things that the world judges us by are not important to us, but we can’t avoid them. I know that God gives us a spirit of victory, and that isn’t just over sin, but over ourselves. It’s more important, in fact, to overcome ourselves.

Didn’t God ask Cain why was he was so upset when his offering wasn’t accepted? Did God tell him that if he does what is right he will be accepted, and that sin is crouching at his door and he has to master it? That’s the lesson here,  that’s what strength through humility gives us- the ability for me to master myself, and the ability for you to master yourself.

Moses knew this. When he was accused by the people he immediately fell to his face and begged them not to do so because he knew that God saw this as an attack against Him, not Moses. And we hear God tell the people this, over and over. Along with the humility Moses showed, he also showed his strength of character and willingness to stand up to those who were doing wrong. When Korach, Dathan and Abiram  accused him of being too bossy and hogging all the fame (so to speak) he showed humility, but when God told Moses to have all the men take their censors and meet before Him, Moses told them, in no uncertain way, that they were the ones in the wrong. He did not speak nastily to them or berate them, but he spoke the truth and stood up for what he knew was right.

The lesson we should learn is that when we profess to be Believers, and when we say we have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) within us we should be able to find the strength to be humble. We should speak out boldly for the Lord and His ways, yet remain more concerned for the rights and well being of others before ourselves. Not because we think they are better, or because we don’t deserve nice things, but because we obey the Lord and know that means we should treat them as we want them to treat us, no matter how they really treat us.

We do what God says we should do and not because of what people do. That is the strength that comes from the Ruach, and that is how we are strengthened enough to be humble.

That’s really what humility is- doing what you know is right and not caring whether or not the people you treat correctly treat you that way. We are told how to treat people, and to wait upon the Lord when we, ourselves, are mistreated. God will judge. It isn’t “weak” to be mistreated, and it isn’t cowardly to turn the other cheek. That doesn’t mean you allow people to hit you, literally, it just means that we should be strong enough to take a few insults and be mistreated. There is nothing wrong with standing up for your rights, but we must do this while remembering that we are no better than anyone else, and that we can “take it” because God is our Judge, not people.

Show your strength and the power of God that lives in you by being humble and unassuming. When God first appeared to and spoke to the Children of Israel He thundered and flamed on the top of Mt. Horeb. It was very impressive. And when he appeared to Elijah in 1 Kings, He was not in the earthquake or the powerful wind, but he was a still, small voice.

We can be His emissary and His representative as that still, small voice.

Theodore Roosevelt said to speak softly and carry a big stick: God is the biggest stick that there ever was or will be, so we can speak softly and humbly, because we know the Big Stick that we carry.


Sin is a Sure Bet

My wife and I went on a small get-away vacation the past 4 days. We took a cruise to the Caribbean: just an out and back sort of thing. It was nice- we love cruising.

There is, on every cruise ship, a casino. Usually I don’t play, but now and then I do enjoy spending some money at the Black Jack table. I call it spending money because that’s what it usually comes down to. The trick for me is to choose to spend, let’s say $50, and see how long I can play with that.

There was another game there. It was like a claw game, but with a key-shaped end and you needed to line up this plunger so that it fit, exactly, through an opening. If you lined it up exactly, you could spend $1.00 and win $1,000.00 in cash.

I blew $50 trying. I still think it was a good investment- I spent a lot more than that for before-dinner martini’s.

Here’s the lesson I got from the Ruach about the Dollar for a Grand game- sin is just like that game. It promises a greatly desired return for what seems to be a small cost. It’s the “Get Something for Nothing” mentality of humans that makes sin so easy to creep into our life.

When I was a salesman I often heard people tell me about unscrupulous sales people who took advantage of others. When I listened to these stories, many of which are true, it reminded me of the old Bunko stories (con games used to be called Bunko): the one thing they all had in common was that the “victim” was suckered into the scheme because there was the promise of getting a lot back for a little up front.

Selfishness and greed- that is what gets people “ripped off”. Honest people with ein bissele seychel (Yiddish for” a little common sense”) almost never get “taken”. It’s usually the ones who think they can get a deal.

Sin doesn’t come right up to you and say, “Hi! I’m sin and I want to ruin your life.” Of course, in some neighborhoods it can be almost like that, but generally sin is more secretive. It says, “Hi. I have something that I know you would want, and I am open to discussing giving it to you at a really great rate. All you need to do is …..” and by then you’re hooked. It starts slow and easy, with no real indication of where it’s taking you, but once you fall for the something-for-nothing allure you are on your way.

That’s how I blew $50. It started with $20, then another $10. Later that night I thought I figured out how to make it work, so there went another $20.  At that point, I stopped thinking how easily I could earn (earn? Really?) back the cost of the entire cruise and listened to the Ruach say, “Vas machsta? Bist du meshuggah?” (What’s going on? Are you crazy?”)

I must confess that I still, days later, feel that if I only put another $20 or so into it I could have beaten that machine. You know what that means? That not only am I foolishly greedy, but now pridefulness is stepping in, too. Now I need to “beat” that inanimate object that is specifically designed by mechanical engineers to make me feel like just one more try and I’ll win. But, in truth, it is nearly impossible to do so.

We need to be careful about sin creeping into our lives. It always promises things that we want, it appeals to our sinful nature: it appeals to our greediness, our pride, our vanity. It usually appears harmless, and often will seem like something we should do to benefit others ( I was thinking how happy Donna would be if I won the money.) But when we look at it through spiritual eyes, we can see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

There is an old saying: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sin is like that; it looks good, it seems easy enough to do, and it offers great rewards for very little input. Don’t be fooled by ‘easy gets good’, because we all know, in the long run, anything worth having is worth working for, and you always get what you pay for. If you think you will get something for nothing in a world that is cursed, you’re a fool.

Don’t be a fool. The only thing that is good to have and is free of charge is Salvation, the Grace that God offers us. Well, wait a minute- that wasn’t free, really. First of all, Yeshua had to suffer and die to make it available to us, so it certainly wasn’t free to Him.  And even though all we need to do is call on the name of the Lord to be saved, we need to work at our salvation. We need to demonstrate our T’Shuvah by becoming more holy. We need to stop sinning, or at least, continue to sin less. We need to work at it, we need to spend time and money to make ourselves better and more pleasing to God by doing the things that God told us to do. That isn’t easy, and it will cost money (you should tithe and give to charity), it will cost time (you should volunteer to help people and participate in synagogue/church activities), and it will cost you (some) friends and family if you really start to worship God in everything you do.

Sin is easy to get, promises to cost you little and give you a lot, but the truth is eventually it will cost you everything you have, and more. There is no reward to sin.

Salvation is free to get, but expensive to keep. However, the ultimate reward is worth it.

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?

Be Careful What You Pray For Because You Might Just Get It!

That’s right. I know that whatever we pray for, when we pray in Yeshua’s Name, we will receive.  That’s Yeshua’s promise to us and His Father will honor it.

That doesn’t mean we will get what we expect, or even what we want.

In my life, I have found that God answers prayer in one of three ways:

  1. God says,” OK. Here’s what you asked for, as you asked for it, when you asked for it.” This is rare, I mean, really rare.
  2. God answers the prayer, but not the way I expected, and (usually) not when I was hoping. This is the usual case, and although it normally isn’t what I asked for or when, it always seems to be exactly what I need and exactly when I need it.
  3. God just says, “No.” That’s right- God can do that; really, He can. He can just say “Not doing it” and that is it.

Wait a minute here! Yeshua said we would get whatever we ask for. How can God say no if I ask in Yeshua’s name? Wouldn’t that make Him a liar?

On the surface, it would seem so, wouldn’t it? Let me ask you this: if you asked for something that was against God’s will, and you asked in Yeshua’s name, would God have to acquiesce? Would the Almighty change His universal plan just because you or I want something?

One of the Big 10 (I’m not talking basketball, here) says do not use the Lord’s name in vain. That could mean more than just not screaming it out when you are angry, or using it when trying to make a point. It could mean, as I learned this past Shabbat from a Pastor I listen to and respect, not doing something representative of God and making a shambles of it, causing His name to be disrespected. For instance, asking in prayer for something that is not really keeping with His holiness. Asking God to do something that is not keeping with His holiness, and using Yeshua’s name, is taking the Name in vain.

Let’s say I pray for a new car. Is that really something we would expect to be in God’s plan? It might, but more likely wouldn’t God prepare a means for me to get where I need to instead of miraculously making a new Mustang (4 on the floor with a hemi, of course) just appear in the driveway? Or, what if I prayed to win the mega-millions lottery, and that no one else win so I get the whole prize? Is that really a Godly prayer? Do you really think if we prayed in Yeshua’s name to win the lottery and we didn’t, that would make Yeshua a liar and God a cheat? Puh-leeze!! We need to grow up.

Let’s get real- God wants only the best for us, but He is holy and won’t do as humans do. And when we pray we need to remember that prayer should rise as a fragrant aroma to the Lord. Selfish, ego-centric, and hateful prayers are not fragrant- they stink. They stink to high heaven.

God will answer prayer, but (I believe) only prayers that are worthy of His actions. I pray often for the salvation of, and reconciliation with, my children, who have cut me out of their lives. To pray for someone’s salvation is holy, right? I faithfully look forward to His answer, and I believe it will be as I am hoping for. However, He gave us free will and if my children reject Him, despite the fact that I faithfully and completely believe He will send His angels to talk with them and give them a spirit of desire to know Him (that is my prayer), if my prayer doesn’t come to fruition during my lifetime, it’s not God’s fault. My kids have free will, and they can reject Him. My prayer is a righteous one, and God will answer, but he won’t force the kids to act. That choice is up to them.

He will answer my prayer, but the result may not be what I prayed for because I am asking for something where humans have to make a decision.

I once prayed for God to teach me how to call upon His Ruach (Spirit) for peace when I am troubled. He answered almost immediately: the next day my workload doubled. I was forced to work harder and the stress was terrible. It wasn’t until a few days later, when I recovered enough to think, that I realized this tsuris (troubles) was God’s answer. He was teaching me to call on His Spirit for peace by giving me so much stress there was no human way to relax so I would have to call on Him.

Actually, Lord, that wasn’t what I was thinking.

God will always answer righteous prayer, and when we pray as He would want, His name will not be used in vain.

But you still never know what the answer will be, and sometimes you may not even recognize it as His answer.

So… be careful  what you pray for.