A Conversation with Shaul of Tarsus

Before we begin, please watch for my latest book, Parashot Drashim A Commentary on the Weekly Torah Readings for Both Jews and Gentiles coming out soon. 

I really recommend the video for this one. To watch the video of this interview, click on this link: Watch the video.

Steve: Today we have a special guest. He is a classically trained Pharisee who studied under the great Rabbi, Gamaliel. He is a Benjamite, and like his namesake from that tribe, received a calling from God to lead God’s people.  His letters to the Messianic communities he organized throughout Asia make up the majority of the New Covenant writings, and also have contributed to much confusion regarding Gentile observance of the Torah commandments. 

I am sure you have guessed by now who we have in the studio today: that’s right, it’s that little ol‘ tent maker from Tarsus, Shaul. 

Shaul, welcome to Messianic Moment. 

Shaul: Todah, Steve. It’s a pleasure to be here. 

Steve: My first question is this: how do you feel about most every Bible titling Acts 9 as “Paul’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus?” 

Shaul: I hate it!! First off, my name is not “Paul”- that is a Greek form of my name. Your name is Steven- how would you feel if I called you “Esteban?” That’s your Spanish equivalent, but it’s not your name, is it? Next, I never converted to anything. My whole life, before my acceptance of Yeshua and afterward, I lived as a Pharisee. The only difference was that when I learned (the hard way, I should add) the truth about Yeshua I stopped persecuting my brothers in Messiah and joined them in helping other Jews come to faith. Eventually, I went mainly to the Goyim (the Nations) to bring them to faith, as well. But I never stopped talking to my fellow Jews.

This whole idea that there were Christians when I was organizing the kehillot throughout Asia is ridiculous. That term was just starting to be used at the end of the First Century. There were two religions when I was a kid: Judaism and Paganism. When Yeshua came, there were still only two religions: Jews who accepted him as Messiah, Jews that didn’t (but they were all still Jews worshiping as Jews do), and the Pagans. When I was walking all over the world, there were Jews who rejected Yeshua, there were Jewish Believers, there were the Gentiles who did T’shuvah and accepted Yeshua (converting to Judaism), and (you guessed it)…Pagans.  The Believers didn’t “officially” through practice become a different religion from Judaism until Constantine made it that way.

Steve: Thank you for clearing that up for us. Now, let’s get right to the question that comes up often, and one you had to deal with throughout your ministry: Do you, or do you not, believe Gentiles that accept Messiah Yeshua need to obey the Torah? 

Shaul: Oy vez mear! Again? OK- let me try to answer this for you in two parts. First off, we need to remember that the Gentiles I talked to were pagans whose religion was based, in essence, on hedonism. They could drink to excess, have sex with anyone (and anything) they wanted to, and eat themselves into oblivion. The most basic, self-centered and physically pleasurable experiences a human can have were the foundation stones of their religion.  For those that were willing to repent of their sins and turn to Yeshua for forgiveness, the culture shock was tremendous. Even the most fervent of those doing T’shuvah would find it difficult to go from hedonistic pagan to observant Jew overnight.  That’s why the Elders in Jerusalem only had them do 4 things immediately. We all figured they would get around to the other 609 commandments in Torah as they became more accustomed to living a holy lifestyle. So, what I was against wasn’t the Torah, but trying to force feed it to these new converts all at once.  

Steve: That makes sense, but there are so many things you wrote about, such as in Romans where you say uncircumcised or circumcised makes no difference, and also in the first letter to the Corinthians, it seems you told them they can eat whatever they wanted to.  What’s with that? 

Shaul: Look- the most important thing I wrote to the Corinthians was in the passage you guys have annotated as Chapter 9:19-22.  I told my congregation in Corinth that I would be whatever I had to be and say whatever I had to say to get out the Good News of Messiah. So what I really mean is that the ends justify the means- no matter what I say, so long as I bring people to Messiah and help them find the forgiveness and salvation that is offered by God through his Grace in Yeshua ha Maschiach, so be it! As for what to eat and the other things, you need to consider that there were many Believing Jews who did not agree with me , or the Elders, that the Gentiles converting to Judaism needed to have some level of dispensation (Oy! I hate using that word, but it fits here) with regards to their observance of Torah. As I said earlier, following Yeshua was a real game-changer for them.

So, nu? Where was I? Oh, yeah…what I wrote in my letters

So what I was against wasn’t Torah, but the idea that you needed to obey Torah to be saved. Again, we all figured that they would eventually learn all the commandments, so I just took them bit-by-bit., but too many people misunderstood what I was doing and that led to them thinking that Gentile Believers didn’t need to obey what’s in the Torah. Never did I say that or mean that. Never!  

Steve: I understand. Yet, even today there is still confusion with your letters to your Gentile Believers regarding what they need to do and don’t need to do. Can you please explain again for us this whole idea of being “under the law?”  

Shaul: No problem. Let’s start with this: righteousness, from God’s view, is sinlessness. If you have no sin you will be perfectly righteous. That means if someone could live the Torah exactly as it says, never violating so much as a stroke of the Torah, then that person would be righteous, or as you like to say today, he would be “saved.” Here’s the problem with that- no one can live the Torah perfectly! If someone could, then we’re all screwed because there would be only three people in heaven: God, Yeshua and that one jerk who ruined it for everybody else. 

Now for the second thing.  Pretty much all the Jews at that time didn’t accept the fact that no one could ever live the Torah perfectly and believed righteousness was only possible through perfect Torah observance. This is what the Pharisees I was (am still am) a member of taught the people. Let’s call that school of thought “Legal Righteousness”, which is almost the opposite of what God offered through Messiah, which we can call “Faithful righteousness.”  It was this “faithful righteousness” that Avraham Avinu demonstrated.

So, because we can’t live the Torah exactly, God sent his Messiah to help us overcome ourselves. Messiah Yeshua was, is, and always will be the ONLY human being who was both “legally” and “faithfully” righteous because he lived the Torah exactly and had total and perfect faith in God. That’s why God sent him to us!- so that through his righteousness we could be seen as righteous, also. Righteousness is not possible for us except through the Messiah, and especially so after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why more than ever it is faith in God and Messiah Yeshua that saves us, not special knowledge or traditional practices. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore God’s commandments. 

Steve: I can see that a little more clearly now. Let me restate this for our audience… you are not against following the Torah and did not tell your congregations they don’t need to. You only said what they needed to hear in order to keep them on the right path, which would result in a gradual conversion to Judaism. Is that right? 

Shaul-: Tov Meod– you got it!!  And I was against those that were confusing my congregations with the legal righteousness the Pharisees were teaching. I always expected that my people would eventually observe the Torah because Yacov was right. 

Steve: I’m sorry…Yacov? 

Shaul: Yeah, Yacov. You know, James. He said that faith without works is dead, which means that once you faithfully believe in God, you have to show that by your change of lifestyle. If someone truly doesn’t want to sin, and the Torah is the User Manual for not sinning, then by definition someone who has really done T’shuvah will live in accordance with the Torah. I told my people they could take it slowly because if I shoved Torah down their throats, they would have upchucked it and gone back to their old ways. 

Steve: It seems that you constantly fought against that- every letter in the New Covenant that you wrote to a congregation was addressing the problems they were having with adjusting to giving up their paganistic ways and becoming Jewish. 

Shaul: Exactly. Oy- what a mishigas they made of things. I had to constantly keep them on track, and these Yiddisher nudniks that kept telling them they had to obey everything really got my goat. If you read Galatians you will see just how mad I was. I would’ve paid the Mohel, myself! 

Steve: Yes, frustration castration, right?

Shaul: Absolutely!

Steve: Well, our time is almost up and I really want to thank you for coming all this way to answer these questions for us. Is there anything you would like to add before we close?

Shaul: Just this…listen, people, keep your eyes on the finish line. Once I learned the truth, I fought for the rest of my life against people trying to figure it out and believing that they just had to know what everything meant in order to be righteous. That’s how I started out, and believe-you-me, none of that matters. All that matters is what Yeshua said- love God and love each other.  When people love each other they don’t care about anything except the way they feel when they are together, and they only want to make the one they love happy. You wanna know how to make God happy? Do what he says.  Too many people today want to know everything: did Yeshua exist before people, how does God pronounce his name, which commandments don’t matter anymore, and many other things that all boil down to nothing more than a new form of some Greek-thinking, Gnostic legalistic drek. All that matters is this: do you believe in God? Do you believe that Yeshua is the Messiah? If you say “Yes” to both of these, then love God and each other and don’t sweat the small stuff. It won’t help you to stay saved, but it can lead you to wrong thinking. 

Steve: Well, words from the wise to the wise. Let those that have ears listen.  Thank you, again, Shaul, for being here with us and we look forward to seeing you again in the Olam Haba. 

Shaul: Zeit gesunt, Bubbie. 

Steve: If you liked this program, please comment and let us know. You can also suggest a guest for future interviews. In the meantime, l’hitraot! Baruch ha Shem!!

Texas Supreme Court made the correct decision

WHAT??? Steve- are you saying that you are pro-abortion?

No. I am not for abortion- it is murder. What I am “for” is common sense, and to expect that a court of law in America is going to uphold a godly position is not sensible.

From a strictly “civil” point of view, it is illegal to force or coerce someone to make a decision that regards their individual rights. In America, like it or not, a woman has a legal right to have an abortion, within the limitations of the law. Those limitations are based partially upon the premise that the abortion does not risk the health of the mother. The Texas Supreme Court said the laws they ruled against were not designed to protect the health of the mother, but simply to make getting an abortion legally more difficult. That is a coercive measure which impede’s a woman’s personal rights, and it is illegal.

Again, from a strictly legal viewpoint, the court made the correct decision.

We, as Believers, cannot expect to have a government formed by humans to be a godly one. If you do, you’re a fool. In fact, as Believers, we should not want any man-made government; we don’t want a representative republic (that is we have in America-if you thought it was a democracy, technically it isn’t), we don’t want socialism, communism, despotism or dictatorships. What we want is a Theocracy- a government that is led by God.

After the Exodus, God ruled the people, with divinely appointed prophets to be His representatives on earth. God ruled through the Prophets, and we saw how He empowered them with miracles and wisdom. This is the Theocracy that all Believers should want and be waiting for.

When Yeshua returns to reign, we will have what we want.

But that is not what we have now, and don’t think that this is a recent event. Read 1st Samuel, Chapters 9 through 12. Samuel appoints a king, which is what the people have been craving. And in Chapter 12, after Saul is established as king and Samuel is ready to go the way of all things, he really lets the people have it. He tells them, in no uncertain terms, how horrendous a sin they have committed against God by asking for a king, and how they will suffer for putting a human over them instead of God.

Since then, history has proven Samuel correct.

In the meantime, we are bound by Torah, by Yeshua’s command, and by legal statute to honor and obey the existing government. All those in power are there by God’s approval, and they will perform His will, whether they know it or not, sooner or later. God’s plan is the one that will survive and be fulfilled.

If you are expecting the United States government, whether federal or civil (meaning state) to initiate and pass laws that are in accordance to God’s laws regarding the rights of the unborn, then all I can say to you is…get real, People!” Governments that are formed by humans will have human laws and be based on human desires and emotions. Godly things, you know, like compassion, respect for others, love, fairness to all, and respect for the Torah- those things have no place in human-formed government. Oh, yeah- we make a big stink about them, talk like we mean to have them and we are all about fair and just, but when it comes down to it, well…you decide. Do you think that our system of justice is honoring the Torah or ignoring it?

When the Jews came out of Egypt, totally under the command and totally obedient to God alone (well, maybe not totally but usually?), we enjoyed living under His sovereign rule and had His divine protection. During the times of the Judges (about 5 Centuries or so after Joshua died), the book of Judges tells us that men did whatever they saw as right. It wasn’t pretty.

Then, as I referenced above, Samuel is told by God to anoint Shaul (Saul) as king: this was the first step to kicking God out of our lives.

Moving forward a few thousands years, we have many religions, all trying to kill each other, and we have many states and countries with different forms of government. Those that said they were for God and wanted to do God’s will are represented by the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Nazi party (yes, the Nazi Party- the belt buckles of the Nazi uniform said, “Gott mit uns”, which translates to “God is with us.”)

Historically, governments that said they were godly were just the opposite.

Today we have kicked God pretty much out of everything- out of the schools (no prayer allowed), out of the courthouse (take those 10 Commandments down- they are religious and we have separated state from church) and out of our families. Today when Jews marry someone of a different religion, it is the Jew that is usually converting. The “Nuclear Family” has done just what nuclear devices are designed to do- blow up. Eating dinner together around the table and sharing the day’s activities is a past relic.

And, as the Texas Supreme Court has upheld, people can legally kill their children. It reminds me of God commanding us not to worship Molech: the sacrifice to Molech, a god of the Semites, was to throw a young child, alive, into the fire. We may not be throwing our children into the fire, but we aren’t that far off- we are still killing them, just sooner than the ancients did.

The world is godless, as it should be- that is, if you believe in what Revelations tells us will happen. I see such horror and destruction- not just of things and people, but of spirit, justice and compassion. Our children grow up stealing cars and murdering prostitutes on the way (video game) or destroying and killing in war (video games, again.) They see violence, satanic beings that are really “okay”, and sexual impropriety every day on the TV and in the movies, and they have become inured to the horror of it all.

They are being prepared for the enemy to rule them.

This is God’s plan, people- this is what is supposed to happen. It ain’t nice, it ain’t pretty, and it is going to get worse- MUCH worse: be prepared to be persecuted if you worship God.

Don’t expect to see justice and fair treatment in the world; at least, not the kind God wants.

The bowls are in the hands of the angels, and the seals are being torn off the scroll. We are going through it, we are about to experience it- can’t you see it coming?

The End Times prophecies aren’t prophecy any more- they are current events.

Just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there

Ever see the wind? Do you see sound waves when listening to the ocean? When you get a sunburn, did you see the UV rays all around you?

There are many things we don’t see, yet they exist. And how do we know they exist? By their effect on our world.

We don’t see the wind, but we see flags moving in the breeze, we see trees bend over, we see waves in the pond and we see smoke traveling sideways. And we feel it.

We see the red skin and feel the pain when we are in the sun too long, we get a ringing in our ears when we go to a concert or have the radio too loud, or when a fire truck goes by blaring its siren.

There are so many things we don’t see that are there. We easily accept their existence because we see their effect on our physical world. Sometimes it is immediate, sometimes it takes a while to appear, but because we see the effect it has on our physical world we trust that it is real.

If it is so easy for us to accept the existence of UV light, of wind, of sounds we are incapable of hearing, of mesons, and so many other things that we have never seen, why is it so impossible for us to accept that God exists and that He is always there?

I am sure most people reading this already accept that God exists, but do you really, really believe that He is always there? Always watching and aware?  I do. Just because I don’t see His work in my life, at that time of my life, it doesn’t mean He isn’t present in my life.

God’s time is not like our time: we live in a lineal timeline, flat, one-way only, from this moment to the next one. We can’t go backwards, and we can’t go any farther into our future than right this second. God, on the other hand, is unrestricted by our timeline. He is in the ancient past at the same moment He exists in the distant future, all the time being right here with us, now. That’s why He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow: it is all the same time to Him.

When Joseph was in the dungeon for 12 years did he think God had abandoned him? When Daniel was praying for answers, did he think God was ignoring him? When David cried out his heart to the Lord through his psalms, while being chased for years by Saul, did he think that God was missing in his life? Did Yeshua think God was ignoring Him when He prayed to “let this cup pass by me?” When Shaul (Paul) was in jail and chained, did he think that he was singing to the wall?

When you are going through tsouris, are you praying to God and expecting relief right away? There’s nothing wrong with expecting God to answer prayers- He’s good that way. But we need to be doing much more than just faithfully expecting the answer: we need to be looking for it, too! The answer to prayer we receive is (I believe) more often not what we expect but it is always exactly what we need. God knows much better than we do what we need because He can see what will occur from what is happening to us right now. We can only hope and try to make things happen the way we want them to, but God can make things happen the way He wants them to. Every time.

That is why we can’t really know what He will do when we ask something of Him. Yeshua told us in the Gospels, when we ask in His name we will receive, and we need to be expecting to receive. But what we receive may not be what we asked for, yet it will be the answer to what our prayers were about.

That sounds a little convoluted, but it is true. At least, it has been for me. When I have thought that maybe God was too busy to deal with me, looking back I see that I was too busy dealing with myself to see what God was doing. And sometimes, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, it just wasn’t time for the answer to my prayer to be realized. God’s timing is perfect because, well, He controls time. Duh! When you make the rules you always win.

Just because we don’t see God at work doesn’t mean He isn’t doing anything. You know, sometimes just waiting is the best thing to do. Doing nothing is, in many ways, doing something.

In my high school was a guy named Mike Santoro (Mike, if you ever read this, how ‘ya doing?) Mike was the best wrestler we had, state-level champion. He taught me that my body could be maneuvered into positions that you couldn’t imagine. When Mike wrestled, he often just sat on the opponent- doing nothing. The other guy was face down on the mat, and Mike is sitting on that guys’ butt, just waiting. The ref would whistle and tell him to stop stalling, but Mike wasn’t stalling- he was prowling. He was stalking the prey, and the moment the other guy moved- POW!! Like a snake striking, Mike was intertwined in this poor guys limbs, and the next thing you knew the ref was on his belly smacking the mat three times.

That’s how God works. He waits for the right moment, and when He moves it is immediate and devastating. Just because we don’t see God doing anything doesn’t mean He isn’t doing something. And  when we don’t see God at all, it doesn’t mean He isn’t there, or that He doesn’t exist, and never means that He doesn’t care.

People who are agnostic, atheistic or just sheep believing what they are told to believe have doubts about God, and refuse to see His effect on their world. The bible tells us of all that God has done, and I am constantly disappointed in how people believe a priori what Huffington Post or Wikipedia says,  but doubt the bible. The people who wrote the bible didn’t do so to make themselves rich, or to appease some special interest group, or to make themselves look to be heroic. They were often ridiculed, stoned and killed for their writings. As a point in fact, we are currently celebrating Hanukkah, and the Maccabees are the heros, but when you read their story you find out that just about every single one of them was assassinated later. Not a very happy ending.

We need to stop looking for the Son of Man to come down with power and glory from the skies. It’ll happen when it happens. In the meantime, just look for the effect that God has on the physical world- that is what we can use to prove His existence when we are ministering to the world.

As for all of us, when we go through tsouris and feel that God is ignoring or forgetting about us, and we don’t see His presence in our lives, please remember that just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Disappointment is a Blessing

I was hoping to get a video of a Space Center launch this morning. I was standing in my backyard, bare-footed in the wet grass, camera set to video, heart racing, all ready to get a video of the rocket going right over the house (which is the pathway it usually takes) so I could post it and make everyone back up North say, “Wow! That’s really cool!”

So, there I was…standing…waiting….standing some more….still waiting….waiting…..waiting….

Nada! Nichts! Nuttin, Honey!

As disappointment began to set in, I realized that this is not unusual- they have scrapped launches before, and even though the sky overhead is nearly cloudless, at the KSC (Kennedy Space Center) it could be storming wildly. That’s how it is, here, in Florida.

Then I thought that life is a series of disappointments: in ourselves, in our family, our children, parents, friends, our religious leaders, Presidents (oh, really?), and pretty much in everyone at one time or another.

The one who we know will never disappoint us is God, right? Well, maybe not. We know God loves us and answers prayer, but sometimes He will allow us to suffer (mostly because we have done something we shouldn’t have done) and sometimes His answer to our prayers is, “Nope! Not gonna happen.” And sometimes it seems like He has taken a holiday and turned off the cell phone. We call to Him, we ask His help, we cry out to the Lord and all we get is voice mail.

Jonah was disappointed in God when he didn’t destroy Nineveh. Elijah was disappointed after he showed God’s awesomeness at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18) and then cried to God that he wanted to die because he was the only prophet left (he wasn’t, in case you are wondering), Moshe wasn’t too happy when Pharaoh ordered the Jews to make bricks without straw after Moshe asked for their freedom, and I’ll bet that you’ve had some time, or times, in your life when you have felt a little less than happy with what God was allowing in your life.

I know I have.

The thing to remember during these down times is that once we are down we have no where left to go but up, and God is always there. We may not hear or feel Him, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t there. We don’t see the sun at night, but it’s still there. In fact, the moon is evidence of the sun’s presence, because it reflects the light the sun gives off. We don’t see the sun, but we do see the evidence of it’s presence.

That’s what we need to do when we don’t see God in our life: we need to look for the evidence of His presence. Even if we don’t feel Him, we can always see His effect on others, we can see Him working in the lives of people all around us, and we can take hope and comfort in knowing that, although it is disappointing to feel left out (for the moment), God is still alive and well and kicking.

The enemy loves to see us disappointed, sad, feeling lonely, and harboring feelings of defeat. God gives us a spirit of victory, not defeat, and every victor has suffered defeat. We don’t learn from our victories, we learn from our defeats. We don’t appreciate the good times unless we have suffered through bad times.

We can’t appreciate the love of God before we know Him. When I was unsaved I didn’t know God’s love or appreciate anything He had done in my life. I was blessed with many talents and opportunities, and I never even knew what wonderful things He had done for me. After I knew the Lord, after I accepted His grace and His spirit filled me, well, then I realized how wonderful it all has been. Even the bad times. Now I can really appreciate the Lord for all He has provided and is providing, and I thank Him, every day.

Disappointments are necessary things in life. In fact, without disappointment there can not be a fullness of joy, there can not be a true feeling of appreciation, and there can not be progress. Always winning is not winning- it is stagnation and unrewarding. There is, if nothing else in this world, a sense of balance that was divinely built into our existence. Shaul (that nice Jewish tent maker from Tarsus) tells us that before the Torah was given, there was no sin; in fact, he says the Torah created sin (Romans 7:7) and in his own way (convoluted would be the term I respectfully use for Shaul’s manner of writing) Shaul (if you haven’t figured it out yet I am talking about Paul) shows us that the Torah is still valid and necessary because we haven’t fully come under Yeshua’s rule. Not until all things have come to pass will anything in the Torah be changed or invalidated (Matthew 5:17.)

Disappointment offers you two options in how you can react: one is to wallow in sadness and self-pity, which eventually will help the enemy separate you from God, and the other is to accept this as an opportunity for joy, comfort and hope when you remind yourself this is only a temporary situation. God will never let those who worship Him go long without what they need, and he is more than able to provide all you need, shaken, pressed down and overflowing.

Just keep running the good race, keep you eyes on the prize, don’t look back, don’t worry about what anyone else has, and stay focused on your walk with God.

God is always there, He is never sleeping or slumbering, and he is always able to help. Just reach out, and be patient.

He is a busy guy, so give Him some slack and wait for your turn. I can guarantee it is coming.


PS: The launch did go off and the trail over the house was spectacular! Only by the time I saw it the rocket had passed by and was over the horizon, and all I had left to photograph was the cloud trail left behind. Another disappointment. Oh well, SWISH!!  (search for ‘swish’ if you didn’t read that blog post)


Commitments are Supposed to be Hard to Do

I can’t really sing. Oh, I can hit the notes, usually close enough to blend in with the group, but I can’t sing well. And I don’t like doing things I don’t do well (consequently, I do almost nothing at all!)

What’s this have to do with God? Well, here’s the story: the place where I worship is doing a Sukkot Concert, and because I am a Bass, I was asked to join the chorus by my Pastor. I really didn’t want to do it at first, and still feel very out-of-place in the midst of people who have a nice singing voice and who can hit the notes with proper support and timbre, but I agreed because I can, at least, help fill out the sound.

So, I committed to help. Have I had second thoughts? Oh, gee- the second thoughts were right after I said I would. Then came the third thoughts after I tried to sing the part (isn’t the Bass supposed to have low notes? Almost the entire concert is at the high range of the bass), and now, with about 3 weeks to the concert, I am on the tenth thoughts.

If you’re reading this Pastor Andy, don’t worry- I committed myself to be a part of this and I will meet my commitment. Not because I know I can help, which I can; and not because I love to sing, which I do even though I don’t do it well; but because this is a devotion to God as much, if not more, than doing something you asked of me.

Just because someone asks us to do something doesn’t mean we have to, but when we agree, or when we devote ourselves to doing something for God, that does require us to follow through. Yeshua tells us not to swear by Heaven or Earth, and the Torah is very clear that an oath made to God must be completed. I said I would sing with the chorus, and until someone tells me that my absence is more helpful than my presence, I will follow through.

It isn’t easy. I have my part on CD and practice going to work and driving home, and on the weekend. I do the exercises Andy gave me to help recover the breath control I had as a kid when I played in the band. I hear myself getting a little better, and pray that God will intervene to help me meet this commitment in a good way, being beneficial to the project.

But it’s hard. I have constant thoughts about dropping out, partly from embarrassment and partly from just not wanting to do something outside my everyday rut. Those two things, being uncomfortable and having to do something outside the usual, are the very reasons I need to finish. Because I said I would do this I will, and despite my kvetching and whiny-cry-baby attitude, I am enjoying myself to a degree I didn’t think I would. And I know it will sound beautiful because it is not all about me; I am just part of the group.

We all need to follow through with what we commit to, whether for people or for God (especially for God.) The reason we need to follow through is to strengthen ourselves, mentally and spiritually, as preparation for the Acharit HaYamim, the End Days. We don’t know when they will come, and I really believe we are living in prophetic times. We are seeing the world coming apart, children killing children, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes in fury beyond what we have seen before, all over the world. Wars, and threats of war; all the things that have been happening, not to mention the vast throngs of Jewish people returning to Jerusalem, and the number of  Gentiles that are coming behind Israel and helping people to make Aliyah, all indicate we are close. Because we are close, we need to prepare.

“Chesty”  Puller, one of the most decorated war heroes ever (and a Marine, of course. Uh-Rah!!) used to say, “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.” That holds true for spiritual training, as well. We need to make sure we are strong, spiritually and mentally. Imagine, if I can’t stay the course with a simple commitment to sing in a group (where I won’t be heard, anyway), how much less will I be able to remain faithful to God when I am standing before the Enemy asking if I want the mark on my head or my right hand? When you are there, and there’s a really good chance you will be, are you absolutely certain  you can stand firm and say “Not a chance, horn-head!”?

Even if I don’t go through the Tribulation, the lead-up will be pretty bad, and we don’t know, not for sure, when the Tribulation will be. There are as many people who are “Pre-Trib” as there are “Post-Trib.” I don’t know which it is, and (frankly) I don’t care- it won’t make any difference because whatever God wants to do, He will. I don’t have a vote, ya’ know? So, why worry? What I can do is get ready. Get that armor of God Shaul talks about in Ephesians all polished up and ready, wear it around every day so I get used to it. David didn’t wear any armor when he faced Golyat because, as he told King Saul, he wasn’t used to it. I, you, everyone of us, need to get used to wearing the spiritual armor that will help us secure our salvation. Revelations tells us that most- not some, not a few, not every now and then someone- but MOST of the Believers will be turned from the faith in the End Days. Most means more than half- that’s a lot. That means my chances of remaining faithful in the midst of the greatest battle of my life has less than a 50-50 chance of success.

That means you have less than a 50-50 chance of keeping your salvation, also.

Commitments shouldn’t be made hastily, and once made, must be kept. If you realize that you made a gigantic mistake, and you committed to something that ends up being illegal or sinful, well, yes- get the heck out now! We all make mistakes, and if you make one, correct it. But for those everyday commitments, and for those major ones where other people depend on you to do what you said you would do, you must meet them. Even if it hurts. In fact, it should hurt. It should be hard to do, otherwise it isn’t a commitment, it’s something you want to do. No big deal doing something you want to do. It’s like when Yeshua said that even sinners do good things for people they like. Commitment has to be hard to do in order to build up that spiritual strength. You develop muscle by destroying muscle. We build up our spiritual strength by using it, by testing it, by stretching it beyond where we are comfortable. This is how we get spiritually stronger and more mature, and it also increases our self-confidence so during tribulations and trials, we can speak out with confidence about our faith.

Make commitments carefully; and, once made, complete them joyfully (don’t whine and cry like I’m doing) and completely. Work those spiritual muscles, develop sinews of Spirit that are as strong as steel.

You’re gonna need ’em.