Going Through the Fire is Necessary

Learning new things can be a lot of fun, especially when it is in a nice, safe environment like a school or college. But there are some lessons that have to be learned out in the real world, and although they are valuable they are more often than not much less enjoyable than reading from a textbook.

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The lessons we learn from school are designed not just to give us knowledge, but to give us the skillsets we need to be able to find the knowledge. At least for me, this is the quintessential gift of education: to learn how to continue to learn. Once we think we know it all, we do. That’s because when we stop learning we know all that we will ever know.

God’s textbook is what I call the Ultimate User’s Manual for Life, better known as the Torah. These five books contain everything that God wants us to know with regards to how to worship him and how to treat each other. Everything else, from Joshua through to the end of Revelation, is just commentary.

After learning what God wants from us, our life from that point on is continuing education. Reading, studying the languages, learning ancient Hebraic runes, etc. is a part of that education, but the real lessons are the ones we learn after we have left the classroom.

Recently, I have gone through the consistently constant pain of a kidney stone. I have, over the past two weeks, been unable to sleep, doubled-over with pain and not getting any real relief even from morphine I received. This all started right in the middle of a 7-day cruise Donna and I were taking to celebrate our anniversary! Last week I underwent two separate operations 4 days apart. The second one resulted in a lot of pain for about a day or so after the operation. I feel better now and, God willing, the worst is passed (pun intended.)

Donna was sort of kidding with me yesterday, saying this was the work of the Enemy, attacking me to ruin our vacation. I really doubt that; in truth, I wish I was doing enough in God’s service that I was a threat to “Old Nick”, but I don’t think that was the case. I think I was simply learning a life lesson that was designed to help me become more refined, like gold, after being placed through a fire. I tried my best to suffer through without taking out my frustration and pain on Donna, who supported me wonderfully throughout this. I think, in some ways, the pain I was suffering (which was only physical) was worse for Donna because she saw her loved one going through anguish and pain, and there was nothing she could do about it.

And that brings us to the lesson I learned from this experience! Yes, I was the one going through “the fiery furnace” but what was the most painful thing for me was watching Donna’s emotional suffering. I hurt so much but she was in even more pain than I was, and I couldn’t do anything more about her pain then she could do about mine. It was like a double-edged sword: my suffering was causing her suffering, which upset me, and neither of us could help the other.

This sort of experience is a necessary part of learning how to be a God-fearing person who will not submit to the Enemy or the will of the world. We will have to go through persecution: the Bible is rife with warnings about the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and anyone who thinks they will just be swept away before the faecal matter hits the air circulation unit may be just fooling themselves. Maybe there will be a pre-trib rapture, maybe there won’t; people will choose to believe what they want to about this topic. As for me, I am expecting to have to deal with it if it happens before I die. I would rather be prepared to go through the Tribulation than to expect to be saved and find out I was wrong.

That is why going “through the fire” is so necessary for us to experience now, while we are able to fail the test and still have another chance to pass later in the semester. We need to learn these lessons while we have a sort of safety net to work with, before the real Tribulation hits. There is an old saying: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.” We are already at war, the ultimate war, which is a spiritual war. Physical strength can help us survive adversity and suffering in physical war, but since we are in a spiritual war we need spiritual strength, which I believe is far superior and will outlast any physical attributes we may possess.

Most people will just say I had bad luck and feel sorry for me having to deal with a kidney stone, especially on a cruise, but I see it as a learning experience. I learned what I can deal with, and I learned how hard it is to see the ones I love to suffer through watching me suffer. I will use this experience to strengthen me so that in the future I can be more supportive of those watching me suffer. This may sound almost like an oxymoron, supporting those who should be supporting me during a time of suffering, but I think that is the answer to this test that God has placed before me. I am correct, then I graduate this class and will be promoted to the next level.

Are you in class right now, or are you in between semesters? Look at your life, every day, and when something happens that makes you feel that you are going through the fire, accept it and work with it. Embrace the suffering and realize it is not only necessary but making you stronger. James 1:2 says,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

He goes on to show how this testing brings perseverance and spiritual strength. Also remember that those who love you will be suffering as well, so use this time to teach them the lessons you are learning so that they, too, will be able to appreciate and thereby learn from what is happening. 

Suffering sucks- there’s no two ways about it, so what we need to do is to try to get past it honourably and faithfully. And, just for the record, you can certainly do whatever you can to reduce the suffering by using whatever God provides for you (doctors, medications, etc.) while you are in the furnace.

Finally, here’s the good news: when you successfully get through this fire you will then be advanced enough in God’s Kingdom to get to go through another one, which will be even hotter! Praise the Lord because he never stops giving us a chance to continue learning, unless (of course) we drop out of school.

Don’t be a spiritual dropout; be a graduate student of the University of God and maybe one day you will become a Professor of Righteousness.

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Until next time, Baruch HaShem and L’hitraot!

Religion is Why People Don’t Believe in God

You heard me correctly. Religion, which is defined by Webster as “An organized system of beliefs, rites and celebrations centered on a supernatural being power;” should be the means by which people come to trust and believe in God. And when religion does what it is supposed to do, i.e. bring people into a proper relationship with God through observance to His commandments and performance of the rites He requires, it works as it should.

So why do I say religion is the reason people reject God? Because we see, every day, and we hear, from many people, how their upbringing in a religion (I include all religions) has turned them off to God. In many cases, they reject not just the religion, but the power behind the religion, which they wrongly assume to be God.

That is where religion fails those who follow it, and also fails to serve God’s plan of salvation, and it happens in every religion because God has no religion! God gave us His rules for living, for worship and for interpersonal relationships. He told us how to work with each other, how to love and care for each other, and how to worship Him. He even sent His son, Yeshua ha Maschiach, to show us exactly what He meant, and (ultimately) to pay the price for our inability to do as God told us we must. Despite that, we still have different religions in the world today, all creations of men who have wanted to worship God their own way.

Even Judaism, which was given the Torah to show everyone how God wants us to be, has changed the rules; we have created Halakha (the Way to Walk, found in the Talmud, a man-made set of rules) and now have 6 different sects of Judaism: Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic.

Those people who have created different religions “sell” their religion by approaching people who are fed up with the current religion, and offer more “appealing” rites, rituals and promises. Even as far back as just after Yeshua was resurrected and ascended into the heavens, the Elders of the Messianic Community (there was no “church” in the First Century) reduced the immediate observance requirements for Gentile converts to Judaism (that is what was required when a pagan began to trust in and follow Yeshua/Jesus) to just 4 requirements (Acts 15); these were not the only expected changes in behavior but just what was needed to be done immediately after converting. When you read the entire chapter you will see that James confirmed the words of Moses would be heard by these new converts every Shabbat in the temples. That means that the requirements under the Torah were still expected to be observed, but just not all at once. This was done so that the pagans converting to a totally different religion than the one they had grown up with would not find the process so difficult that they would just give up.

And that is how all the different religions came to be- by appealing to those who found what they were doing too cumbersome, or spiritually unfulfilling. That could be the fault of the leaders, the rites that were created, or both, but it still resulted in those people rejecting the religion, and in some cases, also rejecting the god behind that religion.

I don’t need to justify that statement with surveys or formal studies because my reasoning comes from plain old common sense: when you don’t like something you are required to do, and you are offered something more attractive and enjoyable, then you go with your feelings: that’s human nature. Each new religion has taken from it’s parent and changed what needed to be done to present itself as more fulfilling, spiritually, mentally and physically. And each time a new religion is “spun-off” from the original, it changes the way they worship God and treat each other.

God, on the other hand, never changes, and therefor what He said He wants us to do never changes, either.

Finally, religion is seen as representing God, isn’t it? I mean, if I am a member of a religion, and that religion tells me I worship this way, I act this way and I believe this way, then I can only conclude that is what the god of that religion has ordered. After all, when Popes, Rabbis, Ministerial Councils- whatever religious authority is in charge- tells us these are the canon, and these are the holidays, and these are the prayers, etc. that we use when we worship God, it is not because they say ,”This is what I want you to do.”; they say it is because that is how God wants us to be.  It’s all God’s fault. So, understandably enough, when someone rejects their religion, they reject the god that religion has told them is behind all these rules and regulations. And if I go so far as to reject the validity of what a religion is telling me, obviously I must reject as valid (or existing) the god behind that religion.

I am using the small ‘g’ for God is some cases because I believe that so many religions have gone so far astray from what the true God has told us to do that their god is not the God, and as such doesn’t deserve to have the word capitalized.

Strong words… I know; strong sentiment and a truly viral accusation…I know that, too. But do you really think I am wrong when I say that religion is the reason people (end up) not believing in God?

One day, when Messiah returns and all people will do as we are told in Isaiah 45:23, then all people will be worshiping God as God said we should. There will be no more religion to confuse and cause people to reject God because there will be just the one Messiah ruling the world, and we will all know the One God and worship Him correctly, together.

Parashah Terumah (donation), Exodus 25 – 27:19)

From this point on, except for Chapters 32 through 34 (the sin of the Golden Calf) the remaining chapters of this book deal with the construction of the Tabernacle and the articles in it.

The Tabernacle is where God talks to Moses. His instructions were first to built the Ark, after the Ark (which is the holiest of all the items) the rest of the construction was done from that point outwards: the Ark, then the Holy of Holies, then the articles in the area where only the priests were allowed (only the Cohen haGadol, the High Priest, was allowed in the Holy of Holies, and only once a year on Yom Kippur), then the Court, etc., all the way to the main entrance at the far end of the court.

The materials used were of dyed linens, tanned hides, acacia wood, gold, silver and bronze. The people were asked to contribute from their personal stores, much of which they received from the Egyptians when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:36); so, in a way, Egypt helped make building the Tabernacle possible. The most valuable materials were the ones closest to the Holy of Holies, with the less valuable materials being used as the Tabernacle was being built outwards.

We have all heard or used the expressions, “Closer to God” and “Farther from God”, representing, clearly enough, one’s spiritual maturity and faithful obedience to God’s commands. When I think of how the Tabernacle was built, with the purest items items being closest to the center of the Tabernacle (where God was present), I see this as representing how we need to be in our worship life: in order for us to come closer to God, we must first become purer.

Gold and silver are metals unto themselves, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and each one needs to go through a firing process in order to remove the dross so it can be in it’s purest state; gold is purified using temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, silver at about 800 degrees Celsius and bronze at a temperature between 230 and 630 degrees Celsius. The purer the metal, the higher the heat used to purify it.

I see people and their relationship to God similar to the way these metals are forged: the closer we want to come to God, the hotter the fire of purification will have to be. Yeshua tells us this when He tells us that anyone who wants to be His Disciple will have to carry His execution stake to follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23), so we are adequately warned that getting closer to God will not be easy. Consequently, as we are further from faithful obedience and fear of the Lord, we are more like the less pure metals- we will be forged, but at a lower heat. For those who may be no more spiritual than having some recognition of God, such as type who go to services during the High Holy Days only, or at Christmas and Easter, their “spiritual purity” is still full of dross and slag.

The dross is the sin inside of us: that is why, since sin is part of our nature and formed when we are formed, it must be burned out for us to be purified, separated from the world (sin) and brought closer to God.

Oy! That is a very hard word to hear. Basically, what I am saying is that the Tabernacle represents what we need to go through, spiritually and physically, when we decide to worship God as He wants us to do. We are all built with some copper, tin, silver and gold inside of us, and as we approach God, we will have the base metals separated, and the fine metals purified. This is done through Tsouris (suffering) in our lives. It sounds unfair, but that is what is needed. You can’t get rid of the dross without going through the fire, and the reason we do this is to be closer to God.

Even after we have been purified, we will still have Tsouris in our life. But as we become more purified we will be able to abide the suffering and stay focused on the reward we are all striving to receive: eternal joy and peace in the presence of God, Almighty.

I don’t mind going through the fire because I know what is on the other side.

What metal are you? Have you accepted your level of purity? Realistically, everyone wants to be gold but very few are willing to go through the fire, so if you really, really want to be gold, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Prepare yourself for troubles
  2. Read the entire bible (Genesis through Revelations) and accept that it is all one book, one God, one way to worship Him (His way) and that all the commandments, from beginning to end, are valid
  3. Accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised and ask for forgiveness of sin on your own, meaning that you ask for forgiveness from your heart and not because your Priest or your parents said you had to.
  4. Prepare for even more troubles and steel yourself (gird your loins) for a lifetime of rejection, problems, harassment and persecution.

Read Matthew 5:10, 1 Peter 4:12-19 and James 1:2– all of these verses warn us that we will be persecuted in Messiah’s name, but that it is a blessing we should all strive to achieve.

Doesn’t this sound crazy? I want to have the joy and peace of spirit that worshiping God can bring, which it does, but to get that I have to suffer. Sounds like the ultimate oxymoron- suffer persecution and hatred to have peace of mind and spirit. Huh?!?

But that’s how it works, and it does work. Ask anyone who you know to be devoted to God and they will tell you of all the problems they have had to undergo, but also of all the joy they have felt and blessings they have received from God. It sounds crazy, but that which the world thinks is right is usually the exact opposite of what is acceptable to God.

It’s all up to you- do you want to be bronze or gold? Your choice, your decision, your eternal future.

prayer spam

When the Talmudim (Disciples/students) of Yeshua asked Him how they should pray, well….we all know His answer. But do we think about the line that goes, “Give us this day our daily bread…”? Do we think about what He might have meant by that?

Not the P’shat, which means the written word as it is written, but the Drash– the underlying, spiritual meaning.

I believe what Yeshua was saying was that when we pray, we need to ask only for what we need, then and there. Not for success in life, not for riches or fame, not for next week’s presentation to the Board, but for now. Right now, and only right now, and only what I need right now. I also think that God wants our prayers to go to Him, to the Father, to be delivered in the name of the Son. Not to the Son, not to a “Saint” who is supposed to, what? Intercede with Yeshua (Jesus) to intercede with God? Didn’t Yeshua say the ONLY way to the Father is through the Son (John 14:6)?

What does that mean? It means that our prayers are to be sent to the Father in the name of the Son, and not to the Son for Him to bring to the Father. When we pray to anyone, or anything (even worse!) other than God, Himself- God the Father, God the Creator, God the one and only and God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- then we are committing idolatry.

And when we pray to God, do we pray for what we need now, and only what we need now? I have heard people pray, and I believe their prayers are earnest, but they pray for the same thing over and over, they use “Father God” over, and over, and over- the way a “Valley Girl” uses the work “like”- until I have to think that God is saying to Himself, “All right, already- I know who I am! Just ask for what you want and leave all the ‘Father God this’ and ‘Father God that’ out of it! Oy!”

Don’t pray spam to God. He wants to hear from your heart. I have seen people pause during prayer and I can see them start to sweat trying to think of something else to say. If you have nothing more to say, than what you should say is: nothing more. Just stop. Just end the endless stream of useless words and catch-phrases that are supposed to make you sound like Solomon blessing the Temple. That was a long prayer, and it was a really good one. But long doesn’t mean better. How about Moses’ prayer (Numbers 12:13) when Miriam was struck by God with leprosy? Did he go on and on, or did he just say, “Oh Lord- please heal her!”

Moses found those 5 words to be as effective and meaningful as an entire thesis presented by a graduate student in Theology. God doesn’t just see the heart, He hears the heart.

We see someone who is homeless and downtrodden and (usually) think the worst, yet God sees Job during his trials of faith. We see someone who is mentally or physically challenged and thank God it isn’t us, and God sees a caring, faithful and compassionate person who is thankful that no one else they know has the same problems.

The words we use when we pray are not as important as the condition of our heart. When King David prayed for forgiveness in Psalm 51, he said that God will not despise a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is the condition of our heart that generates prayer pleasing to the Lord; the fancy King James style words we use, the number of times we say “Oh Lord” or “Father God”, or the length of prayer is all totally meaningless. That is only pleasing to humans who know only what they see and hear. People only see the P’shat of the world, and not the Drash of humanity. I think people just pray “spam” when they use fancy words and long, poetic phrases meant to impress the people around them, and I just have to believe that God is thinking, “Your prayer is to Me, but I know the way you are praying is to impress those around you, so let them answer your prayer.”

Remember: when you pray, God already knows what you need. He knows what you want, He knows is best for you, and He will deliver it when He knows the time is right for you. What you say will not influence His decision but what you feel in your heart will.

When you pray remember the advice Yeshua gave His Talmudim in the Gospels- do not worry about what to say because the Ruach (Spirit) will give you what you need. Trust in the Spirit to guide your prayer and don’t pray from your mouth: pray from your heart.



There’s no such thing as “waiting in God’s will”

The great American humorist, Will Rogers, is known to have said:

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

The same is true when doing God’s will. God’s timing is perfect- no one ever really argues that point, but yet how many times do we hear someone (maybe even ourselves?) saying something to the effect of, “Well, I am pretty sure that is what God wants me to do but I am waiting for Him to tell me when to do it.”

Yeshua said that we know how to tell the signs of the weather but we don’t know how to read the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3).

When God gives you a calling, it isn’t for you to consider or to think about. It is a calling, it’s a thing to do, it is an action not a notification. If you are waiting for a sign when it should be done, you’ve already missed it: God doesn’t tell us to do something later.

When He told Abraham to leave Ur, it wasn’t for a later date. When He told Moses to go to Egypt, it wasn’t something for him do after the holidays. When God told Joshua to attack Jericho, he wasn’t supposed to send invitations. When God told Jeremiah to buy the field, He meant now.

The only thing that God delays is His judgement, and we should be very thankful for that delay. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really proven to make a difference. Shomron and Judea both had plenty of time to get their act together, but eventually all that extra time God gave them didn’t help.

The parashah this past Shabbat and for the next two Shabbatot covers the plagues upon Egypt. Last Shabbat Moses received his calling, and (as you probably know) he wasn’t too anxious to do it. He hemmed and hawed, and nearly got himself killed by God on the way to Egypt with his delaying. Moses certainly is an example of hearing God’s call and not heeding it right away. But, he did go, and although he had a slow and stumbling start, he continued to listen to God. And as he did more and more of what God directed him to do, he got stronger in his spirit and more confident in his ability to accomplish God’s plan. By the time Moses had been leading the people for years, he was strong in spirit, confident in his actions, and able to lead a multitude of people through a desert. Imagine: only a few years earlier he told God he wasn’t the man for the job. Guess God was right, after all. Duh!

Our God is a god of action, not a god of sitting around and waiting. As the title says, there is no such thing as waiting in God’s will- it is walking in God’s will; it is being in God’s will; we are to be acting in God’s will.  We are to be, to act, to walk, to serve…all of these are action verbs. We are not to be idle, or waiting, or planning, and we are certainly not supposed to be waiting for a sign when we hear God telling us what to do.

When God tells us to do something, He means NOW! The “sign” that God is ready to help us is that He has told us what to do. When God is ready to use us as His vessel, He will let us know what His will is. That’s when we do it. Not later, not when it is a better time (there’s no time like the present, right?) and not when we feel “ready” in our own timing.

I believe, and I will speak for myself here, that I am never going to be ready to do God’s will when I hear Him call me. I am just that confident in my own inability. But that’s OK. In fact, that is what it should be. Moses wasn’t ready, but he was divinely enabled when did as God directed. God’s the quarterback, God’s the pilot, God’s controlling what happens so we don’t need to ask for the fleece to be wet or dry, we just need to do what God tells us to do when we hear Him tell us to do it.

No one is ever really “ready” to do God’s will: are you? You may be willing to do it, you may want to do it, but are you ready? That would imply that you are already filled with all the spirit, the Ruach, that you need. When I read the bible, it seems to me that every disciple of God, from Abraham all the way to the 12 Talmudim of Yeshua, gained their spiritual strength after they started to do what God called them to do. Abraham lied about Sarah to protect his life- not very trusting of God, is it? And he did it twice! And so did Isaac. Jacob sent gifts to appease Esau. Moses needed Aaron to go with him. Gideon threw the fleece before the Lord. Saul hid when called to be anointed as king (Saul’s a good example of what happens when you constantly refuse to follow God’s calling), Elijah hid from Isabel and asked God to kill him, Jonah…well, we all know about Jonah. Kefa (Peter) walked on the water but immediately lost faith, Judas betrayed Yeshua, Shaul (Paul) had to get knocked off his “high horse” to see the truth.

All these biblical characters, all of which did great things when walking in God’s will, still all had to be discipled by God, they had to be taught to draw on His Ruach HaKodesh, they had to “learn the ropes”, so to speak, and none of that started until they began to walk in God’s will and do as He commanded them.

We will never be ready to do God’s calling in our life. God knows that, and I don’t really think He even wants us to be “ready” because He will teach us all we need to know. What God expects is that we are willing to go when called. And don’t worry about what to say (Luke 12:11), don’t worry about what to eat or wear or about where you will sleep (Psalm 37:25) and don’t worry about your safety (Psalm 118:6).

My biggest fear in my spiritual life is that I will hear God’s calling for me, clearly and undeniably, and I will fail to move. I will create excuses, as I already have in many ways, and I am most afraid that I may miss doing as He called me to do because I was waiting to be ready.

Do you remember reading in the bible about those people whom God called to do wondrous works in His name but didn’t? That’s right- there aren’t any. That’s the point!

God has a plan for all of us- listen for it, be willing to follow God’s lead, and don’t ever expect to be ready to do what He calls you to do. That’s what walking in faith is all about- we can’t see where we’re going, we don’t know what is waiting for us, and we know there isn’t anything we can do to control what is going to happen. But because God is calling us and leading us, we faithfully know that whatever is going to happen will be controlled by God.

As it says in Romans 8:31…if God is for us, who can be against us?


Respectfully, Yeshua, I disagree

In each of the Gospels (B’rit Chadashah) when Yeshua is praying before His arrest, He asks the Talmudim (Disciples) with Him to stay awake, but they are sleeping when He returns from praying. He says, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Respectfully, Yeshua, I disagree.

The problem we have as human beings is that the flesh is strong, often stronger than the spirit. Now, nothing is more powerful than God, and when we call on His spirit all things are possible (Yeshua says that, too, and I fully agree!), but the flesh is our humanity. It is our physical presence in a physical world, one which resents and rejects the very Ruach (spirit) that is what we really need to survive being “in the flesh.”

The flesh is what causes us to not just sin, but want to sin.  Our nature is sinful, in that we are drawn to hedonistic opportunities. The little red guy with the horns and pitchfork on our left shoulder usually beats the stuffing out of the little white-robed guy with the harp and the halo on our right shoulder. If that little angel really wanted to, he could knock the red guy into the next century, but that’s not in his nature. Yeshua was led like a lamb to slaughter, not saying anything. He was humble, even to death. We are told that the proud will be humiliated, and the humble raised. That’s the reason, I believe, the little guy with the harp gets the short end of the stick most of the time. However, when we work with that guy, we can overcome our nature. With the spirit, our flesh can be subdued and the spirit can be the stronger. When we partner with the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) it will help us to overcome the Yetzer Hara, which is the Evil Inclination that we are all born with; in Judaism it is the Yetzer Hara, in Christianity it is called Original Sin- either way, we are born into sinfulness and must spend our entire life overcoming it.

When Yeshua said the flesh is weak, what He really meant is that the human ability to overcome our nature is very weak. The “flesh” Yeshua was talking about was our self-discipline, our desire to do good, our ability to overcome ourselves. That is weak because the sinful nature of our flesh, the self-absorbed, hedonistic and undisciplined mindset we all have hard-wired into our very psyche is humanly impossible to get past.

But with God, all things are possible. And that means that even the meek, humble and forgiving little angle on our shoulder can rip the horns off that little devil and stick them where only a proctologist will be able to recover them. He can do that, with our help, with our support and with our desire to obey the Torah.

As a human I love, first and foremost, myself. To some degree it is a necessary thing- self-preservation is the most basic instinct of any living creature. However, God teaches us that to give one’s life for a friend is the epitome of love, and we all know at least one person whose self-love is so out of control that they live an unhappy, solitary and depressed life. I don’t want to end up like that, do you?

We can’t weaken the flesh, but we can strengthen the spirit. I have asked God to take a certain desire from me, I have lifted it up to Him and said, which I really, really feel, that I can’t do it and I need Him to just excise this desire and these thoughts from my mind. You know what His answer was? He told me, “It doesn’t work that way.”  He showed me that I need to work with His Ruach, I need to strengthen my ability to draw on His spirit for strength, He showed me why Shaul (Paul) said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The flesh is strong and the spirit is weak in each of us, but the flesh is as strong as it is ever going to be, whereas the spirit can grow stronger every day until we die. As I try to obey God’s word (that means the Torah) more and more, I strengthen the indwelling spirit simply by getting myself out of the way so that the spirit can fill me. In other words, each day I try more and more to die to self.  The more I die to self, the more the spirit will fill me, the stronger it becomes until it rules my every action, and even though I will always have sinful thoughts, the spirit will be speaking to me louder than the flesh can. My flesh will whisper and God’s Ruach will shout, so all I will hear is God.

We are told that God’s Word never returns void, so here’s an easy way to strengthen your spirit: read a chapter of the Bible every day.

That’s a spiritual exercise everyone can do.

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.

His Presence is Always Present

In the Manual we read about God’s presence. There was the time He decided to go down and see what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah, He also went down to see what the humans were doing at Babel, His presence filled the Tabernacle and the Temple, and how many times have there been when you were worshipping and you felt the presence of the Lord all around you?

It’s really nice, isn’t it? For me, I feel spiritually relaxed, unburdened and often I cry: the tears just come all on their own. Tears of joy, of comfort and of peace.

The problem is that it doesn’t last. We feel His presence, we can actually even sense His touch: that sort of chill that goes through you. I remember when I first experienced that as the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) physically entered me. I felt totally ethereal, like I was spirit. It happened about 18 years ago, and it still gets to me, emotionally and physically. I still get all teary-eyed when retelling it.

Whenever we feel His presence it is wonderful. Why then don’t we feel it all the time? After all, God is omnipresent, is He not? That means that He doesn’t really “go down” to anywhere- He is already there. God is always right here, just a hand’s reach away from us, ready to grab us as we fall or hold us back when we go rushing into disaster.

His presence is always present, so why don’t we always feel it? The truth is painfully simple: we can’t come into His presence because we are too into ourselves. The Holy Spirit may live within us, but we have to give it more room if we want to feel it more often. A small paper cut on the finger will hurt when we get it, and then we get used to the pain and it seems that it no longer hurts, until we get lemon juice in it. WOW! Then you remember you have the cut!

The Holy Spirit is much nicer than a paper cut, but the idea is the same. We become inured to it’s presence and we forget about it. We don’t remember it’s there until we pour some lemon juice on it, the lemon juice being our sinful actions, words or feelings. When we are doing something sinful we are then reminded by the Spirit that it is still there. It causes us pain, and helps us to want to wash off the sin like we wash out the lemon juice.

With a paper cut, we put a bandage over it to stop it from hurting. How many of us have put on a spiritual bandage to prevent ourselves from feeling the Ruach when it wants to remind us it’s there?  Every time we do not “die to self” so that the Spirit can live more fully within us, we are placing a band aid on the Ruach. The more bandages on the Ruach, the less likely we will feel the sting of sin when we do something wrong in God’s eyes. And the more we cover it, the less we sense His presence, so it seems that God is not near us. But He is near- He is right there, at your side, at my side, holding out His hand and asking us to take hold.

If you want to feel the presence of the Lord more often, more intently, and more completely, remove the bandages. Allow the soreness of sin to remind you quickly and painfully that you are not doing as the Spirit leads.

We are a container- we are filled with ourselves and with the Spirit, but the container can only hold so much. If you want more Spirit, you need to make room by getting rid of more of yourself. I used to be frightened to death by that statement (literally, since this fear of losing myself meant that I was rejecting the truth about Messiah Yeshua); but now, after I faithfully took that leap and accepted Messiah, I find that I am not really losing who I am, I am just becoming a better me. The more the Spirit leads me  ( scratch that, change it to this):  the more I allow the Spirit to lead me, the better a person I am.

I have been given the gift of humor, and I used to misuse it by making people laugh with nothing but bawdy jokes, and I used foul language to shock the humor out of people. I can tell you this: it worked a lot, but it also got me in a lot of trouble. I still find exotic humor (OK, OK…yes, I admit it, they’re dirty jokes) funny but I have “toned it way down”, and I can still be funny without being sinful. Richard Pryor was one of the funniest men I ever heard, and he was well known for being filthy, but he was also exceptionally funny (when he started out) on the Ed Sullivan and the Tonight shows, and there were no dirty jokes allowed on those shows. The spirit of humor God gave me is like anything else from God- how well I use that gift is based on how much I let the Spirit guide me in it’s use.

God is always here, he never leaves, He never sleeps, He doesn’t need to hit the head; God’s presence is always present. It’s us, it’s me, it’s you, it’s the flesh that prevents the Spirit from being felt and it’s our self-absorbed nature that numbs us to God’s touch.

All any of us needs do to feel God’s presence is to reach out to Him, but to do that we need to let go of whatever we are holding on to. What you are holding on to, you need to determine for yourself.

Sin is Now; Forgiveness is Later

We are all sinners.

It isn’t a pleasant thought, but it is true. It doesn’t mean we are a bad person if we sin; if that was true, then every single person who ever lived (except one, of course) would be a bad person. And that one who didn’t sin, by the way, when called “good” refused to accept that description and reminded the person that the only one who is “good” is God.

Since we all are sinners, that means we all sin. DUH!!  We sin every day, and we are supposed to forgive each other. We are not commanded to ask for forgiveness, but to forgive.  Forgiveness is what God wants us to do: read the Bible and realize, if you don’t already, that even though Yeshua tells us to leave our sacrifice at the altar and go make right any relationship issues we have with anyone else before offering the sacrifice, we are not commanded to ask for forgiveness– we are commanded to forgive. Read Matthew 6:14 if you don’t believe me. And that’s just one example; the Manual is rife with other examples of the fact that we are to forgive.

Of course, we are to ask for forgiveness, as well, but forgiving is what we do here on Earth. So if we forgive here on Earth, why am I saying that forgiveness is later? I say that because the forgiveness we really need is from God, and the forgiveness He gives doesn’t really count until we are dead.

David said it in Psalm 51- despite what he did to Uriah (and Bat-Sheba, too) he knew that his sin was, first and foremost, against God. Whenever we sin, and whomever we sin against, it is always against God because He told us not to sin, so when we do it is always a violation of His commandment, and to violate God’s commandment is to reject the Lord. That’s hard to hear, but it is the truth- to sin against anyone is to reject God.

As such, the forgiveness you receive from another person is good, but not for you: the one who receives the benefit from forgiveness is the one who is forgiving. By obeying God that person will receive more blessings. The one who is forgiven by another human being may feel some relief now, but the real forgiveness that does that person good is when it comes from God. Think about it: will God let you into heaven simply because you are forgiven by someone else? If that was true nearly everyone would be allowed in because nearly every Mother will forgive her child anything. It is God’s forgiveness we all need, that is the forgiveness that keeps us from eternal sunburn, and that is the forgiveness that we can claim only when we are one of the sheep shepherded by Yeshua Ha Maschiach. If we don’t have Yeshua in our corner, we have no hope of salvation.

The sins we commit are here and now, but the forgiveness we need to receive will be coming when we face God and Yeshua says, “This one is mine, Father.”  When I am forgiven by another person that is good for that person, and when I am forgiven by God that is good for me. Even though I will feel better, here and now, if I ask for and receive forgiveness from the person (or people) I sin against, it is God’s forgiveness that I need and it comes through asking it in Yeshua’s name. But I must first be one of Yeshua’s sheep.

God will forgive us as soon as we ask it, so long as we ask correctly: we must come to Him with a broken spirit, with a contrite heart, and we have to mean it! God isn’t stupid and He can’t be fooled- if anyone thinks they can get into heaven simply by saying they believe Yeshua is the Messiah and in His name they ask forgiveness of their sins, it doesn’t work that way. Yes, those are the right words, but you need the right state of heart and mind when you say them. You have probably heard the expression, “You get what you pay for?” Well, your salvation will be as real and wonderful as the work you put into it. It is NOT free- just because we can’t buy it or earn it doesn’t mean it is free. It is invaluable. It is priceless. It is more than anyone can ever accomplish on their own, and it only takes your heartfelt repentance to receive it. But it isn’t “free”- it will cost you friends, it will cost you earthly pleasures, and it may even cost you your life. There are Believers all over the world losing their lives, this very day, because of their belief in God and their work for His Kingdom.

No, my brothers and sisters, salvation can not be bought or earned, but it is not free.

What you may give up now are things that you will lose anyway, when you die, but what you will receive now is peace of spirit, and later complete joy in God’s presence, for all eternity.

Not a bad deal, don’t you agree?

Try your best not to sin: we can never be sinless, but we can always sin less. So do that: sin less. Always ask for forgiveness from all those whom you have sinned against: the ones on Earth, and your Father in heaven. And more than that: remember to always forgive those who have sinned against you.

Invest in your eternity by depositing your forgiveness of others every day, and at your final retirement the size of your spiritual IRA will be greater than any CD or stock could ever pay out.

Did You Reboot It?

I am that guy you call when the computer you work with proves it is smarter than you are. And sometimes, not too often but sometimes, it is smarter than I am, also.

Many people complain and/or joke about the fact that when they call tech support they are first asked, “Did you reboot the system yet?” It is a sort of running gag, but it is also true. The computer performs many, many thousands upon thousands of small, regular computations, and all those bits and bytes floating around in the memory confuse it. Just like we get confused when we are trying to do too many things at once. The reboot turns off all electric power for a second or two, which is enough for the memory to be cleaned out. Sort of an “electronic colanic.”

Humans need to reboot, as well. We call that process “Vacation”, although many come back from vacation more stressed and tired than when they went on it.

Spiritually we need a reboot now and then, as well. I have found myself feeling burned out, too involved in doing “church” things, and then feeling guilty that I haven’t done enough. Help this committee, fix that, be there for meetings, etc. etc.etc.

Now don’t get me wrong- we all must participate in more than just showing up once a week. It is more than just a place to go, it is a place to participate in maintaining. Throughout the Bible we see how the Levites were responsible for the service to the Lord in His house, but everyone helped with the maintenance of the house.

If you feel that you are overwrought with the responsibilities, whether real or imagined, of having to do more for the Rabbi, Pastor, Priest, whomever, then you need to reboot. Even if you are the Rabbi, Pastor, Priest or that whomever guy I keep talking about.  Rebooting is necessary to maintain a well managed and efficient system.

So, nu? How do I reboot my spirit? By doing something different. Go on a retreat, leave the job to someone else for a week or two, read the Bible in total solitude, go for a walk in the woods, travel to Bryce Canyon and on a clear night observe all the stars in the heavens. That’s a humbling experience, especially when one knows the Lord and can really appreciate His grandeur and wonder.

My Pastor has asked me to fill in once in a while to give the message, as well as with other people whom God has given teaching skills and who show spiritual maturity (that’s the only kind of maturity I have.) This is not just so he can help develop us, but so that he can take a break now and then. He’s a smart guy, and he recognizes that even the ‘Levite’ among us needs to have a rest, to reboot not just spiritually but physically, too. King David set specific times for the Levites to serve, giving time on and time off. He was somewhat ahead of his time, when you think about it: back then you worked all the time. The only rest was Shabbat. David gave the Levites a “working week”, if you will, although it was more than a week at a time. But then, again, they had really long weekends 🙂

If you feel tired of doing whatever you are doing, then give it a rest. Have someone else take over for a bit, let someone else lead the service, teach the Bible class, clean the floors. Don’t be so selfish- there is nothing more rewarding than serving the Lord, so let someone else enjoy the blessing now and then!

Reboot your body, reboot your emotions, reboot your Spirit.

As my people like to say, “Try it! You’ll like it!”