Humility Takes Strength

Many people believe that to be humble means to be weak and ineffective.

Some are humble from self-doubt or a low self-esteem, but those who are humble in the way God wants us to be humble find that humility comes from inner strength, and as a result strengthens oneself to not feel the need to prove oneself to others.

Those who are humble before the Lord and show that humility in their relationship with others are, for my money, the ones I want to have on my side if there was trouble.


Too afraid to preach what we need to hear?

How many of you go to your place of worship and get told, over and over and over, how much God loves you? Just the way you are? And that Jesus loves you, and died for you so that you can be with Him and the Father in heaven, forever? And that your sins are forgiven the moment you call on the Name of the Lord? Forever and ever. All you need to do is call on His name and you are saved! Hallelujah!!

That’s all true, of course; God does love you, and Yeshua died for you so that you have a chance to be with Him.

But not in heaven- that is not where the bible says we will be.

And when you call on the Name of the Lord for salvation, it only works if you really mean it, and that requires you to change your ways for the rest of your life. And if you think that is hard to do, you’re right!

And when you go to a place to worship, you must tithe to that place. And not just the loose change you happen to have, but 10%! Too often people argue: 10% of gross? 10% of net? of expendable? Why not just give what you want to give, no matter what percent it represents?  That’s up to you, but you must tithe, and that tithe should be, at the very least, a significant amount of your income.

And you need to participate. You need to help clean up after an Oneg Shabbat (snacks after the services- it means ‘Joy of Sabbath’), or clean up the property, or help vacuum the sanctuary: whatever it is, you need to participate in congregational activities.

These are things that are biblically required, but how often does a Minister, Priest or Rabbi talk about tithing? Or tell you that calling on God’s name is only the start, because you have to work at it. Constantly. And how often does someone tell their congregation they need to get more people to come because we need more people to do the work?

Yes, we hear leaders pray for Yeshua (Jesus) to send more harvesters to the field, and we pray for God’s divine guidance and help to fulfill our mission, but that’s not enough. There is nothing in the bible that says we should sit around and pray, and not do anything. All the people in the bible God called, He called to DO something.

God didn’t tell Abraham to stay in Ur; God didn’t tell Jacob to stay with Laban; God didn’t tell Moses to hang around Mt. Sinai; God didn’t tell the Prophets to stay at home and pray; God didn’t tell Yeshua to stay in Bethlehem; Yeshua didn’t tell Shaul to stay at home, and God will never tell you to sit around, pray for something and wait for Him to make it happen for you. God wants you to look to Him for guidance, for help, for strength and for leadership, but He expects that you will do something with it when He gives it to you!

(Read the parable of the Talents- Matthew 25:14)

I am blessed and honored to give the message about once a month, and we usually follow the parashot in the Torah, but this year I think I need to expand that to tell people they need to get off their tuchas and do something. We need to stop going to church or synagogue on Sabbath Day and pray, sing, and kibbutz, then forget about it all until next weekend. We need to be challenging ourselves to do more during the week, as well. Bring God into conversation, ask people you know to visit with you at the next service, ask your religious leader what you can do to help him or her to accomplish the mission of your place of worship. Volunteer somewhere that does God’s work, with humans or with animals- it doesn’t matter. God likes animals, too.

And if you are a leader in your religious community, a Pastor, a Rabbi, a Council member, an Elder…whatever you are, if you are in ministry leadership, don’t be afraid to tell your congregation what they need to know. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about tithing because it is, after all, your salary, well…get over it!  God commands people to tithe, and if you don’t keep on them about it, then you aren’t spreading God’s word, and (worse than that) your fear or discomfort may be causing some to stumble into sin.

If you don’t like to talk about the hard work and suffering it takes to remain a faithful servant of God, and all you want to do is tell people the “Happy-Happy” stuff because then they tell you how much they liked the sermon, and you get more people coming in to hear about how they are OK just as they are, then you are failing to tell the truth. You are recruiting people for battle without showing them how to defend themselves or even giving them any battle armor.

If you are in leadership you need to lead. You cannot be afraid to tell the truth about salvation, that truth being that it is hard: Yeshua said we need to leave everything behind, which includes our comfort zone, and carry our own execution stake to follow Him. People need to be prepared for the fact that they will be ridiculed, excluded from friends, (maybe even) excluded from family, talked about as prudish and “holier-than-thou” by other people. They need to know they will be required to give their time and money to the place where they worship, and expected to participate in activities there.

If someone is unevenly yoked, meaning that their spouse doesn’t believe the same way they do, or maybe is just a member of a different place of worship, they need to be told that there will have to be compromise- but never compromise to the point where you do not tithe or participate. Two people who love the Lord and believe in Yeshua as their Messiah can still be unevenly yoked. Dealing with that situation ain’t gonna be easy, take it from me, but if you also show your spouse the the love, patience and understanding that God shows to you, you will make it that much easier to deal with.

Salvation is easy to get, and hard to keep. If we don’t let people know that, up front, then the good seed will not be able to take root. Living for God is living against the world, and there’s a lot more world out there than there is you, or me. But we have God on our side, so the bottom line is that, as Shaul (Paul) says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

And in Romans 8:31, Shaul also gives this word of encouragement regarding our struggle against the world:

If God is for us, who can be against us? 

So be prepared to prepare yourself, and your congregation, for what is to come. Yes, preach about God’s love and forgiveness- please don’t ever let up on that, for it is an encouraging and edifying word. But also let people know what they will be up against, and what they need to do to maintain a proper attitude of faithfulness- not just in their spirit, but from their pocket and from their sweat.

It is because God’s love for you and me is so great that it resulted in God sending His only son to die, which required Yeshua to give up His divinity in order to take on flesh, so that He could die. We often hear that God is all about love, but God isn’t all about love; He is also about sacrifice, hard work, justice, diligence, and perseverance. Don’t ever forget that.

Look at all He did for you, all He gave up, forever: is what He asks back from us so much?

fear abounds where faith is not found

Has a nice, catchy “ring” to it, doesn’t it?

Fear abounds, where faith is not found…..I would expect to see that on a marquee outside a synagogue or a church.

But what is the “fear” I am talking about? Is it fear of loss? Fear of death? Fear of going hungry? Fear of being unpopular? Fear of success? Fear of failure?

Yes. It is all those fears, and (just about) every other fear you can think of. And the cornerstone of fear is the lack of faith. Of all the things to be afraid of, I think the only thing that faith will not help with is fear of pain. No matter how faithful or spiritual you are, if someone kicks you in the groin, it’s going to hurt.

I know people who have been so controlled by fear that their lives have not changed for years. I know one person who has held the same, low-level position in a firm for over 30 years. I know another who refuses to drive; another who will not see a doctor. Another who hasn’t held a steady job, ever.  And when you talk to them, they have their prepared answers rationalizing why they can’t, but it is clear that they are just plain afraid of change and of trying something new.

You all know someone like this, too- it is an epidemic, this fear of something that we can’t even justify being afraid of. They say, “Oh, I could never do that- I’d be too afraid.” It doesn’t really matter why they are afraid, the problem is that it controls them.

I am afraid of many things, but I do not let that control me. Fear of death keeps me from doing things that are foolish, fear of pain keeps me from doing things that might result in my breaking a bone (although I do like physical challenges and often play on the Treetop Trek at the Brevard Zoo), and I am afraid that one day I may go blind or be crippled from arthritis (I already have some). These are normal fears, and although I don’t like the idea of these things happening, the difference is that my faith in God allows me to overcome these fears.

Yes, I may go blind, but I know that God will provide someone to help me. You know, when I think about it, by not seeing people with my eyes I will be better able to see them as God does, without first judging by their appearance (this would actually be a good thing for me because I do judge by appearance); and if I am crippled and cannot do the physical things I love to do, I will have more time to read, write and study- nothing wrong with that.

Fear is healthy when it is used to remind us to be cautious in dangerous situations. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to overcome it, and the best way to gain that strength is to have faith. You need to have faith in God that He can, and will, make all things better and that He has nothing but the best in store for you.

What God wants to do for you may not be what you think is best, but you need to absolutely accept and trust that He knows better than you do what you really need.

I am a little ashamed to say I have very little patience with people who live in fear of everything, who have no ambition to improve themselves or help others, and who always have tsouris (troubles) in their life. Have you ever noticed how people who live in fear always have more things go wrong with them that they can’t get passed? Maybe it’s because fear causes problems and that is why the enemy uses it to control us? If so, then courage is what God gives us when we trust in Him, and those who are faithful may still have troubles but they overcome them. Living in fear is allowing the enemy to use you and control you, which can only separate you from God. But faith and trust that God is in control (which, BTW, is absolutely true) will allow you to overcome the fear.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, Shaul (Paul) tells us of a “thorn in his side”, some weakness or issue that Shaul couldn’t overcome:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.…

This is what faith overcoming weakness and fear is all about: God’s Grace is all we need to know. When we allow the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to come into us and to rule over us, we then are inside a protective barrier that will reflect the arrows of the enemy, quench the fire of disillusionment, and block the attacks of the world that come against us.

I “googled” fear in the bible and found at least 40 different verses about how we can overcome fear through faith. Here are just a few of them:

Isaiah 35:4:

Joshua 1:9;

Psalm 23:4;

Psalm 94:19;

Romans 8:38-39 (this is a really good one!);

Psalm 27:1 (this one just about says it all)

and there are many more.

Fear is not the enemy, but the enemy uses fear. God is not fearlessness, but courage to overcome fear. Only the foolish have no fear; the brave have courage to overcome fear and do what is right. Righteousness takes strength: strength of character, strength of conviction, and strength of will. These are things that are weak in humans, but strong in the Lord. As Shaul told us (above), we can be strong in our weakness when we allow the Lord to be our strength.

David was a man of great courage, a man of many battles, a fierce warrior and the one who set the standard for how a King should rule. And yet, when you read the Psalms, he was fearful on a regular basis, and he always found his strength and courage in God.

In Psalm 18 David says:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock,in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.…

If you feel fearful, are unsure of yourself, and find that what you want and need to do is beyond your ability to try because you are afraid, then trust in God and give up relying on yourself. Let God’s strength and awesomeness be manifested through your weakness, and allow the Lord to be your power.

The Green Lantern recharged his ring from his lantern, and recited the oath:

In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!

It’s important to note that his power didn’t come from himself, or even from the ring, but from his lantern:  you can be just like a superhero yourself, and you already know where you get the light that is your power:

Psalm 119:105Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

The light that powers us is the Light of the World, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), and the strength we need to overcome evil comes directly from the Word that is within us, the Ruach HaKodesh.

Don’t be afraid anymore- you are a superhero! You are the lantern of truth, justice and you have divine protection! You are the sidekick of the Almighty, El Elyon, The Lord of lords and the King of kings; you are Robin to God’s Batman, you are Bucky to God’s Captain America, and you can be even more because with God, there are no limits.

Just remember this: when you are feeling inadequate to the job and fearful, don’t trust in yourself but put your trust in God, ask for His favor and walk in faith, because…

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

The answer is: no one!


What is the greatest fear of all? It’s not really death, or pain, or suffering. The greatest fear of all is the fear of loss.

Everything someone is afraid of comes down to the loss of something: loss of life, loss of financial security, loss of friendship, loss of companionship, loss of job, loss, loss, loss. When I was in sales, I learned you don’t close the deal because someone wants what you offer as much as because they don’t want to lose the opportunity to get it at a good price, or to get it before it’s not available. Building urgency to buy is what we call it, but what it comes down to is fear of loss, the fear of losing the “deal.”

Being afraid isn’t, in and of itself, a bad thing- fear of pain is what makes us cautious and helps to avoid hurting ourselves. Fear of financial loss is what directs our decisions in investing to use discretion. Fear of death is what keeps us from doing those stupid things you see on TV and YouTube.

And fear of the Lord is what makes us courageous enough to overcome the human, fleshly fears that plague us. Fear of the Lord is trusting in God, it is honoring Him by obeying His word, it is the confidence that we receive knowing that He is always faithful to those who are faithful to Him, and that, unlike human promises, God’s promises are so trustworthy and dependable that what He says He will do is already historic fact.

If you tell people you are Born Again but still allow fear to control your life, stop being afraid, already!

Cowardice is something to be ashamed of; fear is natural, and courage is the ability to overcome fear. We are all afraid of something, of losing something, and that is not the problem: that is being human. What we need to do is overcome that fear by trusting in God.

If you are afraid of dying, remember what Shaul (Paul) said in Philippians 1:21:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

He knew that death only meant coming into the Kingdom and attaining eternal joy and peace. Heck- he was more willing to die than to live.

By listening to the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) we can show bravery and confidence, not so much in ourselves as our confidence in God. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

That “sound mind” is what reminds us to listen to the spirit of victory we have . We can feel confident, also, in what we are guaranteed in 1 John 5:4:

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Therefore, if you are ruled by your fears, your faith is weak and you do not honor God, or demonstrate the power and the strength God gives us. Shaul tells us 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 bible is rife with expressions of bravery in the face of our human fears, and it all depends on our faith in God.

If you are afraid of what people will think of you (fear of loss of stature) then think about what God will think of you if you do things that are meant to please people and not to please Him. Now that is something to be afraid of! To upset and dishonor the Holy One of Israel; to dishonor the name of God by telling everyone you are Born Again, then showing them the fear and cowardice that they, the unsaved and faithless, have. To allow those who reject God to say, “What difference does it make if I believe or not- you’re no different than I am! I don’t see anything special in you.”

God is special; God is wonderful; God is great, powerful and those who have God in them are able to overcome the world. That which is in me is greater than that which is in the world (look that one up on your own) and when we demonstrate that to the world through our faithful courage and perseverance, we glorify God, Messiah Yeshua and His kingdom.

So, nu? Are you glorifying God or disgracing His name? Yeshua said when we see Him we see the Father- that is because He said what the Father told Him to say, He did what the Father wanted Him to do, and He did it fearlessly. Everything Yeshua did glorified His Father in heaven.

We can’t be the same way Yeshua was, but we can certainly be more like Him than like ourselves. And that is the testimony we show to the world about God.

God told Joshua to be brave and be bold because God was with him- that’s good advice for all of us.


Everyday Faith

We talk about having faith in God, but what does that really mean?  Does it mean believing God exists? Yes. Does it mean accepting that He has created everything and is who and what we hear about him? Yes, it does. Does it mean accepting that His promises of salvation are true and trustworthy? Absolutely!

But how do we show our faith? In the book of James we are told that faith without works is dead, so one way to show our faith is to do those things that please God (He is very clear about what pleases Him throughout the bible) and to use those talents and gifts He has given us to give Him glory.

We minister to others; we become missionaries for God and His Messiah (for those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah), whether in the Third World or our own backyard, or we just live simple lives demonstrating our trust and faith to all we meet and know.

That is the topic for today- whether or not our everyday life demonstrates true faith in God.

Do you worry about things? Do you show one line of the bible to be not exactly true? Which line? The one about how we cannot make even one hair on our head black or white (Matthew 5:36.) If we go through life worrying about everything we will not only have gray hairs, we may make them fall out, altogether! (I know- it’s just an Old Wives tale.)

I rear-ended someone last week because I didn’t watch the road carefully enough. No one was hurt, her car has little damage (it will still cost a lot to replace her bumper) and my car may actually be totaled because of all the front end parts that are busted- I will find out this morning. Am I upset?- you bet I am! I am mad at myself for being careless (of course, that’s why they call it an “accident”, isn’t it?) and upset about the damage I can’t fix. I am also concerned that my rates might go up. All justifiable and understandable concerns, but am I worried about it?

No. I am not. I know that whether or not the car can be repaired or whether or not I have to get another car, or whether or not the insurance company will raise my rates is going to happen whether or not I worry about it. And if I dwell on it, I am not just worrying for no good, but I am demonstrating my lack of faith in God.

I gave this all to God the other day. I know that from my past I can trust God to handle it, to provide transportation if I need it or to give me a way to resolve my immediate and temporary problem. By the end of this year whatever the solution will be to this it will be old hat and I will be so used to it that this event will be forgotten.

That’s what everyday faith looks like.

It doesn’t mean I am not concerned, it doesn’t mean I am not upset that I may have to take on more debt or spend savings, and it doesn’t mean I am preaching fatalism or apathy. In fact, I fully trust God to make whatever I need available, and the only thing I am “worried” about, if I may use the term, is my ability to properly hear what God is telling me to do.

This morning I take the car to the body shop to find out what the story is, and then I either make arrangements to rent one while this one gets fixed or I look for another car.

Did you see the movie, “Bridge of Spies?” In this movie, the spy that was captured by America and was being traded for Capt. Gary Powers had a very calm, almost fatalistic attitude. I took it to be the quiet, professional resignation any spy should show, once captured, to the inevitability of their situation. Every time Tom Hank’s character asked the spy if he was worried or scared, the answer was something like, “Would it make any difference?” I thought that was more than just quiet resignation- I saw that as the ultimate indication of faith.

Of course, a Russian spy during the Cold War wouldn’t be a faithful follower of God, but we are. We should have that same trust and faith in our everyday lives to show everyone else the inner peace that comes from knowing God is on our side, that He is more than able to handle anything, and that no matter what happens we can remain calm and comforted because we know that all things work to the good for those that are called in His name (Romans 8:28.)

That is everyday faith. Do you show that to others? Do people ask you how you can remain so calm in the midst of certain destruction? Are people amazed, maybe even a little angry with you, because you are always sure that things will work out?

If you can’t answer that with a “yes”, then you need to work on your everyday faith. I know I do.

Making a big show of how much we love the Lord by dancing in the aisles, going to synagogue or church every Sabbath, volunteering, ministering on the streets- all that is good; there is nothing wrong with it at all. But if you worry about every little detail, if you are upset when things go wrong to the point of crying out, “What do we do now?” and if people do not see you as having a calming effect on everyone, then you are not showing faith in God to those who desperately need to see how wonderful that faith can make us feel in the midst of Tsouris.

Everyday faith is one of the best ways to demonstrate to others your faith in God, which will also bring glory to Him. It might even make them jealous of what you have to the point they start to wonder if this is something they should have, for themselves. I know people can come to faith that way, because my journey to finding God started by seeing the calm and peaceful attitude of Believers that God placed in my life, and I wanted to feel that way.

Yeshua tells us in Matthew 6:24, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

How about we think of it this way: today was tomorrow, yesterday, and we are told not to worry about tomorrow, therefor since every day is (yesterday’s) tomorrow, just don’t worry, period.

God can handle it, no matter what it is, and even if we feel we can’t handle the Tsouris we are going through, our everyday faith in God will show others that we know it will be alright, eventually.

And that everyday faith in God is what will allow us to handle it, too.


Walking or Wavering?

In the letter Yakov (James) wrote to the Jewish Believers (not Christians, mind you, but Jewish Believers) in Jerusalem, he was talking about asking for things from God, and how we must be faithful when we ask. In James 1:5-7 he says:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,…

Wow! Here is the brother of Yeshua (Jesus) saying that if we falter or are unsure of ourselves when we pray to God we shouldn’t expect that God will take that into account and still answer our prayers.

Heavy, Man!

Heavy? Yes. Unfair? No, well…to humans it may seem unfair, but God’s way is not our way.

Think about it from His perspective: if He enables us to be weak and unfaithful in what we do then how will we be able to stand against the attacks from the enemy of God?  Satan knows our weaknesses and our doubts- he works with them. God will strengthen us but the enemy works the opposite way, in that the enemy will weaken our faith by placing doubt in our minds. He will attack God by creating events that make us feel God is ignoring us, that God lies to us and that God doesn’t love us. The enemy will attack God by attacking our faith in God.

The enemy wants us to doubt that God will deliver on His promises.

That’s why God has to strengthen our faith by making us work at it. We are, by nature, lazy and we want to be led, that is what the enemy works with when steering us away from God. God, on the other hand, is trying to get us to work towards Him. He makes us exercise our spiritual muscles by forcing us to work at being faithful.

The Greek mythical hero, Theseus, recovered his fathers sword and shield by constantly trying to lift a large rock they had been buried under. Once he was strong enough to move the rock, he recovered these things, which were proof of his parentage and right to the throne.

We have a similar task: the large rock we need to lift is our doubts and our faithlessness, which we need to move out of our way in order to receive what our Father (in heaven) has placed there for us: salvation.

We talk about those who will take the mark and those who will not, but we forget to think about the ones who will turn from the faith in the tribulation. Revelations tells us that many, in some texts it says most (meaning more than 50%) will turn from their faith in God to take the mark of the enemy.

That scares the heck out of me! It should scare you, too, because if you are saying to yourself, “That’s not me- I will never take the mark!”  I am right there with you. Except that I am not so sure of myself because I know my faith needs more strengthening, I know I can’t move that rock, not yet, and I need to be able to. It’s my fear of my weakness that keeps me alert and aware.

God will turn us from base metal, slag even, into beautifully refined gold. But we need to go through the fire to get there. The enemy will not do that- he will give us whatever we want, make our lives easy, peaceful, joyful, a hedonists’ wonderland and grant us (initially) everything and anything we want.

This is why Yakov tells us that we shouldn’t expect anything from God if we are unsure of His faithfulness, which is what our faithlessness reveals about us. That is a little hard to understand, so let me rephrase it:

When we are not sure God will do as He says, it means we think God is not able to deliver on His promises. That is what the enemy wants us to think, and it is easier for humans, self-absorbed and egocentric as we are, to believe that God is at fault for not answering prayers than it is to think that it is because of our unfaithful attitude that we don’t receive.

Faith is hard…very hard….to achieve, and even harder to maintain. It is by faith alone we are saved, and it is our faith that gives us the strength and perseverance to maintain our belief and trust in God. And when the fecal matter comes into contact with the air circulation unit, we better have strong and dependable faith.

It isn’t God’s responsibility to answer prayers as much as it is our responsibility to ask faithfully believing that He can answer them. Not that He will, but that He can. God always has the right to say, “No.” to a request from Him. Just because He decides that prayer is not going to be answered doesn’t mean He won’t answer other prayers.

That’s what it means to not waver, to keep walking even if the ground slants, or gets rocky, or we aren’t sure why we have to go this way and not that way. We need to walk with a sure step, with our eyes on the finish line, and not waver from this side to that side.  We will probably slip and fall along the way; in fact, more than just once or twice, but God will always be there to pick us up. All the time, so long as we reach out to Him and ask for help. That is one prayer I believe He will always answer- a prayer for help.

All prayers should be submitted to God with the total belief that He is able to answer, even if He doesn’t. Even if His answer is, “Not yet”; even if His answer is, “Maybe later”; even if His answer is, “No way, Jose!”

It’s not about whether or not God answers your prayers, it’s all about believing that He can. If you can handle that truth without being upset or feeling that it is unfair, then you have proper faith and a properly respectful and humble attitude. That’s a good start, but it’s just a start. Very few of us can really lift that rock yet.

I know I can’t lift the rock, not all the way: I need to get back to that rock and keep trying.

We each of us have to work at “lifting the rock” of our faithfully believing in God’s ability to do what he says He will do. We need to walk, not waver, we need to stand firm, not bend in the wind, and we need to trust God, no matter what anyone else tells us or what happens to us.

It’s a big rock that hides our crown of victory, but it can be moved. We just need to keep at it.

Love is a Muscle

Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lou Ferrigno. Steve Reeves (you have to be in my age group to remember him.)

When we think of those names we think of one thing- muscles! Big, well-developed muscles.

They got those muscles through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. And after all that work, after all that strenuous activity, hours upon hours in the gym, proper diet, and loss of personal time with friends and family, if they don’t keep at it, those muscles get weak and flabby.

No, muscle doesn’t turn into fat- totally different things, but they do get flabby and weaken. Muscles need to be worked constantly to remain strong.

We all know that the heart is a muscle, but love is only a feeling right? Is it? Most people would say that love is an emotional thing, not a physical thing; however, if you have ever been in love you know that it can affect you physically.

I submit that love is a muscle. You know that old saying, don’t you? The one that goes:

“If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”

Love has a physical effect, love is something we feel and experience; when we are unloved, it hurts and when we are loved, it is better than the best adrenalin or endorphin high any athlete can experience. Love acts like a muscle, it works like a muscle, it hurts like a muscle, and it grows like a muscle. Sounds to me like it’s a muscle.

Love needs to be nurtured and it needs to be constantly worked at. It takes sacrifice, it takes hard work, it takes humility, it takes compassion. It takes as much work as any physical effort you would make to build any other muscle in your body.

And like the muscles you get when you work out steadily, you need to keep at it to maintain what you have gotten. I am no muscle-man by any stretch of the imagination (although I do have a pretty nice set of guns for an old fart) and I work twice as hard at just maintaining what I have as I ever did building it up. I also work just as hard, if not harder, to maintain the love I feel for Donna (my wife) and my family and friends. I don’t do social media because I believe that is more like broadcasting than committed communication. I call and email people one-to-one to demonstrate that I am willing to take the time to be with them, and them alone.

Today everything is cocooned- yes, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. have made socializing easier, but is it the right kind of socializing? Is it really intimate? Is it really one-on-one? Does it take effort? These technological forms of communication have taken something very valuable out of communication- it has taken away the love. It has taken away the intimacy of talking to someone and replaced it with the cold, unemotional and unattached simplicity of just posting something on a bulletin board for any and all to see. In other words, it takes no effort and building love takes effort.

Love needs to be personal. How can it not be? Love for one’s fellow man (or woman), love of art, love of nature- these are all good, but impersonal.

There are so many passages in the Bible about love I won’t even put one here, except the most important one- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.

See? Didn’t I tell you that love is a muscle? God tells us to love Him with all our might and you need muscles to be strong.

The message today is really simple- we are commanded to love God and to love each other- this takes a lot to do. We are, by nature, self-centered, self-absorbed and selfish. We are sinful and hedonistic. We can overcome our Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclinations) with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leading us if we follow what it says, and if we exercise our love.

I am not one to talk. I am saying do as I say (actually, do as He says) and not as I do. I try to do what pleases God and fail many times. And when I do something good, I revert back. If backsliding was an Olympic sport I would hold many gold medals. But I keep trying, and that is what we all need to do. To run the good race, to keep our eyes on the prize, to build muscles of love and not let them get flabby.

The V’ahavta prayer (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) tells us to love God, and remember His commandments, to speak of them when we arise and when we sleep. I do. I also make sure that when I arise I tell my wife, Donna, that I love her. And when we go to sleep, I tell her that I love her. And I tell her that I love her as often as the feeling hits during the day (and it hits a lot.) I also remember to tell my sisters Wendy and Gayle that I love them. I would tell my children, Alexandra and Bryce, that I love them (if they would talk to me.) I do this not just because I do love them, but it is also how I exercise my love. It’s how I keep it strong.

You really want to build up a sweat exercising your love? Tell your spouse how much you love them next time you are in the middle of an argument! Yes, right there in between the “You always” and the “Why don’t you ever”  statements say, “You know, despite all this I love you and I am so thankful we are married. Even though I am pissed right now, I am still very much in love with you and never want to be with anyone else. Ever.”

Then go back to arguing… if you can.

Love is really strong when you exercise it regularly, and it has the strength to knock out anger and hatred in one punch. Wouldn’t you like to be that strong?



Why It’s So hard to remain faithful: Part 1 of 2

What makes faith so difficult to have? It’s probably because you have to believe in something that isn’t really there- you can’t touch it, you can’t see it, you can know it’s presence and you can see it’s effect on the world around you, but still- it’s not like you can grab it and hold it up for all to see.

And once you have faith, after you have forced yourself to accept the truth that what you see and feel is indicative of something else, you then need to strengthen your faith. That will also be hard to do, maybe even harder than getting faith, because the world doesn’t have faith and doesn’t want you to have it, either. Misery loves company, right?

Not to mention that the closer you get to God, the more of a threat you become to the enemy of God, so while you are of the world he will not only leave you alone, he will probably make things happen well for you. The enemy wants you to remain in, and of, the world. As you get closer to God, he will attack you.

But as far as why it is hard to keep faithful, although the enemy’s attacks are definitely a concern, that’s not what I  am talking about today.

How many paper towels do you go through in a week? If you have young children still in diapers, are they cloth or Luv’s? Do you use paper plates? When was the last time you bought soda in a glass bottle?

Getting my drift yet? We live in a disposable world- use it than lose it. And that’s OK if we are talking about utensils and things (so long as you properly recycle), but the sad thing is that this apathetic attitude towards things that we use, maybe abuse, then just toss away isn’t just represented by what’s in our kitchen cabinets or linen closets: it has also infiltrated and polluted our interpersonal relationships.

People used to stay married because that’s what you did- now it’s pretty much the opposite. You having troubles? Talk to a lawyer. And at the workplace: it used to be you would get a job and work your way up the ladder. Pension plans used to be based on not even being eligible until after the first year, and usually you had to be at the company for (at least) 11 years after the first year before you were 100% vested. That was done away with way back in the 70’s when the Keogh Plan (HR10) first started, which is (today) the 401-K. In fact, whatever vestment is left is 100% within 5 years. That’s because people don’t keep their jobs much longer than that anymore.

In the 1980″s I was on Wall Street, and I had 4 jobs within 8 years, but I went from a $10K clerk to a $50K Department Manager/ Bank Officer. When I was in Sales I had so many different jobs over a 10 year period I can’t remember them all now. That’s because when the leads ran dry, I ran somewhere else.

And when I was first married, in my “previous life”, I realized it was a mistake somewhere around year 3. I lasted until year 9, and the suffering I endured for those years was nothing compared to the estrangement, suffering, and belittling I have endured since. Resulting in both my children being turned against me so that now I am dead to them.

I tell you this because I want you to know I can talk about having a disposable lifestyle because I lived it for many years. And, consequently, faith came to me late in life, and has been difficult to maintain. But thanks to God and good friends, I have maintained it and now, some 18 years later, I no longer worry about it. I have had enough experience with God to see Him, not with my eyes, but in everything there is. In my life, in my jobs, in my second marriage (which is the one I will have forever because we both got this one right), in everything around me. I am comfortable in my faith and secure in my belief. Still, I work at it because it is too easy to be fooled.

I still use too many paper towels, and we are actually working on that. I try to reuse things, and like every other “real” man, I have clothes that date back to when Yeshua was just a Corporal (that’s a Marine Corps saying.)

Today’s world is made up of disposable things, from diapers to plates to butane lighters, even to our cars which we trade off or sell usually before the warranty is up. About the only thing people keep is their computers: those should be upgraded every 3-5 years but some people just won’t let go.

If only we were as unwilling to give up our faith as we are with our favorite pair of pants or favorite coffee cup. 

The parable about the sower of the seeds, where some fall on poor soil and others fall on good soil, is a demonstration of the disposable attitude we still have, today. The seed that was eaten by the birds, blown away by the winds and choked by the weeds, these represent the enemy and the world (same thing, really) making getting rid of the new faith easier than keeping it. And that’s the root of the evil of a disposable mindset- it is easier to get rid of something than to keep it. Quitting is preferable to maintaining.

If you have overcome the disposable nature towards faithfulness, seek out those that are new Believers to help them maintain their battle to have faith. It is a battle- that’s why Shaul (Saul) tells us about the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-18. We need to run the good race, not fall out and say the ‘stitch’ in our side was too much to bear. When I was running cross-country in High School, we learned that the first mile always hurts- you can never get past it if you let the pain in your side overcome you. Once you run it out, then you get your “second wind” which can carry you further than you ever thought possible.

The world wants you to throw away faith because there are so many other things to replace it with, and they are easy to get and easy to get rid of. I think we all have heard the adages, “You get what you pay for”, and “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.” Well, God is worth working for, and salvation is definitely worth having. Just because salvation is available for free doesn’t mean it won’t take hard work to maintain it, and it may be free to have but it costs to keep. Oh, yes- it costs! You will pay with lost friendships, lost jobs, lost family, and the pain of watching those you love and care for literally throwing themselves into the pit of fire. And laughing at you for believing they are going to be condemned. There is a heavy payment for having and maintaining faith.

Even Yeshua tells us that we must pick up our execution stake every day to follow Him (Matthew 16:24), so we have been told from the very start faithfulness would not be easy. Much of Christianity teaches that salvation is not a disposable item, it can never be lost, but that is not true: your salvation can be lost if you throw it away. God will never take away the promise, but you can’t be saved if you are sinning on purpose and continually ignoring God’s commands in the Torah. God isn’t stupid, and salvation is not a joke. If you know someone who constantly sins, and says, “God is a forgiving God and will forgive me because I asked Him to”, do you really think that God will accept that person into His kingdom? We are all sinners, and we will all always sin, but the difference is whether we do it by our own will or against our will. Shaul said he was a wretch because he did what he didn’t want to and didn’t do that which he wanted to (Romans 7:15.) Each of us sins, but the one who does it constantly with no desire or intention of stopping because the bible says ‘all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved’ so he or she thinks all they have to do is ask for forgiveness, well, he or she has a big, unhappy surprise coming.

There are so many things in our world that are disposable, but the only really important thing we should dispose of is our sin. God can take that from you, the stain of sin is removable by Yeshua’s blood, but you have to want to dispose of it, all of it, and you have to constantly work at getting rid of it. That’s because the faith we need so desperately is just as disposable as a paper plate. We need to hold on to our faith in a world that says just chuck it and get something easier to keep. It’s easy to get rid of something when there’s always something else to get that’s better.

I am here to tell you there is nothing better than God, nothing more important to hold onto and never let go than your faith, and nothing else that can replace the salvation God has promised us through Messiah Yeshua.

Faith is hard to get, and harder to keep, but there is nothing more important to maintain.

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.

Living in Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You choose.