The Best Counter-Attack Ever Made

It’s almost here!! My newest book, Parashot Drashim A Commentary of the Weekly Torah Reading for Both Jews and Gentiles is almost ready for publication.  Watch for it. 

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As a (former active duty) Company Executive Officer in the Marine Corps, I can tell you that the very first thing you do after having won a battle is to prepare for the counter-attack.  Whether you have successfully “taken the hill” or cleared the building, freed the town or whatever the objective was that you have completed, the time when you are most vulnerable is as soon as you have won. Before you attend to the wounded or do anything else, you set up your perimeter defenses and make sure that everyone on the line has their ammunition and selected zones of fire. Only after the area is secured do you then take care of the other things.

Yeshua died on the execution stake, was buried and rose three days later. That was the objective achieved- the sting of death was taken away and the pathway to salvation for the entire world was cleared. But the Enemy wasn’t done away with- he was still here, and planning his counter-attack.  That counter-attack was to split the factions between believing and unbelieving Jews to the point where those who were able to avoid the sting of death would be considered traitors and outcasts from “mainstream” Judaism. In essence, the Enemy wanted to turn salvation made possible to salvation lost to all the unbelieving Jews in the world. 

Yeshua warned us about this in Matthew 10:34

Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’…

Although Yeshua was quoting from Micah 7:6 regarding the punishment God was inflicting on a sinful Israel, I see this also as a prophetic warning as to how the Enemy will try to inflict ruin on the efforts of the believers in Yeshua to gather all people to the Messiah.

And, to a large degree, it worked. The Enemy used people to discredit the resurrection, and when Gentiles were brought to salvation he used the leaders among them, as well as the confusion that came from some of the Epistles written by Shaul, to not only cause a chasm between Believing Jews and the Gentiles converting to Judaism but to create an entirely new religion which was not what Yeshua taught. This was accomplished by the Council of Nicene, and since then the schism has grown wider, having been fueled with persecution, hatred, distrust, and bigotry…from both sides.

The objective of the Messiah was to bring people back to God; to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. This was done, but the success of that objective was damaged by the counter-attack of the Enemy. It is similar to the Battle of Iwo Jima: the Marines were successful in capturing the island, but for months afterward they were still being attacked by Japanese hidden in underground caves and it took a long time and more deaths before the island was completely safe. 

The difference in the way people worshiped between the Jews that rejected the Messiahship of Yeshua and the Jews that didn’t was small at first. There were Jews that accepted Yeshua and Jews that didn’t, but they were all Jews worshipping as Jews. However, as more and more Gentiles were added it grew to the point where the Messianic community was composed mostly of Gentiles.  At that time the Jews were being politically persecuted (because they were in revolt) so due to the political environment, the Gentile Believers were encouraged to part from their Jewish roots.  This resulted in moving the Sabbath to Sunday, the creation of “Christian” holidays to compete with the Jewish festivals and men like Ignatius of Antioch and other “church fathers” forming canon and traditions that were against the Judaic ones. At that point, the Enemy’s counter-attack had some level of success. 

But he hasn’t won. He lost the war when Yeshua rose, and the strength of his position is now starting to weaken. The Hebraic Roots movement is bringing Christians closer to their proper place within the plan of salvation, and the growth of the Messianic Jewish movement is bringing Jews back to their Messiah. The regathering of Jews to their Homeland is also part of God’s counter-counter-attack. The final battle is soon to come, and we all know who the winner is going to be. 

It is up to us, those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah, to faithfully continue the attack against the Enemy. There are many strong points that he holds, which we need to attack. One of those is the image of the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus Christ that the world believes started Christianity.  Approach Jews with the truth about their Messiah using only the name “Yeshua” and quoting only from the Tanakh regarding what the Messiah was supposed to do. You can’t convince a Jewish person about Yeshua if you call him “Jesus” and use the New Covenant writings for your proof – to a Jew, those are both false. Jesus is a false Messiah who created a religion that hates Jews and the New Covenant isn’t scripture. In fact, to a Jewish person, the New Covenant is a bunch of hooey that Christians wrote about their god.

The Enemy made an excellent counter-attack that has postponed the final accomplishment of the Messiah’s objective. The Enemy managed to postpone the End Days but did not defeat God’s plan; he just made us wait a little while longer.  The Enemy’s success in turning Gentiles converting to Judaism into a new religion that ended up persecuting Jews will be turned around by God. In fact, we are seeing that happen this very day, and eventually what the Enemy did will come down on his own head.

All we have to do is wait until God has had enough. At that time he will send Messiah Yeshua back to Earth to perform the final “mop-up operations.” 

More Gloom and Doom to Report

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I feel a little like Jeremiah; he never had anything really good to talk about, either.

I was reading the paper this morning and decided that I should add a new viewpoint to my messages- showing where God is NOT in the news. I believe by seeing where we leave God out of our society we can get a better idea of where we need to add Him back in.

So, in this light, today I was reading about the aftermath of the mass shooting on this past Valentine’s Day here in Florida. Governor Scott has called a roundtable committee to discuss different actions that we should take to help prevent this sort of atrocity from happening. Here’s one thing that really scared me about the report: a psychologist from Florida State University College of Medicine has stated that by looking at the family history we may be able to predict the mental illness of the child and proactively act upon that. The paper reported she said that we can “predict pretty well which families will have this forward trajectory even before the child is born.”

I don’t know about you, but that scares the HE(double-hockey-sticks) out of me. Someone will be evaluating pregnant women and determine that the child will be mentally ill?  Who can do that? And if they do, then what? Should the child be placed in a program for the mentally ill and/or have his (or her) rights restricted? Does that sound good to you?

I also read today that yesterday in a Florida middle school some students were making jokes about shooting up the school. It was heard, reported and those two boys were taken into custody by the police. Now, what they did was totally stupid (if I was “PC” I would have said “inappropriate”, but it was STUPID), yet these are middle school aged boys- stupid is what we are at that age. I believe they should have been chewed out by the Principal and their parents should have been called in to take them home for that day. Do you think the school overreacted?  And if you don’t, do you think that in an atmosphere of fear that eventually people will tend to overreact? Isn’t that what history shows us does happen?

What I see happening here is that the government of the United States, at all levels, is advocating that everyone report about anyone who they think is a threat.

Sound familiar?

In major transportation hubs there are signs and announcements telling the people to report anything that they see as suspicious; schools are telling the students to report on anything they see or hear that they think is suspicious; and when we add the recent flurry of sexual harassment charges and the current (pardon the expression) exposure of this problem, more and more people are being sensitized to be afraid of almost anything anyone may say.

Here’s the doom and gloom- it will get worse. This is all a set-up for the enemy to take complete charge of our lives. We cannot overtake this, we cannot resolve it, and we cannot avoid it.

See why I feel like Jeremiah?

The enemy will rule by fear and intimidation, and this will not come from him (or maybe her) directly, but from each one of us. Just like in Nazi Germany, where children reported their parents and neighbors couldn’t were afraid that someone might say something that will get them in trouble, the atmosphere of fear and distrust is exactly what will help the enemy take charge.

This is also the kind of environment where people can “rat out” anyone that they have a personal grudge against.

I am not a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and neither am I a Libertarian, but I am someone who believes what I read in the Bible, and all this makes sense to me as a sign of the events yet to come that we are told about in God’s word. I am not saying there is no hope- what I am saying is that the only hope we have is in God. We must strengthen our faith and help lead others to God and Messiah as things worsen. We need to stop wasting energy, time and money trying to fix what God has decreed will happen, and get to work trying to save as many as we can, while we still have the time.

I am no Jeremiah and I do not profess to be a Prophet, but I do think I am on the right track when I say we need to prepare for what is coming because we cannot get out of the way.

I see the writing on the wall- do you?

TV Commercials are Setting Us Up

How many hours a day do we watch television? According to a recent report by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, here is what they found:

Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.7 hours per day), accounting for just over half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over. The amount of time people spent watching TV varied by age. Those ages 15 to 44 spent the least amount of time watching TV, averaging around 2.0 hours per day, and those ages 65 and over spent the most time watching TV, averaging over 4.0 hours per day.

Now, what is even worse is that when we watch TV we spend almost 1/3 of our TV time watching commercials.

So, why do I say we are being set up? It’s because the commercials are so stupid, so inane and condescending to males and females that I believe it destroys brain cells!

OK, maybe it’s not all that bad, but think about the kind of messages these commercials are sending to us, and believe me when I say that because we see them so often they are affecting us, even if we don’t know it.

For the Record: one thing I learned in all the years I was a Salesman is this: if you tell people something often enough, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, after a while they will believe it.

Let’s take some examples:

  1. Burger King with the two Whoppers for $6.00 shows a man who opens the bag and sees he has 2 Whoppers. What does he do? He looks around, then closes the bag and pretends he doesn’t know he has an extra Whopper. It may seem funny, but the message it sends is that it is OK to steal if no one knows you did it. The bible tells us if we see something that belongs to our neighbor we are to protect it until we can return it to him (Deuteronomy 22:1), and that we shouldn’t steal (one of the Big Ten.)
  2. A Hot Wheels commercial shows a mother and son driving a hot Mustang and trying to jump a span across a ravine with a washed out bridge. When the car crashes, they are just really playing in the living room with the toy cars. The message of the commercial is that hot wheels toys help children to face the challenges in life. Really? Do you believe that your son or daughter will grow up self-determined, confident and have a strong moral center because they played with Hot Wheels cars?  The message is so condescending and inane, yet I don’t doubt there are parents who might actually think playing with toys will make their children morally upright. The bible tells us differently- Proverbs 22:6 says to bring a child up knowing right from wrong and they will always return to it.
  3. Have you seen those ridiculous commercials for Icebreakers?  The man eats an Icebreaker mint and suddenly is riding a Unicorn through the office to gain a promotion. Stupid! Or the one where the woman asks for 3 weeks vacation, is told two is the standard, so she pops an Icebreaker in her mouth and a Unicorn appears, rears up and crashes through the office glass wall; as she pets and kisses the horse, she says she is not standard and wants three weeks, which the manager automatically agrees to. What message can this be (other than advertisers are using more drugs than ever before)? It is that a candy mint can give you the confidence to succeed. In other words, you can succeed with something other than hard work, dedication and loyalty. Can you see how the mint can easily be exchanged for an amulet, or a token, or some other item indicating witchcraft?

I know this sounds a little far-fetched, and maybe even somewhat paranoid, but I don’t think it is. I have seen too many people who are mesmerized by TV, even to the point where they are almost in a trance-like state while watching. I know because I am often like that, myself! And when we are in these states of brain-dead, zombie-like stupors, we receive these subliminal messages that we are stupid, that stealing is OK, that things can help us get what we want:  do you see now what I am talking about?

When we accept the commercials without thinking about the real messages they send, we are being set up to accept the more serious and sinful messages the enemy will want us to receive. We will want something, and someone, somewhere, sometime will show us a lucky rabbits foot, or an amulet, or something else that empowers us to get what we want.  And we won’t think about what it really represents, which is witchcraft, because we know it is OK to accept it ; we know that because subconsciously we have seen it done over and over and over, somewhere (maybe on TV?) and the person was OK.

Do you recall what Shaul (Paul) calls Satan? He is called the “Prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and how is TV transmitted? That’s right- through the air.

I may be a little over concerned, I’ll admit to that, but I do not think I am that far off base. I am not suggesting you throw your TV out the window or shoot the Satellite dish off your roof with your favorite shotgun, but I do suggest that you pay more attention (or maybe I should say less attention) to the commercials. And especially if you have kids watching- maybe ridicule the commercials and show the child how silly and imbecile they are. Ask the kid if he or she really thinks people are that naive? Teach your self and your children to analyse what the commercial is saying, and not accept that this is real life in any way, shape or form.

The thing that is worse than these commercials is that we watch them, thoughtlessly, with our minds open to suggestion. That’s when the devil sneaks in the open window in the back of our brains.

Hey… it’s OK to watch TV, to enjoy the movies and shows, but just to be safe turn off the sound when the commercials come on, or direct your attention elsewhere.

Better safe than suckered into taking the Mark one day because it was presented as the Happy Meal toy of the week.

Is Jesus God? I Have the Definitive Answer!

I have heard people argue in person, in congregations, and on Face Book in different discussion groups whether or not Jesus (Yeshua) is God (the Father) or just the Messiah. Is He God? Is He just a human being? What does “God in the Flesh” really mean, anyway?

Before we get to what I consider the definitive answer to this unanswerable question, let’s review Bruck’s Acid Test Question for discussion topics:

How does this affect my salvation?

If I believe Yeshua is God, does that make me any more “saved” than someone who believes Yeshua is just the Messiah and a separate entity from God? Is believing in God the Father and Yeshua the Messiah as separate entities something that is dishonoring God? Will I not be saved if I only accept Yeshua as God’s son and the Messiah God promised?

If I believe Yeshua is not God the Father, am I rejecting God? If I believe Yeshua is God, why do I need to have faith in a messiah? If the Messiah is God, why do I need to identify Him as a Messiah? God is all I will need, right?  But if Yeshua is not God and I put my faith in Him as the means of my forgiveness, does that mean I am not saved?

If I have faith that Yeshua is the Messiah who provides forgiveness of sin, will it make any difference to my being forgiven whether Yeshua is God or not?

Do you see where I am going with this?

The definitive answer to the question, “Is Jesus God?” is this: It doesn’t matter!

No one can argue against the biblical fact that Yeshua lived a life and died. Even those who don’t accept Him as Messiah cannot really argue against the biblical and extra-biblical historical evidence of His life. And anyone who accepts Yeshua as their Messiah cannot argue that His sacrifice is what now provides for us the means to be forgiven of our sins (because with the Temple destroyed we have no place to offer sacrifice for sin, in accordance with Torah.)

So, whether or not Yeshua is God, He is (at least) Messiah, and it is our faith that through Yeshua we are saved. The faith in Yeshua that He is the Messiah and His sacrifice was for us, and also our faith in God that He will keep His promise to forgive those who ask for it, in Yeshua’s name. This is how we are saved: proclaiming faith that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised, that when we do T’shuvah (turn from sin) and ask God for forgiveness invoking the name of Yeshua, we will be forgiven. That is how salvation works.

So can you see that whether or not Yeshua is God doesn’t affect our salvation- we are covered one way or the other. That’s why it doesn’t really matter.

But let’s not stop now!

Ask yourself this: What value is the argument about Yeshua being God, or not being God, have to anyone? Who really benefits from this discussion? I’ll tell you who benefits from it- The enemy does!

What I have heard and seen when this topic comes up is, invariably, dissension, argumentation, dissonance, hatred, pridefulness and anger. All these emotions, especially when brothers and sisters in the Lord direct them at each other, serve only the enemy of God.  Yeshua said people will know we are His Disciples by how we love each other, but when this discussion comes up, love goes right out the window! Because any answer makes no difference to our salvation, this is a useless discussion that only causes strife every time it comes up, and as such serves no useful purpose in God’s kingdom or to a gathering of God’s people.

Whether or not Jesus is God doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is how we treat each other, how we maintain our focus on what is important and how we learn more about what God wants us to do for His kingdom and His glory. Now, I can’t talk for God, but I am willing to go out on a limb and say I really, really doubt God wants us to argue with each other about something that has nothing to do with salvation, spreading the word, making disciples or showing the peace and love that God has for everyone. Aren’t those things more important than a theological discussion about deity that doesn’t edify or help anyone?

Think about it.

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!

Let it go, already!

Is there something in your past that you wish hadn’t happened? Something you did? Something you said? Something someone did to you? And no matter what, it keeps popping up in your head, with no warning? And doesn’t it always seem to come back to you just after something upsetting happens?

Well, don’t you think it’s about time you let it go and got on with your life?

Ever try to drive your car looking in the rear-view mirror? You’re bound to crash, aren’t you? The same is true of walking with God (or even walking alone, for that matter, although walking with God is much, much better.) We need to learn from God how to forgive, which carries with it the obligation to forget, too. Not to be stupid about it- if someone has hurt you and is unrepentant, you don’t give them a chance to do that again. You forgive them, yes- that is what we are commanded to do, but you don’t let them have the opportunity to hurt you again. That is just foolish. So you forget it, but don’t forget about it.

Huh? Forget it but don’t forget about it? What the heck does that mean?

It means you first let go of the pain by forgiving, which is the only way the pain ever goes away. Once you forgive, you will be able to remember the event, only it won’t be painful. You will see it as a life lesson. And, if the person is repentant and shows that through his or her actions, once they have regained your trust, then you can totally forget the entire incident.

It sounds hard, but in truth, it is harder to do than it sounds. Much harder. Pride gets in the way, the desire to be avenged, to have the other person experience the pain and worry and strife and emotional upheaval that he put you through. The need to know that witch got a taste of her own medicine! Yeah- that’s what I want to see!

That’s pridefulness, not Godliness. That’s the enemy talking to you, not the Holy Spirit. Vengeance may come, because what goes around, does come around.  And sometimes God, in His mercy, allows us to see the person reap what they have sown. And I don’t mean God’s mercy as to allowing you to see this to enjoy it, but in His mercy allowing you to see it so that you can feel the regret at someone else having to endure what you did, someone who may not have the forgiveness that God gave you, someone who may not be able to fall down knowing that a loving and forgiving God is there to pick them up, over and over.

If you can see someone who has hurt you suffering as you did, and not feel pity for that person, then you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are really trying to obey God.

Forgiveness is self-centered. Really. I believe most people, especially people who don’t know the Lord, think when you forgive someone you are making what they did acceptable. They think if they forgive someone then that person is “off the hook”, so to speak.

Not true. Everyone one of us, everyone, will be held accountable to God on the Day of Judgement. Those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah will be cleansed by His righteousness, not their own, but by His! Everyone else will be all alone standing at the Throne of the Lord. And let me tell you something- the carpet they stand on will be soiled by those that stood there before them, and when they have to face their sins with no reconciliation available to them, as God judges them they will add to the stains.

If you know even a little of the forgiveness God has granted you through Messiah, how can you feel anything but pity for that poor soul. Yes, he’s a rat; yes, she’s a wicked person, but still and all, they will spend an eternity in suffering and you will spend eternity in joy. When you think about that, doesn’t the harm they did to you, which only reflects their pain and suffering, seem relatively unimportant now?

It is hard to forgive, but not as hard as it is to forget. I am here to tell this to you because I am an expert- at failing. I have learned a lot about forgiveness through reading the bible and observing what God has forgiven, and how He has forgiven. But knowing how to do something is not being able to do it.

So I am practicing. I remember the hurt people have done to me so that I can practice letting go of it. When you first learn how to play an instrument and read music, after enough practice you stop reading the notes and consciously remembering the fingering for that note, and you just do it. When you learn a second language, after speaking it enough and conversing with it, you stop interpreting it in your head and you just know what the words mean.

Forgiveness can be like that- it stops being something you need to think about doing and you just do it. But that takes a lot, I mean , A LOT, of practice. I am still working at it.

My system is to first remember that I have hurt people because I was hurting. I believe people who are hurtful and nasty are suffering with tremendous pain in their heart and soul. They are so full of pain that it seeps out of them, oozes out in their words and actions; they just can’t control themselves. They are poisoned by the wormwood of unforgiveness and controlled by pridefulness, which is never satisfied. It is a hunger that gnaws at your soul and constantly causes you pain and discomfort- nothing tastes good, nothing feels good. It is torture, and they do not have the peace that the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, can give them.

They are in great pain and have rejected the only cure that works- Messiah. Instead of accepting the healing of the Holy Spirit, they dispense pain and suffering to others so that they do not suffer alone. They reek of sin, but instead of cleaning themselves off, they throw it on everyone else around them so that they don’t notice their own stench.

Those who have accepted Messiah have a poncho over them that doesn’t let the stink penetrate, and that poncho is called “forgiveness.” When we forgive, we cleanse ourselves before the Lord. The bad guy still stinks, but not us- we can be clean before God because we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

And when we forgive them, the pain of the sin goes away; we can remember the act done against us, but the associated pain is gone. This way, if there is repentance, we can let the person know he or she is already forgiven (which demonstrates to them God’s power and love) and now we can totally forget the incident.

Forgiveness is how you get past the pain and how you get on with your life. Unforgiveness is like dragging your anchor; you may be going forward, but there is always something holding you back, slowing down your spiritual growth and maturity. One day it will catch on a rock and you will never go anywhere.

None of us will ever reach full spiritual joy until we learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

If there is unforgiveness still lingering in your heart, remember what Yeshua told the man that wanted to follow Him but said he first needed to go back and say goodbye to his family? Yeshua told him that anyone who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62.) So if there is someone you have not forgiven, do as Yeshua told you- leave your sacrifice at the altar and go make it right. And if the other person refuses to repent, that’s their problem now, not yours. You have done what you could do, what you should do, and you can move on with your life knowing that you have done the Lord’s will.

If you haven’t done so yet, please- reel in your anchor; and if it is stuck on a rock, cut the line.

You can’t go anywhere when you won’t leave where you are.

Parashah Balak, Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

If it wasn’t for the continuity I want to keep for the Parashah posts every Friday, I would have titled this Shabbat’s Parashah, “It’s Always Up to You.”

This Parashah is also called the Book of Balaam, according to Jewish tradition, and it tells us the famous story of the talking ass, the beast of burden that Balaam is riding that avoids the Angel of the Lord sent to kill Balaam on his way to curse the nation of Israel in the Moabite desert.

Balaam is one of those people in the bible that is a conundrum: he clearly is worshipful and understands the one, true God, yet he also is a Diviner and “wizard-for-hire”, which is clearly against what God allows. He knows enough to ask for God’s guidance, can be convinced to do so, yet is later found disobeying what God says he should do, anyway.

Despite being enticed by rich rewards, and in the face of having three powerful kings really pissed off at him, Balaam (who has been called to curse the Jews) blesses them; not just once, but three times. The three blessings are because the kings of Moab asked him to curse them three times, despite Balaam saying that he could only do and say what God told him to. After the third blessing, Balaam is sent away with no pay, but before he goes he is led by God to give these kings a prophecy revealing their final defeat.

In the end, he does manage to help Balak, the Moabite king, to infiltrate and damage Israel by having the women of Moab seduce the men of Israel into worshiping the Semitic gods of the Moabites. The parashah ends with the zealousness of Pincus, the grandson of Aaron, killing an Israeli tribal prince who is flaunting his romantic relationship with a Moabite woman, right there in front of Moses and all the people.

What I see here is what happened to the world after Yeshua rose from the dead and through that resurrection, defeated the enemy of God, providing the salvation we all need. And more than that, I also see the ultimate truth about salvation- it’s up to us, always, to choose or reject it.

With Yeshua’s (Jesus) death the complete forgiveness of sin was made possible for all, and He defeated the enemy with His resurrection. But there is still sin and there are billions of unsaved people, despite the fact that the words, deeds and knowledge of Yeshua are known throughout the world. Why is that?

Because the enemy followed Balaam’s lead.

Balaam wasn’t able to curse the young nation of Israel, camped just outside of their final destination. As he was going to curse them, even though God said not to, he would have been killed if his donkey hadn’t bypassed the Angel of the Lord sent to smite him. Then as Balaam was beating this animal who has saved his life three times, it miraculously talked to Balaam and opened his eyes to see the angel standing in the road with sword drawn. From that point on, Balaam still had the choice to curse the Jews, but choose to save his life, instead.

Good thinking.

However, once that scary episode was over, Balaam still managed to get around God by suggesting to the kings that they have their women go to the men of Israel, seduce them romantically, then use that relationship to influence them to worship the Moabite gods. And we read, in Chapter 25, that his plan was very effective. Without unsheathing a single sword, Balaam’s suggestion resulted, ultimately, in the death of some 24,000 Israelites.

Yeshua’s death didn’t save us, His resurrection did, but the enemy counter-attacked (just as Balaam did) with extreme effectiveness: he used Constantine to cause such a schism between the Jews who did not accept Yeshua as Messiah and the (now called) Christians who were not fully living Torah, that “religion” separated the God-fearing people so much that today we are two totally separate religions, with Jews rejecting anything Christian (including their own Jewish Messiah) and Christians rejecting the Torah, saying it was replaced by Jesus (who preached the validity and necessity of following the Torah.)

Balaam was going to do the wrong thing, he did the right thing, but then did the wrong thing. God led Balaam onto the path of righteousness, but Balaam still chose to go the path of deceit and rejection of God’s direction. And, as we read in Numbers 31:8,  that decision led to his death.

We are all given the choice to chose life, through Messiah Yeshua, or to do as we please and choose death. We can change our mind, at any time, either one way or the other. Salvation is available to us, but we can choose to deny it, and even after we accept it, we can still choose to reject it. The bible is very clear about that. We need to realize that the enemy will not give up the fight- he will go into the pit of sulfur kicking and screaming, grabbing anything and anyone close enough to him to take in there with him. This means that we are never fully free of him, and won’t be until after the final Tribulation, the last fight, Yeshua standing on the Mount of Olives saying, “ENOUGH!” and the new Jerusalem being lowered from heaven.

Until then we need to be aware of our own frailties, and the power of the enemy to seduce us into sin. As Yogi Berra is known to have said, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”

Keep running the good race, keep your eyes on the prize, and don’t be swayed by others. Choose life, so that you may live, accept Yeshua (if you haven’t already) and never turn away from that, no matter what anyone says.

Look at it this way: God wants to be worshiped, He gave us the Torah to tell us how to worship Him, and He promised a Messiah to reconcile us back to Him. If Yeshua is the Messiah, then you need to accept Him and worship God and obey the Torah, just as Yeshua taught us to do.

If, however, Yeshua is not the Messiah, and you still worship God and obey the Torah, then by thinking and acting like Yeshua is the Messiah, do you really think God is going to have a problem with that? You are worshiping God, you are obeying the Torah- that is the foundation, that is the important thing, that is what is necessary.

But…you do need to accept Yeshua to be able to tear away the Parochet, to achieve fulfillment in your relationship with God, and to be saved from your sin once and for all. And, if you accept Yeshua and He isn’t really the Messiah, you are worshiping God and obeying the Torah, so you’re gonna be OK.

Get it? Accept Yeshua and do as God wants, you’re OK even if He isn’t the Messiah (but, He is); worship God, obey the Torah but reject Yeshua, then you better obey Torah exactly and completely, every second of your life, or you are in trouble.

The bottom line is accepting Yeshua as your Messiah is a win-win because Messiah or not, you will still be doing what God wants. Reject Yeshua and you take a big chance that billions of people (including millions of Jews) have been wrong for centuries.

Think about it.

Fear of the Lord or Afraid of the Lord?

This coming Shabbat Parashah is the story of Korach. I was preparing my message (our Pastor is on vacation and when he is gone I help by leading the liturgy and delivering the message) and, although I usually keep that message separate from these postings, I really feel that it is important enough (well, I would hope they all are) to share here, as well.

After the rebellion is put down by God, Abiram and Dathan are swallowed by the earth, Korach and the 250 mutineers (in the Chumash they call this “The Great Mutiny”) are burned up alive, and the staffs that were placed in the Tabernacle have shown that Aaron’s is the one God has chosen, the people all cry that they are going to die if they come before the Tabernacle.

We can read in B’midbar (Numbers) 17:12-13:

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!  Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

And, in truth, you can’t really blame them for being afraid. After all, Abihu and Nadab offered unauthorized fire before the Tabernacle and they were burned alive, and now these 250 men (not to mention Korach), all of whom were righteous (well, maybe we won’t mention Korach here) and well-respected leaders of their individual tribes, were also burned alive.

Maybe, just maybe, standing in front of the Tabernacle isn’t such a good idea because even those people who were good were killed.

Of course, we can also say that the people weren’t considering the sin these men committed against the Lord as the real cause of their death.

The truth is that any sinner can come before the Lord if he or she comes with a penitent heart and a contrite spirit. David says so in Psalm 51 (verse 17):

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise

The people were afraid of God at Sinai, too, but I believe there was a big difference between how they felt then and what they are feeling now: back then their heart was different. Their fear then was a righteous fear- they felt their unworthiness before the Lord and asked Moses to be their representative because they were so unworthy that if they heard God’s voice again they would die, and this attitude God appreciated (Deuteronomy 5:27-29):

“Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ “The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. ‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!…”

This verse, which Moses tells the people when preparing to turn them over to Joshua, shows us the remorse and pain God felt from the knowledge that this healthy and righteous fear of Him will turn into the type of fear that will lead His people to resent, rebel and (ultimately) reject Him.

Proper “Fear of the Lord” means to respect His holiness and honor Him by being lovingly obedient. Faithful obedience is what God wants more than sacrifice and more than anything else we could ever give Him. He has created everything- there is nothing we have that He cannot give to Himself, except for our love, faithful obedience and worship. Those things God cannot have unless we give them to Him, and that is what He wants more than anything else.

If we are afraid of God, if our “Fear of the Lord” is not awesome respect for Him but is being afraid of what He might do to us, that serves the enemy of God. That is what Satan wants you to feel- Satan wants you to be afraid of God, because that kind of fear will be a wedge separating you from God’s loving protection and blessings. Then, being alone and unprotected, you will suffer the curses of living in a fallen and cursed world, and you will turn against the Lord and curse Him to His face for all your Tsouris. That is what Revelations 16:10 tells us will happen:

“And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness, and men began to gnaw their tongues in anguish and curse the God of heaven for their pains and sores; yet they did not repent of their deeds.”

We need to remember that for those who have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah, there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1), and we can march boldly up to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16), unafraid and confident that He will listen to us and that our Intercessor, Yeshua ha Maschiach, is sitting there at His right hand saying to Him, “Father, this one is mine.”

What we need to be afraid of is ourselves. We are the biggest stumbling block to salvation there is: the enemy can’t do anything to us unless we let him, and God will do everything for us, again, if we let Him.  It is our choice, and we are (and will be held) accountable for the choices we make.

Have a healthy “Fear of the Lord”, which will keep you in His Grace, and be afraid only of your own sinfulness and pride, which will separate you from it.


I’m in The Land, at Last!

Over the next two weeks I will be coming to you from the land of my Fathers, Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel.)

It is 0243, which for those still on 24 hour clocks, is as early in the morning as you think it is. However, although the  clock on  my phone says I should be asleep, my circadian clock says it is time for supper. Oy!

The feeling hasn’t fully hit me- I am a Jew and I am in my land, the land God promised me. It sounds all corny and weepy-eyed, but I will confess I started to get that way (weepy-eyed, that is, I was already corny) when we were driving from the airport and I saw modern buildings in the distance, and ruins passing us on the road.

Actually, the ruins stayed where they were and we passed them;  you will have to forgive me the jet lag writing today.

What is interesting is how God put this tour together. Gary is the man organizing this, and he works for Ezra International, an organization that helps Jews make Aliya, or transplanting back to Israel. And no matter where a Jew is born in the world, if they aren’t living in Israel, then it is always going back to Israel, because this is our land, it is the land God gave us- it is where we belong and so, since we caused ourselves to be rejected, coming here is always going back.

I am an American, and a Marine Corps officer (former active duty) and I love America, just as a father loves his son, even when he does wrong. America has done wrong, not just internally but to our Israeli friends, as well. And, with what we have to work with coming up later this year, well…you know I don’t like to talk politics in this forum, but let me just say (off topic) that if you don’t believe in evil, you are going to get a wake-up call real soon.

OK- back to Israel: oh, wait…I already covered about going back to Israel.

So, as I was saying before I drifted off into Tangentland, Gary had organized this and we had a nice sized group planned, then a bunch dropped out and we had to arrange our own air flight just to keep costs in line, then a group from Texas saw about this on the Web (how? don’t ask me!) and then others found out and now we have a group of 15 from 6 or 7. At this size we can afford the bus and driver, as well as the guide and all the wonderful hotel accommodations. God arranged it so that Jew (that would be me) and Gentile (that would be everyone else here) come together from different parts of the country to join with each other and go to Israel.

Can you see the image of the End Days, when Jew and Gentile will come to the mountain of God and worship together, from all corners of the earth? This little tour, this (relatively) unimportant visit is a symbol of the way God will bring about His plan of salvation.

And when it all comes together, when Yeshua reigns on high, when every knee will have already bowed and every tongue already confessed, “Yeshua, Hu Adonai” (Yeshua/Jesus, He is Lord) then all will worship one God, THE God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And my Jewish brothers and sisters will be able to accept their Messiah, finally, and there will no longer be Jew, Gentile, Catholic, Protestant, Christian, Muslim, or any other religion- there will be no religion. The enemy will form a world religion, as he gets his chance to rule, but when God takes over there will be no religion: there will only be worship of the Holy One of Israel.

As I say at the top of my blog, in my book and to all whom I speak to: God has no religion. Here, in the center of the worlds’ three best known religions, the focal point for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, where it all started and where it all will end, I proclaim God is supreme, and His Word supreme, and we need to stop obeying people and start to obey God, alone.

Baruchim Haba’im l’Yisrael (Welcome to Israel).


Knowledge isn’t wisdom

You’ve all heard people say that too much information is dangerous, right? Or maybe when talking about someone else, they’ll be referred to as having just enough knowledge to be dangerous?

I know the bible pretty well- I am familiar with most of what is in there, and can remember what has been said, but not always by whom and not always where. But if I know something is in there, I know it is in there.

Just as important, maybe even more so, I know what is NOT in there.

However, I never want to be a bible “scholar” because I feel that knowing every single aspect and part of it prevents one from appreciating the unity of the whole thing. Sort of like seeing a completed jigsaw puzzle but only recognizing the individual pieces.

I have the highest respect for true scholars, and I may be totally off-base thinking that when someone knows the bible extremely well that they (may) lose sight of the overall message because they become so focused on every single word, and with the processes and inter-relationships and order of books, and time of the writing, and who really wrote what, etc. I believe when you get that deeply involved in the minutiae that you can’t “see the forest for the trees” anymore.

I also don’t care much for numerology. I recognize (especially with Hebrew, where the letters of the alphabet are also numbers) that what appears to be a numerical anomaly may represent a coded message. I get that, but when I read that nuts aren’t to be eaten at Rosh Hashannah because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts has the same numerical value as the Hebrew word for sin, well I think that’s just….nuts!

How many people have you met that know something but don’t understand it? For instance, there is a religious group whose members are very dedicated, respectfully so, about ministering to people. They go door-to-door with tracts and pamphlets, and one thing about them is that they know their bible! They can give you a bible quote for anything you ask about. But when you listen to them, and when you also know the quote, you realize how often they take these quotes out of context and , sometimes, use them in a totally wrong way. Here is where knowledge is not wisdom, or understanding. It amazes me, in a bad way, that people who know their bible so well have totally missed the truth of what it is saying.

It’s similar to the adage that goes, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” I am not calling these people liars, per se, but I am saying that their lack of understand about what they are talking about makes them tell lies. They misinterpret the bible because they are using what is in there to justify what they want to say, instead of saying what is in there.

This is why I want to know the bible as a friend, as a close accomplice and soul-mate, but not the way a doctor knows a cadaver. I want to have an intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of what God is telling us in His word; I want to be able to connect the dots where they exist, and know enough to recognize when these dots aren’t connected.

But above all, I want to stay innocently unaware of the letters, the number relationships and the many “secret” messages. Abraham didn’t ask God to explain anything, did he? He just did what God told him to do. I don’t want to know about that one word in Revelations which, when the numerical value is added to itself three times (once each for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), then divided by 5 (the number of books in the Torah) and then multiplied by 12 (once for each tribe of Israel) tells us the name of the Anti-Christ.

By the way, I just made all that up so don’t go looking for it.

The enemy knows the word of God better than anyone, and will use it against you. He even tried to use it against Yeshua, who probably helped write the thing! That is why I want you, also, to know it well: well enough to know what is in there, well enough to know what is not in there, and well enough to know when someone is misusing it.

Having too much knowledge can be dangerous, so have just enough knowledge to remain safe.