Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Power of Your Focus

Psalm 37:4 says: Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (KJV) The Hebrew word for "desires" is mish ala and it means a petition or a request. It indicates a plea or solicitation for something. In context it denotes a plea for victory over one's evil enemies. It is that which you seek based on your focus on the object of desire. When I was in college, I worked as a store detective catching shoplifters. One month a fellow officer commented on the high number of people caught from a particular minority. I told him that if he only looked at minorities coming into the store, that is all he would catch. I said, "If you focus on one type of person, that will dictate your results." That month we had a bet; who could catch more. He watched the minorities, while I only looked at non minority women pushing baby carriages. It wasn't even close. I caught twice as many shoplifters. What is the point? The point is that the power of your focus can dictate your outcome. If you have predetermined that someone does not like you, then it is highly unlikely that anything they do for you will receive your approval. You will always find fault because of your focus. In the alternative, you can use the power of focus to create a positive atmosphere for love and acceptance. If you will focus on the good of the person you are considering, instead of the negative, it will work wonders. This technique would help many marriages and relationships.

Your focus has power. It is up to you how you will use it. For positive or negative, the choice is yours.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Horse Sense

The following is an abbreviation of a Hasidic tale:

A man went to see a rabbi to complain about the business he was loosing because of a competitor. The rabbi responded by saying, "Have you ever noticed that when a horse goes to the river to drink, it strikes its hoof against the bank? Do you know why it does this?" The man began to get angry because he travelled a long way to seek his advice. The rabbi explained, "When the horse bends its head close to the river to drink, it sees its reflection in the water, thinks it is another horse, it stomps its foot to scare away the other horse and keep the water all for itself." The man challenged the rabbi and wanted to know what the story had to do with his problem. The rabbi said, "You are the horse. You imagine that the river of God's bounty cannot sustain you both. So you come stomping your feet to scare away an imagined competitor." The man responded, "Imagined?" The rabbi replied, "God has set the wealth of each of us. You cannot subtract from what God has set aside. Run your business the best you can, and whatever comes to you is decreed in heaven. Your only true competition is your own reflection of self you see in the river."

How might this story affect our lives? I submit that it should encourage you to work without fear that man will take what is yours. Further, I think it would encourage you to trust G-d above for what you have had, have now, and will have. Fear is the opposite of faith. When fear knocks on the door, have faith answer, and no one will be there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why I Keep The Sabbath

The first reason is found in Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. (RSV) The first reason is because G-d in His Word said to do so. I do not believe that I should substitute my judgment for His. I know that man changed the day of worship to include those that worshipped the "Sun-God." However, the Word of God never changed the day from the Sabbath to Sunday.

The second reason is that Yeshua kept the Sabbath. If I am going to be His follower, then I should follow Him and do what He did. If He was physically on the earth today, do you think He would attend a Sabbath or a Sunday service? If you say both, I suggest that you are becoming your own "god" because there is no Biblical support for such a position. I know the verse about where two or three or gathered, but that is not the question. The question is, where would Yeshua attend services today and the best evidence is to look at what He did when He did attend services. A side issue is how He kept the Sabbath. Now there is no doubt that some Pharisees disputed the way He remembered the Sabbath, but it is equally beyond challenge that He did keep the Sabbath.

A final reason is that G-d has sanctified a measure of time as sacred. I would like to participate in the sacredness of time, and that time is the Sabbath. When my family gathers around the candles and they are lit, we sense that we are entering a moment of sacredness. My wife is blessed, the children are blessed, and we share a meal. It is an unique moment in time. It is the Sabbath and I intend to keep it. What do you with that period of time? Is it sacred, or is it your time?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why I Eat A Kosher Diet

As a gentile follower of Yeshua, I am sometimes asked why I eat a Kosher diet. Before I explain my reasoning, I would like to describe what a Kosher diet is. The following are some general rules:
1. "Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
2. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
3. All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
4. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
5. Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten)
6. Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).
7. Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.
8. Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.
9. There are a few other rules that are not universal."

I do not believe that the rules are practiced today for health reasons. For example, pork may be thoroughly cooked so as to be safe to eat (and many churches have B-B-Q dinners), but it is prohibited by Torah. Shrimp, clams, and oysters may be prepared so they are delicious and healthy, yet they are prohibited by Torah. So why do I obey Torah restrictions from thousands of years ago? The simple reason is that I believe that in the journey of following Yeshua, I am to seek to make every moment a sacred occasion. Whether I am in a worship service or eating lunch, I am to make that occasion sacred before G-d. I am to set apart that activity unto the Lord. While I could choose to eat what I want, in doing so, I am removing the sacredness from the event. When I am in charge, G-d isn't. Therefore, I choose to place G-d in charge even of my diet. When I eat the way G-d wants me to eat, I make that event special. Eating becomes worship and an event that brings glory to G-d. It causes me to be a witness of the Kingdom of Heaven operating in my life. Eating is not just the consumption of food when done according to G-d's instructions. When I obey Torah, that moment in time becomes sacred when I eat in obedience to His Word. And that is better than any pork B-B-Q sandwich!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fixed Time

The following quote is entitled Fixed Time and was written by Tzvi Freeman:
"If you're serious about something, it has a fixed time. If you're earnest about getting something done and the phone rings, you ignore it. The spiritual side of your life is not a hobby nor a luxury --it is your purpose of existence. When you are learning Torah, or meditating or in prayer, nothing else exists. Your spiritual career should have at least equal priority to your worldly career."

What is so important in your life that you are willing to disregard the call of business, the demands of life, or daily duties? The Rabbi points out that the real purpose of your life should be the spiritual purpose. We should place a priority on Torah study and prayer. It should be the most important part of our life, regardless of the daily demands that come from our physical existence.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Early Jewish Christianity

Early Jewish Christian communities had three defining characteristics:
1. They faithfully adhered to the Law of Moses;
2. They exalted James, the brother of Jesus, and denigrated Paul the Apostle; and
3. They all believed that Jesus was the natural son of Joseph and Mary and he was adopted by G-d as His Son at His baptism by John.

How do the beliefs of the first Jewish Christians compare with the mainline teachings in Christianity today? Modern churches say that the law has been nailed to the cross and is no longer binding. The religion of Paul has become Orthodoxy. Any movement that insists that the Law of Moses is still obligatory is declared heretical. Finally, the modern church insists on a virgin birth and some believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary! What would Jesus say about the modern church? What would James, the leader of the Jerusalem church until his death in 62AD say about "Christianity?"

Today in church, I noticed that most all songs glorify Jesus as G-d with little reference to YHWH. I wonder what Yeshua thinks about what is being done in His name. The Holocaust, the Inquisition, and the Crusades are all rooted in Antisemitism. That Antisemitism developed in part with the victory by Paul's theology that emphasized teachings about Jesus as opposed to the teachings of Jesus which were practiced by early Jewish Christians. The victor writes history and gets to decide who is the heretic. Do you realize that if you lived in Jerusalem in 35AD and believed what modern Christianity teaches today, e.g Virgin Birth, Trinity, abolition of the Law, worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath, then you would be declared the heretic? Perhaps it is time to discover who the historical Jesus really was. Perhaps it is time to decide who you are going to follow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Church Growth In The First Century

There are several verses in the book of Acts that reveal sudden and large church growth:
1. Acts 2:41 (on the Day of Pentecost or known by the Jews the Feast of Shavuot) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (RSV)
2. Acts 4:4: But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (RSV)
3. Acts 5:14: And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.... (RSV)
4. Acts 9:31: So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied. (RSV)
5. Acts 11:24: for he (i.e. Barnabas) was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. (RSV)

There was church growth abounding in the first century. There were signs and wonders, real ones, not the contrived "miracles" today supplied by merchants of religion. G-d, not gold, ruled the day. He moved and the people were obedient to the Torah. Yes, the people involved with these moves of G-d were all Torah observant Jews. I suggest that their Torah observance opened the way for G-d to draw a crowd to Him. Today, we see the opposite. If you talk about the Torah, you are denounced as a "Christ-rejector" and told to repent. Do we see the moves of G-d today with accompanying miracles? I think not! Why? I submit in part because the church has left its foundation, i.e. its Jewish roots. We need to dig and find those roots because they are arguably essential for a real move of G-d.

Just today, I was invited to a Christian social function. I saw the menu and it included pork bar-b-q. Do you think that Yeshua would eat the pork? I think not. Further, I don't think He died so you could eat something that He would never eat. Torah observance goes hand in hand with the moves of G-d. Torah rejection goes hand in hand with what we see now in this country.

Which lifestyle brings true moves of G-d? Go ahead, you can say it, it is obvious.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Does Christianity Make Jesus A False Prophet?

The core of this argument is founded in how modern day Christianity interprets Matthew 5:17-20: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.(KJV) These verses are interpreted to mean that Jesus has fulfilled the law and brought it to conclusion. The argument is that the Jews were under law and Jesus brought us grace. They contend that we are "free in the spirit." Whatever we do, while G-d may not approve of it, is no danger to us. We are free from the law. Without the law, there is no sin. Our salvation is secure and nothing can separate us from G-d's love. They teach that these are the meanings of the words of Jesus and the law has been nailed to the cross. Does this argument make Jesus a false prophet?

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 says: If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee. (KJV) I suggest that the interpretation of Matthew 5:17-20 that teaches that the law is no longer binding triggers the designation of "false prophet" as set forth in Deuteronomy 13:1-5. A false prophet teaches someone that it is not required to keep the commandments of G-d. If modern day Christianity says that Jesus' teaching is that the law is not required, then they make Him a false prophet. That goes for Peter and Paul also.

This is a very important question. I would be very careful about making the Son of G-d a false prophet. I think that there are consequences.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Question For All Christians

Christians believe that they are part of the New Covenant as revealed in the New Testament. That New Covenant is first explained in Jeremiah 31:31-33: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." (KJV) Now on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), the Holy Spirit descended and filled the believers in the upper room and they all spoke with tongues. This is considered the birth of the church. It also represents a remembrance of the time when G-d gave the law to Moses. At Pentecost, the law was written on the hearts of man as opposed to tablets of stone. Now some believe that this occurs at "salvation" while others believe it occurs in a subsequent experience known by a variety of names, e.g. Baptism of the Holy Spirit, entire sanctification, Christian perfection, etc.

Now here is the question: if the law has been written on the heart of believers, why don't Christians obey the law of G-d, all of it?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do You Want Jesus' Real Teachings?

Every disciple of Yeshua (i.e. Jesus) should want His real teachings. I have a test for you. It will enable you to be transported back in time to the first century as if you were sitting at His feet. The phrase, "sitting at His feet" is an idiom that means to be a disciple. Find a red letter edition of the New Testament. Then start reading the red letters in Mark because this is generally acknowledged to be the first of the gospels in the Bible to have been written. Then, go to Matthew and read just the red letters. Next, go to Luke and remember, only read the red letters. Finally, go to the gospel of John and do the same. Ask yourself, "What exactly did Yeshua teach?" What did He stress in the parables and object lessons? What did He teach about the crucifixion and the resurrection? What was His most consistent message? If you will do this (and you should make notes), you may find a paradigm shift on the horizon.

This is exercise is very important. The reason is that as the church separated itself from its Hebraic roots, it left the teachings of Yeshua for teachings about Yeshua. This is subtle, but a major difference. By reading the red letters, you will rediscover the teachings of Yeshua as opposed to those about Him which developed several decades later. The results might surprise you. I hope they do.