Category Archives: Scripture

Why I think the majority of Christian pastors aren’t doing their job.

…The state of the christian church today is an indication that the majority of Pastors are not doing their job…

There is a deep-rooted sickness within the Christian church of America.

With more and more so-called “Christians” coming out as being homosexual, along with the number of Christian singles who embrace and even encourage premarital sex, it’s an understatement to say that the Christian influence on America is being more watered down every day.

More and more “christians” can be found in bars and strip clubs, taking part in premarital and extramarital sex, and then waking up on sunday morning and going to teach sunday school. Teens are more and more likely to embrace the idea that they can somehow spit in the very face of their creator and cling to a homosexual lifestyle, while still professing their “christianity.”

The world as we know it is in a sad state. What Scripture prophesied long ago is coming true: what is good the world calls “evil;” and what is evil the world calls “good.” The whole world is flipped on its head in regards to G-d’s standards, and people are pursuing the lusts of their own flesh.

Certainly there is a beacon of hope to be found in the churches and other Christian circles of the world that can point people to the truth. But what we see instead  is churches condoning and even preaching from the pulpit the “tolerance” gospel. This false teaching requires all people to conform to a standard that is anything but G-dly, in the name of “love,” which in truth is anything but.
Look at the number of young people who proclaim Christianity and then go out drinking, partying, and partaking in general debauchery on a regular basis. Look at the way that some young women dress on friday night after leading worship in youth group on wednesday night. Look at the number of unmarried young people who live together before marriage.  Look at the rate of unwed pregnancy among young Christian women…

The distinction between Christians and their unbelieving counterparts is becoming less obvious with every passing day it seems. Sadly, there is little difference between the majority of self-proclaiming Christians and the rest of the world, with the exception of where they might be found on sunday morning before lunch time. Some might point to entertainment or education as key factors in the blending in of our appearance with the world. There may be some truth to these claims, but these alone cannot be the cause of the downturn in the morality of the Christian church.

These realities are frightening, and the cause is actually quite simple.

It’s not the music we listen to, although the thoughts and attitudes we allow into our minds will ultimately affect our demeanor and spiritual well-being.

It’s not the movies we watch, although we should shield ourselves from entertainment that does not edify the body or bring G-d glory (*cough*50 shades of gray*cough*).

It’s not the technology we embrace, though technology does bring easy access to subject matter that young people ought to be protected from.

And while the education system in America does the opposite of encouraging religious observation in young people, this is not the result of any of the other factors mentioned above.

So what is causing such a down-turn in the morality of even self-professing Christians? What is causing the decay in the factors that should separate the believing community and secular society?
I think it falls squarely on the shoulders of every individual who allows their preachers and teachers to be the sole source of scriptural instruction they receive, accepting everything they are taught as truth and never being so bold as to call into question their theology. As the leaders in their communities, it is the responsibility of teachers and preachers to properly teach the truth of G-d’s Word in a way that causes the hearts of their listeners to break when they examine their lives, realizing that their actions and desires are contrary to those of the Creator. This teaching should inspire them to return to the pure, unadulterated teaching of G-d’s laws in such a dramatic way that it becomes outwardly apparent to the world around that they have been redeemed.
I believe that the state of the christian church today is an indication that the majority of Pastors are not doing their job of teaching their congregations to fear G-d and His Word.

 

As I get into my reasoning for this sentiment, let me make a couple of foundational points upon which stand every point I will make, and which I hope will allow you to understand my thinking better:

  1. I believe all scripture is G-d-breathed, and is profitable for teaching, preaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that G-dly men may be equipped for good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
  2. I believe that if something is stated in the Bible, it is absolute truthI believe that G-d is inerrant and infallible. His nature determines that He is incapable of change.
  3. I believe that because all Scripture is the inspired word of G-d and works in harmony to bring about the intent of the Creator, no scripture will contradict another. If it seems like it does, it is because we need to check our understanding, not because the contradiction exists.

When I was growing up I was taught that the pastor of my church was my “spiritual authority;” that somehow this man that I barely knew was my leader in regards to making G-dly decisions. This belief was so encouraged that at one point when I was considering going to school for youth ministry, my parents thought it wise that I discuss it with this pastor, to receive his “blessing.”

In another scenario, my siblings and I abandoned the youth group that we ministered at partly under the assumption that because the lead pastor/youth pastor of the church didn’t have any “spiritual authority” holding him accountable to his life and actions  that he could not possibly be a worthy leader under which to serve the local youth (a notion which I now find absurd as there is no biblical foundation for it, and which I deeply regret for the arrogance my family and I displayed in the name of “G-dliness”).
How did such an idea ever get conceived!?
1 Corinthians 11 tells us that, “Messiah is the head of every man. The head of every women is her husband. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered,” (or accepts any other than Messiah as his head), “he dishonors his head.” No pastor does or should have any spiritual authority over any person or group of people other than his own physical family in any way.
Messiah is the head of every man. No man should attempt to take the place of Messiah by assuming the role of spiritual leader/authority of any man. If you accept another man’s claim that he is your spiritual head, or if you think you are the spiritual authority over another, you are dishonoring Messiah.
Having said this, I believe that it is the responsibility of pastors to teach the members of their church  according to scripture. Pastors should be willing to accept accountability for the attitude towards G-d’s Word that their teaching inspires. The life of a pastor should be the very definition of a life in submission to G-d’s word.
While crucial to the entire salvation narrative, this instruction should not focus solely on what G-d has done for us, but should be entirely focused on living and walking in Messiah’s footsteps and how to do that. (1 John 2 comes to mind) This teaching of G-d’s pure Word should pour forth from the mouth and the life of the pastor(s) to the extent that it is lived out by the members of that church as a direct result.

So why do I think that the majority of Christian pastors are failing at their jobs? What sort of teaching ought to be coming from the pulpit as opposed to what kind of teaching is coming from the pulpit? Bear with me as I attempt to highlight Scriptures that I feel outline what a Biblical teacher should be teaching, and why this rubric in Scripture indicates a failure on the part of too many.

Let’s start with the words of Messiah himself:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
“Therefore whoever shall break even the least of these commandments, and shall teach others to do so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven”
Matt 5:16, 19
Jesus is Jewish. I don’t know if he actually received His rabbinical ordination while here on the earth — wouldn’t that be ironic? — but he was at least widely accepted as being a rabbi, as evidenced by the many times He is referred to as such in the Gospels.
In traditional Jewish teaching, the “least commandment” is considered to be Deuteronomy 22:6;
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you in the way in any tree, or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall in every case let the mother go and take the young for yourself, so that it may be well with you, and you may make your days longer.”
It matters little whether or not this is the exact command Messiah referred to when he gave His warning. What we should be concerned with, according to Messiah Himself, is that someone who either breaks this commandment or teaches others to do the same — whether explicitly, or by telling them they don’t have to follow it “because XYZ” — that person will be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. This is the penalty for breaking even the least of the commandments! How much more weight do the others carry if this one is so heavy!
Is Yeshua the least in the Kingdom of Heaven? No!
Are we to conclude that Messiah said these things and then didn’t live by them? Hardly! That would make Him a hypocrite worse than the pharisees.
Even if this particular instruction is not the one that Yeshua referred to when He made His statement, there are certain facts that cannot be overlooked with a clear conscience by any individual claiming to be a follower of Messiah Yeshua:
  1. Yeshua (Jesus) is G-d
    • Yeshua came to do the will of the Father, and not anything of His own (Mat. 26:39)
    • Yeshua is not capable of doing anything apart from the Father, or else His claim that “I and the Father are one” would be a lie
  2. The only Scriptures in place at the time that Messiah tabernacled among us here on Earth was what is known today as the Old Testament.
    • To think that Yeshua was somehow alluding to the fact that there would be additional words added to the Canon of Scripture and that in fact those future words were what He was speaking of is both illogical and fallacy. There is simply no indication in the language of the scriptures by which we can honestly come to this conclusion with a clear conscience.

We should strive to obey G-d to the best of our ability, to the glory of G-d:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
Jesus said in John 14:14 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
What commandments did Jesus give? The argument could be made that He gave a “new commandment,” to love one another, and that certainly is what we should do. But is this new commandment actually “new?” When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. So how is it new? Would it be safe to assume that the same way in which Jesus calls this a “new commandment” is the same way in which John uses the word “new” in 1 John 2:7-8:
“Beloved, I am writing to you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you…”
I think you can probably tell where I’m going here…
Let’s continue with more scripture that shows us how we are supposed to live if we consider ourselves followers of the One True Messiah, Yeshua. As you read through these, try to think of the last time your pastor expounded on any of them in their given context, and didn’t just use them to teach about grace:

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does righteousness has been born of Him.”
1 John 2:29


“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3:18


For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven? ’” (that is, to bring Messiah down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss? ’” (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”
Romans 10:5-8

That is to say, it is neither difficult, nor impossible to obey the commands of G-d, as even G-d himself says in Detueronomy 30:11-16
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? ’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? ’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d that I command you today, by loving the Lord your G-d, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your G-d will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it

So, what does it even mean to keep G-d’s commands?

” Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”
1 John 3:4-6
Disregarding the Law = lawlessness. Lawlessness = sinning. These words are synonyms, interchangeable. Understanding this truth, this passage can also be understood this way:
” Everyone who makes a practice of disregarding the Law is practicing lawlessness; lawlessness = sin. You know that he appeared in order to take away lawlessness, and in him there is no lawlessness. No one who abides in him keeps on disregarding the Law; no one who keeps on disregarding the Law has either seen him or known him.”
1 John 3:4-6
Yeshua must have kept every aspect of the Law pertaining to His Tribe, gender, marital status, and geographical location, or He would not have met the requirement of being a “spotless lamb.” He would not have retained this “spotless” nature before The Father if He had used the excuse “I can’t keep all of it, so I won’t do any of it.” If we fail in our imperfect state to keep the law, we have sinned, but we have forgiveness as long as we have a contrite heart and seek repentance from G-d. We should then desire in our hearts to restore our relationship with Him by returning to the expectations He has for us, as laid out in His Word. If, however, we continue in our obstinance to refuse to keep the Torah (lawlessness) – disregarding is as “no longer relevant” to our lives – we “have neither seen him or known Him.”
My question for you, whether you are a pastor reading this or not, is this: If sin is defined as failure to obey G-d’s law, how do we sin if (as some pastors would teach us) the very thing that gives the definition of sin (the law) is no longer relevant to us?
Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Romans 7:7b
The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 7, where he states that had it not been for the Law of G-d, he would have never known what sin is. Does this make the Law sin? Paul exclaims, “May it never be!” Am I guilty of tax evasion simply because I know that the law tells me it is wrong? No. Does that make the law regarding taxes evil? Never! The knowledge of the sinful nature of an act or behavior does not it itself create sin. The Law is simply an expression of the will of the one who gave it. It is sin that takes advantage of the weakness of our sinful nature which causes us to fall short. Not the Law.

For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Romans 7:11

 

As new creations, our inner man ought to be in a constant struggle against this sinful flesh, writhing in pain when we succumb to temptation and sin. We should be contrite as a result of our hearts being broken over our failure to obey G-d’s commands.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Romans 7:15

In contrast, it is the “new creation” inside of us that then enables us, by way of our newfound understanding of what G-d hates, to obey G-d’s law, putting off the law of sin. The entire purpose of the Law is to show us our imperfection, and to remind us of our need for redemption.

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.”
Romans 7:22
If however, like the Torah-observant Jews to which Paul refers, we seek to live out the Torah in a way that does not lead to a change in our hearts, thinking instead that it is the very act of obedience that creates righteousness in us, we miss the mark entirely.
When we realize that it is only by faith in Yeshua as the Messiah that we will be counted as righteous, and not due to our own efforts, that is when we will see the true point in carrying out G-d’s commands.
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to G-d for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for G-d, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of G-d, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to G-d’s righteousness.
Romans 9:29-10:3
Israel was not blind to the coming of Messiah because they obeyed the Torah. They missed the coming of Messiah because they refused to accept G-d’s word in it’s entirety, and only believed the parts that were easy to accept. They missed the coming of Messiah because they saw obedience to Torah as a means by which they could become perfect. They failed to see it for what it is: a measure by which we can know that we are imperfect and need redemption, and which in that revelation gives us the promise of redemption through a Redeemer.
For Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4
That is Paul’s point here. He is not making the point that the Torah and Torah observance is worthless simply because those to whom it was originally given failed to see the goal of it. Hardly! We should learn from their example and not obey the Torah commands for their own sake, but for the sake of discovering Messiah! G-d gave us His Torah as a means by which we can see His faithfulness despite our shortcoming. Realization of the deity of, and faith in Messiah should be the end result of Torah obedience.
“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Yeshua the Messiah and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in G-d, and G-d in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
1 John 3:22-24

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before G-d, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
Romans 2:13

And James agrees:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
James 1:22-25
How do we “do” the word? At the time this letter from Yaakov was written, as with most of the other NT books, the only writings that were considered Scripture and referred to as the “Word” was the OT. So the only responsible conclusion is that Yaakov is telling us that we are to do the commandments of G-d! Try to remember the last time your pastor delivered a sermon on “being doers of the perfect Torah of liberty.” I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to recall a single instance.
We also see the importance of walking in the same ways as Messiah in 1 John 2:3-6:
“And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of G-d is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked”
To my point, too many pastors focus their sermons on G-d’s grace and favor and Holy spirit – all of which are vital parts of being a follower of Messiah. But at the same time they generally fail to ever teach about things like “How to love your neighbor;” “Keeping the commands of G-d;” “How to be a doer of the word,” or anything related to these topics. Any pastor who does teach on these things and encourages further study into these types of thoughts are definitely the exception to the rule.

We’ve let the text of the Gospel disappear under the interpretation of the Scriptures

I feel it’s necessary at this point to come to terms with you on something.
Even if you completely disagree with me about the relevance and importance of G-d’s Torah for believers in His Son Yeshua, it is my opinion that this next portion of this post contains truths that ought to be considered by every Christian – Messianic, Evangelical, or otherwise – if they truly desire to honor our Creator to the best of their ability.
If our pastors are continually keeping us busy with revisiting  the elementary principles of the Gospel over and over, we will never move on to true maturity in in our faith in Messiah. We cannot afford to be coddled with the baby formula version of G-d’s word. There is simply too much at stake.
According to Scot McKnight in his book “The King Jesus Gospel,” 78% of children who are raised in evangelical homes who profess faith in G-d will not have any profession of faith by age 35. This is unacceptable! To reuse an analogy that a close friend of mine used, if an enemy was coming across our border and slaughtering 80% of our children, would we not take up arms and fight? This is exactly what is happening in spiritual terms. We should be enraged at the existence of such a statistic!
And sadly most Christians are so busy trying to “evangelize” new believers and collecting tithes that they aren’t even aware of this truth.  Worse, most people who hear this would never even consider the possibility that the cause of such a terrifying statistic is that our pastors and teachers are teaching us the wrong Gospel.
We’ve become so caught up in seeking spiritual highs and “spirit touches” that we’ve lost sight of the true purpose in our worship. We’ve let the text of the Gospel disappear under the interpretation of the Scriptures.
So what is the true Gospel message?
If you’re among the majority of Christians (including myself) you were likely either raised in or brought into the Christian church being taught a Gospel that sounded something like this:
– G-d loves you and has a plan for your life
– Man is separated from G-d and cannot know his love, and because of this we cannot know G-d’s ultimate plan for us
– Jesus is G-ds only provision for sin, rectifying our fallen state, and putting us on a path to what G-d has planned for our lives
– If you accept Jesus you can know G-ds love and his plan for you, and fulfill G-d’s ultimate destiny for you.
What an awesome message! How exciting that G-d loves us so much that He gave His Son’s life in exchange for ours! Our hearts ought to rejoice at the thought of such awesome love like our Creator has for us!
But this is not the gospel.
This is a call to personal salvation.
Was John the Baptist ever recorded as preaching “repent so that you can know G-ds plan for your life?”
This bite-sized, easily-printable message has become so popular that it has overcome the actual words of G-d in Scripture.
The true Gospel message can be found in Acts 2:22-39
“Men of Israel, hear these words:Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by G-d with mighty works and wonders and signs that G-d did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of G-d, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. G-d raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that G-d had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus G-d raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of G-d, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that G-d has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our G-d calls to himself.
The author of Hebrews gives us a list of things that are supposed to be elementary principles for believers, things that shouldn’t be rehashed and re-taught over and over again, because of the fact that we ought to be teaching them to others! Yet we rely on the milk of the word being taught to us, over and over again, because we’ve become dull of hearing, or too comfortable living our sunday church lifestyles. We’ve become too complacent in allowing our pastors to give the same call to salvation week after week, year after year, that we’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled into thinking that somehow this is the ultimate goal.
But the writer of Hebrews disagrees. Repentance and faith in G-d should be the primary lessons that we teach our children and new believers. Not mature Christians who should be teaching others, but instead continue to need teaching in the basic things. We fail to realize that our pastors should be pressing on beyond the call to salvation and moving toward instruction in the footsteps of Messiah.
Hebrews 6:1-3
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Messiah and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward G-d, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if G-d permits.”
But what do we see? Again and again the foundation is lain, and we are none the wiser, believing that we are being taught advanced things of Scripture. We are being robbed of the true word of G-d and being led away from the lives we ought to be living, and we can’t help but drool over the tingly feeling we got from the worship. We ought instead to be repenting (turning) from our dead works and returning to G-d’s expectations and Will, through the power of His Holy Spirit. This is the Gospel message.
What are dead works? Dead works are works which do not lead to a changed heart.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord G-d, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
Ezekiel 18:20-24
So what does it mean to repent from dead works? Does it mean we stop living according to the Torah commands, thinking that because they can’t save our souls that they are worthless? This idea assumes that the Torah was ever intended to bring salvation to any person at any time. It was not. The purpose of any law is to reflect the will of the law giver. G-d gave His perfect law as a means of allowing His children to learn His will. When we realize this, we can see that His giving of the Torah at Sinai was an act of grace, and not the angry backlashing of a tempestuous god who wanted to teach a rebellious people a lesson.
We repent from our dead works by accepting G-d’s grace for our inability to please Him with our works. We repent from our dead works when we cease trying to attain righteousness with our actions, and realize that only through our faith in Messiah will we ever be counted as righteous. This change in our hearts ought to create in us a desire to obey His law as an expression of love and gratitude for the sacrifice He made for us. Not as a means to gain His love.
Let’s recap:
  • A person who professes faith in G-d and does acts of righteousness, but continues returning to his sin, shall not have his righteous works counted as righteous because he has not truly laid down his evil deeds and returned to G-d’s commands (repentance).
  • Equally so, an unrighteous person who turns from his sins and keeps the commands of G-d (true repentance) will have his righteous works counted in place of his sins.
  • True repentance involves accepting the forgiveness given to us thru Messiah’s sacrifice.
  • This repentance is worthless if we do not restore our relationship with G-d by returning to His word and realigning our lives with His will (His law)

So what are dead works?

Failing to accept G-d’s forgiveness for our inability to obey His commands (repentance), and thinking that we can rectify this with our actions, is a dead work. It is fruitless. It doesn’t bring about any kind of restoration. On the other hand, repenting from our sins and returning to true obedience to G-d’s Word out of submission to His will (restoration) is a work of faith. This type of work is not fruitless in that it brings about a restoration of our relationship with the Creator as a result not of our own actions, but as a result of G-d giving us His mercy through our repentance.
When your child is disobeying your will (the command/instruction given to them), as a parent you don’t expect them simply to cease from their rebellious act. The natural next step that you expect of them is to return to obeying your command (restoration). In the same way, the logical next step for a sinner after turning away from sin (disobeying G-d’s will) is turning back to obeying G-d’s commands. No parent loves their child more because they are obedient. Neither does the Father love us because we are obedient. We should never think that our righteous works will merit our salvation. Too many people, however, think that disobeying them will merit their salvation. The reciprocal of disobedience is obedience. If we are not disobeying, we are left only with the option of obeying, or else we have not truly ceased disobeying. We do not truly have repentance if we refuse to submit in obedience to G-d’s commands as a result of His love and sacrifice for us. Our works become lifeless if we don’t have faith in His promise to forgive us when we fall short.
And there is a delicate balance that exists between our faith and our works. We see this very balance all throughout the book of James.
We even see in the words of Messiah Himself that deeds done in righteousness will count for something on judgement day.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:11-14
What does a wedding garment have to do with faith or salvation?
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Revelation 19:7-8

In conclusion:

This is simply the perspective of someone who attended what could be considered a conservative mainstream “non-denominational” church for 21 years. Despite the teaching I was receiving, G-d placed a desire in my heart to obey Him for real, not just emotionally or with good intentions, but tangibly where possible. When this happened, it became clear to me for the first time that there is no “mystery” about what His will is. There is not mystery about what it means to “walk in the way he walked.” These things are clearly spelled out in scripture for anyone willing to listen and obey. (Deut. 30:11-14, Romans 10:5-8)
However, when it comes to giving practical teaching on what it actually looks like to live the life of a believer in Messiah beyond the initial acceptance of G-ds gift of salvation, it is my opinion that most pastors offer little to nothing to their congregants.
If our pastors are not teaching us to follow the perfect Law of Liberty in order to walk in the actual ways that our Messiah walked, then what are they teaching us?
According to Deuteronomy 13, any teacher who teaches his listeners to go away from the commands of G-d is to be considered a false teacher, and to be put to death in order to purge his evil. It has nothing to do with whether he’s making money from his teaching, or selling a book on his teaching. It says nothing about these things. What matter is where this teacher is pointing people: towards obedience to G-d’s Word, or towards rebellion from it.
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
In what other context would a worker be allowed to continue in his profession if he was not obeying the requirements of the job as determined by the one who put him into the position to begin with? Why do we allow our teachers to continue teaching us contrary to the Scriptures in the name of “grace?”
If our pastors are not teaching us to return to G-d’s Word and obedience to His perfect will (the Law of liberty), then these pastors are not doing their job.

“Your dirt removes my blindness, your pain becomes my peace…”

Truly humble lyrics from an astoundingly poignant and truthful song in which the singer states “Convinced of my deception, I’ve always been a fool … If I was not so weak, If I was not so cold …. I would be frail.”

The astounding picture of transparency, contrition, and repentance painted by this song reflects the heart and soul of the lyricist.

It’s lyrics like these that make it kind of unbelievable when the same person turns around in a moment of, I guess, boredom on a long flight, and says “I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. … I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Equally amazing is the utter lack of surprise I feel when reading stories about christian figures spouting such ludicrous nonsense in regards to sexual immorality and perversion. Not simply because people are, always have been, and always will be corrupt and seeking to replace or destroy God at their very core, regardless of the religious title or stance they hold. But because the way that the Scriptures themselves have been mutilated and twisted, misinterpreted, manipulated, and in most cases, flat out rejected or neglected. Such behavior will naturally lead to false perceptions and ideas that contradict Scripture itself. Those people that condone such actions are in no better a position spiritually than the fornicators and perverts themselves!

We’re even specifically warned of such people by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5

11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”

DO NOT EVEN EAT WITH SUCH PEOPLE!!!!
I’m sure most of us who might read that would go “yeah, cast ’em out, and leave them to their own destruction!” Yet, we fail to realize that we are not only part of the problem that causes such mindsets, we are likely taking part in an equally evil act by condemning them without examining our own actions.

I guess my question is this: What is really the cause of such distorted and blatantly arrogant/ignorant beliefs of the “spiritually” minded christians of today?

Even a look at Hebrews 5 gives us insight to the fact that this same dilemma occurred even as early as Paul’s day.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

Now, it’s important to note that most mainstream translations of this passage break it up into two separate sections (cuz you know, the translators know what it’s really saying better than anyone else). In the NIV verse 11 is preceded by a heading that says “Warnings against falling away.” This is especially curious because there is no actual mention of falling away in the passage that follows that header. Instead, it’s an admonition, which basically says “We should go on about this, but you don’t seem to care so it’s hard to try to explain.” The next few verses shows the author basically ridiculing the readers by accusing them of being immature in their faith because they refuse to study the Scripture (of great importance is the fact that the Scriptures that would have been referenced was the Hebrew tenakh, as it was the only “scripture” available at the time.) and rely instead on someone else teach it to them.

12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature,who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Anyone who relies on their pastor or “leader” to explain the scriptures to them and keep reminding them to repent is like an infant who still relies on the milk of his mother because he is too immature. This spiritual immaturity comes as a result of laziness and refusing to study the “teaching about righteousness (a.k.a. the Torah, which described how to live a holy life, through the power of Messiah). In the next chapter, the author of Hebrews goes on to say “Let’s move past this repetitive cyclic teaching of the life of Messiah and what Messiah actually did, and apply what that means for us as His followers.  Let’s move on to spiritual maturity, and not keep rehashing the overplayed albeit crucial message of repentance. It’s as if the author is saying “Yes, repentance is vital for spiritual maturity, but if you’ve repented, you will move on from those acts that lead to death (Heb.6:1) and realize that if you continually have to have repentance taught to you, you’re pretty much lost and beyond hope (Heb.6:4-8). You should know it, it’s kinda the foundation of everything we’re talking about. If you don’t get that much, you’ll never grow. Let’s move on.”

Modern christianity has built such an “anti-old testament/Torah” foundation, that it really just utterly fails to surprise me when I read the article about the lead singer of Jars Of Clay supporting gay-marriage and basically throwing out the authority of the scriptures on matters such as homosexuality.

“I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Yeah. While it certainly cannot be applied as a blanket statement in regard to most self-proclaimed Christians, not many who claim to be christians in this nation actually do care about what the Bible considers to be wrong, they just fear the backlash that would come with saying it so bluntly. Ironically, while many likely share your sentiments, Mr. Songwriter, they don’t realize it.

I’m reminded of a story  I read almost a year ago about a teen who claims to be both a christian and a practicing homosexual. This teen thought it was a good idea to bring his Bible to Show-and-tell one day, and boldly rip out the first two-thirds of the pages (coincidentally — or maybe not — that’s the part that contains the dreaded and horrible law given as a form of slavery to the unsuspecting suckers called the Jews by the mean and angry “god of the old testament” that so many try to distance themselves from while still trying to grasp at all the good things He can give them, interestingly enough).

And why shouldn’t he? The bipolar attitude that the modern church carries toward the old testament of “this still stands, but that verse there, the next one, that is done away with, but the next one still stands, because Paul said so” is a dangerous and contagious one that has spread the world over.

Take for instance Leviticus 20:18:

18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.”

Try telling any given christian couple that they’re not supposed to have sex while she’s on her period, and you’ll likely get laughed at, and probably a reference to some letter of Paul’s that says we’re no longer under law. Yet, if  you tell them that they’re not supposed to have sex with each other’s parents, or with their pets, you’ll likely receive a blank stare because “everybody knows that’s a sin.” Yet, the paradox remains, those particular things supposedly fall under the category of “sexual immorality” along with the other things that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians. Why doesn’t the instruction in Lev. 20:18 fall under that? Most people will probably tell you it’s because of the division of moral, civil, and ceremonial law that “exists” in the Torah, and how only the moral laws still stand.

Read this and tell me where you see that division:

9 “‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. 10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. 11 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 12 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads. 13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 14 “‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you. 15 “‘If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal. 16 “‘If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 17 “‘If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.” 18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people. 19 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible. 20 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless. 21 “‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.”

I guess I missed the division there. So, verse 9 is ceremonial or civil, verses 10-17 are moral and still stand, verse 18 is civil or ceremonial and no longer applicable, but then we switch back to moral in verses 19-21 and those still apply? What? Where does it say that? The only distinction I see is in verse 7-8:

7 “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am YHVH your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am YHVH, who makes you holy.”

Maybe, instead of trying to rationalize, justify, explain, preach, manipulate scripture, or quote Paul in order to get rid of these things we just don’t think we should be responsible to do, we should realize that if we truly believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  the only reason we should ever need to do or not do something is contained in that simple phrase “because I said so”:

Because I am YHVH, the LORD your GOD.

Leviticus 20:23-24:
“You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am YHVH your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” (emphasis mine)

Blood Moon

So, last night heralded the first of the four blood moons that will be taking place over the next year and a half.

No, Messiah did not return. No, he’s probably not going to anytime soon.

We can hope and pray that He speedily returns. But that is all we can do, and all we can know is that His timing is perfect.

My family and I were blessed With a wonderful Pesach meal prepared by my mother in-law, and accompanied by a family of wonderful people.

Messiah didn’t return last night, but He was definitely in our midst, as He was with all who we’re partaking in the celebration of our redemption from not only our physical captors, but our spiritual slave master as well. What a blessing to be able to take part in such a glorious reminder of how much our God loves us!

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Passover Thoughts

Pesach is almost upon us. This time next week my household will be munching on over-sized crackers (Matzah), substituting it for regular bread for a week.

Pesach is actually the day before the beginning of the feast of Unleavened Bread, but the commandment to eat the Pesach meal with unleavened bread causes the Matzah to overflow to the Seder the night Pesach begins. Traditionally, preparation for Pesach and Unleavened bread entails ridding the house of all yeast products in keeping with the commandment to do so. As the weekend will bring us a little bit closer to the festivities and reflection that comes with Pesach and FOUB each year, it’s generally a time to search through one’s heart and life and find things that need to be removed (much like Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 5:8).

The official preparations in our household haven’t quite started yet, as there are still some yeast products in the house, and tonight at Erev Shabbat we will likely be enjoying some wonderful Challah, hand-made from scratch by either my lovely bride or my gracious mother in-law.

As I was thinking about this early this morning, I decided to do a little reading to stimulate my thoughts on the subject. My good friends over at Psalm11918 Ministries (psalm11918.org) have written a beautiful piece on Pesach and FOUB, and how both relate to us as followers of Messiah Yeshua. You can read the article for yourself, it’s not very long, but I wanted to share what it helped me to think of.

First, the relevance of the appointed times for believers in Yeshua.
Many in modern times think that all things “old testament” have been either replaced or “done away with.” However, Pesach still holds relevance for us despite our opinion on the Torah commandments, and even Paul mentions it and tells us to “keep the feast.” While I think I can prove, using scripture alone, that not only has no part of Scripture has been done away with, but also that believers and followers of Messiah Yeshua actually should still be keeping Torah to the best their ability, that is an issue for another time.

Yeshua was our Pesach Lamb. He was blameless and spotless(1 John 3:5), He was crucified on Pesach (Matt. 26), and He was the payment for our salvation.

What an honor to be able to take part in the celebration of Pesach! It warps my mind to try to comprehend the thinking of anyone who thinks it a burden to take part in a ceremony that not only reflects on the blood that was spilled for our sins, but also looks forward to the return of the Messiah!  Of course, we cannot follow the entire letter of the command in offering the Pesach lamb as a sacrifice because there is no temple in Jerusalem in which to offer it. This is why it is tradition at the end of the Pesach Seder for everyone in attendance to exclaim “Next year, in Jersusalem!” For Jews who do not know Messiah, this is their wish because making the journey to the Promised Land is considered the highest goal. For those of us who have been drawn by Messiah, it is an exclamation of hope and looking forward to His return, when He will sukkah with us for a thousand years, during which the daily sacrifices will be reinstated, and we will look back at the sacrifice He made for us as we dwell with Him.

As Pesach comes and goes, may we be mindful to reflect on the awesome gift of salvation that was given to us on Pesach almost 2000 years ago, and the spotless lamb that was sacrificed to bring this about. May we remember the mercy God showed to our forefathers in Egypt when He spared their lives as they anxiously awaited the signal that all was well. May our King return hastily, and may we live to see the day when we will be reunited with our Groom!

Next year in Jerusalem!

Messiah is coming at Passover!

Messiah will be coming to Passover this year, I’m sure of it.

There’s been a lot, and I mean a lot of controversy in many Christian and Messianic circles lately about the coming tetrad of blood moons and accompanying solar eclipses that are spread out between this year and next. There have been a lot of false rumors or blatant misunderstandings spread around about the teachings of Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries. The advocates of these rumors are making false claims that Biltz has made predictions about the return of Messiah, and a number of other things. While most of these claims are either false, ignorant of what was actually said, or incorrectly inferred (combining other things he has taught or suggested in the past that are entirely unrelated with the blood moons teaching), the undeniable truth remains that there are four total lunar eclipses taking place over the next two years, and that all of them fall on Biblical Appointed times. Specifically Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (feast of tabernacles/booths) of 2014 and 2015. Also undeniable is the fact that there are things going on right now that will likely shape the future of the nation and people of Israel.

One of the ideas suggested by Mark Biltz (in a totally unrelated sermon, mind you) that have been wildly misconstrued and repurposed to make him look like a false prophet is that Biltz believes that Messiah will return at Shavuot (feast of trumpets). Keep in mind that Mark has never even once claimed to know or even have an idea as to what year or anything like that, but his reasoning for believing the second coming will take place at Shavuot is based on scriptures that seem to indicate that the second-coming of Messiah will be announced by trumpet blasts. His reasoning is based on the fact that Yeshua fulfilled all of the prophecies surrounding the Spring Feasts at their appointed times (in the spring) so it is logical to assume that He will also fulfill all the prophecies surrounding the Fall feasts in the Fall. There is also a strong relationship between the Fall Appointed Times  and the work that Yeshua did and will do for us as our King (Shavuot) and High Priest (Yom Kippur), and the 1,000 year reign during which He will tabernacle with us (Sukkot).

But again,  Biltz has never suggested that he knows the time or day on which Messiah will return. (unlike others)

Another idea that has been tossed around by so many “theologians” whom I strongly suspect have neither listened to nor read the teaching from Mark Biltz about the blood moons, is the idea that these solar and lunar eclipses coming up are insignificant and mundane in nature. In my research, the main reasons I have found that they use to support this thinking is that lunar eclipses happen on full moons all the time, so there’s no real magnificence in these ones either.

Well, yeah, duh, “blood moons” only happen on full moons. That’s a moot point. Biltz hasn’t claimed that these lunar eclipses are significant simply because they happen to fall on the biblical Appointed times (which as the authors at answersingenesis.com are quick to point out is nothing new due to the lunar calendar that God created), but because of the sequence in which they occur along with the accompanying solar eclipses. The Appointed times, specifically Pesach, will always be dictated by the orbit of the moon, because that’s what God said. That fact is not what is remarkable about this tetrad (though it is remarkable that Almighty God set aside appointed times to spend with us!). What is remarkable is that there are four of them accompanied by two solar eclipses, all of which fall on the same days both years. THAT’S AMAZING! Even if there is no prophetic value to them, there is something to be said about the magnificence of God’s timing to cause that to happen! Ultimately, my opinion on the matter remains that even if absolutely nothing happens over the next two years, the undeniable fact remains that the Creator of the universe has prepared for us a glorious light show of sorts that will take place at the specific times that He wishes to enjoy with us. Even if they’re unaccompanied by any world happenings, that in itself is something that these authors shouldn’t try to rob from God.

They also claim that Mark Biltz must be a false prophet, because they misunderstand Biltz’s teaching to be saying that the 2014-2015 Tetrad will announce the Great Day of YHVH prophecied in Joel 2. They so blatantly take Biltz’s words out of context and they blast him for his apparent “misunderstanding” of Joel 2 in that the red moon and blacking out of the Sun must be accompanied by the stars being blacked out as well. They say “this tetrad of blood moons is not significant because it ignores the prophecy that includes the blacking out of the stars.”

Biltz never made any claims that the blood moons have anything to do with “The great Day of YHVH” prophecies in Joel 2. If anything, Biltz repeatedly says that he is not making any prophecies or predictions, or trying to set any dates. And any mentions he has made of Joel 2 were simply pointing out the connection with the fact that blood moons and solar eclipses are mentioned in Scripture.

The main issue for most people who deny the relevance of these blood moons, is that they have trouble end times prophecies about the return of Messiah. I don’t intend to make any blanket assumptions about all groups of Christians, but I can’t help but feel that a large number of Christians, even if they may not realize it, are ultimately against the idea that there could be some end-times significance to these lunar and solar eclipses for several reasons which I plan to address.

1. It upsets their ideal timeline, which usually goes like this (or similar):
1. Rapture
2. 7 year Tribulation
3. Return of Messiah

Now, I don’t know about you, but the timeline given for end times events isn’t exactly … well, it just isn’t. There is no clear indication given in scripture for the order in which certain events will take place. For that matter, there really isn’t even a clear indication of what the events will even be that take place. We do have an idea as to what might take place given the fact that those events are strongly linked to both the plagues in Exodus chapter 7-11 and the events in Daniel. But these events are cryptic at best.

Many people have found comfort in the idea that they will be swept up into the clouds and avoid any and all trouble that comes with the tribulation. But there is no scripture that backs this up, unless you take certain verses out of context and put them next to other out-of-context verses. That’s the very reason there are so many opposing theories and positions that people take on the timeline of the end times. Heck, it’s even an area of study in some bible colleges! People earn “degrees” in the area of being able to (supposedly) defend scripturally their personal opinion on what the order of events should be.

Sorry, folks, there’s just no evidence to support this money-making, soul-soothing, comfortable theory.

I think that, at least for some this idea spurs from a desire even to forgo the glorious second coming of Messiah if it means they may have to suffer a little bit. Again, I’m not trying to assume anything about any one individual or group/denomination/sect of believers. But the fact is undeniable that there are some who would rather avoid the persecution because it means they will be forced to actually rely on God, and for some, that will be impossible because their faith was never actually there (since Yeshua does say that there will be some to whom He says “depart from me, I knew you not“).

2. Those who are against the blood moons being biblically or prophetically relevant likely cannot stand the thought that God would choose to put a sign in the heavens on a “Jewish holiday,” because mainstream Christianity has been trying for nearly 2,000 years to distance itself from Judaism. Throughout history, there has been an overwhelming desire inside a large majority of Christians to disassociate themselves with Jews, Judaism, and anything “Jewish.” Martin Luther, though he did a great deed in exposing the heresy of the Catholic church in his 95 Theses, accomplished exactly the opposite of what he truly wanted. As a result of his proliferating scripture and liberating people to read it on their own for the first time in a long time, many people started observing the biblical feasts, keeping a 7th day sabbath, and many other “Jewish” things, because when people read the scriptures literally (as any true follower of Messiah should) that’s what happens. Luther, being a good catholic who simply saw thru the lies of the Catholic Church, never intended to create a separate sect of Christianity, he simply wanted to perfect the Catholic Church, to “purify” it. So when people started straying from the pagan rituals of the Catholic Church and getting back to the true Biblical design for worshipping God outside the Land (keeping sabbath, abstaining from unclean foods, etc.), Luther couldn’t stand it (if you think this is nothing more than wishful thinking, read “The Jews and Their Lies” by Luther, in the opening paragraph of which, even he admits that he would “not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself”).
This same disdain and hatred toward the Jews and the rightful place they have as God’s truly chosen people can be seen even in today’s Christian society. A few years ago there was a video that went viral on YouTube called “Jesus hates religion.” There are plenty of articles and response videos out there for me to not get into tearing apart the sheer arrogance of a statement like that, let alone the pithy prose the maker of the video wrote explaining his ill informed notion that “Jesus was a rebel.” I won’t even do it the favor of linking to it.

The point remains that there are a lot of Christians who either dislike the Jews. Whether they condemn them in their hearts because of their rejection of the blonde-hair blue eyed, Jew-hating Jesus of the 20th and 21st centuries, or because they simply choose to disregard the fact that they are God’s chosen people. For a lot of people, because of this, anything that is opposite of what the Jews or “the god of the old testament” would teach or instruct has to be true. Even if there is black and white evidence that it isn’t.

One last example of this is the reaction most Christians will have when you say “Yeshua” or “Messiah” in place of the greek replacements “Jesus” or “Christ”, respectively. Try it, you’ll see.

3. Another possible explanation for mainstream christianity’s refusal to accept the idea that God might do something significant on one of the Moedim is that it would seem to imply that maybe, just maybe, God is still using the calendar which He instructed the Israelites to follow. But this notion is unacceptable to most Christians. Again, going back to #2, accepting this would be to accept the fact that maybe God never did change His mind about anything in the Torah, and that’s a thread you just don’t wanna pull on …

Regardless of any of these false claims, slanderous accusations, and downright despise for someone who is a Godly man, despite what anyone might say about false prophets or misinterpretations of scripture, we can be certain that Messiah will be with us at Passover this year.

Really. Just take my word for it.

Better yet, take His:

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
-Matthew 18:20

Continue reading Messiah is coming at Passover!

Traditions of Men: Why the church is more guilty of legalism than Hebrew Roots Christians

When is the Sabbath? Most in the Christian church would answer “Sunday.” But what is the truth? What does Scripture have to say about this?

Most in the Christian Church believe that the sabbath was changed to Sunday. Mostly because of the passage in Acts 20 where Paul is preaching on the “first day of the week.” The story goes on to tell about the young, man named Eutechus, who fell asleep because Paul was speaking for so long that he fell out of the window and died. Read it sometime, it’s interesting.

So, the foundation for the argument made by most is the idea that “Paul did it,” as well as a passage where Paul is writing to a church in 1 Corinthians 16, and he mentions taking up a collection:

1 Corinthians 16:1-2
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints:as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Certainly, the “first day of the week” is mentioned in this passage, as an appointed time at which to take up a collection to be put away (for safe keeping or some other purpose). But is there any prescription for this to be a new mandate, a replacement for the Biblical command to rest on the 7th day? Is there any mention of why they were to take up the collection on the first day of the week? Aside from what Paul says, “so that there will be no collecting when I come,” no, not really. One would think that if Paul was telling the believers that this was supposed to be the new “meeting time” or “the new Sabbath,” that it would be more clear. Paul is not telling the Corinthians that they should congregate on the first day of the week, simply that they should set aside some money for a collection on that day. This is not too different from the practice of setting aside funds for bills at the beginning of the month. It’s just good advice.
But why not on the sabbath itself? They were definitely still meeting in the temple on a regular basis, so we can’t overlook the fact that they assembled regularly on the Sabbath, so why not prescribe the “offering” then? Most likely because part of the Sabbath command is to “keep it holy,” or as set apart from the everyday norm, since that’s the actual meaning of holy, to be separated or set apart. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 states that we are to abstain from all work on the sabbath. What is work? It is the exchange of labor for wages. Therefore, wages are considered a common thing, not to be dealt with on the Sabbath. Jewish halakhah, traditional observance of the Torah, expounds on this by prohibiting buying and selling at all on the sabbath, because buying and selling is something that is supposed to be completed before the sabbath.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

It is likely that Paul had this in mind – since, after all, he was a devout Jew himself – when he suggested the collection be taken up on the first day.

Another favorite of sunday Sabbath advocates is that the reason the Sabbath was changed to Sunday is because Yeshua rose on the first day of the week. That is hard to both prove and disprove, but instead of using any kind of verifiable scripture to back up this tradition, they point to the passage about Paul teaching “on the first day of the week,” and say that because Paul did it, that makes it right. There is absolutely no explicit mention of anything being changed regarding the sabbath. Where in all of the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah is any mention made of the Messiah changing anything in the Torah? Yeshua Himself even declared that He did not come to do His own will, but that of the Father. What is the Father’s will?

John 7:16-17
So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

So did Yeshua come to do anything that was not already established? No! He came to do the will of God, which was so that His people might know Him. Yeshua is God. God is Yeshua. If one does something to contradict the other, they are not one and we should forfeit the whole thing. If Paul instructed his readers to do anything that contradicted the Torah of God, then he is a false teacher, and should be rejected. Paul even exclaims that he upholds the Torah!

Romans 3:31
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the Torah.

So what are we to do then? Should we uphold the many mistranslations of Paul’s letter as saying that he somehow has some unexplained authority over and above that of Messiah himself? Or should we take Paul’s own words and realize that simply because we are not held to the Torah as a means of salvation does not mean that we throw it out?

What is more, the Sabbath is mentioned 66 times in the Old Testament (in the ESV at least), and every time it is referred to as being on the 7th day, and most of these are attached to a following condemnation or punishment for not observing it as such. Of the 57 times it is mentioned in the Apostolic Scriptures, the majority of times is is in reference to Yeshua or his disciples, or both. Often, Yeshua is being accused of doing something that ought not to be done on the Sabbath, but every time, Yeshua offers a rebuttal to the Pharisee’s accusations based on the Torah itself to uphold the fact that what He was doing was in line with the Sabbath commandment even though it did not line up with the manmade traditions of the Pharisees. I think it is significant that most of the time we see Yeshua healing or doing other miracles, it is on the sabbath. Why would He make a point of doing so? So that we would see that it’s no longer important if we work on the sabbath? If we take that stance and believe that Yeshua was a Sabbath breaker, we agree with the Pharisees, and we condemn Him of transgressing the Torah, and thereby obliterate His sinlessness, and Messiahship. If we agree that He was sinless and did nothing to transgress the Torah, then we have to recognize that everything He did was in an effort to uphold the Scriptures, not change them. Each time He was accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing, He relates the event to an instruction given in the Torah to help even our enemies if they need it on the Sabbath. What good is sabbath observance if you are going to be a jerk while doing it? No. Healing those who needed it, if anything, was required as a part of keeping the Sabbath.

But what if Paul did observe a first-day Sabbath? What are we to do with that? Certainly Paul was an influential author in the Apostolic Scriptures. Why would we ignore a practice that he observed? What would be the harm? Certainly if Paul did it, then it must be okay, right? Or is that kind of thinking the very type that undermines the authority of the Scriptures? Should we follow the advice of a single man simply because he was of proven character? What if what he does contradicts the authority of Scripture itself, as well as that of our Messiah? What are we to do with that? The same thing we would do with a teacher or preacher who either changes or contradicts anything contained in scripture: disregard their teachings and strip them of all authority. Did Messiah observe the Sabbath? Think about it carefully before answering. If yes, then either we are misunderstanding what Paul is teaching and doing regarding Sabbath observance, or he is blatantly disregarding a sacred commandment that even our Messiah observed, and should therefore be removed from Scripture. If Messiah did not observe the Sabbath – specifically on the 7th day – then He cannot be anything other than a false prophet, because we are told in 1 John 3:5 that He is sinless, and what is sin besides disobeying God’s commands, of which the observance of Sabbath is a huge one. If we acknowledge that Yeshua kept the Sabbath holy and observed it on the 7th day, yet we still insist that Paul observed a 1st day sabbath – despite all the warnings given for doing such a thing – then we are observing the traditions of men, something that our Messiah was heartily opposed to (see my previous post)

Let me clarify: I do not believe at all that Paul observed a sunday sabbath. I believe, because he states so very clearly multiple times in his writing, that Paul was a devout Jew, trained up in the Torah, a Jew among Jews. Does that make him a better person? No. Does it give him anymore authority on scriptural matters? I think yes. We in western churches test a person’s Biblical authority based on their training and foundation. Paul was raised studying scripture. He memorized whole books of the Bible as part of his training as a young man. He was likely in the process of earning his smicha when he experienced first-hand our Messiah on the road to Damascus. So should we accept his authority? Absolutely. However, if anything he says or instructs his readers to do contradicts even a single word of Scripture or even a single word from our Messiah, his authority should be thrown out along with all of his writings. If Paul contradicts the teachings of Messiah in any way, they should be discarded. However, I do not for even a single moment believe that this was the case. I believe that Paul was very much in agreement with the whole of Scripture and everything that Messiah did and said. So something must have gotten twisted in our understanding of his writings. If not, then we ought to disregard his writing entirely. Since we cannot do that, we should carefully consider what Paul is actually teaching and doing

Thoughts on Ephesians 2:15

I came across Ephesians 2:15 yesterday while studying with some close friends, and it caused me to do a double take.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (ESV)
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Does Paul really claim that Yeshua abolished the law of commandments? It seems pretty black and white when you look at it, but a closer look and a deeper study reveal some issues with this common understanding.

He opens this paragraph to the gentiles at Ephesus by saying “So, remember that at one time you were gentiles, looked down upon and scorned by the Jews for your lack of Covenant with God, and at that time you were separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants which God made with His people, utterly hopeless and without God.” (my own paraphrase)

If you go back to chapter 1 you will discover to what Paul is contrasting this prior hopeless, Godless, covenant-less scenario. Paul is giving us a rundown of everything that God did for us when He chose to send His Son to die for our sins (I’ll let you read it, it spans almost a whole chapter). Basically, God gave the gentiles knowledge of the covenants, gave them hope, gave them an inheritance, and gave them grace by forgiving their sins. Chapter 2 goes on to say “And even tho God gave all authority over the believers to Yeshua as a head and leader of that body, you were still wallowing in your sins and lusts, following the ways of the world, even following satan himself through other men! Yet even so, God, the merciful God that He is, because of his astounding love for us – even though we stank with sin – gave us life thru Messiah, saved us by His grace, and gave us a place of equal inheritance next to Messiah on the throne in Heaven. You have been saved by grace, not by anything of your own doing – it’s God’s gift, so that you can’t foolishly boast.” (Again, my own paraphrase)

Paul is on a tirade of giving the Ephesians both a pat on the back, and a sobering reminder that their faith is not something they get to take credit for, all the glory for their salvation (and ours) goes to God alone.

Then comes the tricky part. Paul tells the Ephesians,

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up. Let’s back that up just a second. God created us in Messiah for good works, which were prepared beforehand so that we might walk in them? What in the world does that mean? What does he mean by works? And how do we walk in them? I think we need to talk to some friends about this for just a second.

1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

James 2:14-26 (ESV)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Wow, that’s heavy. I’ve read that before, but it still hits home pretty hard. So many people argue with me that because I view the Torah instructions as valid for modern believers in Yeshua that I believe in salvation by works. No. I believe in salvation by grace, through faith in Messiah Yeshua, and that as redeemed, bought-with-a-price, followers of Messiah, we should prove our salvation with our works. Just as James said, “You have faith and I have works… I will show you my faith by my works.” And John also gives us a sobering slap across the face when he says “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

But back to our selected verse.
Paul continues to sober us up with the passage that I opened with:
“So, remember that at one time you were gentiles, looked down upon and scorned by the Jews for your lack of Covenant with God, and at that time you were separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants which God made with His people, utterly hopeless and without God.”
But now, we who were once far off have been brought near to God by the blood of Yeshua. Paul mentions that God, who is our peace, has made us one by breaking down the dividing wall of hostility. Who was made one and what wall was broken down? The Jews and Gentiles (Paul uses the first person plural because he was a devout Jew, and constantly refers to himself as such). How did God do this? By abolishing that law of commandments as was expressed in ordinances.

So I feel at this point that it is necessary to point out a truth that was revealed to me when it comes to understanding scripture, and it consists of two simple rules:
1. Scripture is never wrong or self contradictory; either we misunderstand it, or we are making contradictions that do not exist.
2. If you ever come across a scripture that is either wrong or contradicts another verse, see rule #1.

That being said, let me make this point:
Yeshua himself said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah, but to fulfill it,” and if Paul is actually declaring that this is what He did, we then need to refer to the two rules.

More than likely what Paul is referring to is the fence (“traditions)” that Jews put around the Torah commandments in an effort to keep from even coming close to transgressing it. What is ironic is that most Jews fail to realize that in doing so in certain situations, they actually transgress the very Torah they are seeking to guard! One example is the washing of hands. In Mark 7, the pharisees deride Yeshua for not making His disciples wash their hands before eating (a command that is not given in Scripture). Yeshua, in a roundabout way, tells them that it is not the food that goes in to a person that defiles him, rather it is the excrement that is created that defiles a man. What the pharisees did was to create an ordinance, or a fence around the commandment to not enter the temple in an unclean state. This particular ordinance prevented them from seeing that the true purpose in being clean is not for everyday situations, it is for temple service! In their haughtiness and pride, they misjudged others – even distanced themselves from and cast out those who didn’t follow their rigorous purity practices, accusing them and condemning them for a sin that they did not commit. Yet the whole of the Torah can be summed up in “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” If they failed to do that in their judgement, they failed the whole of the Torah. This same attitude carries over even today. Many Jews will disassociate themselves from their gentile friends for reasons like kosher eating. Modern halakhah (or traditional observance of Torah Instruction beyond the explicit instructions in the Torah) says that all meat has to be kept absolutely separate form other food so as not to contaminate it with the blood, since God instructs us not to eat the blood, since it contains life (Deuteronomy 12:23). I know a family that has a separate freezer/fridge for meet and vegetables, and when they prepare meet, they cover their entire kitchen in aluminum foil so as to prevent the blood from contaminating other food. Because of this, they never dine with other families (even jews) who do not do the same, thereby neglecting their relationships for the sake of their own satisfaction in their deeds. Certainly this puts their own traditions above God’s instructions. This is what is meant by ordinances. Ordinances are manmade. God did not give a list of ordinances at Mt. Sinai, He gave instructions. Parents give their children instructions, not ordinances. Husbands and wives have expectations for each other, not ordinances.

For one to read Ephesians 2:15 as Paul saying that God abolished the law of commandments because it is nothing more than a list of ordinances does not line up with Scripture. If there seems to be a conflict, refer to the rest of scripture. Too much esteem is put on the letters of Paul, to which the other side is not known.  We don’t know the issues to which he is referring, and in our modern language, we miss all the nuances of his contemporary language and idioms. For us as astute believers and scholars of Scripture to hold a higher esteem for Paul, who’s writings make up little more than 5% of the entire Bible when counting verses, than all the other books (like James and John’s epistles) is simply irresponsible. Paul, who claims himself to be a pharisee, a Jew of Jews, would not have blatantly contradicted the very words of Messiah. Study the scripture. If something in one book seems like it is either going against or replacing something that is said elsewhere (especially when it conflicts with the words of Messiah) study into it. Don’t just accept it at face value because it was written by Paul, or even because your pastor told you so. Study it for yourself and ask God to show you the truth. And always remember the two rules:

1. Scripture is never wrong or self contradictory; either we misunderstand it, or we are making contradictions that do not exist.
2. If you ever come across a scripture that is either wrong or contradicts another verse, see rule #1.