Monthly Archives: July 2016

How can We Love?

if you love Me keep me commandmentsIn the first blog of this series, Nancy explained why Torah is still valid in YHVH’s Kingdom on Earth today.  Last week’s blog talked about becoming all that YHVH intends for us to be in this life, including following the loving instructions He gave in His Torah.  This week, I would like to show you why faulty Scripture translation and unclear terminology can confuse us and distort our perception of the truth.

Many Christian churches and denominations use Ephesians 2:8 as their banner verse and state at the core of their doctrines that we are “saved by grace and not by works, lest anyone should boast”.  In many cases, they have taken these words out of context and to such an extreme that they no longer believe we should follow the law (Torah) as that would mean that we are trying to earn our salvation by our works.

However, when we remember that Torah is better translated as instruction than law, we realize that Torah was something God created to help guide us through life in a more joyful, fulfilling way, not something He designed as a set of laws to burden or frustrate us.  Using a more accurate translation of Ephesians 2 (CJB), and moving down from Verse 8 to Verse 10, we see that YHVH has a purpose for our lives that goes far beyond salvation.  Verse 10 says: “For we are His workmanship, as we have been created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them, the good works”.

From this verse and many others in the Scriptures, we know that these good works relate to following God’s will and keeping His commandments (Torah).  Remember what Yeshua said: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  And what are Yeshua’s commandments?  They are the same as Abba Father’s commandments (the Torah), as Yeshua said He only does what the Father does.  We also know that Yeshua did not do away with the Torah, which Nancy explained well in the first blog of this series – she paraphrased Matthew 5:18 “…until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the Torah will pass away”.

She did a great job of explaining why the Torah is still in effect, but she asked me to go a little deeper into the history of the Scripture translations and interpretations.  To point out one of the many areas of the New Testament where there are glaring differences among different translations, let’s look at Romans 10:4, which is often cited as justification for the law being done away with.  In the original King James Version, this verse reads “For Christ (Messiah) is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth”.  This indeed could be (and has been) interpreted to mean that when Messiah Yeshua came on the scene, he replaced the law so that it is now obsolete.  However, let’s look at a Messianic translation (the Complete Jewish Bible) which has re-translated the ancient scrolls from a Jewish cultural and religious perspective.  Here is the CJB translation of Romans 10:4: “For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts”.  This sheds a very different light on this passage.

Earlier in Romans Chapter 10, Sha’ul was talking about how Israel had set up their own system of righteousness, based on what they referred to as the “Oral Law”, but which was actually created by Rabbis who interpreted the Torah based on their own point-of-view and biases.  What Sha’ul is saying in Verses 1-4 of Romans 10 is that the Jewish people (directed by the leaders) had made up their own form of righteousness, whereas Yeshua came to show them the true righteousness they could have by following Him.

Now we can see the vast differences in doctrine from one translation to another; but the burning question is: why are they so different in their spiritual concepts and principles?  I certainly do not profess to be an authoritative expert on Bible translations or exegesis, so I have consulted true scholars in this area.  In  “The Jewish Gospel of John”, author Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg helps us dig deeper into the meaning of John 1:17, which in the ESV says: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.  From his studies, Eli gives us new insights into the dichotomy of law and grace as we know it today from mainstream Christian doctrines.  He says that up until the time of the Reformation, Christian leaders debated among themselves the importance of keeping the Torah (law).  However, when the Protestant Christian movement started, they wanted to emphasize the truth that salvation comes to the believer by faith alone, and not by their works.

The reason for this at the time was because they wanted to contrast this new doctrine with the Catholic dogma that burdened members with so many requirements that it seemed almost impossible to be truly forgiven from their sins.  This was very similar to the religious leaders at the time of Yeshua, who weighed the people down with so many of their man-made laws that they could never hope to be truly righteous before YHVH.  Mr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg says that the Protestants were so insistent about their new doctrines that many Scriptures (both in the Gospels and in Sha’ul’s letters) were actually re-translated into very different interpretations than were originally intended.  About the passage in John 1:17, Eli says that it would be more accurate to translate it as: “For the Torah was given through Moses and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.  The obvious difference is the addition of “and” between the two phrases, now giving the meaning that Torah came through Moses, and Yeshua has now given us grace to keep the Torah, because He has taken away the penalty of the Torah by forgiving our sins and sending them off into the desert to be forever forgotten.

If we were to summarize what Yeshua added to our ability to keep the Torah in one word, it would be “love”. In teachings such as the “Sermon on the Mount”, he clarified and explained the Torah so it would be easier to understand and follow.  And then with His incredible sacrifice on the Cross, He saved us from all our sins and set us free from bondage to hasatan.  As it says in Scripture, He first loved us, so let us love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15).

How Can We Live?

The key to your lifeIn last week’s blog we examined why Torah is still valid.  This week, I would like to add some additional thoughts and clarification on this subject.  Understanding what YHVH expects of us is important.  Some may argue that YHVH loves us no matter what.  That is true, but just as parents love their children, they still have household rules and expectations.  It is more than just obeying YHVH; it is about becoming all that He intends for us.

Peter and I became aware of our Hebrew roots and Torah about twelve years ago.  At the time, we were in our late forties and our children were all grown.  We attended church regularly, were involved in Bible study, and participated in various outreach programs.  We considered ourselves to be mature Christians.  When we began seriously looking into our Hebrew roots and Torah, we realized that we were finally at the grownups’ table.  It was an epiphany for us.  We were finally off the milk and into the meat (1 Cor 3:21).

Faulty translation and unclear terminology can confuse us and distort our perception of the truth.  Peter will expound more fully on these topics in next week’s blog.  For now, however, it is important that we know that YHVH’s purpose in establishing His kingdom on earth is to have relationship with us.  Torah is more than just law; it is instruction and guidelines as well.  YHVH’s desire is to have relationship with us and His Torah shows us how to draw ever closer to Him.  Those who think there is no need for law, ignore it and drift away from YHVH.  Those who try to keep the law “perfectly” do not understand that the Torah is meant to “perfect” us; that is, to make us whole and complete.  They focus on the letter of the law and also drift from YHVH.   The word “perfect” in Hebrew is shalom shalomShalom means wholeness and completeness, reaching full potential.

YHVH calls us to be holy, just as He is holy (Lev 20:26).  To be holy means to be set apart from those who do not follow YHVH.  Ultimately, we are to be set apart from demons and anyone else who is adamant about operating in the kingdom of darkness.  The Israelites were called to be set apart.  They were to follow Torah and be a light to the nations.  For the past 2,000 years, people from other nations have been called to follow Yeshua (the living Torah) and have been grafted in to the olive tree known as Israel.  They, too, are to be set apart and learn how to live in YHVH’s kingdom.

Romans 11:17 can be a touchy subject for Jews and non-Jews alike. We are all called to follow and obey YHVH, regardless of our ethnicity (Gal 3, Col 3 CJB).  YHVH keeps His promises.  If He has made promises that are specifically for physical members of the twelve tribes of Israel, He will keep them.  If He has made promises to anyone else, He will keep those promises also.  It is helpful to remember that we are spirit-beings who reside in a physical body (James 2:26, 1 Thess 5:23).  Galatians 3:26-29 CJB points out that our trust and obedience are what matters; not our ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status.

It is crucial that we always keep in mind the big picture.  YHVH is working through the process of salvation and kingdom building on earth that began either before or at creation (Rev. 13:8).  Everything in Scripture is about that process.  YHVH reveals only what is necessary at each phase of the process since YHVH’s enemy, hasatan, is ever vigilant about destroying or interrupting YHVH’s work (John 10:10, 1 Pet 5:8).  YHVH’s kingdom is already established in heaven and hasatan was exiled from YHVH’s heavenly kingdom for trying to take it over.  Now hasatan is trying to do the same with YHVH’s kingdom on earth.

YHVH created the earth and its inhabitants to be a reflection of His heavenly kingdom.   It has always been about establishing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Humans are created in YHVH’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26).  However, we are fallen since the sin of Adam and Eve.  Therefore, YHVH often has to work through and around our ignorance and stubbornness.  We, in our limitedness, tend to lose sight of the big picture and focus only on the latest phase of YHVH’s plan.  As more of His plan and process are revealed, we tend to think that anything that came before is automatically obsolete.  If we are capable of taking one verse of Scripture out of context, then we are certainly capable of taking one action of YHVH’s out of context.  YHVH is not doing away with former phases; rather, He is building on to former phases.

In summary, our focus is to be on loving and obeying YHVH, so that we can become all that YHVH intends for us to be in His kingdom.  YHVH is in control and will keep all His promises.  As always with YHVH, He will exceed even our wildest expectations.  Dayenu!  Now that is truly living!

How Can We Sin?

YHVH's Kingdom

Sometimes we forget that the physical world was created to reflect the spiritual world.  For example, do you realize that the earthly Tabernacle was a copy of the heavenly Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-5 NLT)?   Likewise, YHVH shared his Torah on earth so that earth’s inhabitants could reflect heaven’s inhabitants.  Torah has not been replaced either in heaven or on earth.  Yeshua Himself stated that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the Torah will pass away (Matt. 5:18).  Yeshua’s earthly kingdom will be a reflection of the heavenly kingdom.

The old covenant was replaced, not because the laws were faulty, but because the people were faulty (Hebrews 8:9).  The first covenant did not work out because the people did not keep their side of the bargain.  In other words, they did not obey YHVH’s laws.  If the law was faulty or obsolete, why would YHVH want to put it on our minds and write it on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10)?  YHVH was not teaching the people a set of random laws just for the earth, but was teaching the people how His kingdom operates in heaven.

Yeshua taught us much about the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5-7).  The gospel of Matthew depicts Yeshua as King just as the gospel of Mark depicts Yeshua as servant.  He came the first time to serve us; He will return to reign as our King.  Yeshua made mention of the new covenant (Luke 22:20), but the point was that His shed blood is the payment for our sins.  We can be forgiven and restored to YHVH, if we ask.

After being exiled in Babylon, Jewish leaders and teachers determined that people were unable to keep Torah and set about making a “fence” around it, to ensure that Torah would not be broken.  They were attempting to fix something only YHVH can fix.  The “fence” focused on the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.  The “fence” consisted of man-made laws that added to and subtracted from Torah in direct violation of YHVH’s command (Deut 4:2, 12:32).  In fact, by the time Yeshua came to earth the first time, there was more than one “fence” in place.  Each additional fence drew people further from the Torah, and consequently further from YHVH.  Yeshua argued with the Pharisees about the “fences,” not about the TorahYeshua violated the “fences” but He never violated TorahYeshua is the living Torah and He is not divided against Himself.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about the new covenant, not the new Torah.  The Torah is still in place; it is the guilt and condemnation that have been removed through the shed blood of Yeshua.  The law is no longer just written on stone, but is written on hearts and minds.  Perhaps the stone represents the stony hearts that kept turning away from YHVH.  Now that we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, our hearts need no longer be stony, but instead be yielded to YHVH.

There are many Christians today who firmly believe that the Torah is no longer relevant.  However, if they are not following YHVH’s law, then what are they doing?  Where there is no law, people will create a law for themselves, for there is an inherent need for order and structure.  We are created in the image of YHVH, Who is the epitome of order.  Do we truly think we can improve on YHVH’s law?

Dear Brothers and Sisters who insist that Torah is no longer in effect, how is it that we are still capable of sin?  The definition of sin is “a transgression of the law of God” (Merriam-Webster).  If Torah is not God’s law, then what is?  If there is no law, then there can be no sin.  If there is no law, then there will be no order or structure, only chaos.

Romans 7:4-6 (NLT) states:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.  When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

We are dead to the law only in the fact that we no longer bear the punishment for our transgressions because Yeshua bore our punishment for us.  In that way, our focus can be on obeying the Spirit of the law.  When we sin, we can ask YHVH for forgiveness and receive forgiveness through the blood of Yeshua.  Those who sin and do not ask forgiveness are still held accountable for their sins.  So, the difference is not in the law, but in who bears the penalty for transgressing the law.

On our own, we are not able to keep the law perfectly.  However, we are no longer on our own.  We have access to the fullness of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to obey the law as YHVH requires.  When we stray from the Spirit and sin, our guilt and condemnation are covered by the blood of Yeshua.  When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, sealed and perfectly able to understand and follow Torah.  Where we still need Yeshua’s atonement is for our souls (minds) which need to be renewed (Rom 12:2).

YHVH is still King in heaven and His laws are still intact in heaven.  Those who reside in heaven obey YHVH’s every command in the spiritual realm.  In the physical realm, that is, the earth, citizens of YHVH’s kingdom are still working to fully reflect the Kingdom of Heaven.  Even in our imperfections, we can, through Yeshua’s atoning blood, stay connected to YHVH as we “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12 NLT).  One day, earth will be the perfect reflection of heaven as YHVH has always intended.

What is True Delight?

delight yourselfMost believers are familiar with the verse in Psalm 37:4 that says “Delight yourself in the LORD [YHVH] and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this verse?  Before I understood this spiritual concept completely, I thought it meant that if I worked hard enough at praising and glorifying God, He would answer all my prayers and give me everything I wanted, but later on when I became more spiritually mature I realized I was mistaken.

The first fallacy I discovered with this interpretation was that David was not talking about God satisfying our worldly desires in the verse.  Looking more carefully at the Scripture, we see that he says that YHVH will give us the desires of our heart.  In previous blogs we have talked about what is meant by the “heart” when used in Bible verses.  It is usually used to denote our conscience, or the part of our soul that guides us in knowing and doing what is right in God’s eyes.  Recall verses like Psalm 119:11, where David said that he hid YHVH’s Word in his heart so that he would not sin, and then in Proverbs 23:7, where Solomon [Sh’lomo] says “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”.

One of my favorite passages on the importance of focusing our heart on YHVH is in Proverbs 4 in verses 20-21 where Sh’lomo shares his wisdom about YHVH’s word: ”My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to My words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart”.  Then in verse 22, Sh’lomo tells us how YHVH blesses us when we do this: “for they (YHVH’s words in our heart) bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body”. He shares his final bit of wisdom in verse 23: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life”.

Finally, in Philippians 3:8, Paul (Sh’au)] says that “everything else in life is worthless compared to the incomparable value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord”.  Putting all these passages together, they tell me that if I focus my heart (the deepest inner part of my soul) on YHVH and His word, then the desires of my heart will be fulfilled in knowing Abba Father and His Son, Yeshua, at a deep intimate level that brings joy beyond anything else I can experience in this life on Earth.

So now we have covered the second half of Psalm 37:4 at a deeper level, but what exactly does the first half mean, “Delight yourself in YHVH…”?  The Hebrew word used in this passage for delight is aw-nag, which is in the imperative form, so it is a command from YHVH to delight in Him.  A more complete translation is: ”to be wholly dependent upon God and to derive one’s pleasure from Him”.  It is true that I derive great joy from spending time with YHVH, worshiping Him and fellowshipping with Him, meditating on His word and gaining understanding of who He is and what is in His heart.  However, it is also true that there are times when I desire to watch a mindless TV show or read a book that reveals its plot from the first page.

Another great concept from Scripture that helps us understand what it means to delight ourselves in YHVH comes from Isaiah 58, where YHVH says that if we honor His Sabbath (Shabbat) in everything we do (verse 13), then He will be our delight and He will give us great honor (verse 14).

How do we delight ourselves in YHVH?  How do we keep our minds and hearts focused on YHVH so He is able to give us the desires of our hearts?  We need to stay laser-focused on guarding our heart and mind from being consumed by the desires of this world, keeping ourselves tuned into the Holy Spirit who is able to guide us into all truth and guard our hearts from the wiles of the enemy and the distractions of the world.  He will help us to stay set apart from the world, spending our most precious time in fellowship with YHVH.

Discerning Wisdom

Seeking Wisdom

Where do we get our wisdom?  If this seems to be a foolish question for followers of Yeshua, perhaps we are assuming instead of discerning.  YHVH has given us incredible minds and great capacity for wisdom, but does our wisdom come from ourselves and our Creator?  Are we ever influenced by hasatan’s workers without being aware?  Could we be listening to the enemy and thinking it is our own wisdom or wisdom from YHVH?

A most enlightening book entitled War on the Saints has just come to my attention.  Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote the book with Evan Roberts, a great revivalist during the Welsh revival.  The book was originally published in 1912, but through the efforts of Hannah Lowe, was reprinted unabridged in 1973.  There have been several printings since then.

This is a relevant book for the last days, since it reveals our greatest vulnerability to evil as well as our ignorant compliance with hasatanWar on the Saints resonated with me from the beginning because of my experience in spiritual warfare.  My own awakening to the truth occurred one day in 2008 when I “woke up” and realized that I was on a spiritual battlefield, fighting against trained soldiers who had very sophisticated equipment while I was ill-prepared and poorly armed.  It was a frightening day but a turning point for me.  Since then I have learned more about spiritual warfare and realize that I still have much to learn.

War on the Saints educates YHVH’s children on the tactics that hasatan uses on humans.  Many followers of Yeshua today are more focused on the physical realm and remain largely ignorant of the spiritual warfare that is going on around us.  This is evidenced by the emphasis on physical preparation for end times’ challenges.  Scripture repeatedly warns us about the latter days, but does not advise us to worry about our physical welfare.

Many followers of Yeshua are being swayed by the multitude of prophecies and “revelations” pouring forth today.  The greatest threat we face is deception coming from the spiritual realm, and many of us are plunging headlong into the very thing we need to avoid at all costs.  Yeshua told us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear or even about what we will say when we face persecution and trial (Matt 6:25, Luke 12:11-12).

How can we be truly wise in these last days?  Two Hebrew words used in Scripture provide the answer.  The word chokmah (wisdom) concerns obeying YHVH and relying on His wisdom and binah (understanding) comes from knowledge of YHVH gained by spending time with Him.  Our focus should be on correctly following Scripture and spending quality time with our heavenly Father.  When we spend time with YHVH and His Word, we gain His wisdom.  Our own wisdom is no match for our enemy.  Human wisdom is influenced either by YHVH or the enemy and too often followers of Yeshua have assumed that all spiritual revelation comes from YHVH.

Note that Yeshua was not immune to bouts with the enemy even after His baptism.  Yeshua met the enemy’s challenges by correctly quoting and applying Scripture.  Yeshua spent many hours, sometimes even whole nights communing with His Father.  We should follow the example of our Teacher.  The enemy is well-versed in Scripture and is able to subtly but powerfully distort it in efforts to confuse or distract us.  We should be aware that as we grow and mature in our relationship with YHVH, the enemy changes his tactics to meet our new level of spiritual sophistication.  The enemy is not only an accuser and tempter, but first and foremost a deceiver.

Scripture warns us repeatedly to be wary of being deceived (partial list:  Dan 6:35, Matt 24:4, Luke 2 :8, 2 Cor 11:3, Col 2:8, 2 Tim 3:13-14, Titus 3:3-6, Heb 13:9, James 1:22, 1 John 4:1).  It is easy for us to be deceived, especially if we remain ignorant of the spiritual realm and the tactics of our enemy.  There are two things that make us especially vulnerable:  (1) ignorance or misunderstanding of the spiritual realm and (2) passivity.  Our ignorance and passivity enable the enemy to wreak havoc without detection in our congregations and communities, as well as in our individual lives.

Many of us do not realize the levels of deception that hasatan utilizes.  For example, for people who are still controlled by their flesh, hasatan influences them to lust for fleshly desires.  People who have more control over their flesh will not fall for such tactics, so hasatan moves to other wiles, such as attempting to influence our intellect and reasoning.  In the last days, the greatest deception will occur because of faulty doctrines (2 Cor 11:3-4).

YHVH’s people are the strongest when they are the most aggressive in fighting and withstanding the enemy, such as the Israelites under Moses and Joshua, or the early church under the apostles.  When we are actively on guard against the enemy we are the strongest.  When we are ignorant and/or passive concerning spiritual warfare, the enemy is able to accomplish horrendous evil through followers of Yeshua.  Many of our predecessors have done horrendous things in the name of Yeshua, no doubt thinking that they were pursuing righteousness.   Examples:  the Crusades, Christian persecution of the Jews.

People tend to avoid learning about how the kingdom of darkness functions.  It can seem frightening, but the most frightening thing we can do is to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.  We inadvertently assist Hasatan and his followers as they work undetected to wreak havoc among us.   I urge you to get a copy of War on the Saints and read it for yourselves.  Then prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help acquire wisdom and understanding from YHVH alone, so that you can detect and discern the subtle work of hasatan and refuse his evil influence.  We cannot afford to live in ignorance or passivity, especially now.