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Catching Someone or Catching Someone - the Choice Is Yours
Imagine that you are standing at the edge of a bridge that has been damaged and you see a line of cars that are heading towards the bridge. You know that you can stand in the road flagging down those cars in hopes that they will listen to you and stop before launching over the edge and falling into the ravine below. You also know that it is possible that standing in the road in front of cars might cause you to be hit by one or more of the cars. You look at the broken bridge and the distance to the bottom and you realize that a fall from that distance would possibly cause a death, but assuredly it would cause injuries. Most of the injuries would be treatable and those who fell would eventually recover from their injuries, although most would have lifelong scars as a result. What would be your decision? Would you risk being hurt yourself in order to prevent harm to others, or would you knowingly let them fall into the pit with full understanding that that fall could bring death to the person or people in those cars?

Although not often viewed through this lens, the above scenario is consistent with the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery in the New Covenant Book of John chapter 8. We find the description of an event intended to test Yeshua and His obedience to the Torah. In verse 2, we find the setting for what was taking place.

2 At dawn, He came again into the Temple. All the people were coming to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle, 4 they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery.’”

Yeshua was in the Temple teaching when suddenly a group of Torah scholars dragged a woman into the Temple courts and stated boldly that she had been caught in the very act of adultery. Before we get to the biblical concept, I want to focus this blog on a few things that we know. First, if this woman was caught in the act of adultery, then where was the man? Second, it is very important to understand that this event is not, as many people teach, an example in which Yeshua superseded the Torah commandments by forgiving the woman. This is not an example of grace overpowering Law. The truth is that because there were not two witnesses that could throw the first stones and because the man was not there, the only Torah abiding option was “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”

While this story does show the love Yeshua had for both G-D’s Word and for people and the mercy that is inherent within the Torah, there is a much larger, too often missed lesson in this story and it is key to understanding a much greater problem than the woman’s adulterous behavior.

Think with me about this story. In order for the Torah scholars to have caught the woman in the very act, they had to have known that she and the man were going to violate that commandment. Yet they were more interested in trying to trick Yeshua than they were keeping these two people from sinning. The truth is that if these men were actually Torah scholars internally instead of just externally, if they had heart knowledge and not just head knowledge, we would not have been reading this story in Scripture at all. Instead, what would have happened is these men would have stood in front of the door to the place where this sin was committed and begged and pleaded with both the woman and the man to not violate the commandment concerning adultery.

The verse that sticks in my mind when I read this passage of Scripture is Cain’s response to God after he killed Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is emphatically yes! If these men had obeyed the Torah and worked as hard to keep these people from sin as they worked to judge them after their sin in an attempt to cause Yeshua to sin, the Book of John would contain an amazingly encouraging story of men being victorious instead of providing an additional example of human failure.

As believers in Yeshua it is not our function or role to tell people that they are sinners and judge their failures. We have the choice to treat the damage resultant from a fall or to help keep people from falling in the first place.
"Jesus Is to Christianity as Pasta Is to Italians"
Pasta is Italian, bagels are Jewish, and chicken chow mein is Chinese right? Wrong; the bagel's roots are not Jewish, but rather Italian. While pasta history begins in China, the Chinese food staple chow mein is actually an American dish. What does this lost history of these different popular foods have to do with Jesus and Christianity?

The answer is simple. In the exact same way that these three foods and many others are believed to be culturally connected to a certain people group and tradition, Yeshua/Jesus - a nice Jewish man born in a Jewish town named Bethlehem, born to Jewish parents Yosef (Joseph) and Miriam (Mary), who lived His life according to Biblical/Jewish law and conventions, and who died in the capitol city of Israel, Jerusalem - has been largely removed from His real Jewish culture, and over the centuries became a Hellenized Christian.

I know that many people reading this may still at this point be wondering, "So what? I still don’t know what difference it makes." After all, you can enjoy a bagel in a kosher deli without understanding that the first bagels we made by Italians. You can eat a bowl of chow mein noodles with chopsticks without concern that it was first eaten in America and not in China. We also know the long piece of pasta is no less delicious just because the first ones to slurp pasta were not in Italy.

While there is may be no critical impact caused by the lost cultural roots of foods such as spaghetti, bagels, and chow mein, the impact caused by removing Yeshua from His cultural roots is more than simple cultural appropriation. The issue isn’t just that Yeshua was Jewish. The problem caused by the removal of Yeshua from Judaism is much greater than cultural awareness.

When we learn about Yeshua outside of the context of the Old Testament and the Nation Israel, we may see Him as our Messiah, but we don't know and cannot understand why He is the Messiah and why only He can be the Messiah. Outside of the full context that Yeshua was born into, we cannot understand the meaning of verses such as Galatians 4:4,

But when the fullness of time came, God sent out His Son, born of a woman and born under law—(TLV)

Once removed from historical Biblical context, it is impossible for someone to understand what is meant by “fullness of time,” “God sent out His son,” or “born under law”. So we are left simply with the understanding of His human birth, which in truth alone doesn’t qualify Him to be the Messiah.

Without the knowledge that starts in Genesis chapter 1:3,

Then God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light, (TLV) which is spoken before the creation of the sun, stars and other planets, it is impossible to understand John 8:12,

Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (TLV)

While Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection can only be understood on a surface level without being attached to their context beginning with Genesis 1:14,

Then God said, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, the word “seasons” in verse 14 is the Hebrew word Moedim, which means “appointed times.”  There were biblical reasons that Yeshua died on Passover, was buried before the Sabbath, and rose again on Bikkurim, or the Firstfruits of the barley harvest. These reasons were established from the very first words of the Bible and continue throughout the Tanakh, or Old Testament texts.

While it may not make any difference if someone goes their whole life thinking that bagels are Jewish, pasta is Italian and chow mein is Chinese, it makes a huge difference if a believer in Yeshua doesn’t know that Jesus was/is a Jew, because the very foundation of what they believe is resting on that truth. After all, remember what Yeshua said on the last great day of the Feast in John 7:38,

38Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

In order to have rivers of living water flow out of our innermost being, we must believe in Him as the Scriptures said, remembering that the only Scriptures in existence when those words were spoken were the books of the Old Testament.
"I did not come to abolish, but to ______."
One of the most discussed passages in the Brit Chadasha (New Covenant) is Matthew 5:17. I have heard and read so many opinions on what Yeshua (Jesus) meant when He spoke those words over 2000 years ago. Looking at the words themselves seems reasonably straightforward.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill."

Clearly, the intent of the statement is to contrast the words "abolish" and "fulfill." So, any reading of the text that would conclude with the understanding that Yeshua was doing away with the Torah and Prophets (another way of saying Tanakh or Old Testament) would be doing exactly the opposite of what the intent of the verse actually says. So, if Yeshua is not abolishing the Torah with this statement, what is He doing?

In order for us to understand this verse, we must first employ a primary rule of Biblical study and that is to keep the text in context. Anytime one removes text from the context it is within, we will always end up with a faulty understanding of the intention of the writer.

In order to understand the context of these words, one has to read what event is taking place and what was said previous to and following verse 17. Yeshua is on the mountain preaching to His disciples. He begins to give what has become known as the Beatitudes in verses 1-12 and then continues in verse 13-16 with:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt should lose its flavor, how shall it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Yeshua's instructions are for His followers to become world changers and shine their light within the world so their good works would glorify the Father.

Immediately after these words are spoken, Yeshua says the words we find in verse 17. The statement that He did not come to abolish the Torah and Prophets is directly linked to the instruction to shine, do good works and glorify the Father. It is clear in context that Yeshua's intent was to reaffirm the instructions of Torah to His disciples, not as a means for justification or redemption. Rather, it was as a means to glorify the Father by demonstrating good works and letting their lights shine.

Looking forward, we find that not only does verse 17 continue the thought and instructions starting in verse 1, but the rest of the chapter continues to provide insight into what is meant by the words "but to fulfill."

Yeshua continued speaking in verse 18-20:

18 Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and Torah scholars, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven!

I think that we can all agree that heaven and earth have not yet passed away and also that all of the prophecies prophesied in the Torah and Tanakh have not yet come to pass. So, clearly Yeshua is still not abolishing Torah with these words. As a matter of fact, if one reads these words they appear to call for an even greater adherence to Torah, exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees and Torah scholars. The answer to understanding these difficult words and statements comes into clearer focus starting in verse 21:

21 “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’ shall be subject to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna. 23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent while you are with him on the way. Otherwise, your opponent may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the assistant, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Amen, I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid back the last penny!

Notice that Yeshua speaks in verse 21 with a Torah commandment, "You shall not murder." He then goes on to "bring fullness" in the next few verses by explaining to His disciples that in order to let their light shine and glorify the Father they must obey the fullness of the commandment as expressed in verses 22-26. We find this same "bringing to fullness" demonstrated in verses 27-32 speaking of divorce, verses 33-37 concerning swearing, and verses 38-47 admonishing about how to treat others. Each of these are examples of how Yeshua brought a fullness not only to the understanding of the commandments, but instructed us on how walking out our faith in the fullness of the commandments allows us to be a light to the world and by doing so we are able to, as it says in the closing verse of Matthew chapter 5, "Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Seeing beyond our differences

Seeing beyond our differences

This week I had a unique experience that I am hoping to have many more times in the future. For me along with most of my friends, from all over the spectrum of politics and religion, these last few weeks have a been whirlwind of emotional overload. Everywhere I looked, and everything I heard of seemed to be a Facebook message, tweet, television program or commercial firmly taking one position while violently attacking the position that is the polar opposite.

After reaching the point where I had reached my limit I was introduced to a friend of a friend. Our introduction was made by someone I have known for a few years who I met as a result of her loss of a loved one. We have since that time corresponded about all kinds of things from family stuff, Scriptures and even politics. We built a relationship based upon love that allowed for each of us to have our own opinions without requiring either to compromise their beliefs in order to be friends.

My friend knows me well enough to know that the person she was introducing me to stands a long ways from me on the pendulum of beliefs. The woman she was introducing me to is a liberal, and I am a conservative. Under normal less “eventful” conditions an introduction of this kind would have seemed normal as people introduce me to their friends all the time, after all, I am a rabbi. However, the timing of this introduction was unusual.

My newly introduced “friend” was posting Facebook posts strongly proclaiming positions that I not only didn’t agree with but that I was posting posts directly contradicting those posts. She was posting for everything I was posting against and yet for some reason my friend felt it was the time to connect her two friends with diametrically opposing views. Because of my love and respect for my friend, I welcomed the introduction.

This began a conversation that lasted hours, about a difficult real world topic with the most agreeable person I have ever disagreed with. If everyone could debate important issues with the respect I was shown we could have the civil society we always talk about being. While we never did achieve full agreement we did find mutual ground in places where we both could stand back to back with one another to work together to bring change.

I cannot express how thankful I am to my friend for introducing me to my new friend. Somehow she saw beyond our differences to our hearts something I hope we can all learn to do.
The Old Testament G-D of the Gentiles
Thirty years ago as a brand new believer in Yeshua (Jesus), I was shocked to hear some of the things that I heard come from Pastors during sermons. I cannot count the many times I heard the expression “God of the Old Testament” vs. “God of the New Testament,” as if they were two different Gods. The Old Testament God was a mean, spiteful ogre who delighted in destruction and punishment. The New Testament God was filled with Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness and Love. This comparison was almost never complete until the Pastor further went on to say the Old Testament God was the “God of the Jews,” while the New Testament God is the “God of the Church (Gentiles).”

As a Jewish believer, these words caused me to cringe inside and lit a desire within me to stand up and shout, “What about Numbers 23:19? ‘God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes his mind! Does He speak and then not do it, or promise and not fulfill it?’ Or James 1:17? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.’ Or how about Hebrews 6:17-18? ‘In the same way God, determining to point out more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchanging nature of His purpose, guaranteed it with an oath. So by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.’”

For a believer, the unchanging nature of God is the reason we can have complete confidence in the Bible and the God of the Bible. If God can change at whim, then we cannot have any confidence in Him or His Word. After all, if two thirds of the way through the Bible God can totally reject His nature and His People, turning from tyrannical to benevolent, from hate-filled to loving, and from punishing to forgiving, then what surety do we have that He won’t change His mind again?

One of the main causes that leads Christians to accept the completely false premise of the “God of Old –vs- God of New” scenario is the completely false understanding brought about by the “God of Jews (Old Testament) –vs- God of Church/Gentiles (News Testament) doctrine.

A simple reading of the Bible would let us know that God has always been concerned with and also always existed as the God of the Jew and the Gentile. In effort to keep this a blog and not a book, let’s just look at one proof that is often overlooked. This proof is that three of the “Old Testament” prophets were sent by God to bring a message not to Israel, but to a Gentile nation..

The first and most well-known is Jonah who was sent (against Jonah’s will) to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian City in what is modern-day northern Iraq and was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Why would the Old Testament God of the Jews send a prophet to preach repentance to Gentiles?  

Prophet number two is Obadiah, who prophesied to Edom, and who, while related to Israel physically through Esau, was not part of the nation of Israel, the Jewish people. Obadiah’s prophetic book is short, but it is clear that it was spoken to a Gentile nation concerning their actions toward and against Israel. Once again, why would the Old Testament God of the Jews send a prophet to a Gentile nation?

The third prophet is Nahum, who also prophesied to Nineveh some time after Jonah and before the complete fall of Nineveh. Nahum’s message to this Gentile nation that was included in Nahum 1:3, “Adonai is slow to anger and great in power, but He will by no means acquit the guilty. Adonai’s way is with a whirlwind or with a storm wind, Clouds are the dust of His feet.” And Nahum 1:7, “Adonai is good as a refuge in the day of distress, and He knows those who take refuge in Him,” sharing with the Gentile Nation the truth about both God’s judgment and His Mercy and Grace.

When we take into consideration just these three prophets who were directed to share a message of grace and forgiveness to Gentile nations previous to the coming of Yeshua, the only conclusion available is that God did not change two thirds of the way through the Bible, but that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is also impossible to conclude anything short of God’s love for all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles from Genesis through Revelation.
The Day the World Changed

The Day the World Changed

Today the Presidential elections are taking place in the United States and people all over the world are concerned about the result and the effect it will have on our world. No matter where we go, who we talk to or what news sources we look at the discussions are about the predicted possible changes coming as a result of whichever candidate is chosen.

Pundits opine about everything from the obvious political implications to the vast social and economic impact that both sides (or all sides) predict. It seems as if no matter who wins the expectations are that our country and perhaps our world will never be the same.

While I am sure that some of the prognosticators are correct about the effects the election of a new President will have globally. I am equally certain that much of the rhetoric is political spin in order to motivate the voter to choose one candidate over the other.

However, lost in the midst of the struggle to keep focused in the middle of an billion dollar effort to distract us is the absolute truth that every day the world changes. As day passes into night and the sun sets and raises our world and everything within it changes.

We should not be in fear of change rather we should prepare for it. Each day when we get out of bed we greet a brand new world with brand new opportunities. Each person we come in contact with no matter how new or old the acquaintance is experiencing the same new world we are. The world wants us to walk in fear of a changing world but as believers we should not walk in fear of change instead we should walked in expectation and excitement of change. Because each day is “The Day The World Changed”
Lesser of Two Evils

Lesser of Two Evils

I cannot remember a time when I have heard the statement we have to choose between the lesser of two evils more than this year’s election. Nor can I remember a time when the two candidates from the major political parties have had such low likability numbers. I have listened to and participated in discussions concerning the election and as with almost everyone else I really would prefer having someone I would be able to enthusiastically support for President. With this in mind, I also know that this election is not a choice of the better of two evils.

The truth about this year’s Presidential election isn't a choice between two evils, but rather a choice between two humans. This statement is not intended to say that either candidate has not done evil things in their life, especially since I understand all sin to be evil. Nor is this blog intended to justify their actions in a “well everyone sins” kind of way.

However, our votes cannot be a choice made out of anger, frustration or emotionalism. Because this choice isn't just going to affect only me, it will affect my children, my grandchildren and their children. This election is about the future and as such we need to recognize the fallacy of the statement “I will not choose the lesser of two evils.” Contrary to this popular statement, this election isn’t about choosing one evil person over another, it is about our future and our families’ future. Consider this and place yourself in the scenario below; it accurately speaks of this election and our responsibility to vote.

If I was in a flood with my family and two helicopters flew up to save my family, one flown by a murderer and one by an adulterer, I would not stay and drown with my family because my values would not let me get into a helicopter with either a murderer or adulterer. I would save my family by getting into the helicopter I thought would be safest for all of us. My getting into either helicopter would not demonstrate my support for murder or adultery, it would simply show my support for the lives of my family. It is just that simple.
Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling Overwhelmed

This week I have been overwhelmed. I like most people reading this blog serve in many capacities. I am overwhelmed. I am a Husband, a Father, a Rabbi, a Newspaper Publisher, a Teacher and Author.

I am overwhelmed this week: I am finishing preparations to celebrate my wife's birthday. I am overwhelmed this week: I babysat my three amazing energetic grandchildren. I am overwhelmed this week: I am finishing writing my most recent book and preparing to have it published. I am overwhelmed this week: I will teach three studies in three different locations and deliver a sermon on Shabbat. I am overwhelmed this week: I helped with our synagogues first sent-annual craft fair. I am overwhelmed this week: I am helping to edit the articles that will appear in the July/August edition of The Messianic Times. I am overwhelmed this week: I will be flying to attend a meeting to have dialog with other Messianic leaders about how we can more effectively work together to spread the Good News of Messiah Yeshua. I am overwhelmed this week: I am making plans and preparing to celebrate Shavuot with my community. I am overwhelmed this week: we are putting the final touches on the launch of our new synagogue school which will provide classes to supplement homeschoolers in our community. I am overwhelmed this week: I am organizing the ceremony for my cousin’s wedding which takes place the end of the month and to which I will fly to another part of the country. I am overwhelmed because this list is only a portion of the items I will be involved with this week, all are important and all in which I play a key role in the events taking place.

I am overwhelmed, not by all of the things that I am blessed to be involved with and do, I am overwhelmed that the God of all Eternity has trusted and blessed me to be involved with all of these things.
Compassionate Hatred

Compassionate Hatred

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from one of the men who attend our congregation. His grandson had fallen while playing, and it appeared he had broken his wrist. The reason it appeared that way was that his arm now had a right angle bend to it that was not in the original design. I was close to the hospital, so it only took me a few minute to arrive and enter the young boys emergency room, room. There was this adorable little boy laying in the bed crying and begging for something to take away his pain. My wife and I as well as the parents prayed for the little guy and waited impatiently for the doctor to come and assess the young man's arm and determine the course of action. During this time, the child was provided with a very mild pain reliever even though he was begging for something to take away the pain. But, the doctor would not prescribe a strong pain medicine because the medicine might affect the response of the child during his evaluation and cause the doctor to miss something in the assessment and diagnosis. It was very hard for his parents to watch their son writhing in pain when pain medicine was available. Their compassionate hearts were demanding strong pain relief but at that moment, it was more compassionate to deny the medicine because providing relief could very well have also prevented healthy healing.

After the doctor had completed his assessment and diagnosis, the next step was the treatment plan which in this case meant manual manipulation to reset the bones into their right places. So he and his nurses took a firm hold of the arm and moved it until it returned to its correct position. This action as you would imagine caused increased pain to the child who was already in pain to begin with. Yet, once the arm was restored to its place, there was an almost immediate dramatic reduction in pain and discomfort.

This all happened while the parents were watching. The pain in their eyes was almost too much for people watching to bear. These people were causing increased pain to the child that they love so much. Yet the parents bore their pain because they knew that the only way their child could be restored was to endure the discomfort through the adjustment. If they had not allowed the doctors to repair their son's arm, they might have shown great compassion, but it would have been compassionate hatred, not compassionate love.

Our society today is very much like that young boy, we are broken. We know we are broken because we can see that we no longer look like our original design. The problem though is that we have forgotten that true compassion does not make excuses or refuse proper correction when needed so that real healing can come to those who are broken. We look at those who commit a crime, have an addiction, or get caught up in sexual immorality through the eyes "Compassionate hatred." We want them to not feel pain or discomfort but not enough to allow them to endure the pain of correct through the adjustment brought through Godly repentance.

People we love have "arms broken" and are in real pain. The way to stop their pain isn't with the temporary relief of compassionate hatred it is through the real permanent relief of compassionate love which doesn't just dull the pain. It provides an adjustment that re-aligns the broken so the pain goes away and restoration takes place.
Life is not Cracker Jacks

Life is not Cracker Jacks

I was talking the other day with a friend who said that they were searching for answers for the problems of their life. I asked them where they were searching, because, if you are searching in the wrong place you will never be able to find what you are looking for. No matter what you are looking for you wether it is your car keys, a spouse or the answers for life’s problems. If you fish in the wrong pond you will always catch the wrong fish.

I realized that my friend, like so many others related life to a box of Cracker Jacks. You know the candy coated popcorn with peanuts and a prize. They really believe that the only way to get the rewards of life is to dig until they reach bottom, and then hope what they find there is a prize that will bring happiness to their life.

Life however, was never designed that way. The Prize in life is right on top and no digging is required in order to find it. G-D has given us the prize of a eternity, and he did all the work to provide it for us through the atonement of Yeshua. Now you can choose to continue searching for a different prize or a what you might consider a better prize, but you won't find one. Because there is nothing that can ever compare to spending forever with G-D.

Life is not digging until you find a prize, hoping it is what you always wanted. Life is about recognizing that you already have the prize you’re searching. Once you do, life can become something you enjoy and not just something in the way of your prize. Just as the candy coated popcorn peanuts and a prize can become a treat instead of something to get out of the way while you search.
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MT logo 01 revThe Messianic Times has become the leading international Messianic Jewish newspaper since its inception in 1990. Started as a quarterly publication, it is now published six times per year by Times of The Messiah Ministries. It includes news from the worldwide Messianic community, Israeli current events and analysis, opinion pieces, book and music and film reviews, informative articles and a directory of Messianic Jewish congregations.