Not long ago, my husband asked me a thought provoking question on our way home from errands. As biblical teachers we often like to discuss stories and scenarios we see or hear, and go over hypotheticals, so that we are better prepared for times when people pose spontaneous questions to us. He asked me how I would respond to a story about a Torah observant minister. After hearing the story, my initial answer was that I would do what I always do. Yet I could not find a reason nor a way to scripturally defend my answer. His question made me really think because the example he gave made very clear sense at the time, but something felt “off” about what the minister had chosen. What the minister did was the opposite of what I knew in my spirit was right, yet I still could not come up with biblical proof to counter his decision and his scriptural justification. I was stumped.
So I spent some time thinking and praying about the example Jim had given me, along with his questions and BINGO! I had a response!
Here is the scenario Jim gave and the questions he asked me:
A minister shared a story about attending a function with several other ministers. The local ladies had fixed a big dinner for them, including a main dish which contained pork sausage. Because he followed a biblical diet of clean foods, he wondered if he should “show love” and eat the dish, or should he stand on principle by finding a kind way to follow his biblical dietary decision? This minister opted to “err on the side of love” and ate the dinner without a word.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 KJV Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
The conclusion of the minister, based on these verses was that the commandment to love others “trumps” the food laws. His focus is on the section which says “Give none offence. . . “
My husband asked me what I felt about this and would I eat the main dish or not? Also, how would I counsel this person, based off their scriptural justification and their actions?
As I said before, my initial response was that I would NOT eat the dish. Yet no matter how hard I tried, other than explaining to him that I would find a kind way to get out of eating it, I could not find any strong reasons why I wouldn’t eat it. I also couldn’t find any good ways to say no because I would NOT want to offend anyone in any way. I knew that in not eating the dinner, I could run the risk of offending others, which I would never want to purposefully do. Yet, I also believe in standing firm on my faith as a living example.
During prayer, Yahweh impressed upon me what he would feel was right in this situation. It did not take long for me to come to my conclusion: YES! I would stand firm on my belief that I choose to eat a biblical diet. And NO, I would not eat the sausage dish.
Here are my reasons why:
1. The first thought that popped into my head is, why should there be any difference between a PHYSICAL reason to say no and a SPIRITUAL reason to say no? Here’s what I mean – imagine you had Celiac disease which had not yet witnessed a miraculous healing. Would you eat a pasta dish, bread and cakes they served and risk your own physical health simply to not offend the cooks? Better yet, what if they had made peanut butter sandwiches and you were allergic to peanuts?! Would you eat those sandwiches to not offend others, risking anaphylaxis and possibly death?
NO, you wouldn’t, nor would anyone cooking the food or serving your dinner expect you to eat it once they learned of your health situation. Yet we question it for spiritual reasons. We would not set aside our physical beliefs, why would we set aside our spiritual beliefs?
2. What love am I showing by not being an example of my beliefs? Yahweh has called us each to be an example of our faith and of the Word. By saying for months or years on end that I stand for a biblical eating plan, why would I sacrifice that example when served dinner that contains pork? Would it be LOVING for me to give the impression that I don’t practice what I preach? After eating that pork dish, one day in the future, those lovely ladies who fixed that dinner may be sitting in a conference or class where you are teaching on the topic of “clean meats.” How will they believe what you teach when you did not stand for what you claim to believe? Have you not made yourself into a hypocrite? Which would show more love for these sisters – a good example or a poor example, good fruit or bad fruit?
Galatians 6:3 WEB For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself..
Luke 12:2 WEB But there is nothing covered up, that will not be revealed, nor hidden, that will not be known.
3. I also question why anyone would be offended if what I said and did to apologize was done with such kindness and love, and without condemnation. My prayer would be that they would be kind and understanding in return and that, in standing up for my beliefs, they might see the Spirit in me.
Galatians 5:22-23 KJV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,...
Matthew 7:16 WEB By their fruits you will easily recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from brambles?
We must find a loving way to express to these beautiful sisters their work and service is appreciated, while at the same time standing firm on your beliefs and principles. It may take a few minutes of heartfelt prayer, asking Yahweh to fill your mouth with words of wisdom, but you CAN be an example for Yahweh – one who is filled with such love that it overflows and fills them with understanding. Before even approaching them, I would even pray for their hearts to be softened and opened to the words you share.
Looking at the same verses that the other minister used to justify his decision, you can see that it would clearly support my decision. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 KJV Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. I would eat and drink everything to the glory of Yahweh to ensure that I not offend them with a bad example of not standing up for my beliefs. For, if I am a bad example of my faith, clearly it might cause someone to stumble or find fault in me and could hinder their belief in Yahweh and cause them to question.
What a great testimony of truth you will be to others as they see you are willing to stand for what you believe! The witness you bear to them will stick with them for some time to come – my prayer is that it will be the most beautiful witness possible, a seed that will bring fruit in the life of others.
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Lowering Our Standards For Love
This is not a political statement of any kind. It is not intended to be political in any way. It is a God statement. Period.
Several years ago, Yahweh put the burden on my heart to teach women His truth. He blessed us to create Torah For Women ministry where we discuss and teach principles based on the bible. NOT on what mankind has taught about the scriptural writings for 2000 years. Often I find myself having to cover modern day issues from a biblical perspective because, let’s face it, not every micro detail in our modern society is covered in the scriptures. BUT the principles from scripture can be applied in our lives.
Last year, Yahweh placed another burden on my heart to re-focus Torah for Women to encourage women in avoiding false doctrines and teachings while seeking after Spiritual gifts. I also felt impressed upon to teach that they need to teach their children rightly to be able to defend the faith as they grow older. In all this, Yahweh kept leading me to the verse in 2 Timothy 3:6 -7 WEB “For some of these are people who creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Repeatedly, Yahweh has pushed that verse in front of me as a warning of what will, and is, happening amongst the women of faith.
A few months ago, He placed another burden on my heart for our youth and to pray diligently for our children. Children ages 8 to 30 have been led astray by so many influences in their lives, which is why women need to be strong, faithful teachers. From school teachers, club leaders, college professors, friend’s parents, friends and more, our young people have been influenced to forsake their morals, upbringing, righteousness, and faith in the name of “let’s all get along” and “we need to love everybody.” In the midst of all this, they have even been fooled into thinking that we need to give up our basic rights in an effort to “make everyone happy” and avoid “offending anyone.”
None of these principles are biblical. Not one. They all go against what the bible teaches, and although I could spend hours focusing on that topic alone it is not why I am here today writing this message. In fact, I did not expect to be writing this message at all. I did not want to speak about this, and I certainly did not want it to be a part of our ministry, but it must be. I must say what is on my heart – because this week during my personal prayer time Yahweh impressed upon me to speak up against what I see and hear happening with the youth who have been touched by this horrific shooting in Parkdale FL. Again, as I said, this is NOT a political message. It is a GOD message. Plain and simple.
On February 14, 2018 something terrible happened in Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkdale, FL. Something that changed thousands of lives forever. We all know the details, we all know the accusations and the stories coming out, so there is no need for me to go into details here, especially as they are still unfolding. What I will talk about today is simple: those children and adults whose hearts are so broken by what has happened that they have yelled out that they don’t want our prayers and sympathies. They don’t want our love and kindness. These people are calling out, “Where was God during all this?!” and “Why didn’t God stop this from happening?!”
Well, here is MY answer to those thoughts and questions:
I am sorry that you do not want my prayers. It breaks my heart that you do not want me to pray for your comfort, courage and strength. But, I am going to pray anyway. I will pray for solace in your grief, peace in your heart and in your community, for strength to get through, for love to prevail as people struggle with the trauma. I will pray for protection over each and every person touched by this and may there be no residual deaths from this incident. Suicide following such a traumatic event is a reality sometimes. I do NOT want that to be the case in your community.
Your anger, your hurt and bitterness, your pain and anguish, your heartsick words – all of that is perfectly understandable at this time, and it all only strikes a chord in me even deeper than before. It tells me that you, your families, friends, children, loved ones, all need our prayers so much more than we ever knew or imagined. You need deep, heartfelt intercessory prayers and prayers for supplication. I wish this never happened to you and your community. I can’t take it away, but I can still pray for you going forward and I will.
"It happened, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days; and I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven,” Nehemiah 1:4-6 WEB
I do not know your pain, I cannot imagine what you are going through, and I won’t pretend that I do. What I do hear, though, in those words and tears is that people don’t understand how this could happen if we have a loving God. I hear hearts crying out “why” and calling to be filled with understanding yet aren’t finding it. I don’t know that my words here today will bring understanding to anyone. But my hopes and prayers are that you will see God did not abandon you.
God WAS there that day in Parkland FL. God has been there for over a year. God was there when the first concerned teacher tried to get help for the young man. God was there when the first student felt impressed to report his odd behavior. God was there when he impressed upon so many people to report every incident with this young man. Students, teachers, administration, leaders, friends all reported different things that could have brought his problems to light and could have prevented this shooting from happening.
“MAN” was not there for this school and community – for at least a year prior to the shooting, and even on that very day. “Man” failed these children, teachers, and families, not God. “Man” did not listen to all the voices telling them what was happening. We cannot blame God for what man refused to do.
God was there on February 14th during the shooting, and he tried to clean up the mess that “Man” made when they didn’t listen. Just look at the selfless people, people of great character, He had in place that day:
~ The Geography teacher, Scott Beigel, who died after unlocking a door for students and getting them inside to protect them.
~ The coach, Aaron Feis, who ran toward the shooting and shielded students from bullets.
~ The young JROTC student who died holding the door so other students could run out to safety.
~ The two JROTC students who escorted several students back into a classroom and covered them with Kevlar panels, blockaded a door, and stood ready to take out the shooter if he attempted to enter the room.
~ The librarian whose friend had been through Sandy Hook and survived by helping people hide. Because of her friend’s story of survival, she knew just what to do, ushered kids inside, into a small area, hid them and turned off the lights.
~ The miraculous healing of those who were critically injured.
There are countless other stories that will come out over time of heroes and heroines who were willing to do whatever necessary that day for those around them. Where did these people get the courage, strength, selfless nature that they have inside them if not from how He created them? Each one was in the right place at the right time to help to care for those in need and to help minimize what could have been horrifically much worse because that young man was determined that day to kill.
God was there that day, in so many ways, and I will continue to pray to Him for all those involved. I will continue to pray that somehow, someway Yahweh can touch the hearts of those in the community to come to know Him even more than before. I will continue to pray that in spite of the political noise, all will learn to focus on everything Yahweh was able to do during the the tragedy, all he has done since, and all that He will keep doing.
You have our love and our prayers.
Shalom. . .
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God WAS There. . .
I would like to share a little bit of my heart with you today. A sister was feeling a bit confused recently, a bit melancholy over things from her past. After seeing something from her old church, it brought back happy memories which made her “pine” for the way things “used to be.” She even felt concerned about whether or not her Torah path was the right one. Two of her thoughts have stuck with me:
~ Seeing these things from the past “Makes me wish for a spiritual life without all this opposition.”
~ How can I know if my new path is right?
Have you ever felt that way? Felt as if everything you do meets great opposition from friends and family which makes you question deeply if you have made the right decision.
In this Torah walk, it seems like we are hit from all sides sometimes with people’s opinions of our choice to live more biblically centered, not just following man-made traditions. We can be told it is everything from wrong to stupid, or anything in between. Sometimes people are not kind, not by any means. We can try to be as gentle and loving in our new choices as Yeshua would have been, but some people just don’t like what we do, our strong faith, or who we have become.
Two of the roughest times of the year, in my opinion, are Christmas and Easter. America is SO used to celebrating these holidays as mega-events with gifts and parties, dinners and events. If you choose not to attend any of these events, you often are accused of not being “normal.” Have you ever had that moment at a family get together where everyone starts talking about their last big family holiday dinner together? Everyone is remembering that time when so-and-so said this, or such-and-such did that, laughing and joking, then someone looks at you, gets sullen faced and blurts out, “Oh, yeah. YOU weren’t there because YOU don’t celebrate Easter (or Christmas).” Then suddenly it seems the nature of the conversation has changed because “the weird one” is there. Does any of that seem or feel familiar?
It is difficult when we leave our old churches or former belief systems. Many of us feel that we have to give up EVERYTHING that is Godly from them, even the truths that we learned, just to cut ourselves off from the false doctrines. When we leave behind false teachings like Christmas and Easter, many often also toss out everything that was comfortable and often these are things we found joyful at one point in our lives. Then when we discover our love for the feast days and Sabbath, we feel happy yet also out of place. We want to share it with all our old friends and our family, and yet often they will not be a part of what we now know.
For me growing up, Christmas was THE holiday in my family. We did it big - Dad took us out into the woods, we picked and cut a tree, he put the lights on, we all sang carols and decorated it while we had cocoa and cookies. He lit a HUGE yule log in the old fireplace. Even when we moved to Tucson when I was a teen, he HAD to have a house with a fire place so he could light his yule log. Oh, my goodness! Some winters he lit that log, and we opened all the windows and turned on fans because it was so doggone hot! Dad loved Christmas traditions.
We baked cookies with mom for a month, delivered them to friends and relatives, and then between Christmas and New Years we had parties galore. Then there were the visits to every aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend of the family. It was a BIG deal, and a huge part of my memory.
When I had kids of my own, I started the same traditions, and then added our own. Every year we baked and decorated gingerbread houses and delivered them to friends. The season was SO packed full of activities – caroling, watching Christmas programs on TV, we even drove around the neighborhoods and looked at all the houses decorated with all the lights. I have SO many memories as a child, teen and mother with my own kids.
When we “gave up Christmas”, the first year was actually easiest for me. Family and friends just thought we were weird, going through a “phase.” The second one, not so much. By this time, some friends and family had become aggressive in their opinions and began pressuring us to celebrate Christmas, one even demanding that we be present at their event. The third year, it seemed the emotional manipulations really got hard and heavy. It felt as though some people were trying to say, “GEEZ! Aren’t you done with that phase now? Let’s get back to Christmas!” Now here we are years later, and this last two have been very hard.
I know that using the term “emotional manipulations” might set some people off, but that is exactly what happens. Some will pull out all the stops, using your memories from your childhood, your elderly Aunt Ethel, or any number of other strings to pull at your emotions with the hope of pressuring you into doing what they want from you. The good-old-fashioned guilt-trip.
At first, I thought maybe these last two holiday seasons were rougher because we moved away by ourselves, out of state. Yet that isn’t really it. It occurred to me that our moving didn’t affect how we look at Christmas, but it did affect how others look at us during the Christmas season. These last two years we have gotten an exorbitant amount of pressure to come “home” for the holiday. Even though we don’t celebrate it, the pressure seems to say, “This is what is easiest for all of us back here. We all think you need to come here to us because it is convenient for us.”
Sadly, this last Christmas, we even had a hurtful moment happen where a promise was made to us because family was all going to be together for a big family dinner. They were going to call so we could talk to everyone all at once. We waited and waited. Hours past, finally we called to ask if dinner was done yet. Only to learn that everyone had left hours earlier and when we questioned about the promise, we very sadly were told it shouldn’t matter because “YOU don’t celebrate Christmas.” It wasn’t Christmas that we wanted. It was to talk with everyone who was going to be there for dinner because that was the only time all year that everyone was together.
Suddenly it was as if we were being told that unless we follow everyone else in the family, we will be punished, ostracized, shunned. At that moment, I really started to question if we are right in our feelings about the holiday. Maybe we SHOULD just go back to celebrating it. Just Christmas. I found myself feeling just as my friend does – couldn’t we make it just family time together and it would be without all the opposition. . .I even asked myself, How could so much opposition be the right thing?
The more I prayed about it, the more it felt WRONG to celebrate Christmas. I was so very confused. I do miss all the smells, the songs, the fun with the kids, I miss going to historical towns and seeing the homes decorated, all the sights and sounds and smells. I miss it all so much sometimes I physically ACHE inside for those memories to be real again. Yet, even though I still miss it so very much, I can't bring myself to do it. Yahweh told us to not celebrate pagan things IN HIS NAME. And of all the American celebrations that we have, Easter and Christmas are the most pagan of them all and THEY ARE DONE IN HIS NAME. I can’t celebrate them. No matter how deep the emotions and memories run, I cannot do them.
It is SO ingrained in us, such a part of our memories, and we can all recall some truly blessed times wrapped up in that neat little package we call Christmas or Easter. But it all boils down to one question: is the doctrine correct? What is true? It isn't easy on our hearts sometimes to stay the line and follow the straight and narrow path but is it wrong or is it RIGHT to stay in Torah. THAT is the question you have to ask yourself.
Some days it will be difficult, other days it will hurt like heck, but I know deep in my spirit that following a Torah Observant lifestyle IS right.
Torah observance isn't the reason we follow Torah. In other words, we don’t follow Torah as a score-card, the legalistic way, putting every check mark in every box on our Feast Day check list. We don’t follow Torah because it is easy or for salvation. Yeshua is the reason we follow Torah. When we accept him, that is supposed to work a true and righteous change in our heart. That change is supposed to make us want to live like Yeshua - always loving, sometimes stern, sometimes heavy handed, but always kind. We don’t follow Torah to be better than someone else, or more righteous than another. We don't follow Torah to BE righteous. Once we accept Yeshua, we follow Torah BECAUSE we are righteous. It is a change of heart.
Would I be tempted to go back to Christmas again? Probably at some point. And as my friend feels pulled to return to her old church lifestyle, I asked myself if I would want to return, too, if I felt those same pulls that she does? Yes, I probably would. But would I go?
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My Thoughts On Christmas and Easter
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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