Overcoming Laziness

I’m not a professional on screen. When I make videos, I usually have a few notes jotted down, but otherwise I just make it up as I go. Below this video, I’ve posted a transcript that mostly follows the video verbatim. It’s a little disjointed, but I thought the topic was important enough not to leave it to just Youtube and Facebook.

Watch the video. Read along, if you find that helpful. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
Proverbs 6:6-11

There are different reasons that people fail to act, that they are lazy. Some people are lazy because they’re selfish. They don’t want to work. They consciously choose to burden other people with their needs, to allow other people to provide for them, to meet their expenses, provide them a place to live and food to eat. They know that they’re burdening other people and they’re ok with it.

Those are the people that Paul was talking about in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 when he said if someone is unwilling to work don’t let them eat. I’m perfectly happy with that. People who are unwilling to contribute–not people who are unable, but people who are unwilling to act on their own behalf–you shouldn’t help them. You’re just enabling them to be lazy. You’re enabling them to destroy their own lives and you become a party to their destruction. So let them fail. That’s the best thing for them.

But I don’t really want to talk about those people. I want to talk about the rest of us.

If you’re like me, you want to work. You want to accomplish great things, but maybe you find it really hard to take that first step, to really get things done. You know you want to finish that project. You want to make those sales calls. You want to write that book…but you just keep putting it off. You think, “I’m tired” or “I’m just dreading getting started on that project” or “I really don’t like it!” But you know you’ve got to do it and, before long, it’s too late. You’ve missed your opportunity or the deadline’s coming up and now you’ve got to rush to get things done.

It happens to me all the time.

I know it feels bad to call that “laziness” because you really want to work, but that’s really what it is. That’s exactly what Solomon was describing here: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty comes on you like a bandit.” It sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking.

We got here to this place by making a million small choices. You know the Chinese proverb, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but it took you a million steps to get here and each one was a decision. Every time you are faced with a choice to act or not to act you are making a decision. If you choose not to act, you’re choosing. It’s your problem, your fault.

I know it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like there’s a weight on your spirit like you just can’t think about the thing that you’re supposed to do. You’re tired! There are so many things… You know. Read another little paragraph in the book, just one. Watch a little bit more TV. Play this game for a little bit longer, because that other thing…it’s just so awful!

But these are choices, and one little choice after another creates a habit and before long you’re unable to act. You’re not even conscious of the choices anymore. You’re choosing not to act. You’re choosing to be lazy without ever actually consciously choosing. It just happens and you don’t know how you got here or why you can’t get anything done.

Fortunately we can get out the same way we got in: one step at a time.

It’s not easy.

Mel Robbins wrote a great book a few years ago, and she describes a process that’s just so obvious. It sounds too obvious to be true, but it works. I assure you it works. The book is called The Five-Second Rule, and here’s basically how it works:

When you’re conscious of a choice–and this takes some work–eventually you’ll become more conscious of choices as you develop better habit–but when you’re conscious of a choice, you know there’s something you need to do, and you just can’t get yourself to do it, don’t choose to do that thing. Instead, choose to count down from five. That’s easy! You can do that. But once you start counting…as soon as you hit one, you’re doing whatever it was.

“I just don’t want to sand that wall so that it can be primed and painted. I just hate it! It’s just so boring…Well, I’m gonna count. Five…four…three…two…Get up and sand the wall!”

It takes some effort. It takes time. It mostly takes time to undo all the damage that you’ve done to yourself by choosing not to act, but eventually you make better habits. You make better thought patterns where you’re more aware of your choices, and it gets easier and easier over time to actually get up and act, to do the things you have to do.

You know if you don’t guard your house, burglars come in. The bandit gets you on the road if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. You have to be conscious! So start now watching for those opportunities to make choices, and whenever you have that opportunity and you get that feeling like the whole world is is forcing you to stay in your seat, count. Start at five follow Mel’s five-second rule.

If you’re watching this on YouTube or Facebook I’ll put a link in the comments to her book and I hope you find this as helpful as I have.

This is Jay Carper with American Torah. Be blessed.

Mel Robbins’ The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage is available at Amazon in audiobook, Kindle, and hardcover. Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2zloYVS.

Genocide, Slavery, and the Heart of Man

Jennifer H. Lau's autobiography of her childhood during the Cambodian Genocide, Beautiful Hero: How We Survived the Khmer Rouge

Everyone knows about the Holocaust, in which many millions of Jews, Romani, Slavs, and other “undesirables” were systematically exterminated by the Nazis during World War 2, but that was neither the first nor the last atrocity of its kind.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist revolutionary group under the leadership of Pol Pot, took control of Cambodia. They executed the wealthy, professional, educated, and foreign people, and enslaved many millions of the poor and working classes. For around five years, they terrorized, murdered, and starved their own people.

As with all genocides, the numbers will never be known with any certainty, but the Khmer Rouge probably killed around two million people.

I recently read Jennifer H. Lau’s autobiography of her childhood during that terrible time, Beautiful Hero: How We Survived the Khmer Rouge (affiliate link). Throughout this detailed and intimate story of her family’s survival under extraordinarily harsh conditions, I was constantly struck with how vicious ordinary people can be and how kindness often comes from unlikely sources.

Impoverished subsistence farmers became benefactors. Next door neighbors became executioners. Protectors became thieves. Arch enemies became saviors.

People are fickle and desperation drives reasonable people to horrific behavior. No nation or race is exempt. Every people has been guilty at one time or another, and the same stories emerge from every genocide.

We have lived in such amazing peace and prosperity in America for so long that it’s easy to forget it isn’t normal. We have lulled ourselves to sleep and to dream that we are immune to the ubiquitous human tendency to force our will on others, to use people like just another resource to be consumed and discarded as needed.

Even as America prospered throughout most of the 20th century, the rest of the world reeled from genocide after genocide. The Khmer Roughe in Cambodia, the Nazis in World War 2, the Soviets in numerous times and places, the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians and Greeks, and so many others. There were genocides in every other century too, of course; modern technology just made us so much more efficient at it.

However, no matter which century, no matter which group of people are killing which other group, every genocide has this one inevitable fact in common: The belief that some people have absolute authority over others. The people exist for the benefit of the state or the party or the king, and the superior has the right to force the inferior to work, to relocate, to contribute, to live, or to die.

Although some forms of government (communism, for example) are founded on the belief that one person or group of people can have unlimited authority over other people, every form of government can be infected by this disease. It starts small: one person prospers, while another person suffers, so a third decides to take from the first in order to feed the second. It’s only fair. But once you have decided that you have a right to redistribute property based solely on your own (or the majority’s!) determination of what is fair or necessary, the only remaining moral barrier to redistributing life itself is entirely imaginary. If, in my own mind, I have a right to my neighor’s labor and property based on a vote or a pragmatic determination of my own, then I have a right to his life as well.

Every tree is known by its fruit, and communism is one of the most clearly evil schemes of government ever devised by man. There is no such thing as a decent, honest communist. By definition, they are thieves and murderers, at heart if they haven’t yet gained enough power to make their dreams into reality. Socialism is communism for people who haven’t completely killed off their consciences yet, and pure democracy merely distributes the guilt over more heads.

Many people criticize God’s Law because it allows a form of slavery. Yes, God recognizes authority, but he also says that all authority is only delegated by him and only temporarily and for limited purposes. Kings, priests, judges, husbands, fathers, mothers, and elder siblings have legitimate authority over other people, but that authority is always strictly limited. In God’s Law, life and property are sacrosanct. Nobod–not even a king–has the right to take another person’s life, labor, or property without a clear divine mandate or a conviction after a trial.

Of course, people, who reject God, also reject his law and, necessarily, all objective standards of morality. There can be no absolute law without an absolute Lawgiver. They say we have “evolved” beyond slavery and the archaic mandates of the Bible.

They are deluded.

We have not evolved. We are the same murderers and slavers that we have been from the beginning. The only difference is that we have accumulated knowledge and technology and more refined justifications for our atrocities.

If that sounds too grim a prognosis for you, then you need to read Mrs Lau’s book. You can get it here at Amazon.


Full disclosure: American Torah’s links to Amazon products are usually affiliate links. I earn a very small commission if you make a purchase after following one of my links.

A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work

Daniel Botkin, A Heart to Pray and a Mind to Work

Recently I asked a group of congregational leaders about their biggest concerns and challenges. Their responses didn’t surprise me.

  • How can we teach on controversial topics without stepping on too many toes? What really matters and which topics can be safely avoided?
  • How do we handle false doctrines and the general craziness that people pick up on the Internet?
  • How should we handle conflicts and troublesome members?
  • What do we do when we’re accused of wrongdoing? What do we do when we are actually in the wrong?
  • How can we promote a spirit of gratitude and faith in our people?
  • How do we manage expectations and integrate people with different levels of faith and relationship with God? How do we find a place for everyone who wants to serve?

Every congregation faces these questions (and many more) at some point. If you’re doing God’s work on earth, you can’t expect the enemy to ignore you. He will take notice and start probing for weak points he can use to attack you and undermine your ministry.

As Messianic and Hebrew Roots congregations multiply and grow, we are facing more crises of leadership than most other believers. We are treading “new” ground–at least in today’s culture–of the old paths. Our people are struggling with the bitterness of realizing they have inherited lies, and they often lash out at their fellow heirs rather than at the original father of those lies.

“If you feel any anger or bitterness toward Christians, understand this: Chances are, you were not deliberately lied to. Chances are, your former pastors and teachers were good men who loved the Lord and sincerely believed the erroneous doctrines that they taught you. Chances are, they were simply misinformed by the misinformed leaders who taught them, and those misinformed leaders had been misinformed by the previous generation of leaders. So put away any anger and bitterness you have toward Christians. Direct your anger toward the Devil, the deceiver who persuaded them to believe the misinformation.”

Daniel Botkin, A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work

Our tendency to blame our fellow victims rather than our mutual enemy, leads many of us to reject authority, to reject all teachers and scholars, to strike out on our own as lone theological wolves. But we aren’t supposed to be wolves, whether lone or in a pack. We are a flock, and like every flock that wants to survive, we need shepherds, and we need each other.

I first met Daniel Botkin at a conference of Torah observant believers in Dallas, Texas. I attended his lecture on leadership in the congregation, and–the first chance I could get–found him in the merchant hall and bought his book, A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work.

As I began to read it over the next week, it immediately struck me as a vitally important work in the community of Torah observant followers of Yeshua. Botkin has more knowledge of the Scriptures and more experience in congregational leadership than the vast majority of us will ever have, and we need to take full advantage of the wisdom he has to offer.

I believe that what we are doing in this Torah movement is right. We are shedding centuries of lies and rediscovering the biblical roots of our faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the way back is treacherous. The Enemy doesn’t want us to make it, and he will do everything in his power to keep us distracted, divided, and off course. We need help to stay out of the ditches and swamps that lie on every side. We need common sense guidance on spiritual leadership, and I believe Botkin’s book is an important part of that guidance.

So I offered to narrate it and make it available as an audiobook. I’ve never done anything like this before, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. I’m not a voice actor or professional narrator. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in a professional studio. (I recorded in my bedroom closet with a usb microphone and a cheap laptop!) I’m sure the task could have been done better by professionals, but the professionals just weren’t going to do it, and this book needs to be available from as many retailers and in as many formats as possible.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t do all this work for free, but I’m not making a bunch of money from it, either. My share will probably come out to around $1 per audiobook sold. The bulk of the revenue goes to pay for the servers and bandwidth at the various audiobook retailers, and most of the rest will go to support Daniel Botkin’s ministry.

If you are as tired of the bickering and controversy as I am, consider buying either the paperback or the audiobook. Botkin’s website (GatesOfEden.Online) has links to purchase the paperback of A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work as well as others of his books. I’ll post links below to various audiobook retailers as they add it to their catalogues over the next few weeks.

Audiobook retailers carrying A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work:

David Wilber on the Epistle of James

When Faith Works: Living Out the Law of Liberty According to James by David Wilber

Martin Luther believed that the Epistle of James shouldn’t be in the Bible because it contradicted the letters of Paul. Fortunately, most theologians for the last 2000 years have disagreed with him. On the contrary, James might be the most earthy and “real” of all the Apostolic letters in the New Testament.

When Faith Works: Living Out the Law of Liberty According to James by David Wilber
When Faith Works: Living Out the Law of Liberty According to James by David Wilber

In his new book, When Faith Works: Living Out the Law of Liberty According to James, David Wilber examines James’ letter, passage by passage, and in the process, illustrates two things beyond any doubt: First, that James aligns perfectly with the rest of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Not only does James not contradict Paul, but they complement each other nicely. Second, that James is imminently relevant to the daily lives of believers in all nations, all cultures, and all strata of society. Whatever your pain, whatever your temptation, whatever your joy, James wrote for you.

If you have ever wondered if Luther was right when he called James an “Epistle of Straw”, you need to read this book. Wilber proves that James is among the most relevant, consistent, and impactful of all the Epistles. When Faith Works is a great book. I highly recommend it.

The Faith and Prayers of America’s Founding Fathers

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve had something of an obsession with both prayer and American history for some years now. I have lots of questions for God about prayer and faith, so I spend a lot of time reading and studying about it. It can be tough, because frequently I don’t “feel” a lot of faith. I try to keep praying anyway and I encourage you to do to the same. That’s one reason that I’m giving away the Family Prayers ebook to all subscribers this and next month. (Subscribe here.)

I’m working on another project now, and I could really use your help!

Do you read a lot of American history, especially contemporary works and autobiographies? I’m collecting the prayers of America’s founding fathers (and mothers!). I would really love to hear about any that you’ve come across. Do you have any favorites?

I know there is much controversy over the religious beliefs of some of the Founders too. Were they deists? Were some of them even atheists? If some of these questions are bothering you, leave your thoughts, comments, and questions below. I’ll see what I can find out.

Thank you!!!

Where Are the Healings?

Whatever Happened to the Power of God by Michael L. Brown
Whatever Happened to the Power of God by Michael L. Brown

I’ve been reading Michael L. Brown’s book, Whatever Happened to the Power of God. I’m not even half-way through the book yet, but I have to share some of my thoughts with you now. In this book, Brown poses the very same questions that have been bothering me lately, and I haven’t been able to find answers. Here’s the crux of the problem:

American Christianity is a lie.

Or at the very least, it’s not what it claims to be.

Jesus said that if we followed after Him, we would heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. These signs would follow us everywhere we went, but where are any of these things happening? Nowhere that I know of. Sure, a headache fades here, a cold clears up over there, but so what?

How many formerly dead people are walking around in your church? No platitudes about how we were all once spiritually dead and now we’re reborn. No excuses. Why are we still holding funerals in our churches for young people? Why doesn’t everyone in your congregation have at least 20/20 vision so they can see that nobody around them is wearing a hearing aid?

Where has the power of God gone?

Is it in people on all fours barking like dogs or in gold dust blowing out of the ceiling vents? Baloney! That is not the power of God. You can tell me the Holy Spirit is moving in your town all day long and every Wednesday night, but if people aren’t leaving their wheelchairs behind, it’s all just hot air.

God doesn’t change. He makes miracles for His people. Jesus said that we would do greater miracles than He did. I believe in Him. So what’s wrong?

I invite you to read along with me. I hope Dr. Brown has some answers for us. If you know something, please share. Just no second or third hand stories.

Have No Enemies: being made perfect by love

The Didache is an ancient Christian writing that purports to be a summary of the teachings of the Apostles. The most interesting things about this particular writing are that it dates from the first century, from the very earliest years of the Gentile congregations, and that it was considered by many early Christians to be authoritative Scripture.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be tweeting highlights and thoughts derived from the Didache at Twitter. You can read along for free at Early Christian Writings or buy your own copy at Amazon.

The first chapter of the Didache focuses on the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, through a series of instructions on living out the commandment, all of which are directly derived from other Scriptures, both Old and New Testament.

For example, one instruction says “Love them that hate you, and you will have no enemy.”

The kindergarten level interpretation of this is if you are nice to those who are mean to you, they’ll change their minds and be nice to you in return. Of course we all learn very quickly that it doesn’t really work that way. So what could the writer have meant?

If you return love for hate, most of your enemies will continue to hate you. They might hate you even more than at first.

If you return kindness for cruelty, your afflicter may become even crueler than before.

But be sure of this: Your enemy will no longer be your enemy. He will be the enemy of God, punishing you for the goodness of God that he sees in you. More importantly, he will be his own enemy, fighting to keep his own spirit from hearing the testimony of your actions. Your kindness will become the instrument through which God disciplines his soul, sealing his condemnation if he doesn’t repent or transforming him if he does.

The Didache also repeats Yeshua’s words, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also,” adding “and you will be made perfect.”

"Turn the other cheek" isn't about pacifism, but about temperance & forgiveness.
“Turn the other cheek” isn’t about pacifism, but about temperance & forgiveness.

Yeshua wasn’t telling us to be pacifists. That’s the kindergarten interpretation again. He was telling us to be slow to anger and don’t make overly quick conclusions about another’s motivations. Don’t immediately react to violence with violence. Rather, learn to control your passions in order to better judge every situation. Maybe you were struck by accident or because of a misunderstanding. If you discover that someone does indeed intend to do you harm, by all means defend yourself and others.

By mastering self-control, patience, and good judgment, you will become a better person and more Christ-like. This is what it means to “be made perfect.”

Understand also that love and kindness will not always appear as you might expect. Do you love your own soul? Then cut off your hand if it makes you to sin.

We know that God’s Law is the working out of love in an imperfect world. It is a reflection of the character of a perfect Creator who wants only the best for His Creations. Where it forbids, it forbids out of love. Where it allows, it allows out of love.

Be kind. Be patient. But also be wise.

 

(See here for thoughts on why The Didache cannot be included in the Biblical canon.)

Family Prayers from Proverbs Released Today!

Family Prayers from Proverbs ISBN 1508551855
Family Prayers from Proverbs by Jay Carper. ISBN 1508551855

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Growing Godly Children. Building a Stronger Future.

Brenham, TX – March 5 – In this time of shifting moral standards parents often feel helpless against unhealthy influences on television, on the Internet, and in pop culture. They need more effective tools to teach their children time-honored principles of wisdom and godly behavior. Brenham resident Jay Carper has created a small book to help meet that need.

Carper’s Family Prayers from Proverbs for Wisdom, Wealth, & Wellness is a family prayer book based on the Book of Proverbs. He distilled each chapter of Proverbs into a short set of three to four prayers designed to draw every member of the family into meditation on the meaning of Solomon’s writings and how they apply to everyday life.

Family Prayers from Proverbs will help parents counteract the influence of the world on their children’s minds and spirits and make wise choices instinctive. Using this prayer guide in your family devotionals will have a lasting impact resulting in a stronger work ethic, healthier relationships, and a better future.

The book is available through online booksellers or by contacting the author at Jay@AmericanTorah.com. You can also ask your local bookstore to carry Family Prayers from Proverbs on their shelves.

About the Author: Jay Carper lives with his wife and son in Brenham, Texas, where they are part of a small community of Torah-observant believers. His parents have been involved in ministry with the Assemblies of God and other organizations since before he was old enough to know it, and he inherited their love of the Bible and its Author. He believes that a person can only obtain eternal salvation through faith in the grace of God which was made manifest in the death and resurrection of Jesus. While searching for a deeper understanding of God’s love for His people, Jay began exploring God’s Law and the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith in the 1990s and has been an active participant in Torah-observant congregations since 2001.

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Title: Family Prayers from Proverbs
Subtitle: for Wisdom, Wealth, & Wellness
Author: Jay Carper
ISBN: 1508551855
EAN13: 9781508551850
List price: $9.98


Check out my growing playlist of short videos on the Proverbs in my  Youtube channel.

Building Stronger Families Through Prayer

The family that prays together, stays together
THE LORD’S PRAYER by navalatanjjnn

The people of God are at war.

For decades, those who fear God and place their faith in Him have been under a concerted attack from multiple fronts. Islam is infecting the world with its violence and hatred. Feminists and homosexuals deny reality and attack anyone who exhibits the slightest common sense or ability to perceive the terrible effects that their philosophies have on families, communities, and individuals. Moral relativists celebrate every perverse and destructive behavior, while decrying all moral standards as oppressive. Lawyers, marketers, and politicians corrupt the truth and build careers on finding new ways to manipulate people into making counterproductive decisions. The list goes on, but by far the most effective attacker is the one we have been battling for millennia: our own evil inclination.

Read more at Amazon

Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

Jacob's eleven sons before Joseph in Egypt.

This week, most Jewish and Messianic congregations around the world are reading the Torah portion known as Vayechi (pronounced vah-yeh-khee), which is Genesis 47:28-50:26. This passage describes Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh and his prophecies over all twelve of his sons. Reading it put me in mind of an ancient document known as The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which most Christians have never even heard of.

The Testaments is a collection of the last wills and testaments of the twelve sons of Jacob. Each contains a summary of the good and bad deeds of the author, moral homilies, prophecies of the Messiah and the tribe’s future, and a final exhortation to good deeds and national cohesion. They were written in Hebrew, most likely in the second or third century BC,  and probably include edits made by a Priest sometime during the period of Herod’s Temple before Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) was born and by a Messianic Jew sometime in the first century after Yeshua’s resurrection. Although they were almost certainly not written by Reuben, Simeon, Levi, etc., they are still very interesting for their moral and historical content.

One interesting thing to consider is the influence of history and perspective in the emphasis of each brother’s moralizing. For example, Reuben’s great failing was in his inability to control his physical passions, and so he cautions the reader to maintain strict boundaries between the active spheres of men and women so as to avoid being tempted to fornication. Considering his perspective, when he says “Women are evil,” what he really means is that a man with his weaknesses must be on his guard around women, especially those women who themselves might be tempted to stray. Reuben knew that he was an easy mark for a flirtatious woman and so calls all women “evil” in self-defense. I think most of us have this tendency to inflate our own flaws to the level of a universal principal. We need to keep this in mind when we are tempted to judge another person harshly for what might actually be a fairly minor offense.

You can read more about the Testaments here and read the full version here.

I’ll be tweeting quotes and paraphrases from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs with the hashtag #12Patriarchs all this week. Follow me on Twitter and join in the conversation!