How do you do Community: The Hoped For Gathering

“How do you do community?” Asked a sister to me recently; she’d been burned by more than one ‘community’ when she didn’t live up to their local standard of holiness.

She asked me because for the last year or so, I’ve been preaching community and kingdom and nationhood to every follower of Messiah who will listen, because we don’t get it!

The above statement originally contained an expletive because I frankly felt it called for it, and I dialed it back for my reading audience, but make no mistake that that is what I meant. All the talk of ‘community’ churches, and being ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ and how we have ‘our’ Father in Heaven, but most self-proclaimed followers are still too busy with being Americans, Liberals, Republicans, Baptists, seeker-friendly, and a thousand other made up, market friendly, human-label garbage to actually live like there really is one body, one faith, one Father of all! What have most us changed in our actual day-to-day life that says my fellow disciple is closer to me than my co-worker?

Anyway. She asked me. And a little later, I sat down to write a blog on how to do it. And I quickly remembered why I don’t believe in one, two, five, ten, or any-number-of-step-programs. We’re locked into this mechanical way of thinking, where if I do (A) then I can do (B) and suddenly, despite free-will and a universe of things beyond my control, (C) will be the result. Oh, golly gee!

The fact is there is no road map to community. Effective, living, actual community.

But I believe there is a road. A meandering path, that you can see under your feet and again where it comes up the hill on the other side of the dark forest, but the middle is kind of sketchy. But if you stay on that path it will get you there. It’s the belief that YHVH didn’t give us a calling and then deny us the power to achieve it. The paradoxical belief that yes, we need the return of Mashiach to bring in the fullness of the Kingdom, but also realize we are being conformed into the image of the Mashiach every day by the Ruach HaKodesh–which means Mashiach is here! Do not deny the power of godliness.

So on this sketchy path, I present to you a turn called: Mikveh.

Mikveh is a ritual immersion practiced by Jews, as part of family purity taught in the Torah. It is primarily seen as a ritual of spiritual breaking from something previous, but it is also hygienic. A common example being that YHVH teaches us to abstain from sexual relations during the seven days of a woman’s period (Lev 15), and at the end for her to wash herself. Now the Torah rarely uses the actual word Mikveh, but it does use the term in Vayikra/Leviticus 11:36 to describe a gathering of water large enough that it is not rendered unclean (as smaller sources are) by having a dead mouse in it. Perhaps, this is where the tradition comes from because how could unclean or possibly unclean water be part of purifying someone from uncleanness? So a mikveh would be a source of water that was known to be clean.

How big is a mikveh? Traditionally it is a body of water 200 gallons, minimum. Tradition also stipulates that it be living water, which has to do with being fed from nature, naturally. Ie., gravity fed. This makes sense because the first mikveh in scripture is actually the sea (B’resheet/Genesis 1:10). Later it is used also of ponds in Egypt. Both of which are obviously rain and river, gravity fed, and probably more than 200 gallons.

I don’t want to get lost on the details. Even if the traditional definition of Mikveh is not itself the mitzvah, the idea of washing is abundantly so. One should wash after touching a dead body, after having sex, after an abnormal bodily discharge, etc. Paul Copan made a very interesting observation that all uncleanness seemed to stem from a connection with death. Semen for example, once discharged dies. Blood when it has left the body during menstration surrounds the death of an egg. Dead bodies are obviously, dead. So all uncleanness has to do with a nearness of death. Kedushah (separateness) around the idea of things dead or dying reflects the fact that we worship the source of life, unlike the world which worships death.

But what does this have to do with community?

Imagine for a moment, that you are Isra’el (which you are if you claim Yeshua as your Master). And you’ve just come out of Egypt. Tell me . . .  Where are the bathrooms? Did Isra’el, with more than a million people, stop at truck stops along the wilderness to bathe? Whatever you think of mikveh as a mitzvah, clearly it would have been the only option. They could not shower, and they certainly didn’t drag a million bathtubs. Clearly, the natural ponds, rivers, seashore were their mikvehs. Now do you suppose, that they had shifts? That the erected tents? Even if they did, they were certainly not individual. Even the idea of gender segregation seems highly unlikely.

The nearly inevitable conclusion is that Torah keeping Isra’el, would have had plenty of seeing each other in their all-togethers. Public bathing would have been a fact of life. As I read scripture, in fact, Aharon and his sons would have bathed semi-publically in the laver between the altar and the tabernacle (Shemot/Exodus 40:12) before they put on their kadosh garments. And this didn’t end there, because Judaism has practiced to this day that the mikveh immersion is practiced both in the nude and with an attendant to declare the immersion kosher (complete submergence). Understanding this, adds an interesting insight into what baptism is supposed to be:

  • In the mikveh understanding being nude, nothing comes through the mikveh: in modern baptism (because originally there was no difference), a person comes through in the clothes from their old life.
  • If a particular immersion is a symbol of death, then in the mikveh we see a person putting themselves to death, like their Mashiach who died willingly, “no man takes my life from me. I lay it down, and I will take it up again.” In baptism, it is an act carried out by another.

But still, what does this have to do with community?

In the traditional mikveh, with an attendant as Yochanon was (notice that no one was surprised at some guy in the desert inviting people to get in the buff and immerse in water?), then we see that mikveh is not an individual act. Could someone mikveh in private? Sure, but the example of Yeshua himself is mikveh with someone else present. Further back to the origin we have Aharon being washed by his brother Moshe. We have the whole people of Israel mikvehing together for 40 years in the wilderness, and coming out of Egypt through a mikveh of the Red Sea.

Mikveh is community oriented. Now, I’m going to speculate a little bit on the why. After all—aside from being impractical—couldn’t YHVH have said, everyone get a bucket and a towel and take care of this in private?

  1. Community mikveh promotes interest in each other’s lives. Suppose someone is sick and trying to hide it? An attendant would be able to see some signs of illness. If it was contagious, they might report it to someone like the elders to prevent the spread. Or suppose there was someone in the congregation—YHVH forbid—who was being abused by a spouse or even parent? It would be hard to hide if mikveh’s were at least once a month for a woman (and more often if someone was sexually active). It could even suggest marital trouble, because how is it that this married woman is not coming to mikveh?
  2. Community mikveh promotes brotherhood. When we all walk around in our clothes, some of us dress better (and more expensive) than others. It’s not hard to see that someone who dresses in a suit looks more respectable, and—if we’re honest—what that means is they look like a better person. Perhaps, even worth more. But a mikveh reminds us, this person still gets dirty like us. They still feel the pull of death (uncleanness). And honestly, under their clothes they look just like us.
  3. Community mikveh promotes compassion. Many of us joke about how ‘nobody wants to see this’ speaking of ourselves. We suggest that deep down we think our bodies are unworthy. Clothing lets us hide the fact that we think God somehow made something ugly when he made us. Instead of something fearful and wonderful. Someone or some group serving as attendants/witnesses, then has the blessing of telling another person they are ‘kosher, kosher, kosher’. It gives us an opportunity to tell each other that we are at our core beautiful and wonderful.

Together, and the last one especially, all point to a practice of saying, one to another that we are in this together. Will this magically solve community problems? As I said from the beginning, no! Is it still possible to reject someone who you’ve ritually bathed with? Sure. And just because we’ve done this, should we then turn a blind eye to sin in the community? No, the book of Acts is clear that there are at least four things for which we should break all fellowship (blood or violence, things strangled, fornication, and idolatry). But if we’re rejecting for other things, possible the sin isn’t with the rejected but the rejector.

But what this does is practice or rehearse thinking like we’re a community. What made me think of this connection, was when I asked myself why do congregations of people who want to obey Elohim, and take his word and even his Torah seriously, fall apart as communities? And I think it’s because we never learn to like each other. And why not? Because the people who are most concerned with holiness are also the people most likely to find fault with you. Which means to be part of their ‘community’ you are tempted to put on a face. And that means pretending to be something you’re not and never really relaxing with them. And how much you want to bet the person across from you is doing the same? Trying not to be the first to show their struggle. So we have a group of people who want to be a community without ever actually getting to know real people. We pretend that we’re not entertained by some things like TV because they might think we’re godless. We never talk about hobbies unless we can slip a scripture in, because that’s what they’ll expect.

The bottom line is that we never feel comfortable enough to let someone else see us in our pajamas. Let alone our underwear. Let alone without even that.

Is it a coincidence that I’ve never found even one of these communities with a practice of mikveh? Is it a coincidence that the word Mikveh is translated as “coming together”, but also contains the meaning of something hoped for?

Meanwhile, the Jews who practice mikveh (albeit much less public), are adamantly adhered to each other as a people. However much they may dislike and argue with one another, they have an almost universal belief that they all remain Jews (unless a Jew ‘converts’ to Christianity).

It seems undeniably obvious that the group that is willing to see the real you (naked in Hebrew has the pictograph of seeing the real you), will hold community much better than the group that pretends they are something they are not. Mikveh is the practice of familiarity with each other as we really are, and I think perhaps that’s what’s missing from modern attempts at community. We come together and we think we can be together because we share the same rules (I say that crudely since Torah is about love, not rules). But YHVH didn’t give Torah to a bunch of scattered individuals and say ‘get together.’ He gave Torah to a people. We have to cultivate our sense of each other as a family and a people, and I think mikvehs may help.

 

[Pardon the formatting. I was running behind and Word inserted some formatting changes.]

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DIY guide to DIY guides

I think every father goes through a period—or they should—of assessing the things they want to teach their children. Further, if a son imitates the father, then the one who teaches is the father.

But does the ‘train up a child in the way that he should go’, only pertain to the spiritual?

I think not, so I’ve been working on a list of things I want my children to know that I didn’t know growing up. Something like:

  • How to work on a car and other machines
  • How to use a gun
  • Martial arts
  • Torah consistent economics
  • How to maintain toolsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • How grow a garden
  • How to forage off the land
  • How to hunt/trap/fish and dress
  • How to weld and machine
  • How to navigate and survive in the wild
  • How to navigate in and survive ‘civilization’
  • Tactical training
  • How to build a house

A handful of basics with many left out. A difficulty arises in that many of those items are not skills that I possess. I could and would try to ‘enroll’ my child with others in the community of God’s people who know what I lack—yet, it seems kind of shameful for my child to know some skill that I don’t.

Plus a lot of those skills have to do with developing one’s own capabilities. I want my children not to just be able to do something they know, but be able to operate in a situation where they don’t know what to do. To be able to look at something unfamiliar and be confident enough to take it a part and see how it works and what might need fixing. To be able extrapolate knowledge from their surroundings that they have not been taught.

Which again leads back to: Dad (and Mom) need to be modeling learning by analysis and practice. We need to be what we want our children to be.

So to help with this whole curriculum, I offer something that we’ve been working on here.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably got access to a computer. And probably a camera (because everyone has one of those on their phone now). I stumbled across ifixit.com. Basically they had repair manuals made by ordinary people. All they did was take a picture, write the steps they took, and repeat. It’s great because its written at an everyday man level rather than an engineer’s.

Well, we’ve been applying that in our home. For example, when we take a walk and we see an edible plant that we’ve identified from a book. We take pictures, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbecause the guides simply don’t always have the perspective we’re looking for. Where exactly on the plant do I find this shape? What does it mean ‘irregular leaves’? Because we’re paying attention only to the plants on our property or immediate area, I don’t have to include superfluous material and can include more details. Like where exact location from the house. Want onion grass? It’s between the big barn and the house, by the cherry tree. Want black raspberries? Oh that’s up by the old house toward the goat pasture. Then we take these notes, type them up with pictures, and compile them into our own book of home knowledge.

Or another example, I cannot find a repair manual for my mower. Seriously, I believe most manufacturers (at least the big ones) are driving for when your machine breaks that you simply buy another one. I know that’s no leap, but it’s all the more reason to be careful who you do business with. Every time we buy these disposable machines we encourage them to make more of them.

So, fortunately I am blessed with a small amount of mechanical knowledge and a large amount of confidence that I can figure it out.

That can be good or bad.

But really most things in life do not a take a Ph.D to figure out. Especially since we have things called ‘encyclopedias’ which explain the basic principles. So the other day, I had to extract the rotor bolt, which had snapped. So I take a picture, explain what I’m seeing, how I got there, and go a step further.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere will be mistakes. I took off a few things that didn’t need to come off (but we easily put back on), and in the end I had to enlist more experienced help. And I also had enough knowledge to know that I shouldn’t break any seals until I had no other alternative.

[FYI: The reason you should not break a seal or gasket is because it maintains a closed environment. It’s like in one of those epidemic movies, when a character breaks the seal on a mask. Is it possible to break the seal without infection? Yes, but the plot never chooses the best possible scenario.

If you have to break the seal, you should be planning on cleaning the inside and replacing the seal with a new one. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just more work.]

So again. I take the pictures and the notes and compile into a ‘guide’ that goes on a shelf.

The whole point of this is to collect knowledge I don’t have and to save it in a way that will be useful to my children. Sure a lot of this stuff is available online, but what about when you can’t get online? It seems like a useful way to me to gain new knowledge and format it in a way that is readily accessible and recorded for the family.

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Allowance vs. Wages vs. Shareholding

[In other news: the wife and I welcomed a new baby girl today! We don't have a name, but we're sure that will come . . . not that I'm going to post it here. Sorry.]

Now, this is academic for some of us, but academic always turns into practice, eventually. So the subject is, what kind of ‘compensation’ do you give to your children growing up, for various ‘chores’? Do you pay them at all? After all, you provide for all their needs, and its their duty to obey.

To that last part: I think all fathering needs to be modeled after, our heavenly Father. How does The Father treat His children? For example, as much as I believe in the value of discipline, I disagree with the idea that you have to punish every act of disobedience. God doesn’t do that, does He? No, He gives space to repent.

In the case of ‘compensation’, aren’t we duty bound to obey the Judge of all the Earth? Yes. Yet doesn’t He reward us despite it being our obligation, and that, beyond what we deserve? Again, yes.

Then we likewise; what form should ours take toward our children?

Allowance: Classic idea. Child is given a set sum on a ‘certain’ schedule. It seems better than Dad/Mom ‘just giving’ cash when the kid asks/begs/whines for it, and it teaches budgeting, so long as you don’t give advances.

On the downside, it can come across as an entitlement. Sometimes people withhold as a punishment for something like property damage, but otherwise it doesn’t seem tied to actual work.

Wages: I’ve been fond of this. You don’t “get” an allowance because you’re alive, you get “wages” for services rendered to the family. So wages increase or decrease based on work.

Downside, academically, while fair this sets up a business relationship with the family. Since you’re providing room and board, how much work do they have to do before you actually have to pay? And since Mom and Dad aren’t banks, can they really afford to pay for all the ‘extra’ work the child may be willing to do? If not, why should the child keep working?

Shareholding: My latest evolution/innovation in theoretical child rearing. I think the previous two systems, while have plusses, creating a me vs. them dynamic in the family. It incentivizes leaving the family for gain, and finding ways to ‘shield assets’ from the parent, because it’s their wealth vs. mine.

But if I believe in inheritance. Then I should be training my child with the understanding that one day everything I have will be theirs. Not like a lotto ticket, but wealth for a purpose, to build upon as I have built upon what was handed to me. If so then the child becomes a shareholder in the family’s ongoing success. Theoretically, then they shouldn’t be viewing the family is how do I get paid out of their assets, but how do I improve the value of our stock.

But wouldn’t that mean, the parent should withhold any payment to the child since they’ll get it all later? Again, look to The Father. Does The Father, own everything? Yes. But does He give to us? Yes. Why? So that we can practice using wisely.

There’s a saying that has stuck with me ever since I heard it:

“The poor see money as something to spend.” That means they look to instant gratification.

“The middle class see money as something to save.” That means they look at money as something to store up as protection against future calamity.

“The wealthy see as something to invest.” That means they view it as something to employ now, for future gain.

The way we compensate our children should be part of training them away from that first way of thinking to the last. Spending becomes a way to practice governance over a small kingdom. Sometimes, it is good to spend on ’festivities’ for your kingdom; other times for roads and walls, etc. We need to be using allowance or whatever you want to call it as a training tool rather than a handout intended to be wasted (even if saved before wasted). To teach that the purpose of the asset is a future goal that serves the family and the kingdom.

Ultimately then, shareholding wouldn’t restrict compensation because the end goal is everything being given to the son/sons/daughter/daughters. Instead it becomes a way to manage the transition of power to a generation trained to receive it. Which is all perfectly biblical. To the servant who is faithful with a little, more will be given. “Son, you did well with that bike you purchased. You bought it carefully. You maintained it properly. Here’s a car. It comes out of the family’s assets, so take care of it. If you take care of it, we can put together for a better one or an addition to the house, or an expansion of the property, etc.,”

This way, the child becomes more and more responsible, trusted with more and more, and therefore freer. The child doesn’t have to go get a place of his own to “get out from under” his father’s roof, because the father is trusting everything over to the son. This might also be a way to avoid inheritance tax. Say gifting property over to the children 13k at a time.

That’s all. I gotta get back to taking care of this little girl. Thoughts?

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The Offensive Brother

You’re not long in the family before you notice a brother or sister that tells it like it is and if they happen to offend you, it’s because you can’t handle the truth. And don’t you know, God doesn’t pull punches because of your feelings, either?

You wince when they open their mouth. As sure as hip young people have to have a smart phone made by child laborers in the heaviest polluting countries of the world, their topic of choice will be high on polarizing and low on sensitivity.

Homosexuality is an abomination? Yeah, that’s what we should talk about.

Abortion is murder? That will go well with a fellowship meal after worship.

Obama isn’t a Christian? That’s better that talking about some kid’s softball game.

You suck it up until you or someone else finally calls them on the carpet. Why do you always choose the most offensive topics? What does this have to do with what we’re talking about? How does this help us worship, right now?

And to relieve that wincing discomfort, you want to join in, but . . .

What exactly are you attacking? Are they saying anything false? Even if we accept that some—some—abortion might be in self-defense, we’re talking percentages so low that your swallowing the camel as you strain for the fly. Is homosexuality an abomination? Yes, that’s God’s word, not mine. Of course He also calls eating pig and sleeping with a woman on her period an abomination. That doesn’t downgrade ‘abomination’, its just a warning that hypocrisy might be in the air.

Is Obama a Christian? Well the evidence that he is seems to be on par with the case that Robert Downey Jr. is actually a genius with a super-powered suit, whose friends include a green monster and a blond god with a glowing hammer. 

But truth isn’t everythin! What about speaking in love!?!?

I get that, but Yeshua isn’t the pasty nice guy from all the pictures. Or did you forget He called a woman a dog?

Yes, but He didn’t really mean it. He was making a point.

So . . . then offense is okay to make a point. Did He call his own disciples foolish and slow of heart?

Yes, but . . .

So, then perfect love can sometimes be insulting and critical, true?

Well . . .

Did Elijah make fun of the priests of false gods?

Yes, but . . .

So mockery is okay for a guy ‘good enough’ to get taken to Heaven without dying.

Yes, but the pattern? Doesn’t this show someone’s heart is in the wrong place, that they keep being offensive?

Oh, good. We’ve moved into the well worn area of judging someone heart. I’m only being half-sarcastic. Despite what is commonly taught we are supposed to judge one another’s heart. How can you rebuke sin in your brother, if you can’t discern where their heart? What is the difference between inordinate affection and brotherly affection, without the heart? The difference between cursing and warning? The difference between striking in anger and accidentally striking, without a conclusion on motive?

But to discern righteously, something that cannot be seen, you must rely more on something that cannot be seen, so you must be more careful and more prayerful.. It requires a knowing of the person, listening to the person. The mere fact that someone does something offensive to see the shape of the heart.

Righteous judgment forces a brother to ask really hard questions and not judge from the surface. Is my brother saying something untrue or unloving? Or am I offended out of envy because they are brave and I, a man-pleaser?

Not only can’t I condemn because of offense, I have to admit that sometimes the right course is offensive, apparently foolish and often futile. God deliberately sent prophets knowing their fate would be terrible on Earth because of His message, and that that message would be ignored. So how can I condemn simply because he makes me uncomfortable?

I can question his heart. I can confront him, challenge whether this is for God or out of some bitterness or frustration in his life, but I have to tread very carefully before I ask him to keep silent.

Understand this isn’t the practice of gritted teeth. It’s active; I have to push back. “Brother, I understand you have a message to deliver. I’m not hear to silence you or work against whatever work God has for you, but we also have a work, and here we’re trying to worship God and give Him praise. Does it help you, to focus on how good God is, when you’re preaching about how evil the world is? We already know that, and we see it day by day, but this is Shabbat, can we leave that aside for a couple of hours and have a time of rest and refreshment? Can we look at God’s goodness for awhile and not the abomination of those who don’t know him?”

You’re actually helping the brother to speak what they are called to speak, but also asking them to help you with your work. How many times was Yeshua offended by His disciples, and yet, did He tell them to shut up and sit down? Or did He push back? “Get thee behind me, Satan.” “You know not of what spirit you are.”

Distinguish between what YHVH teaches is sin, and what simply makes you uncomfortable.   

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The Law and the Prophets were until John…?

“Luk 16:16  The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. “ 

This verse has been used to tell me that Torah is past. Of course, I wrote a book on why that is impossible. But that leaves me with a proper question, “Then what does this mean?”

This verse is preceded by the parable of the unjust steward: a manager is about to get fired, so he goes and rewrites all the bills so that all the debtors to his master owe less so that when he loses his job he’ll be taken care of. It’s the type of story that makes you cringe: what could the Master be saying? Fortunately, Yeshua clarifies that the point is that the worldly people are at least smart in that they make friends with money. Unfortunately, the godly can be so tight with their money that they never make any friends with it. He says use it to gain something of real value. And then resummarizes: you cannot serve God and mammon. Then comes:

Luk 16:14  And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

:15  And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

So answer this question, bearing in mind the hearers are covetous (which is against Torah), have men highly esteemed the Torah and the prophets?

Let’s see: Torah was habitually broken—that’s why the Messiah is there in first place. Messiah is the embodiment of the Torah (Matthew 5:17) and He’s about to be killed. Just like all of the prophets (Acts 7:52). What about the kingdom of God?

At first it seems the opposite, that unlike Torah, the Kingdom is desired. What did they cry when Yeshua arrived the week of Pesach? Hoshiana (save, now!) it was a call for the kingdom to come right now. In Luke 19:11, the disciples believe (hope) the Kingdom is about to appear! After the resurrection Act 1:6 has them asking, is it now? Are you going to restore the kingdom?

So certainly, they seem to want it. But God doesn’t find His own kingdom abominable so how can men actually esteem it? Let me ask you this. Can you desire a kingdom, without it’s king? How can Messiah be rejected and yet His Kingdom be desired? And for that matter, has God just had a marketing problem all these centuries? The Torah was a flop, but if only He’d mentioned the kingdom, everyone would have become His disciple?

I think there is a clue in verse sixteen: “every man presseth into it.” The word presseth has to do with violence. When you take it back to the Hebrew you get equivalents like perek (meaning breaking or severity or cruelty). Now, what kind of person tries to take a kingdom by force? With breaking and cruelty? An usurper does. One who wants the kingdom, but doesn’t want the king. Do they really esteem the kingdom then? Or do they covet what belongs to the king? For that matter how does one ‘press’ into something when it has a door? If Yeshua is the door, why are they pressing? Because the door is too small, too narrow. The door is not accommodating to the way they want to come in.

Rather than this ‘pressing’ being a good thing that says they want the kingdom, I think in the context of these covetous Pharisees, who justify themselves, that Yeshua is describing a pillager. Which makes sense because in the next verse He doesn’t say something stereotypically gospel (more properly, the Glad Tidings), instead He reassert how difficult it is for Torah to go away. “Men don’t esteem what God does. They reject His Torah and try to take His Kingdom by force, but it’s easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away then for even the Torah to go away.” To reinforce that by clarifying the Spirit of Torah and divorce. Which is still about the subject of covetousness as is the Account of Lazarus. So the subject has nothing to do with a breaking of Torah and everything about holding on to what you should give and trying to take what belongs to someone else.

But this still begs the question, what does this phrase about Torah and Prophets being until John mean? What is this “until”? Because certainly it does mean there is some kind of transition or reorientation? We know the Torah is not done away with. We also know that the Brit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant scriptures) refers to prophets, not the least of which was the Emissary Yochanon who gave us the book of Revelation. Rav Shaul (Paul) also tells us about gifts of prophecy and prophets. We’re even told that the Spirit of Yeshua is the Spirit of Prophecy; how then could the prophets, be done?

Two options occur to me, both are based upon the fact that phrase ”law and prophets” was an idiom for the scriptures. The word Tanahk (what are called the Hebrew scriptures) is an acronym for Torah-Neviim-Ketuvim (Law-Prophets-Writings). Yeshua acknowledged this three-fold division of scripture in Luke 24:44. But it was also referred to in a contracted form as the Torah and the Neviim (Law & Prophets), which is referred to in Acts 13:15.

So is Yeshua saying then that the Tanahk is closed? If the Tanahk is closed, and that is the only scripture in existence then is Yeshua saying that the “canon” is closed? That there is no more scripture? That does seem to be a possibility. The rest then, of what we have considered scripture then would simply be very good commentary. There are many books that are referred to in the ‘canon’ but are not part of the canon. That could certainly explain how the vast majority of the scripture quotes in the Epistles are in fact from the Tanahk. However, Kefa at least considered Rav Shaul’s letters to be scriptural (2 Peter 3:15-16).

But there is a more troubling and obvious problem. The words of Yeshua would themselves, not be canonical! One might argue, that’s really okay too because the words of Yeshua are the words of YHVH, and we already have the Torah right? 

But still. He’s the Mashiach?!? How can His words not be part of the Canon?

Perhaps, there’s another possibility . . .

Notice in the Luke 24 quote, Yeshua divided the canon into the three-fold manifestation of the Tanahk, but in the Luke 16 quote, He only says two divisions? What if He’s not saying the canon is closed, but only the sections known as Torah and Prophets. What would that mean? Well, what did Torah teach us? Everything that we needed to know about the standard of right living and who the Mashiach would be. And the Prophets? They told us how the Torah would play out, and finally accomplish its goal through Mashiach.

But Meshiach has come! And He established and embodied Torah, so why would we need any more Torah? I mean additions. Do we need a ‘new commandment’? Of course not. Everything that Yeshua taught was already in the Torah, but we viewed it as through a veil. Now, in Mashiach, the veil is lifted. And what did the Prophets tell us of? The days of Mashiach!

In other words, we didn’t need any clearer picture of what righteousness is. Nor do we need a clearer picture of Mashiach. Now read the the second part of Luke 16:16. “…since that time the kingdom of God is preached…” Not that the Kingdom of Elohim is “in effect” but that it is preached.

What we’re talking about is a shift in proclamation. Nothing more needs to be ‘added’ to the instruction portion, rather now it is appropriate to be proclaiming that everything the Torah and Prophets said is coming to pass. The Kingdom of Elohim is at hand! Notice that’s what Yochanon preached, while at the same time upholding Torah and being one of the Prophets. He’s not saying the Torah is done, He’s just saying its complete. Now we need to proclaim that the long awaited and described salvation, has come!

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One of the Funniest Jokes is Indignation Over Climate Change Deniers

To let the wind out of some sails. I actually think climate change is happening; I just think a combination of we don’t really know why (and not the version of that you imagine), and SUV’s and coal are just red herrings.

But I digress.

Every now and then, I hear about how laughable are the climate change deniers. The climate change deniers are apparently such a huge setback to the world that even though all of Hollywood is pumping the airwaves with the climate change faith and the EPA exists, the intelligent people are unable to overcome the hopelessly ignorant, superstitious country folk. By intelligent people, in this case I mean anyone who agrees with popular thinking because that is apparently the definition of intelligent these days.

When I see these attacks, I can’t help shaking my head, at what a joke the intelligent people are. I literally laugh sometimes.

Since the country person is the posterboy for ignorance, that would mean that most of the eco-disciples are city dwellers, right? I mean that’s the land of public education, public libraries, eco rallies, etc. So tell me this, Eco-disciple, where does your water come from?

Oh it’s piped in by massive machinery that run on electricity and fossil fuels.

Where does your food come from?

Oh it’s put on giant a combination of boat, train, and diesel truck to bring me a banana every morning from Brazil.

How big is your TV? Do you have X-box? How often do you change your phone made out of toxic materials in the eco-utopia of China? How many wrappers do you throw away? Do you get up early and go to bed early to maximize daylighg, which are you know–is solar-powered?

What’s so laughable about these Eco Disciples (bearing in mind, I want to save the Earth, too, because it’s the first job God gave man), is that for all their ‘knowledge’ about how the Earth is being destroyed, they can’t seem to make even personal small decisions to save it. Saving the Earth is so popular, yet for some reason all that popularity can’t manifest itself in different lifestyles. Stores are still stalked with vegetables from far away so that means most of these disciples don’t have their own gardens and don’t patronize anyone who grows local stuff. These disciples aren’t dedicated enough to change their personal habits so that their legions of millions of believers can actually make a visible difference.

All they can do is change the way they spend money and talk about legislating others to make the changes that they haven’t the guts to make themselves. “Oh, I can’t stop buying disposable crap. I can’t plan ahead and buy in bulk, prepare my own meals, walk instead of drive, so we should make them recycle more of the wrappers or make compostable wrappers, and provide public transportation.”

I’m sorry, but the climate change deniers–their lifestyles match what they claim to believe. The eco disciples don’t. So who is the joke?

 

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What If God Really Has Given You Everything You Need?

Looking at a slope of ground that would make a perfect garden, if only it weren’t a slope . . . over the course of a couple years, I envisioned a set of tiers held by a cinder block wall, but alas no dinero.

Later, we found out that a local tire place pays to have tires hauled off, so they will gladly part with them. Meanwhile a tire wall is an excellent wall. But three hundred pounds of dirt per tire? That’s a lot of work and dirt is a precious commodity when you’re thinking about growing things.

Finally, we decided–inadvertently–to cut some posts from trees growing on the property. Buy some gravel for drainage which we needed for the driveway, anyhoo. A little bit of concrete for the posts and then collect some dirt from a neighbor and slab wood from a local mill.

I revisited this planning process, while preparing for Pesach by playing Hebrew in the Clay Pits, a game involving me and various garden implements being coated in clay that sticks to everything. And I can’t help thinking that a solution is always within reach.

Let me give you another example. I recently found out that a sheep ‘fold’ is not specifically a flock of sheep, but a practice of gathering thorns and making a ‘hedge’ around the sheep’s pasture. Something that ‘has no value’ could be used to construct an increasingly durable protective wall which if you though in the narrow terms of pre-fabricated resources would be very expensive.

When I look around the farm, while pre-fab solutions are easier if there’s money to spare, another solution that might cost more work is usually  available out of what you have on your property. Is that a little more true when you have land? I suppose so, which is just another argument for land and the Yovel principle. A really good argument for getting away from the city and back to the land, especially for those in lower economic strata.

But, I think the basic principle still applies. It’s just a good life principle to get out of the idea that only a uniform, pre-fabricated, pre-planned solution is necessarily the right one. There are many ways to tackle a problem that can be some mix of things on hand, if only we will open our eyes to look.

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Halacha vs. Torah

Recently I stumbled upon a group of orthodox Jewish followers of Yeshua Messiah, jerusalemcouncil.org. And it didn’t take me long to realize these guys have definitely benefited from an orthodox instruction. Having said that some things bothered me, namely a strong leaning on orthodox traditions. I spent much time in Backwards pointing out Paul’s objections to tradition taught as Torah.

But . . . as I read their arguments, they are very good. And I can’t deny the benefits of some of this line of thinking. For example, they found the virgin birth, the name of Yeshua’s mom, and her betrothed status without ever leaving the Torah. I can also see some great benefits of tradition, like presenting a united front and being visible to the world as distinct from the world. That is something that has been increasingly pressed upon me in my own study of scripture. The lack of our distinction as holy is terrible.

But most of have been burned and again there is the words of Paul and more importantly Yeshua, about laying heavy burdens and forsaking mitzvoth for traditions. But one of the writers for this group raises an interesting dilemma. He was pointing to the appropriateness of wearing a Kipa on the grounds that Torah has two instances in which the head is to be uncovered (a covering removed), since the Torah does not say “if they have a head covering”, he and many rabbis have inferred that the Torah expects that a covering would be present. Therefore one should wear a head covering to be ready to keep this command even though neither will probably come up in our lifetimes.

Now I can think of many commands that if I applied this same logic could go terribly wrong. For example, divorce calls for a writ to be given, should I then in preparation for keeping the appropriate way to divorce (though I have no intention to divorce) keep such a writ on me so that I can keep it if that were to occur? Is it forbidden to leave Israel because many commandments expect a visitation to Jerusalem?

But then he throws the sucker punch . . .

There is no prohibition in Torah for a woman lying with a woman as with a man. Does that mean lesbianism is ok, but not homosexual actions between men? For that matter many commands, like murder for example, address only men, does that mean its not murder to kill a woman?

It seems clearly (and Paul for example infers the prohibition of female homosexuality) that there are things addressed that are never specifically addressed. Doesn’t that mean we do in fact have binding tradition or halacha or even oral law?

How does one navigate these two concepts? Clearly there is something that is a heavy burden that is to be avoided. Clearly, we are not allowed to add one word or subtract one word from Torah, and yet . . . we are also given the repeated command to guard or hedge the Torah. How do we do that without adding or taking away? To me the principle example of wrongly hedging is Adam and Chavah, what then is the example of it done right? Or is it that there is no ‘boundary’ but rather a focus of will and spirit to perform the commands? Are we then left with individual determinations? That could be fine, but again, shall two women lie together? Is it not murder to kill a woman? There must be someway that this crosses over into a place where it can be judged by the community.

I wrestle . . . as I read “The Yoke and Burden of Messiah, and Moses.” [http://jerusalemcouncil.org/articles/teaching/yoke-burden-messiah-moses/] Has anyone else read this? What do you think?

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How Edenic-Mutts might help us live Torah Observant

Couple months back . . . well, I guess it would have been six or more . . . I was at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Ken Ham ‘happened’ to be there. A nice treat as I always enjoy hearing him speak. I used to not like him as much because he didn’t cite a bunch of science, but now I like him for that reason. That sounds ignorant, but I believe God made truth and necessary knowledge accessible to everyone. And that’s Ham’s specialty, articulating reason with faith that is accessible to just about anyone.

That day he was, in a nutshell, saying how evolution puts forth that creatures evolved from simple to more complex, but the highly-adapted versions of creatures resulting from natural selection are actually representatives of lost data. For example, if you have a mutt (a true mix) it has genes for long and short hair. When its descendants migrate too far north, the short haired offspring die out leaving only long haired dominant genes. So the long haired descendants of the mutt can never produce a short haired. Going south, the inverse happens. Thus these dogs that have ‘evolved’ to fit their environment are actually less able to survive a trip back the other direction because they no longer have the genes for that. They can never go back based on their own gene-library; they would need fresh blood from their alternately evolved cousins. In short they are more adapted, but less adaptable than their mutt ancestors.

So how does the evolution-claimed idea of common ancestors provide some insight into Torah since I’ve just disregarded evolution? Where evolution goes astray is where it starts disagreeing with scripture and saying everything came from a gob of goo resulting from millions of years of rain on rocks. But this idea of common ancestors does agree to a degree with scripture. Didn’t all dogs come from the dogs of Eden and/or the dogs from the ark?

Now I also believe that the ‘curse’ of Genesis 3 is self-inflicted: God didn’t rewire everything to not work. Yah was simply saying that because of sin, the world wouldn’t work right. If I believe that as I do, none of the fallout happened immediately. Thorns didn’t miraculously appear, and since there was no death they didn’t walk out of the garden and immediately see scenes from National Geographic.

So what about the Serpent, and losing his legs? Suppose he didn’t immediately lose his legs, but because of man’s sin (or the serpent’s own fault) he had the ‘mutation’ of laying an egg with an offspring that had no legs. Or indeed smaller legs as evolutionary theory suggests. For some reason the parent and the offsprings with legs died, and thus by natural selection in a sin-filled world you have snakes without legs.

But what use is this speculation? So there were common ancestors? Well, if we start looking at the world not as if modern species came out of Eden, but that these are ‘splintered’ mutants from original Edenic-mutts, then maybe some of our problems come from that splintering?

For example, Pitbulls. Why do Pitbulls have to exist in God’s plan? Maybe 59% of fatalties from dog attacks between 06-08 were from Pitbulls because they weren’t part of the design. In fact, all of the major dog bite fatality percentages came from distinct breeds. Mixed breed or mutts accounted for only 1%.

Or take wheat allergies. Some research could be suggesting that ancient grains are less likely to offend the growing segment of population intolerant to modern wheat. Wouldn’t these ancient grains be more likely to be closer to grain-mutts? Original herbs that God seeded on the Earth?

Or take the maladies like diabetes, asthma, lung scarring, and others that are more likely and more devastating on black people? Meanwhile Cystic Fibrosis and hereditary haemochromatosis are more common among whites?

This is all really me thinking out loud, but if we are to keep the garden and have dominion (because God’s gifts and callings are without repentance), then perhaps we would benefit by being more conscious of the fragmenting that’s taken place since Eden? Perhaps, we should stop trying to breed ever more speciality, and try instead to get back to more ‘primitive’ varieties. Maybe we have ‘invasive’ species because we have too much speciality? Maybe invasive species are even a good thing attempting to restore the balance?

Maybe this would even apply to people, encourage more ‘mixed’ race marriages. Most of us aren’t a bunch of racists anyway, but maybe we should try to put forward to our children the beauty of the so-called other races? “Wow, son, look at the brown on that girl!” Maybe, try to pay a little more attention to evolutionists when they talk about what was a common ancestor, then in theory we could bread to species from that same ancestor to try and get back to it?

I’m just thinking out loud here. I might not have posted at all, but a brother said it had been a month, so I felt like I should =)

 

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Co-sleeping

If you want to have a knock down drag out fight, one of the most efficient means is to give parenting advice.

So this is not advice. (Checks all of the exits. Assesses most vicious looking parent in the area).

This is just a thought.

My wife and I have been practicing co-sleeping with our son since he was born. Practice might be too strong of a word, since we sort of fell into it out of emotional/physical exhaustion in the wake of a painfully steep learning curve on breastfeeding. With me being the helpless spectator/cheerleader. So it wasn’t really a ‘choice’ other than a surrender. Ever since then, we’ve paid a nightly price since he now refuses to sleep without us.

Refuse might also be too strong a word because now and then he does. And he does stay asleep now so we can get up and have at least a half the night without him.

So it would be easy for me to tear down the practice. And as any husband can imagine, the drawbacks are . . . often on my mind.

But, then I hear some suggest that it’s not healthy. That its a harmful way to parent. Not that I’ll get drawn into one of the KDDO fights, but I’m not sure I buy that. A verse that comes quickly to mind is Luke 11:7, “Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed.”

My general life philosophy (at the moment) is that God provides for all your needs–which has pretty good longevity as a philosophy thus far. I don’t believe we are ever in a place of true need. We may be unable to reach something that we will need, but at that moment we do not need it. An unpayable bill may be coming, but by the time it arrives the means to satisfy it will be there as well.

As much as I gripe to God about this, He has always come through.

Now, in our current situation, we’ve become very adept at working with less. There’s not a lot of money floating around our geography, and for a variety of reasons neither relocating nor an extended commute nor giving up on things like Shabbat, seem worth the trade (though, I often fudge those lines). I’m merely saying we do well with less.

And as I read scriptures, I find God has a lot of good things to say about such people. They apparently have better odds of getting in the Kingdom than a rich person–and that seems like a well-worth it benefit. Cause I’ll be laughing my butt off when you’re– well. Nevermind.

So if this is the case, then it seems reasonable to assume that the poor are just as able (perhaps more able) to build a godly family/house than the rich. Perhaps they are even at an advantage because they live with humility and dependence. That verse from Luke 11:7 of course doesn’t prove anything. The scriptures provide neither positive nor negative commentary on the practice. But think about it logically.

If you were poor, are you likely to have a big house or small? Small. So there’s less room for beds right? Are you likely to have a good supply of fuel or other heating methods? Probably not. So if you were poor, which makes more sense, having multiple rooms heated or one? Having each person in a cold bed, or sharing warmth in a single bed?

My wife and I aren’t poor. In many financial ways, we’re ahead of the curve because we own land and a house (more or less) and we have money saved. But we’re not flowing with cash either, and its simply easier to heat fewer rooms. And it’s simply warmer and more comfortable to share a bed in one warm room than multiple rooms.

So my point is co-sleeping makes sense (at least when we’re talking about small children). It would be a more practical/doable option for a truly poor person, so are you telling me that God made it impossible for such a person to raise a child undamaged?

I find that unlikely.

Also, when I get in bed and my son rolls over and puts his arm around me and says, “I love you.” I find it hard to believe that’s a sign that we’re doing something wrong. However, I may hate the inconvenience of someone who insists on being between my wife and I . . . I can’t find the sense that I’m doing something wrong when it seems to develop such a trust.

Now, certainly, trust can become dependence (for that matter isn’t trust always dependence?). There can be that disabling that comes with over-dependence. But does God teach us independence by hiding from us when we are young in faith? Are we teaching our children to be independent by telling them we are always really there for them even when we seem distant (as God does), or are we teaching them to be independent by telling them that they’re really on their own and can’t trust us?

And further more, what value is this independence? Certainly, I want my children to have confidence. To know that they need nothing but what exists between them and God. But our society is awfully independent if you ask me. And I stress awfully. We have children that don’t seem to care about their parents. Don’t care about their families (at least not until its too late). Want to get out of the house, keep family on the other side of a state border and see them in controlled doses until you have to put them in a nursing home waiting to die.

Of course, there’s a lot of other factors that contribute. I’m certainly not saying that co-sleeping solves this or not co-sleeping causes it. But maybe its part of the same culture. Maybe, there is a similar spirit that says ”Get the baby in another bed, in another room,” and “Get away from the parents.” I’m just looking at the ‘modern’ world, and I really don’t see much that tells me it values family. That it wants family to succeed. That children should love their parents, and parents their children.

Just some thoughts and questions, and maybe the small opinion that co-sleeping isn’t so beyond the pale as is generally considered by a world whose families are falling apart.

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