How I ended up Messianic: An Autobiographical Tale (Episode III)

Continuing my personal story of moving from a ‘normal, nondenominational’ Christianity to something called Messianic Judaism. Previous episodes recounted my Christian upbringing, and my near shipwreck. The latest showed the dilemma that paved the way and my discovery of the joys and pitfalls of Messianic Judaism.
And now, the inconclusion of my story (because of course, I’m still alive)…

Enlisting in Insanity

So brother Chris took the easier and wiser choice of joining the Air Force, and I took the jar-headed route of joining the Marines—probably in pursuit of that long sought feeling of respect. Ironically, in the Marines I learned the respect of the world was usually worthless, from people who really had no idea what is going on. Marines (or any branch) may do some good things and have truly heroic people in them, but any organization that does not have root in God will do its best to destroy your faith.

My years in the Corps were dark. Most severely because I actually tried to be a Marine in the Marines, instead of trying to be God’s servant in the Marines. I trust God to redeem it, but I regret joining the Marines. I went in emotionally depressed, lonely, and then I surrounded myself for 4 years with people who had no interest in God, and I hadn’t the prayer life to realize I was in a mission field instead of some twisted version of a career path. The respect I thought I wanted, I found poison to what was really important. I have much regret for the sins of those days. No doubt the conscious abandoning of fellowship, neglect of scripture and prayer aided my downfall.

But God did redeem it. Before I deployed, I decided “I had better” go to some kind of church, I was feeling the thirst for worship and community. Up until this point, I just didn’t care. Having a bad taste for things Messianic—

—I should clarify that Messianic doesn’t mean just one thing, just as Christian encompasses Baptists and Presbyterians. For some, Messianic means basically Christianity with Jewish dress-up: meet on Sabbath, use the word chutzpah, and try not to bring pork chops to fellowship meals, but the Torah is only really important for reaching Jews, and if you’re a gentile you probably shouldn’t keep it, at all. This includes the MJAA and UMJA as far as I understand their positions. However, there is a growing body of Messianics who use the term (or Hebraic Roots) to mean actually wanting to practice all areas of life according to Torah in light of Yeshua’s Messiahship. That is the way I use Messianic.—

—Having that bad taste for that other version of Messianic, I decided that I would look for ‘just a church.’ And specifically did not look for Messianic, or anything like it. So I found a Baptist church, where I learned that what I had always called ‘non-denominational’ was in fact Baptist. Then again, since every church regardless of its label seemed to teach the same thing, I’d be tempted to believe all the denominational ones were Baptist, too. And Calvinist, if you’re still tracking the labels =)

So I went, and there were some people I enjoyed quite a bit, and the Baptists weird hierarchy of drinking and dancing being so high on the list didn’t bother me too much. But, the main sermon series, was a study through Romans . . . oh, boy . . . that stirred my soul too, but in a different way.

Even though Jack had taught us to study for ourselves, for most of the years after, I basically studied to prove what I already believed. I could show handily how obedience was not opposed to grace, it was the point of grace. I could show how common anti-torah proofs from Paul were in fact not. I suppose those were important, like multiplication tables, but I believe I’d become stunted. Or perhaps, it was just time that God wanted more of me.

Christians Don’t Believe in the Law, And they don’t like it, either 

So there I was, about twenty-four listening to the baptists go on and on from Romans about how the law was done away with, and how great it was that we weren’t under the law, and it began to dawn on me, they don’t like the law, they think the law is evil. They wouldn’t say it, after all staring in the face was Paul saying “the law is good, and the commandment pure and holy”. But, if you thought the law really was good, pure, and holy…why would you be so eager to get rid of it?

Up until then, I had looked at obedience to torah as a problem of interpretation. I could see it in scripture so when I found something in the Torah that seemed distasteful, I knew my understanding was in error. It was mostly a question of reason, to me. But, I saw then that most Christians, having been raised on anti-torah thinking, had a kind of visceral aversion to Torah. When they saw the villainous Pharisees wanting to stone the woman in John 8, to them that’s torah. Religious people complaining about healing on Sabbath, that’s torah.

They hadn’t spent years reading torah and discovering… Wait, God wants us to forgive all debts, every seven years? He expects us to provide refugees with food and shelter? God wants us to have compassion even on our animals? God wants us to make amends when we injure one another rather than punish? He wants us to have big parties? Enjoy even liquor? Good food? Meat?

The problem was most christians had no idea what the Torah says, and what they did know, they knew from a perspective of flesh, not from the perspective of why would the God of Jesus have commanded such and such?

And most Messianics haven’t helped, because they spend all their time telling Christians how pagan they are for Sunday, and Easter, and eating pig. We hadn’t shown that torah was so much bigger than those things. I hadn’t shown it. And in truth, looking back, I didn’t show it because I hadn’t gone deep enough to know it for myself.

Getting Off the Bench

I didn’t grasp this all, right then, but I went back to the barracks and started pounding out 90 pages, the seed of a study that would eventually become my book, Backwards.

It took a couple years for “The Case for Torah” to become Backwards. I got married to a beautiful dancing old-soul, Alisa. She’s kept me grounded, encouraged in the many storms we’ve faced, and motivated. There’s nothing like a woman in your life to make a man shoot for the impossible, and nothing like a woman who puts a man back on his feet when he’s missed the impossibe, or run face-first into it. Some of that rough and impossible, included the death of our firstborn son. These don’t seem terribly related to the development of my convictions, but I can’t imagine they were unrelated.  

At the root of my book’s thesis were two perspectives on the subject of obedience to Torah. Firstly, I tried to acknowledge the emotional objections to law, but asked the reader to set aside their revulsion, and trust what should be obvious, that if the God who sent His only begotten into the world is so good…then the law He gave must also be good. Set aside, the emotions and let scriptures reshape them.

Two scriptures had come to form the backbone of my systematic theology: Isaiah 46:9-10, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:”

What God is going to do, He announced in the beginning. This means that there shouldn’t be anything in the “New” that can’t be found in the “Old.”

Amo 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

Again, the same. Legitimate doctrine cannot abruptly appear. For example, I can make the case from the Old Testament alone that Yeshua would be the name of Mashiach. That He would be called God. That His mother’s name would be Miryam (for some reason the translators decided to change her name to Mary, much as they changed Jacob to James). That Miryam would be a virgin (without even relying on the prophecy in Isaiah). And this method of interpretation is obvious in the New Testament. How many times do the gospels say, “Thus it was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet . . . ”

In the earlier days of my life, I had seen scripture as kind of a soup of truth, full of random proverbs and spiritual truths, with a few unrelated stories thrown in, and you needed that guy (the pastor) with the decoder ring to put things in the right order. The reason that you got different denominations was because someone else had another ring that took the same verses, put them in a different order, and voila “Denominationalism!”

At the time I couldn’t have said that, but I’m giving you the distilled version.

But lately, I’d begun to see . . . wait, Joshua picks up where Deuteronomy ends. Judges where Joshua ends. . . You get into the New Testament and read the books of Paul and you start to catch names repeating in his salutations. There’s a story being told in the background. These weren’t random letters put in one book. They were part of a cohesive story. And the whole bible had to be seen as a cohesive story. So this is playing in my mind when I’m in that pew listening to the pastor talk about Romans and how bad the law was and how great it was to be out from under it—I’m thinking . . . why does he have to go to Paul to make this case? Why does everyone always go to Paul?

Paul is one writer, who didn’t even write the majority of the New Testament and isn’t the Messiah, and he’s the one apostle constantly having to deny false accusations about his teachings. The one apostle that is singled out by another apostle (Peter) as having “difficult” sayings . . . but everyone goes to Paul. Why can’t they make the case from the Old Testament?

That’s when I’d say, I entered the ministry. I don’t like that word, maybe service is better? Whatever you want to call it, I felt I had some talent inside me, and no right to bury it.

Backwards

The basic premise of my book became this: You’re probably not a Mormon or a Muslim because you’d tell me that their teachings contradict scripture—even though they both ‘believe’ in Jesus, and at least the first one believes in the scriptures. Most, rightly assert that the Mormons and Muslims cannot reinterpret scripture to accommodate their newer revelation.

By the same assertion it is also untenable to accept the New Testament on its own authority.

In other words, if you want to say Yeshua is Messiah, you can’t start in the New Testament to prove it. You have to go to the Old—which by the way, is what the New Testament does. It references past, established, trusted revelation as authority for itself. The New Testament constantly points back to the Old for confirmation. But that doesn’t apply just to Messiah’s circumstantial identity. Case in point: Yeshua had to be born in Bethlehem, if He had not, He could not be the Messiah. Now, what if He met that and other time/place prophecies but failed in the spiritual? What if this candidate for Messiah, had been born in the right place, to the right person, etc., but taught that God was actually a three-headed, spaghetti monster who said that raping children was great?

Obviously, he could not be the Messiah no matter how many of the other prophecies He had fulfilled. It doesn’t even matter, if he died and rose from the dead, he still could not be the Messiah. In fact, the Bible tells that a prophet who works wonders but tries to turn you away from God’s ways as Moses was giving them, was a false prophet and should be killed even if his signs come true. Good to remember, since the antichrist will work miracles.

So then, any messiah who was anti-torah, could not be Messiah. And it makes no sense to even imagine it. If you read through the Old Testament, looking up every use of the word Torah (law), you will not find one disparaging comment from God’s prophets or faithful people. You will not find one hint that Torah was going way. Not one. That’s why everyone goes to Paul.

Just to be clear: I’m not criticizing Paul. I’m pointing out what should alarm any serious student of the word: If no one else is saying what Paul is saying . . . either Paul is a heretic, or we’re misunderstanding Paul.

Furthermore, you will find that Isra’el suffered tremendous tragedy and for more than a thousand years was rebuked for not keeping the Torah.
So re-examine the common church doctrine:

You’re saying that for thousands of years, God praised the Torah from one end of the scriptures to the other, and punished you for transgressing it, including the slaughter, rape, exile and slavery of your people…told you to stone prophet (even if their signs came true) if they tried to turn you from Torah…and then God sends a messiah who’s ministry mocks Torah, and starts a religion of throwing it away?

You might begin to see how one could question the justice of such a god. It’s no wonder that some church theologians have even suggested there are two gods in the bible.

For me and other Messianics, we read the New Testament writers from the context of someone who would be in agreement with that unanimous opinion of the Old Testament. And doing that I’ve found that the Bible begins to make sense as a whole, rather than in parts.

How I Messianic Now

Since taking up the Torah, and especially since I really started to study with this cohesive story in mind, my doctrine also becomes more stable. I don’t feel as threatened as I used to, when I met another believer of a different doctrine.

For example, I was taught women are not in the image of God, because Paul says that man is the image of God, and woman is the image of man, and the preferred ‘He’ pronoun for God means He is male. But from a cohesive standpoint, I look back to the beginning and find that both male and female are the image of God, and then understand Paul to mean something other than the superficial. Or Paul says women should not teach or even speak in church, but the Torah never forbids either so I read Paul through that lens and conclude that’s he’s talking about a specific situation, not a new church order.

Another really great example is the woman of John 8, caught in adultery. Most churches teach Yeshua was being a heretic by denouncing the law as cruel (which is insane, since if you believe Jesus was God, then Jesus is the one who gave the command that adulterers should be stoned). But, if you actually study what the Torah says, then you find that Yeshua was the only one keeping the Torah that day.

1) the command was for both the man and woman. Where’s the man?

2) no judgment could happen without the woman being given a chance to make her plea. She never said a word.

3) A judge was to seek justice only. These guys were there for the express purpose of trapping Yeshua, in the temple, on a holy day. Justice was not in their minds.

4) No one was to be put to death without the testimony of two witnesses. They said she was caught, but do we know that they were in fact witnesses?

5) Yeshua says, “He that is without sin . . .” Convicted, the accusers all leave. Think about that. That means because they knew they were transgressors of the law, that stirred them to actually be more merciful. In other words, meditating on Torah leads to mercy, not cruelty.

6) The Torah says that the first to throw a stone, had to be the witnesses. The maybe witnesses had all left, so the death penalty could not have been carried out, even by Yeshua.

7) The command didn’t even say death for someone who had committed adultery, but for one who practices (on going, continual) adultery.

8) The Torah also says that the child shall not be put to death for the parents, so with a woman you would have to be sure that she was not pregnant, which would mean you could not carry out the sentence in the heat of the moment.

9) The biggie is that the law is tied to the character of God, to believe the law required a repentant adulterer to be stoned in the temple, on a holy day, even if it meant killing an unborn child shows the hardness of our hearts. Thus the Torah again shows us our wickedness, not the wickedness of the Torah.

It probably comes as surprise to most Christians but in John 7:19 Yeshua declares his adversaries did not keep the law. If Christians understood this, perhaps they would stop seeing the scribes and pharisees as the poster boys of Torah.

Another great example is Miryam/Mary, mother of Yeshua. It’s often, erroneously stated that accepting God’s mission for her, could have meant death at the hands of the law. Not true. As stated above, where are her accusing witnesses? Suppose they had brought her before the judges, she would have claimed to be a virgin. As degrading as it may sound, that could have been checked. Do you think Miryam would have been more opposed to being examined, then having her holy child be called a bastard? Boom, instead of having her killed, following the Torah would have had it etched in the record she was a pregnant virgin.

Or even better, the Torah has a strange ritual specifically for the case when a man suspected his wife had committed adultery (without witnesses). Why do you suppose God went through the trouble of dealing with that specific situation? If Joseph indeed suspected Mary as unfaithful, he could have had her undergo that ritual in the temple, again the result would have been the priest determining from God, Himself, that Mary was a pregnant virgin.

So, walking in Torah has only deepened my understanding. I could say how Torah has much improved my prayer life, or made me a lot less concerned about little doctrinal squabbles, or whether my doctrinal positions are perfect.

I’d really have liked to talk about how, I hear people say that focusing on the ‘rules’ (church rules alienated from Torah) made them overly concerned with their standing before God, in many cases becoming depressed or even questioning their salvation.
For me, the more I practice Torah, and study the commands, the less concerned I become with perfection. Torah teaches that it is God who sanctifies, obedience is ‘merely’ the means He uses to do it. When I keep a command, God is using that to make me able to do even more obedience. More importantly, every time I keep a commandment, I am momentarily sharing in direct communion with God because the commandments are His heart. So when I obey, His heart is beating for mine. Rather than make me afraid, I’m not doing good enough, obedience makes me focus on who He is, and rather than fearing I’m not doing enough to earn something, I find myself hungry to do more so I can be closer to the Father.

What Christians don’t understand is the significance of the “I AM the LORD” attached to the commandments in the Torah. What it means is that each commandment is a reflection of God’s character and person. Obedience isn’t jumping through hoops like a dog to please his master; obedience is God teaching you how to walk with Him, making you like Him, so you can go the places He goes. And see the things He sees. It makes us like Him, and there can’t be a happier place than that.

But I have slain enough digital trees, and there’s only so much you can communicate via writing. Plus, I fear my readers didn’t make it this far. This is long, even for one of my blogs. But maybe the story format kept you around?

How I Got Here, And why I can’t leave

In summary, I didn’t come to be Messianic in a moment nor has it been a phase. I hope some of the people who worry I’m in some kind of cult will walk the path of questions that I did, and see—even if you don’t reach the same conclusion—those were good questions based on scripture and reason, and not some weird private revelation.

And let me leave you with a handful of those questions that maintain me in the convictions I currently hold, and have held for more or less 19 years.

1) How could God be just, telling Isra’el for a thousand years to guard and cherish His law, praise it as good, wisdom, the way to live, light, glorious, right . . . and then without any prophetic warning send them a messiah who would tear it down?

2) All are saved by faith, as was Abraham. We get this model from Abraham, so why did God later give the law? He’d already revealed the only way to salvation, so why add the ‘wrong way’ (by law) when the right way (by faith) had already been revealed?

3) If the law is all the good things that God said, then why is the church so opposed to it? Even if you ‘can’t’ be faithful to your wife perfectly, I’ve never heard the Christian that says don’t try. I’ve never heard the Christian speak against teaching children to honor their parents. So whether it’s possible or not, if the law is good as God and Paul both said, why fight not to try?

4) On the other hand, if the law is actually bad, out of date, and odious . . . why was it so important for Yeshua to keep it? Are we saying that Yeshua was sinless because he lived up to a bad standard? Does God send people to hell because they fail to live up to a standard that’s so bad, that even God wants to get rid of it?

5) What does it say about God if the law is truly bad? If Yeshua is God, what does it say about Him, since He’s the one who said to stone adulterers? Or, what does it say about the law, since Yeshua is the one who wrote it?

6) Yeshua had to be sinless, according to the law, which meant he could not try to turn people away from Torah . . . so all of his teachings are within the context of a law that is allegedly bad, so wouldn’t his most important teachings be after his resurrection when the law is allegedly void? Yet, there’s very little teaching recorded after his death. Why did he waste so much time teaching sermons within the context of a standard he actually wanted to tear down? He should have died, resurrected and then done his ministry.

7) If Yeshua did teach against the Torah, why does Peter so quickly oppose the vision of eating unclean things? Didn’t he get the memo? Such a change would have been huge, did he miss one of the hugest parts of Yeshua’s ministry? How did the elders of Jerusalem, along with James and Peter lead a congregation of thousands of Jews that were ‘zealous’ of the law? Were James and Peter epic failures? How had they failed to pass on this massive doctrinal shift? Why does Paul go along with upholding their error by encouraging it by actually doing sacrifice in the temple? For that matter, if Yeshua had spent his time on earth casting down the Torah, how did he attract thousands who were zealous of the Torah? And when there is a question about whether the gentiles needed to keep Torah to be saved, they agreed that no one was saved by keeping Torah, but then they give four items to be kept that come from Torah, one of which is a dietary ordinance (not to eat strangled things, and possibly, not to eat blood), with the expectation that they will be in the synagogue learning Moses every Sabbath . . . Wouldn’t the logical thing have been, to take this opportunity to say, “Guys the law doesn’t matter for any of us. Let alone the gentiles, let alone for salvation. And you probably shouldn’t go to synagogue if you’re a gentile because you might learn jewish traditions. And you don’t really need Moses, just get a copy of Isaiah 53, and we’ll give you the apostle’s creed for your churches. That’s all you need.” In summary, if Yeshua taught the end of Torah, why were so many of His followers so confused about whether they should or not?

8) Why is it that the people who most easily trust in Yeshua (like Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Zacharias) are all reported to be just/blameless in regards to the law? While Yeshua’s adversaries like some scribes and Pharisees are described as people who don’t keep the Torah or pervert it? Why were the largest mass conversions to devout Jews from every nation? Why was the largest congregation one full of people zealous for the Torah? One would almost have to say that keeping Torah actually made you better able both to accept and to follow Yeshua . . . ?

9) Why can’t someone find this shift predicted in the Old Testament?

I could go on but to me, those nine—taken always with the fact that the Old Testament is unanimously approving of Torah—are by themselves insurmountable obstacles to throwing away the Torah.

But if you are unconvinced. I still love you.

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How I ended up Messianic: An Autobiographical Tale (Part 2)

Continuing my personal story of moving from a ‘normal, nondenominational’ Christianity to something called Messianic Judaism. Part one covered my Christian upbringing, conversion, and beginning of real disciplship…

Proto-Messianic

Needless to say, those years at Medical Lake Community Church with Jack and the youth group  were life-altering. I wanted to go to church now. I wanted to know what else the Bible said. The things I learned didn’t end up as “Oh, that’s neat” notes on a page, they got inside me and told me, “Change the way you’re living.” I wanted to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

One of Jack’s last lessons—it may even have been his last—was about Rosh HaShanah. Which is Hebrew for head of the year, and is the traditional name for what the bible calls Yom Teruah (the day of the trumpet blast or shout). It’s not actually the head of the year, biblically, but that’s a rabbi trail.

Get it? Rabbi! HAHAHAHAHA!

The subject was the prophetic meaning. For example, when Jesus says he returns at a day when ‘no man knows’, I’d always been taught that meant no one knows the day. Duh! But it turns out to actually be a Hebrew idiom for the beginning of a month.

The Hebraic calendar month begins at new moon, but without advanced calculation, you’re not sure if the month will be twenty-nine days long or thirty. You have to watch for it, which should conjure to mind all the ‘watching’ that Jesus told his disciples to do. Also, Jesus and Paul talk about the Jesus’s return being preceded by a ‘trumpet’ and a ‘shout.’ Well, it just so happens that Yom Teruah (the day of the trumpet shout) falls on . . . guess what? The New Moon, or the day that no man knows. In fact, because of Joel and others, the Rabbis have long associated the day of the LORD with trumpets. Jesus and Paul weren’t merely talking in riddles, they were confirming what the sages had already taught. They wouldn’t know exactly when Mashiach would return, but it would happen in proximity to the feast of Trumpets.

I suddenly learned that there was a body of Jewish understanding that I as a Christian was entirely unaware of. How many other phrases and things had I missed? Why had I never heard this? I and others in the youth group were hungry for more, but Jack was gone abruptly thereafter. He’d become unwelcome after being involved in bringing an accusation against someone in a position of leadership.

I didn’t see Jack, or really hear from him much after that, and the church went through some new youth leadership that served to confirm that the way Jack believed high schoolers could actually apply themselves to scripture was apparently unique. We were presented with teaching that was obviously phoning it in, and I promptly challenged it.

In fairness, though the teaching was weak (and I believe in error), I will admit that I was too eager to challenge. Too hot-headed over the fact that a better teacher had been replaced with others trying to teach us what Bonhoeffer would have called cheap grace. I freely confess, that my manner was wrong, but it did serve God’s purpose to show me, I needed to look elsewhere, and in essence kicked the training wheels out from under me. I was under eighteen at this time, so I continued to attend, and make too much trouble. I have since asked forgiveness from others involved.

Meanwhile, my sense of what scripture actually said was not discouraged—and for context, my parents agreed with the church so now I was out of step with them as well. And on the Hebrew/Jewish side, those of us who had been closest to Jack started trying to keep the feasts. An important point at this juncture is to understand that I did not approach the feasts or anything Hebraic as being required for anything. I and others had merely seen that there were these hidden meanings that deepened and expounded upon the teachings of Jesus.

But the innocuous search for more knowledge, brought the seed of a dilemma. Studying the feasts lead to Hebraic Roots (a hermeneutical belief that the Bible, being written and preserved by the Hebrew people, must be approached from that perspective; you can’t understand someone else’s mail without taking into account the person intended to read it). Even regular Christian pastors do this to a degree. How many times have you heard someone say, “The word in the text is (insert Greek or Hebrew), and it means ____. But in the first century that meant something different (insert explanation)”? Any good student recognizes these little nuggets, but what is neglected is the way of thinking surrounding the nuggets, and that is Hebraic Roots.

Hebraic roots leads to actually studying Torah (the law) and the Old Testament, because you begin to understand that the concepts and stories of the Old Testament provides the lexicon for the new. So of course, I read some of the ‘law.’ There wasn’t anything too surprising there; even my non-Messianic Dad understood Sunday was not the Sabbath. And I could count, every calendar has Saturday as the seventh, and Sunday as the first. If Sunday was not the first, then Jesus couldn’t rise on Sunday. Pork was unclean, but who didn’t know that?

The dilemma came in that I started to ask, “Why did God give these commandments?” There must have been some ‘spiritual’ reason just like Rosh HaShanah. After all, Paul says, that the holy days are (present tense) shadows of things to come. So why did God establish a specific-day Sabbath? Everything was supposed to point to Christ, so how does not eating pig point to Christ?

I started researching and found that pig, along with other unclean meats, are nutritionally less beneficial. Christians will say that has to do with improper cooking. But that didn’t make sense. Jesus didn’t give any new ‘cooking instructions’ that would explain how pig suddenly went from unfit for consumption to fit for consumption. Was fire a lot different before 33 AD? In fact, salmonella which can be carried by chickens dies at a higher temperature than trichinosis which is often given as the reason pigs were deemed unfit. And if that were the reason, then it would still be unclean today, if prepared incorrectly on a barbeque, and I’ve never heard a Christian teaching on improper cooking.

But actually, my research showed me things beyond the common sense. For example, both pig and shellfish leave uric acid in your system after metabolism. Uric acid according to Oxford is “of, pertaining to, or derived from urine.” It’s a waste product left in your system, and it can build crystalline deposits in your joints that give you . . . gout. Meet someone with gout and start asking about their diet. Diverticulitus can also be traced to diets heavy with unclean foods in them. Shellfish are also bottomfeeders, and secular scientists will say that because they are bottom feeders they are higher in toxins such as mercury among the creatures of the sea. None of these things have anything to do with how you cook it. In fact, seas being more polluted now, make shellfish more harmful than before Jesus’s day. I could give many more examples of this today.

The demanding “why” grew more insistent, when a sister named Leigh came to visit my future sister-in-law. She was some version of Messianic, and explained how Torah was good (though we didn’t get very far in the subject). And I listened, and thought it was interesting, but I among others drew the line to say, “Yes, but it’s not required. We don’t have to abide by the law as commandment.” That’s right, I argued against Torah!

But I couldn’t escape what I was saying: “I can objectively see that the commands of the law are good . . . but I’m arguing we don’t have to do them. I am arguing for the liberty to be self-destructive.”

I Give Up

Some in the former youth group had decided to go and visit Jack, and have kind of a jam-packed teaching get away. My brother and I did get consent from our parents, though it was reluctantly given (I was very blessed that my older brother and some of my closest friends from the youth group were also walking this walk together). So we went. I can’t remember what the main subjects were, but we recounted the recent exchange with Leigh, and Jack flatly told us, that in fact Torah was still authoritative.

Now, this will seem like complete hypocrisy—but as soon as Jack said it, all my opposition melted away. Yeah, yeah, I hear what you’re saying and know how that looks.

“Cult leader!” My mom would protest.

And that’s fair, but let me point out some mitigating factors:

1) I was walking down a road of perversity when Jack spoke scripture into my life that turned me around.

2) I’d yet to see Jack take a stand that he couldn’t readily back with scripture.

3) Jack method of instruction, challenged us to read and interpret for ourselves. He told us, “Don’t believe me. Check the scriptures!”

4) Apart from Jack, I had already found myself in the dilemma of arguing against what I knew was objectively good.

So if I held Jack’s opinion higher than most bible teachers I’d met, or some Messianic girl that I’d met only once—I think that’s understandable.

The Early Years

Returning from Ohio, I slid into being Messianic. You can blame it on Jack, but I’ve seen Jack maybe three times since then, a span of almost 20 years. We don’t even talk regularly, so as I understand a real cult-relationship, I should have to worship him or at least stay in constant contact and probably move near him, and marry one of his daughters or sisters—maybe even more than one. If in 20 years, I haven’t changed in my convictions (though deepened), I think that I have credibility to say that the reason I switch mindsets so easily was not Jack’s excessive influence.

God had already prepared my by giving me a Dad and Mom who valued scripture over human opinions or church doctrines. And Jack reinforced that scripture-first, study-for-yourself mentality, and he’d taught me from scripture that I owed it to God to actually apply myself and seek to use my talent so that I could be a good and faithful servant. So deciding to follow Torah was not difficult for me—except when friends or family made it difficult. I’m saying, there was little inner struggle over whether I should do Torah—even though it was in opposition to a great portion of what I had always believed.

How come after nine years of believing the law was dead and obedience was nearly irrelevant (not counting my earliest childhood), I so easily turned my back on that entire way of thinking and actually moved towards a lifestyle that was rather alien to me? What did I know of the feasts? I had no family traditions in that direction. What did I know of kosher? My favorite foods were unkosher. I loved bacon! I loved Zips’ Belly Buster Burger which had beef and two forms of pork on it! I loved the Diablo pizza that had sausage and jalapeno. I liked to be able to work or do whatever I wanted on Sabbath. The point is, choosing to follow Torah came with a personal external cost in giving up things I liked and opposing the doctrines I had grown up with and considered ‘normal.’ I did not want to be weird. In fact, even some of the people from the old youth group who agreed on obedience, disagreed on Torah, so this even meant a potential rift with my peeps. The first consistent friends I’d had in my life!

Yet, none of that translated to reasonable doubt about what scripture actually taught.

So, I and others from the ‘core group’ looked for a different congregation to worship at, while practicing the feasts and holding little bible studies as best we understood. Somehow, we found a Messianic Jewish Congregation (which later became Kehilat HaMashiach, Congregation of the Messiah). In many ways it was what we needed, but also had many shortfalls. The teaching didn’t live up to Jack; I often fought sleep during the sermons, and didn’t feel like I learned much. However, there was a sense of community, and everyone there was motivated, by that I mean I didn’t see anyone on autopilot. And worship included dancing.

Dancing may seem like a small thing, especially since in most churches dancing is spectator’s worship. But dancing in a messianic fellowship involves people getting out of their seats and coming forward to dance. Not a specific team, anyone could join. And I’ll tell you worship became much more invigorating and community building when there was dance. I mean, why has worship in church come to mean using your voice and maybe you hands, but not the rest of your body? Since then, worship in churches feels to me like holding back. People not wanting to embarrass themselves. Maybe sway, but don’t move your feet. Lift a hand, but not too high. Sing, but not full-throated. I know I felt that reservation the first time someone else ‘dragged’ me into a dance. I’d been afraid to be a fool for God.

We were there for a couple of years, but . . . there were also problems in the congregation. The leadership was unbalanced, bottle-necked through a single individual who seemed unable to be accountable or share leadership with others. There’s more nuance to that, but it’s not terribly important. I think it was right for a group of us to challenge the leadership, but not as we ended up doing. Some people were seemingly chased out of the congregation, myself included, when we had a differences of vision. Also, the congregation was very pro-Jew, and gentiles like myself were kind of second-class.

Eventually things came to a head with about fifteen people trying to force a congregational meeting to address grievances. I think the cause was just, but we went about it wrongly. It was like we all went in to do surgery on each other, but had no plans beyond cutting the other person open. I have since tried to make amends with the congregational leader there.

So myself and others left, feeling burned. I know it particularly sunk in when I was compared to a ‘leper’ even before the big blow up, merely because I didn’t have an emotional love for the Jewish people, and didn’t feel I should abandon all of my gentile heritage. Afterwards, we tried a home fellowship and another kind of Messianic/Hebraic congregation. Neither worked out. So the shrinking ‘we’, a few from the original youth group and a few from Kehilat, kind of wandered. Somewhat disenfranchised with the messianic thing…

To be continued…

 

 

 

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How I ended up Messianic: An Autobiographical Tale: Episode I

I’ve stumbled again into doctrinal debating.

I know, right?

I’ve tried to avoid them, but should I? How can iron sharpen iron without making sparks? Leviticus 19:17 tells us as a sign of love to arguingly argue with one another. Arguments ought to be used to fosters intimacy rather avoided.

Argument summary: I am Messianic, thus believe in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) but believe following Yeshua also means keeping Torah (the law) because it is a praise to Him, rather than discarding it.

My brotherly and sisterly opponents disagree and present me with a slew of arguments, which—and this will sound like arrogance—I’ve heard before. In fact, I’ve made some of them myself because those are the arguments I was raised to believe.

So how about I tell you a story? The story of how I ‘lost my way’. I’ll show you what I believed, and the questions, the line of reasoning that convinced me to where I am today. Maybe understanding, how I got here, my fellow believers will convert me back, or perhaps, see that I’m not so crazy . . . at least in this regard. =)

My Early Christianity

Born in Alaska in 1981 to Christian or nearly Christian parents . . . [all biographies have to start something like that.]

I’m not sure when our family became Christian, but Dad talks like the years before I remember were something of a transition. My mother was born Catholic, and my Dad, I think, was Presbyterian or Episcopalian. Neither heritage seemed much defined/changed by their faith. In fact, I grew up asking grandparents (especially on Dad’s side) whether they were saved, and not believing that they were.

But I grew up identifying our home as Christian. Dad explained many of the things we did on the basis of scripture. We went to church. Mom read scripture after each meal. Some Sundays when we stayed home, Dad would lead us in worship with hymn books that were kept at home. We consistently went to church. However—and my loving brothers and sisters will point to this as “Aha, that’s where Jesse started becoming a heretic”—my family didn’t stay in any church for too long.

My earliest church memories were of a home church with the Frasies family, and I don’t remember much other than that one of the boys there seemed bullyish to me (but that’s probably the unfair memory of someone around six or seven). And one day I came in on a prayer portion and shouted, “My Mom made cinnamon rolls, and yours didn’t.” I cringe when I imagine how that must have mortified my Mom. Ha ha. Oh, yeah. And while looking at a flashlight on a table, I was pushed off and broke my leg.

Later, we went to Monroe Park Gospel Chapel in Spokane. I have many memories there. They had a good library for kids. I drew pictures in the pews and sat with the adults during sermons. I stole cookies out of the fridge (at the time, I didn’t think of it as stealing). As an eight year old, I wrestled with a nine year old and ‘won’. I would also wave as I ran along cars being driven away . . . at least one time I ran into a sign.

I also remember the trauma of being asked to sit on some teenager’s lap. Her name was Robin and she was pretty, so of course no little boy wants to sit on a pretty girl’s lap for a play, and pretend to be a little boy . . . Very traumatic. But the show went on, and I did my duty to sit in the pretty girl’s lap.

One day, we stopped going. I didn’t know why, or even really process that this was unusual. Being committed or grounded in a specific church hadn’t been instilled in me. Later, I came to understand that we had left because the Gospel Chapel wasn’t motivated to spread the gospel.

About the same time, my Dad started feeling called to help spread creation science. He got involved with ICR (Institute for Creation Research) and Answer in Genesis, helping with events and conferences. He even started a local organization called Creation Outreach. Dad taught in the home that the Word of God was paramount and that we as a family lived according to what the Bible said, but the Bible would be no good if it didn’t match up with real life evidence. Nowadays, he would summarize it using a jury trial analogy. A person shouldn’t be convicted on testimony alone. Testimony must be matched to physical evidence.

So we as a family began to serve together in this endeavor as Dad found speaking opportunities at various churches and conferences. It was a humble ministry, but I had some secret pride about what Dad was doing. One day a church elder challenged him during his presentation. He was not uncivil, and the man had a point because Dad had moved from creation evidence to prophetic topics—but young boys aren’t known for that kind of nuanced distinction. I instantly disliked this other guy.

The ministry kind of faded away, not sure quite why. Dad still ministers through a blog (from before the time it was called a blog). And I still respect his efforts on the creation front.

Other things in those middle years include going to a Bible camp up in Canada, where I learned to play poker and Stretch (a game where you throw knives near each other’s feet, gradually placing a foot where the knife sticks until you’re doing unbearable splits and fall over . . . or until someone actually gets hit with a knife and the counselors say enough. The poker had to stop too.) But I loved those times at camp, singing around the campfire. Playing games. Doing sword drills and memorization, and chapel every night which always had the gospel in it.

The years did turn darkish, though. I became aware of the feeling of loss as we hopped churches, making friends only to move on. There always seemed to be something doctrinally wrong with the churches. From my perspective, they all taught basically the same things. The gospel of grace, salvation by faith, praying to receive Jesus, baptism, eternal security, ‘penal substitution’ [a brother recently introduced me to the term], the trinity, all those things. We never went to a Catholic church or a JW or a Mormon or a Jonesboro Baptist. They all seemed to be evangelical/protestant/reformed/regular church—and the first time I heard about Calvinism, it was me being told that we were Calvinists, by my Dad. So that was my normal, those were the main doctrines that I grew up with, and never had reason to question.

The reasons we left—as I realized later—usually had to do with some, more private interpretation of a more . . . peripheral doctrine? Some I still see as important. Like do they believe in a literal creation account? I take a more nuanced approach to that literality, but I firmly believe it’s a mistake to simply allegorize it. Other doctrines—at least the way they were taught in our home—I have rejected. Like whether God is really a male and only a male because He is always called He.

I mention that particular discard because it was at the basis of why we left more than one church. Also, I think it was the cause or the symptom of growing strife in the home between my parents. Another part of that equation involved alcohol. These mixed and worsened as I approached thirteen.

Toward the end, I would not have seemed unchristian. And I will firmly say that I had sincere belief. I had asked Jesus into my heart. I believed He died and rose again for my sins. But I will say, I was on the way out the door. I just didn’t realize it. Looking back there were environmental reasons. Fighting in the home and alcohol had badly damaged the way I felt about our family. Making matters worse, I had been exposed to pornography. Nothing like what we have today in terms of availability or explicity. I don’t want to give the wrong impression about what my parents knowingly allowed in the home, but that spirit (for lack of a better term) was having an impact. I’m not trying to gross anyone out, least of all my parents, but . . . the truth of redemption is that even your sins can be turned around. Grace is only great, if sin is also great. So if I say some things that are shameful toward my family, I hope they make that point.

Beginning of a New Beginning

And so the stage was set for my arrival Medical Lake Community Church, another non-denominational congregation that was probably Calvinist, taught salvation by grace through faith, through the shed blood of Jesus. I coasted in, no intentionality of my own, not hostile but just coasting, drifting.

The church was normal enough, until the youth pastor changed. I didn’t really want to go to his class. I had developed low self-esteem, manifesting in insecurity, so I preferred the company of people younger than myself. But, praise God, I was sent to the high school class that became Jack’s. Some people whom I dearly love will say this is where it all went wrong for my beliefs, I will say it was an act of God. Remember, my faith was shutting down. Could God have got me back another way? Of course, but this is the way He chose.

Jack opened up the scriptures. I’d never been around an instructor that actually went from verse to verse, and interacted with real questions. Sure, I’d done ‘workbooks’ and other mass produced class materials where you’d fill in the blank, or make a note about what something meant. But with Jack you had blanks and no form questions. He was the first teacher I’d ever had who made a point by reading and dissecting a passage instead of merely giving a verse to memorize along with it’s one and only meaning. Maybe everyone else’s youth group Sunday School classes were different, but I’d never been in one before, and I didn’t see one after.

The difference really seems to have centered on questions. Here’s what the passage says, but what does that mean? Who’s Paul talking to? Jesus said this, but how does that work with what He said earlier? Answers to these were dragged out of us as kept fingers in half a dozen books at a time. We saw the stepping stones that connected one verse to another, the logic and cohesion binding one scriptural thought to another. I can’t say it all sunk in, none of us were used to actively interpreting as opposed to simply recalling what we’d been taught. Jack had to rephrase most questions in ten different ways to get our minds to finally turn over on their own, but he cranked away to get us active in the study instead of merely absorbing.

Up until then, I’d always been told what to believe, with a verse or two for reference, but no one had linked the verses together into a cohesive train of thought. We were learning to study, not just recall. The seed of really studying was planted for the first time. We were learning to study for ourselves, instead of just trusting a pastor or a commentator to decode the hidden message. The Bereans were held up by Paul because they rigorously studied the scriptures to see if Paul told the truth, that was the model for our class, too.

And that went right along with the thesis of Jack’s time at MLCC. I met him in the book of Matthew, and he kept drawing out passages like the parable of the talents or the ten virgins, pointing out how what we did affected the outcome. I kept seeing passages that I had always summarized in my mind as being calls to believe, and seeing, “Wait. These are already to believers, they are telling us to make belief into action.” Belief and salvation were not the end of the race; they were the beginning. Choices mattered, lesser and greater reward stood before every believer. Sin or righteousness . . . still mattered for the disciple of Jesus. It wasn’t just what He did for us, there was a response that was expected. To summarize what I learned: Matthew 12:36 “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

To be clear, Jack never taught that this was about salvation, but rather obedience and reward vs. losing reward. He would often say, you’ll go to heaven, but you might be scrubbing toilets. Which was always funny because he was a custodian who scrubbed toilets. He could use the parable of the talents, the parable of the sower, Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:15, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Timothy, or many others to make the point.

Grace wasn’t central conversation in our home, so perhaps that’s why I wasn’t allergic to Jack’s doctrine. Not that it was absent, but it wasn’t as central, as perhaps faith and truth. But I heard about grace there, and in every church and Bible camp I recall. But these provided no obstacle in my mind between salvation by grace and a call to obedience. Why talk about the ten commandments or obeying parents if obedience no longer mattered? If right and wrong were worth Jesus’ death on the cross, why weren’t we more careful to obey? Why wouldn’t God be pleased with me for actually doing good?

It wasn’t just that I had no reason to object to this new doctrine, there was also a part that wanted it to be true. I’d heard people proudly say, there’s nothing we can do to add to the work of Christ. That grace was unmerited favor. That we can’t earn our way to heaven. That our sins are forgiven on grace alone. But hearing obedience to God had consequences, stirred my soul. And looking back, why should that be reaction surprise?

God made Adam and Eve to rule and reign, to subdue the earth, to keep (meaning guard) the garden. Then the Bible is full of saints doing tremendous good deeds, heroic deeds, yes of faith, but deeds! Even in our modern time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresea, Billy Graham, or your neighbor down the street, or a martyr in China—we all know that we were made to do good and great things. Having someone tell me that it mattered whether I used my talent or buried it in the sand, if I bore fruit or if I didn’t—that awakened something inside. I didn’t become instantly perfect, but I’ll tell you this, porn and my autopilot faith were taken out back and shot. There was power in the doctrine of obedience.

I can’t overemphasize what someone essentially saying, “Repent! For the Kingdom is at hand!” did for me. You can tell me all you want to about grace, but the message of grace apart from obedience had left my faith to die; the call to repent and obey, brought me back. That’s not displacing grace, rather it’s realizing grace isn’t given so you can stay in sin, it’s for getting you out of sin. The goodness of God lead’s men to repentance.

To be continued . . .

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Review: Kosher Jesus by Shmuley Boteach

For awhile, I’ve been ‘into’ orthodoxy—of Judaism. Not without some reservations. More than one person has warned me of the danger of Messianic/Hebraic Roots people learning and then denouncing Mashiach and become orthodox. That warning should be heeded, but my question would be why does that happen? If Yeshua truly is the Mashiach of Isra’el, then why are true believers forsaking Him?

I think part of the problem is questions we fear to answer. We recite doctrinal positions handed to us by the church and don’t just fail to question, we refuse! Worse, we often punish those who do. Why do I believe Yeshua is the Mashiach? Should I believe in sol scriptura? Is the trinity actually taught in scripture? Questions that mainstream Christianity couldn’t answer are why many of us felt lead to study the ancient paths. So why would we think the antidote to a fear of losing brothers to anti-Yeshua Judaism is to bury our heads? We don’t have to answer every question (is that even possible?), but we can’t be afraid of hard questions. And if our faith is true, hard questions should in fact take away our fear.

So I review Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus. A book from an unbelieving Jewish perspective, to understand why religious Jews say they oppose Yeshua—not what does a Christian say as to why. Of course, this won’t really be a ‘review’ in a literary sense. I wasn’t really looking at the writing—until the acknowledgments at the end, which are hilarious.

Synopsis: This book as being about Jesus as the most famous Jew who ever lived, who happens to be one of the most controversial and enigmatic. To Jews becoming an inspiration for bloody anti-Semitism; to Christians a divine messiah and fountain of salvation. Boteach purports to deliver a bold new vision of Yeshua as a thoroughly Jewish, patriot and rabbi murdered by Romans for his opposition to the Roman occupation.

Warning: This book is going to hit you with some hard questions. I’ll provide some responses, below, but there are some difficulties that I do not have ready responses for. I do not recommend this book if you’re not secure in your faith and understanding. But if you do decide to read, perhaps, below will be helpful in sorting it out. And by all means, offer your sorting to me!

Now, I knew going in that Boteach’s views would not be my own—that’s why I picked up the book—but I welcome anyone who works to show that Yeshua was not the founder of a new religion. He was and had to be thoroughly, Jewish in body and soul, because that’s what the scriptures teach. He certainly could not be anti-Torah. Here, Boteach has it right. Boteach is quite fair to Yeshua—with the caveat that he doesn’t trust the gospels, hence he is quite fair to a re-imagined Yeshua. He doesn’t even mind that Yeshua thought He was the Mashiach—Boteach thinks He had the potential to be the Mashiach, but failed because He died. He doesn’t take issue with the core teachings of Yeshua.

Reverse Engineering the Gospels

From about chapter one, Boteach begins to speculate about the real story of Yeshua.

“They [Yeshua’s disciples who join after his death] purge the teacher of his jewish identity as a political and religious expediency…The editing process is haphazard and uncoordinated. Much of the original story unintentionally remains hidden in the margins. Since the writings about the rabbi evolve over many decades, individual texts conflict, allowing the real story to be read between the lines.”

Much of what follows comes from that “between the lines” space. In other words, speculation. Unfortunately, the space between the lines is blurry, and doing the best to fill them in tends to leaving room for plot holes . . . Below is a summary.

Boteach opens by offering the reader a summary of what really happened. Galilee is a powder keg of anti-Roman hatred, due to Rome’s paganism and brutalizing tactics.

Ok.

They long for a military and political hero, the Mashiach, who will drive out the Romans.

Ok . . . but a hero of righteousness, too, right? I mean he’s supposed to magnify the Torah, be called YHVH-Tzedkenu (Yahwah our righteousness). He’s supposed to judge with fairness for the meek. Just saying, he’s more than a political-military hero. But, I guess the part that most people would be yearning for would be the deliverance from Rome.

Along comes Yeshua, the teacher who is charismatic and public decries Rome. He proclaims the Jews must earn their redemption, and practice Torah. That only by resubmitting to God will they be successful in overthrowing Roman power.

The Rome part isn’t really in the gospels (at all), but I suppose it would have come up a time or too, so I’ll give an ‘ok.’

The teacher tells his disciples the time of redemption is drawing near. He has begun to believe he is the long awaited Mashiach, who will lead them to victory. With the sword, but the shield will be God’s favor on the righteous.

Um. . . I don’t believe the implication, but the plot still makes sense.

On the night before the final confrontation, Yeshua urges his disciples to gather swords. Preparing to capture the Temple as the beginning of the massive revolt. His sermons get more fiery as he attempts to inspire the Pharisees and priests to join the revolt. But some corrupt priests and the High Priest who will be held accountable for a revolt rats him out. Like that, he’s dead.

Ok, but my reader will want to remember this for later.

After the death and resulting grief, the disciples debate the meaning of the message . . . since he died. Their numbers dwindle from many to a desperate few. After all, however great, the teacher wasn’t the Mashiach because he failed. The few keep meeting in secret. Deprived of their teacher, devastated, persecuted, they become fewer and fewer.

I guess that makes sense.

Without warning a stranger arrives. They fear he may have been sent by the high priest, an agent of Rome. He admits he never met the teacher, but is strangely enamored since a vision he had on the way to Damascus, on his way to persecute them.

So that would be Paul. Again note the underlined.

He shocks the disciples with a mystical reinterpretation of the rabbi’s mission. He suggests the rabbi was outright divine, and came to die for their sins. He came to save souls not to free them from Rome. Then the stranger tells the Torah-observant-disciples of a Torah-observant-rabbi . . . that his death meant the end of Torah observance.

Wait. The Rabbi died . . . and then this stranger shows up . . . to join the people he persecuted. A group that was fading into history with fewer and fewer members . . .  He wants to join them? Is that like hijacking a sinking ship? And he’s so enamored with this ‘messiah’ who he never met, based on hearing about him or having a vision, but has a completely different view of him than the disciples that knew him? For the plot to work, the author will have to explain why Paul bothers to attach to a failed rabbi, who is the target of persecution, with a failing following. Did he really have this vision? Where did it come from? Why would God distort a good message or allow the enemy to? And why do devout men fall for it?

At least to his credit, Boteach says they banish him at first.

Despite being banished, new adherents flock to the new message. They love the idea of a personal God vs. a God of ritual and numerous laws, etc.

Wait, wait. This guy travels to Judea (because that’s where the original disciples were). Hijacks the message in the presence of the actual witnesses, who say it didn’t happen that way. And attracts crowds to a persecuted religion (whose eye witnesses say it didn’t happen), crowds of religious jews, who like the disciples adhere to Torah. So Yeshua comes along gets a following by teaching one thing, this guy comes in and attaches to that same guy’s legacy and takes it in the opposite direction—and it sticks?

Now, if there’s a devil and this is some important battle, then of course the adversary will want to disrupt it, but that assumes that Yeshua was special. How many other Rabbis were in his day? How many other devout patriots were murdered, but this one particular one sends shockwaves across history?

But if he’s unimportant, why doesn’t the devil just use Paul directly and forget about trying to drag through the mud Yeshua who died in opposition to the new message? Why bother with someone who has witnesses to the contrary? Boteach will go on to talk about biblical characters that he thinks are ‘made up’, why not make up Yeshua? None of this makes sense, unless Yeshua was needed for the story, and if Yeshua is that important, how do you get adherents pulling from the same crowd. He’s that big a deal, but no one remembers what he actually taught?!?

As more followers come to a small church in Jerusalem, the teacher’s real disciples bristle in protest. The real Yeshua, they say, was a strict teacher of Torah. Now in defiance, the stranger preaches a total break from Torah, but as much as the original disciples want to distance themselves from the stranger’s message . . . he has brought new life to the movement. Plus money. Over time the gentile influence outweighs the Jewish and it changes the religion dramatically.

Back the truck up. The torah-keeping eyewitnesses of a torah keeping Rabbi in Jerusalem can’t hold back a crowd of anti-torah disciples of an anti-torah non-witness who is using their rabbi’s name?!? That’s like going into someone else’s house, telling the family guests stories about the family, and no one in the family being able to correct the narrative.

And they slowly just accept this? Because there’s new life? A totally alien life? “Hi, I’m Bob. I know your church was strict catholic, but it’s dying so I thought I’d teach islam here. Just look how many people will join!”

Does the author see that going over well? The setting for the plot doesn’t make sense. For Boteach’s story to work, he’ll need to set it somewhere where no one can talk to the eye witnesses. Even if the disciples didn’t protest, how is the anti-torah message supposed to get along in Jerusalem? Even the ‘edited’ New Testament that he critiques tells over and over that the population and the elite cared very much about Torah. How are you going to have a pervasive anti-Torah movement in Jerusalem?

Then disaster strikes. Unable to endure the Roman oppression any longer, the Jews revolt—

Though, they could apparently endure the growing anti-torah message that they all could witness was false, growing in their midst.

—the Romans descend and sack Jerusalem. Slaughtering millions. The gentile followers of the stranger who never met Yeshua now take a dramatic step. There is no way to survive as a group, if they remain associated with the cursed Jews.

Wait. So the stranger. Who was persecuting this group, then joins the group, only to find, “Oh, hey, these Jews are unpopular.” The plot, sir, is untenable. He joins outcasts, makes the outcasts even unpopular with the original outcasts, then surprised at how unpopular they are, now has to distance the group from Jews. Why did you pick a Jew in the first place, when you wanted to appeal to Roman Gentiles!?!?! Why did you decide to settle in Jerusalem, this hub of anti-Roman sentiment?!?!

They purge the teacher of his Jewish identity. His teachings and writings are heavily edited. Much gets rewritten completely. They turn him into a gentile, before their canon is solidified. In the altered version, Yeshua never rebelled against Rome, he abhorred the Jews, despised the Rabbis, and preached subservience to Rome. “The editing process is haphazard and uncoordinated. Much of the original story unintentionally remains hidden in the margins.” But the rabbi’s views are transformed enough to be exiled from his own people.

Again, the plot doesn’t work. Why is the editing haphazard and uncoordinated? In this version, you have maybe 30 years between the rabbi and this dramatic change. Firstly, you would have to tacitly admit that that writings were in existence in the lifetimes of the eye witnesses. I’m great with that by the way. If they were written later, than why wouldn’t they have simply been written in their final form? Why leave the setting in Isra’el? Start with Rome or Athens! Why make him Jewish at all? If you’re starting from scratch, just put in the stuff you like. There’s no reason to insert the Jewishness only to have to redact it. You’ve already disagreed with the eyewitnesses, so just scrap it all.

So given that they exist—and have therefore been disseminated, otherwise you could simply redact them all in coordination—how is that with this massive following of Jew and Gentile, that no one preserved the originals? The Gentiles might have reason to destroy the originals, but the original Jews, certainly don’t. Every single faithful adherent agreed to simply rewrite their beloved teacher’s writings? No one said, “This is wrong! This is fraud! This dishonors his memory!” His close friends? His disciples? Not one person sets out to preserve the truth?!?!

Time for a primer on successful conspiracy (borrowing from the homicide detective who does Cold Case Christianity, who’s name escapes me). The detective points out 5 traits of a successful or effective conspiracy. As a sometimes cop, I can also verify these (though with less experience).

Short-time span: It is easier for multiple people to keep a straight story and coordinate in a short time. In Boteach’s version, he’s got 30+ years.

Small number of people: The more people, the more potential leaks. In Boteach’s version and history bears this out, you have thousands involved in this conspiracy.

Good communication: to coordinate lies, the conspirators must be able to talk to them. That’s why suspects are detained separately. In Boteach’s version you have the original eye-witnesses who deny Paul’s version, so you already have bad communication. Paul’s followers then are scattered and on the run after 70 AD. How easy is it to communicate, by snail mail without modern conveyances?

Lack of external pressure: When conspirators have little to lose by maintaining silence or deception, they can continue. In Boteach’s version, the disciples were oppressed before Paul even showed up, then there would have been the threat of losing social standing as they decry Torah in Torah’s capital in the shadow of the temple. They are then being literally killed by both faithful Jews and their Roman oppressors. What incentive do they have to keep up the conspiracy? What do they gain for what they know is a lie? If they are worried about surviving because of the Jewishness, why keep up the religion at all? How many followers of David Koresh are there, today? Where are the followers of a thousand false teachers? How long does a political scheming religion last, when it has no source of gain, other than a fuzzy feeling? If scientologists were being crucified in public, does Tom Cruise modify his scientology or does he get as far away from it as he can?

I forget what the last quality was. I want to say it was discovery. A conspiracy works best when no one knows it exists. Duh! Which again, this ‘new’ religion doesn’t gain from that trait because you have thousands of people who must know about the systematic effort to erase the originals, including the eyewitnesses who say it didn’t happen.

Boteach might have a leg to stand on, if he had a correct, ‘original’ narrative but Boteach admits he has to read between the lines. He doesn’t have a single manuscript that tells the ‘true story’, he infers it all from contractions that he sees. Contradictions that when found in the Tanahk would have been quickly explained.

The Evil Jews

I won’t give the blow by blow. But there were some insights to be gained (along side further unbelievable claims). There were things I really liked as well, such as the way he shows how many of Yeshua’s teachings have parallels in traditional Judaism. It’s not that He had to be in step, but He certainly couldn’t have been wholly alien to the people who were expected to recognize Him.

However, One of the things that Boteach brings up repeatedly is the “anti-Semitism” of the Brit Chadasha, contrasted with how “placating” it is toward the Romans. Growing up in a non-denominational setting, I can say I was never aware of anti-Semitism. Faults were found with the Jews, but I never met anyone—though I’m sure they exist—that considered the Jews to have been any more responsible for Yeshua’s death than anyone else. It was always taught to me that though some of the Jews may have conspired, most of the Romans were complicit, and really it was all our sins for which He died, so no penitent follower of Yeshua could blame anyone but themselves.

But this isn’t as simple as the above. Have you ever wondered, why the gospels refer to “The Jews”? I mean, Yeshua and all his chosen talmidim were Jews! It’s like telling a story set in Cincinnati and talking over and over about what “the Americans” did. And especially since, not all the Jews were doing X. How can we say the Jews persecuted Yeshua, when the thousands who followed Him, were also Jews?

I don’t have a good answer, but I did note that aside from Yochanon (John), the gospels refer to “the Jews” rarely. Mattityahu, Mark, and Luke use the noun only to say things like “King of the Jews” or “elders of the Jews” in contexts, where a gentile is addressing the people of Isra’el. That makes good sense to me, because you’re distinguishing between two groups or representatives of two groups. Yochanon is more difficult to me, using “the Jews” in areas like I described above. Like Yochanon 2:17-18, where the talmidim are called talmidim, and juxtaposed with the moneychangers who are called Jews. Why did the writer of Yochanon do this? Or 3:25, same thing, Yochanon the Immerser’s talmidim are just called talmidim, and they are being questioned by ‘the Jews’ as if Yochanon and his talmidim are not themselves Jews? I admit this troubles me, especially when the other three gospels don’t have this difficulty.

One possible answer: was Yochanon originally written for gentiles? That would make some sense of why they are identified—but that doesn’t answer why Yochanon speaks as if the talmidim weren’t Jews . . .

However, Boteach I think is also unfair. Pointing to all the criticism of ‘the Jews’ in the gospels. From his perspective, it’s later editing made to disparage an unpopular group, freeing up Romans to more easily accept the new version. However, judgment begins at the house of Elohim. The Rabbis will point to Moshe and Reuven who were both punished in seeming disproportion to their crime. (Re’uven is understood to not have literally had sex with Ya’akov’s concubine, an example of Rabbinic ability to ‘read between the lines’ without calling the document a forgery). The rabbinic conclusion is that those who are greater or nearer the truth are held to a higher standard. Thus, wouldn’t one expect that the Jews would be more harshly critiqued than the Romans, who knew nothing of Elohim? How much time did the prophets spend criticizing Isra’el vs. Assyria, which was the Roman culture of that time?

For that matter, Boteach, himself considers the Cohen Hagadol (High Priest) in Yeshua’s time to be a stooge for Rome, along with other cohenim. He also quotes Rabbi Yochanon, from the Talmud at the time of the siege of Yerushalayim as considering the sin of the people and the priesthood as so severe, that given the option to save something of his choosing, he chooses to save a small village and its people and not Yerushalayim or the temple. How can Boteach tell us the Jews were essentially good, and also acknowledge that the sages thought Yerushalayim deserved to be sacked? And if the Pharisees were so righteous, why couldn’t they save the city? Why couldn’t any of them incur Elohim’s favor to save the beloved city?

The answer would seem to be because despite the pious trappings of many—but not all—Yerushalayim and Isra’el were still stiff-necked. Is that anti-Semetic? No, even the Rabbis will say the temple was destroyed a second time because of the sin of Isra’el. So then, I must ask Boteach, why should Yeshua (if He was the Mashiach) have focused on the sins of pagan Rome and tried to lead an uprising against it, when all the sages agree Yerushalayim deserved judgment? Wouldn’t the logical, expected course for a prophet be, to decry the sin of the people of the covenant? It’s not that the Brit Chadasha finds inherent fault with the Jews, as if they were worse than all people, but that it finds fault with them because they are the chosen people. They are to publish His Name in all the Earth; they of all people should be walking in Kedushah (sanctification). They seemed to get knocked so far down, because they should be so high.

However, I think this fairness is often masked by real anti-semitism in Christian doctrine. How many times are we told about what the Pharisees did? Their hypocrisy? Their blindness? As if they were cruel cavemen (at least in their theology), when in fact much of what we know about the Mashiach comes through them? Or how much of our “Judeo-Christian” values depends on the Judeo part, more than the Christian part? If you put atrocities on a scale, which side is heavier. The Christian heritage’s or the Jewish’s?  Isra’el gave the world Torah and the Mashiach; the world gave Isra’el the holocaust aided by supposedly Christian lands, the pogroms, and even today many Christians can’t accept that the Jews deserve a piece of land the size of New Jersey. On what ground, do we in churchs sit to judge the ‘backwards’ theology of the Pharisees? With teaching in church like that, how are the Jews not supposed to assume the “New Testament” is anti-semetic?

The “Ok” Romans

Boteach envisions that the gospels were revised to appease Romans, making them seem “ok”. This seems doubtful. The original writings, that had already been disseminated, would have to be hunted down and revised, with the originals destroyed, in order to appease the Romans—a process which would have taken years or decades—while the Romans were still persecuting them. How would any of them know this would be successful? And if they didn’t know, what would convince each member individually to undertake heresy for saving their own skin? Remember the key to a good conspiracy is good communication and low pressure (among others). These followers have no such advantages.

Plus, the question remains, why not just give up the sham altogether?

But to the point. Is Pilate depicted as trying to ‘save’ Yeshua? Maybe a little, and I’ll address that more in a moment—but how ‘innocent’ can the Romans appear when the guy in charge chooses to put someone he believes is innocent, to death in a gruesome and humiliating way? I mean the Romans are the guys who brought crucifixion to the Holy Land! Romans mingled the blood of men with sacrifices. Romans had fun by beating the Mashiach. If the church was trying to expunge Rome’s brutality, it did a very very poor job. And if that was the church’s objective, why record the ongoing brutality of Rome against Christians in extra biblical sources?

Yet again we make ourselves vulnerable. Church history is clear that many Christian customs, like the timing of Christmas, Easter (even its name), Lent, and many other customs did come from paganism in the Roman empire. The later (post Constantine) “church” did make the practice of adopting/adapting/baptizing pagan customs to make the “church” more palatable for converts. In that, the church has sullied its reputation, as Boteach rightfully points out. That could be read as placation; but in the same breath . . . one could argue that about customs Isra’el adopted.

Howver, doesn’t that still acknowledge that the church did change to suit new converts? If they could change practice, why not “holy writ”?

1) The policy of adaptation started as Christianity became endorsed by Rome, thus you had—remember the qualities of conspiracy—less pressure, greater ability to coordinate (especially since it came to be through the emperor), discovery is nullified, and the culture itself is part of the conspiracy. All things that were not true in the beginning.

2) The adaptations that happened aren’t buried, they are enshrined. Catholic history will tell you that Rome changed the Shabbat to Sunday. They don’t say, it was always Sunday. They also acknowledge the policy of adapting paganism. There’s no secrecy, here.

Pilate, Pharisees, and others out of Character

I’ve spent quite a bit of virtual ink deriding some logical problems with the revisionism proposed. But Boteach also brings some very good logic at times, that admittedly, I find difficult to refute.

Pilate is known in scripture as someone who mingled murdered blood with sacrifices. What an abomination! He also apparently killed innocent people without little hesitation, and passed them off to brutalized. He even makes friends by killing people; apparently a hobby that Herod and Pilate bonded over—which is in the Bible. Hardly appeasing— Beyond the Bible, we read that he was the one who first brought the idols of Caesar to Yerushalayim, willing to kill a group of Jews for merely protesting. How then, could Pilate end up seeming an evenhanded judge in Yeshua’s trial?

This really bothered me for a day or so. But then I had to ask, do people only do what is expected of them? Interesting, Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews  tells us that this same barbaric Pilate was moved by the display of the protestors who willingly offered themselves for death rather than tolerate the images of Caesar to be set up for worship, such that he reversed his own orders, both on setting up the images and killing the protesters. What would Boteach make of this? I think it clearly shows that Pilate—a mass murderer—could be moved at times by moral courage. If he could do that out of character, why could he not have been moved by Yeshua? Or if he would tolerate their “injury of Caesar” by keeping his effigies out, why might he not have been moved to show them a ‘kindness’ at Pesach?

The point is history is full of people who do things that are seemingly incongruent with their character. Just look at a beloved David, who suddenly sleeps with his friend’s wife and has him killed? Was that in character? Or Y’hudah and Tamar. Stone’s Tanach says that Y’hudah and Tamar were both too righteous, for him to sleep with a whore and her to play a whore. Stone’s actually implicates that Elohim ‘moved’ Y’hudah to sleep with her because he was, too righteous. And for her part, she sensed the great destiny of the line of Y’hudah and because the good was so great, she forced herself to do what she would never have done. I don’t know if that’s true—but it clearly shows that tradition is well able to accept someone doing something strange, that doesn’t quite fit. What about David working for the Philistine Achish? Does Boteach find it odd, that the legendary Philistine fighter, finds employment with a Philistine noble?

Boteach also defends the Pharisees, beginning by pointing out that Yeshua was a Pharisee—if you’ve never heard that, it is actually a possibility based on Yochanon 1:24-27, when Yochanon says to the Pharisees Mashiach is of and among them. This certainly makes the case that not all Pharisees were bad. In Mattityahu 5:20, Yeshua holds them up as righteous, but still falling short.

They were probably not “bad” in subjective sense, but recall again, that Elohim judges based on what a person has. In this sense, a Pharisee could fail by a small amount, but fall much further. But I’d also point out that if the religious leaders of the day were really so great, then why was Yerushalayim destroyed? Why hadn’t relief from Rome come? Why did even Rabbi Yochanon not ask to save the capital? Boteach seems to countenance that the Cohanim had been corrupted (in large part) because of their relationship to Rome, why is it unthinkable that the Pharisees would be corruptible? And I’m not saying, all of them, but in large part?

Boteach points to the words of the Talmud, handed down to us by the Pharisees who became the Rabbis. There are certainly good words in there, but . . .  These kinds of words were known throughout Isra’el, and yet, that didn’t save Yerushalayim. The Rabbi’s will also say that Yosef’s brothers, including Re’uven and Y’hudah were all great men, yet did that stop Yosef’s brothers from being jealous and trying to kill him? Did it stop Re’uven from going up to his father’s bed? Did it stop Y’hudah from sleeping with his daughter in law? David was certainly a good man, but he had sins. Sh’mu’el (Samuel) was a great prophet and yet his sons were worthless. Eliyahu had a servant who walked with him, and yet the servant ended up as a leper for trying to sell a miracle.

There is nothing in scripture that says great knowledge of justice equates to great doing of justice.

Hard Questions

The above . . . responses came with increasing slope of difficulty. Boteach’s projection of past events has some glaring weaknesses. Most notably the conspiracy of revisionism headed up by Paul; it could be plausible if the conspirators weren’t being tortured and killed for what they knew was a lie. Revisions after the first talmidim is plausible—I say that carefully—but that underlies the fact that there must first have been a true faith based on something worth being tortured and killed for, and only after it had visible momentum that it became corrupted.

However, the symptomatic problems do resonate in Boteach’s work, and from the above they do get more difficult. Some of them aren’t so bad, if you’re Messianic. For example, his charge about the contradiction of anti-Torah doctrines of the Brit Chadasha, don’t bother me because I believe the Brit Chadasha is pro-Torah.

And I think some of the questions he raises—ones that did successfully move me—are based not necessarily on what the Brit Chadasha says but what the church says that it says. But this can be very difficult to deal with, because it requires you to separate what you’ve heard about Paul’s doctrine—for example—from what Paul’s doctrine might have said if you read it from the perspective of the Torah and the Tanahk, and yes, long-standing traditional interpretations. An example would be the Trinity. I was raised to believe in it, but once I faced the Shema (well, before I read this book), and then re-read scriptures used for trinitarianism, I found that strangely, they didn’t say what was alleged at all. For example, replacing the word Spirit with the literal meaning of wind or breath, quickly evaporates (pun, half-intended) the doctrine. But that requires you to be able to separate what you’ve always believed from what the scripture actually says.

However, again, the questions get even harder. Not only do you find yourself faced with somewhat easy questions of logic, medium questions of interpretation in proper perspective, and then hard questions of whether you’re going to be able to look afresh at an old dogma. Then you are left with the hardest questions of all, where you have to ask yourself why you have different manuscripts. Variances in different languages, don’t seem to affect the whole—and I think that’s reaffirming—but it does call into question nuances of doctrine. How much of Paul’s doctrine stands upon questionable quotes? Is he ignorant to quote the Septuagint? Or is the Masoretic wrong, especially in light of confirmations from the Dead Sea Scrolls? Or—despite their differences—are those contradictions together part of the same truth? Mattityahu for example, uses both a Hebrew source of the Tanahk that contradicts the Septuagint, and the Septuagint in the same book!

For myself, I admit I don’t know all the answers. I lean on what the different texts hold in common—and I wrestle with the contradictions. I can’t simply turn off the “why” generator in my mind. I seem incapable of being purely dogmatic, and continue questing for the answer that answers the most of scripture. And the parts, that I just don’t understand how they could fit—much of Paul—I put at the back end of interpretation. I don’t build off of it, but wait for something clearer to make sense of it.

But it’s a hard place to be. To admit, there are holes that I don’t know what to do with. And to say, yes, I think much of normal, modern Christian fundamental doctrines are erroneous. But I comfort myself with this: YHVH has been saving people who didn’t know everything since the beginning. Our difficulties with doctrine are not the end of His work. I don’t believe you can accidentally, misunderstand your way out of Elohim’s blessing. “Oops, that guy didn’t fully understand my justice and my lovingkindness . . . guess He’s going to hell.” Frankly, I think someone can never hear of Yeshua, and still be “saved.” Because at the end of the day—and I think Boteach would agree—He’s not waiting for us to be perfect, whether in deed or in tenet of faith. He knows who is sincerely reaching for Him, and He’ll make sure that person finds the Way. At the end of the day, Yeshua may have declared that no one comes to the Father, but by Him. But He didn’t say the only way to come by Him was to say the sinner’s prayer and confess a perfect statement of faith. I mean seriously, most Christians think God’s name is “Lord.” And in fact, Yeshua implied “coming by” the Son was much easier to hit. “Whoeever is not against us. Is for us.”

 

 

 

 

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Community III: It’s not just me and God

Let me start by acknowledging that many believers feel threatened by any concept of structure or authority. Even talking about community and things it implies makes many fear that they are about to become unwelcome, as a dear sister told me the other day.

If you feel that way, let me remind you of the earlier installements: we are family. Family wants to stick together. If you’re a follower of Yeshua, then I am committed to you.

Along lines of community and structure and authority, where I worship, a discussion was started about forming a “house of decision” to decide corporate matters of worship and discipline when needed. We’ll talk more about that later, but many were non-plussed by the idea.

No one said it directly, but then most kind of observed it like finding a Mormon missionary on their front porch. For my part, I speculate that those in a home fellowship setting have mostly come as a result of fleeing false doctrine and lazy faith practice. There are exceptions, but that’s my experience. One finds a major false doctrine like abolishment of Torah, and then everything the church ever taught becomes suspect. Not without reason, but anything that even smells like church gets thrown away.

And since there was usually a brush with authority along the way, authority becomes suspect. I understand that, but I’m seeing a more dangerous trend: not only is a specific authority in human form, bad, all authority is! It’s held up that the New Testament way is just supposed to be an individual walk. Coming and going from “community” to “community” is normal, nothing wrong with it. Fundanmental disagreement about faith and practice is normal. There’s not supposed to be any “church government.”

I suspect one or more of the brothers/sisters who holds this view, may be reading this. I have no desire to offend you, but . . .

“Just me and God,” isn’t in the Bible

B’resheit (Genesis) 2 tells us Elohim making man and they have a conversation. Presumably many conversations. Then comes verse 18, “…it was not good for the man to be alone…”

Think about that. Adom is in a curse-free world, walking with Elohim, talking with Him without any division of sin . . . and Elohim says it’s not good for man to be alone. How can it even be that Elohim counts Adom as alone, even with Elohim there?!?! As if that’s not bad enough Elohim is the one saying, “God + man = not good.” Man needs another human.

Chavah (Eve) is then given to Adom for the express purpose of a man cleaving to a woman and becoming one. Preachers will say this is the first marriage, but they miss it’s also the first fellowship.

Later in Shemot (Exodus) 18:14-17, Moshe gets godly council from his father-in-law, and what is the council? That Moshe’s ministry is not good to do alone.

And stop and think about that. Why is Moshe teaching at all? If YHVH’s goal is to get us all to one on one relationship’s with Him (even though He said that wasn’t good)…then why didn’t He lead them out of Egypt directly, instead of through an agent? For that matter, why did He lead them out as a people? Why does Elohim even care about a ‘people’ if the goal is the individual?

Moving on, come the feasts of YHVH. They are called convocations, meaning a “calling out”. Why are they called out? So the people can assemble to meet Him. Why are they to assemble, if the point is lone ranger faith?

Fast forward through a long list of prophets who are sent with messages to the House of Isra’el, and the House of Y’hudah, past judges who lead armies to victory. Why does Elohim need an army anyway? He can deliver with one, so why send a group? And why does He care about delivering a group?

Into the Brit Chadasha, the books of the Basar (Glad Tidings/Good News). In Mattityahu 18:15-17 we are told about congregational discipline. Why is there an assembly? And why is He telling them what to do if the brother disobeys the assembly? See. None of this makes sense in a “just me and God” paradigm. It makes perfect sense in a continuation of community paradigm and implies structure and governance.

Acts 6, there’s a dispute about the treatment of widows, what do the disciples do? They call an assembly, and then they give instruction. This is after the Spirit descended so . . . why didn’t the Spirit tell them? The implication is that Elohim doesn’t want to interact always with a person directly. It serves His Will to work His Ruach through other people.

Acts 15, Paul—the great Paul who is allegedly the central orator of Church doctrine—goes to Yerushalayim because of a question of doctrine. Why couldn’t the Ruach HaKadosh just tell each of the disciples what the correct interpretation was? If it’s just a person and God, why do they need doctrine or teaching? There’s nothing in the passage that suggests anyone there is not a brother, so why didn’t the Spirit just tell them? For that matter, why doesn’t the Spirit tell Paul? Why does Paul have to go over a great distance to see apostles and elders to find the answer?

Acts 21, Paul returns to Yerushalayim and meets with Ya’akov (James) and the elders. . . by the way, why are there elders? Where did Yeshua talk about elders? No one said anything up until now, about elders . . . but wait . . . the Torah talks a lot about the importance of elders. And judges. And assemblying. Then what happens? Ya’akov and the elders tell him what to do. I’m sure they weren’t rude about it, but in the Greek it appears the same structure as when the centurian says, “I say to a man do and he does.” It’s not an option, it’s an imperative. And Paul does. He submits to their authority and structure, just as he did in Acts 15.

Again, why didn’t the Spirit just tell him? I could go on and on. Ephesians 4:11-13 this verse is saying the goal of having sent emissaries, prophets, teachers, etc., is to minister to the saints (that means influencing other people) and bring about the wholeness of the body. The gifts are given so that we can help each other to come to maturity. The gifts aren’t given for us to go off and do our own thing: as Paul clearly showed in submitting his doctrine to other godly men and obeying godly orders from those in authority. Paul even recognized the authority of the Kohen HaGadol! A man whose job was to act as a minister between people and Elohim—strange that He would respect that, since He’s the one who said there is “one mediator.” Even stranger that you realize this Kohen HaGadol is persecuting the disciples of his Master!

We are not called to be individuals. We are already individuals! He has feasts that are for assembling, but He doesn’t have even one feast for getting away from each other! Just look at Yeshua. He never ‘misheard’ the Father, but look at how his custom was to go and sit in synagogues and gather in the temple, and yet we see Him interacting and acting within the structure in place, not constantly doing His own thing and trying to upset the apple cart. In Luke was “given” the scroll to read; He didn’t take it. He did what was customarily expected, right down to the “sitting down” to speak.

The clear message of scripture from beginning to end is that “Just God and me” is not good. Elohim made people to unite with people, to minister together as people. As individuals too, like members of a body, but my arm does not please me when it tries to get away from my shoulder. If my right foot leaves my left foot to do its own thing, I am not honored by it.

So community is not some novel concept that we can take or leave. It isn’t like a question of having a ‘contemporary’ service vs. a traditional service. It is the intrinsic design of Elohim for the sons of Adom and daughters of Chavah. Just imagine you really apply, “Just me and God.” If you aren’t supposed to have a pastor or elder “between” you and Elohim . . . should a wife have a husband “between”? Is she ‘free’ to just ignore him and go do whatever she feels like? Is a son or daughter free to ignore their parent? Why not? The governance and structure of the assembly means nothing, but the household structure and governance matters? If the house of Elohim has no structure, why should your house? We should expect, that children and spouses feel ‘free’ to come and go between families and houses, do whatever they feel like. You kid feels lead to eat only poptarts, who are you to get between them and Elohim?

Forsake not the assembling. <—– That’s in the Bible, too.

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How to use Facebook and Twitter for actual conversation

And Instagram and every other program I won’t know about for another year or so.

I start by confessing that I am about the worst offender in the start a political/religious fight via social media. Barely-subconsciously, I’d say it was even a motivating reason to start facebooking in the first place. And meet girls (before I met my wife, that is). And as for that latter reason, I don’t think that’s bad unless you are trying to meet the wrong girls, and frankly most dating is in search of the wrong girl. It only took me about 35 years to realize that.

But I digress.

Lately–in kind of a cyclical way–I’ve been trying to dial back the politicizing. I had my say. It fell on deaf ears, and frankly I pray “thy kingdom come”, so it would be kind of hypocritical to worry too much about what political “solutions” are being cooked up this time around. That plus, I am reminded again of the hypocrisy of “It was bad when you’re guy did it, and is okay when my guy does it.”

But some are inevitable because they intersect with faith. Scripture deals with all kinds of human behavior and experiences, so you can’t talk about what Elohim is teaching you, without mentioning what someone is discussing. And if we have nothing good to say because of what we believe, then of what value is our faith?

So, I sat down to tweet someone something. They had said something that made me want to puke about Trump’s election. I voted Third Party by the way (like how I capped that?). But the protests against Trump after the election are just juvenile dishonesty. You want to protest his election? You had your chance, it was called the election. That’s what I did. Now, what good are you doing? Nothing, in fact you’re making it worse. Why? Because in all you’re griping there isn’t an ounce of honest self-reflection. All this talk of stolen elections, and no one on the left (correct me if I’m wrong) can say: It wasn’t stolen. It was thrown away because we put a totally untrustworthy candidate on the ballot. It wasn’t won fair and square, but it was lost fair and square.

So, I fired off a couple of those. And someone said something back, and I had this epiphany. I wasn’t really interested in what they were saying. I was just using them as a springboard to say what I wanted to say. In my own defense, I think that’s true of most tweeterists. And facebookerists. But it is a problem.

What is the point of saying anything if it’s not directed at the question presented? Blasting Trump tacitly denies that Hillary was a terrible candidate. Refusing to acknowledge that only makes Hillary opponents look completely unreachable to half the country. And the inverse is true, the mindless support of Trump makes the trumpists appear completely unrecognizable.

It occurs to me that some of this (not all, not even most) of this could be combated, if we just listened to what the other side was actually saying. Replying to the substance of it, and not just ready-fire.

I hate saying that sort of thing, because it sounds like hippy-dippieness. I listen to Glen Beck (among others including catholic radio, protestant radio (?), and a little bit of NPR). And he talks alot about listening, and I just want to shout at him: Glen, it’s not a communication problem! It’s a fundamental belief problem! It’s a spiritual problem! And I believe that’s true. The elite of Yeshua’s (Jesus) day didn’t kill Him because He failed to communicate. It was because they understand enough of what He said to be threatened by it. They killed Him for envy because He was good, and they were wicked. Just like every prophet who was killed because they condemned wickness. God is not opposed by the many because He doesn’t know how to communicate!

But at the same time . . . there is something to be said for delivery. Yeshua was obviously the best communicator. His message continues to spread to this day–but have no delusions that it isn’t spread often with the death of the messenger. Perhaps, that’s why we don’t have a lot of martyrs in America? Because we don’t communicate what He did? Yet, many of the prophets came before Him, and the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) is clear that none of them were as perfect messengers. In them, the message and messenger were not perfectly united. Like the way Moshe, the great teacher of Isra’el, failed to sanctify HaShem when he struck the rock the second time. Every messenger before Yeshua failed because their flesh got in the way.

So is our flesh getting into our tweets and wall posts? A quick scroll of my own, makes me think yes. So what if we didn’t answer our tweets right away? Of course, the thread would get old and over baked before we said anything, and maybe that means we weren’t supposed to respond. But at least, we could take the time to really try to connect with the person on the other end. Again, what’s the point of speaking if it’s not to someone else? Tweets to our audience of fellow snipers will never accomplish much.

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The key to personal finance is realizing you’re a CEO

I’m not wealthy by any stretch, so I find it odd that anyone asks me for financial advice or how I handle my finances. But I do get by comfortably on less than 25k. So, I’m gonna throw our my general theory and practice, and then there’s the comment box where you can add your thoughts and insights. What works well for you? Do you have a system or a really durable seat of the pants? Or are you kind of like a cat falling from a tree that manages to land on its feet with a squirrel-esque hairdo?

I start with the Torah and the scriptures in general, so some of what I do has no “rhyme or reason,” but I believe Elohim (God) gave us reason and encourages it through the scriptures, so I’ll utilize whatever isn’t contradictory to that.

Key principle 1: Wealth is as good as you use it, and the tendency towards wealth is normal. Some followers of Yeshua eschew wealth as a hindrance to faith.  But that’s like being averse to fitness because it might make you vain, yet most believers realize that functional fitness is simply taking care of the temple of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Further, if you are doing right, and YHVH blesses you with money (as just one of many forms of blessing) why would you try to throw it away?

Money is just another resource to show your faithfulness to YHVH. I mean really, remember the parable of the talent? How pleased was the Master with the guy who did nothing with what he’d been given? I think the way we look at money is important, because if you look at money as essentially if it were radiation, something to get rid of, then you’re not going to do much good with it. What you dream of doing with money, will guide how you use it, and whether it’s good or evil. For myself, I dream of having money to build businesses (primarily), because I know how hard it can be to try to live Torah in a world where most employers ask you to break Torah. And that’s kind of at the heart of my thinking on the subject. The world holds money, do we think it does right with money? Why then would you be averse to taking more out of that system and putting it to use in the kingdom? It’s like saying hammers build strip clubs, so I don’t want to have too many hammers. Or, how about we take the hammers and build synagogues?

Principle 2: The poor think of money for spending. The middle thinks of money to save. The wealthy think of money to invest. When I first heard this, I thought it was good. Now I think it’s brilliant, but you really have to think about it. At first glance it looks like slam on the poor and to a lesser degree the conservative. But we all have to go through each experience, it’s just a matter of whether we graduate to the next. When you have little money then, yes, the first priority of money is to spend it on your needs. When you have enough to meet that, then the priority should become to save for the times when you won’t have enough. But eventually you should have enough that the money can do more than sit there, while waiting. It’s like storing water. First you drink the water with your hand. Then you put your canteen in the water for later. Then you put in a well with a windmill that supplies your water tank and you go and think about something else.

Principle 3: The estate is the foundation of wealth. An Estate is more than a place to live. It’s really another way to say your total networth (what you own, minus what you owe). But it doesn’t become very useful until you have a house. But too many people think of a house as a place to live; it’s not. It’s work-space/factory where you live. Most people have a house they can’t afford with a serious of upgrades for convenience.

What a house (and it’s land) should be seen as is a place to build wealth. First it shelters you (the poor’s need). Then you maintain it, and maybe make some improvements (middle’s saving). Then you say . . . hmmm. That garage can hold a zero-turn lawnmower and I can mow my neighbor’s yard (wealthy’s investing: investing means spending for the purpose of creating more wealth). You look at that lawn and say, why the heck am I paying for a useless plant? I can put chickens and sheep there. My lawn (an expense) gets replaced with a food source. The resource of grass now creates more wealth because my sheep are a new asset sustained by the spending of an old asset. And the manure from the sheep and chickens actually sustains the original asset (the grass). I can even milk my sheep or goats or collect eggs and sell the excess. Thus my house, which used to be an expense, becomes a source of revenue that mitigates and exceeds the expense. That’s what I mean by estate minded thinking and being a CEO. My estate is not wealth I possess; it is wealth that can generate more wealth.

That’s why it is the foundation. Once you home is paid for, what happens if you lose your “job”? Well, all you need to cover are taxes and necessities. If you have turned your estate into it’s wealth building function, then it should be approaching meeting those goals without much input. In fact, the home itself through something like Air B&B is really just an Inn that you live in. And your car is an uber machine.

See how this works? Stop thinking of your assets (estate, meaning everything you own) as possessions and think of them as assets. An economist will tell you that as asset is anything that can bring future income. So your car shouldn’t be a thing you possess, it’s something that you can use to make money. And your home is the chief of those because its pretty much the only asset that you can actually live in.

Principle 5: The point of estate minded thinking is to create something that is more than enough for you. Why? Because the “more” you can use to bless others, including your family. Estate-minded thinking means you are thinking of generations after you, and neighbors to your left and right. It’s not for your benefit, it’s for others.

***

From there we get into the nitty-gritty. So how do I, personally budget?

First 10%: Is my tithe. Don’t get caught up in net or gross, I do net though. But this is also a great reason to build wealth. If your income goes up, then your 10% is also bigger. That means more for the ministries that you support.

Also, just a note. I heard someone say once that tithing is meant to be based on increase, and therefore if you have debt then there is no increase until the debt is paid off. At first that sounds true, but an economist will tell you that you are still having increase regardless of debt. Suppose your estate is worth 50k. Then you buy a car on credit for 10k. What is your net worth? 50k! Because the car is worth 10k (because that’s what you paid), but it’s negated by the 10k you owe on it. But every time you make a payment you are increasing your net worth. At the end of the payment period you are 10k wealthier than when you started. You just didn’t feel it because it was masked by debt. So just because you have debt does not mean you are not increasing.

Next 10%: “Retirement” savings. Now retirement doesn’t mean I plan to stop working. It’s just in case I can’t work in a money-generating way. But further, retirement isn’t something that you burn through. This is why the concept of “investing” vs. “saving” is so important. Saving would mean I build up a “retirement” and then in that era I eat away at it. Wrong! Investing has the aim that I change money into a better ROI (return on investment) asset and then in that era I live on the return not the principle. Simple example: if you put money in a mutual fund, in retirement you don’t cash out the mutual fund, you live off the dividend and the principle keeps creating more money. So you plan to have enough mutual funds that the dividends fund your inability to work.

The point of retirement then is to have an asset (those mutual funds) that pass beyond you to your children, thus you children are better off and they can continue to build upon what you have done. They don’t start with hands cupping water, they start with the well and windmill.

In my case though, I don’t plan to invest in a retirement account. I’m doing that because I want to invest in real estate, and once in that retirement account it’s locked away until 62-65. So for now, I just “save” it in a general account, but the goal will be to move it into something with more ROI, once that appears. I would eventually do mutual funds, but only if I have 5+ years until I need it.

But if I had no real estate plans, I would probably put it in a ROTH (pay tax now, no tax later) SEP (self-employed) IRA (individual retirement account). Or at least an equity/stock mutual fund–not one that has bonds in it (because Torah teaches debt forgiveness and I don’t have a way to ‘forgive’ the bonds after 7 years. But you can see that differently since we’re talking about companies).

Next 30%: One of the things about budgeting, I’ve learned, is that everything I have will eventually have to be replaced. So if I have a chainsaw (I do), and it’s life might be 5 years, and it cost 400, then that’s $80 a year in depreciation. So I should be saving $80 a year towards replacement. Then I did that with the tractor, the washer, the dryer, the stove, the water heater, every major appliance, the barn, etc., and I come up with a number. That number turned out to be probably more than 30%, but it was close and some of those items will last longer, and some of them will be sellable for scrap. In fact, just about everything can be repurposed. I’ve got a place where I can get free-old tires that I’m planning to turn into road paving.

All of those funds together, while they’re waiting, generate interest in a good account (Kasasa gives 2% for the first 15k, and then .4% after that). So here you are saving, but generating interest, hence investing. And if most of them don’t break down soon enough, I can take the excess and apply it toward the long term goals, accelerating that portion. It also has the benefit of you being able to buy just about any one of those appliances in cash when the need comes around. Or if there’s an emergency you have a buffer of about 30% of your annual at all times. That’s pretty smart.

Next 50%: Goes to present expenses. That’s right, you should have 50% left of your income. And frankly, if I can do that at 25k, if you make more than that you should probably be able to do better.

In fairness, I don’t have a house payment or rent. Why? Because previous generations invested, that created wealth for their descendants. That’s not bad, especially if I plan to honor them by building further on it. And really, how do we honor our fathers and mothers if we don’t build on what they worked so hard to build in the first place?

That’s also called being wise. And see it works out in the practical, because I literally only have to make about $6,100 to keep a roof over our heads and food on the plate. Long term there would be repairs and such, so $6,100 wouldn’t really be enough, but it keeps me out of losing the home. Then factor in that I can produce about $1,456 from less than two dozen chickens (chickens by the way, or any animal, are also a great investment because they can reproduce. 2 dozen chickens are enough? I can increase that. Or they’re two many? You sell off your healthy chicks to someone else. And have a garden, and can produce maple syrup that worth $7 a pint. Then there’s the various tools, the B&B potential, etc. My point is that if you plan your estate into the future it has the multiplying effect that the wealthy depend on. Of course that also depends on the children being raised wise enough to not neglect the work of their fore-bearers but to build on it.

***

But that budget can be kind of tough. And obviously, 25k isn’t doing a lot to build on that legacy. So we add to that being smart with the resources we have. Again thinking estate (I’m a CEO)!

Walmart gets a lot of boxes. To a non-estateminded civilian, boxes sound a lot like trash. To an eco-minded-non-estateminded civilian they sound like recyclables. But walmart sells those boxes, crushed and mangled to someone else who wants them. Why? Because even mangled and crushed, the cardboard has value. A wise estate manager recognizes value.

You see tires that are worn out and think landfill? I see something that won’t decompose, and if stuffed with dirt of gravel will weigh about 300 lbs. Something that laid our like bricks should be an effective driveway cover. Or a retaining wall. You see cardboard boxed that can be recycled. I see something that laid down will block weeds for probably a year, that I can put organic matter on top of and put plants I want above. You see yard waste, I think compost; yummy yummy compost for my garden.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed (by man), so why don’t we plan our waste so it comes out in a usable form? Stop paying for useless packaging for one, but if you’re gonna get packaging put it to good use. If nothing else, if it’s not toxic, you can bury it on your own land to literally “landfill” like every ancient culture did to fill in low spots.

In my own world, we’re about to go to composting toilets. This has largely been brought on by the lack of water 40% of clean water that is flushed away, and when you’re on rainwater with 4 people, plus guests . ..  that’s a problem. So why not go composting? It’s simple enough. Or use your gray water to flush, when you do need to? And while you’re at it, make your gray water from the shower, go through a filter and water your garden!

See it’s not just about cutting costs, it’s about turning cost into profit. I’m not being stingy, I’m maximizing potential. Now I don’t lose sleep over it. And I don’t tell my guests not to flush. But when you practice this stuff, your mind starts turning that way on it’s own. So it stops being effort and just becomes natural. “Well of course, I’ll take the sink water that’s next to the toilet, put it in a basin and then use that to flush. That’s as natural as putting on underwear before pants!”

Some of those things won’t be worth it to you. If you make 100k or 120k are you going to bother with maintaining a composting toilet? Maybe not, and why should you. And you’re blessing someone else by having them do it. But there’s always some waste that you generate that can make money. My brother sheds old but perfectly usable technology. That’s not because he’s wasteful, it’s just a fact of his industry. He could easily turn it toward someone else as either a blessing or another way to add to his income.

It really becomes a game. Plus, it trains your mind to see resources where someone else sees waste. “Really? You’re gonna throw that out? I’ll take it just because there’s money–err—I mean iron in that metal.” If you think about it, people think a lot about the wastes of the wealthy because they’re so obvious, but how reflexively do we pay extra for a product that is mostly packaging painted with a licensed Disney princess? Who are we to tell them about waste?

So how about you? What are your tips. How do you manage your estates? What ways have you changed your ways of thinking to make your resources go further?

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Community II: Building from the Ashes

Appologies for the delay . . . Much much appologies. Insert plethora of regrets and excuses about how busy I can be. Le sigh, as my cover designer would say. Things didn’t happen the way I planned. And then things I didn’t plan, happened.

So continuing the discussion on community, hopefully, we’ve seen the first essential element of community. And that is family. Family as family, not in name only. And of course, under girding that familial bond is the fact that we share Avinu she’ba’shamayim (our Father in Heaven). As family we must be attached to each other, and how much more strongly since the bloodline that binds us bridges human to divine? The idea that it could be more easily broken than one of flesh is . . . unthinkable. Or it should be.

But what are the other elements? I don’t presume I know it all; we’re in this together. (ß that’s a community thought).

But, I also think we need to lighten up. Here we are looking for community as if it were the Ark of the Covenant, and if we could just get a hold of that staff from Indiana Jones we can figure out where it’s located. As if YHVH has hidden community from us. Do we suppose that He doesn’t want us to have it?

Probably one of the reasons community is hard to define from scripture is because the word doesn’t actually show up in scripture. So what word should we use? Let’s try congregation. In Ivri (Hebrew), congregation is edah, the feminine of ed. Which is interesting because the edah is a response to something else. What is edah? It is an assembly, but more. The pictographic meaning is “see the door.” What door? And why do you see it? Implied is that you come to the door, to meet someone. Where did Moshe stand to meet with YHVH? At the door of the tent. Where did the people wait for Moshe? At their tent doors. Where did Avraham meet with the three visitors? At the door of his tent. The tent door is the place of meeting.

So what kind of meetings do you have at tent doors? Important ones, not normal family ones. The husband and wife, or the children and parents would be in the tent, not at the door. The Kohen was inside the tent. In short, the tent door is less of an intimate setting . . . it’s not that the parties are strangers, but that the proceeding is public. And what is the purpose of public? So that we are witnesses, which is a literary definition of edah: a fixture that stands in witness to an event or story. And what are witnesses? They are a group that experienced a common story. So what is a Congregation? It is the gathering of witnesses of a common story. In fact, edah does not appear in scripture until instruction is given for the very first Pesach (Shemot 12:3).

Notice there is nothing ‘communal’ in the communistic sense of possession, but a common history. Three elements that we can glean from edah in scripture:

  • Identity: The original Edah was made up of a family (of one Father) and of those that joined themselves to that family, a gathering that became a people (because of covenant with the Father, entered corporately), that becomes a nation (of one Torah), which requires submission (to Shoftim/judges based on Torah).
  • Interdependence: This is really an expression of identity. If you identify with each other as being the same family, people, nation, that submits to common authority . . . then why would you entangle yourself with another nation’s system? Clearly we are in the world (but not of it) so it is reasonable/efficient/sensible not to avoid the world, but to prefer the Kingdom of Elohim. Notice how much of the torah has to do with dealing with other family and how little has to do with the foreigner/non-family. The shear amount of words tells us the norm was dealing with each other first and most often. And this is obvious because of the family model. My children run to me and to each other, long before they run to a stranger. Family naturally prefers family.
  • Geography: As Interdependence is an expression of identity, so geography is an expression of interdependence. How can you be interdependent from a distance? I’ve heard one person insist that community can only work with 45 minutes between members (sadly, between my melting children I couldn’t press the argument further). I know some of the hurt behind that assertion, notwithstanding, I would say to them: “Cry me a river.”

I don’t mean that to be insensitive. But sometimes we need some cold water in the face. Has any of us been burned worse than Yeshua? Who can claim betrayal more than Him? Did He say to Peter, “I need 45 minutes between you and me.” Or did He sit down with fish and ask Peter to affirm His love? Which is strange, because the normal rationale of the betrayed is “I can’t trust them, anymore.” Who had more reason for distrust than Yeshua talking to a guy who betrayed Him three times, in public, minutes after Yeshua had warned him it was coming with his best friend and spiritual leader’s life on the line?

You’ve been burned? Get over it.

And I say that with some hypocrisy. I’ve been burned too, I’m not above it. But to myself I say: Get over it! I don’t have the luxury to throw myself a life-long pity party. Get off your butt and get back in the fight. Because that’s what this is about. You think it’s an accident that you got knocked down? No, this is a spiritual attack. You don’t get to just sit down because HaSatan gave you a bloody lip. You get up and you sock him right back. You take the fight to him. You don’t give up on the congregation—the only people in the world who share your story and your Father—you make your congregation stronger! “Conflict is the price we pay for greater intimacy”—said someone who’s name I can’t remember. That’s why you invite Peter back and prepare fish for him to eat, and ask him questions that prompt him to come back to you! When your house gets broken into, you don’t respond by bricking off all the doors and window. You go find the perp and you put the fear of God into him!

Sorry, if I got a little rambunctuos. I just don’t understand this, “I got hurt, so I quit” mentality. It makes me want to drop ‘colorful metaphors’ when I hear it. And really, I can’t think of a more appropriate use for so-called ‘profanity’ then when a godly person concedes territory to the enemy. And it doesn’t even make sense.

We know that everyone of us burns and spits in Elohim’s face daily. Why are we above being burned and spit on by our brothers and sisters? Whose brother has not offended him? If we had this same standard how could any of us stay faithful to our wife or husband? We are all burned! And you know what? That is the promise of scripture. Those who will live godly, will suffer persecution. If they hate him, they will hate us. We are sheep for the slaughter. We take on the likeness of his death. Does any of this ring a bell? Why do we assume that the only pain we will receive is from the world? That would be nice, but you aren’t baptized into a cake walk. You’re baptized into death.

And YHVH takes that death, by the blood of Yeshua, and redeems it into life. We have the power to triumph. How dare we deny it, when it is bought with precious blood! We owe it to our Father, and the Firstborn Son, to make the Edah work.

So what does community look like?

Because they share an identity the members prioritize each other. This is the most natural thing in the world. Just look at what we all intuitively know about family. There’s not a culture in the world that thinks (all things being equal) that you should be disloyal to a brother. Family is special the world over. You defend it. You long for the success of each member. You desire their good. You care about what’s going on in their lives. You want to share in there lives. Just think about the biology of a child inside the mother? Nature tells us to yearn and have our minds bent toward our family.

So in an edah, congregation, we have to see ourselves like that. To understand, all we have to do is look inside one family to know how it works in a larger family.

A disclaimer: that we’ll talk about more later. Some fear to think of others as family because again, we’ve been burned. They know among family they don’t have locked doors between each other. You share and share alike. That ‘communal’ thing creeps in. But that’s not the biblical view of family. Family does not mean no boundaries between the members: it means there is love that crosses the boundaries. Example: Esav had a birthright. Ya’akov had to take it. If everything was share and share alike, then there would have been nothing for Ya’akov to take. Yosef had a coat of many colors and was favored differently than his brothers, and the seeming message of that whole story is that they needed to get on board with the fact that he was favored above them. He had a coat and then he had authority that was not shared. When a man marries a woman, no one else in the family has a right to her. Family doesn’t mean there are no distinctions and boundaries. How can Elohim talk about not stealing, if in Isra’el (one family) everyone has a right to everyone else’s stuff? So we mustn’t be afraid that being family means that we become each other’s door mats.

Because they are interdependent the members must also be intermingled. I cannot have my brother depend on me, and then put myself in a place where I cannot meet his needs. 45 minutes between does not work. Can Elohim supernaturally teleport you to the place of need? Sure, can. He can also teleport you to work, but I don’t see you giving up your car. Or your work, because he can provide for you despite your lack of employment. A father can supernaturally be spiritually present with his children to raise them, but I don’t think any of us will argue that that excuses an absentee dad.

Again, look to the family. What parent would just accept their children not getting along. Boundaries, sure. Don’t go into so and so’s room without permission. But would they accept the children simply being apart? One walks into the room, the other walks out? No. You tell them to hug till they get over it. Why do you think YHVH commanded that all Isra’el had to come up to Yerushaliym and rejoice together? You had to rub elbows, and you weren’t allowed to hold a grudge. Can anyone make the case that: “Because I love you, I don’t want to be close to you.” That’s irrational on its face. Sure, specific events may make things different for a time, but your gravity is to come back together. If one sister gets hurt falling out of a treehouse, would you accept your son saying, “Well, I don’t like her. So I’ve been avoiding her, and so I wasn’t there to help.” You’d probably snap, “We’ll you’re going to get to like her for the next three months of her recovery, because you’re gonna camp out on her floor!”

See, this stuff isn’t complicated, we’ve just made up all these ideas that aren’t about love at all. They are about protecting us and our rights. If YHVH did that, then we’d all be in hell right now. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t decide to be 45 minutes away. He stays. He goes with you, even when you build a golden calf. We need to have that kind of stick-to-each-otherness too.

Because they’re near in geography is really just the natural expression of the above. But the family lives in one house. So many of the fathers I meet, who want to raise up a generation of people who follow in the old paths, have a hard time even with a sleepover. Afraid (and I think too afraid) of what a child may be exposed to in another house. They demand and enforce family integrity, yet . . . they are usually also the first to cut off “another family.” Which only reveals the truth that they don’t see the other family as their own.

In the family, they stay close because they’re both staying close to the father and mother. They share resources, not without boundaries. Again, there are distinctions of relationship. Your three year old son will not have the same driving privileges as your sixteen year old. But you share a bathroom (mikveh!) and a kitchen and living space. You don’t think, “Well there’s enough food for mom and dad . . . I sure hope the kids can get something for themselves.” There’s this sense that, the members may not get the same share, but neither will the parents let them go without what they need to be whole and complete.

And because they share the same space, they also share the same time. I can’t just go and do whatever, I have to think about how the family will do while I’m away. Will the chores get done? Will the children be managable for one parent?

You can see this in the larger family, the Edah, when someone says, “How is John (who is 80) going to get to the store when it snows?” Or, “Evie is raising a child alone, how is she going to work? Will I let my sister’s son be raised by the ungodly? Or will I make space in my living space to be sure that she has a son who grows up in the fear and nurture of YHVH?”

It’s not complicated. We think about all of these things from that “what are the problems” perspective. YHVH has given us a mission, and we’re busy telling each other why it won’t work. I may not have gone to seminary, but I’m pretty sure the complaining about how impossible Elohim’s ways are leads to a lot of wilderness wandering, uniform diet, and the death of everyone over 20. And I’m over 20 now, so I vote for the option that doesn’t end with me dead.

Of course, I did talk about being sheep for the slaughter. So if YHVH wants me dead, He’s earned it. That was one of the best parts of my journey with Him was when I realized it was okay to be a complete failure and live a ‘miserable’ life, so long as I have come and have brought my wife and children closer. I may not see the promised land (in this life), but I will bring them to the border.

But if we just turn our perspective around and remember at the basic that Edah is family. Then we naturally understand family wants family to succeed. Family wants family to stay in the family. Family seeks family that wanders. Family doesn’t give up while it still draws breath.

We can’t quit. It’s not what our Father would do.

 

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Script for Lord of the Rings Reboot surfaces!

I don’t have a lot of spies in Hollywood, but when you’re a world famous author (having sold books to the UK and Japan markets [I think]), you’re bound to cross paths with others in the biz [I can legitimately claim to have a picture of me and Chuck Norris, and I got a signature from Mr. T . . . but then threw  the autograph away because it was just on a piece of notebook paper, and that seemed like a silly thing to have an autograph on].

But anyway, my associate informs me about a script being shopped around, to production teams that would like to build on the success of recent hit reboots like Star Trek and Star Wars Episode VII. here’s what I saw from my associate:

“Lord of the Rings: Episode 1: the Ring Awakens”

Scene 1:

Country Music playing. Bilbo (played by Daniel Craig) working on a rap in his shire house about his first battle on the side of mount Doom. He’s there in stylish hobbit armor, a sword in one hand, a piece of cheese in the other, as he fights an orc three times his side.

Gandalf knocks on the door, begin Taylor Swift song; Gandalf played by Samuel L Jackson (for more racial appeal). “Bilbo!?!? You gonna make an old wizard stand on the doorstep, all day long? Get your butt out of your chair and open the door!”

Bilbo wanders to the door: “Hey, Old Dude! You still look old, but not a day older than you looked way back when when you were still old! I figured by now your hair might have changed back.”

Gandalf: “You haven’t aged either. You on a new diet or something?”

Bilbo: “You know me, always eating granola and low-fat cheese. Limiting myself to two or three ales a day.”

Gandalf: “Listen shorty, I know about the ring.”

Bilbo, feigning confusion: “What ring?”

Gandalf: “The one ring that’s came from Sauron and you use for playing hide and seek.”

Bilbo: “Sauron?”

Gandalf: “A long time ago–”

Frodo, Merry and Pippin and Sam come flying in through a window knocking over poorly placed cabinets. A keg of hard liquor breaks on the floor and runs into the hearth. Fire explodes out narrowly missing all of the major characters.

Merry (played by Ben Affleck): “That’s was close. But at least we’re all right.”

Bilbo: “This looks like an adventure for younger people. Here Frodo, my boy. Have a ring!” He hands the ring of power to Frodo.

Frodo (played by Chris Pratt): “What’s this?”

Bilbo: “Oh, just some bling. And don’t mind the old man with all the Sauron talk. It’ll give you indigestion.”

Fire from the keg explosion ignites a rack of other similar kegs.

Pippin (played by Anne Hathaway for more gender diversity appeal): “At least we’ll get a good view.”

Samwise (played by Kevin James): “Guys, we gotta get out of here!”

Gandalf: “Darn straight!”

The characters jump out through a window, but Samwise gets stuck. They all pull until Bag End explodes, throwing them and a section of wall onto a wooden raft floating on a river.

Frodo: “Why were you guys running anyway?”

Pippin (pulling out his LG Smartphone): “Well, we were at the bar talking with these gents in black robes. I was telling them about you and instagraming back and forth, along with Frendlo, my third cousin–have you met him? He’s my cousin twice removed on my father’s side, when–”

Gandalf: “Wait, dudes in black? Motherhobbit, why didn’t you tell me! I’ve got to talk to an old white guy about old things.”

Frodo (as Gandalf jumps off the raft and onto a white horse): “Wait, a dude older than you?”

Samwise: “Look out!” He grabs Bilbo and yanks him away from the edge and shoves off as Black Riders come galloping up.

The Black Riders shriek than start throwing swords at the hobbits.

Merry: “Ha fools! Now we have swords. Do you bleed, undead servants of Mordor! You will!!!”

Samwise: “Kind of unhobbitish a thing to say there, Merry. And how do you know they’re undead?”

Merry: “Well, I had a feeling when they didn’t eat any of the cheese rolls with mushrooms at the tavern.”

Frodo: “Yeah, you’d have to be undead to pass those up.”

Samwise: “Another volley, boys!”

Daggers come whizzing through the air. The hobbits dive for cover behind packs that were conveniently left on the raft.

Pippin: “What do we do?!?!?”

Aragorn (played by Tom Hardy) pops out of the water: “Now is not the time for fear. That comes later.”

Aragorn begins batting the daggers away. Orcs also start popping out of the water (proceeded by reeds used for snorkels). As he fights, the Hobbits get better and better until they are fighting on his skill level. But then a half-sea monster, half-warg, half-balrog: yes, three halves! appears from the surf!

Merry: “Oh, shire folk!”

Pippin: “Bring it! Is that all you brought?”

Frodo, Merry, Samwise and Aragorn: “Shut up, Pippin!”

At that moment, Arawen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) jumps onto the raft (on her horse), and puts a sword under Aragorn’s muscular throat: “What’s this? A ranger caught off his guard?”

Aragorn: “You think wit is your ally? You merely adopted it. I–”

Samwise [Sea-warg-alrog tentacle around his throat]: “Maybe, we could save catching up for later?”

Arawen [looking longingly into Aragorn’s eyes]: “Right.” She hurtles her sword, which splits the sea-warg-alrog’s head, followed by an explosion ring, filling the screen with a wake of smoke and mist.

The fog clears, Frodo is down, having caught shrapnel from the exploding monster, half-way a wraith, already. The other hobbits busy over him, lots of crying, (except for Merry who swears undying vengeance against the forces of Mordor). Arawen and Aragorn are in the other corner making out.

Samwise: “Aragorn, what do we do?”

Aragorn tosses them a Morgal-Narcan, and Frodo is right as rain.

Pippin: “That was close. So, where are we going?”

The darkness suddenly peals away into choral singing and golden sunshine. The raft bumps into a shore of white sand and frosty cedar. Elrond (played by Hugh Jackman) standing on the shore, looks down at Aragorn and Arawen: “Ahem . . . ”

Aragorn shoves Arawen off and starts straightening his clothes: “Nothing happened.”

Elrond: “I know. I forsaw it.”

Arawen: “You were future-spying on me?”

Elrond: “No . . . I was future-spying on the mortal, dying, future dead man, Aragorn.”

Aragorn: “Uh, was that a threat or a prophecy?”

Elrond: “Pick one.”

Aragorn is pondering, when Gandalf returns, brought by an eagle. “Why are you still here? The ring has to get to Mount Doom.”

Elrond: “You have a plan? Because so far your guys have done a bang-up job. And–wait, did you just say the ring? You brought the ring, here? To my house?”

Gandalf: “Why you got a flying eagle that can take it away or something?”

Eagle’s (voice by Simon Pegg) eyes widen, takes off, waving at Gandalf: “Have a good one, G-man. Send me a flutterby, anytime, you need another lift!”

Frodo: “An eagle like that?”

Everyone shouts: “Wait, we need you to take the ring into the heart of Sauron’s realm and toss it into a super-magically hot place, behind the lines of his entire army!”

Eagle looks confused and holds a talon up to it’s ear: “What? What’s that? Can’t hear you! Sorry, can’t turn around, too many calories on lift off, you know. But I’ll catch you later!”

Gandalf: “Son of a down jacket.”

Pippin: “So, what’s the ring? And where are we going?”

***

Scene 2:

Montage set to I Came In Like a Wrecking Ball, directly into the council seating area, comes Boromir (played by Adam Baldwin): “I hear we’ve got a thingy that helps us kill bad guys. Count me in to the end worthy of songs.”

Pippin: “I thought we were going to melt the ring?”

Boromir: “Who’s the retarded dwarf?”

In comes, Gimli (played by Jack Black): “The air must be rare up there, big guy. Dwarves have beards, how could you miss the lack of awesome?”

Boromir: “Then who is the retarded elf who wants to melt the ring?”

Legolas enters (played by Zachary Qunito): “Have you heard nothing, Lord Elrond has said? The ring must be destroyed.”

Boromir: “No, I just got here. Straight from the front!” Lifts up his shirt to show a jagged scar from sternum to below the belt. “See! This thing still seeps puss! I got puss keeping your lands safe! And if this ring will let me put a gondorian boot up Saurons even darker parts, then I’m going to use it!”

Aragorn: “Bro! We’re all on the same team here. Except me, I’m the king–so I’m like the captain over the team. But don’t worry, man, I don’t really want it. So we can still be cool.”

Boromir, shakes his head: “So who’s the retarded man who thinks I’m going to help him take my job?”

Frodo gets up to leave.

Gandalf: “Frodo, where are you going? You almost got wraitherized! You shouldn’t be out of bed.”

Frodo: “It’s ok. I had some of Elrond’s Re’d Bu’ll, and I feel like I have wings. And all I know is, this ring has to be destroyed of else the shire will never be safe. And I may be small, but I know if I don’t do th–”

Legolas: “Come on hobbit! We must not linger.”

Frodo: “But Boromir was just saying–”

Legolas: “He got over it.”

Frodo: “How’d you convince him to change his mind?”

Legolas: “That’s a good question for a time when we can linger. Now, move it.”

The fellowship sets out to epic music from the team behind Fast and Furious, with them running. Arawen and Aragorn exchanging smoochy good-bye’s, while running.

***

Scene 3:

Still running, the fellowship heads up a hill that gets blizzardy fast.

Gandalf: “It’s Saruma–” He’s cut off by a head-swallowing snowball.

Boromir: “We should get off this mountain before the half-lings–” Snow plasters him to the mountain wall.

Merry: “This looks bad!”

Aragorn looks up at a scream on the wind: “Nazgul!”

Boromir: “Snow Wargs!”

Legolas: “Nazgul on Snow Wargs!”

A flurry of exploding clouds of snow, mixes with screaming Nazgul, and snarling white wargs. Swords are drawn, lightning arcs off of steel and the hillside explodes. The nazgul are buried in an avalanche that the fellowship rides down a slope that becomes a snow tube that becomes a volcanic tube that ends in a slide across a polished floor.

Pippin: “Well that worked out all right.”

Gandalf: “Welcome to Moria.”

Pippin: “Sounds cheery.”

Gimli: “Yes, if by cheery you mean thousands and thousands of my kin dead, at the hand of ten thousand thousand goblins and orcs!”

Gandalf: “And Balrogs.”

Legolas twitches. “Balrogs?”

Gandalf: “Elite warrior Balrogs.”

Legolas glances around for an exit. “Elite warrior Balrogs?”

Samwise: “But they’re all gone now, right?”

Gandalf stares at him with blank eyes. “Uh, yeah. Sure. All gone.” He turns to Aragorn, “If any of them happen to have hung around  . . . or come back . . . ”

Aragorn: “We’ll fight them to the end. We’ll never break the bonds of fellowship. We’ll—“

Gandalf: “Easy there tiger. Let’s save the death and glory stuff for when the chances of glory are higher than the chances of death.”

Aragorn: “You want me to  . . . not  fight?”

Gandalf: “You got it all wrong, Arie baby. You know you’re the man . . . but this situation might require a little more subtlty.”

Pippin in the background: “What’s this shiny thing do?” Suddenly the room is filled with disco light and lasers.

Gandalf: “That’s stupid hobbit has chanced way too much light.”

Burning ropes fall from the ceiling, and balrogs rapel into the room, while orcs and goblins pour out of every crack and hole.

Gandalf: “Now. This is no time for fear.”

Legolas breaks into hysterical screams, and runs in circles.

Gandalf: “Nevermind. Run!”

The fellowship runs for the bridge of Kazadun as the hall around them explodes beneath the samurai-like swords of the Balrog as they tumble and attack like giant fiery ninjas. Explosions get louder and bigger, until it’s a firestorm consuming the hall. They get to bridge, Gandalf barely makes it, striking the bridge with his staff causing it to shatter behind him as he slides across it. But one of the Balrog jumps after them, Gandalf turns and leaps back across the gulf: “Yipee kayaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

And down he goes.

Frodo: “Well that bites.”

Legolas, screaming: “We must not linger! We must not linger!”

***

Scene 4:

The fellowship is in the woods.

Gimli: “Nothing like fresh air to take the mind off the death of your friends. Or your kin. Thousands and thousands of your kin.”

Boromir: “Well, you know if we’d used the ring . . . ”

Galadriel [played by the girl from Divergent] drops from a tree in a skimpy two-piece: “Your mind is always on the ring Boromir of Gondor. Get your mind on something else? Why are you such a weak-willed sissy of a Westernen man?”

Boromir: “Well, now I feel bad.” He looks dejected.

Galadriel: “And I didn’t even get to the part where your city burns down.”

Boromir: “Wait, what?!? You have the gift of foresight. Tell me what you–”

Frodo: “Look out!”

Black arrows fall from the trees, from black bows, fired eight at a time by giant spiders. Galadriel picks up two bows at the same time, loading each with four arrows and fires back. The arrows go through multiple different targets, at different trajectories, richochet and take out more spiders that explode as they come down in black gew that hits everyone but Galadriel.

Galadriel: “You’ve brought great evil here, ring-bearer.”

Frodo: “Now wait a second, I was just trying to do a good deed for the third age. This is my first quest, so I hardly feel I should be blamed for this.”

Galadriel rolls her eyes. “Hobbits . . .  Where’s Gandalf.”

Frodo, pauses: “Also not my fault.”

Gimli: “Fault? Gandalf did this awesome flying, fire attack of the the Valenor. Writing himself a legend that he carved with the smoldering bones of a balrog. I still get choked up thinking about it.”

Pippin: “I know! Why don’t the elves sing a song for him?”

Galadriel: “That’s a great idea!”

Legolas: “Look out!”

The spiders have lit barrels of oil and are using their webs as giant sling-shots. Lothlorien is quickly aflame. Trees full of elvish cultivated sap, explode, sending shrapnel and concussive blasts through the woods. The air is filled with charred leaves, that tumble in slow mow, set to songs by Adele.

Galadriel: “Get that stupid ring out of here and torch it in Mt Doom.”

Frodo: “But it’s so far. How will I know how to get there and who I can trust? I don’t think I can do this.”

Galadriel: “Get your soft-cheese butt, out of my forest before I stick an arrow so far up it, you can pick your teeth.”

Samwise: “Well, that’s a side of the elves you don’t hear about.”

Galadriel turns all stormy: “GET OUT!!!”

***

Scene 5:

Running from Lothlorien, they grab some boats that have shiny bottles. At first they think they’re for light, but Aragorn pulls outboard motors out of stealth elvish hiding spots and poors the Elendil light-juice into an elegant opening. Next thing, they’re cruising down the river, bouncing hard over choppy water. Aragorn at the bow, his clothes knocked about by near gale-force winds. But undeterred. Statues rise in the distance of ancient men.

Aragorn: “The Argonauth. Long have I desired to–”

Legolas: “Look out!”

From the cliffs, Uruk-Hai, with a captain played by Dwayne Johnson, jump from the rocks. And land on the front of the boats. Others splashing in the water.

Boromir: “Quick, Frodo, give me the ring for safe-keeping.”

Frodo: “No. You’d never do that in your right mind!”

Boromir: “If only I’d brought a grenade the ring would already be mine!”

Pippin: “Aragorn, help Frodo!”

But Aragorn can’t hear because he’s too busy fighting five Dwayne Johnson-copies at the same time, on a boat, speeding along at close to sixty miles an hour!

Merry: “Men aren’t brave. Hobbits are brave!” He grabs a sword and drives Boromir into the water.

Boromir, thrashes in the water and comes to his senses: “I’m sorry. What was I thinking?”

But Frodo has already abandoned ship, swimming away invisibly. Samwise follows on a water-tight food basket that he’s paddling along: “Mr. Frodo! Mr. Frodo!”

The fellowship boats crash into the shore. Some explode as they skip over the sand and impact the trees and rocks. Boromir screams primally and wades ashore. Uruk-hai attack, but he slaughters them in sprays of black blood, until the water looks like an oil-slick and the white shores look like volcanic sand. But the captain of the Uruk-Hai lifts a gatling gun-crossbow and drills Boromir. Arrows stick in him and also pass through. But he keeps fighting. Until Aragorn attacks the captain and then kicks him back, into the path of a late arriving boat (piloted by Pippin) which then spears the captain into a tree which attracts a bolt of lightning that ignites the tree, boat, and sand, scorching it into a crater.

Gimli: “The fellowship has failed . . . but awesomely.”

Legolas: “You only say that because Boromir’s dead, the ringbearer is lost, and the half-lings have been kidnapped by murderous Uruk-Hai to suffer unspeakable torture before they die, giving up the only secrets they know, like where to find shrooms. But at least, we got to meet Lady Galadriel. Let me tell you how amazing that was. I could think and talk about her all day. I think I’ll compose a song right now.”

Gimli: “Ugh. I wish I’d died too. Wait, the other hobbits were taken?”

Aragorn: “You didn’t notice?”

Gimli: “Well .  . . a dwarf is used to looking up . . . I don’t really pay attention to things shorter than me.”

Aragorn: “Well, we can’t leave them to their fate.”

Gimli: “I know I joked about wanting to die, but . . . taking on a band of Uruk-Hai outnumbering us thirty to one, wasn’t what I had in mind.”

Legolas: “He’s just worried I’ll kill more of them.”

Gimli: “In your dreams, blondie.”

Aragorn: “Would you rather track Frodo, through Emon-Muir, and into the Black Land?”

Gimli: “Well, I’m not a racist. I don’t care what color the land is.”

Aragorn: “Mordor, Gimli!”

Gimli: “Hmm. . . The Uruk-Hai were heading into Rohan, and I hear there are some interesting caves over there . . . so sure, let’s go save those half-lings, whatever their names.”

Cue epic rock music to a split scene of Frodo and Sam doing free-running along a rocky ravine, with dark things in the shadows chasing them; alternating with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli hacking their way to Rohan over the falling corpses of Wargs, Orcs, and man-eating, rolling, swarming, plants!

Roll credits.

If you were worried because this sounds like a script hollywood might accept . . . then there’s really only one way to know and that’s to actually circle it around hollywood. . . I write very cheaply if they ask.

But alas, you are the only fortunate souls to have seen me channel my inner-hollywood-disneyish-script writer. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed. Rest assure no one has managed to shop such a script . . . that I know of.

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Yom Kippur: Is about Giving

Yom Teruah is passing by, and we rejoice, and believers in Mashiach Yeshua, look forward to Sukkot. But, isn’t there a holy day between? Certain feasts, seem to get all the glory, while others, seem to be . . . neglected. Yom Kippur, seems to be one of those.

To our natural brothers, the Jews, this would seem scandalous, since to them it is the most kadosh (holy) day of the calendar. But then, they would probably say what does it matter to what a bunch of crazy goyim do?

But many of us adopted olive branches kind of ignore Yom Kippur, because we’re not sure what to do with it. How can we talk about a Day of Atonement, when Yeshua is our atonement? Aren’t we doing despite to the Ruach of grace? Crucifying afresh the risen lord? Trampling under foot, His precious blood? What do we have to do with a day so clouded with animal blood?

But if Yom Kippur is somehow invalidated, nullified, brushed aside, then why do we take the Pesach as Kadosh? For that matter, why any feast day, when they all had sacrifices for them? For that matter, why Pesach with its overlaid tradition of the Bread and Wine? Why do we keeping drinking His blood, when it was shed ‘once’ and for all?

I think, the first thing we need to avoid is putting our understanding ahead of our obedience. A mitzvah is for us to do and to meditate on the why. Not to wrestle with a why, and try to make it into a do. If YHVH tells us to keep a certain ritual, we aren’t really qualified to decide if the ritual is right. I cannot tell you, why communion is sensible. Why can’t we simply tell each other to remember, His body and blood? Why do we have to do a ‘rehearsal’? Why do the feasts have to fall when they do in a year? Why can’t I simply do a lesson, once a year like a re-certification? Why the tie to the seasons? Why can’t Shabbat be simply once any seven days, instead of the seventh day?

Should I ‘waste’ time, trying to figure out a why to these things before I start doing? Or is it that the doing, will cultivate the why? Do we tell our children to wrestle with why’s when they are young? Do we ask them to think about whys, or do we tell them do, and then hope the why will become evident?

As parents, we know in the basic practices of life, the do precedes the understanding. I wish I could cite the verse that I’m thinking of, but Ya’akov 1:5-8, suggests the same principle. The wavering man, the one who shrinks back from the wisdom of YHVH, won’t receive it. Wisdom comes after the decision to do.

So the step is obediance, and understand comes second. And what are we commanded? Vayikra 16:29-31 “And it shall be a chokkah [a rehearsal, an enactment, a custom] for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; it is a chokkah for ever.” Vayikra 23:27-32 says much the same, but with even more repetition of not working and afflicting the soul.

This sounds very offensive to believers in Mashiach: again, He is out atonement. What do we have to do with this thing?

The next thing we need to trust is that Elohim is not schizophrenic. What I mean is that He doesn’t talk out of both sides of His mouth. He doesn’t tell you one thing and then tell you something completely different. He was not surprised by His own plan of redemption. The Mashiach was slain before the foundation of the world, Hit-Galut (Revelation) 13:8. Think about that.

YHVH knew before Adam, before Moshe, that the sacrifice, the gift offered to cleanse our sins is the blood of Mashiach, not of any four-footed kosher, herd animal.

So was YHVH teaching us to tread underfoot, the blood of His own son, for thousands of years? For thousands of years shedding the blood of animals, when it never accomplished anything?

Oh, we say, that it was a picture for us, of Mashiach that was yet to come. But why the picture? Was Avraham imputed righteousness on the basis of offering? Or the basis of faith? Wasn’t it he, our father, that taught us that YHVH would provide the offering? We are told that father Avraham looked up on mount Moriah, and saw the work of Mashiach. We knew since Adam and Chavah that the work of deliverance wasn’t by us, but by the Mashiach who would crush the head of the serpent. Acts 2 tells us that David in the Ruach knew of Mashiach and His death and resurrection for us.

So it begs the question: Why all the sacrificing, at all?!?! If we have already been saved on the basis of faith in Mashiach, then sacrifice is a red herring. If you don’t believe, then it’s just a ritual. And a misleading one because it’s like offering a gift to someone you have wronged. You start to think, that you’re now even, and thus misunderstand the debt at entirely.

And if you already believe, then you know it has nothing to cleanse you, so why does this animal have to die? Why is a price exacted from you, when YHVH wants to teach you that the work cannot possibly be done by you?

Consider, an even more perplexing problem. Y’ezekiel 45:17, speaks of a future temple, in a future state of Isra’el, where the tribes are together in peace. “And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.”

The “make reconciliation” is the same word for atonement. Who is this prince? 34:24 and 37:25, identify him as David. Some suggest this is actually Yeshua.

Now, why would David or Yeshua be offering anything for atonement? Yeshua had no sin for which to atone; and David is a believer in Yeshua therefore covered under the blood; so why point to anyone, but directly to Yeshua for atonement? It doesn’t even matter if there’s blood of an animal or a stick of gum offered, the point is scripture says it’s for atonement, and we know nothing needs to be added to Yeshua’s blood.

Let me ask further. When Yeshua was born, did Miriam (Mary) make a sin offering to be cleansed from giving birth? Yes. So you’re telling me, that the woman who brought the Mashiach into the world–having never even had sex, mind you–in obedience to YHVH’s will, is offering a sin offering? That doesn’t sound right either, does it?

Was Yom Kippur being observed in the time of Yeshua? If so, then every year, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) was going into the temple and shedding blood and confessing sin on behalf of this sinless Mashiach. Was that doing despite to who Yeshua was? How dare the Cohen say “we” have sinned, with Mashiach there? Shouldn’t Miriam or Yosef, or one of Yeshua’s talmidim have gone to the Cohen and said, “You need to say, we–except for Yeshua!”

What was Yochanon the Immerser (John the Baptist) doing at the Yarden river? Luke 3:3 “…preaching the immersion of repentance for the releasing of sins…” This is very interesting, not only is there a freedom from sin, without temple sacrifice or profession of Mashiach, but along comes Yeshua to be baptized for sins that He hasn’t committed. What does, Yochanon say, Matt 3:13-14 “Then cometh Yeshua . . . unto Yochanon, to be immersed of him. But Yochanon forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Yochanon recognizes this dilemma. Much as Peter later says, “You shall never wash my feet!” But what does Yeshua say?

Mat 3:15 “And Yeshua answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.”

The man who has no sin to remit is receiving the act of remission from a sinner: why? To fulfill all righteousness. In fact, the word “becometh” means to tower up. To be suitable. Like when someone says to a woman, “That’s very becoming on you.” In other words, it makes beautiful to fulfill all righteousness.

So let me propose, an alternate perspective of offerings, and sacrifices. My Mashiach paid what He could, for a debt that wasn’t His. Now the word offering isn’t about giving up, but giving. Minchah: it’s a gift. So He gave Himself for us. Since our debt was larger than anything we had to give, then by definition He overpaid. He gave more than was owed.

Now, what do we have? If we are made like Him, then wouldn’t we want to give as well? Not of owing, because His was not of owing. Not in exchange, but simply to give because He has given. Now are we ourselves, enough? He gave the most valuable thing He had. Further, the Kingdom comes with Him so we got Him and His Kingdom. So even those things that we have, they are His too, and yet He keeps on giving them to us. So then, even if we give our souls, our minds, and our bodies. Is that enough? Do we say, “We’ve given you enough.” His gift was infinite! It was all that He had. Why would we want to give less?

When you think of it that way. The fact that we might offer, gift, an animal to Him (which I’m not suggesting, I’m merely saying if we were in a position to do it, rightly). Then would that be strange? Or would it be strange that we would not give every animal, every dollar, every scrap of land, every moment of time?

It is not that the life of an animal is somehow too sacred to give to the Son of Elohim; it is that how could we give less than everything? Our lives and the life of every subject to us. It’s not that what we have is too sacred, it’s that He does not ask for it. Right now anyway.

So then, when you look back to what Yeshua did at the Yarden. You see, He gave a righteous act, a ritual, that He did not owe. Just as He stood, no doubt, at Yom Kippurim and confessed sins that were not His. And at Pesach consented to the ritual slaughter of a Pesach lamb on His behalf, though Death had no claim on Him. He suffered it because it was right, and He looked to do all that was right, not just the right that was due from Him. He didn’t say, “I’ve done enough.” He said, “How may I do more?”

So then let’s look at Kippur. Covering. Atonement. We fear, that perhaps we are ‘despiting’ Him because we might confess a sin on this kadosh day. That we afflict ourselves, might devalue His gift. But let me ask you. Do you confess your sins on any other day?

1 Yochanon 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Ya’akov (James) 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another . . .”

Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us . . . ”

If we are encouraged to confess our sins, both to the Father and to man, and in fact are taught by Mashiach to pray for forgiveness, in general . . . then why would it be wrong to do it especially on Yom Kippur? If it does not despite on one day, why on a mo’ed? Do we not sin?

Is our thinking backwards? It isn’t strange that we, who are redeemed, would confess and forsake and ask for forgiveness; it would be strange that we wouldn’t. Because we of all people know forgiveness is there! He took on Him sins that were not His own. Why would we not even admit those that are our own?

And what is confession? Y’hoshua 7:19 tells us the story of Achan and the forbidden thing taken from Yericho. And Y’hoshua says, “Give glory to Elohim, and confess!” Likewise Phillipians 2:11 tells us that confessing Yeshua is lord, gives glory to Elohim. Confessing truth always glorifies Elohim. That means, when you sin and you know it was sin, and if you refuse to acknowledge exactly what it is, then you are withholding glory from YHVH.

The point I’m trying to make in this is that confession, atonement, all these things are gifts. Offering anything is not about our debt, it is about our abundance. We are not devaluing the work of Mashiach by trying to give something back to Elohim, anymore than we are devaluing His provision when we tithe. When He gives to you, your natural, supernatural response is to give in response. The fact that what you are giving is totally inadequate to the debt is irrelevant, because what you are really giving is obedience, not merely an object or word of offering–you are bearing fruit and that was the reason that the seed was sown.

Atonement isn’t about undoing a gift. It is the natural response of someone who has been given a gift. When my wife kisses me, I don’t kiss her back because I owe it to her, but because I am so filled with love that I have to give back. If I’m full of love and goodness, there can be no other response. Did the woman weeping at Yeshua’s feet, do despite to His mercies on her? No! The fact that she wept and kissed and wiped his feet with her hair, an offering hardly less than a sheep, was because she deeply understood what had been given to her. Giving is the response to a gift.

What did you think? That Mashiach gave you something to keep to yourself? Or that you should give to everyone except the one who gave to you? Don’t we understand that the whole point was to make us like Him, who is the greatest giver of all?

So what of this Yom Kippur? Is it wrong to confess my own sins? Certainly not, we are told to in the Torah and in the writings of the Shellachim (Emissaries). Is it wrong to offer a gift? Certainly not. Even if it were to be the life of animal? Again, not suggesting this here and now, but you eat animal yourself don’t you? And you pour out the blood as is commanded, don’t you? So why would Elohim, be the one person to whom you would refuse meat? Or don’t we remember that the sin offering was eaten (Vayikra 6:26)? Elohim deserves more steak than anyone else.

Is it wrong for us to afflict ourselves as an act of atonement then? As if keeping your sin inside, wasn’t affliction. Suppose, it had nothing to do with atonement. If you had the flu you might abstain from eating, so why would it be wrong to do the same, but in connection with prayer and confession? Do you see my point, how this thinking doesn’t even make sense? Why is it okay to afflict yourself for a physical ailment (which, as you’ll recall, He died for those too), but not for a spiritual one?

Consider the One, we follow. He didn’t have to die. He didn’t owe us anything. He did it because that was what His Father wanted. It pleased YHVH to afflict Him. For Him to be bruised. To make the Captain of Deliverance perfect through suffering. Why would the servant be above the suffering of His Master? We are told that if He suffered, so will we. Why is it a surprise, that we would willingly suffer instead of only unwillingly?

And that’s a huge part of Yom Kippur, because when you study it, you find that it was for the Tabernacle, because of the sins of the people. Not primarily for individuals. Again Yeshua who had no sin, participated. When Moshe went up the mount to “make atonement” after the golden calf, it wasn’t for himself, because he hadn’t done the crime. It was for others! Of course, you would confess your own sin, but Yom Kippur goes beyond that, to the sins of others and to the sins of your people, and many of them may not have repented. So if Mashiach afflicted Himself for you, then why would you not afflict yourself for them? Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:34 can literally be translated: “Righteousness exalteth a nation, And the goodliness of peoples is a sin-offering.” When we do right, we are making intercession on behalf of those around us. 1 Sh’mu’el (Samuel) 15:22 says, “…to obey is better than sacrifice…” So if He calls us to afflict our souls, and we obey. That is better than sacrifice. We don’t need to understand how our suffering, or offering of any kind, fits into the economy of Elohim, all we need to know is that He commands it.

We are made into His Image. We are to be like Him. It is not strange that we would follow His example. Taking the sins of others on ourselves. It is strange that we would not. Even stranger is to believe in YHVH’s infinite mercies, but fear that if we, in love, corporately confess and forsake sin, willingly afflicting our own souls . . . that somehow would offend Him.

So this Yom Kippur. Get right with YHVH. It’s what you should have done any day, and every day. Confess your sins to Him. And while you’re at it, seek out your brothers and even strangers that you have wronged, and tell them. Ask for their forgiveness. That’s you doing right. That’s you making an offering. Spiritually, we are called to be Cohenim of Heaven aren’t we? And if they forgive you, then you have helped them to make an offering as well. And if they don’t, then may your affliction count for them. May it be a gift to the one who has given you so much, and perhaps He will give them more time to change.

We should not be afraid, to give back to Elohim.

 

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