Separate Paths

SeparatedHowever, after a few years these same mission organizations started putting other books at the top of the bags of Bibles. These were books about one particular denomination’s theology, or teaching that focused on certain aspects of God’s Word.

This, I believe, was the start of disunity among many of China’s house churches.

These booklets told us we must worship in a certain way, or that we must speak in tongues to be a true believer, or that only if we were baptized in Jesus’ name (instead of in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) could we be saved. Other teachings focused on extreme faith, still others argued for or against the role of women in the church.

We read all these booklets and soon we were confused! The churches started to split into groups that believed one thing against groups that believed another. Instead of only speaking for Jesus, we also started speaking against other believers who didn’t conform to our views.

-Brother Yun (with Paul Hattaway)
Chapter 20: “The Road to Unity” pg 233
The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

-Thomas Gray
“Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1742)

Any of this sound familiar?

Brother Yun (Liu Zhenying) is describing a situation that occurred with the Christian communities of China in 1994. Various Christian missionary organizations from other nations wanted to help the isolated and often persecuted church in China. When China’s borders started to open up in the 1980s, these missionaries took the opportunity to engage representatives of the church in China, which was broken up in to thousands of house churches for the purposes of security and anonymity in relation to a hostile government, and try to provide for the Chinese Christians’ needs. They needed Bibles…lots and lots of Bibles.

After foreign Christian missionaries were expelled from China after the advent of the communist revolution in 1948-1950, the body of Chinese believers were pretty much on their own. Only a handful of Christians possessed Bibles, including Brother Yun, and almost nothing was known about “Christian theology” except what was revealed by the Bible itself and the Holy Spirit as it was manifested in the lives of the faithful, particularly Pastors and teachers like Brother Yun. Although there were very rare encounters with a few Chinese people who self-identified as Catholic, Christianity in China had no denominational identity of any sort. The focus of Christians in China was to covertly study the Bible, covertly meet in small house churches, covertly travel to preach the Gospel where it was unknown in China, and if captured, imprisoned, and tortured, covertly teach the Gospel to other prisoners and on occasion, even to sympathetic prison guards.

No one was thinking about denominationalism and anyone who was a Christian was a brother and sister to everyone else who was a Christian. They shared the same passion for Christ, the same fear of the government, the same pattern of concealing themselves to avoid detection and arrest, and the same risk of being tried, jailed, tortured, and executed by the anti-church state.

That changed in the early 1990s, and with the knowledge that there were different theologies, different doctrines, different denominations, and different identities, all calling themselves “Christian” but sometimes differing radically from one another, the once unified church of China became fragmented and fractured, just like Christianity in the rest of the world.

We arranged for Zhang Rongliang and the leaders of this Fangcheng Church to meet with us. This was a big step because of the tension that had existed between his group and Brother Xu’s group for many years. The day before Zhang arrived we had a time for prayer. Brother Fan said, “Brother Xu, I believe the Lord has given me a word for you, but I’m not sure you can accept it.”

He continued, “I feel that when Zhang Rongliang and his leaders arrive you shouldn’t sit down with them and talk straight away. You shouldn’t even pray with them at first. When they arrive you should immediately get on your knees and wash their feet one by one.”

Brother Xu, who leads millions of believers across China, immediately responded, “I accept this as a word from the Lord. I’ll certainly wash their feet.”

Yun/Hattaway, pp 236-7

I’ve spent this past week addressing the struggle between Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots Christianity in terms of community identity and whether or not we can consider our two groups (and the multiple sub-groups contained within) at all part of the same “body of Christ.”

There are days when I have my doubts.

This isn’t quite what Brother Yun is describing, but it is related. At one point, the Chinese Christians conceptualized their identities as Christians in fundamentally the same way. They just didn’t know any better. Then, with the awareness of denominationalism, split after split occurred, and the only way to even begin the healing was through an act of humility, much as what the Master performed upon his own disciples shortly before his crucifixion and death.

washing-feetIn the case of Brother Xu and Zhang Rongliang, it almost didn’t work. When the different groups of Chinese Christian leaders got together in the same room, discussions degraded and old arguments resurfaced. Zhang flew into a rage and almost stormed out before Brother Fan pushed Brother Xu into hurriedly getting some water and kneeling in front of Zhang to wash his feet. It took years to unify most of China’s churches again but the effort wasn’t totally successful, at least in the short run. However, by the beginning of the 21st century, most of China’s estimated 58 million Christians were unified as brothers and sisters, averting the disaster that came about with the knowledge of “differences.”

But the problem isn’t the same in the Messianic Jewish/Hebrew Roots Christianity space. Jews are different by design…God’s design. Finding a way to integrate Gentiles into a Jewish religious movement and yet have the Gentiles retain their identity, not requiring that they convert to Judaism, was and is something of a chore. I personally don’t believe it was ever completely accomplished in Paul’s lifetime, and not that soon afterward, the whole thing disintegrated (though it took a few centuries to finish it off) into a Jewish religion that did not believe the Messiah had yet come, and a Christian religion that believed the Jewish Messiah came, rejected the Jews for rejecting him, and took upon himself the Gentiles instead. When the Christ returns, it is generally believed he will reward his faithful Gentile Christians and judge the unbelieving Jews.

What a mess.

I still don’t have an answer but I have a vague sense of an ideal. The ideal is that somehow, in some way, the Jewish sheep and the Gentile sheep will be able to enter the same room and without too much discord, be able to have a conversation. In some way, we’ll be able to discuss what we have in common and not just what makes us different (and was drives us apart). In some way, we will all seek to encounter God and we will all seek joy in Him in a way that is universal.

Imagine what it would be like to speak to the wisest, most powerful being in the universe.

Realize that when you pray, you are doing just that. As you talk in prayer, nothing else in the world exists for you but Him and you. Talk to Him with the ease you talk with your father. At the same time, maintain complete awe and respect.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Proper Prayer

When you personally are happy, it doesn’t make any difference what others have. So the way to counteract envy is to increase your own level of joy.

By mastering joy, you will become free from envy.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Joy Removes Envy Of Others

I believe fear of assimilation and marginalization within the Messianic movement drives Messianic Judaism to strive with great effort to preserve their Jewish identity. The history of the church has certainly shown us that such Jewish fear is well founded and that supersessionism, otherwise known as replacement theology or completion theology, is something, in all its forms, to be resisted, battled, and defeated.

I believe that a lack of recognition of the Jewish source of Christian faith, and frankly, envy of Jewish “chosenness” has led some factions within Hebrew Roots to claim the full Torah mitzvot for themselves. Even if these factions deny attempting to usurp an actual Jewish identity, modeling your life on modern Jewish synagogue worship practices and recognizing zero differentiation between Gentile and Jewish believers within the body of Messiah amounts to taking away another kid’s toys just because that kid has them and you want them.

OK, both of those examples were of extremist positions but things can be pretty “extreme” in the world of religion. The Chinese Christians had nothing to fight about until the very concept of differences and distinctions within Christianity was introduced from outside of China. You might think that Hebrew Roots has the right idea from that example and say that the “cure” for the Messianic Judaism/Hebrew Roots conflict is also to eliminate distinctions, form a unity movement, and to start washing each other’s feet (washing away uniqueness and identity along with the dust of the road).

But as far as I can tell, there were no Jewish believers in China. Brother Yun’s book doesn’t address the issue. The problems and the practice of Christianity in China over the forty or so years his book covers had wholly different priorities.

But it also presents a kernel of truth. Distinctions being what they are, we all either need to find some common ground upon which to walk and talk with each other, or we might as well accept the denomination solution that has been alive and well within both Christianity and Judaism for many centuries and agree to disagree, form our own groups, and be happy inside of them.

Do Orthodox Jews complain about Reform Jews? Do Protestants complain about Catholics?

separation-east-and-westProbably.

Even if I went around washing everyone’s feet in the blogosphere, I doubt that it would result in the sort of healing that Brother Yun describes in his book. The only healing I know how to accomplish is my own, and even that is a monumental task. Rabbi Pliskin describes how prayer can connect each of us to God and dispel petty bickering, envy, and unhappiness, replacing them with awe, respect, and joy.

I can’t control anyone reading this blog. I can’t stop caring about you and what happens to you, but I can’t affect your lives in any way, shape, or form unless you allow it on some level. I probably shouldn’t even try because trying only contributes to my own lack of peace, blunting my joy in the realization of God.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)

“Hope never abandons you, you abandon it.”

-George Weinberg

Walk whichever path that you will. Peace.

16 thoughts on “Separate Paths”

  1. // I believe that a lack of recognition of the Jewish source of Christian faith, and frankly, envy of Jewish “chosenness” has led some factions within Hebrew Roots to claim the full Torah mitzvot for themselves. Even if these factions deny attempting to usurp an actual Jewish identity, modeling your life on modern Jewish synagogue worship practices and recognizing zero differentiation between Gentile and Jewish believers within the body of Messiah amounts to taking away another kid’s toys just because that kid has them and you want them. //

    Sigh…. First off: there are a lot of one-law groups out there that *do* recognize that Jewish believers are natural branches of the cultivated Olive Tree of Israel — these individuals have had knowledge of their Jewishness and connectedness to the Patriarchs (Avraham, Isaac, Jacob) passed down throughout their generations. Nobody in One-Law circles are trying to usurp that, or claim that for themselves if it doesn’t apply — at least, not as far as I’ve seen.

    And a question: What “toys” are you referring to, specifically?

    The Sabbath? Avoiding unclean meats? Celebrating the feasts? I’m trying to determine where the “Jewish” toys begin, and where you believe the “gentile” toys end.

  2. So, from a One Law point of view, what makes a Jewish believer and a Gentile believer any different from one another? Taken from the point of view of me as a Christian and my wife as a Jew, what makes us different? Is she still unique as a Jew? How? Why?

    If I were to accept (or re-accept since I used to be OL and I have since put that perspective aside) a One Law belief system and decided to don tefillin and a tallit and daven with Gene Shlomovich, who is Jewish, what makes us different as Gentile and Jew?

    Also, if you’ll read everything I wrote above, you’ll have noticed I said, “OK, both of those examples were of extremist positions but,” meaning that not everyone (and maybe not the majority) in either group adhere to such points of view i.e. “toys.”

    But you must admit, they’re out there. I know more than a few “One Law believers” who are One Law, not out of a sense of religious conviction or because of the conclusions they’ve drawn from their scholarly pursuit of scripture, but because they feel “the church” lied to them and cheated them out of what is “rightfully” there’s.

    What if you came to a conclusion based on research and with the conviction of the Holy Spirit (I’m not saying you have to, this is just a “what if” scenario) that Gentiles were not obligated to the identical set of mitzvot as Jewish believers? Let yourself experience the emotions this invokes. Could you give up the obligation (even if you could still perform most of the same behaviors voluntarily) if you knew it was what God was saying to you?

    I faced that situation after years of studying, soul searching, and praying, and my answer was “yes.” For the sake of everything that makes my wife and children special, I said “yes.”

  3. // So, from a One Law point of view, what makes a Jewish believer and a Gentile believer any different from one another? //

    It depends what you mean when you say “Jewish.” Do you mean that in the ethnic or religious sense? Or both?

    If ethnic, then as I said in my original post, she can trace her ancestry (or she has reason to believe that her ancestry dates) all the way back to the Patriarchs, and that this identity has come down to her throughout the ages — and so there is a very special connection she has to that stream of Jewish (cultural) identity, the familial bonds that this connection creates between Jewish people, etc.

    If you mean religiously, that’s where things get a bit more sticky, because then you have to further clarify whether you’re using “Jewish” in the first century sense of the word, or Jewish in the modern sense. Because the Judaisms today are very, very, very different then the Judaisms of the first century — primarily because of the heavy influence that the Talmud has had on the Judaisms of today. A religious Jew and a gentile Christian today are going to have very big religious differences between them, but these differences are more a product of the divergent paths that these religious groups took back in the first and second centuries, and the traditions and patterns of thought that these groups engaged in thereafter.

    But if both groups were to take a step back from their modern religious definitions, traditions and practices, and attempt to travel back in time to try and understand what was going on in the first century, then religiously speaking, I think both groups would find a lot more commonality between them then what we typically see/perceive today.

  4. But if both groups were to take a step back from their modern religious definitions, traditions and practices, and attempt to travel back in time to try and understand what was going on in the first century, then religiously speaking, I think both groups would find a lot more commonality between them then what we typically see/perceive today.

    I’ve written before about how first century Gentile God-fearers and believers probably looked more “Jewish” than Christians typically look today, so I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even have a problem with Gentiles who choose to accept additional mitzvot on top of what is obligated for non-Jewish believers. However, I don’t believe that a Gentile believer’s covenant connection to God travels through the Torah of Moses for a number of reasons, many of which I have already listed.

    One Law doesn’t really “recapture” the “first century church” anymore than the other modern expressions of Christianity because we have no well-defined model of how those churches (congregations, if you will) operated. That’s why most One Law groups are modeled after modern Jewish synagogue services. Problem is, the second you don a tallit, lay tefillin, and daven from a siddur, you are accepting a certain amount of “Rabbinic Judaism” (Talmud) as a model for One Law worship as well, since how modern Jewish worship works is largely defined and operationalized by post-Biblical Judaism.

    As far as any “stickiness” goes, I really don’t see it, but that’s the major difference between your perspective and mine. I don’t see myself so obligated to the 613 mitzvot that it makes my wife’s religious practice and mine all but indistinguishable. It’s pretty “unsticky” in my household.

    Oh, if my wife decided to kasher our kitchen, then I’d eat kosher in the home (we keep “kosher-style” as she describes it, avoiding the prohibited items of Leviticus 11 but not keeping two sets of dishes for meat and dairy and so forth…yet…that may change when my daughter leaves home). When she lights the Shabbos candles, I’m there with her. We have mezzuzot on every doorway in our house. Her observance does not necessitate any obligation on my part but I do get to bask in the blessings that come from them.

    The Chabad Rabbi has been encouraging her to perform netilat yadayim every morning and I’m certainly not going to object in the slightest. I can respect her being Jewish and not interfere or attempt to lay claim to those practices that specifically connect her to the local Jewish community, to Judaism as an identity and as a world-wide community, and to the nation of Israel. I only pray that one day, the Messiah will speak with her and show her his face so that she will know and come to faith in the Messiah who I honor.

    To me, this isn’t some intellectual exercise or a theological puzzle to solve. This is life in my family. This is also why, even among other Christians who share my viewpoint, that I’m rather unique. Not only do I look to the Bible to define who I am in Messiah, but he has provided me a wife and children who are Jewish so that I can see what he wants me to see for myself.

    Oh, and I don’t think that Judaism stopped being valid when the Temple was destroyed or that Messianic Jews who adhere to modern halachah are somehow misguided. As I’ve already said, by necessity, every One Law Gentile who davens while wearing a tallit and tefillin is also cooperating with the Rabbis. I write about this a lot in blog posts such as The Jewish Girl Who Saved Her Children and The Moshiach and the Rabbis.

    1. // Oh, and I don’t think that Judaism stopped being valid when the Temple was destroyed or that Messianic Jews who adhere to modern halachah are somehow misguided. //

      To be clear here, I didn’t weigh in on this particular subject one way or another (nor do I plan to any time soon). And I agree with you that a lot of Messianic groups might wish to deny it, but a certain amount of reliance on Pharisaic and later Rabbinic tradition is necessary in anybody’s Torah walk (how do we know Shabbat falls on Saturday, or how to tie tzitzyot, etc, etc).

      // I don’t believe that a Gentile believer’s covenant connection to God travels through the Torah of Moses for a number of reasons, many of which I have already listed. //

      Just to clarify a bit, I also don’t believe that our covenant connection to God travels through the Torah either. We are not joined to the covenant by what we do (the commandments we keep). Rather, through faith in Messiah — by bowing the knee to his authority and his judgement of sin — we come under his Kingdom Rule in our lives. And through our faith in Him, we become grafted into his covenant people — Israel. This, I would argue, is the basis for our covenant connection.

  5. Put another way, in my view, keeping Torah is simply a fruit of the spirit that comes from putting one’s faith/trust in Yeshua as Messiah. Not keeping *every* commandment, or getting every commandment right, but a genuine striving for obedience and repentance from sin.

    My concern, at least in the context of this discussion, is more with those who seek to put up walls around certain commandments — which takes various forms (commandments XY&Z are for Jews and not gentiles, or commandments XY&Z apply to Israel and not to the nations, or commandments XY&Z were for the Jewish people, but Yeshua came, fulfilled them, and thus abolished them, etc. etc.).

  6. James,

    Thank you for your honesty and soul searching here. It is interesting and painful.

    I’m a relative newcomer to ‘one law’, but as Abba opens my eyes I see the Scriptures in a whole new light. It is so incredible and my heart breaks for my own blindness and the wrong I have taught relative to His Word.

    My daily prayer, daily, is for unity and love on the part of each house (I know where you stand on the house thing) for the other. Isaiah 11:13 comes to mind. “Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim.”

    I can tell you brother, churchianity has so failed Judah!! We have totally been a persecutor and thorn in the side of Judah and deserve the very anger they feel toward those of us who are waking up. I have repented before the Father for my sins AND those of my fathers in perpetuating anything that resembles antisemitism. (Read my blog post on Antisemitism.)

    I do not want to replace anyone, but I understand my place at the table… albeit at the very end in the lowliest of seats. The Prodigal, ‘Just let me be a servant in the house.’ I also am DEEPLY aware, DEEPLY!! of the great value of Yahudah in guarding the oracles of G-d . I am SO thankful for them and their faithfulness when assimilation would have been the easy route.

    At the end of the day, I think Abba will move on the hearts of all His people to bring unity, love and mutual respect. One for guarding the law and the ancient paths, the other for taking Messiah to the ends of the earth. Once both see the other and recognize him, THEN, will the fullness of all things come. In the meantime, we need to pray, seek unity and wash each other’s feet as we follow our King.

    Ez. 37:24-28 says so much… All together under one King, in one Law, on one land… Mind-boggling and only our Father can make it all happen, as the divisions are well beyond the ken of mankind.

    I love you brother, and thank you again for sharing deeply and honestly.

    Shalom. Pete

  7. We are not joined to the covenant by what we do (the commandments we keep). Rather, through faith in Messiah — by bowing the knee to his authority and his judgement of sin — we come under his Kingdom Rule in our lives.

    I can agree with that statement with the understanding that faith and the Abrahamic covenant (well, one provision of the covenant) is what connects us to Messiah and thus to God. I don’t see the Romans 11 “grafted in” passage as de facto obligating the Gentile believer to obligation to the full Torah mitzvot. Grafted in can also mean simply being connected into the source from outside without requiring that we be exactly the same as the source. Graft an olive branch that gives blue flowers onto a olive tree that typically gives pink flowers (I’m making the flower thing up for the sake of my example) and the grafted in branches will continue to give blue flowers…not pink. Natural and grafted-in branches are nourished by the same source but not the same thing.

    There are a number of One Law supporters who believe that every covenant made between God and Israel applies directly to any non-Jewish believer because of Abraham, the New Covenant and Romans 11, so the manner of Gentile covenant connect tends to come into play in these discussions on occasion.

    You did compare modern (Talmudic) Judaism to the first century variety (which still had plenty of halachah attached) in your previous comment, so I thought you may have been making a comparison. My bad if that’s not the case. As you said though, there are many in the Hebrew Roots movement who have “issues” with “Rabbinic Judaism” so it is one of the points also typically contested.

  8. Put another way, in my view, keeping Torah is simply a fruit of the spirit that comes from putting one’s faith/trust in Yeshua as Messiah. Not keeping *every* commandment, or getting every commandment right, but a genuine striving for obedience and repentance from sin.

    That’s a different spin on One Law than what I usually read about in the blogosphere and seems to say that there’s a “loosening” of relationship between the Gentile OL believer and obligation/performance of the mitzvot. It’s actually not that far from my perspective since it’s not the mitzvot that “saves” you, it’s faith and trust in the Messiah. Nothing you do can make the difference. That said, once a person is in Messiah, he/she should live a transformed life but that’s not really based on wearing tzitzit or laying tefillin so much as it is on the “weightier matters of Torah” (which I agree that all believers are obligated to) such as feeding the poor (we never argue about this sort of obligation in the blogosphere interestingly enough), comforting the grieving, visiting the hospitalized and those in prison. That’s what indicates a transformed life in Messiah.

    If, on top of that, you choose to keep a Shabbat rest in some fashion, obstain from certain food items, even pray in Hebrew with a siddur facing east toward Jerusalem, so much the better. My only objection is that somehow all of this is obligated to Gentile believers and actually represents some sort of God-given “right” of ours.

    My concern, at least in the context of this discussion, is more with those who seek to put up walls around certain commandments — which takes various forms (commandments XY&Z are for Jews and not gentiles, or commandments XY&Z apply to Israel and not to the nations, or commandments XY&Z were for the Jewish people, but Yeshua came, fulfilled them, and thus abolished them, etc. etc.).

    Here’s what I said in the content of this blog post most related to your statement, Rob:

    I believe fear of assimilation and marginalization within the Messianic movement drives Messianic Judaism to strive with great effort to preserve their Jewish identity. The history of the church has certainly shown us that such Jewish fear is well founded and that supersessionism, otherwise known as replacement theology or completion theology, is something, in all its forms, to be resisted, battled, and defeated.

    An “effect” of Sinai on the Children of Israel and down through the generations to their descendants, the modern Jewish people, is a sense of identity as a people and a nation based on the mitzvot. Everything God did for the Jews, all of His love, the suffering they’ve endured, the sense of identification they experience, the very fabric of their relationship with God, all of it is colored and stained and marked by the Torah in a way that is probably difficult for we non-Jews to comprehend. Torah has permeated every part of Jewish existence. Even some of the behaviors of secular Jews in Israel and even some of the laws passed by the modern government in Israel have unmistakable connections to the Torah and the Jewish identity.

    Grafted in or no, I believe there is an area in Jewish life and Jewish identity that needs to be uniquely left to the Jewish people. For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have beend doing their (our) level best to erase Jews and Judaism by burning down synagogues, burning Torah scrolls, burning volumes of Talmud, and occasionally burning Jewish people. Today, the biggest threat to Jewish identity is assimilation into Gentile culture and Gentile (Christian) religion. If indeed God made the Jewish people to be unique and special beyond any other people group and nation on earth, then it behooves us as Gentile believers to protect and cherish that identity, not roll over it with a theological bulldozer.

    I’m very close in my arrangement to going to this year’s First Fruits of Zion Shavuot Conference. I’ll be “rubbing shoulders” with a wide variety of folks including many Messianic Jews, some people who call themselves “Messianic Gentiles” and lots and lots of Christians like me, including several Pastors. I’ll be eating kosher food prepared in a kosher kitchen, hearing the Torah read on Shabbos by a cantor, listening to the Jewish men in a minyan daven in beautiful Hebrew and I will participate in much of it, but not all of it. No, I probably wouldn’t be prevented from a single activity, but I will choose to draw a line between who I am and who the Jews present are and in that way, I will be protecting Jewish identity in the body of Messiah and fulfilling part of my role as a Gentile called by His Name.

    This is how I understand who I am as a believer in Messiah and what my relationship is with the Jews who are also in Messiah. This is my attachment to my root. It’s a very exciting time to be a Gentile among Messianic Jews, even if I only meet with them face to face once a year.

    I was feeling pretty bluesy this morning about the whole Messianic thing, but in crafting my response to you, I have reminded myself that everyone has a unique role in the plan of God, even me. Although it was unintentional on your part, I want to take you for the reminder.

    Good Shabbos.

    1. Perhaps another time we can unpack the One-Law notion of “Obligation” a bit — I’m aware of only 1 or 2 essays floating around out there that even touch on it, so it probably needs some clarifying/expanding.

      I don’t think our understandings are radically different. I think we perceive the Jewish versus non-Jewish identity markers differently (my focus is more on returning to a 1st century understanding of where the lines should/shouldn’t have been drawn, your emphasis seems to be more on how these things are perceived today), but we definitely share an appreciation for — and desire more of an emphasis to be placed upon — the “greater issues of the Torah” (love, justice, peace, mercy, etc). So for that I’m grateful and have also been encouraged by our talk.

      Good Shabbos to you and your family as well. 🙂

  9. Hi Pete, and welcome to my blog. Thanks for reading, commenting, and following.

    As you no doubt have discovered by now, I don’t support a One Law position, but please don’t take what I say personally. I never tell a person how they should worship God, but from my perspective as an intermarried person, a Christian husband married to a non-believing Jewish wife, I have a few insights that I like to share from time to time. I used to support and practice One Law, but over the years and relative to my wife’s pursuit of her Jewish identity and her community in Judaism, I’ve shifted my personal and theological perspective.

    I don’t see the church as a “failure” in part because the vast, vast majority of the disciples of Messiah are in churches all over the world. In fact, I’ve tried to describe why I go to church given my rather unusual perspective on God, the Bible, and the Messiah.

    The book I’m currently reading, The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun (with Paul Hattaway) describes the incredible suffering of Christians in China from the mid-1970s through the early 2000s. To me, this illustrates that there are ways that Christians serve God that are well beyond what we tend to understand and experience in the western nations, and it shows me that people who are Christians and who know nothing of Judaism, Jewish practices, and Hebrew Roots can serve God authentically and with enormous faith.

    My personal opinion (but I admit to being influenced by my friend Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David) is that instead of people who are “hebraically-aware” leaving churches to form Hebrew Roots congregations and essentially leaving the church to swing in the breeze, so to speak, a number of us (this isn’t directed at you of course) must stay or return to the church to be the change we want to see among traditional Christianity. I’ve been blessed to find a local church with a wonderful Pastor who lived in Israel for fifteen years and has a heart for Israel and the Jewish people.

    I don’t doubt that I may say things you don’t agree with and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t expect people to agree with me in everything I say, but I do promise to be as honest and as transparent as I can be (and still have some small portion of a personal life) in my day-to-day experiences and encounters with God.

    Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

    Blessings.

  10. Thanks for your reply, James.

    On call this weekend and having to work this morning, I wanted to share a couple other thoughts I had.

    1. Brother Yun is a really neat, humble man. I have some connections in China and know very well what is going on in the churches there. Amazing stuff. Spent two days with Brother Yun about two years ago while he was visiting here. He prayed over me and my wife some very interesting things that at the time I thought, “What?”… Now I am seeing some of that start to happen. At that same time, I met several men who lead a network of some 10 million people. Humbling. They were more than humble. Much work to be done in the Body here!!

    2. I want to encourage you as a fellow traveler. You are in a VERY unique place and Abba has called you to a very special task.

    By way of background, my wife is disabled. She lost both hands in 1992 in a parachuting accident. We were married five months later, so her journey has been my journey. When people stare at her, ask dumb questions, are insensitive, etc, it hurts me, too.

    You, married to a wife who has similar, though less visible hurts, and bound to a people who have deep wounds at the hands of both the intentional and the unintentional, you are in a very interesting crossroads. With your gift of writing and your shared experience in both Judaism and in Christendom, as well as having begun and understood parts of the fractured Hebraic community, you are uniquely positioned to speak peace, love and bring unity between the two camps.

    Abba is doing something amazing in these days and He has prepared many who are waking and leading with the cry, “Come let us go up to the mountain, that He may teach us His ways.” The only reason I am here is because HE did an amazing work in me. Woo-ed me is the only way to put it. I can do nothing but follow my King and I see so many following the same path I am on, more each day.

    You, sir, are at the crossroad. I pray Abba lead you and help you to speak peace to both sides and minister understanding and unity.

    3. As I was driving home last night I was having a conversation in my head (yes, I talk to myself… LOL!) and it totally struck me! I was stating emphatically, that I am grafted in and as such have bound myself (or been bound by my Messiah) to Israel and will stand with Judah! I am not Jewish, but their fate is my fate. My life for theirs!! Rough waters are ahead, but I cast my lot with them! They can look askance, mistrust, etc. I don’t care. I love them. I don’t blame them, but they can’t run me off and I’ll stand and protect/defend with even my life if necessary. Reputation means nothing. In fact, nothing matters. And, this again is a work that Abba has done in me. Inexplicable, but wonderful! My daily prayer is for Abba to complete the glorious work He is doing as He regathers the outcasts.

    In the midst of this conversation is where I was struck, “It is a time of Jacob’s Troubles. Not Judah’s troubles, Jacob’s!! There is a difference and that explains or connects Rev. 12:17, 14:12 and 20:4!! Torah keeping believers in Yeshua are part of Jacob and this will be the trouble of all of Jacob.” I stand with you, your bride, her people and the people of my King!

    4. I never have seen Torah as a means of salvation. Like Rob Roy, I want to keep the Law because that is what my Messiah commands and is what is best for me. It is ‘walking as He walked.’ Again, inexplicable. Five years ago if you told me I’d be here defending the Law as good, holy, and easy?? I’d have called you crazy and gotten you a ticket to the nut house. Today, I can ONLY see it as good and a joy. Like those stupid wall pictures that you can’t tell what it is, you keep trying, then suddenly a switch in your brain flips and you ‘see’ it. Then it is impossible to go back to ‘not seeing’ it… I see it, and there is no going back. Wouldn’t if I could. Again, this is happening all around me.

    There was something else, but I’ve gone way to long… I’ll be praying for you in your calling. May Abba give you grace, peace and understanding as you speak to both sides of this. May Abba use you mightily as HE heals the body and brings humility grafting BOTH Israel and Judah into the olive tree. (Rom. 11:24)

    Love ya, bro. Shabbat Shalom! Pete

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