Returning to the Tent of David: The Clay Jar

eph-2-10-potter-clayDo you wrestle with dreams?
Do you contend with shadows?
Do you move in a kind of sleep?
Time has slipped away.
Your life is stolen.
You tarried with trifles
Victim of your folly.

Dirge for Jamis on the Funeral Plain, from “Songs of the Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan
quoted from pg 126 of Frank Herbert’s novel
Dune

This book outlines a vast mission and vision. At first it can seem overwhelming both in the scope it entails and in the sacrifice it requires.

-Boaz Michael
“Strategic Mission,” pg 164
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile

Part of the Returning to the Tent of David series

Ever since I’ve been writing about my “re-review” of Boaz’s TOD book and the re-evaluation of my “mission” in my local church, I’ve received a certain amount of pushback in various online venues, speaking of “coming out” of the church, as if the church was some kind of prison or trap. Some people talk about being “unequally yoked,” as if the “Messianic Gentile” and the church-going Christian are not the same and are even diametrically opposed spiritual beings.

The quote from Boaz’s book I posted above reminds me of the difference between the first day of class and mid-terms. I remember in any class I took, no matter how difficult the subject, the first day was always a breeze because there were no expectations of me yet. By the time mid-terms rolled around though, I always knew if I was going to be OK, or if I was in way over my head.

I took a lot of notes as I was going over TOD again, but I decided I wasn’t going to use most of them. I don’t want to re-analyze every page of what Boaz wrote. I want to analyze how I am now against who I was a year ago when I was anticipating a return to church. I struggled greatly against my own inhibitions. It finally took the mocking of someone I disagree with a great deal to push me forward. He too “went back to church,” even as he complained about it (and the irony is not lost on me as I type these words).

True imitation of our Master was practiced by no one better than Paul, who left Jerusalem, the Temple, and the apostolic community behind to go through the Diaspora and spread the message of the kingdom.

-Michael, TOD
“Becoming a Shaliach,” pg 94

If I look at my TOD experience in church as a “diaspora” experience, I’ll forever be alienated from church and only be a perpetual visitor. On the other hand, the model of Boaz’s TOD book is focused on the “Messianic Gentile” as a messenger, an emissary, a “sent out one.” Paul founded many Gentile churches, but though he was united with the non-Jewish disciples in Messiah, he was never a part of them in many other ways. He was a Jew, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a Benjaminite, circumcised on the eighth day, obedient to the mitzvot, bound to the Torah of Moses and the Temple, even as he was bound to Messiah.

But the flip side of the coin is that the “Messianic Gentile” isn’t in church to illustrate how different he or she is from Christians but that it is the Jewish Messiah King who unites them…who unites all of us.

I have a Jewish friend who has been very kindly encouraging me to realize that Jesus is a false Messiah and that I should join the ranks of the Noahides; become a “righteous Gentile.” He sees Christianity, no matter how well intended, as ultimately anti-semitic, just as my wife sees the Church. If he’s right, then my efforts in emulating the Master and his emissaries are doomed to failure. If Boaz is right, then imitating my Master makes me stronger than anyone could possibly imagine.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

But such strength must be in God’s service.

These are all vitally important concepts, but cannot compare to the work of God in reconciling humanity to himself and consummating his entire creation through Yeshua the Messiah.

-ibid, pg 102

jewish-handsLater in the same chapter, Boaz speaks of the Chabad chasidim who are sent out into the world and who believe their efforts are watched over by the Rebbe. How much more should disciples of Messiah feel the watchful eye and empowerment of our Master in our endeavors?

Boaz also speaks of setting priorities, not losing the vision, and being silent rather than talking as the situation demands. As I went through his book again, I found I could argue against a lot of his optimism, but if that’s true, then maybe I’m the wrong man for the job…or I just want to be.

I can make excuses or I can persevere. If I am doing the will of my Master, then I will continue. If I’m not, then whatever I do will fade.

For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

Acts 5:36-39 (NASB)

No, I am not comparing myself to the apostles in any sense. I am not worthy to wash the dust from their feet. And yet, the principle is sound. I do nothing on my own, but only what I do when I’m in my Master.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 (NASB)

Even in pleading with critics of this “mission” to not see the “Messianic Gentile” and “Christians” as separate things, I’ve been making the distinction myself. Even considering myself on a “mission” in church makes the distinction. That’s intolerable because in making such a distinction, I’m implying that I’m somehow “better” or “higher” than the people I worship with every week. But I’ve forgotten something.

In fact, I’ve forgotten the most important thing of all: to seek God where ever I happen to be. If I’m in a church, my purpose is to seek an encounter with God. If I’m in a synagogue, that it is also my purpose. It’s the same if I’m praying alone at home, if I’m in Sunday school, if I’m meeting a few Christian men for coffee, if I’m meeting my Pastor in his office.

If that “mission” is forgotten, the overwhelming priority to meet with God and serve God in every situation and circumstance, then everything that follows is a mere shadow by comparison or in fact, nothing at all.

But if I believe I am serving God, encountering God, encouraging others to encounter God by envisioning Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah King, the Moshiach, the Holy One of Yisrael, then I must be in the Church and of the Church without having my convictions and my vision dissolved.

Another step to blessing the church is to maintain your distinctiveness as a Messianic Gentile. Be different; exemplify the change you wish to see in mainstream Christianity.

-ibid, “Restoring the Tent of David,” pg 148

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

-Mahatma Gandhi

I must be who I am and who I am learning to be, because it is God who made me. No matter where I am and what I’m doing I must be that person. To me, this is the only way to be in church and to live out what I’m seeing in the TOD book. To see it any other way, is to be disingenuous in my Christian worship and to possess ulterior motives in every conversation I have with other believers.

sparksThe interface, the transactions, the meetings, the worship, the study, everything I do in church and with Christians (or anywhere else) is the crucible in which we burn away the differences and the inconsistencies and finally arrive at the true Jesus, the Messiah, the King, the High Priest in the Heavenly Mishkan (Tabernacle).

It’s not being the change I wish to see, but being the person God wants me to be. Then, if God choses, that person people see will be one of His agents of change. If what I have to say and the life I’m living is worthy, then Messiah will be visible through me as who he really is, the King of Israel, the final inheritor of the Throne of David ben Yishai.

As I was reading the last pages of Boaz’s book, I was feeling the weight of his words. After all I’ve just written, I am, in the end, just flesh and blood. How could so much ride on someone like me?

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: “Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here.”

-from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib”
by the Princess Irulan
quoted from pg 137 of Frank Herbert’s novel
Dune

If I am indeed the branch in the vine, then I will not be cut off. If I’m not, nothing can keep me from being “complete” in the manner of the quote above. I must have faith that God did not give me life for a vain purpose.

The day is short, the task is abundant, the laborers are lazy, the wage is great, and the Master of the house is insistent.

-Pirkei Avot 2:20

He is indeed. And I must listen more carefully to his voice, tarry on each command, ponder his meaning, savor his teachings, sit at his feet as does the faithful servant, and in letting him show me how to become myself, the man God made me to be, the clay jar in the potter’s hand, I will be the shaliach, the lamp, and the light that goes forth into the world, not for my sake, but for God’s.

This is the end of my Tent of David review. I only ask one thing. If there are other TOD shaliach online, perhaps we could dialog with each other. Is anybody out there?

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10 thoughts on “Returning to the Tent of David: The Clay Jar”

  1. I think I should suggest caution in reference to quoting philosophical statements from “Dune”, since much of its outlook reflects Islamic perspectives, including a propensity for violence. While it is true that you have been released from the legal requirements incumbent upon Yisrael, you are not therefore bound to follow the ways of Ishmael, Traditional Christianity has often been compared in Jewish thought with Edom/Esav; I believe you have been aiming for something a bit better than that.

  2. James: You ask “Is anybody out there?” My case is not completely similar to yours. I belong to a congregation of Messianic Gentiles. We know for sure that this is the path that we need to walk. Instead of being alone dispersed in different churches, we are first learning together how to be followers of Yeshua. Trying to make a difference in our community, then our city, then our country and who knows where else. But that is not a task that you can accomplish in one or two years, not even 5, 10 or 20 years. Actually, we have an objective to reach within five years : “Create a body within ourselves that practice justice, peace and joy”. That is within 5 years !!! In this 5774, we will be learning (and that means “doing”, otherwise you do not learn) to give to charity, think always the best of everyone else (that is not to judge), be happy at all times (even when things that seem to be “bad” happen to us, we will get sure to remember that HaShem has everything in control), have peace (Shalom) in our homes (which is by the way, the hardest battle field in front of us) and finally, to manage diligently all our financial resources (the way our Rabi Yeshua taught in the talent’s parable). So you see, five little goals (that are not that little as a matter of fact) just this year, having our objective in our mind for the future. We want to show that it can be done. We want our children to know that it can be done. And also let our fellow “Church” believers, the ones that are not with us, to see that the Light of our Messiah shines upon us. Let me tell you, it will be difficult even when we all be trying together. As for yourself, James, don’t give up so soon. Plan what you want to accomplish within 5 years… Then, ask yourself what do you think you can do this 5774…

  3. Hi James,

    About 25 years ago I was introduced to the Jewishness of Jesus at an Episcopal church when the priest (my spiritual dad) invited Jews for Jesus to put on a Seder demonstration. Since that time, the Lord has been teaching me little by little (through His word and Messianic writings) the importance of our Jewish roots to the faith. I have come to understand that without that base, we are subject to every wind of doctrine.

    About 11 years ago I moved to a different area and attended a Calvary Chapel. Again, the importance of Israel was understood, though the fullness of the faith was not there, as with many Christian churches. I was involved with ministry and started hosting a Passover Seder every year (that has grown to over 60 people!)

    5 years ago I ended up leaving the church for personal reasons. Unknown to me, the church I began attending (and joining as a member) believes in replacement theology. At the time, I didn’t even know it had a name, just that as I met with the associate pastor, I couldn’t believe that he didn’t see the significance of Israel! At this same time, I discovered FFOZs Hayesod program. After completing that, I took their Torah Club 5 to learn about the laws in Torah.

    18 months ago I started attending a Messianic congregation (Temple Aron HaKodesh) and knew I was home! But I continued attending both. My heart wanted to join TAK, but I also loved the people at the church, including the pastors. And I know they love the Lord. As I prayed about leaving, I received FFOZs monthly cd and it was about Boaz Michael’s book, Tent of David. I felt it was God telling me to stay. So I did.

    It was a very difficult time because I was being strengthened at TAK but getting frustrated at church. And to be honest, I felt like I didn’t really belong at either place. In addition, my 10-year-old granddaughter lives with me on the weekends and on Wednesday night. She loves both places as well and didn’t want to give either up. In July, I made the decision to become a member of TAK, but not leave the church entirely.

    You see, I had facilitated a couple of bible studies at the church, and the group I led was wanting to do a study of Jewish roots. I asked the pastors if I could facilitate a Hayesod study. After looking over the material, they were not comfortable with it. This is when I made the decision to join TAK.

    So while I am involved in ministry at TAK, I am doing the work of a shaliach at the church. On Wednesday night, I attend a chapter by chapter study of the bible and on Sunday, I attend a book bible study led by one of the church elders. Many people have come up to me, thanking me for the ‘Jewish insights’ I share with the group (from both studies). And I am hosting a Hayesod group in my home.

    This is what the Lord worked out in my life. I don’t think I could have continued at the church, as much as I love the people, if I didn’t get strengthened from the fellowship at TAK. Perhaps if the church did not have the ‘Replacement Theology’ mindset, it would not have been as challenging.

    I do know that there are a lot of people attending the church that do not realize this is what the leadership believes. I am not here to tell them this, but instead, I am here to share the good news of our Messiah and to help my brothers and sisters understand where our faith comes from – our Jewish brethren…our Jewish Messiah.

    You are not alone, James. God is with you and for you.

    In His Grip,
    Ro

  4. I think I should suggest caution in reference to quoting philosophical statements from “Dune”, since much of its outlook reflects Islamic perspectives, including a propensity for violence. While it is true that you have been released from the legal requirements incumbent upon Yisrael, you are not therefore bound to follow the ways of Ishmael…

    I wasn’t aware of the Islamic basis for Herbert’s novel. Thanks for the “heads up.” I had something completely different in mind when I inserted those quotes, PL. Trust me, I’m not following the ways of Ishmael.

    Alfredo, it is good that you are doing what you need to do in your area. My “is anybody out there” query is a request for anyone else who has read “Tent of David” and is attempting to live out the vision in a church to dialog with me and compare experiences. I want to know if other “Messianic Gentiles” are going through what I’m going through or anything similar, and how they manage it all.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Ro. In my initial entry into Hebrew Roots, I learned to feel quite comfortable within that framework, to the point where I became part of the Board of Elders in my little congregation and had teaching responsibilities. My first visit to Beth Immanuel for the FFOZ Shavuot Conference was wonderful, but between the first and second visits, I went back to church.

    The second visit was stressful because I felt caught between two worlds. If I had my “druthers,” I’d probably attend Beth Immanuel forever (if they’d have me) and not look back (never mind that it’s over a thousand miles from where I live). But trying to reconcile church culture with Beth Immanuel’s culture was very confusing for me. I felt like I had to separate myself from the “Jewishness” of the experience the first few days of the conference, and realize now that was a mistake.

    Frankly, compared to a traditional synagogue service, church leaves something to be desired. But it’s where God has put me for now and I believe it is God’s intention that I struggle. I will say one good thing about going back to church and my weekly visits with Pastor…I have never had to understand what I believe and explain it to someone so well prior to all this. It’s really honed my research skills and taken me in directions I would otherwise never have pursued.

  5. Hi James. I have read Michael Boaz’s “Tent of David”. It just happens that I’m not in your situation. I decided to share with you my situation in order to try to explain how important is to establish objectives and goals within one year, five years or more. See, you have been at your church just one year. You might feel that you haven’t done much, but on the other hand, have you asked yourself if you accomplished what you wanted this year? What are your goals with Pastor and other people at church for 5774? Where do you want to be with them in 5 years? These are the kind of questions that we all should meditate on…

  6. Meditate is right Alfredo, since I don’t have any “snap answers” right at the moment. I also am a little hesitant to set hard goals and time frames since God has a habit of throwing me curve balls all the time.

  7. I remember back in the day, when people who were members and attendees at “dead,” churches, were urged to remain in those churches and seek to be a light, rather than depart for more spiritually alive churches. Some of this was that the Billy Graham association partnered with churches for his crusades, and when people who “made decisions,” asked about setting up new fellowships for themselves, they were sternly turned down.

    BTW, circumcision is on the eighth day.

    Well, perhaps your church is not exactly dead, but just comatose in certain aspects. It appears that you have been called to that place and that pastor. I don’t remember if I mentioned this, but have you asked what sort of things your pastor had been praying prior to your arrival? Babylon is a state of mind, not just a system. But the Greek pagans who had come to faith were not told to go back to the idol temples to be a witness. HR & MJ have their own idol temples too. If you take the advice of your Jewish friend, it would certainly be a path of least resistance. But the role of “God-fearer,” for the gentile, was changed with Kefa’s dream. So, I don’t see the issue as one of who you are a part of, but where you are being sent.

  8. Oops. Fixed.

    I hardly think my church is “dead,” but I do think that it, along with many other Christian churches, would benefit from exposure to a more Jewish view of scripture. Only God can know the heart of a person, or a community. Only God can show me if I’m wasting my time or not.

  9. James, we have been to a church close to us several times now, and have met with the pastor to share our journey and objectives. I’m feeling really optimistic! Will share more as we go, but for now it’s been an intense day for other reasons and I’m off to bed.

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