Faith on a Desert Island

clouds
© Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Every time I see something about being a Christian in community, or a Jew in community, or especially a non-Jew in (Messianic) Jewish community, I start thinking about those of us who, for one reason or another, aren’t in community.

Many years ago, I listened to a “Messianic Jewish luminary” denigrate Gentiles who were isolated from community, and he had a point. A lot of non-Jews who have left the traditional Church for one reason or another, possess rather “fringy” theologies, and often are considered “religious nuts”. These are the kinds of people who believe faith can cure any ill, and who wouldn’t take their kid to a doctor even if he were having a heart attack. People who think taking an aspirin is a mortal sin.

But there are plenty of reasons to be disenfranchised or unaffiliated besides being mentally ill or having cult leanings.

For anyone with a “Messianic” perspective, it may be a matter of not having an appropriate venue within driving distance. In my case, it’s a little more complicated, being a Gentile believer married to a (non-Messianic) Jew.

But the most common reason we experience is that we’ve been burned, not just by the Church, but by Messianic Judaism as well.

Not to overstate the point, but Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space have traditionally been a problem, and some of us, who don’t want to be a problem, solve it by simply not showing up.

So what happens then?

Over the past few months, I’ve been satisfying my more “creative writing” desires by becoming involved in “flash fiction challenges” of various sorts. The idea is that someone posts a photo online and authors use it as an inspiration to write a very short story, anything between about 100 and 250 words. We then share our work with one another and comment.

In response to one of those challenges, I wrote The Listener.

As I finished writing it and was editing, I realized the message I was communicating was literally true of me. Various difficulties in my personal life, as well as just plain “busyness,” had resulted in my leaving the vast majority of my “religious practice” behind.

The result, among other things, was a massive piling up of anxiety and hopelessness. If God lets little kids starve all over the world, why should He care if my grandchildren are having problems? What’s the use of praying? God either knows they’re hurting and will have compassion or He won’t.

As many pundits have previously warned me, it’s hard maintaining faith outside of community, and there’s the rub.

Technically, all I should need is God, but in the history of Judaism and Christianity, at least relative to the Bible, faith has always been communal. Okay, Paul spent plenty of time alone, but he always came back (at least until he was shipped off to Rome).

I’m alone because my attending Church or anything “church-like” (such as a Messianic community) hurts my wife.

I’m alone because I’ve been burned, and more than once.

I’m alone because even if there were an appropriate community, and even if my wife didn’t mind, I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut, and 100% of the time, opening my mouth eventually ends up with me offending someone.

The religious blogosphere has been pretty peaceful lately, and I suspect that’s because the trolls and nudniks have moved on to something else, but real life is a wild west show.

We may wander away from each other, but while we can keep God at a distance, He’s always close enough to touch. He doesn’t fail. He doesn’t burn you.

Sure, He’s also incredibly hard to understand and, if you have trust issues, it’s still hard to believe everything will work out in the end, especially when kids all over the world are starved, beaten, raped, burned, and otherwise assaulted and abused on a daily basis.

I’ve got to get back. Not sure how, since a lot of my praxis is based on time I no longer have.

I feel more connected when I read/study the Bible. I feel more connected when I pray. I feel more connected when I take a deep breath and reach out to His Presence.

I feel more connected when I write here.

A lot of “religious people” can and probably will be critical of me. Fortunately, God isn’t a person. He’s always ready to welcome the prodigal son home.

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10 thoughts on “Faith on a Desert Island”

  1. I am delighted to have you re-opening your spiritual journey, and letting us share it, because in many ways, it is all that many of us have for a community.

    A simple Nazarene Judaism that has no halachah in particular is never a bad thing in actually following what applies to Gentiles in the Torah, and only adding nuance from Rabbinical Judaism on those things that enrich this praxis makes the path a simple one to follow.

    I hope for a time soon in which Believers will become more observant of the commandments that apply to Gentiles in the Torah, as well as those commandments given in the Brit Chadashah, that we might do love as Rav Yeshua wished…loving most of all what Abba wants of us…a little simple obedience, study and prayer.

    If we can share a little of that with one another, it goes a long way towards having a Messianic Congregation of sorts. Perhaps the discussion of what it is that G-d wants of the Gentile…according to the Scriptures might suffice as a kind of Bible Study. In a minimalist way we might not then feel as if we were still deserted on that island.

  2. Peace be to all and a good health
    Frankly speaking, thou could not really understand the reading of your H. Bible especially the NT gospel book, if thou could not accept the truth that these were written from the guidance of God’s itself and his living Word is used, thats why it has a living power to transform an Israelites (chosen) of his bad habit character into an spiritual or holy character because the NT book is a Living Scanner of God and God’s Judgment book. And thou all know about this fact that also happen to A. Paul and to the 144,000 chosen call out israelites, how they all BELIEVE and was Redeem saved by Yeshua M. or the NT gospel book, Rev. 7:1-8 & 14:1-5.. Thats why, it was written the NT gospel book (Yeshua M. as a mediator to God’s assistance and NO OTHER ELSE). And from this, many reader of the H. Bible or the NT Book cannot understand it, to the reason they may be not belong to Covenantal people, which the book is prioritize to the Israelites. And secondly, they may be also a Covenantal people but they complicated the problem by mixing other author’s books in their search for the spiritual truth, making their trust in impure faith. Sorry to stop here, for it is only a basic simple problem but we are more concern to those many people of the world that can all be condemn to eternal fire for not knowing only, which they also work out hard but were all non sense without any connection to the truth or not in conformity to the Will Plan of God. But instead they were been condemn judge ever since the establishment of their religions, Mt. 25:31-46. 

    And what for to their teachings that Yeshua M. is a man, making the people very idolatrous, which have already a written condemnation in the eternal fire, Exo. 20:1-5 & Rev. 21:8.. How come those religion do not know this even it was written? And our time is not enough for these problem! Which thou all know now that we are all in the Parousia or the 2nd Advent Period, which to A. Paul and John is already the concluding part of the New Covenant Plan of God to the End Time, 1Cor. 15:23-24. Which was also explain in detail the double scenario event that will automatically to happen at the same time on the earth and in heaven, 1Tes. 4:13-17. And on the scenario in heaven, although it will begin in the caught in cloud (in the twinkling of an eye) on the earth to those recent dead in Christ crossbreed people, will transform their spiritual body into immortal spiritual body together with those also already transformed Original Messianics will be caught by the cloud in the air, to meet the Lord in heaven, and to be with the Lord in heaven forever more. And at that same time, the scenario on earth with those people which are left behind will little by little will feel the burning heat of the solar and nuclear radiation which will last for five months, similar to Noah’s Ark floating in the flood in five months. And after this they will tranfer to their final destination punishment place to the hell or eternal fire. So, from now (2017) it will not exceed the counting of your fingers hand and foot, thou could see and even literally experience this scenario, especially if thou is among to be condemn here. And to this completed the Spiritual New Covenant Plan of God on earth on to those that will enter in heavean.
    May our living lord God Bless us all.
    LOVE: New Jersalem – Holy City

  3. Hello James and others,
    I too have turned to fiction writing as a means not of escape but self expression. This year, the feasts will feel different as I am involved with some other writers in the production of two anthologies. Though we are geographically separated, and per custom, I will spend the evening of Shavuot listening to the service from Congregation Melech Yisrael in Toronto and then retire about 11 p.m., an eBook will be out there with my story and others about forgiveness. Later, one about waiting for Messiah in the first century will be out there. My local church does not verbally support my efforts as a writer and theologically is Roman Catholic in its posture; I understand that. Its small groups barely recognize any Jewish heritage whatsoever and there is little interest in starting. Burned, yes. In some ways the congregation is sensitive to the financially impoverished but insensitive to the variability God may use to raise his sons and daughters outside the denominational or ecumenical mold. I fear beyond social chit-chat community among believers has become a historic phenomenon from the 1970s that is long gone. There is more community here and on social media than in most houses of worship!
    David Russell

  4. Dear James,

    I´m sorry to hear that you have experienced so much hurt from religious communities. I don´t know you nor your wife, only from your blog I read sometimes, but I often sense an underlying sadness and loneliness. I don´t believe God wants you to live like on a desert island. And I also don´t think you´re doing a favor to your wife, when you always give in, always step back only to not offend her. She would certainly not listen to you, if you told her, you feel hurt when she goes to synagogue, so why do you? Won´t she want you to be happy ? James, you are such a kind and humble person, I like you, still sometimes even humility can have a negative side, that is fear of men. I know fear of men from myself, this is one of my greatest weaknesses – I´m usually a very shy person, I know how it feels to be afraid to hurt someone or to be hurt. But I think to move back from others is the wrong way (I say it also to myself). I just want to encourage you, not to give up searching for a community you can join. God himself said it is not good for a man to be alone – it´s much better to have fellow believers, even if there are some theological differences. Was everything bad in the Christian community, were there not also many good things and most important a common faith in Yeshua? Were the differences so grave that fellowship is no longer possible? Be patient with those who do not see things the way you do, you can change something, but not over night. Perhaps, would you be even willing to consider, that some critics could be right? A closed door can be reopened with a bit courage and faith in God. Or what about messianic communities in Idaho, I have googled and found some – what about Kehilat Yeshua for example? Why do you think there is no place for you – because of your wife? She knows your beliefs anyway, I think when you stand by your conviction she will respect that and she knows you love her and the jewish people. If you want, I will pray for you and your wife that she will open her heart again for Yeshua. I pray for you, that you will find a community where you belong and for friends to be there.

    James, take a trip to Israel, I believe it would benefit you! I want to see you happy and not sad!

    God bless you

    Angelika

  5. James gave more than one reason — not only his wife.

    Although God likely feels our pain of not having fellowship of great depth, that doesn’t mean it is actually available.

    God WILL (future) wipe away all tears.
    HIS timing for which we all wait.

  6. “who don’t want to be a problem, solve it by simply not showing up.” Rings true wow. I appreciate your transparency. This post really spoke to my heart . Thank you. It has been almost a year since our Nazarene church was hit by an “atomic bomb”. Approximately 2 to 300 people left the congregation based on the assassination of a pastors character. Being one of the board members, I had a front row seat. Comments of some leaving the church”I will never dark in the doorway of the church again”, this is why I stopped coming to church years ago” . Looking through pessimistic lenses, I dismiss this phenomenon to power and politics. Elected board officials, not being a “true “voice of the people they were elected to represent. With in “unchurched “congregation they tended to blindly trust those “experienced “leaders. With my rose-colored glasses, I hope/faith beckons me to return to the community I once knew as a church family. Perhaps scarred untrusting but return nonetheless. The question I have will it be worth the effort?

  7. Dear James,
    I´m afraid my comment sounded more like a criticism than encouragement – I´m sorry, this was not my intention (I thought my mail was private, not public?). I only wanted to say, please don´t give up on searching (and praying) for fellowship with other believers and don´t let it be taken from you. It´s probably because I felt a bit burned, too by mere listening to all these conflicts and debates between Jews and Gentiles in MJ, sometimes it dragged me all down and caused so much fear in me not to be welcome (only as guest), that it even blocked my prayers. But God heard my cry. I have recently experienced beautiful fellowship both in my Christian community and in a messianic community not too far away. They were very welcoming and friendly, they invited me for Purim and I have the great joy to celebrate Passover with them.
    I´d like to share something that helped me greatly, that is the book “What about us?” by Eitan Shishkoff, he is speaking about covenant friendship and the important role of gentiles as “widwifes” for the rebirth of Israel. I warmly recommend it to all, especially to those burned. In response to the post “the month of Elul …”, especially to Drake Dunaway, (some months later but I hope not too late) let me quote Eitan Shishkoff: Are gentiles less important or less loved? “Oh beloved, this is not the case!” (page 103) Will anyone be left out? “No one will be left out. When the King comes to earth, we will all sit together at one table – covenant brothers and sisters from all nations together with his Jewish disciples, laughing, enjoying and spreading his salvation forever!” (p.134)
    James, God bless you and your family

  8. I don’t know you at all. Just read this. I can relate to every single thing you said. As an adult, and as soon as I believed and followed, I’ve wanted to be in community, but as you say, there is always a rub. After many years, I’ve learned this, community is people, and within that group of people there are persons, if you surround yourself with the right person or persons, there is no judgement or condemnation. The other side is this, people in the community need us, if everyone were like us, there would be no community at all. And honestly, most people are just like us, to some degree. So I do this: I have a group of gender same( that’s just biblical to me cause my husband does not participate) people (the
    more the merrier) that don’t judge me and we “happen” to all be in the same community. I participate when I can and when I feel I can’t or feel I don’t want to, I pray about it, listen to the Spirit and sometimes I just listen to praise music and/read the Word, then I let it go. If you have the right people that are biblical, they will NOT judge you or attempt to discourage you. Community is a gift, you can open it and enjoy its benefits, give back out of love for your brothers and sisters, as an offering to the Lord, or you don’t. It’s completely between you and God. Blessings to you and your wife. (My community is The Greater Houston Church and I love them. ❤️)

  9. Peace be to all and a good health
    Hello guys, these were some example of the many problem of the people (Israelites and gentiles) that we have learn on why they could not understand the Holy Scriptures, so with our information revelation on the New Covenant Plan of God. In spite of the very basic and simple explanation, we expound it from the very high parable fictionize story from the elaboration of Yeshua M. and the chosen disciples to the now known as the NT gospel book. And these were some of the problems; firstly, because the Holy Gospel Book (or the NT book) is a Covenanted Living Word of God to the Covenantal people but those gentile scholars corrupted the gospel into generalization and taught it in true to life story writings which make the people more idolatrous faith believers. Secondly, because the Holy Gospel Book were really the Living  Word of God, that it has the power to SCAN and to Judge the people, so it is necessary to know all the pre-requisite requirement before complying, so not to complicate the problems of not properly observing it! Thirdly, although thou maybe a covenantal people but thou have linkage to the Judaism remnant teaching believe that oppose and even rejected his Gospel books will get an automatic comdemnation of accursedness read Mt. 16:6-12, is this not a given warning to the Judaism believers by Yeshua M. but if they still continue this transgression its already a judgment to them. fourthly, although thou also a Covenantal people or even from the gentiles but if their faith belief to Yeshua M. is a man, thou were already categorize as an idolatrous believer, Exo. 20:1-5, 2Cor. 3:6 and Rev. 21:8 which have already an eternal fire judgment. And the Fifth, which is the most unnoticed common problem to both Israelites and Gentiles that can really causes hindrances in their understanding of the NT book or the Holy Gospel book. And this is if thou have posses a living sin (devil or living sin spirits) in within their self which thou must cast it out before reading the NT Book or Holy Scriptures. And these may be the CAUSE of their silence and coldness to the information we shared. As other advice of Yeshua M. in Mt. 25:41 ” depart from me, ye cursed of God” which means not the person BUT TO THE POSSES SIN IN WITHIN THE SINNER!

    And thou could observe these common problem to all religion that promotes idolatrous faith believe in spite of their priest, pastor and minister were master and doctorate of the scriptures, they could not still understand the very simple 1st Commandment of God in Exo. 20:1-5. And these sins against God that lives in their self and being in their possession were working independently and controlling their self unnotice. And try to criticize their mistakes and they automatically depend it and even fought it back by the sins which controls the sinner. Remember mary magdalene that cast off seven demons in herself by Yeshua M. and what about the followers of the mother of all harlots? And who among us is exempted to these problems, unless thou know how to cast it out. And this will be resolve by the Blood of Yeshua M. (If you know?) as the mandatory format of God!
    May our living lord God Bless us all.

    LOVE : New Jerusalem – Holy City

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