Tag Archives: Bible study

42 Days: Processing Sunday

The voice of God is in the force.

Psalms 29:4

The Midrash on this verse comments, “It does not say that `the voice of God is in His force,’ but in the force; it `is in the force of every individual.’ `’ What God demands of every individual never exceeds the capacities He gave that person. Similarly, the Midrash notes that when the first of the Ten Commandments states: I am Hashem, your God, it uses the singular possessive form, because every Israelite felt that God was addressing him or her individually.

The stresses of life may be extremely trying, and the burden some people must carry may appear to be excessive. Yet, we must never despair. Rather, we must believe that regardless of how great our burdens may be, we have the strength to bear it. This faith should give us the courage to struggle with and master our struggle.

Sometimes circumstances become so taxing that we believe we are at our breaking point. This is when a righteous person will be sustained by the faith that although his or her burden may be heavy, it is never too heavy.

Today I shall…

try to remember that God has given me enough strength to withstand the stresses to which I am subject.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Kislev 4”

OK, so a relatively gentle dressing down by a Sunday school teacher isn’t the end of the world, nor does it require a tremendous about of strength to “endure.” Still in reading Rabbi Twerski’s commentary and in recalling my own experiences on Sunday, I can’t be sure anymore that anything in the Bible before about Acts 10 (this may be a slight exaggeration, since I think there are a few parts of the Old Testament that actually mentions the nations) can or should be applied to anyone who isn’t Jewish (i.e, “me”). Even thereafter in the New Testament, there are a series of “trap doors” as to who is being addressed, and the intended audience of the writer makes a great deal of difference in determining who can use the message.

For instance:

I must share this: I thought Matt. 24:45-51 was just about how we live our lives and how we can die any second. But after reading places like Malachi, it dawned on me that (while it may in fact be true secondarily that it is about our faith duties), the Master might be talking about the Levi in the Temple in terms of servants and vineyards and stewardship, etc. When you take the universality out of it, suddenly it makes sense why early Messianic Jews sacrificed if or if not the Shekhinah were there. And that absence of Shekhinah or Temple does not invalidate sacrifice; the Master is simply on a walkabout.

I didn’t see that one coming, either.

The venerable sage Yoda once told a talented but stubborn pupil, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

I thought what I have learned in the past ten years or so was actually going to be helpful and useful when I went back to church. Now I realize it’s just getting in the way. Or maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut, but I’m discovering that’s easier said than done.

But if my past experience can’t be my teacher, is this all I’ve got left?

The greatest teacher in the world is known as: “Trial and error.” This has given more people more wisdom than any other teacher possibly could. “There is no greater wise person than someone with experience.”

What does it mean to have experience? It means that one has learned from trial and error. If everyone would get it right the first time, experience would not be needed.

Having the courage to try — even though you might make a mistake — enables you to learn from trial and error. This is a valuable reframe.

Instead of becoming overly frustrated or discouraged when you make a mistake, realize that you are now becoming wiser.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #642, Learn from Trial and Error”

Wiser, huh? That’s like learning the layout of your brand new house by going in blindfolded and walking around, bumping into walls and furniture until you have everything, including the bruises, committed to memory.

If “unlearning” and “relearning” by trial and error (I think I know the “error” part fairly well) is going to be my primary method of “learning church,” then it’s going to continue to be very uncomfortable. It wasn’t that long ago that I said getting a few metaphorical bruises in church wasn’t the worst thing that can happen, and that’s still correct.

It just isn’t all that much fun, either.

I’m writing this on Sunday and still trying to process Sunday. If it seems like I’m repeating myself, that’s just me trying to find my way out of this loop of thought. I think I’ve said this before, but I didn’t realize how far it extended. I used to think that the entire Bible had something to say to just about anyone. Now I’m really realizing huge chunks of it probably don’t speak to me at all. Scripture then, is like a vast field full of treasure, but only certain bits and pieces can be utilized by me. The rest is intended for others and perhaps, even the parts that are meant for me, only tell me how I am to serve those others.

The lesson I learned at Sunday school may be more pointed than I first realized. Not only do I take the seat furthest from the head of the table so that the groom (Messiah) may have the best seat, but it is only for the purpose of serving the groom and his guests (the Jewish people) that I have been invited to the wedding feast at all.

Humbling to be sure. It is clear that I have much to learn…and unlearn. Dust and ashes indeed.


Torah Study for Christians

This is “Torah 101” for everyone. Torah Club Volume One: Unrolling the Scroll offers Christians a Messianic Jewish study from Genesis to Deuteronomy with easy-to-read, devotional-styled commentary on the weekly, synagogue Torah readings.

Peppered with insights from ancient rabbis and anecdotes from modern Christian life, Volume One demonstrates the value of Torah for Christian living today. Includes connections to the New Testament and writings of early Christians. This volume introduces students to both the Hebrew Roots of Christianity and the world of Messianic Judaism.

from the promotional material for
“Unrolling the Scroll”
Torah Club, Volume 1

I know I’ve talked a great deal lately about returning the Torah to the Jews, so I suppose it seems odd that I’m now suggesting that we Christians actually study the Torah. Why the inconsistency?

Actually, no inconsistency exists. I never said that Torah, or how Jews understand the first five books of the Bible, was of no value to Christians, and in fact, I think that studying Torah is of tremendous value. You should be able to tell this by the fact that I cite mostly Jewish sources in my “morning meditations” and apply them within a Christian context.

One of my first introductions to the Torah within a “Messianic” context was the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Torah Club, but that was ten years ago. The Torah Club of today has been updated to be more relevant and eye-opening for Christian Bible study groups, and I must admit, having been absent from studying these materials for quite some time now, I’ve been curious about how they’ve evolved.

But what is the “Torah Club?” Sounds like meetings that adventurous Jewish boys would hold in a tree house or a book club for Jewish Bible readers. The second suggestion (both were tongue-in-cheek) isn’t far off.

To understand what the Torah Club is, you have to understand something about how Jews study the Torah in an annual cycle:

The Torah is an ancient scroll containing the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the first five books of the Bible.

The Torah is the foundation of faith in Yeshua. All of the concepts associated with the Gospel—such as God, holiness, righteousness, sin, sacrifice, repentance, faith, forgiveness, covenant, grace and the kingdom of heaven on earth—are introduced in the Torah. Basic sacraments and rituals like baptism, communion, prayer and blessing all come from the Torah. Faith in Jesus is meaningful because of the Torah. Without the Torah, the Gospel has no foundation on which to stand.

The Torah Club follows the weekly Torah readings that are read in Jewish and Messianic synagogues every Sabbath. “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21). In the synagogue, the Torah begins with Genesis 1:1 in the fall, usually around October. Each week several chapters are read aloud to the congregation in Hebrew—a total of fifty-four Torah portions. Each reading is called a parashah, which means “portion.” The names of the weekly portions are derived from a significant Hebrew word in the first sentence of that week’s reading. A year after beginning the first portion, the congregation finishes Deuteronomy and begins Genesis again.

In addition to readings from the five books of Moses, the Torah Cycle includes a weekly reading from the prophets. At First Fruits of Zion, we have created an accompanying reading cycle for the Gospels and Acts as well.

The full introduction to the Torah Club can be found at ffoz.org, but I think you get the basic idea. The Torah Club is a set of materials that can be used by a study group to follow each week’s Torah reading and gain insights about that section of the Torah from the Messianic/Christian perspective.

Why should you, as a Christian, care about a Law that supposedly was nailed to the cross and died with Jesus?

Because it wasn’t. In fact, Jesus himself said that, “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18 ESV). As I look around, the earth is still here and I’ll take it for granted that heaven continues to exist. That would mean I suppose, that not everything is yet accomplished. But does that mean the Law or the Torah is fully applicable to the Christian as it is to the Jew?

As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t believe so, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter at all. As you’ve already read, you can’t really understand what Jesus was teaching in the Gospels unless you understand his “source material.” Virtually everything he taught and everything we try to understand today as Christians comes from Christ’s understanding of the Torah: a first century Jewish understanding. If you’ve always believed the Torah is dead and totally irrelevant to the teachings of Jesus, discovering this isn’t true is your first lesson in Torah.

If you know nothing about Torah and its relevance in the life of a Christian, and you’re looking for a way to “discover” Torah in a small Bible study group, starting with Unrolling the Scroll is your best bet. If you’ve just clicked that link though, you’ve discovered, that there are six volumes of the Torah Club, each one with a different emphasis.

  1. Unrolling the Scroll: Getting started with the ancient Torah
  2. Shadows of the Messiah: Lifting the veil and revealing Messiah in the Torah
  3. Voice of the Prophets: Studying the words of the prophets and the end times
  4. Chronicles of the Messiah: Studying the life and teachings of Jesus
  5. Depths of the Torah: Understanding the difficult laws of the Torah
  6. Chronicles of the Apostles: Learning the epic story of the apostles and the early Christians

You can click the link I provided above and then explore each of the “volumes” tabs to learn more. You can also read over 200 pages of Torah Club sample materials to get a firm handle on what to expect from this method of Torah study for Christians.

I know, I sound like an infomercial, but I have a reason for writing this “extra meditation” today. Like anyone else who isn’t a professional Bible scholar with multiple university degrees and tons of letters after my name, I could use some help in deciphering my understanding of God, the Torah, Jesus, and everything else. From where I am today in how I understand the Bible, if I had to choose one of the six volumes, I’d probably go for Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles:

Chronicles of the Apostles takes students on a year-long study of the book of Acts with Messianic commentary and Jewish insights into the Epistles.

Follow the lives and adventures of the apostles beyond the book of Acts and into the lost chapter of church history. Study Jewish sources, Church fathers, and Christian history to reveal the untold story of the disciples into the second century.

This all new Torah Club Volume Six (2011–12) goes beyond the book Acts and opens the lost chapter of Messianic Jewish and Christian history.

In a Bible study that reads like an epic novel, Chronicles of the Apostles harmonizes Josephus, rabbinic lore, and apostolic legends to tell the story of the martyrdom of Peter, the work of Thomas, the flight to Pella, the fall of Jerusalem, John’s exile on Patmos, the Roman persecutions, Shavuotthe second generation of disciples, the transitions from Sabbath to Sunday and from apostolic Judaism to Christianity. Rewind your religion and discover the truth about our Jewish roots.

Actually, I’ve ordered this volume for myself (though it hasn’t arrived yet) since, if you’ve been reading my blog over the last several weeks, you know that I’m investigating how the covenants God made with Israel allow Christians to have a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I’m hoping “Chronicles of the Apostles” will illuminate my path.

Naturally, as I go through each week of study, I’ll write about it (I write about everything) and let you know what I’ve learned. If you want to learn more about the Torah and how its many differing viewpoints are applied to a Christian life and understanding of our Messiah, I can’t think of a better set of resources with which to start.