Tag Archives: Bible

Does the Bible Stay Out of the Constitution? Should It?

Getty Images / found at cnn.com/2013/10/31/us/u-s-constitution-fast-facts/index.html

‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.

‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.

‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired worker are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a person who is deaf, nor put a stumbling block before a person who is blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.

‘You shall not do injustice in judgment; you shall not show partiality to the poor nor give preference to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people; and you are not to jeopardize the life of your neighbor. I am the Lord.

‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may certainly rebuke your neighbor, but you are not to incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:9-18 (NASB)

Believe it or not, the Pastor at the little Lutheran church I take my elderly Mom to actually preached on this one today. He did compare Leviticus to a road in the desert, not being particularly interesting or worthwhile, which I didn’t appreciate, but then Christian Pastors don’t really study Torah.

Continue reading Does the Bible Stay Out of the Constitution? Should It?

How Listening to Negative Voices Destroys Our Peace

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Imagine hearing this announcement when you start off each day: “Welcome to your own broadcasting show. We’re on the air today and every day. We run from this moment on, for the rest of your life. You can’t shut off the show, but you can choose what to hear. We advise you to choose wisely. Don’t be upset with yourself if the show is not proceeding the way you wish. Instead, thank your mind for working. Be nice and friendly to it. And kindly and respectfully ask your mind to give you a truly great show today. Have a fantastic day, today and every day.”

If the above represents what you would like to hear on your own mental show, then you can choose it. If you would like to run a different show, just choose what you would like to hear.

Your mental broadcast can have any guest you want. What do you want your inner mental guests to say to you? What do you want them to speak about? Choose the subject that you would like your self-talk to be about, for as long as you’d like. You might want to hear a great interview with yourself and your ideals and values. You might want to hear a certain song or many songs that uplift you and help you feel good. You might want to hear a well-known story over again. This could be a story with a lesson that you really need to hear right now. It could be an inspiring story. It could even be an entertaining or a funny story.

If you find yourself broadcasting distressful ideas and thoughts, you can switch to uplifting and joyous ones. You can give yourself messages of hope right now and at any time you choose.

When you listen to recordings of speakers or speeches you like, you can be grateful for the opportunity to add their messages to your own mental library. Once those recordings are stored in your brain, you can access them as often as you like.

Be grateful to the Creator of your mind and your life for giving you your own broadcasting show. The quality of your life depends on the quality of your inner broadcasting show. Keep raising the quality of what you say to yourself, and you will live a happier life, full of self-development and self-empowerment.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: “Conversations With Yourself”, pp.185

Sorry for the long quote, but I think once again that Rabbi Pliskin makes an excellent point.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote lately as it relates to the tremendous amount of negativity we experience, not only from broadcasts on news and social media, but from life experiences as well.

Recently in my small little corner of southwestern Idaho, we had a tragedy were a person from Los Angeles living in a local apartment complex, targeted a child’s birthday party and stabbed nine people, six of them being children. The little girl who had been celebrating her third birthday died a few days after the assault.

It’s things like this that suck any sense of hope out of me.

But I can’t be like that. I mean, if you have faith in God, if you try, however badly, to follow in the footsteps of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ), then you can’t just give up.

Believe me, I do have my days, though.

I’m a white, straight, “cisgender” (I still balk at that one for some reason), old, religious, conservative (relative to Idaho, I’m probably a moderate, but relative to hyper-liberal Seattle or San Francisco, I’m likely considered a fascist), married, Dad, Grandpa, male. In other words, for the pundits on twitter and Facebook, I’m public enemy number one, no questions asked.

Really, it’s like I’m not even a person anymore, just a “type.” In fact, it seems caring has stopped being about human beings, and is only conferred if those people belong to certain demographics.

Well, the little murdered girl I mentioned above was an immigrant from the middle east, and relative to the more liberal people who follow my doings on social media, when I posted about my outrage over her death, the only response I got was “crickets.”

I’m reminded of a quote from the original Star Trek series episode “The Immunity Syndrome (1968):

Spock (Leonard Nimoy): I’ve noticed that about your people, Doctor. You find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million. You speak about the objective hardness of the Vulcan heart, yet how little room there seems to be in yours.

But let’s turn that around. Are we only to care about the suffering of large groups, but never individuals? Are we only to care about someone because they belong to a disadvantaged group, or can we still care because they’re human. Can’t we care because a single child needlessly lost her life? Why do only children separated from their parents at our southern border matter (and I’m not saying they don’t)?

ruya kadir
A 3-year-old girl died on Monday after suffering a fatal injury during her birthday party outside her family’s Boise apartment complex. (Idaho GOP/Twitter)

I think Picard (Patrick Stewart) once said something about the value of mourning the loss of a single life, but I can’t find the quote after a quick Google search.

Negative messages come in unabated from the news, from social media, and from all around us.

It’s overwhelming, and yes, it engenders a sense of hopelessness.

That’s why I’ve been thinking about the good Rabbi’s quote. I’m not forced to plug the internet into my head. I don’t have to read or listen to or watch negative, hateful, spiteful messages from the world around me. I’m responsible for my own programming and my own self-definition.

So are you.

You may have noticed that people of faith are an easy target for those who feel they hold the moral high ground and are on the “right side of history.” You also don’t have to listen to them. Unless they live with you or are otherwise unavoidable, you can just unplug them.

I don’t recommend doing that permanently. I think it’s important to listen to and understand opposing opinions (unlike those folks who are living in their “save space” or believe that all opposing opinions must immediately be shouted down as “violence” or “hate speech”).

I think we all know that a large part of our self-programming is reading and studying the Bible, and yet, the Bible isn’t as easily and quickly accessed as social media. Given the choice, most of us will choose “the quick and easy path,” to quote Yoda when he discussed the Dark Side of the Force with Luke.

While we can’t ignore the world around us, we can take breaks from it. We can turn off the television, our computers, our smartphones, and otherwise turn off all of the negative, disheartening voices that are ever eager to attempt to overwrite us with their version of justice and morality.

In other words, if you are a negative voice in my life, I can turn you off and restore my peace of mind and spirit.

Human beings who feel like they are the final source for all morality, righteousness, mercy, and justice are terrifying, because believing that, they’re capable of any act, no matter how unjust and cruel, in their name of their own ego, or worse, the ego and highly flexible morals and values of the human race.

I know we religious people are accused of doing the same thing in the name of God, but as an Aish HaTorah Rabbi reminds us, religion is sometimes misused by selfish, greedy people, just as attacks on our faith are also a misuse and misapplication of the true nature of scripture and God.

If we continue to strive to become better disciples of our Rav, whatever part of us that may be guilty of what we are sometimes accused of must fall away. We can remake ourselves through our faith and allow the Spirit to remake us so that we more resemble our Rav in thoughts and deeds.

True, we will still be accused of all manner of crimes simply because of who we are or because someone once did something bad and claimed God told him or her to do it, but that’s not us. It’s not who we are.

We cannot communicate the sense of peace we achieve through our faith and the merit of our Rav if we allow outside influences to throw us into chaos. We can only communicate peace by being peaceful, and here’s the rub:

When people are in emotional pain, they tend to speak and act in ways that sound angry and aggressive. And if you, too, are in emotional pain, you are likely to speak to the other person in ways that he will perceive as angry and aggressive. Each person adds to the emotional pain of the other, and the distress of everyone involved keeps increasing.

When you are calm, it’s easier to see the emotional pain of others. That is when you can build up your attribute of compassion. The goal is to have so much compassion that even when you personally are experiencing emotional pain, you are able to be sensitive to the emotional pain of the person with whom you are interacting.

Coming from a place of compassion you will be able to address the thoughts and feelings of the other person in a way that alleviates his distress. Then he is more likely to speak and act more sensibly and reasonably towards you.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: Harmony with Others, p.130

When people are angry at us for whatever reason, and we feel pain because if their behavior, we must understand they are in pain, too. Being in pain doesn’t justify unkind, cruel, and unjust responses, and we don’t have to let ourselves be mischaracterized, but it might be a good idea to get past the other person’s anger and discover their pain. Then we’ll have a much better platform on which to build communication.

peaceTake care of yourself. Associate with like-minded believers so that you can support each other. Try (and this is difficult) not to reflexively react when someone in person or (more likely) in social media insults you, either individually or because you belong to some “type” they don’t like, don’t understand, or have been conditioned to despise.

We’re here to help make the world a better place, but if we let the world tear us down, we will have failed.

It starts with being grounded in the Word and in our Rav. His peace can be ours. It just takes a lot of practice.

Try unplugging sometime. I think it will help. It does me.

What If Parts Of The Bible Are Wrong?

Larry Hurtado
Larry Hurtado

I came across something interesting at Larry Hurtado’s blog the other day titled Paul and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I had just finished reading 1 Corinthians as part of my annual “read the Bible cover-to-cover in one year” effort (through admittedly, this is the first year I’ve made the attempt in quite a long time).

Hurtado was discussing Philip B. Payne’s recent article Vaticanus Distigme-obelos Symbols Marking Added Text, Including 1 Corinthians 14.34–5. Referencing the paper, Hurtado states in part:

The…story focuses on the view espoused in Payne’s article that vv. 34-35 are an interpolation inserted into some copies of 1 Corinthians, probably originating as some reader’s marginal note, and then incorporated into the copy-stream at some early point. But, actually, for a number of years now an increasing number of scholars have reached this basic conclusion. Indeed, in his article Payne points to the numerous scholars who agree that vv. 34-35 are not an original part of Paul’s letter. For example, note Gordon D. Fee’s judgment in his commentary: “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 705-8.

Okay, so what does that mean? It means there are a number of scholars who have long believed verses 34-35 in 1 Corinthians 14 were not part of the original epistle and in fact were a reader’s note in the margin that was later erroneously incorporated into the formal text.

What are these verses?

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NASB)

According to Hurtado, the general reason for scholarly agreement on this point is:

The verses seem to go against practically everything else in Paul’s uncontested letters pertaining to women’s involvement in the churches.

I bring this up for a couple of reasons.

The first is the general belief that the Bible in toto is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God and is not to be questioned in even the slightest degree. Of course, this depends on the level of sophistication and education of the reader, but there are a lot of Christians who basically say God said it, I believe it, that settles it.

I work with a fellow who is very nice and friendly and he is a Christian who basically approaches the Bible this way. Occasionally, he tries to engage me in a little theological discussion and I tend to put him off. I know from painful experience that if I tell him what I believe and what I believe about what he believes, it will not end well.

Coffee and BibleThe second, building on my first, is that if we know or have good reason to believe there are “questionable” verses and phrases in the Bible, shouldn’t we make it our business to find out what they are so we don’t use them to commit an injustice?

There probably are churches (probably conservative and many of them rural) that do preach women being silent within their walls and that expect women who may have questions about what they hear from the pulpit or in Sunday School to wait until they get home to ask their husbands (who may or may not have a good understanding of what was said) what it all means.

Now I’ve never had that sort of experience in any church or congregation I’ve attended. Women did seem to be active, questioning members of those religious communities, so there obviously are churches that simply set aside those verses or at least believe Paul meant to address a local matter rather than pronouncing some sort of universal truth.

Even if a Pastor, who hopefully was educated at a formal accredited seminary, keeps up on the latest Biblical research, it’s not likely you’ll hear the findings of that research being preached from the pulpit (or on Christian radio), so the average Christian in the pew will be totally unaware of this information.

After all, it doesn’t have anything to do with a Christian’s salvation or going to Heaven when they die.

I know that sounds cynical, but it can be really frustrating when I hear some Pastor on Christian radio say that you can’t be a believer unless you go to church and are in fellowship, realizing that what they’re advocating (whether they intend to or not) is, for the most part, corporate ignorance.

That said, most or at least a lot of believers don’t want to know anything that makes them feel uncomfortable about the Bible or their faith. It’s one of the reasons Evangelicals are believed to be superstitious, unsophisticated, anti-science, Luddites. They seem to have missed what Paul said about the Bereans.

I’m no teacher or scholar, and I’m no smarter than the average bear, but at least I try to learn a little bit more about the Bible and other things today than I knew yesterday or last year.

Christians have historically bent, twisted, and mutilated the Bible for their own purposes, at least those Christians in charge of Bible translations and laying out what is “sound doctrine,” so I don’t have a problem investigating said-doctrine to see if they’re wrong about something.

My wife calls me a Christian (her being a Jew) and she tries not to say it as a pejorative (most of the time), but while that’s true in the broadest possible sense, I’m certainly atypical relative to the vast majority of churches in my local community as well as in the nation (and the world).

Consider this blog article to be a small cautionary tale. Before you use the Bible to beat someone up or to establish and inflate your own superiority as “saved,” you might want to check and see if the Bible says what your Pastor or Sunday School teacher tells you it says.

Actress Alexis Bledel in the television show “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

In this one specific case, it is highly unlikely that the Apostle Paul was advocating for muzzling women in “church.”

I put the word “church” in quotes because every time it’s mentioned in the New Testament, the word isn’t really “church,” nor is it likely Paul meant the Greek word Ekklesia to mean “church” in the modern sense (for more on this rant, see Notes on the Church from an Insomniac and When is Church not Church?).

Why Worshiping Alone Matters

For the past decade, “How Great Is Our God” has been one of the most popular worship songs in the United States.

The song’s success helped to make Chris Tomlin the world’s top worship leader, and turned his co-writer Ed Cash into one of the most sought-after Christian music producers in Nashville.

It also helped launch what former members are calling a cult.

-Bob Smietana, December 14, 2015
“I Am Called a Cult Leader. I Really Don’t Care”
Christianity Today

I recently heard a pastor of a large American church say matter-of-factly that the average person in his church attended one out of three Sundays. Sadly, he wasn’t saying it was a problem. He was simply making an observation.

It’s an observation that stands in stark contrast to the admonition in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Bob Kauflin, December 15, 2015
“Why Church Isn’t Optional for Christians”
On Faith

You may be wondering what these two stories have to do with one another. The former (a very long but worthwhile article) describes what most of us would call a “cult,” a domineering religious community run by a single individual who allegedly demands absolute control over his followers’ lives, and the latter, espousing the value in believers regularly gathering with one another to worship God and for mutual edification.

Photo: Christianity Today

I recently wrote about the good and the bad of religious community. Actually, that blog post was mainly about the bad. The first story about Wayne “Pops” Jolley, “a prosperity gospel preacher with a history of alleged spiritual and sexual abuse,” and sole owner/operator of The Gathering International, is much, much (allegedly) worse than the two Pastors I described in my previous write-up.

He’s (allegedly) a monster and, if the facts in the story are accurate, he should be in prison.

In reading that story, I found myself amazed that anyone would fall for Jolley’s lines and allow themselves to come under his control. The first “red alert” should go off for any Christian right here (on page 2 of the 10 page “Christianity Today” article):

Jolley’s followers are asked to make a lifelong covenant with him and God, where they pledge their obedience and financial support to him as their spiritual father. In exchange, he pledges to pass on God’s messages and blessings. (emph. mine)

Lifelong commitment to God I can understand, but lifelong commitment to obey and throw money at Jolley in exchange for him passing along what God has to say and His blessings to me? That’s outrageous.

There’s a popular meme I sometimes see on Facebook: “Jesus didn’t say ‘follow Christians’ He said ‘follow me’.”

You can click the link I posted above to read all about what “Christianity Today” has to say about Jolley and find out why he (allegedly) makes my skin crawl.

The flip side is the small article written by Bob Kauflin, and which probably leverages content from his book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God.

The blurb on the book’s Amazon.com page says in part:

Nothing is more essential than knowing how to worship the God who created us. This book focuses readers on the essentials of God-honoring worship, combining biblical foundations with practical application in a way that works in the real world. The author, a pastor and noted songwriter, skillfully instructs pastors, musicians, and church leaders so that they can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles, not divisive cultural trends.

Bob Kauflin from his twitter account

I especially took note of the line, “can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles…” True, a lot of churches are very “program” oriented and seem to be searching for ever more ways to make going to church “popular” if not a thrill-a-minute, but I react to the phrase “unchanging scriptural principles” as written by a Christian, the same way as I do to “sound doctrine”. What you believe the Bible says depends a great deal on your interpretive traditions rather than (necessarily) on objective analysis.

I know that probably sounds harsh, but then again, I’ve participated in the eisegesis wars more than once.

And while I don’t doubt that Kauflin is a good, sincere, devoted, and compassionate disciple of Jesus, he definitely is writing from a highly specific point of view; a very traditionally Evangelical Christian point of view.

You can read his eight reasons why Church attendance isn’t optional by clicking this link. I’ll present my responses here.

1. Jesus came to save a people, not random individuals.

Well, sort of. Jesus came (it’s a lot more complicated than a simple Christian understanding of the purpose of Christ relates) for the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) to call them to repentance because of the “nearness” of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 4:17).

To expand on this a bit, he came at that place and that time to show Israel (the Jewish people) that God’s New Covenant promises (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36) were indeed going to come true. He did this by being a living (and dying and then living again) example of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:13:17), the forgiveness of sins (Romans 11:25-27), and the resurrection (Colossians 1:18).

Bottom line, Jesus came to herald the emergence of the Messianic Kingdom into our world, dramatically unveiling the redemption of all of Israel. He didn’t so much talk about the rest of the world. Of course, post-ascension, he commissioned Paul with that task (Acts 9).

That means the reason Jesus came had little or nothing to do with going to church each week. That said, in late second Temple Israel, there were the moadim or the times when Israel was to gather in Jerusalem (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and so on), there were specific occasions for offering additional korban at the Temple, and Jews regularly prayed and studied at the Temple and at their local synagogues and study halls. Being a Jew was and is a corporate experience, and Paul did gather the Gentiles together to also worship as specific local groups.

2. We need to rehearse and be reminded of the gospel.

Christian Bible StudyI’d probably expand this to include regularly attending places where the Bible is preached and taught. I love a good sermon, although I have a tendency to write copious notes and then blog my reviews of them, and certainly there is a great advantage to attending Bible classes and being able to discuss views and insights on the scriptures, including the Gospels and other Apostolic Writings.

If I understand Kauflin correctly, he’s also recommending that believers come together to encourage each other to practice the good news by living out lives that reflect the teachings of our Rav and the promises that are sure to come.

3. God’s Word builds us together.

It seems like this is strongly related to item 2 if not just a rewording of the previous rationale for meeting regularly.

Maybe I’m missing something.

4. We were made to serve and care for one another.

I agree that we can serve each other in corporate gathering, but there are just tons and tons of other occasions and venues in which to do this, sometimes ones that are better than church. After all, how better to serve someone than to visit them when their ill in the hospital, when they’re depressed and alone in their homes, when they’re bereaved, and under many other circumstances? You don’t need to regularly meet in church to do this.

5. We become more aware of God’s presence.

I’d agree with this with the caveat that some people have a greater awareness of God when they are alone. Yes, I have felt the presence of God both in church and in the synagogue, but I have also felt it when praying alone, so church isn’t the only place you’ll find God. Sometimes you’ll find him in the most unlikely places.

temple of messiahAlso, I find Kauflin’s use of “the Church” being the “new temple in Jesus Christ” to be somewhat limited. We know that Messiah will re-build the actual, physical Temple in Jerusalem and re-establish worship there (Jeremiah 33:18), and Paul referring to the “body of believers” as a “temple,” is more or less metaphor, just as we are also referred to as individual bricks in that temple.

One does not replace the other. I think many Christians take poetic language and try to make it a literal thing in order to map to prevailing Church doctrine which historically, was created to remove the Jews and Judaism from any association with Rav Yeshua (I’m sure Kauflin isn’t deliberately “dissing” Jews and Judaism, merely teaching what he was taught).

We demonstrate our unity in the gospel.

This is basically correct, at least in principle. As I mentioned above, Judaism, both in Rav Yeshua’s day and now, has a strong corporate worship and study component (although today, the home is always the center of a Jews worship of and devotion to Hashem). As Jewish community defines its distinct covenant relationship with the Almighty, you can also say that Christian community defines the non-Jewish disciples of our Rav as those who, even as we are not named participants in the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:27), are nonetheless by God’s grace and mercy, granted many of the blessings of the New Covenant. We also have the promise of the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the resurrection in the world to come.

However, I do object to the following:

Most of us instinctively (sinfully?) like to be with people who are a lot like us — people who like the same music, eat at the same restaurants, and shop at the same stores. But God is glorified when people who have no visible connection or similarity joyfully meet together week after week. They do it not because they’re all the same, but because the gospel has brought them together (Romans 15:5-7).

At least in my experience, Christians actively seek out churches that are composed of people who are just like them socially, politically, economically, “denominationally,” and in most other ways. It’s not like you could take 100 random Christians gathered from across the country, put them together in a building every Sunday, and have them automatically form a cohesive community of believers. Depending on their theology, doctrine, politics, and such, they’d probably split in a dozen different directions, and heaven help the poor Pastor who tries to preach to this eclectic bunch.

People choose churches in part because the majority of the members/attendees have many interests and perspectives in common.

synagogue interiorOf course, this isn’t just a Christian trait, it’s a human trait. In a municipality with a sufficiently large Jewish community, the following joke is applicable:

A [Jewish] man is rescued from a desert island after 20 years. The news media, amazed at this feat of survival, ask him to show them his home.

“How did you survive? How did you keep sane?” they ask him, as he shows them around the small island.

“I had my faith. My faith as a Jew kept me strong. Come.” He leads them to a small glen, where stands an opulent temple, made entirely from palm fronds, coconut shells and woven grass. The news cameras take pictures of everything – even a torah made from banana leaves and written in octopus ink. “This took me five years to complete.”

“Amazing! And what did you do for the next fifteen years?”

“Come with me.” He leads them around to the far side of the island. There, in a shady grove, is an even more beautiful temple. “This one took me twelve years to complete!”
“But sir” asks the reporter, “Why did you build two temples?”

“This is the temple I attend. That other place? Hah! I wouldn’t set foot in that other temple if you PAID me!”

-Wikipedia: Jewish Humour

Everybody has their ‘druthers.

7. We can share in the sacraments.

My opinion on the Lord’s Supper or Communion is conflicted at best (I’m being polite), and my thoughts on baptism or immersion is that it’s more appropriate and Biblically sustainable when done in a river or other flowing body of water or, if it needs to be conducted indoors, in a mikvah-like environment.

It might be more appropriate to say that Number 7 is to share common ceremonies and traditional praxis. For instance, with Christmas fast approaching, churches all over the U.S. and in other nations are gearing up for their big Christmas presentations and worship services.

christmas treeThere’s nothing wrong with this, but Christmas is a tradition, not a Biblical event. Yes, I am aware that the Rav’s birth is recorded in the Bible, but how the Church celebrates Christmas today, both in individual Christian homes and in corporate assembly, little resembles the scriptural record, nor do we see anything like a directive to actually observe or celebrate Christ’s birth.

8. We magnify God’s glory.

Corporate assembly to lift up our God and to give glory to His Name. I can’t object to this one.

Of course, Kauflin’s bio describes him as “a songwriter, worship pastor, and the director of worship development” (and you can find out even more about him at his blog), so it would seem corporate worship has a special place in his heart. He couldn’t do a lot of what he does without a church full of people.

Also, as I previously mentioned, he wrote a book on the topic, so he’s invested in promoting corporate practice.

Why am I posting a comparison between two widely different men and radically distinct worship venues?

In spite of what Kauflin said in his article, you can’t always find appropriate community just by popping into the first church you see as you’re driving down the street. Certainly doing so by going into Jolley’s group would (allegedly) be a recipe for disaster. There are some places that should never be called a “church”.

But even under more optimal circumstances, in places of worship truly devoted to Christ, it doesn’t mean you’re going to fit in. I can only imagine that Kauflin and I would have a “spirited conversation” if we got together and started talking about the Bible. I’ve already outlined in some detail how I see his reasons for going to church every Sunday to not always hold water.

Also, I’m kind of wary of famous Christians and their books because being a well-known Christian writer just means you’re communicating a popular message to the majority of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Charismatics, or whatever subculture of Christians to which the author belongs.

Which goes right back to what I said before about how Christians will tend to associate with other Christians with whom they have the most in common. I’m not sure how this would have initially played out when the Apostle Paul was “planting churches” in the diaspora, but it’s pretty evident today, at least in the western hemisphere.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt compelled to write all this. The world would go on just fine if I didn’t give expression to these thoughts. I’ve certainly got other things to occupy my time.

leaving churchI suppose I’m continuing to be a voice for the outliers, the ones who don’t quite fit in to a church…any church. While I find myself sometimes missing certain aspects of going to church (I said I loved a good sermon and I enjoy discussing/debating the Bible, though this almost always gets me in trouble), in addition to how my being a church-goer impacts my Jewish family, even after my two-year sojourn in a church, I never fit in, and both church and I decided to get a semi-amicable divorce.

Kauflin says worship matters. For some of us, it’ll have to matter alone. The alternative spans the range from awkward to ghastly.

Do Christians Really Have 1050 New Testament Commandments?

There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under 69 headings. They cover every phase of man’s life in his relationship to God and his fellowmen, now and hereafter. If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.

-from the Christian Assemblies International website

Jesus commanded us in the second half of the Great Commission to teach others to observe ALL that He has commanded us. We first need to know the commands ourselves well enough so that we can teach others to observe them.

-from the Biblical Research Reports website

1050Really, is this a thing? I first saw a reference to “1050 New Testament Laws” on Facebook (someone had shared this meme in my timeline) and I was really surprised. So naturally, I “Googled” it so see what else I could find.

Besides the two above-quoted websites, a number of other dodgy online “resources” showed up including discussion groups at City-Data.com, ChristianForums.com, and RedHotPawn.com. I didn’t examine any of these sites in-depth and I haven’t read each and every one of the 1050 “commandments” (if they are commandments), but at first blush, I suspect that the list consists of a combination of teachings found in the Torah (and as such, they aren’t unique to the Apostolic Scriptures) and individual exhortations of Paul’s offered to specific populations concerning unique situations (as opposed of 1050 eternal, universal commandments that are either added on to the Torah mitzvot or that are supposed to replace them).

I did, more or less, accidentally find one flaw at Christian Assemblies International. Under the category “Seven Things to Avoid,” item three says “False Science” and references 1 Timothy 6:20, which they quote as saying:

Oh Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.

“…oppositions of science?” I don’t remember that.

Ah, but that’s the King James Bible translation. My preferred translation, the NASB, states:

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” …

Sorry. “knowledge” and “science” aren’t the same thing, so no sale KJV. In fact, the vast majority of other versions of the Bible translate the word referred to by the KJV as “science” as “knowledge”.

I suspect these so-called “New Testament Laws” are all equally bent, twisted, and mutilated to say what the Bible doesn’t really say.

But why? Why go through all the trouble? Isn’t it enough for mainstream Christianity to say that grace replaced the Law and all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll go to Heaven?

under the lawA quick Google search couldn’t tell me who originally compiled this list and why, so I don’t have a definitive answer at my fingertips.

But even a quick scan of some of the other “commandments” tells me they suffer woefully from lack of context issues. For instance, under “Alcohol” on the Bible Research Reports page:

1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet [sic], the hope of salvation. (emph. mine)

Most Bible translations do say “sober,” but some translate the same word as “clearheaded” or “serious” so it doesn’t automatically have to be sober as opposed to intoxicated. This does reflect a typical Christian bias against the use of alcohol in almost any degree, which again, makes me question the validity of the so-called “New Testament Laws”.

On the same website, under “Church Service,” I loved this one:

John 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is not “church,” so I don’t find something Yeshua (Jesus) said about a very specific situation he encountered in the Temple to have a universal application to all non-Jewish Jesus worshipers (i.e. Christians) everywhere.

There was a section called “Commands — Old Testament” which listed exactly seven different passages, three from the Gospels and the rest from the Epistles. There’s no explanation accompanying this list, but I have to assume the writer/compiler intends that these are the only commandments from the Torah that survived Jesus “fulfilling the Law”.

Ironically, the list includes Matthew 5:17-19 which is the strongest evidence that Yeshua did not come to abolish (fulfill = abolish) the mitzvot but rather to illustrate living them (as a Jew) to their fullest. However, both Galatians 5:1 and James 2:12, taken out of context, seem to declare that the Torah is extinct post-crucifixion and resurrection, so they fit the traditional Christian doctrinal narrative.

communionThere’s a category for “Communion,” which, when the Gospels and Epistles were being composed, didn’t exist, not to mention one about “Denominational Differences”. I love this:

Mark 9:38-39 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. (39) But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Denominations, as Christianity understands the term, did not exist when the above-mentioned fellow was casting out demons in the name of our Rav, so this certainly illustrates a creative application of these verses.

As one commenter at discussion group quipped, “It is impossible to keep 1,050 commands let alone 613 O.T. ones that you can’t do!”

Of course, he’s wrong that you can’t perform any of the 613 mitzvot. There are a subset of some 200 odd mitzvot that observant Jews perform today. However, I’d tend to agree, if the general Christian position is that God gave the Torah commandments to the Jewish people just to prove no one can be righteous by the performance of good deeds because there are just too many of them (and this is a complete distortion of the focus and purpose of the Torah), then expecting “saved by grace” Christians to perform 1050 commandments is just insane.
I am truly at loss as to why any corner of the Church would make this stuff up, but if any one out there is frustrated that non-Jewish Yeshua disciples don’t have commandments of their/our own, it looks like you have enough, according to the sources I’ve cited, to stuff a proverbial Christmas goose.

Personally, I’ll stick with the simplicity of a life of holiness. It provides quite enough to keep my hands full, and I’m convinced I’ll never do it very well.

A Life Like That

I wrote this blog post some months ago wondering if I’d ever publish it. Given recent events, now seems like a good time.

The final verse of this parashah uses the words…[which] literally [mean]: “This is the Torah,” in reference to the laws of tzaraas. Sifsei Kohen understands this to be teaching us an important remedy: if one has brought down upon himself the Divine punishment of tzarras, he must cleanse himself through the study of Torah. The Torah is a fire of ruchniyus, spirituality, and fire has the capacity to purge impurity (as we see in Bamidbar 31:23). However, simply learning the Torah is not sufficient; one must absorb the Torah into his very being…Even if one learns the Torah, his task is not yet complete. If he internalizes what he has learned, he will come to purity; but if he does not, the potential for tumah still lurks.

-from “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” p.177
for the Shabbos study of Parashas Tazria
A Daily Dose of Torah

I realize this was written with a Jewish audience in mind and the concept of elevating oneself by the study and internalization of Torah isn’t meant to be applied to me, a non-Jew. Nevertheless, I think I can take a wider principle out of this lesson. Please bear with me.

I think what I quoted above is what separates me from the friend I have coffee with on alternate Sundays. He has been urging me to push myself further in my relationship with Messiah. But when he describes his own experiences, the spiritual depths he explores, and even the periodic visitation by the presence of Hashem, I’m flabbergasted.

I’d make a very poor Pentecostal. It’s difficult for me to process statements such as “…and then God talked to me and told me…”

Over eighteen months ago, I wrote a blog post called Standing on the Jewish Foundation of the Bible. I wrote it in response to some of the conversations I was having back then with the head Pastor of the church I used to attend. He was also pushing me, but in his case, to adopt a more classic Christian identity and understanding of the Bible.

As it turns out, I make a very poor Fundamentalist or Evangelical too. It’s not where my head and my heart lie. In my reviews of the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul Within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, I’ve been reminded of how a more Judaically-oriented view of the scriptures makes a great deal more sense to me than what Christianity has to offer.

studyThis is why I study the Torah and the rest of the Bible from the perspective of the “Messianic Gentile,” or at least I have been up until now.

But as the above-quoted passage and my friend attest, studying is not enough. Knowing but not doing is probably a bigger sin than mere ignorance or even being on the wrong track.

In the review I mentioned above, I hope I’ve shown that the traditional way the Church understands Paul represents the “wrong track.” Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve rendered this option. But at least many people within the Church are behaving from their convictions, performing acts of charity, feeding the hungry, giving comfort to the grieving, all the “weightier matters of Torah” the Master valued so highly.

Even if you (or I) believe we possess “the truth,” or at least a more historically and culturally accurate and factual interpretation of Paul and the writers of the rest of the Bible, what good is it if you (or I) don’t do something about it, and don’t allow our personalities, our very souls to absorb, integrate, and radiate the lived experience of Torah?

I think a life like that looks like this:

The Torah gives us an important rule in relationships: Even though you are suffering, you have no right to cause suffering to others. Whatever your distress, you still need to speak and act with respect. If you are ever in a bad mood, be especially careful not to speak or act to others in a way that will be distressful for them.

(see Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler – Michtav MaiEliyahu, vol.4, 246; Rabbi Pliskin’s “Consulting the Wise”)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Be Respectful, No Matter What”
Daily Lift #320

It must also look like this.

I think the litmus test for whether or not you (or I) have integrated Torah principles into our identity and lived experience is stress. Even the morning commute into work can be abundantly revealing (I know it is of me). A person who has internalized Torah principles; internalized the teachings of the Master, will react to various stresses in a different way than one who studies but has not absorbed that study.

James (Ya’akov), the brother of the Master, said it well:

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:6-8 (NASB)

faithDoes faith have something to do with whether or not one internalizes what he or she has learned of Torah? I think so. Think of it more like faithfulness or especially trust. I think we all encounter circumstances where we find it’s hard to let go. Like the character Marlin in the film Finding Nemo (2003), our fears overwhelm our ability to trust, even Hashem, and to let our God open His hand and provide for our every need. If we don’t trust completely, then we can still study Torah and be illuminated, but we will never become the illumination.

The Master said to his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16), but our light will not shine if we cover it over with doubt and distrust. On some level, I must not be letting go. I’m comfortable with the study but not with what comes after it. I like my spiritual plateau, but I will never be who Hashem wants me to be unless or until I let go, trust my Master’s teachings, and let them truly transform every area of my life.

Study is supposed to lead to transformation, but not unless I first break down the wall. I know that wall is mine to break down and not God’s. The next move in this little chess game is mine, not His. But just like the Knight in Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1957 film The Seventh Seal, I find myself at the losing end of that game and the inevitable consequence is my extinction. However, unlike the Knight in the film who, like many of the other players, dies in a plague and goes off into eternity dancing with a personified death, my end is not the end of life, but the end of any attempt at community and belonging.

the seventh sealThere is no going back. What I think is one thing, but what I feel is something beyond my abilities to grasp. I will post a general reivew of the Nanos/Zetterholm volume on Amazon rather than finish writing my essay-by-essay reviews here.

Frankly, given the last few blog posts and especially this one, I think it’s best for me to take some sort of hiatus, at least from blogging if not from any sort of involvement in Messianic Judaism as a social venue online or otherwise. While I still think it’s the most Biblically sustainable method of study, as far as me, an individual human personality goes, I don’t think I belong here anymore than I belong in a church.

If God still wants anything from me, He knows where to find me. I seem to be making a mess of finding him, at least through any method I’ve attempted thus far.

For any individual or group I have upset or offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness, though I don’t expect I deserve it. I wish you well in your endeavors, but I seem to need to travel a different path than yours.

It’s time for me to reduce my search to simply me, the Bible, and prayer. After that, let God make his judgment.