Tag Archives: Healing

The Hope of Healing in the Bilateral Ekklesia

I am getting interested in Judaism – reading the Bible, and trying to practice its many laws. But I am having a hard time accepting the Talmud and all its laws. Isn’t it enough just to do what’s written in the Bible?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for writing. This issue has bothered people throughout the ages, and in fact many break-away Jewish groups (Karaites, Sadducees, and even the Christians) did so over this very point.

But it is a huge mistake.

-from the “Ask the Rabbi” column
“Validity of Oral Law: Tefillin Example”

I know I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about how (or sometimes “if”) non-Jews can have a place within social and communal Messianic Judaism, but I think it’s time to return to the Jewish perspective (as best I can perceive it, my not being Jewish) for a bit. Maybe it’s there that we non-Jews can find some illumination if not orientation.

I know a lot of non-Jews (and some Jews) within both Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism have issues with the Oral Law and the wisdom and rulings of the Rabbinic Sages. The argument seems to center around sola scriptura and the sufficiency of scripture vs. recognizing the authority of the Sages to make halachic rulings for their various branches within Judaism, which apparently even Yeshua (Jesus) did.

The Aish Rabbi I quoted above undoubtedly agrees that the Oral Law is “a thing” and that the Jewish Sages were well within their God-given rights to set standards of observance and behavior for the various Jewish communities historically, and said-rulings are still considered authoritative among certain streams of Judaism today (it’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but a full examination of the Talmud and its influence on observant Judaism is well beyond the scope of this blog post).

But how does all that work in Messianic Judaism which, as Derek Leman says, is “a Judaism committed to Yeshua” and “…a Judaism [with the] core purpose…[of] provid[ing] a home for Jewish followers of Yeshua where we may live out our covenantal relationship with God based on the Abrahamic promise, the teaching from Sinai, and the revelation of God which is in Messiah Yeshua”?

Jewish movements such as the ancient Sadducees and the modern Karaites reject Rabbinic authority, so Jewish recognition of such authority isn’t universal. Given that Messianic Judaism is a Judaism that embraces Messiah Yeshua (whose multitude of Gentile members have historically rejected not only Rabbinic authority but Judaism as a valid religious and faith expression), what can we believe about the relationship between Messianic Judaism and Rabbinic halachah?

RabbisI know what you’re thinking. No, I don’t really, but it’s my favorite line of dialog from the old, 1980s TV show Magnum, P.I.. That said, I suspect some of you may be thinking that since historically the Sages have rejected any and all claims of Jesus possibly being the Messiah, and have treated any Jew who came to faith in Christ as an apostate, how could Messianic Judaism embrace, in any sense at all, what the Jewish Rabbis have to say, let alone consider the Talmudic rulings as having authority over the lives of Jewish disciples of Yeshua?

Let’s start with this:

Though the Sages of the rabbinic tradition are legitimate bearers of halakhic authority, they are not the only leaders with such competence. As the embodiment of heavenly Wisdom and the living Torah, Yeshua himself is the ultimate earthly source of halakhic authority. While he acknowledged the authority of some leaders in the wider Jewish community, he also formed his own messianic subcommunity and bestowed upon its designated leaders – the Apostles – the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:16–19; 18:18). In doing so, Yeshua was authorizing the Apostles to regulate the life of the messianic community according to their Master’s interpretation of the Torah and according to the guidance of his Spirit who writes the Torah on the hearts of his disciples (Matthew 28:18–20; John 14:26; Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 3:2–3).

-from “Halakhic Authority: Halakhic Authority, the Bilateral Ekklesia, and the Wounded Two-Fold Tradition”
Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council

So we know that not only did Yeshua affirm that the Pharisees of his day were the proper heirs, in some sense, of Moses and thus had valid authority to make halachah for their communities, but that he also conferred halachic authority to James and the Jerusalem Council, making their legal decisions binding on the Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master. We see a clear example of the Council issuing a binding legal decision in the form of Gentile status within the ancient Jewish religious stream of “the Way” (Acts 15), which they only could have done through the authority of their Master, their “Rebbe” Yeshua.

Apostle Paul preachingUnfortunately, that chain of Messianic Rabbinic authority was broken early on as ancient Messianic Judaism went underground and finally disappeared for nearly two-thousand years.

The same web article goes on to say:

The disappearance of a messianic ekklesia within the Jewish people also damaged the halakhic and prophetic capacity of “catholic Israel” – which remains incomplete without the presence of Jewish disciples of Yeshua at its very heart, and without a living connection to the multinational ekklesia which has been joined by the Messiah to Israel as its extension among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, in their many diverse historical expressions and traditions, the Jewish people and their recognized leaders have retained their legitimate halakhic authority, and God continues to operate among them and through them in order to shape their life in accordance with the Torah.

This seems to imply that the MJRC, representing a Judaism devoted to Messiah, also recognizes the historic Jewish leaders and their halachic authority as legitimate, at least in certain areas.

But in the next section of the article, “Halakhic Authority and the MJRC”, we find:

Within the context of the Messianic Jewish movement and its prophetic role, the MJRC sees itself as called to serve a particular halakhic function. The MJRC does not view itself as the only halakhic authority in the Messianic Jewish movement, nor does it claim to be the movement’s highest halakhic authority. It does, however, believe that it has halakhic authority for its own immediate sphere and for those beyond that sphere who look to it for guidance. The MJRC believes that its role is to be a pioneer in the development of a halakhic way of life among Messianic Jews, and thereby to stimulate serious halakhic thinking and practice within the movement as a whole.

Tikvat IsraelSo “yes” to Messianic Jewish halachah, at least for those synagogues and even individuals within the direct sphere of influence and authority of MJRC. I agree that there is no one central authority for all Jews in Messiah, but then again, there’s no one central authority for any of the other Judaisms as well. As one of my readers sometimes says, “Judaism has no Pope.”

Now here’s something interesting:

As is the case for the authority of our movement as a whole, the legitimacy of our claims cannot be determined unequivocally in the present but awaits a divine judgment to be rendered in the course of future events. If our claims are justified over time, then we are an integral part of a process in which the bilateral halakhic authority of the apostolic tradition is being restored, the bilateral ekklesia is being healed, and a corporate Torah-faithful witness to Yeshua is restored to the Jewish people.

This is a very wise statement. There’s no absolute claim of authority but rather a provisional one. While it seems the Rabbis involved in the MJRC are acting in good faith, only Yeshua, upon his return, can lend full legitimacy to MJRC halachic authority and the decisions they make for their communities.

But then again, I suspect that will be true of all the different streams of Judaism, both ancient and modern, as one of the things Messiah is supposed to do is to teach Torah correctly. Since, for most observant Jews, “Torah” includes both the Written and Oral Law as well as the entire compilation of Talmudic literature, Yeshua will likely make many rulings on the decisions arrived at by the legitimate Rabbinic authorities across the ages and what those rulings mean for Jews and even non-Jews in the Kingdom of Heaven.

two pathsHowever, that last quote also spoke of healing the “bilateral ekklesia,” that is, healing the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in Messiah, presumably clarifying our relationship and roles regarding one another.

And this is what I’ve been attempting to write about over the past several blog posts.

The MJRC article on halachah concludes:

We cannot know how the bilateral ekklesia would have developed had its Jewish corporate expression survived and thrived. Similarly, we cannot know how Jewish tradition would have developed had the Jewish disciples of Yeshua been accepted and respected by our entire people at an early stage of the development of Halakhah. We do not strive to articulate or re-create what might have been.

However, we cannot avoid engaging in the task of shaping today’s Messianic Jewish practice from the textual sources and other resources available to us today. This task places enormous demands on Messianic Jewish leaders, requiring of us a serious devotion to study, prayer, discussion, and corporate decision-making in a spirit of humility and charity. At the same time, we believe that the resurrected Messiah dwells among us and within us, and we rely upon his ongoing guidance as we seek to carry on his work of raising up the fallen tent of David within the people of Israel (Acts 15:14–18; Amos 9:11–12).

That conclusion isn’t particularly satisfying in terms of mapping out how this healing of the Jewish and Gentile bilateral ekklesia is to come about, but then again, it’s very likely that they just don’t know.

And so it comes back to that same troubling question, what does this all mean for us, the Gentiles in or near Messianic community (I say “in” or “near” even for those of us who do not directly have “Messianic community” but who nevertheless choose to study from that perspective)?

Our Master Yeshua took the loaves and fish. He told the twelve, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each” (Luke 9:14). “The Gospel of Mark reports that the people “sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties” on “the green grass” (Mark 6:39-40). “There was much grass in the place” (John 6:10). The green grass confirms that the story occurred in the spring when the slopes of the hills around Lake Galilee are still green. The scene invokes the Psalm of the Good Shepherd: “I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:1-2).

The Master had the people recline as they might do at a formal banquet or Passover Seder meal: “He commanded them all to recline (anaklino, ἀνακλίνω).” The reclining posture suggests the messianic banquet when the righteous will “recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). For those with eyes to see, the miraculous feeding of the multitude was a foretaste of the messianic banquet. Not unlike the miracle of transforming the water to wine, Yeshua offered a preview of the kingdom and God’s miraculous provision.

-from “A Prophetic Picnic”
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

fish and breadI certainly hope the folks at FFOZ don’t mind my lifting this quote from their newsletter, but I find it quite valuable in illustrating that both Jews and Gentiles are invited to the formal banquet in the Messianic Kingdom.

On another one of my blog posts someone commented that he’d like an invitation to join that banquet, to which I replied that we have such an invitation. It was quoted above but I’ll repeat it here for emphasis:

I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 8:11 (NASB)

Of course, the Master was looking at the endgame, so to speak, when all has been accomplished according to prophesy, but what about in the meantime?

That’s the tough part. Like the MJRC article said, if Messianic Rabbinic authority had continued unbroken throughout history, and it stood with the same God-given authority as the other Rabbinic sages and their rulings, things would look very much clearer.

But while the MJRC Rabbis and other organizations within larger Messianic Judaism recognize the need for healing between Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master within (and beyond) Messianic Jewish space, we really are stuck in figuring out what that should look like in the here and now.

But, as ProclaimLiberty related:

I can’t give you a recipe for inviting a personal revelation. The emissary Yacov wrote (Jam.4:8): “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you doubtfully-minded.” However, the most famous revelations depicted in the scriptures were instigated by HaShem. Moshe wasn’t looking for a revelation, as far as we know, when he noticed an odd phenomenon on a desert mountainside, that turned out to be a bush that burned but did not burn up, whence the voice of HaShem began speaking to him. Rav Shaul had other things on his mind until a bright light spooked his horse to throw him before reaching Damascus, whence another revelation ensued. You can find other such examples for yourself. Regrettably, my own example will not likely help either, because I wasn’t looking for revelation when HaShem confronted me one night; and if someone could have warned me in advance what it would entail, I might just have tried very hard to be someplace else rather than to go through that experience. But subsequent experience lets me suspect that those who seek diligently and honestly to enter into the kingdom-of-heaven mindset, meditating on the teachings of Tenakh and on apostolic reflections of them, may just begin to experience similar insight. Who can tell what visions or dreams might ensue.

Sometimes God finds us when we’re not looking for Him. However, it is more likely we’ll recognize that encounter if we invite Him, rather than sit around waiting for His invitation to arrive in our mailbox, so to speak.

Formal halachah for the Gentiles will just have to wait. However, if we turn to Him, He will turn to us.


Beloved of the soul, Compassionate Father, draw Your servant to Your Will; then Your servant will hurry like a hart to bow before Your majesty; to him Your friendship will be sweeter than the dripping of the honeycomb and any taste.

Majestic, Beautiful, Radiance of the universe, my soul pines for your love. Please, O God, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance; then she will be strengthened and healed, and eternal gladness will be hers.

Yedid Nefesh, as quoted from the Siddur

Recently, a friend of mine leant me his copy of a book called Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith, written by Stanley Howard Frodsham. It’s a short biography of an early Pentecostal evangelist and faith healer who operated in the early to mid-twentieth century.

In reading this book, you’d think that Wigglesworth was a walking, talking, healing vendor. It seems that whoever he encountered in any circumstance, even among crowds of thousands and tens of thousands, he could heal just about anyone of anything with a mere touch. Some of the stories are beyond fantastic, such as a man who had no feet being touched by Wigglesworth and then told to go to a shoe store and buy a pair of shoes. It wasn’t until this man put his stumps into a pair of shoes that his feet miraculously grew back in a few seconds.

I have to admit, while reading the book (I consumed most of it in a single setting), I wasn’t feeling too good and I was reflecting on my own various (though minor) physical discomforts, and wishing that one such person did exist who, through a mighty apprehension of faith, could heal any human deformity, discomfort, and disease.

But it wasn’t the “healing miracles” that impressed me. Assuming that his biographer was accurate and truthful. What I admired about Wigglesworth was his faith and dedication to God. According to the book, he wasn’t in it for the money and never amassed great wealth in the manner you see many televangelists do today. In fact, he tended to (but not always) shun the rich who wanted his healing and gravitate to the poor and the desperate. Of course, Wigglesworth grew up in poverty and hardship and it’s likely he identified with those he helped.

Supposedly, the only book he read was the Bible, which while laudable also seems extreme (as an avid reader, I rather believe that books are good, depending on the material). He also said that while feelings were unreliable, a simple believing faith in God and daily devotional reading of the Bible was necessary. Not exactly the picture you get of Pentecostals from some of their critics.

My friend leant me this book, which was a gift to him from one of his daughters, before he’d even read it himself, because of my recent blog post on healing faith. I think he’s trying to tell me that I’ve limited the “gifts of the spirit,” and if I’m to believe everything written about Wigglesworth, I must be doing so in the extreme.

white-pigeon-kotelBut as I continued reading, while I didn’t always subscribe to the various miraculous claims attributed to Wigglesworth, his love of God and unswerving faith and devotion to the Lord of Heaven did touch me. In the world of the blogosphere, it’s easy to get into your head and forget your soul, as if faith and a life dedicated to God were a mere intellectual exercise, an academic pursuit.

While men like John MacArthur may seek to purge any sort of emotional attachment one might have to God from the realm of the Christian faithful, I don’t think we can truly experience faith as an intellectual pursuit alone. I was reading my morning prayers, which today included Yedid Nefesh, and was particularly taken by the passion of this song. It speaks of a man who longs for God as a deer might pant for water, nearly dying of thirst, begging for even a drop of what returns life, not just to the body but to the soul.

How can someone turn to God, broken in spirit, humbled before Majesty, covered in iniquity, and not feel anything? How can we turn to God at all if we don’t believe He is the lover of our souls?

That’s what impressed me about Wigglesworth.

Although, I wouldn’t give Frodsham’s book as high praise as I find on Amazon, I can see what the other readers are attracted to. While it would be of great benefit today if such healing miracles were available to us through one faithful man of God, it’s not, in my opinion, Wigglesworth’s most defining characteristic, nor the focus of what we should desire.

In fact, I just read a story of a Jewish man who drew ever closer to God in faithfulness, even when he was not cured.

I said in my previous blog post that it is the healing of the sick and injured spirit we should seek above all else. The healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles were used to bring the sick of heart to faith by healing their bodies. Wigglesworth seemed to do something similar, but it is faith, belief, devotion, love and duty to God that is important…for Wigglesworth just didn’t have a believing faith, he acted for the benefit of countless others, that is the crux of who we are as disciples of the Master.

While I was reading, my wife was doing some paperwork and listening to an Israeli Jewish singer named Liel Kolet. Kolet was singing Leonard Cohen’s signature chart “Hallelujah”, which I found myself (softly) singing to myself as I was driving to do an errand later last evening. When I got back home after talking to God, I visited YouTube and listened to Kolet’s interpretation of the song, but found Cohen’s to have more heart. The words weren’t exactly what I was thinking about or feeling, but somewhere between the lyrics and the music, I found my faith rejuvenated.

I can thank Wigglesworth, Frodsham, Leonard Cohen, and especially my friend Tom for that.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


The Challies Chronicles: John MacArthur and Joni Eareckson Tada

macarthur-strangefire-confJohn MacArthur opened the Strange Fire conference, and then, for the second session introduced Joni Eareckson Tada as a friend and former member of his church. She was at the conference to share her testimony of living as a quadriplegic who has prayed for, but not received, a miraculous healing. As MacArthur said in his closing comments, if anyone has the faith to be healed, it must be her. In a sweet and spontaneous moment, Joni called MacArthur to the stage and, hand-in-hand, the two sang a couple of stanzas of “O Worship the King” together. I have been to a lot of different conferences, but that will now rank as one of my all-time favorite moments.

-Pastor Tim Challies
“Strange Fire Conference: Joni Eareckson Tada,” October 16, 2013

This is the second part of my Challies Chronicles series, an analysis of Pastor John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference as “live blogged” by Pastor Challies.

I’m also more or less “live blogging,” in that I’m writing as I’m reading, giving you my impressions as they occur. I want to be fair to MacArthur and I feel that, using Tim Challies as my source, someone who, as far as I know, should be sympathetic and supportive of MacArthur’s views, I am avoiding those bloggers and other pundits who tend to be “anti-MacArthur” to accomplish the purposes of this project.

All that said, being fair doesn’t mean I always have to agree with MacArthur or the other presenters at Strange Fire.

Joni Eareckson Tada

I assume that by having Ms. Tada present her testimony that MacArthur was attempting to refute faith healing in the present age. While I agree that there are just a boatload of charlatans out there who claim “the healing power of Jesus,” and who say they can cure anything from acne to brain tumors by the laying on of hands (and giving a bunch of money as a “love offering”), there seems to be more to Tada’s story:

Even today she often has well-meaning charismatics who come up to her and pray for her healing. Though she never says no, she does always ask them to pray for specific things and then highlights character issues. Will you pray for my bad attitude? Will you pray for my grumbling? She means to show them that she is far more concerned with indwelling, remaining sin than chronic pain and legs that do not work.

She went on to describe a trip to Jerusalem and going to the very place where Jesus had healed that paralyzed man so many years ago. And there, in a moment alone, she found herself praying to God to thank him for not healing her, because a “no” answer to her requests for physical healing had purged so much sin, selfishness, and bitterness. That “no” answer left her depending more on God’s grace, has given her greater compassion for others, has reduced complaining, has increased her faith, has given her greater hope of heaven, and has caused her to love the Lord so much more. She sees the joy of sharing in his suffering and would not trade it for any amount of walking.

What do we really want to be healed of, our physical problems or our spiritual problems? Do we need to be healed of cancer or given the “medical procedure” of a circumcised heart?

And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Matthew 9:2-8 (NASB)

struggling_prayOnly God forgives sins and so I also believe only God can miraculously heal. Even if we say, as I can only believe MacArthur says, that the age of miraculous healing is done and that God does not heal anymore in a supernatural sense, I have a question. Why do we pray for people when they are hurt or sick?

Actually, I have no idea if MacArthur prays for the sick, although I certainly hope he visits them because I don’t think that type of kindness we see in the Bible was ended when New Testament canon closed.

I go to a fundamentalist Baptist church. I imagine MacArthur would be comfortable worshiping there. And yet, in the bulletin they pass out to me as I enter the doors of the church for services every Sunday morning, there is a multi-page paper containing many, many prayer requests.

At the top of the list, we are to pray for our President, our other Government representatives and so on. Then there’s a list of missionaries we should pray for. After that, there are multitudes of requests from people in the church about others in the church, family members, friends, and so on, most of whom suffer from terrible medical situations.

When I go to Sunday school after services, the teacher begins class by asking for prayer requests. Again, usually people’s medical problems are brought up, people facing surgery, people with chronic illnesses, people who are dying.

Why do we pray for them if we don’t, on some level, want God to heal them? Sure, sometimes we pray for someone’s salvation. Sometimes we pray for someone who is in a spiritual crisis of one kind or another, but most of the time, we pray for people who are sick.

I know from my own experience, that most if not all of the terminally ill people I have prayed for have died. I know that’s cruel to say, but that’s my experience. Why did I pray for them? What was the point?

I can see how the whole “faith healing” process has been hijacked and abused and I most certainly don’t advocate for frauds and hucksters who prey upon the illness and weakness of others for financial gain, but I do take exception to the idea that we aren’t supposed to pray for people who are hurt (and I’m not quite sure MacArthur would actually advocate that position). I also take exception to the idea that God can’t or won’t heal someone supernaturally.

I don’t say these healings occur regularly or we can predict when they will happen. If they happen at all, they probably do so infrequently and without any way to know when a person will or won’t be healed. And yet we hope. And yet we pray. And yet we rely on God to have mercy, and beg Him to heal, if not the loved one who we know is about to perish, but our grieving soul when we are left behind and alone.

Yes, as we read Matthew 9:2-8, above all, God desires to heal the soul, to forgive sin, to bring about redemption, to circumcise the heart of stone and give the sinner a heart of flesh.

None of that means we like to see our loved ones suffer physically. None of that means we aren’t compelled to pray for them, to ask and even to beg God to cure a four-year old little girl of leukemia or some other horrible, life-threatening ailment.

Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:21-23 (NASB)

plead1It’s a terrible thing to think that God would cause a newborn baby to die because of the sins of his father. I’m not sure how else we can interpret the events about the child David and Bathsheba conceived together in the shadow of adultery and murder. But while the child was alive, David prayed and fasted and wept, but the child died anyway.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed by the name of the Lord.

Job 1:21

That has to be one of the most bitter prayers recorded in the Bible, and yet it is reflected in the grief of David and in the grief of anyone who has lost a loved one.

How can I not pray from the “brokenness” of my heart?

I think Ms Tada’s point was well made. I know that living with a long-term and severe medical problem can actually bring a person closer to God, can make the relationship stronger and more intimate. I’ve seen such a thing happen to a man I know. But it’s still a bittersweet thing. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to heal the injured or comfort the grieving. That doesn’t mean that sometimes, in accordance with His will, God doesn’t provide us with what we need, and even what we ask for out of His abundant grace, power, compassion, and pity.

I don’t know what MacArthur was trying to accomplish by presenting Ms. Tada on stage at his conference. What he accomplished, at least for me, is to remind me of how fragile life is and how we all rely on God to help us when our problems are so much bigger than we are. If MacArthur meant to indict the Pentecostal church for false advertising, I missed that part of the message.

Returning to the Tent of David: An Introduction

serpentThe serpent enticed Chavah by predicting beneficial outcomes. “Your eyes will be opened… The fruit will awaken a new desire and appreciation for the pleasures around you. It will be a source of intellectual benefit.”

Chavah longed for this new knowledge and exciting awakening, and she ate the forbidden fruit. She then used her persuasive powers to convince her husband to eat it as well.

Chavah’s downfall began when she expanded upon and distorted G-d’s command, which she did not personally hear.

-Chana Weisberg
“Woman and the Forbidden Fruit”

Beginning the Returning to the Tent of David series

This depiction of Chavah (Eve) and her interaction with the serpent casts her in a more favorable light than we typically see her by in Christianity. Rather than being disobedient and rebellious, she is either a bold explorer of new knowledge, or an innocent dupe of the serpent who physically pushed her in to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and after all, it’s not her fault because God did not tell Chavah directly not to touch the tree or to eat from it.

Chavah added the prohibition of touching the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent then forcibly pushed Chavah against the tree, and victoriously claimed, “See, just as death did not ensue from touching, so it will not follow from eating.”

In this way, the serpent introduced doubt into Chavah’s mind. It now became easier to dare Chavah to taste the forbidden fruit. He convinced her that G-d did not actually intend to kill her and Adam, but merely threatened them to intimidate them.

I know, I know. The Torah reading for Beresheet (Genesis) is behind us. Why do I continue to write about it now? Shouldn’t I be preparing my commentary on Noah? Be patient. There’s a reason.

That’s my ministry in a nutshell; it’s a not-so-interesting and rather Baptist-intensive story. I am eternally grateful for my family and for my Baptist heritage. God has used both to lead me to commit my life to Christ, to follow him with my life and to serve him through the church. However, the past eighteen months have opened up for me a more complete picture of who I am and where I came from. Through a series of circumstances, curiosity, and new friendships, I am being exposed to my Jewish roots. I have no doubt that all of these circumstances and friendships, and even my own curiosity that opened me up to the Jewish roots movement, are all God-ordained.

-Durwin Kicker
Senior Pastor at Marshfield First Baptist
From the Foreword (pg 10) of Boaz Michael’s book
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile

tent-of-davidYou may think it’s terrifically unfair of me to compare Chavah’s situation to Pastor Kicker’s. I’m not really, but it occurs to me that, at least in midrash, we all have something in common with the wife of the first man. When exposed to be brand-new world with seemingly endless possibilities, we want to explore. However, like Chavah, we may also have reservations, since some of the things that we are tempted to explore may not be what God wants us to investigate, even when we get a “helpful” shove.

God has used Boaz Michael and the ministry of First Fruits of Zion to impact my life in a profound way in a very short amount of time. It is my great honor and privilege to call Boaz my friend. His passion and love for Messiah and his gentle spirit have struck a chord in our church family which has served to open many of our people to our Jewish roots, God’s everlasting covenants with his people, and our place as Gentiles in God’s family through our Jewish Messiah.

Boaz’s desire is that this kind of loving impact will be repeated over and over again in church after church. I join with Boaz in saying, the church needs you! The church is good, yet the church needs to change. Each individual who comes to know our Jewish Messiah in his Jewish context can play a part in lovingly and patiently helping brothers and sisters in Messiah come to know him in this way as well.

-Kicker, pg 12

I reviewed Boaz’s book about nine months ago in several blog posts, the two most notable being Return of the Christian and Returning to Faith. I had read an advanced copy of the book months previously, and it was instrumental in overcoming my inertia and inspiring my own return to a local church.

And now it’s been nearly a year later. The progression through the Jewish holiday season and the beginning of a new Torah cycle seem a very good time to review my own “Tent of David” experience and to see how things actually have ended up (not that anything has really ended yet).

Pastor Kicker seems enthusiastic about pursuing the vision of the “Messianic Gentile” in the church by way of his friendship with Boaz but of course, he’s been in the church for quite some time and as Pastor, he is a fully integrated unit within that cultural, social, and theological construct. In other words, he “fits.” Boaz’s book speaks of “Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile.” For me as a recent “returnee,” what has been healed, if anything?

My perception of Boaz’s book (I can’t speak directly to his intent, nor would I ever try…this is my own opinion) is that there are two kinds of healing going on, at least in theory.

There’s the healing of the “Messianic Gentile,” the Christian (non-Jewish disciple of Jesus Christ) who often has left the church because of some emotional or spiritual injury or hurt (real or perceived) caused somehow by the Christian church or some of its members. Many people in Hebrew or Jewish roots congregations believe they have sought refuge in a “safe place” outside of “the Church” and continue to view church and people who identify as Christians as adversaries. Finding a mechanism to have the Hebrew/Jewish roots Gentile return to church in a safe manner and to share who they are with their fellow Christians certainly opens the avenue for healing between the parties involved.

Then there’s the more historic healing between the traditional church of Jesus Christ and the historic and Biblical Jewish Jesus and the Jewish and Gentile body of Messiah. A great deal of damage has been done to Jewish and Christian hearts, and that has sustained the separate trajectories believing Gentiles and the Jewish community (including Messianic Jews) have been traveling for twenty centuries.

church-and-crossA non-Jewish believer possessing a Hebraic view and even a passion for the “Jewishness” of Jesus, and one willing to communicate that with his or her Christian counterparts in a church community could facilitate a great deal of healing, ultimately between Christianity and Judaism. Certainly, great strides have already been made in this area between some churches and various expressions of Messianic Judaism, although a lot of work still needs to be done.

But what about me and what I’m doing in the small church I attend? I’d like to completely re-read Boaz’s book before venturing to answer that question in full, but I did want to keep my promise and at least introduce the journey I’m taking in returning to the Tent of David and Boaz’s vision of the healing of Christian and Jewish communities. His book speaks on a larger scope by necessity, but nearly a year down the road,  how has Boaz’s vision worked “on the ground,” so to speak. I can only lend my own single, small voice and my individual experience. As this series progresses, I’ll share my insights with you. Perhaps you will return the favor.

Gifts of the Spirit: Let Us Be Healed by God

new-heartThen he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.”

2 Kings 5:15

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Mark 16:15-18

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:26-29

In yesterday’s morning meditation I asked, “Why was Jesus resurrected from the dead but his wounds were not healed?” This question was part of Aaron Eby’s presentation Turn of the Age at the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) annual Shavuot conference. This year’s theme, as I’ve previously mentioned, was Gifts of the Spirit and addresses something that Messianic Judaism hasn’t given a lot of attention to historically: the understanding and movement of the Holy Spirit of God in Jewish thought.

As far as the purpose of the miracles of Jesus goes, you’ve probably already guessed, since I provided ample hints. According to Eby, “the reason for Yeshua’s miracles was so that people would know God.”

Think about it. It’s not as if only prophets of God or the Messiah could perform supernatural miracles.

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents.

Exodus 7:10-12

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message. And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the Lord speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”

Numbers 22:7-12

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.

Acts 8:9-11

As we see from the above-examples, miracles all by themselves don’t prove you’re a messenger from God. Plenty of evil men could do magic and Balaam was not only a great magician, but he even spoke with God!

But it wasn’t just that Jesus did miracles. Many (but not all) of the miracles of Messiah were signs, not only to fulfill what the Prophets had said about him, but to show the people that God cared about human beings.

sabbath-breaker-lancasterSeveral weeks ago, I reviewed D. Thomas Lancaster’s book The Sabbath Breaker: Jesus of Nazareth and The Gospels’ Sabbath Conflicts. Lancaster illustrates in his writing how Jesus did indeed perform miracles of healing on the Shabbat which did not involve life threatening injuries or illness. While this is a violation of Shabbat on one level, the higher principle of compassion and caring for human beings made this permissible. After all, “the Shabbat was made for man, not man for the Shabbat.”

So the specifics of Yeshua’s miracles were to fulfill the prophesies said about Messiah and to show that God does love His people Israel and seeks to draw them closer to knowledge of Him and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Matthew 11:2-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 3:1-5

According to Eby, “healing corresponds to God’s self-disclosure.” But how?

May the One who was a source of blessing for our ancestors, bring blessings of healing upon (insert names here), a healing of body and a healing of spirit. May those in whose care they are entrusted be gifted with wisdom and skill, and those who surround them be gifted with love and trust, openness and support in their care. And may they be healed along with all those who are in need. Blessed are You, Source of healing.

-Mi sheberakh
quoted from Jewishealing.com

It’s probably anachronistic to insert this modern Jewish blessing for “a complete healing from Heaven” into a discussion of the healing miracles of Jesus, but the principle most likely predated the written blessing by centuries or even millennia. If you’ll forgive my assumption here, we can then consider healing as both physical and spiritual and indeed, when someone is healed in one aspect, the healing can be for the “whole” person.

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

Luke 5:17-26

healingToday, it’s not uncommon in some Charismatic churches to lay hands on a person who is ill, to pour oil on them, and to pray for healing, but as far as I can tell, this is rather incomplete if all of the prayers are devoted to the person’s physical healing. When Jesus healed the invalid at the Bethesda pool at the Sheep Gate (John 5:2-9), he later, at the Temple, said to the healed man, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (John 5:14 NRSV)

I don’t think we can escape how healing is directly connected to restoring a person to both physical and spiritual health.

This is certainly God’s desire for all of humanity and what we see Jesus doing to heal people in the Gospels is only a taste of what we will see and experience in the Messianic Age. It’s as if with each healing and every other miracle Messiah performed, he was lifting back the edge of the covers, so to speak, and showing us just a hint of how the world will be when he returns in glory and power.

But what about the healing of Jesus himself? Why when he was resurrected in his “glorified body” was that body still full of holes?

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

John 20-19-20 (NRSV)

If Jesus had appeared without his wounds, it could have been said that the one who was resurrected was not the same person as the one who had died. By appearing alive to the disciples and to many other people with his wounds present and visible, it was established that the Jesus who had died was brought back to life, lived and walked among his people Israel, and was the same Jesus who ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Thus we have the confidence to know that we have a High Priest in the Heavenly Court who has also walked among men and who has lived a fully human life.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

I’m extending Eby’s teaching beyond what he actually said, but I do this to share with you what his words meant to me and how they impacted my thoughts and spirit rather than to just transcribe his presentation. For everything he and all of the other teachers said, you will be able to order an audio CD from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) when it becomes available.

But Aaron said something that ties into his message as I recorded it in yesterday’s morning meditation.

As we read of the miracles of Jesus and indeed, the many other miracles that are from God, we can come to know God as Naaman the Syrian did, that there is no other God but the God of Israel. We can then seek first the Kingdom of Heaven as an act of obedience to our King and to summon his return to us and the age of the healing of the world.


world-in-his-handsFirst, by having faith and trust in the God of the Bible and the Good News of the Messiah for all of Israel and the world. Then we must also be loyal to the King by adhering to his teachings and living an unswerving life of devotion and holiness. This life is lived by performing the mitzvot, each of us as we are called, the Jew and also the Gentile, repairing the damage done by the sins that caused the exile, first of all humanity from Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), and also of the Jews from the Holy Land of Israel. And what mitzvot are we to perform?

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Mark 12:28-34 (NRSV)

Love God. Love your neighbor. Heal the world physically and spiritually. Pray for the healing of Israel. Pray for the healing between Christian and Jewish people.

May the Messiah come soon and in our day.

126 days.



Healing the Enemy

healingIt is not incumbent upon you to complete the work.

Ethics of the Fathers 2:21

In economics, the bottom line measures success and failure. Someone who goes into a business venture with complete recklessness, yet makes a great deal of money, is considered a successful entrepreneur. Another person who was extremely cautious and applied sound business principles, yet went bankrupt, is considered a failure.

Unfortunately, we tend to apply these values to our personal, non-business lives. If things do not turn out the way we wish, we may think that we have performed badly. This is not true. If parents abuse and neglect their children, yet one child wins the Nobel Prize, or discovers the cure for cancer, they do not suddenly become good parents. On the other hand, if they did their utmost to raise their children well, yet one becomes a criminal, they are not necessarily bad parents.

We must understand that we have no control over outcome. All we can control is process, i.e. what we do. If we act with sincerity and with the best guidance available, then what we are doing is right.

Parents whose children turn out to be anti-social invariably fault themselves and may be consumed by guilt. Their pain is unavoidable, but their guilt is unjustified.

Humans do not have the gift of prophecy, nor do we always have the most accurate knowledge. We should hold ourselves responsible for that which we can control, but we should not hold ourselves responsible for that which is beyond our control.

Today I shall…

…try to realize that I must judge the correctness of my actions by how I arrive at them, and not by what results from them.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Adar 16”

There’s a lot going on here including the struggle to define what is good and what is bad, not only in our own actions, but in the actions of others. We all know our own intent when we say or do something, but even when that intent is good, especially on the Internet, our words can be taken in the wrong way and people can respond with offense and even hurt and anger, as if we had gone out of our way to try to injure them. On the web, that’s usually how we define an “enemy.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. –Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)

None of this is suggesting that Jesus or Paul wanted us to give a kiss on the cheek to someone who’s holding the barrel of a loaded handgun to our head. It’s not as if we are forbidden from defending ourselves in war or must allow ourselves to be beaten during a robbery attempt. We see Christ’s intent in his juxtaposing the words “neighbor” and “enemy.” Someone can be our “enemy” if they are our next door neighbor. Maybe we’re upset with them because they borrowed our favorite power tool six months ago and never gave it back, or they have a dog that barks half the night but refuses to quiet the animal. For whatever reason, our “neighbor” can become our bitter enemy and they can even say bad things about us and malign our character unjustly.

WrongThis happens a lot on the web and often in blogs and blog comments (and I’ve written about this many times before). While I haven’t been “stung” in a little while, in my readings this morning (as I write this), it occurred to me that misunderstanding and misinformation are rampant on the Internet, and disagreements or differences of opinion on a good many things, but particularly in the world of religion, have created many enemies from the body of our neighbors. Against my better judgment, I’m going to refer to a blog post by Judah Himango, his commentary on a sermon delivered at his wife’s church (Judah attends church with his wife on Sunday but considers his Hebrew Roots congregation, which meets on Saturday, to be his primary place of worship) which Judah calls My experience at church today, a friendly criticism of Pastor Troy Dobbs’ sermon on Jesus and the Sabbath.

In reading Judah’s commentary, I must say that I agree with him that the Pastor in question was not accurate, (in my humble opinion) and that his message from the pulpit reflected a very traditional supersessionist stance which we have often observed in the church historically. I have been fortunate to find a church and a Pastor who sees beyond the rhetoric and back into the Scriptures in a way that reflects what I believe to be the true intent of Jesus and the Apostles relative to Jews, Judaism, and the Torah (although we don’t agree on everything), but many other churches still have a long way to go. Does that make the particular Pastor at Judah’s church my “enemy” or any sort of enemy to those of us to disagree that “the Law was nailed to the cross and replaced by grace?”

Absolutely not. In fact, at one point in the comments section, Judah even defends this Pastor by saying, “Pastor Dobbs has much great teaching.” It’s only on certain points that Judah and Pastor Dobbs disagree; it’s not (I hope) a more general drawing of battle lines between Hebrew Roots and Christianity, as if they were mutually exclusive entities (although I’m disappointed to find out that Judah “posted [a] friendly criticism on the Church’s website, underneath their post for this particular sermon, and on the Church’s Facebook page, but they deleted both..”) I think we in the church should be big enough to take a few criticisms rather than assuming what we say will always be taken as “Gospel” by literally everyone hearing the message without question.

I don’t believe it Judah’s intent to say that only his perspective is correct and everything produced by any Christian Pastor is wrong (unfortunately, a number of people have commented on his blog who seem to have a more “adversarial” relationship with Christianity and the church), but it is all too easy for most of us to start making enemies between different factions of Christianity by pointing out where they (we) disagree and ignoring how much alike both sides actually are. It’s inevitable that we are going to disagree, particularly in the religious blogosphere, but then, what are we supposed to do about it? What did Jesus and Paul say to do in their words as I quoted them above? What did Rabbi Twerski say?

Today I shall try to realize that I must judge the correctness of my actions by how I arrive at them, and not by what results from them.

Said another way, perhaps we should try to realize that we must judge the correctness of the actions of others by how they arrive at them, not by what results from them. If we understand that our good intentions can be misunderstood, then we must certainly grant that same “grace” to others. No, it’s not like we have to agree with everything that everyone else says and we can certainly recognize and challenge error, but the fact that we disagree with someone and think they’re wrong about something doesn’t make them bad or evil, nor does it make them our enemy, unless we choose to decide that they are. churches

Pastor Dobbs isn’t Judah’s enemy and frankly, he isn’t mine, either. Extending that out from individuals to systems, it also doesn’t mean that the church is the enemy of Hebrew Roots or even Messianic Judaism (or any Judaism). Yes, there has been great enmity between Christians and Jews historically, and yes, sermons like those delivered by Pastor Dobbs have often been used to maintain the distance and to some degree, the hostility we sometimes experience between Christians and Jews. To deny the validity of Jews and Judaism within the confines of what once was a sect of Judaism is kind of crazy-making, especially if you think the scriptures support such a position.

But the answer to this problem isn’t to make enemies, to revile “the church,” or to believe that some other movement that exists outside of Christianity is the only valid expression of the worship of Messiah. The answer, or at least part of it, is communication, fellowship, and patience. This is why I thought it was rather poor form of whoever manages the church’s website and Facebook page to remove Judah’s commentary (assuming it was worded in a respectful manner). Of course, depending on the church’s policy on public communications, it might be a conversation that would better be conducted (initially) in private, but even that might not have yielded Judah a friendly and receptive audience.

What to do? There’s probably no one right answer for all people and all churches, but I think part of the answer is what Boaz Michael suggests in his book Tent of David. We need to persist in the church. We need to be present in the church. We need to be the change we want to see in the church, not by forcing our thoughts, feelings, and opinions down the church’s collective throat, but by living the sort of life we believe is right in relation to Jews, Judaism, and Israel. But this doesn’t mean we should act like Jews, Judaism, and Israel (and I said just yesterday, that the best way to preserve the safety and continuance of Judaism and the Jewish people is for we Christians to protect Jewish identity, especially from ourselves).

Paul says we must do our best, as far as it depends on our own behavior, to “live peaceably with all,” which includes those with whom we disagree. And when we disagree, our response is not to beat our “enemy” about the head and shoulders with a blunt instrument (such as a handy Torah scroll), but to “heap burning coals” on their heads by offering them acts of kindness, meeting their needs, and providing for their requirements. Part of that, for some of us anyway, is to show up at church every week, to attend Sunday School, to take a weekday evening class offered at church, to smile and be friendly, to make relationships.

No one is going to listen to us, especially in a disagreement, unless we’ve first established a relationship with them and we’ve demonstrated that we are committed to being part of the church community. Even if we go on a more or less regular basis, if we are going as if we’re just guests and not part of the church, who will want to listen to us? Why will anybody care? They don’t think we care, so why should they?

If you want to inspire change, you have to demonstrate love. This isn’t just one group trying to convince another group to change their minds or to acknowledge that our group may have a valid point. The ability to commit and to show love has much wider and deeper implications.

The purpose of every human being is to serve his Creator, and that is a service of great joy: “I, puny mortal and decidedly finite being, serve with my deeds the Infinite Creator of All Worlds! I am bound to the Source of Life from birth, and all the many raging waters of this world cannot tear me away from that bond. Even if I sometimes fail, I may always return and in a single moment reconnect all my soul.”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Infinite Connection”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

communityI disagree with Judah that it will always be a mistake to ask anyone who supports Jews, Judaism, the Jewishness of Messiah, and the centrality of Israel to become part of a traditional church (though I admit, it isn’t for everybody). After all, Judah and his wife are part of a church and yet that doesn’t seem to have inhibited his ability to express a differing opinion. I’m a part of my church, and the content of my blog posts should provide ample evidence that I haven’t been “brainwashed” or otherwise inhibited from holding and expressing my individual perspectives. Boaz Michael, who wrote Tent of David, and his wife Amber regularly attend a small Baptist church in their community and yet, he is not only able to write such a book, but his Pastor actually wrote the book’s introduction, endorsing Michael’s views.

The church isn’t a building or a denomination or even a theology. The church is people. The church is the body of Messiah, all of us, each and every individual who acknowledges that Jesus Christ is Lord and Yeshua HaMoshiach is ani or ha-olam (light of the world). Yes, the body of the Messiah seems hopelessly shredded, fragmented, scattered, and dismembered, with the bloody parts strewn to the four corners of the globe. But God has promised to gather the Jews who are called by His Name back to Israel (Zechariah 10:6-8, Micah 2:12) and He has also promised to gather the Gentiles from the nations who are also called by His Name (Zechariah 14:16-19, Amos 9:11-12).

One day the body of the Messiah will be One just as God’s Name is One. The body will still have “parts” even as an individual human body has many parts, but all of those parts must work together in harmony if the body is to live and to maintain good health. So to it will be for the body of Messiah. Yet, we in that body will only wither and die if we say that we reject another body part or that our own part is the only thing the body needs. Can a person live without a heart or a liver? Can the lungs say that they are the only body part the person needs and all of the other parts are “wrong?”

Even when Israel has behaved in total disobedience, God called her back to Him like a groom calls his virgin bride. How can we do any less when we perceive disagreement between ourselves and some other part of the church? I know the analogy is far from perfect, but to believe otherwise is to deny that Christ has a body of those who are called by his name or worse, it’s to say that in our own opinion, we have judged only ourselves to be the “true church” and that all congregations who don’t agree with us right down to the finest theological detail, are not part of the larger Messianic community.

Seize the vision of hope, healing, unity, and community. The beginning of restoration of the body of Christ starts with one person reaching out a friendly hand to another, even when they’ve disagreed, and calling him “brother.”