Tag Archives: living

Living With God Everyday

What we are talking about here is developing Messianic Jewish Household Spirituality. At Intefaithfulness we are doing this through an initiative called HaB’er (“The Well”). As resources of time, finances, and personnel allow, we will be providing materials, instruction and encouragement to Jewish and Intermarried households who recognize the priority of developing “The Three-Stranded Cord” of ever-deepening engagement with Jewish life, Yeshua-faith, and with God’s Presence. Our mission statement is “Living well at home in Jewish life with the Messiah.”

-Rabbi Stuart Dauermann
“Toward a New Solution to Current Problems in the Messianic Jewish Religious World”

In Christianity, the main location for worship and prayer is the Church. In Judaism, it’s the home. Rabbi Dauermann points out in his article that, for Yeshua-believing Jews, whether they are in the Church or in the Messianic Jewish synagogue, they were “shaped” by American evangelicalism and thus, tend to be institution-oriented rather than home-oriented as are other religious Jews.

I’m not writing to comment on Jewish religious praxis, whether in the Messianic arena or otherwise. I’m here to write about the rest of us.

Actually, I can’t count myself as one of the Gentiles I want to discuss since, for a lot of reasons, the “practice” of my faith in the home is affected by the presence of my Jewish wife and children, none of whom are “Messianic”.

But I think the points Rabbi Dauermann brings up about the Messianic Jewish movement could be adapted to Jesus-following non-Jews, whether we call ourselves Christians, believers, “Messianic Gentiles,” or anything else.

churchFor a lot of us, our faith consists of going to church on Sunday, which includes the worship service, the sermon, and Sunday school. Then, if we’re really ambitious, there are programs, usually offered on Wednesday evening, in which we can participate.

But what about the rest of the time? What about our day-to-day lives?

In this, I think particularly an Orthodox or perhaps Conservative Jew might have an advantage.

Oh, Christians wouldn’t consider it such. I recall being in a Sunday school class a few years ago and hearing the teacher remark how we are so fortunate not to be “under the law” anymore (not that we ever were), and having been freed by the grace of Jesus Christ.

But free to do what? Play a few holes of golf after leaving church services and going out to lunch? How many Christians even say grace before eating if they’re in a public place?

Jewish practice may seem cumbersome to many non-Jews, but it has the advantage of continually reminding the Jewish person that God is always present. If you wear a kippah in acknowledgement of God being above you, your awareness is a persistent as your apparel.

Add to this all of the blessings to be said on a wide variety of occasions. If you were raised in an observant Jewish home, you started learning this practice in childhood, but for a Jew who was raised secular and became religious as an adult, there is probably something of a learning curve. Nevertheless, the message seems to be that a Jew is always obligated to acknowledge God in everything.

An observant Jewish life doesn’t occur just on certain days of the week or only between the hours of such and thus, it occurs from the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night.

Modeh AniAbout the only thing I’ve allowed myself to carry over from my past is reciting the Modeh Ani (in English) when I discover I’m awake in the morning and about to get out of bed. It’s a basic confirmation that I owe each day of my life to God.

The day-to-day religious practice of a Christian or otherwise religious non-Jew is not well-defined. We don’t have the rich history of tradition of the Jewish people to draw upon. Sure, some non-Jews have chosen to adapt bits and pieces of those traditions in their lives, but we don’t share Jewish history and, in most cases, Jewish community, so it seems at least a bit out-of-place.

I should say at this point that I’ve met Christians who have fully-realized and completely integrated lives of faith. Every thought and action is directed to the service of Christ and to people around them. However, I wouldn’t consider this a very common practice, more’s the pity.

But returning to practical praxis, among the very first non-Jewish Yeshua-followers who had learned from Jewish mentors, such as the Apostle Paul, their day-by-day behavior probably looked pretty “Jewish,” since it was the only model they had available, but nearly twenty centuries have passed and that connection has long since been lost.

Some congregations and other collections of Jews and Gentiles who are devoted to Yeshua as Messiah are attempting to reinvent that relationship, but it’s pretty inconsistent. I think I recently mentioned how fragmented the body of Messiah happens to be, and I don’t see it becoming any more unified in the near future.

But regardless of our religious orientation and our access to community of any kind, we still, as individuals, have a responsibility to not only maintain our awareness of the God above our heads day-by-day, hour-by-hour, but to act out of that awareness. For the non-Jewish believer, as I’ve already said, there isn’t a well-defined set of behaviors and traditions for us to draw upon. Nevertheless, we can do something. We just need to be more deliberate and maybe more creative about it.

followIf we are walking in the dust of the footsteps of our Rav, so to speak, what should we do?

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB)

Do kindness everyday. No, you don’t have to save the world every hour on the hour, but you can take advantage of your opportunities, even in very tiny ways. Pick up a bit of litter and throw it in the trash. Hold the door open for someone. At this time of year, there are plenty of people ringing bells in front of stores taking in donations. Drop your loose change into the bucket. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of getting mad at them or competing with them on the road, let them have their way. Maybe they have a really good reason for being in a hurry.

A few days ago, I came across a news story about a homeless Jesus statue that is being erected in numerous communities. The concept and application are controversial, and while I agree that $40,000 per statue could be better spent actually sheltering the homeless, feeding them, and clothing them, the symbolism invoked, for me, the quote from Matthew 25.

homeless Jesus
Photo: Kelly Wilkinson / The Star

Jesus is already homeless, and poor, and hungry, and needy. He is because we have homeless, poor, hungry, and needy people in our communities. If we wish to serve our Rav and to “do what Jesus would do,” then the Bible makes it abundantly clear how to respond.

But what about this?

If the world of Messianic Jewish believers is to be established, sustained, renewed and passed on from generation to generation, the efforts of religious school, seminary and congregation will fail unless we begin at the center: the home. It is for this reason that Jewish religious discourse terms the home a Mikdash M’at, a little holy sanctuary. This is the center. This is the microcosm from which blessing proceeds to the macrocosm of life, and socially, this is the seed from which the Kingdom of God will grow in the Messianic Jewish context, or not. Similarly, we find in Scripture that it is at the center, the Holy of Holies, where holiness is most concentrated and from which it radiates out into the community of the people of God and to the wider world. Think of the design of the tabernacle in the wilderness and each of the First and Second Temples, each termed a “Beit Mikdash.” In Jewish life the home, the mikdash m’at, is the Holy of Holies from which spiritual identity and vitality radiates out into the world and daily life. Apart from this center, all is empty religious noise and clamor, gongs and cymbals, and too often, as we will admit if we are honest, smoke and mirrors.

This is how Rabbi Dauermann ended his essay, with a plea to re-establish Messianic Jewish homes as Jewish homes, making them the “Holy of Holies.”

I’m not sure how this is done in non-Jewish homes. I’ve known a few Christians who make a little “altar” in their homes, putting a cross, a Bible, and other religious objects on a table to be the center of family prayer.

I’m not particularly keen on building “altars,” but the idea of family prayer and family Bible study time seems to be a good start.

Moon and StarsI don’t have any practical suggestions beyond what I just mentioned, and as I’ve already said, this isn’t an option for me personally, but if somehow it were possible to treat our own homes as sacred places, to realize that God dwells among us as we eat dinner, watch TV, help our kids with their homework, read our Bibles, read anything else, surf the web, answer text messages, then maybe, just maybe we’d act differently in our own homes…and everyplace else.

A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.

-Jewish proverb

A Transformational Life

collapsingSo anyone who hears these words of mine and does them, I will compare to a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the streams flooded, the winds blew, and they touched that house, but it did not fall, because it was founded upon the rock. But whoever hears these words of mine but does not do them, I will compare to a foolish man who built his house upon sand. The rain fell, the streams flooded, the winds blew, and they encountered that house. It fell, and its collapse was great.

Matthew 7:24-27 (DHE Gospels)

I was reading the various portions of the Bible related to Torah Portion Yitro on Shabbos and the recommended reading (from First Fruits of Zion/FFOZ) for the Gospels was Matthew 7:1 – 8:1. I’m not going to copy and paste or manually type the text for such a large portion of scripture into this “meditation” (you can click the link I provided and read it yourself), but I must say that as I finished reading it, I realized that this section of Matthew could actually be expressing a single thought. If you haven’t done so already, please read that particular part of scripture now and then continue reading here. It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Finished? Good.

Do you see what I mean? Look at what the Master is teaching.

Jesus starts off by telling his disciples and anyone else who was listening how to do tzedakah or charity, mainly in secret rather than making a big show of it for others to see. He delivers the same message about praying and gives us a simple model of a prayer. Again, he says the same thing about how to fast and reminds us of where our true wealth lies. Speaking of treasure, he defines the relationship between a believer and money and also how we need to trust God for our needs. Interestingly enough, in the DHE translation, Matthew 6:33 goes like this:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his tzedakah, and all these things will be added to you.

Tzedakah isn’t just giving to charity. The underlying sense of this Hebrew word communicates performing acts of justice and righteousness…in other words, doing good for other, which is much more than just donating money or goods.

He instructs his audience not to judge and connects how we judge others with how we’ll be judged by God (and that should be a frightening thought to many of you…it is to me). He talks about answers to prayer and trusting God. He gives us a basic rule about how to treat others using how we treat ourselves as a guide. He warns us about false prophets, and I’m sure you realize there are plenty of those in the Christian world today. Then he says something amazing and more than a little terrifying:

Not everyone who says to me, “My master! My master!” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but rather, the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. It will be that on that day many will say to me, “My master, my master, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name do many wonders?” Then I will answer them, saying, “I have never known you. Depart from me, workers of evil!”

Matthew 7:21-23 (DHE Gospels)

Recently, someone commented on one of my blog posts that, “Christianity is not about right belief or right thinking or even right behavior; Christianity is about right relationship…” I’m sure the people who the Master says he will send away will also think they had a “right relationship” with Jesus and will be absolutely shocked to find that they were wrong. But what happened? I mean, these people, according to what Jesus says, were prophesying in Christ’s name, driving out demon’s in his name, and performing many wonders in his name. How could they do all that and still have the Master say to them, “I have never known you. Depart from me, workers of evil?”

I’ve had several conversations with my Pastor and one of the things we’ve discussed is salvation, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. What may surprise you is that he believes that not everybody in the church should be considered a Christian or “saved.” It makes more than simply raising your hand when asked if you will allow Jesus to enter your life or answering an altar call to really make you a disciple of the Master. If your life isn’t transformed as a result, then nothing has changed and you are still in exactly the same state you were in before you “accepted Christ” as your Lord.

So if just saying “yes” and just “believing” doesn’t do it, what does transform you? Actually, the better question is, how do you know you’re transformed?

fruit-treeGo and read Matthew 7:1 – 8:1 again. Jesus is describing a transformed life or maybe it’s more accurate to say, a “transformational life.” We don’t just change once and then get stuck, like flipping a light switch from off to on. We are, or should be, constantly changing and growing in wisdom and in the Spirit.

In Matthew 7:15-20, the Master teaches on how to spot a false prophet by the fruits he produces, but I think his advice works in spotting a false believer too, even if we happen to be one of them. Remember, some believers are going to be surprised and dismayed that the Master sends them away and even calls them (us?) “workers of evil.” I think that even though some people will be capable of performing wonderful acts of goodness, kindness, generosity, and even some miracles, that they won’t really have a living, growing, connected relationship with God. Maybe they think that “doing” is all that’s required or more than likely, maybe they’ll believe that believing is enough.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

James 2:18-20 (ESV)

It looks like a transformational life requires both faith and “walking the walk.”

A number of changes have been going on with me lately and I can only conclude that God is trying to get my attention. He’s got it. I realize that my own life hasn’t really been very “transformational.” Like I said, I don’t think such a life is either there or not all the time like an on/off switch, but I do think, to extend the metaphor, that my light has been pretty dim, or at least not as bright as God intends it to be. I’m not going to outline some multi-step plan of mine for letting my light shine brighter, but within my thoughts and feelings and actions, I am starting some changes.

I haven’t set much time aside for prayer, which I think makes a difference. Also, I haven’t been as dedicated to acts of tzedakah as I know I should be. If there is something transformational going on with me, it needs to be more visible, especially to me.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski has this to say on such a life.

“Master of the world, Who reigned before anything was created.”


The prayer Adon Olam is the opening prayer of the morning service; some congregations also recite it at the close of the evening service. It is also included in the extended version of the prayer upon retiring.

Adon Olam’s being both the opening and closing prayer is similar to the practice of beginning the reading of Genesis on Simchas Torah immediately after concluding the last chapter of Deuteronomy. There, we indicate that Torah is infinite; like a circle, it has no beginning or end. So it is with prayer, which represents our relationship with God. Since God is infinite, we never reach a finite goal in relating to Him.

Indeed, the cyclical natures of prayer and Torah not only indicate that there is no end, but also that there is no beginning. Secular studies have levels of graduation which indicate that one has completed a certain level. In Torah studies, we do not complete anything. Indeed, each volume of the Talmud begins with page two rather than page one, to teach us that we have not even begun, let alone ever finish.

Growth in spirituality has no limits. The symbolism in the cyclical format of Torah and prayer is that we cannot say that we have even reached the halfway mark in spiritual growth, much less the end. This realization should excite us, not depress us, because our potential is infinite.

Today I shall…

try to understand that regardless of how much I think I may have advanced in spirituality, I have hardly even made a beginning.

lightThere may be a very fine line between being a sheep or a goat and I don’t want to find myself on the wrong side of the line. It’s not that I’m just being selfish (but yes, I am thinking about myself), but that I really do what to serve God and live out my high-sounding ideals. I’ve said that a life of faith isn’t like a light switch but there definitely is an “on” and an “off” involved. Ultimately, like sheep and goats, you are either one or the other, you are either a disciple of the Master in a lived, experiential way, or you are a poser.

To borrow a line from Rabbi Twerski, today I shall…

…start to live a more transformational life and bear the type of fruit that gives evidence to me and to the world that I am following in the footsteps of my Master.