Tag Archives: relationships

Review of Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church, Part Three

Snakebites are common to humanity. Jesus said, “Offences come” (Matthew 18:7 KJV). Offenses do come! The tragic thing is that they often come through the people with whom we are closest.

Pastor Chris Jackson
from Chapter 6: Snakebites
Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church: Opening the Door to Healing (Kindle Edition)

Continued from Part Two of this review as well as a brief commentary on Hebrews 10:23-25.

Pastor Jackson leverages Paul’s misadventure with a viper (see Acts 28:1-10) metaphorically to describe the injuries some people receive from others within Christian community. He also renders an interesting interpretation of the serpent in Gan Eden (Garden of Eden).

Of course those closest to us have the greatest capacity to create the deepest wounds (although Adam and Eve’s serpent and Paul’s viper weren’t all that close to them relationally). In this, I suppose my unfortunate set of final transactions with the Pastor at the church I used to attend applies since we had become friends over our two-year association. We haven’t spoken or exchanged so much as an email since that time and I doubt we ever will.

Interestingly enough, Pastor Jackson unwittingly gives a hint to one of the reasons:

In it, Peter quoted the Lord, saying “I lay in Zion a choice stone…a stone of stumbling and offense…” That doesn’t sound right does it? God lays a rock of offense in the middle of His Church?

-ibid

Jackson clearly equates Zion with the Church, but Zion isn’t the Christian Church, it’s Israel, the Jewish people. Even for Christians who say they are opposed to supersessionism or what is also called replacement or fulfillment theology, once you say “the Church” was born in Acts 2 and that it’s the Church that, from that point forward, has all of God’s attention and not Israel, at the very least, you have diminished the power of God’s promises to Israel and elevated the (Gentile) Christian Church, to which God made no promises at all.

No, it’s not to say that God does not have a redemptive plan for the Gentile members of the ekklesia of Messiah, He just doesn’t have plans for this thing we’ve come to know as “the Church”.

That’s my stumbling block.

I’m convinced that the number-one cause of spiritual death among Christians is not outright demonic attacks, but snakebites.

-ibid

I’m convinced that a lot of Christians attribute way too much trouble in their lives to evil supernatural forces and not enough to their own human natures. I think Jackson agrees with me here, but the whole concept of “demonic attacks” bothers me as even a potential causal element in our lives. People are all too well equipped to hurt each other. We don’t need outside help.

Do you know anyone who was bitten and then walked away from the faith?

walkingSure. We probably all do if we’re willing to admit it. I recall a conversation I once had with my former Pastor. As a younger man, he knew a Pastor in another country, a truly Godly man, or so he thought. Later in life, this man left his wife and took up with a younger woman. Pastor is a Calvinist and believes God pre-selected certain people for salvation. Since one discovers these people by their “fruits,” Pastor was convinced, based on this fellow’s lifetime history for the most part, that he was “chosen”. Pastor was baffled at the sudden and complete turn around and didn’t really know how to explain it.

My opinions on Calvinism aside, I’m a firm believer in free will. God is open and available to all human beings but He won’t hold a gun to our heads (so to speak). Although He empowers us to accept the offer to come to Him, we still have the power to refuse it or even once accepting, later refusing it.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

2 Peter 2:20 (NASB)

I suppose all this answers Jackson’s question above. Coming to God is our choice, but ultimately, so is leaving Him.

Satan’s snakebites usually come from other people.

-Jackson, ibid

See my comment above about Christian attribution habits.

Shifting to Chapter 7: Tattooed: A Tale of Two Piercings:

There’s another form of tattooing in effect, though, that we can’t see with the naked eye. Oh, we can certainly see it–we can discern it–but it’s more of an internal tattoo. It’s a tattoo of the soul.

This is another metaphor of Jackson’s for our wounds or “the state of our soul.”

Next, Jackson spends a lot of time comparing “brokenness” and “woundedness”:

This is such an important question because Christlike brokenness can be used by God to powerfully catapult us along the path of our destinies, while woundedness will derail us before we ever begin.

Broken AngelHe explains that there is no brokenness without wounding but you can be wounded without allowing yourself to experience “Christlike brokenness.” Brokenness allows a person to submit himself to God, while being wounded but unbroken is all about focusing on the pain and not the healer.

A broken man embraces correction. A wounded man fears correction.

How many of the Proverbs wisely advises accepting correction and discipline?

I’m actually intimidated by the question because I don’t like the answer I find in myself. One way to interpret all this is to submit to God by submitting to the Church. I know the Pastor at the church I used to attend probably believes that I need correction in the sense that I need to accept his doctrine over my current viewpoints.

But could I have handled all this any differently and would the outcome have resulted in something more positive coming out of my church experience?

There are four end of chapter questions and I think only the last one is relevant.

Are you committed to moving from woundedness to brokenness so that the beauty of the Lord can shine through you?

Jackson continues this theme in Chapter 8: It’s Hard To Be Beautiful:

Likewise, it takes time and focused effort for us to move from a wounded state to a broken one.

Assuming this speaks to me at any level, I guess there’s hope if I find that I’m currently wounded but unbroken.

And then he said:

As I meditated on those words, I felt the Lord speak to my heart.

I won’t quote what Jackson said the Lord said, but not being a mystic, I have a hard time believing that this Pastor heard, word for word, exactly what he wrote in his book. It’s another one of those things about certain Christian circles that don’t make a connection. On the other hand, some of the tales of the Chasidim are truly fantastic.

Quoting Psalm 23:3, Jackson says the Lord restores the soul, but practically in the same breath, he states:

…some people carry the sting of divorce, bereavement, betrayal and rejection for a lifetime without ever experiencing lasting freedom.

True. Also…

…the more we love the offender, the deeper the hurt we experience.

life under repairWhich is why some divorced couples can still have awful encounters with each other, even years after parting.

Which leads to…

…some wounds will go away over time, but others require outside assistance to be healed.

Also, true. Some wounds will heal with the simple application of a band-aid while others need stitches to stop the bleeding. Sometimes a computer just needs to be reboot, and on other occasions, it’s time to bring out the repair tools and open the machine’s cover.

We must repent. We must choose to forgive. We must process the hurt.

Very true. Especially the last part since I do an awful lot of processing here.

“I’ve seen enough in the church to make me an infidel,” the man said, “but I still have a made-up mind and determination to see what lies at the end of a successful Christian race!”

Which goes back to what I said before about free will. We can have a bad time in church and we can experience circumstances, something like the readers of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews, that prevent us from having fellowship as they were prevented from the prayers and offering korban at the Temple.

While my circumstances can’t be presupposed in Jackson’s narrative, he mentions another chronic situation encapsulated in the title of a sermon: “The Crisis of Spiritual Fatigue.”

I read a blog post just the other day about fatigue, being worn out, and needing a break.

Jackson says “one of the first things to go in our spiritual lives is the awe and wonder of simply knowing Jesus and being who He’s called us to be.”

I remember when I first became a believer, I was thrilled just to be able to read the Bible and go to church. It was all bright and shiny and new, like I had found an amazing treasure. I couldn’t wait to read more of the Bible, go to Sunday school, and learn more about Jesus and the “new man” I was in him.

I suppose it was the same way when I transitioned into the Hebrew Roots movement. All the “Jewish stuff” was bright and shiny and new, and I loved putting on a tallit and kippah and (very, very badly) saying the prayers from the little beginner’s siddur we used to use.

But like that new car smell eventually fades, so does the newness of faith. We have to put away all of the “stuff” and come to an understanding of God (or with God) on our own terms.

There is a difference between a life of faith and a life of community. Sure, they’re supposed to overlap significantly, but if you were stranded on the proverbial desert island, all alone with just a Bible, would you eventually lose faith because you had lost community, or would you gain faith by continually being alone with God without pesky humans there to get in the way?

keyboardInterestingly enough, on his blog, Pastor Jackson recently wrote about “holding patterns.” While he was addressing a person’s relationship with God being put on hold, I could equally apply his words to the relationship between an individual and religious community. Of these “holding patterns,” Jackson says in part:

They break us…or they make us. And just as our favorite Bible heroes taught us, how a person handles their holding patterns determines whether or not they’ll land in safety.

I’m like that man on the proverbial desert island except I have Internet access and a refrigerator. I’m not really alone, but if God does intend for me to be in community, then I guess I’ll have to wait for it, or make it myself through virtual means.

I’ll continue my review soon.

Intermarriage After Thirty Years

jewish-christian-intermarriageFirstly, I must tell you how impressed I was by your honesty and sensitivity – especially, by what you wrote at the end about not wanting to convert just for him.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

First of all, even though it is most gracious of you to agree to raise his children as Jews, there really wouldn’t be any point in it, for the children of a non-Jewish mother, (as wonderful as you may be) are not Jewish, even if the father is Jewish. This is the law of Judaism as has been handed down to us generation to generation for thousands of years.

So there is really only one of two choices.

A sincere conversion on your part, or breaking up as difficult as that may be.

From the “Ask the Rabbi” series
“Intermarriage Correspondence from a Non-Jew”
Aish.com

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a day or two, you know that I often quote from Jewish religious or philosophical sources (and often from Aish.com) to create a foundation from which I then “dovetail” and expand upon to make some sort of daily commentary. As an intermarried Christian (my wife is Jewish), I have an attraction to Jewish thought and perspective as they apply (surprisingly enough) to my faith.

But that doesn’t mean Judaism and I don’t butt heads more than once in a while. The Rabbi’s suggestion to the (formerly) Catholic young woman about possibly marrying her Jewish boyfriend is just one of those “head butting” occasions.

But it’s a difficult discussion. I know the dangers intermarriage and assimilation pose to Jewish continuation and particularly on the children produced in such a marriage. The journey my own children have had to negotiate has not been an easy one and although they all self-identify as Jews (and are Jews according to halachah because their mother is Jewish), they are barely, if at all, observant of the mitzvot. I can’t say that my own home is observant either, through I’d like to support and encourage my spouse to live a more traditionally religious Jewish life. I can’t though, because she is “in charge” of her Jewishness, I’m not.

But when I read the “Ask the Rabbi’s” comment regarding the setting aside of a relationship between a Jewish and non-Jewish couple, I began to see red. My wife and I have been married for over thirty years and I have no intention of disrupting our relationship for the sake of a string of advice, even though it is dedicated to Jewish survival.

Hillel the Sage was able to remain patient even when someone purposely tried to provoke him. He felt no irritation whatsoever about any matter. There was no arousal of anger at all. This is what it means to be completely free from anger.

The level of Hillel is the level we should each strive for as regards to not getting angry. Of course it is not easy. But the first step is to increase your motivation and be totally resolved to conquer anger. Then feel joy with every drop of improvement!

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #755: Being Free From Anger”
Aish.com

It can be tough enough being intermarried and interfaith without reminders of what could have gone better and how many Jews are less than thrilled about our union. It’s not particularly apparent that we’re intermarried when we’re in public together, but I sometimes get the same feelings that an interracial couple might get when they receive stares from people who disapprove of “mixing the races” (and yes, it still happens). While I understand the perspectives of the Rabbis and realize the pitfalls of intermarriage, this is still my family and she is still my wife and all this is personal, not just some theoretical or theological puzzle to solve.

The irony is that it is because I’m intermarried that I dearly cling to my current perspective on the relationship of believing Jews and Gentiles in the body of Messiah, what we mean to each other, our roles, our understanding of Torah, and who we are in God. I’ve written whole commentaries based on our marriage such as Being Married to the Girl with the Jewish Soul and Cherishing Her Yiddisher Neshamah. Being a couple isn’t just a marital status, it is part of my very identity and woven into the fabric of my being.

julie-wienerThis isn’t to say that we don’t argue or that we have a perfect marriage. We aren’t perfect. We get on each other’s nerves and we both have our “moods,” but after over three decades of living together, sleeping together, raising three children together, playing with our grandson together, eating, cleaning, fighting, traveling, and making a home together, we’re together.

Among other resources, I follow Julie Wiener’s (her photo is on the left) In the Mix blog at The Jewish Week. Although I don’t have anything like the same intermarried experience Ms. Wiener and her husband (and children) have, it sometimes helps to realize that not only are there other intermarried couples out there, but that they’re not doing so badly either. Nearly a year ago, Wiener wrote a blog post called Shiny Happy Intermarried People.

The ending of that article goes like this:

Reminds me of when my “In the Mix” column first came out six years ago and a woman wrote to complain that it was bad enough I was writing in The Jewish Week about being intermarried, but the fact that I was happy — and actually smiling in my photo — was truly offensive.

Now, as you can imagine, I took issue with Alina using The Jewish Week as an example of media writing only negative things about intermarriage. Especially because the column she links to is Jack Wertheimer’s, which was a guest column and which I, a Jewish Week editor, responded to on The Jewish Week website, on THIS BLOG, which has as its sole focus realistically depicting intermarried life.

Not that I’m offended or anything, Alina. Just intrigued.

For any of you readers, Jewish or Christian (or anyone else) who are offended that I’m intermarried, have been intermarried for thirty years, and plan to stay intermarried to the same Jewish woman for the rest of my life, I am truly sorry. When we got married, neither one of us were religious and we didn’t give a second thought to what it would all mean ten, twenty, thirty or more years down the road. Maybe we should have, but we didn’t. Who knew?

But we are who we are and while you may complain about us, I insist that you don’t dismiss us. We’re here and we’re real. There are a lot of us and what was done cannot be undone, for good or for ill. Hopefully, we’ll have a seder in our home this year. I plan on going to Easter services at my church for the first time in many years. That may seem like a strange combination or an awful contradiction but it’s not. A Christian/Jewish intermarriage may not be the ideal circumstance and you may not want to experience it yourself. Our intermarriage has its pitfalls and trapdoors, but our marriage and our family isn’t strange or bizarre or bad. It’s just our life and its just who we are.

And God is still her God and my God and what He has brought together let no one tear apart.

Oh, and our thirty-first wedding anniversary is on Wednesday, April 3rd. Deal with it.

The Unintentional Shabbos Christian

Shabbat candlesIf a non-Jew lit a candle [for himself], a Jew may also benefit from it. If the non-Jew lit it for the Jew, this is prohibited.

-Shabbos 122a

The Mishnah discusses the case where a gentile lit a candle on Shabbos. If he lit it for himself, the Jew may sit in that illuminated area and benefit from the light. However, if the gentile lit the light for the sake of the Jew, the Jew may not benefit from the light.

There is a variance among the Rishonim in explaining the reason why it is prohibited for a Jew to benefit from labor which a gentile performed (on his own) on Shabbos for the sake of the Jew. Tosafos ( ד”ה ואם ) and Rambam (6:18) explain that if a Jew would be allowed to have this labor done for him, we are concerned that the Jew would then give outright instructions to the gentile to do the labor for him. Rashi and Ran (Beitza 24b) write that it is simply prohibited for the Jew to benefit from labor done for him on Shabbos.

Ritva writes that according to the understanding of Rambam and Tosafos, it might seem that we have arranged a rabbinic precaution (not to benefit from labor done by a gentile) to safeguard another rabbinic injunction (lest we come to give instructions to a gentile outright). This seems to be in violation of the general rule that we do not establish גזירה לגזירה . Nevertheless, the correct explanation is that this is simply a one-staged enactment. The sages set into motion protective measures to ensure that the Shabbos remain special. In order to set it aside and different from the other days of the week, it was necessary to disallow benefiting from the labor performed by a gentile, either when he does it for us by himself without being asked, or whether he does it when asked to do so. These guidelines are all part of the same approach to preserve the sanctity of Shabbos.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Preserving the sanctity of Shabbos – through speech”
Commetary on Shabbos 122a

It’s been a particularly cold and icy winter here in Southwest Idaho. Fortunately, it’s warmed up some lately to near normal temperatures for this time of year, but in the past two weeks, lows have been in the single digits and into negative numbers while highs never got anywhere near above freezing. Ice on the roads and sidewalks has been particularly hazardous, and I know of many people, including several in my family, who have fallen and become injured.

But most winters, it’s just the typical matter of shoveling snow off the driveway and sidewalks and being cautious when driving to and from work. I was remembering a typical “snow shoveling” winter of a few years ago that was like the one I just described while reading the above-quoted commentary. It was on a Sunday morning (before I went back to church) and I had some time on my hands. I had finished shoveling the snow off of my own drive and sidewalks, but on Sunday, it can be a chore for some of my “church-going” neighbors to shovel and get ready to go to services. So I decided to just keep going and to clear the driveways and sidewalks of a couple of other houses near me. I know one neighbor in particular whose family goes to church early and generally has a full day of it. I shoveled off their drive and walk while they were gone.

One of the things about me doing such things is that I don’t like to be noticed (kind of hard when you’re standing in the middle of someone’s driveway with a big, orange snow shovel, I must admit). But I thought I’d gotten away with it. I thought no one would figure out it was me. That is, until my neighbor came over later that afternoon to say “thanks.” He was appreciative because Sunday is indeed a very busy day for him and he didn’t know when he’d be able to get around to shoveling his snow. It was a big help.

I don’t say all this to make myself sound like a big deal, though, but I do have a point. Be patient.

Now imagine my neighbor is an Orthodox Jew and all this is happening on Saturday instead of Sunday. Further imagine that my neighborhood is within walking distance of an Orthodox synagogue (it’s not, but let’s pretend). Now let’s say I know my neighbor and his family are Jewish and I know that they walk to shul on Saturday morning. They’ve probably already left for services and I know they won’t be shoveling snow on Shabbos. As a Christian, it would be a nice thing for me to help them out and shovel their driveway and sidewalk.

But will they see it that way? Sure, they didn’t ask me to do it for them (which would be forbidden), but technically, they can’t benefit from my labor if I did it to benefit them. Could they even walk on the sidewalk and the driveway I shoveled for them upon their return from shul? Frankly, I don’t know, but in my eagerness to be “a good Christian neighbor,” I may have actually caused more of a problem than a help.

Why am I saying all this?

shoveling-snowLast week, I wrote a large number of “meditations” that addressed how Jews who are Messianic may view a life of halachah in relation to their discipleship under Messiah Yeshua, Christ Jesus. It’s a controversial topic, certainly for Christians and even for a number of Jewish people, but it’s one that needs to be discussed. In reading the commentary on Shabbos 122a just a few days ago, I started to wonder how “Christian generosity” and Jewish observance of Shabbos could unexpectedly collide, producing undesirable results. Granted, the Christian in my imagination was just trying to be a good neighbor and lend a hand, but especially an Orthodox Jewish neighbor might have a fundamentally different way of looking at such “help.” This is what happens when we don’t understand each other.

Granted, in this day and age, people who live in the suburbs next to each other or across the street from each other, don’t get to be friends or acquaintances the way we did when I was a child. Often people don’t even wave “hi” to each other when they are both out in their front yard or passing each other on the street.

But if part of being a Christian is loving your neighbor as yourself, and chances are you know a little bit about yourself, how can you be sensitive to your neighbor’s needs if you don’t know what those needs they are. Snow on a driveway and a sidewalk may seem to tell you want your neighbor requires, but you can’t really go by superficial appearances. Who is your neighbor? How can you help him?

If you, as a Christian, have a Jewish neighbor, and you want to be a good neighbor, it might help if you got to know him a little bit. However, we Christians have other Jewish “neighbors” who may not live near us, but who are connected because our “salvation comes from the Jews.” (John 4:22). Whether your Jewish neighbor is someone who lives near you or, in a more expansive sense, is your “neighbor” because he is a child of God like you, how can you become aware of his needs, and of Israel’s needs, if you don’t know what those needs are?

Addressing my last question, Boaz Michael recently posted a new blog article called Three Kinds of Churches pt.2. It includes a section called “Churches that align with Israel” and the description of such churches (and Christian people) may well be part of the answer we need.

Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.

-Pirkei Avot 2:5

Adapting Hillel’s famous statement, we also can’t be a good neighbor, until he have stood in his place, or perhaps just started a conversation with him.