Tag Archives: Tent of David

Collapsing the Tent of David

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18 (NASB)

Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.

Acts 21:26 (NASB)

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:5-6 (NASB)

You’re probably wondering what those different portions of scripture have in common. Actually, relative to my experiences last Sunday, quite a lot.

The topic of both the sermon and the Sunday school class at church was Acts 21:15-26. It was a source of a great deal of frustration for me, but I have to be thankful to Pastor Randy for cluing me in about something first.

He reminded his audience of the great accomplishments of the Jewish people and Israel across the centuries, and made sure that we all got the idea that God didn’t do away with the Old Testament (Tanakh), the nation of Israel, and the Jewish people.

He also let us know that, in the debate over whether or not Paul did the right thing by paying the expenses of the four men under a vow at the Temple and offering sacrifices, over half of those historic and modern scholars upon whom Pastor depends for his research strongly believe that not only did Paul make a mistake, but that he sinned by participating in the Temple rites.

Fortunately, Pastor doesn’t agree with that opinion (and neither do I) and in listening to various people conversing after the sermon, I was relieved to hear that most (but not all) of the people around me have the same opinion as Pastor.

But Pastor kept repeating that offering sacrifices doesn’t atone for sins, it never did. This reminded me of time after time during our previous private discussions, when talking about the continuation of Torah observance for the Jewish people including Jewish believers, he kept stressing the same point.

However, while listening to the sermon, I had something of a minor revelation similar to the one that resulted in me writing The Two-Thousand Year Old Christian Mistake.

You see, I agree with Pastor that the sacrifices in and of themselves have no power to atone for sins and to save a human being from the consequences of God’s justice. We are only saved through faith and out of that faith, we obey God. That’s what Paul and every other Jew who sincerely participated in the Temple rituals was doing. Obeying God out of faith.

So why beat up the Torah by saying it doesn’t save when I fully agree that simple, mechanical performance of the mitzvot with no intent or faith behind it is just going through the motions?

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Acts 15:1 (NASB)

This has alway puzzled me because circumcision (that is, the physical act of being circumcised and then observing the Torah commandments) isn’t what saves a person, and these gentlemen from Judea should have known that. Of course, they should have known that.

But that’s not what they meant.

When an Evangelical Christian reads that verse he or she thinks the Jews involved are saying that performing the mitzvot including the sacrifices in the Temple is what saves. But they were never meant to save. They are the conditions of the covenant relationship with God and that relationship in covenant, through faith, is what saves.

Oh duh.

Why didn’t I see this before?

Irony of GalatiansThe big hang up Christians have with the Torah is because of a misunderstanding of what the folks they call “Judaizers” were saying (Nanos more aptly refers to them as “influencers” since New Testament scholars can’t seem to agree on exactly who these people were. See The Irony of Galatians).

The “influencers” Paul refers to in his epistle to the Galatians and the Jews we hear from in Acts 15:1 weren’t saying that obeying the mitzvot and making the various sacrifices at the Temple would save the Gentile. They were saying that the Gentiles needed to be in a covenant relationship with God in order to be saved.

Especially for non-Jesus-believing Jews, the New Covenant times weren’t even on the horizon. How could they be? From their perspective, Messiah had not yet come. Thus, the Gentiles had no standing before God unless they became proselytes and entered into the Sinai covenant with God as converts to Judaism. Being a God-fearing Gentile might have been a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t a covenant relationship.

But Paul and many of the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) knew that the New Covenant had been inaugurated with the death and resurrection of the Master, so through faith in Messiah, the Gentiles could be grafted in and benefit from the blessings of that covenant, which had begun to enter the world but had not yet completely arrived.

If you miss the distinction, that it’s being in a covenant relationship with God through faith that saves rather than just the literal behaviors of the conditions of a covenant, you completely misunderstand the Jews advocating for Gentile conversion.

These “Judaizers” or “Influencers” weren’t bad, awful, evil people. They may have had genuine concern for the Gentiles who had attached themselves to the Jewish religious movement of “the Way”. These Jews, some of whom could have been Jesus-believers with an incomplete understanding of the New Covenant blessings upon the Gentiles, may have been authentically puzzled why Paul was treating the Gentiles as if they were equal co-participants, both socially and in covenant, in Jewish religious life. They may have felt that the Gentiles couldn’t participate in covenant blessings without conversion, because they didn’t see any other way to reconcile the Gentiles to God.

Paul understood, but his viewpoint wasn’t always terribly popular with Jewish populations who didn’t apprehend his vision (figuratively and literally).

Once you figure it out, you realize the issue was never that the mitzvot saved, it was Covenant relationship. It always has been and it’s still the issue we struggle to comprehend today. Jews are the focus of almost all of the covenants we see in the Bible including the Sinai and New Covenants. Gentiles are included under a single provision of the Abrahamic covenant and by faith in Jesus, in the blessings of the New Covenant.

And that’s what I got out of last Sunday’s sermon, not that Pastor explained it that way, but by his preaching, I finally made the connection.

Things didn’t go so well in Sunday school. I was determined to make only one statement in class. I could have talked all day long about the Christian traditions that were being imposed on the text resulting in quite a few (in my opinion) erroneous assumptions being made by most of my classmates. One fellow pointblank told me Paul did sin because when Jesus was crucified, the sacrifices ended. I disagreed of course, and gave him a mini-explanation of what the Epistle to the Hebrews was really about, but I knew it was for nothing.

My Sunday school teacher heavily favors the sermons of John MacArthur and it is MacArthur’s opinion that the practice of Judaism by Jesus-believing Jews as we see it in the Book of Acts, was a transitional period between Jewish practice being within the will of God, and it being replaced by the grace of Jesus Christ, effectively extinguishing the “ceremonial laws” in the Torah.

John MacArthur

Teacher said it was MacArthur’s opinion that God was being patient and tolerant of the Jesus-believing Jews, including Paul, who continued in devotion to Hashem by davening at the set times of prayer, offering sacrifices in accordance to the commandments, observing Shabbos, keeping kosher, and all of the other portions of the Law that had been “nailed to the cross with Jesus.”

But there’s an apparent contradiction. In Acts, Luke depicts Paul as very pro-Torah, pro-Temple, pro-Jewish people, and pro-Judaism. However, a number of Paul’s letters, principally Galatians, seem to cast Paul in the role of being anti-Torah. That was the foundation for my comment in class when the issue of Romans 14 and the identity of the “weak” and “strong” (basing my opinion on Nanos in The Mystery of Romans) came up.

It was like I was talking in a language no one in the room understood. I saw quite a few blank stares, like no one could figure out what the heck I was talking about. One fellow, who is quite intelligent and well-read (and who holds a highly traditional Evangelical Christian view on the Bible) referenced Romans 14:5-6 to explain that it was (at that time) OK to either observe the Law or not observe the Law as long as it was for the sake of the Lord.

In other words, no one even understood my question and so they had no idea they had completely missed my point.

I let it go rather than continue to be a source of confusion and aggravation and after all, teacher said this was a lesson about unity.

Unity. That totally baffled me until I realized he meant Paul agreed to undergo the Temple ritual and humble himself to James and the Elders in Jerusalem as kind of “going along to get along.” They saw Paul as compromising in order to keep the peace, rather than standing his ground about the lack of validity in Jewish tradition, custom, and observance.

There was no way anyone in the classroom could have possibly imagined that Paul might have wanted to offer sacrifices and looked forward to participating in the Temple ritual, especially during the Holy Festival of Shavuot (although they all acknowledged why Paul should have totally been jazzed about Pentecost…the Acts 2 Pentecost, not the Greek word for the Jewish moed).

I spent the rest of the class time in a forced silence, so I was in a “terrific” mood when I left church and made the ten or fifteen minute drive back home.

When I walked in the kitchen trolling for lunch, my wife made the mistake of asking me how church went, and I made the mistake of telling her.

Then she reminded me of her role according to God:

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.”

Beresheet (Genesis) 2:18

IntermarriageThe translation I found at Chabad.org is a bit different than you’ll find in most Christian Bibles, and as I understand it, implies that God created woman to oppose her husband under certain circumstances.

Women can often cut through the fog that surrounds a man’s mind and get to the core of a matter, whether we like it or not.

My wife told me I was being arrogant if I thought I was going to change anyone’s mind, especially if that was any part of the reason I was going to church.

I got mad at first, but spending some time in the backyard pulling weeds gave me time to think.

I have been arrogant. I’ve walked into someone else’s religious and social space with the assumption that I had anything to offer them; that I had anything they wanted at all.

As it turns out, I have nothing to offer and certainly nothing anyone at church wants to hear or learn. I may think what I’m learning and how I understand the Bible is worthwhile and illuminating, but obviously I’m in a world of people who don’t see things like I do.

I kind of thought that was the point, but I’m realizing I’ve been wrong. I have no right to impose my point of view or to disagree with the people who are running the show at church. It’s their church. I’m just a glorified guest. I’m not a member and I couldn’t become a member with my current perspectives and attitudes.

My Sunday school teacher’s emphasis on unity is really the Church’s (big “C”) attitude about community. People must agree with each other for the sake of peace and unity because Christians believe certain things.

Whenever I make some sort of theological statement that conflicts with how my wife sees her convictions, she tells me “what Jews believe,” which largely comes from the local Chabad Rabbi. He tells her what Jews believe and helps orient her to a Jewish religious perspective (not that she in any way is Orthodox). So I should have realized there are certain things Christians believe too, and making some sort of theological statement that conflicts with how people in Sunday school see their convictions elicits the same response from them as I get from my spouse.

I have been arrogant, and naive, and just plain stupid.

I feel like an idiot and I feel ashamed.

I also have to question why I’m going to church, any church. In his book Tent of David, Boaz Michael emphasized that the “Messianic Gentile” must have the right attitude, one of humility and fellowship, when returning to (or staying in) church and being a sort of “light to the nations…uh, Christians.”

I blame myselfBut there’s a light you shine to help people see the path, and then there’s the really bright, annoying light you shine in people’s faces until they yell at you to turn the darn thing off.

If the “Tent of David” were inflatable, then I’d be guilty of letting at least some of the air out. I certainly feel deflated.

The Internet went out at my home on Sunday afternoon (long story) so I wasn’t able to write this blog post when my emotions were running high. That’s a good thing. I’ve had a day or so to mull things over and to cool off.

I know I disagree with most (or all) of the people at church about many things, and I have good reasons (whether anyone agrees with those reasons or not) why I believe what I do, but the people around me every Sunday morning are under no obligation whatsoever to care what I think and feel, particularly when it flies in the face of their Biblical and world view.

So I’ve got one of three options as I see it: Do what I’m doing now and continue to be an irritant not to mention desecrating the name of God, continue to go to church while keeping my big mouth shut and not participating in discussions, or leaving church and let bygones be bygones.

Frankly, in the eighteen months or so I’ve been going, I may have contributed a few positive things in church, but for the most part, no one knows what to do with me, or if they’ve made up their minds (and some have), they know they want nothing to do with me.

I’ve ruined more relationships, both face-to-face and online, by spewing my opinions and putting people off.

I’ve been letting the air out of David’s Tent or maybe I’ve been taking tools of mass destruction to it. I was supposed to be inflating it, constructing it, building it up, but now the thing is beginning to collapse around my ears. Maybe it should collapse around my mouth.

No, it’s not my mouth, it’s my attitude. I just got so caught up in what I know, that I forgot about what’s most important.

Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure.

-Pirkei Avot 5:20

Mission to the Church


I read on Aish.com that “Every Jew is equally important to our mission.” Pardon my question, but exactly what is our mission?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

No need to apologize. The only bad question is one that remains unasked.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l wrote an article for Israel’s 50th anniversary, which was published in Azure magazine. There he writes:

“Tikkun Olam” is the basis of what drives the Jewish people to greatness. It all started back with Abraham. His business was to go out and teach what it means to be “created in the image of God.” He demonstrated how a human being has to take responsibility for the world. Abraham’s undertaking was the first progressive, liberal movement the world had ever seen. And look how it succeeded!

Tikkun Olam is the Jewish legacy. In looking back at the first 3,000 years of Jewish history, we don’t recall the names of any great entertainers or athletes or corporate executives. We recall the great teachers of the Jewish message: Moses, King David, Maimonides, the Vilna Gaon. That is the essential Jewish legacy. The message was engrained in our souls at Mount Sinai and it is the single defining characteristic of our people.

Torah methodology is universal – for Jews and non-Jews, religious and secular, Israel and the diaspora, left and right. The Torah is alive and relevant for today. And for the Jewish people, the ability to effectively communicate this message is our single most important undertaking.

I hope this helps answer your question. Though this raises a whole new question: What are you going to do about it?!

-from “Jewish Mission”

We don’t often think of Jews as “missionaries.” In fact, except for arguably the Chabad, religious Judaism doesn’t really practice anything we’d call “outreach. And yet we see in the above-quoted text that the Aish Rabbi, referencing Rabbi Noah Weinberg, not only believes that the “Torah methodology is universal – for Jews and non-Jews,” but that the “Torah is alive and relevant for today,” and like Abraham, it should be used to teach everyone that we were all “created in the image of God” as a responsibility the Jewish people have to the entire world.

About a year ago, Rabbi David Rudolph delivered a sermon to his congregation Tikvat Israel called Our Mission in which he outlined the specific mission for his synagogue to reach out to the larger Jewish community in Richmond, Virginia.

Others objected after listening to the recorded sermon, stating that R. Rudolph was being exclusionary and that the mission of any Messianic Jewish group should be equally to Jews and Gentiles. Interestingly enough, I find R. Rudolph’s approach to be quite Pauline in nature (Acts 3:26, 19:8-10, Romans 1:16, 2:9). Rudolph’s complementary sermon is called ”We Need Each Other” (find it by going to Sermons and then scroll down and look under the “Unity” category) illustrating that Jewish and Gentile disciples in Messiah need really do need each other.

I chronicled all of this in two blog posts: Twoness and Oneness: From the Sermons of David Rudolph and Oneness, Twoness, and Three Converts. In a sense, this mirrors the larger normative Judaisms of our day in that the mission of religious Judaism is to bring secular Jews back to the Torah and to reach out to the people of the nations of the world, teaching them (us) the lessons of ethical monotheism and our responsibilities to the world as beings created in God’s image.

new heartI’ve been thinking of my own “mission” (so-called) to the Christian Church to share the “good news” of the Messiah, that all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), that the Gentiles who are called by His Name (Amos 9:11-12) will come alongside Israel to raise the fallen tent of David, that the Temple will be called a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7), but only if we will take hold of the tzitzit of a Jewish man (Zechariah 8:23) who I believe is a very specific Jewish man, Messiah, Son of David, whom the Church calls Jesus Christ.

It hasn’t gone so well and frankly, I’m concerned that any sort of effectiveness I may have once experienced is rapidly waning. I guess good news for the Jewish people doesn’t sound so good to Christians who are used to sitting in the Catbird seat, so to speak.

I recently read an objection to the Noahide laws that religious Judaism applies to the rest of the world as the minimum standards by which the nations are expected to live. I also recall a story Pastor Randy told me about his time in Israel. He noticed a Jewish man would sit just outside a Christian church or seminary (I can’t remember which one) and after engaging the man in conversation, Pastor realized this man was trying to live out his “mission” to be a light to the nations. I think my friend Gene Shlomovich is trying to do the same thing and for pretty much the same reason. From their point of view, the Noahide laws are incumbent for all of humanity, Jew and Gentile alike. And if we are to take the Aish Rabbi at his word, Torah, in some manner or fashion is also applicable on all of humanity, not just the Jewish people.

But it depends on what you call Torah or instruction, and it depends on how you want to apply the specifics of all those instructions on the Jewish people vs. the rest of the world.

Actually, as far as people go, the Noahide laws aren’t a bad place to start. They are expressed as a list of (mostly) “negative commandments,” that is, a list of “don’t” but could easily be rephrased to be the opposite. Here’s how they’re listed at AskNoah.org:

  1. Do Not Worship a False Deity
  2. Do Not Commit Blasphemy
  3. Do Not Commit Murder or Injury
  4. Do Not Have Forbidden Sexual Relations
  5. Do Not Commit Theft
  6. Do Not Eat Meat Taken from a Live Animal
  7. Establish Laws and Courts of Justice

That actually doesn’t sound bad at all. Click the link I provided just above this list to read all of the explanatory text accompanying those commandments and you’ll see there’s more to them than meets the eye (the origin of the Noahide laws can be found in Genesis 9).

Here’s the list again, reworked to a list of positive commandments:

  1. Worship the One, true God and obey Him only.
  2. Sanctify the Name of God and bless Him.
  3. Preserve and sanctify human life.
  4. Cleave to and honor your spouse, forsaking all others.
  5. Only that which is yours may you use and consume.
  6. Treat the lesser beasts with compassion, committing no cruelty to them.
  7. Establish just laws and courts in judging your fellows because your God is lawful and just in judging mankind.

wrapping paperBefore complaining that you don’t have enough of God’s laws to obey, check and make sure you’re meeting even the minimum standard I’ve just listed here.

If you’ve been paying attention, you should have noticed that each of these laws is quite Biblical and expresses the desires and will of God. They read like a condensation of the laws of the Torah and each of these laws can be unpackaged to produce a lot of detail.

For instance, it would be difficult for a single individual to establish an entire court system for his or her nation, but we can take that commandment to also mean that we should treat other people in a just manner. In fact, part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4) includes the phrase “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” implying (or outright saying) that God will forgive our transgressions in the same manner as we forgive those who have sinned against us. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

If this is a large part of the mission of the Jewish people to the rest of the world, it’s not so bad at all. In fact, you can see the Noahide laws as the place where Jesus was starting with the non-Jewish people, principally through Paul but ultimately through all of the apostles, and then trying to elevate us, first with the four Acts 15 particulars, and then ultimately in defining how the Torah of Moses is applied to Gentile believers.

God entrusted Noah with a basic set of laws that were to be applied to all humanity. This was in the days before Abraham, and thus mankind knew or should have known what God expected of them…of us. Then, through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and through Jacob’s children, the twelve tribes, the Israelites, the Jewish people, were entrusted to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6).

See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

Deuteronomy 4:7-8 (NRSV)

lightAs you can see, Israel was to be a light to the nations from the very beginning. It is true that Israel has had great difficulty in fulfilling that mission. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is a litany of blessings and curses God has heaped upon Israel for cycle after cycle of obedience and disobedience. And yet as we’ve seen from D. Thomas Lancaster’s New Covenant lecture series, the intent of the New Covenant was not to change the Law and how it was applied, it was and is intended to change people so that we will be able to obey the law God has given us as applied to Jews and to the Gentiles called by His Name.

Jesus was the ultimate example of Israel’s “light to the world”:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NRSV)

And he transmitted or rather, reaffirmed Israel’s mission to be a light to the world to his Jewish disciples:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)

And that light was to be shown to everyone by the Jewish disciples:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV)

The Master selected Paul as a special emissary to take this “good news” to the Gentiles as well as to Israel:

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel…”

Acts 9:15

And it was first revealed to Peter that even the Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and be saved:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Acts 10:44-48 (NRSV)

Unfortunately, the actual “good news” of the New Covenant blessings to the Gentiles has become rather warped in its meaning and in many cases, that it is good news to the Jew first has become forgotten, even though it is plain in the Biblical text (Romans 1:16 for example).

Spirit, Torah, and Good NewsThe Jewish mission is to repair the world (Tikkun Olam) by returning the secular Jew to the Torah and to be a light to the nations, informing us of the good news of God. From a Messianic Jewish perspective (a viewpoint I have adopted), the perfect example of the “world repairer” is Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus). He assigned his disciples to be a light to the Jewish people and to the nations, and particularly Paul was to both return the Jewish people to a more specific observance of Torah (this was illustrated in articles written by Derek Leman and David Matthews at AncientBible.net) and to illuminate the Gentiles in the diaspora with the light of Messiah.

But while the Christian Church has done much good in the world (and sadly in its history, also great evil), it is currently suffering from mission drift and is in desperate need of what you might call a Messianic Reformation. I think that was Boaz Michael’s intent in writing Tent of David and subsequently traveling back and forth across America giving Tent Builders seminars.

And so it is now up to we Messianic Gentiles inhabiting our churches to carry that light back into the Christian community. But history teaches that we won’t always be successful and that some will reject our offer of good news, substituting what they already believe they have for what Jesus intended apostles like Paul to teach. We know from Paul’s own history that he received “mixed reviews” and that while some eagerly accepted the gospel of Messiah, others vehemently rejected it.

And so it is with us. All we can do…all I can do, is to be a voice in the wilderness, a small ship on a vast and turbulent sea, crying out, raising my sails, hoping someone will have ears to hear and eyes to see, and for those who do, it is wonderful. For those who don’t, may God send another emissary who may gain better “traction,” and if He chooses not to (for did he send someone after Paul to all those who rejected Paul?), then may he forgive me for my failure and may he forgive all of us who do not or have not listened, as the Master taught, “forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Not all Christians are going to help raise the tent of David. Sometimes, they’ll let it fall.

Addendum: since writing and publishing this blog post, I revisited something I wrote almost a year ago called Conquering Wrong with Right. It was not so much a record of my own dissonance with normative Christianity but the Church as seen through the eyes of a millennial blogger; a young woman who doesn’t want to give up on the Church but who doesn’t see Christians living up to the ideal of Christ. I thought it was a fit addition to the current message.

What I Learned in Church Today: Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Even a fool will be considered wise if he is silent; when he seals his lips [he will be considered] understanding.

Proverbs 17:28 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

There are instances when it takes courage to remain silent. It would be easier to speak up, but the right thing to do is to be silent.

Someone insults you. You can easily say something in return that would be the equivalent of a devastating knockout punch. You don’t say a word. Your silence is an expression of courage.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift #463 “Courageous Silence”

After a short absence, Pastor Randy picked up his sermons on the Book of Acts today and Sunday School resumed its usual schedule. The sermon and topic in Sunday School was on Acts 19:23-41. You wouldn’t think a riot in Ephesus (the featured image above is supposed to be a riot) over the teachings of Paul and his associates on “the Way” and how the result of those teachings were cutting into the prophets of the idol-making silversmiths would provide me with much theological or doctrinal angst. Really, it should all be pretty straightforward stuff.

But there’s always something.

I provided the quotes above to illustrate how often I choose being silent rather than actually speaking my mind in Sunday School, because I might end up starting a small riot of my own. Not that I really want to, but because my opinions are so at odds sometimes with the people around me in church.

There was actually quite a lot I agreed with in how Pastor Randy framed his sermon. I think people of faith are at their best when the society around them/us challenges us, and we are often at our worst in a culture or nation that completely accepts us (we tend to get lazy and assimilate into the politically correct realm). Christians aren’t really persecuted in the United States. Try being a Christian in an African nation dominated by Muslims and then you’ll see what persecution is really like. Just because someone disagrees with you and calls you names doesn’t mean you’re being persecuted. That’s the limit of “persecution” most Christians in America experience today.

But then as Pastor was speaking and later on in Sunday School, I got to thinking about who I am in the midst of the local church. Pastor Randy and I had lunch about a week and a half ago, and in the course of discussing my recent blog posts, he asked me how I can call him “my Pastor” when I disagree with just about everything he says.

Actually, I’d been thinking about that, too. I don’t really disagree with 100% of what he says and I really do learn a lot, especially about Christian history, in what he says and teaches. But it is true that even my understanding of the core of the gospel message isn’t exactly the same as how it is taught by most Pastors, including Randy (To learn more, see my review of FFOZ TV’s episode The Gospel Message, as well as what I have to say about Scot McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited).

ChurchOf course, during a sermon, one keeps quiet by definition but in Sunday School, I have to work on it. I know I’m risking being seen as a fool (and who knows, maybe I am) by even writing this when I should just keep my hands off the keyboard, but I don’t know if anyone else like me is recording their own Tent of David experience, and I figure someone should. So here I am.

There were a lot of good things that came out of both the sermon and the Sunday School teaching. But I did catch the Sunday School teacher engaging in what I might call “Christian Midrash” by his applying the phrase “the way” as recorded in Genesis 3:24 and Psalm 1:6 to how it’s used to formally describe the community of disciples of the Master in Acts 19:23. After all, the term “the Way” used to describe followers of Christ didn’t appear in the Bible until Acts 9:2. I spoke to the teacher before class to ask about his method of constructing his lessons and he gave me permission to bring the matter up during class. Not really sure it was worthwhile, but if we are to be critical of people in Messianic Judaism inserting meaning on one part of scripture based on earlier texts where it might not really fit, shouldn’t we extend the same “courtesy” inside the local church?

But the really big deal was the discussion on idolatry. Of course there would be tension between the ever-growing body of believers in and around Ephesus and the community that was supported by the worship of the goddess Artemus (Diana), and of course it makes sense to apply this topic to modern times and discuss the idols (anything we have in our lives that is more important than God) that we let rule our lives, but having just finished reading and reviewing Dr. Roy Blizzard’s book Mishnah and the Words of Jesus, I naturally thought of the following quote which I’ve previously cited:

Jesus has become an idol, if you will, our focus of attention, our focus of worship, and it seems that very few think of God anymore. Seldom do we hear anyone speak of the glory of God, his grandeur and mercy, the holiness of God, and the other many attributes and characteristics of God.

But remember, Blizzard also said this:

Please understand that I am not trying to lessen the importance of Jesus. What I am trying to do is emphasize that, in all the teachings of Jesus recorded for us in the gospels, his focus is not upon himself, what he is, what he is doing, or what he is to become. Additionally, Jesus has very little to say about God and, in particular, the Worship of God.

My point is that, in the teachings of Jesus, there is not all that much emphasis upward.

It seems in the process of promoting devotion to God through the Messiah, we’ve focused our entire attention on the Messiah, the doorway (“no one comes to the Father but through Me,” from John 14:6) and forgotten that the object was to “come to the Father.”

However, can we really say there are any other “idols” in the church? That seems like an odd question to ask. I suppose you might think of the Catholic Church or the Greek Orthodox Church, both of which use iconic symbols in their worship, but as Pastor Randy pointed out, anything that we put ahead of God in our lives can be considered an idol. Can Jesus be considered an idol if we focus exclusively on him and ignore God the Father? I don’t know. Some Christian songs that focus only on Jesus kind of bother me. The exclusive focus of some churches on the gospel as a plan of personal salvation without any thought to what else the gospel message says about what you are supposed to do with a “saved” life (the focus on Dr. Blizzard’s book relative to tzedakah) or the roles of Jewish and Gentile believers in preparing the world for the coming Messianic Age (often taught by the ministry First Fruits of Zion)…can any of that be considered an “idol?” Could “getting saved” and “getting other people saved” as our sole purpose in life actually result in our missing out of serving God in the other ways He actually intends?

The church I’m at right now is very study and very service oriented, but a lot of other churches aren’t. Am I supposed to bring stuff like that up in Sunday School? If I chose to introduce Blizzard’s or McKnight’s or Boaz Michael’s perspectives (as I understand them) to the discussion at hand, what would actually happen? Probably nothing good. And so, I keep silent, except in the one place I can claim any sort of ownership over which is this blog.

One of the questions in today’s Sunday School study notes asked:

How can God’s Word have a similar irritating effect on you or me, when the Holy Spirit uses it to affect us materially, or in our religious beliefs, or our pride?

The intended answer is “when the Holy Spirit uses the scriptures to convict us of our sins,” but my immediate response (which I never uttered) was, “when we find out the Bible says something different about God and people that church doctrine never teaches.”

No, I won’t be giving that answer. I only write about it here.

SilenceBut doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of having a Tent of David experience? Probably, but offending people isn’t going to be very helpful in convincing people of an alternative point of view, so I suppose keeping quiet is the better part of valor. Pastor Randy reads my blogs so he’s quite familiar with my beliefs. I don’t doubt that I frustrate him terribly. I’m not trying to go out of my way to do so, but am I supposed to surrender my personal convictions on what I believe the Bible is saying or at least never write about them in a public forum such as the blogosphere?

I admit not knowing what to do. This form of communication helps me process the stuff that’s going through my head. I did allow myself to make one minor comment on exegesis and eisegesis in Sunday School (not calling it that, of course) and otherwise kept my mouth shut for the majority of class.

My opinion is that Pastor Randy is frustrated with me, in part, because he believes I’m an intelligent person but that I still don’t agree with how he teaches what the Bible is saying on a number of important subjects.

I’m sorry, I really am. I’m not trying to be a troublemaker. That’s why I have to remind myself of what the Proverbs say about silence and wisdom and how that’s reinforced in the comments of Rabbi Pliskin. I also have to remind myself that being considered intelligent by someone is a far cry from being considered wise. It might be better to practice silence in order to learn wisdom (a lesson I desperately need to apprehend). It would be ironic if that were my sole purpose in the local church, but then who knows what really goes on in the mind of God when He directs His attention to your life or mine?

Don’t Argue

“What is the point of arguing with a Jew? Every Jew has a mitzvah with which he feels an affinity. Find that mitzvah and assist him with it.”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Each One’s Mitzvah”

I know that Rabbi Freeman was addressing a Jewish audience when he wrote this, encouraging one Jewish person to help other Jewish people with their special mitzvot, but consider this.

In her article for Messiah Journal, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) contributor and translator Jordan Levi referred to the Gentiles who help Jewish people find and assist with their mitzvot as “the Crowning Jewels of the Nations.” If I take the thoughts of Rabbi Freeman and Jordan Levi and put them together, then the Rabbi’s message is just as appropriately addressed to Gentile believers, that is, Christians, as it is to Jewish people.

Am I crazy? Christians helping Jews to find and perform their special mitzvot? Christians don’t even believe in mitzvot because the vast majority of them believe the “Law” is dead as a doornail, killed when the church was born in Acts 2

If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know I don’t believe that last part for even a second. I believe that we non-Jewish believers have a special duty, assigned to us by God, to be part of the restoration of Israel by helping Israel raise David’s fallen tent (Amos 9:11-12). We people of the nations are to be drawn to the Jewish people because they are close to God (Zechariah 8:23), and we desire to go up with them to the Temple of God in Jerusalem because we know it is the House of Prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7, Micah 4:2).

I recently posted two articles on my blog about the Gentile relationship to Messianic Judaism, specifically within the Messianic Jewish worship context, Twoness and Oneness: From the Sermons of David Rudolph and Oneness, Twoness, and Three Converts. This was an attempt on my part to describe what it is to be a member of the “crowning jewels of the nations” “on the ground,” so to speak, worshiping and associating among believing and observant Jews.

As you might imagine, my commentaries were not well received within certain venues, specifically some Hebrew Roots groups where the message of Gentiles having a critical role in uplifting and supporting a return to Torah for the Jewish people without usurping the Jewish role for ourselves is not well understood or perhaps simply considered unacceptable.

But then I read Rabbi Freeman’s brief missive from this morning and the message clicked into place again. “What is the point of arguing with a Jew?” That’s what I’d like to ask some of these folks. And yet they insist on arguing with Jewish people over ownership of the Torah of Sinai rather than getting on with the job we were assigned by Hashem. “Find that mitzvah a Jew feels an affinity for and assist him with it.”

Let me spell it out to you again in case you’ve missed this message in previous blog posts. We have a duty to provoke the Jewish people to Zealousness for the Torah (see the link I just provided for the details). By doing so, we bring the time of Messiah’s return that much closer, summoning the Messianic Age, which is the true gospel message of the Bible.

The FFOZ television series episode The Good News which I reviewed last summer, also illustrates that the gospel message of Jesus is far, far more than a simple plan of personal salvation.

Why are there non-Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua worshiping alongside Jewish believers in Messianic Jewish synagogues? Why are there individuals or small groups of Christians who self-identify as “Messianic Gentiles” in traditional churches attempting to softly, gently deliver an understanding that the greatest part of the gospel message is our role in assisting Israel to bring about the future Messianic Age?

Rabbi Tzvi FreemanRabbi Freeman answered the first question in the quote at the top of the page. Boaz Michael, in his book Tent of David, answered the second question by stating we must help the Church to realize its true role in Israel’s future redemptive history, pointing them to the small lesson that Rabbi Freeman presented so succinctly.

When men like Pastor John MacArthur say that “In the character of the book of Acts, the church is born, and Judaism in God’s eyes is a dead issue…,” he is not only saying something terribly wrong about God’s intent toward Israel, he’s directly denying the Church’s role to assist Israel in bringing the return of Jesus Christ through the process of the Church coming alongside Israel as a partner, standing ready to restore David’s fallen sukkah.

“What is the point of arguing with a Jew? Every Jew has a mitzvah with which he feels an affinity. Find that mitzvah and assist him with it.”

Until we, the people of the nations who are called by God’s Name, we Christians are willing to put our traditions, our egos, and our fear of change aside, and do what God commands us to do, the Church and any other groups of Christians, including Hebrew Roots groups, are going to be highly limited in our service to God.

Until we stop either dismissing the Torah as yesterday’s trash or coveting the Jewish role in Torah observance for ourselves, we may still “win souls for Christ,” but we will be stifling the fulfillment of the greatest revelation of God to the world, the return of the Messiah King, the establishment of his rule on the Throne of David in Jerusalem, and the establishment of a reign of peace for all the world, so that everyone “will sit under his vine And under his fig tree, With no one to make them afraid, For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken,” (Micah 4:4).

Sampling Tent Builders

The church is supposed to be a partner with Israel. If it doesn’t see this then it’s not fulfilling it’s function.

-Boaz Michael
“Envision the Ideal Church” session
Tent Builders presentation

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d received a DVD in the mail from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) providing an eighty-two minute “sampler” of the day-long conference called “Tent Builders” which is meant to accompany and augment the message in FFOZ President Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile.

I’ve read Boaz’s book more than once but never had any of the education or training that is supposed to equip the target audience on methods of approaching the Church with the Messianic message of just how Jewish the Jewish Messiah is and what it means to “partner” the Church with Israel.

The sampler DVD is divided into four portions:

  1. Envision the Ideal Church
  2. The Strategic Mission
  3. Interview with Boaz’s Pastor
  4. About the Book Tent of David

This review focuses on the first two portions which were taken from a presentation Boaz gave in Atlanta, Georgia. I won’t try to dissect everything Boaz taught and certain sections of his teaching came, more or less, out of the book, so if you’ve read “Tent of David,” you already have some familiarity with the message. The sampler disc contains excerpts of what I imagine is supposed to be a DVD containing the entire conference sessions, so that people who weren’t able to attend the in-person conferences, could still benefit from everything that was taught. It’s also meant to be accompanied by a workbook and presumes that the audience has already read “Tent of David.”

The goal of the conference and of participation is to become a “sent out one” or an emissary into the Church, to share the wonderful message we as “Messianic Gentiles” were given in order to assist the Church in ceasing to be the stumbling block standing in the way of Israel seeing the truth of Messiah. One of Boaz’s key phrases is that we must change the Church for the sake of Israel.

This was actually born out of Boaz’s own experience at a small Baptist church in Marshfield, Missouri where he and his family have been living. He actually began attending this church almost by accident, thanks to a visit to Marshfield by Rabbi and Messianic blogger Derek Leman. It was out of the development of the relationship between Boaz and his wife with the members of their local church that Boaz realized this “model” could be replicated “on the ground” so to speak, by many, many other Christians across the country.

For over two decades, FFOZ has been producing books, magazines, seminars, and many other educational materials trying to get its message out, but in spite of the expectation that at any minute, the floodgates would open and the Christian Church as an entire unit across the world would “see the light,” nothing happened. Groups of Christians would leave the Church disillusioned by shallow teachings and Christian disdain for Israel, and they would join small groups of like-minded Gentile believers, but over the years and decades, these groups didn’t grow, didn’t show fruit, and nothing happened. The Church certainly didn’t change and most of these small groups stayed small groups, generally spinning their wheels and sometimes complaining about “Christians.”

BoazOccasionally, through his contacts, Boaz would know of a motivated family of Gentiles who were “Messianically” minded and know of a willing and open Pastor in the same community. He’d put them together and the combination would result in change in the local church. Boaz and his wife Tikvah in their own local church had the same experience. It seemed like something that could be replicated on a large-scale, but at the grass-roots level.

But it’s not that easy. It wasn’t easy for Boaz and Tikvah and it isn’t easy for anyone else. While some churches have managed to change trajectories away for teaching supersessionism and toward an enlightened view of the Jewish Messiah (which is a lot more than just saying “Jesus was Jewish”) and the significance of Israel and Torah, it required tremendous sacrifices in time, money, and participation in portions of church teachings that are not always spiritually enlightening. It also isn’t always accepted and Boaz even said that it’s a message the Church usually doesn’t want to hear.

Boaz challenged his audience in the first session to envision the ideal church, write down their description, and then participate in making that ideal church happen at the local level.

I have a vision about what an “ideal church” would look like too, but I haven’t the faintest idea how to make it happen, especially all by myself. But as I listened to Boaz, I began to feel guilty because he described many Messianic Gentiles as either complainers or just people who wanted others to do the work of changing the Church for the sake of Israel. Am I a bad, complaining, lazy person for feeling discouraged?

Moving to the “Strategic Mission” session, Boaz expanded on what was needed. He used to think that having a good message was enough, but that hasn’t worked for the past twenty years. He finally discovered, though a gentle rebuke by someone he trusted, that without the involvement in the Holy Spirit and without relationship and familiarity, the message was never going to be successfully delivered.

The core of “Tent of David” is derived from a passage in Amos 9:11-12 that’s quoted by James in Acts 15:16-18. You can look up the text, but it paints portrait and prophesy of a time when the people of the nations will partner with Israel in rebuilding the fallen tent of David and restore Israel in the Messianic Age. James, leader of the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem saw the participation of the first Gentile disciples in the Jewish movement of “the Way” as the beginning of the fulfillment of that prophesy. The prophesy of Gentiles coming alongside Israel to strive for a mutual goal without requiring that those Gentiles convert to Judaism and take on the full yoke of Torah. In fact, the prophesy can’t be fulfilled if Gentiles convert to Judaism or otherwise are circumcised to become “pseudo-converts” with the belief that they are obligated to the full yoke of the mitzvot in the manner of the Jewish people. Jews and Gentiles must continue distinct roles and identities within the body of Messiah and become interdependent elements in the creation of the Messianic future.

ChurchIs this how the Church sees its role in relation to Christ? In most cases, probably not. In fact, the apostles including Paul, would not even recognize what most Churches teach today as having much or anything to do with the original gospel message they transmitted to Jews and Gentiles in the first decades after the resurrection and ascension of the Master. The Church, for the most part, thinks the greatest revelation and the only revelation of Jesus has already happened: the message of Salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Of course that is amazingly good news, but the story doesn’t stop there and in fact, according to Boaz, the best part is yet to come…the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom with Jesus on the Throne of David in Jerusalem, raising Israel to the head of all the nations, returning all the exiled Jews to their Land, and establishing a reign of world-wide peace. It’s the promise of what is yet to come.

And the Church has missed it. Oh sure, churches talk all the time about the “end times” and the “return of Jesus” and how “the Church” will be the thing that’s elevated and glorified, but at the end, people go up to Heaven as opposed to what it actually says in the Bible of God coming to earth and living among His people as He once did in Eden.

Boaz unpackaged the message that he believes the “grass-roots tent builders” need to be taking back into their local churches. I won’t go into all of his points, but I want to cover the one that I think is most important but also the message that the Church will find most difficult. The centrality of Israel. What does that mean?

The Church believes that it’s all about “the Church.” The Church will be raptured to Heaven, the Church will return with Jesus, the Church will rule and reign.

In reading the Bible, if I substitute the Greek word “ekklesia” for “church,” and I realize that generically “ekklesia” just means an assembly of people gathered for a common purpose, the “magical significance” of the word “church” is taken down a peg or two. When Jesus speaks of his “church” he is speaking of an assembly of human beings gathered together to begin to fulfill the prophesy of Amos (and many other prophesies) to establish the first fruits of a partnership of Jews and Gentiles together in the body of Messiah, to ultimately summon the coming Messianic Age which will see Jesus as the King of Israel who will bring total peace to humanity.

ancient_jerusalemBut this requires we realize that in all of the ancient prophesies and how they were understood by the apostles and first century Jewish and Gentile disciples, it was always Israel that was restored, and Israel that was central to God’s entire redemptive and restorative plan, and Israel that was the center and lynchpin of the entire Biblical message and the good news of Messiah. This is not the message Christianity has promoted and instead, they have caused the basic concept of “ekklesia” to evolve, morph, and develop into a separate and self-defined entity known as “the Church,” which across Christian history and into modern times has wholly separated from Israel, from its original purpose and mission, and has watered down the gospel message into “merely” one of personal salvation, denying the vast, panoramic scope of the Messianic Kingdom to come that we must all strive to bring to fruition.

As Boaz continued to lay out everything involved in this grand plan, I started to feel overwhelmed. Every time he said something meant to inspire his audience to greatness, I compared it to my actual experience in my local church. Boaz sees success in the Tent of David plan because it puts together enthusiastic Messianics with Pastors in local churches who are at least receptive to relationship and partnering, but what if the local church leaders are so assured of their theology and doctrine that they see the relationship as one where the church needs to convince the intelligent but misguided Messianic that Church tradition based on the Reformation, Calvinism, and Dispensationalism (none of which existed in the time of the apostles) is actually the true message of Jesus Christ?

So my primary take away as I ejected the DVD from my computer and prepared for bed was a combination of guilt and feeling overwhelmed with more than a hint of failure added to the mix.

Boaz ended his “Strategic Mission” session with a story about his daughter who is currently serving with the IDF. I don’t know how much I should reveal about her, even though she has been uncompromising in her devotion to Messiah and has not hidden this from anyone who knows her in Israel. Also, as Boaz said, he’s a public figure, so it wouldn’t be hard to find out who his daughter is and what her family believes.

It’s actually an amazing story. I knew some of it just because I’ve briefly spoken with Shayna a few times and am her “friend” on Facebook, but Boaz filled in the details as only a very proud father can. Boaz and Tikvah raised all their children with a strong sense of mission. I guess growing up within the context of the development and progression of First Fruits of Zion’s mission must have had a strong impact.

Boaz laid that sense of mission and dynamic struggle squarely at the feet of his audience. Of course, I only got to see a small portion of the conference and nothing at all about how the students received the message or interacted with Boaz and each other. I have absolutely no idea at all how this is actually playing out in churches across America and I don’t know anyone else who is a “Tent of David” graduate and how they have met with success, failure, or anything else.

Boaz in churchBoaz said that in the church he attends, two HaYesod classes had been taught, one Torah Club cycle had been completed, and there was a group viewing the various episodes of FFOZ’s television series A Promise of What is to Come and using them as topics of discussion.

I won’t lie. That really sounds wonderful, but in my current context, none of that will ever be received. I previously mentioned that having Tent Builders graduates attempt to go into some place like Pastor John MacArthur’s congregation would likely result in a less than enthusiastic reception. It is true that time, relationship, and familiarity helps the “Messianic Gentile” in church gain credibility and even a minority voice in Sunday school discussions, but there will always be churches that will listen and decide that they see and hear nothing that should deter them from what they have always believed to be true about the Bible, about Jesus, and about God, Judaism and Israel notwithstanding.

I’m enjoying D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon series Holy Epistle to the Hebrews and recently I discovered the sermons of Rabbi David Rudolph. I can “feed my head” all I want and struggle in my personal relationship with God and what all this is supposed to mean, but except for how some people see my blog as a positive or even inspirational influence, that still has little or no effect at the level of the local church, and it certainly isn’t a testimony to changing the Church for the sake of Israel.

Do I think the “Tent Builders” mission is good? Yes, of course I do. You may be surprised to read that sentence after everything else I’ve said, but I still think it’s essentially sound. The thing that Boaz didn’t say in the DVD sampler though he mentions it in his book, is that the mission isn’t for everyone. He also doesn’t mention, though it should be obvious (it certainly is to me) that not only does the Church not want this message, but in some cases (how many, I don’t know), the message will be continually resisted, regardless of relationship, and ultimately rejected.

The Messianic Gentile can then decide (assuming he or she hasn’t been ejected from the local church) to either continue going for the sake of fellowship (which Boaz recommends) and perhaps with hope beyond hope that eventually some people will be more accepting of the paradigm shift Boaz suggests, or that Messianic person can leave.

I don’t know if there’s a “plan B” built into the Tent Builder’s mission profile. Try again at another church after months or years at the first? Try a less formal venue such as a local Bible study or home fellowship? Retire into the world of virtual study and quiet contemplation? Boaz maps out a highly public, visible, dynamic mission of reaching out to the local church, all of the local churches with the Tent Builders message built on relationship and familiarity, inspired and supported by the Holy Spirit, with the ultimate end goal to show the Church their true priority and purpose in partnering with Israel to bring the time of the return of the Messiah.

a-better-placeI suspect that it is not going to come very quickly. Conferences aside, it’s like the ads for going back to the gym that are popular right after New Years when people are feeling the remorse of eating too much during the holidays. People get pumped up and excited and join a gym, but I can tell you from personal experience that after the enthusiasm wanes or, in this case, the conference is over and months have passed, there’s only you and the weights. You either show up each morning and start working, or you stay home and get fat.

This metaphor breaks down when you realize that exercising is between you and the exercise machines. All you need is motivation and the will to carry on over the long haul. In the local church, what people think about you, about your message, about Jews, about Judaism, and about the very real threat that change represents makes a huge difference, and you have control over none of that. You can do everything “right” and still fall flat on your face.

There are no “magic” answers. Win, lose, or draw, there is only God.

Good Shabbos.

A Brief Introduction to Tent Builders

The church is the biggest stumbling block for the people of Israel to see the true message, the redemptive message of the Messiah.

The church is fundamentally good but the church needs to change.

-Boaz Michael
from a short video introducing his
Tent Builders Seminar

I have inserted the link to the YouTube video at the bottom of this page, so you can see Boaz’s entire presentation below. It’s not quite seven minutes long, so it won’t take much of your time to review.

I’m writing this for a couple of reasons. The first is that I received a DVD in the mail from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) that contains an eighty-two minute “sampler” of Boaz’s eight-hour Tent Builders Conference, which he presented in various venues across North America (registration is now closed so I assume there’ll be no additional conferences).

This is, or was, the training companion piece to Boaz’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile, which I most recently reviewed last October 6th and October 10th.

I haven’t had a chance to view the DVD yet, but I feel it’s necessary because in spite of all of my efforts and my reading and re-reading of Boaz’s book, something’s still wrong.

I’ve gotten this sense of “wrongness” most recently from writing the first part of my review on MacArthur’s sermon series From Judaism to Jesus. If you’ve read that review, you know that I’m appalled and dismayed at MacArthur’s approach not only to the early Messianic Jews of the apostolic era, but to their modern-day counterparts, the Messianic Jews of the twenty-first century.

Boaz MichaelI’ve already read the second part of MacArthur’s three-part series and have written the review (it will appear online next Sunday morning). I can’t say my opinion of John MacArthur or any of his perspectives on Judaism has improved. More’s the pity, because Pastor MacArthur is one of the significant voices if not “the voice” of the modern Evangelical Fundamentalist movement in Christianity today. He’s been writing and preaching for over forty years and even though I had never heard of him before  last year, his name is practically a household word among the members of many churches.

I wanted to view the Tent Builders DVD sampler but only have the ability to currently hear Boaz’s brief introductory video on YouTube. He describes Tent Builders as a missionary effort which provides a purpose in which each Christian can participate. The “mission field,” so to speak, is the Church. Christians in the church or “Messianic Gentiles” who have left the church, can find in Tent Builders, a path back, a path that can lead to teaching that the church must see itself in partnership with Israel, not in competition with or as a replacement for Israel.

Another question that comes in…in relationship to something that’s happening in our current church scene today is explain why we have Messianic Jewish temples. What is the need for them? Are you familiar with this? Recently, there has been a…a…a surge of Messianic Jewish temples.

But what’s happened is, I think that many well-meaning Christian people, evangelical people, are catering more to a sociological minority movement than they are to the Word of God. Because the Bible would never tolerate a Jewish church and a Gentile church.That is the one thing that the Apostle Paul spent the last months of his ministry trying to resolve…

Dr. Feinberg said to me one day, he says, “I don’t know why everybody thinks because we’re Jewish Christians, we’re something special. We’re not.” Something special to God. Something marvelous to be Jewish, but not something for which you deserve an entire church all to yourselves. And now they have Christian bar mitzvahs. What is a Christian bar mitzvah?…You know, there were some people who filled out applications to go to Talbot Seminary, and they applied because they wanted to become Christian rabbis. Dr. Feinberg said to me, “What is a Christian rabbi?” They’re out of their mind. They think a church wants a Christian rabbi? They think a synagogue wants a Christian rabbi? No, neither want either.

So you know what they do? They start their own Messianic temple. Some of these dear people really mean well; and I…I pray God that they’ll win people to Christ; but that isn’t what it’s all about.That’s, in a sense, Judaizing. I don’t see any need for that at all. I praise God for the Jewish people in our…in our church. All you have to do is read Acts chapter 13, and you read about the five pastors there. Some of ’em were Jews. Some of ’em were Gentiles. Some of ’em were white. Some of ’em were black. Read it, Acts 13. They all pastor the same church. We don’t have the Grace Community Irish-American Church. Don’t see the point.

-John MacArthur
“Bible Questions and Answers, Part 5”
Grace to You: Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time

Well, tact isn’t exactly one of MacArthur’s strong suits but beyond that, he obviously has definite, though incredibly uninformed opinions about Messianic Judaism. Do you think a few Tent Builders graduates in his church are going to make much headway?

In the video I’m referencing, Boaz does say that the goal is to find receptive churches who may have never considered the Messianic perspective on the good news of Jesus Christ and help them understand what it is to partner with Israel. The implication is that not all churches are going to be receptive based on a variety of factors, not the least of which is the doctrine of the church and how married they are, especially the Pastoral staff and Board of Directors, to said-doctrine.

Boaz says it’s important, even vital to change the church for the sake of Israel.

But what can one person do?

Tent BuildersYes, I did hear Boaz’s “pep talk” in the brief video, how easy it is to get discouraged, how we can be part of the hope for the future in summoning the Messianic Age.

Either God introduced me to a brick wall I’m incapable of breaching in any respect, or He put me in a situation I should be very capable of managing, but instead, I’ve managed to fail.

True, I’m not in John MacArthur’s congregation, but his thoughts, opinions, and presence are written all over the walls of the church I do attend.

How important is it to you that your children follow in your footsteps as Jews and that they marry Jews? If it is important, then you have to realize that you are their role model. Your love of Judaism and things Jewish is what will communicate to your children. You can’t legislate feelings — they are felt and internalized. When Jews came to America and found the difficulties facing them in living Jewishly, the lament was often heard, “Oy, it’s tough to be a Jew!” If it’s tough to be a Jew, then why would your child want to be Jewish? You have to feel the joy, the meaning, the beauty in being a Jew — it’s GREAT to be a Jew! Then you have hope with your kids.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”

MacArthur would never understand in a million years that even as a Christian husband and father, it is very important for me that my Children live as Jews. I’ve really dropped the ball on this one, especially when my kids were growing up. If I knew twenty-five years ago what I know now, the course of my life and their lives would be very different, but in a universe created by God, you don’t get “do overs”. There are no time machines, and I can’t send radio waves back to the past to talk to my younger self.

Boaz called the church “the biggest stumbling block for the people of Israel to see the true message, the redemptive message of the Messiah,” but the church, or at least MacArthur’s version of it, is also a stumbling block for me. If he were the only example of what it is to be a Christian when I was about to come to faith nearly twenty years ago, I’d have dropped Christianity like an angry rattlesnake.

Boaz said that if there is not a healthy Messianic community available to a “Messianic Gentile,” they should join a church for the sake of fellowship. After all, the mission of Tent Builders only works in the context of relationship.

But given men like MacArthur and the Calvinistic and supersessionistic shroud he has cast over church worship and teaching, what am I supposed to do with that relationship now? I’m hoping Boaz’s DVD has some answers.