In the summer of 1982 I crossed the Pacific Ocean for the first time to spend some time in Japan and China. The occasion was a Christian missions trip. After six weeks of ministry work in Tokyo, we concluded the trip with a few days of sightseeing in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Beijing. I thoroughly enjoyed China, but it was somewhat surreal walking around Tiananmen Square, through the Forbidden City, and over the Great Wall. As one of my companions said at the time, we wouldn’t fully realize until we were back home in America that we had been all the way on the other side of the world.My companion was right. We don’t appreciate experiences at the time nearly as much as we appreciate them years later, when we can see the impact they had on us and how they shaped the course of our lives. It’s the same with people. We don’t know how important they have been to us until years later. Maybe even decades or centuries later, when the full tale of their story can be considered in context.
The full tale of Billy Graham’s impact on my life is not yet told, but I have an idea what it encompasses now, nearly 50 years after I first saw him. That occasion was in the spring of 1972, during his second visit to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. It was just before my 11th birthday, and I had no idea at the time what a tremendous effect Reverend Graham had already exerted on my city. For some reason, my parents deemed it best to shield us from the momentous societal transformations wrought by the Civil Rights Movement. All I knew in my childhood was that Billy Graham, like me, was a Southern Baptist, that he loved Jesus like I did, and that he was a very important preacher. I did not know that it was he who insisted on having an integrated choir in his first crusade in my divided city in 1964, and that the crowd gathered at Legion Field in that year was the largest integrated audience in Birmingham history. He addressed a deep, deep wound with the healing admonition of Jesus Christ – one of many ministers of reconciliation the Almighty used in that era to right grievous wrongs, curb the worst of abuses, and prepare the next generation to carry the progress forward. Please click here to continue reading
Perhaps the greatest lesson in studying Scripture is questions asked in one part of the book have answers and echoes in other parts – but the sound doesn’t come through clearly unless we lay down our preconceived notions and listen as a little child.
What is the most significant indication that the Torah Awakening among Christians is becoming mainstream? How about when the founder and CEO of the world’s largest Christian web site publicly proclaims and acts on his opinion that the Torah (law, teaching, commandments) of God still apply to Christians?
That is the precisely what is happening with Joseph Farah, founder and CEO of WordNetDaily.com, the internet’s largest independent news site. He has even written a book about it called The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age. Farah’s book will be featured in an upcoming review on The Barking Fox. For now, consider this piece Farah recently wrote about another well-known person with a surprising faith journey.
Exclusive: Joseph Farah identifies key to unraveling the mystery of famed songwriter Joseph Farah Published in WorldNetDaily, July 6, 2017
I was blinded by the devil, Born already ruined, Stone-cold dead as I stepped out of the womb. By His grace I have been touched, By His word I have been healed, By His hand I’ve been delivered, By His spirit I’ve been sealed. I’ve been saved by the blood of the lamb …
— Lyrics to “Saved” by Bob Dylan
It’s amazing to me how Bob Dylan’s faith is still so misunderstood. Thirty-seven years after he wrote and recorded the words above, I still hear people talking about this superstar songwriter’s spiritual beliefs as if there is some ambiguity about them.
Maybe, some suggest, Dylan went through a Christian “phase” in which he wrote and recorded dozens of fiery gospel songs and then moved on to other pursuits.
Yet, only those who have not really followed his career since could possibility come to such a conclusion, because those songs have continued to be part of his performance repertoire for the last four decades, during which he has continued to produce dozens of new songs that leave little doubt about where he stands.
As an admitted Dylan-phile, it had been a source of frustration for me for years that while there are many enigmatic qualities to America’s troubadour, there has been a rock-solid consistency to his publicly expressed view of God and man since 1979 when he released – to the shock of many of his fans – his “Slow Train Coming” album along with one of his biggest hit songs ever, “You Gotta Serve Somebody.”
And it was true, as the author of the new spiritual biography on Dylan shows, before that album. Dylan was searching for truth. Just look at the lyrics of one of my favorite, and shortest, Dylan songs before his “Christian period.” It’s called “Father of Night,” and he recorded it in 1970.
Father of night, Father of day Father, who taketh the darkness away Father, who teacheth the bird to fly Builder of rainbows up in the sky
Father of loneliness and pain Father of love and Father of rain Father of day, Father of night Father of black, Father of white
Father, who build the mountain so high Who shapeth the cloud up in the sky Father of time, Father of dreams Father, who turneth the rivers and streams
Father of grain, Father of wheat Father of cold and Father of heat Father of air and Father of trees Who dwells in our hearts and our memories
Father of minutes, Father of days Father of whom we most solemnly praise
Dylan has written some of the most touching and powerful hymns of the 20th and 21st centuries – and people still don’t understand him.
Here’s the key to unraveling the mystery, in my opinion: Dylan was, is and always will be, a Jew. That’s the way he was born. He was, in the tradition of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, circumcised. He studied Hebrew so he could be bar mitzvahed. And, of course, he never renounced his Jewishness, nor did he need to.
That’s because Jesus was and is the Jewish Messiah. All of Jesus’ original disciples remained, throughout their entire lives, Jews. Some of them, including Simon Peter, were surprised to learn fairly late in their lives that this messianic faith they followed could be shared with non-Jews. All of the early “Christians” were Jews. And they were only “Christians” in the literal sense of that Greek term – which means followers of Messiah.
I have to admit that even I had doubts about Dylan’s spiritual journey back in 1983 when he saw his son, Jesse, bar mitzvahed in Jerusalem. At the time, many speculated that Dylan had “gone back” to Judaism.
It was only years later, as I studied the Jewish roots of my own Christian faith, that I realized this was a perfectly natural and appropriate thing for a messianic Jew to do. No Jew needs to embrace the “Christian” traditions and culture to follow their Messiah. In fact, I’ve come to believe those traditions and that culture can actually be a barrier and stumbling block for non-Jews who seek to follow the Jewish Messiah. They certainly were for me.
While he doesn’t like to give many interviews and he doesn’t seem entirely comfortable speaking publicly, I’m convinced Bob Dylan gets it.
Scott Marshall has done an amazing job comprehensively tracing Dylan’s performances, albums and interviews through the decades and showing there is a consistency in his devotion to God and His Son that cannot be denied. If you’re a Dylan-phile like me, you will find this book hard to put down. You will be surprised at how Dylan was treated by the church. And you will be appalled at the way he was treated by his fans when he embraced Messiah.
Joseph Farah is founder, editor and chief executive officer of WND. He is the author or co-author of 13 books that have sold more than 5 million copies, including his latest, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age.” Before launching WND as the first independent online news outlet in 1997, he served as editor in chief of major market dailies including the legendary Sacramento Union.