Not Satisfied with Half the Picture: My Quest for Truth Beyond Tradition

In April 2017, Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler sent out invitations to participate in a book project with the working title, Ten From The Nations: Exploring the Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews. Her motivation is to increase awareness of the fact that we are witnessing the gradual fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23. She did so by compiling testimonies from non-Jews who have experienced a Torah awakening of some sort, and from Jews who are actively building relationships with those who are stepping forward from the nations. Her book includes the voices of Christian Zionists, Bnei Noach, Ephraimites, Gerim and more.
It is an honor to be one of those invited to submit a testimony. What follows is the story of my journey into an appreciation of Torah and the Hebraic roots of my Christian faith.
For more information on Ten From The Nations, visit http://www.tenfromthenations.com/.

For the first few years of my life, people fell into one of two categories:  white, or black.  Then the rules changed and the world got complicated.

Scenes of my formative years. Left: going to church in Pensacola, Florida, with my father and older sister in 1962. Right: Dawson Memorial Baptist Church (with Pastor Edgar M. Arendall) and Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama.

The world into which I was born was white, Southern, and Baptist.  That was in 1961, when the requirements of my father’s career in insurance caused my parents to depart from their native Alabama and take up temporary residence in Pensacola, Florida.  As we moved back to Alabama in 1963, the Civil Rights Movement entered its most active stage.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, sit-ins and marches defied segregationist strongholds, and the Federal Government took steps to correct a longstanding injustice.  Little of this turmoil impacted me until 1968, when a Federal judge ordered the desegregation of Birmingham’s public schools.  One day I went to school with my all-white third grade class of about 20 students; the next day the class had swelled to over forty, half of whom were black.

I cannot say whether the addition of so many new playmates of color caused any trauma to myself, but I know that it shook my parents to their core.  At the end of that academic year, they removed my brother and me from the public school, opting to make the financial sacrifice of placing us in the sanctuary of a Christian academy where we could receive a better education.  It also had the advantage in their eyes of being an all-white school.

Well, almost.  What may have escaped their notice was that Briarwood Christian School had a non-discrimination admissions policy.  That explains the presence of one black child in the kindergarten – the only black child enrolled there during my years at Briarwood.  My education was hardly interracial, and yet this turn of events triggered inexorable alterations to my worldview.  By the age of 8, I learned that the antiseptic white society into which I had been born was less utopian than I had been taught.  There was a world of color awaiting my exploration, and a host of questions that the scripted answers could not begin to satisfy.

What I had been taught was not all wrong.  Much of it was right, but it was incomplete.  So was the worldview of my black counterparts –much of it quite right, but incomplete.  Our combined worldviews formed a far more complete picture, with the white perspective filling gaps in the black perspective, and vice versa.  Thus my education proceeded along two parallel tracks:  a formal track provided by the teachers and preachers at school and church; and an informal track hidden in the recesses of my heart and soul and mind.  The hidden track evaluated everything presented to it, often reaching conclusions at odds with the accepted norms.  Hence the reason it remained hidden.

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Does Israel Have a Distinct Place in the Age to Come? – Dan Juster

The multitude of people who have influenced my spiritual views (and worldview in general) include many who would not appreciate being in the same company with one another. Some of them are pictured here. Top row (L-R): Dr. Edgar Arendall (Southern Baptist); Pastor Mark Biltz (Non-Jewish Messianic); Rabbi David Fohrman (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Dan Juster (Messianic Jewish). Second Row (L-R); Monte Judah (Hebrew Roots/Two House); C.S. Lewis (Anglican); J.K. McKee (Non-Jewish Messianic); D.L. Moody (Evangelical Christian). Third Row (L-R): Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Francis Schaeffer (Evangelical Christian); Dr. R.C. Sproul (Presbyterian); J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic).
The multitude of people who have influenced my spiritual views (and worldview in general) include many who would not appreciate being in the same company with one another. Some of them are pictured here. Top row (L-R): Dr. Edgar Arendall (Southern Baptist); Pastor Mark Biltz (Non-Jewish Messianic); Rabbi David Fohrman (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Dan Juster (Messianic Jewish). Second Row (L-R); Monte Judah (Hebrew Roots/Two House); C.S. Lewis (Anglican); J.K. McKee (Non-Jewish Messianic); D.L. Moody (Evangelical Christian). Third Row (L-R): Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Francis Schaeffer (Evangelical Christian); Dr. R.C. Sproul (Presbyterian); J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic).

A continuous source of amazement for me is the fact that many of the men and women who have contributed substantially to my spiritual growth most likely would not be comfortable sitting in the same room with one another.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise.  Inspiration for my life has come from Baptist Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Anglican Christians, Catholic Christians, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, Messianic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Reformed Jews, and Hebrew Roots Torah teachers of many different streams.  It is amazing what these people have in common.  It is more amazing what divides them, and how senseless that division is in the long run.

What fellowship, for example, does D.L. Moody have with R.C. Sproul?  That is a question most readers could not answer, not having a clue who either of those esteemed gentlemen are.  Had they been contemporaries, however, the simple tenets of Moody’s evangelism (“Ruined by the Fall, Redeemed by the Blood, and Regenerated by the Spirit”) would clash with Sproul’s elaborate Reformed reasoning. 

We might say similar things of many, many others – even of the two authors who have had the greatest influence on my life.  It just so happens that they were contemporaries, serving as professors in related fields at prestigious English universities.  It is no secret that J.R.R. Tolkien was instrumental in bringing C.S. Lewis out of atheism and into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah).  Yet Tolkien was disappointed that he could get Lewis no closer to what he considered true Christianity (Roman Catholicism) than the Anglican Church.  And yet the two remained friends and colleagues, greatly influencing each others’ literary and other works.

This begs the question:  If Tolkien and Lewis could get along, why is it that Hebrew Roots believers have trouble getting along with one another?  Or why is it that traditional Christians and Messianic believers of all stripes find it easier to condemn one another rather than support and pray for one another?  Or why do Christians and Jews have such difficulty accepting one another as part of the same covenant people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  It seems that our divisions are doing more work for the enemy of our souls than the good we hope we are doing for the Kingdom of our God.

In the interest of helping to correct this tendency, I am pleased to share an article recently published by Messianic Jewish leader Daniel C. Juster.  Much of my understanding of the Hebrew Roots (or Jewish Roots, as he would say) comes from Dan Juster.  I have been blessed to sit under his teaching and to be discipled by this writings.

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Kingdom Power in Context: A Review of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit by Dr. David E. Jones

BFB160717 Jones - Restoration and Gifts of the SpiritA pendulum swing is taking place in the Hebrew Roots movement in America.  Many followers of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) who have sought to embrace the Torah walk He modelled have moved beyond traditional Christianity.  In practical terms, that means they have left the organized church in its various denominations and moved into something that looks sort of Jewish (as in keeping Sabbath and observing the biblical Feasts), but retains faith in Yeshua as Messiah.  Now that this process has been going on for almost a generation, many are beginning to wonder if we might have left some very important things behind in the church.  Things like fellowship, unity, brotherly love, and the Holy Spirit.  This does not necessarily mean that Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers are ready to return to the church, but rather that we are beginning to realize the same thing about Christians as we have come to understand about Jews:  the things we hold in common are far more numerous and more important than the things which divide us.  Consequently, Hebraic believers are now reexamining once again what they believe, taking steps to mend broken bridges and restore precious things which we may have jettisoned too quickly in our zeal to put distance between ourselves and the traditions of man.

Hebraic believers with backgrounds in the Pentecostal or Charismatic branches of contemporary Christianity understand this question in regard to the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaQodesh).  At first glance, the Torah observant lifestyle does not seem compatible with what is generally believed to be the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.  Yet a deeper study of the Person and purpose of the Spirit reveals something astounding:  living by Torah is impossible without Him.

This is the thrust of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit, a new book by Dr. David E. Jones, Senior Pastor of Ruach Ministries International in Brandon, Florida.  The book grew out of conversations he held with Brad Scott of Wildbranch Ministry.  As Scott writes in his Foreword:

We believe that these gifts were ignored, tossed away, changed or otherwise corrupted just as the feasts and the sabbaths were. . . All of the gifts of the Spirit are from the beginning and all of them are a testimony and revelation of the end.

What follows is a thorough examination of the Holy Spirit from a Hebraic viewpoint.  Starting with Genesis 1 and moving forward through the Scriptures, Jones establishes two very important points.  The first is that the Holy Spirit is YHVH God, nothing less.  This may seem contrary to the common Jewish understanding of echad, or one, which for centuries has held that God is an indivisible entity – One and only One.  That is not necessarily the sense of the Shema, the watchword of Judaism and Hebraic faith, which states, “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”  (Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV)  Jones explains that echad in that verse and elsewhere in the Bible means, “’one’ as something that is unified as one, not necessarily only.”  In other words, “the One True God is in perfect unity as one.”  Therefore, He can express Himself in multiple ways and still be the same YHVH.
The second point is that the Holy Spirit has been active in the world and in human beings from the very beginning.  This is contrary to a common Christian understanding that the “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit did not happen until the events recorded in Acts 2 at the Feast of Pentecost following Yeshua’s ascension.  Jones cites several examples of people in the Tanakh (Old Testament) filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do the works of YHVH.  This brings us to the ministry of the Holy Spirit:

We see a common theme throughout all of Scripture in testifying concerning a “spirit-filled” man of YHVH.  This testimony is three fold, it consists of:  wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  Looking at many of the great people of faith, we can see these three things being shown in their lives.

In his examination of Scripture, Jones illustrates these three elements of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding evident in every move of the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments.  He makes his most powerful argument in presenting the parallels between the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.  What he reveals is the continuity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the people of YHVH, both before and after the coming of Messiah Yeshua.

This is perhaps the most powerful and greatest contribution of Jones’ work.  It is an understanding that neither traditional Christianity nor traditional Judaism could uncover in that both of them start with the perception that they are separate entities rather than two expressions of the same covenant-keeping YHVH.  It takes a Hebraic believer, with an appreciation of both the Christian and Jewish perspectives and an understanding of the Old and New Testaments, to grasp this essential truth.  Yet he does not stop there.  In the latter chapters, he investigates those controversial questions always present in discussions of the gifts of the Spirit.  How are we to account for and deal with such things as the gifts of prophecy and tongues?  What role do they and other gifts play in the life of a Hebraic follower of Yeshua?  What have we missed by avoiding them?  What do we gain by embracing them in the context YHVH intended all along?  Jones does well in addressing these questions.  The answers he provides may not be complete, but they are an essential component to this ongoing discussion of how the power of the Holy Spirit is to be evident in the lives of YHVH’s people.

The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is a much-needed work on a component still lacking in Messianic/Hebrew Roots understanding of the Scripture.  It is also a powerful addition and enhancement of the Christian and Jewish treatments of the subject.  David Jones has done a great service to the believers of all traditions by his balanced and scholarly investigation of the Spirit of the Living God.

The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is available through Ruach International Ministries, and on Amazon.com.


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.