Tag Archive | Ephesians

Picture of the Week 07/26/17

When we realize that the apostles were actually commenting on what Moses and the prophets wrote, the whole book comes alive in new and unexpected ways.

 

 


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2017.  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.
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Picture of the Week 05/23/17

Is the world really divided into Jews and Gentiles, or is it Israelites and Gentiles – with some of those Israelites being Jewish, and some non-Jewish?

 


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2017.  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.

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

A few weeks ago, 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 is doing 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. The book will include 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, including notice of when it will be available, send an email to tenfromthenations@gmail.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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Resurrection of the Leprous Prodigal

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy  (Wikimedia Commons)

Those who have leprosy might as well be dead.  Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת).  The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.  (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)

Think about that for a moment.  Lepers could not go home.  They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them.  It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation.  Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that.  Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:

King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death.  He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.  Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.  (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)

How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God?  Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?

Yes, there is hope.  That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers.  Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society.  In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do. 

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Picture of the Week 02/08/17

Counsel from God often comes through the most unlikely messengers.  It takes wisdom and a hefty dose of humility to recognize and receive them.

bfb170208-proverbs-31_26

 


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2017.  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.

Israel 2016: In Search of Hebrew Roots Judaism

General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore on Leyte, Philippine Islands, in October 1944 to keep his promised, "I shall return".

General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore on Leyte, Philippine Islands, in October 1944 to keep his promised, “I shall return”.

There is a joke from World War II that no longer makes sense without some explanation.  It is said that a foreign student at an American university wrote an essay about General Douglas MacArthur.  In the early months of 1942, as MacArthur presided over a doomed defense of the Philippine Islands, he was ordered to leave his command and go to Australia, there to organize the multinational Allied force that would halt Japanese expansion in the South Pacific.  At his departure, MacArthur reportedly promised the people of the Philippines and his Filipino and American troops that he would one day come back with an army to liberate them – which he did two years later.  On that momentous day in 1942, though, all he could do was promise, “I shall return.”

Those were inspiring words to Americans about to lose their forward bases and their largest military force in the Far East, and who could not bear to lose with them one of the most senior officers of their Army.  MacArthur’s words inspired this young foreign student as well.  However, his knowledge of English being imperfect, he conducted his research in his native tongue, and therefore committed an unfortunate faux pas when he presented his paper.  Standing proudly in front of his peers, the young man said, “I write about Douglas MacArthur, who said those famous words, ‘I’ll be right back!’”

What is the proper response in such a situation?  If there is no offense, then laughter erupts.  However, if the hearers take offense, then they respond in anger.

It may be that neither is the proper response.  If the one who made the error is trying to communicate in good faith, then the audience should give grace, seek to understand the true message, and help the author overcome the error.  That is the point behind King Solomon’s wise words:

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.  (Proverbs 10:12 NKJV; see also Proverbs 17:9)

Solomon’s observation is rooted in a Torah principle:

You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God:  I am the Lord.  (Leviticus 19:14 NKJV)

Jewish sages understand that this principle refers not only to the physically deaf and blind, but also to people who cannot hear or see things clearly.  Perhaps they are not present when something is said, or perhaps they do not have the language or experience to grasp the intricacies of a subject under discussion.  Consider, for example, a man who is brilliant in his native language, but struggles to order a cup of coffee in English, and is laughed to scorn by those who do not realize the importance of being kind to strangers (another Torah principle).

To be honest, Jews are strangers to me, and I am a stranger to Jews.  Although I identify as a Hebrew Roots follower of Messiah Yeshua, I have yet to grasp the intricacies of Judaism.  The more Jews I meet and get to know, the more I begin to understand, but always what I say and do is tempered with the fear that I may give offense in some way that I had never anticipated.

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Israel 2016: Between the Surreal and a Holy Place

Our plan today was to visit the Kotel (Western Wall) and then go shopping.  At least that was the general outline.  Pete and I had other things in mind – activities which involved more walking and exploration, and less exchange of hard currency.  It would be cheaper, of course, but more importantly, it would help vigorous teenage boys expend more energy and perhaps enjoy their time in Jerusalem a little more.

Worshippers at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem for Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), October 23, 2016.

Worshipers at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem for Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), October 23, 2016.

We are now veterans at navigating Jerusalem.  Drive through Ein Kerem (hometown of John the Baptist) up to Mount Herzl, get on the light rail, and ride to the City Hall.  Walk down to the Jaffa Gate, and wind our way through the Jewish Quarter to the Kotel.  It was easy – aside from forgetting to remove my wallet from my pocket at the security checkpoint.  Not a problem, other than embarrassment when the sensor announced my faux pas.  The officer was patient and professional; he sees this a thousand times a day.  Put the wallet on the table, go back through the sensor, and all is well.

This is my third time to the Kotel.  It’s the first time for the young people with us.  The women went to their side, leaving the six of us men to move through the crowds on our side.  Tommy and Pete led the way, followed by Pete’s sons Jeremiah, Joseph, and Silas.  I brought up the rear.  Eventually we found space at the wall where all of us could touch the ancient stones and pray side by side.  What I prayed recalled the words of the Son of David who dedicated this holy place above us:

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.  How much less this temple which I have built!  Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today:  that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place.  And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place.  Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.  (I Kings 8:27-30 NKJV)

Why do we pray toward Jerusalem?  That is why.  It is His city, the place He has chosen from all the places on this planet.  The one place where His visible glory appeared and remained for centuries – and will return one day.

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Israel 2016: A Quantum Leap Toward the One New Man

bfb161022-take-two-tabletsThere is an old joke about Moses standing on Mount Sinai waiting the hear from YHVH.  The hand of the Almighty appears with the Ten Commandments written on stone, and a great Voice says, “Take these two tablets and call me in the morning”.

It is funny because it is not a joke.  We know what happened:  Moses took the tablets with the Ten Commandments back to the people of Israel, but when he found them celebrating in idolatrous revelry (oddly enough, in worship of YHVH by pagan means), he threw down those tablets written by the Finger of God and shattered them.

Parents should have special insight about YHVH’s reaction to all of this.  First, He punished everyone – both the instigators who provoked the people to disobedience, as well as the willfully ignorant who allowed themselves to be led astray.  Even those who stood by and let it happen did not escape His notice.  Do we not act similarly when our children embark on a path of foolishness that wrecks the house?

That was the negative reaction.  What came next was His solution to the problem:  He directed Moses to clean up the mess.  Consider these words:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.  So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.  (Exodus 34:1-2 NKJV)

In other words, “Bring two tablets and call me in the morning.”

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Israel 2016: A Lesson in Being Peculiar

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  (I Peter 2:9 KJV)

The Church of All Nations, traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Church of All Nations, traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The meaning of “peculiar” has changed somewhat since the publication of the King James Bible four hundred years ago.  In 1611 it meant special, set apart, treasured – in other words, holy.  Today it means odd, strange, or out-of-place, which is why the New King James uses the word “special” instead of peculiar.

The point of this language, both in I Peter and in the Torah passages Peter references (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 26:18-19), is that YHVH has designated the people of Israel as His own possession.  As such, Israelites will think, eat, speak, dress, and act differently than the rest of the world.  The fact that Peter draws on the Torah for his exhortation to First Century followers of Yeshua testifies to his belief in direct connection between them and Israel.  Paul agrees, which is why he says that we who take advantage of the grace offered through Yeshua’s redemptive work are adopted or grafted into the covenant people of Israel and become part of Abraham’s seed (Ephesians 2:8-13; Romans 11:16-27; Galatians 3:29).

As sincere Christians in traditional churches, we already had some measure of distinction from the world as we tried to speak kindly, treat one another nicely, refrain from vices, go to church regularly, and study the Bible.  All of that established us as different from “unchurched” people.  Observant Jews are also distinctive from the rest of the world in that they dress and eat differently, observe the Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord, and make a concerted effort to take care of one another.  So what happens when sincere Christians start looking like observant Jews?

That is a lesson we learned yesterday in our walk around Jerusalem.  As Hebrews, we wear tzittzit in observance of the commandment in Numbers 15:37-41.  Many of us have also adopted the Jewish custom of keeping our heads covered, either with a kippa or with a hat of some kind.  This is normal in Jerusalem, where many varieties of tzittziyot and head coverings – as well as other dress – come together in an eclectic Jewish blend.  What made us peculiar even here, however, was what we did.

American Hebrews gathered in the Garden to study the Bible.

American Hebrews gathered in the Garden to study the Bible.

In our wanderings, we made our way to the foot of the Mount of Olives to read and discuss some scripture passages at the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.  That in itself is peculiar:  why would these “Jewish” people want to go to a site associated with the Christian Jesus?  The garden is in the courtyard of the Church of All Nations, a Catholic church and a regular stop for Christian tour groups.  As we gathered on the edge of the garden and discussed the various events associated with the Mount of Olives, we received many puzzled looks from the groups who filed by us.  The quizzical looks continued when we left the garden as Arab vendors and Jewish pedestrians wondered the same thing:  why are these “Jews” going to a church?

The answer, of course, is not that we are trying to be Jewish, but that we are finding our own way in this appreciation of the whole Word of God.  

It is a peculiar journey.

(For the curious, the passages of interest included II Samuel 15 and Zechariah 14, which we discussed in the context of King David’s story prefiguring the life, ministry and second coming of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of David).  


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 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.

Remembering ALL Our Roots

This is a season of reflection at The Barking Fox.  Part of the reason is getting settled at last in our new home in North Carolina.  There is no hiding the fact that I am a Southern boy, with roots growing to a depth of 200 years in Alabama and nearly three centuries in the Carolinas.  Hopefully I will have opportunity to explore those roots and share any findings that would be of interest to others.

bfb160918-keith-greenWhat has reminded me of a central part of my roots has been the opportunity to listen to worship music that has ministered to my soul for as long as I have been on this earth. Recently I shared one of those songs by the late Keith Green.  Now I share another:  an old hymn made new again as I pondered its meaning.  

In the Baptist Hymnal on my bookshelf its is called There Is a Fountain.  The lyrics come not only from Scripture (Zechariah 13:1), but from the life experience of William Cowper, an Englishman who penned these words in the same era that my Scottish-American ancestors began their contribution to the history of this continent. 

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
Wash all my sins away
Wash all my sins away
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away

Ever since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die

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