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.
The problem with great satire is that it can be so irreverent. Then again, that is the strength of satire: using humor and ridicule to point out something (usually a shortcoming, hypocrisy, or vice) often overlooked in the routine of living. Satire can be cruel, and thus must be used with great caution. If employed properly, it moves the audience to laugh loudly in genuine humor at their own or their society’s expense, and plants seeds for reflection that hopefully will bloom into motivation for positive change.
Or perhaps not. Sometimes humor exists only for humor. That is one way to consider the works of Douglas Adams, the late English author best known for his satirical science fiction works, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is quite possible that Adams and I could have been good friends, although our worldviews would have generated a continuous wrestling match between us. To the end of his life he remained utterly convinced in the nonexistence of a Creator, even as I am utterly convinced that there is no god but YHVH. And yet I can appreciate his masterful use of the English language, his clever story lines, and his penetrating wit, all of which he employed to point out things worthy of our consideration. Here is one example from the first Hitchhiker’s Guide novel:
The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?.
This is Adams at his best, using seemingly trivial questions with simple answers to provoke a deeper level of inquiry on the very nature and meaning of human existence. Perhaps he would be surprised to learn that the Lord God does the very same thing. The small, simple, seemingly insignificant things are what He uses to test our hearts, to discipline us, and to mature us so we can exercise greater responsibility, and all the time He magnifies His glory through us and through these processes. Thus, when it comes to distinctions between believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the differences usually are much smaller than we may think. Consider, for example, the attitudes of believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) regarding the Law, or Torah, of God. To define this difference, we can use the same pattern Douglas Adams used by asking three simple questions:
When are we to worship God?
How are we to worship God?
What does God say is food?
Last week a reader asked a very important question. It is so important that I want to share it:
A friend introduced me to your blog. I am a follower of Yeshua, not one of the twelve “lost” tribes but I am Torah pursuant. I am learning to be part of Abba’s tribe. In your writing I only hear you speak of Judah and Ephraimites (lost tribes) as being Israel. Do you see Torah pursuant followers of Yeshua who have no provable family lineage and are from “the nations” as part of the Israel family? Do they have a place at the table?
This question gets to the very heart of who we are. It addresses the very thing that the Apostles and the wider Jewish community wrestled with in the First Century. Specifically, what is the status of these people coming to faith in Yeshua from among the Gentiles? Are they still Gentiles, or are they Israelites? And if they are Israelites, are they also to become Jews? And if they are not Jews, what kind of Israelites are they?
Many writers and teachers have addressed this question, and it is in fact the central question addressed in my recent book, Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell. There is still much more to be said as we watch and participate in the unfolding of YHVH’s revelation on the subject. As a contribution to that dialogue, here is my response:
One of the biggest things Abba is doing right now is restoring to His people the awareness of their identity. Are you a believer in Yeshua, Son of God and Messiah? Do you obey His commands and follow Him as His disciple? Then you are indeed an Israelite regardless of your ethnicity or nationality. The Apostle Paul made that clear in his letters, particularly in Ephesians 2 and Romans 9,10, and 11. When he writes about us of the nations being grafted into the olive tree of Israel, and of being part of the commonwealth of Israel, that’s what he means. The Jewish part of our nation (the House of Judah) have always retained their identity as Israelites and have kept the nation alive. That is the Father’s plan, and that is why we non-Jewish Israelites do not replace the Jews, but join with them in the nation as Abba rebuilds it. That is the meaning behind the prophecies of the Dry Bones and Two Sticks of Ezekiel 37, and of the entire book of Hosea, and of Isaiah 11, and of many, many other prophecies.
When it comes to your physical heritage, it should be a great comfort to know that lineage is no obstacle to God (Matthew 3:7-10). Israel is His Kingdom and His vehicle of salvation for all the nations, so He has always invited people to join that nation from the time He made His first call to our father Abraham. Today He has revealed the means by which He can accept anyone into the nation, and by which He can accept the nation itself back into fellowship with Him. That, of course, is what Yeshua accomplished with His atoning sacrifice on our behalf, and that is why He is our King. The truth is, neither I nor anyone else can prove with beyond any doubt that we are descendants of any of the Tribes. Even our brethren of Judah are hard pressed to chart their lineage considering the things that have happened to the Jews over the centuries. We have the choice of looking at all of that as tragedy and as cause for division, or of looking on it as another astonishing revelation of our God’s glory. He is reconstructing His nation from broken pieces, gathering up the fragments just as Yeshua’s disciples gathered the fragments discarded by those who ate His bread and fish. In time this polyglot nation of many peoples will become the nation of one people, Israel, just as our King has promised. In fact, the nations of this earth will be absorbed into Yeshua’s Kingdom of Israel just as the prophets Daniel and John declared (Daniel 2:44-45; Revelation 11:15-18).
In time we will all be numbered among the Tribes. As others have said, when we enter the New Jerusalem, we will be going through the gates named for each of the Tribes because there is no gate named for the nations. All we know for now is that Yeshua’s Kingdom of Israel consists of two parts: the houses of Judah and Ephraim. If you are not Jewish, but you are a believer in Yeshua, then you are of Ephraim. Tribal identification is of secondary importance. Based on the precedent set in Numbers 1 with the first census of Israel, and of the provisions for inheritance explained in Ezekiel 47:21-23, I am inclined to believe that individual choice has a big role in tribal identity. The first step, though, is identifying with Israel as an Israelite currently living among the nations. If we can in all sincerity call Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob our fathers, then we are ready to move forward as God’s people.
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2015. 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.
What happens when the Holy Spirit enlightens us to some deeper truth of Scripture? In my experience, there is a profound sense of awe at the greatness of our Creator, followed by heartfelt expressions of thanks and praise, and then by petitions for grace on how to apply the newly learned truth. Then comes the urge to share this truth with others. When they get it and grasp the revelation, then of joy enhance our fellowship as this new bit of learning strengthens our connection to each other and to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But what if they do not get it? What if those with whom we share this newfound truth not only fail to see it, but have no desire to hear anything about it? What if they reject the messenger because the message conflicts with their perception of God and His reality? How is a disciple of Yeshua to act in such cases? Tragically, our answer all too often is to break fellowship with the “unenlightened” and move on our own path. That is how divisions begin, and that is how the heart of Holy God is broken and grieved.
These are the questions Ken Rank addresses in the article reproduced below. A major thrust of Ken’s calling is to facilitate cooperation within the Body of Messiah and with our brethren of Judah to smooth the way for YHVH’s work in restoring His Kingdom. This is an Elijah task of the first order, lifting up every valley and making every rough place plane to prepare the highway of our God. May the Lord communicate His desires for the shape and work of His entire Body as you read Ken’s article, recently posted on Messianic Publications.
This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.
Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue. Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it. Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.
My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries. The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This journey is beset with many openings for offense. Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended. I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.
This is the third in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
The Commonwealth and the Symbol of Godly Marriage.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua says that in the Kingdom of Heaven He will declare that those who practice lawlessness, or Torahlessness, must depart from Him. That is a sobering message, but consider it from another perspective. God went through every conceivable obstacle to win his people back to Himself, even when we were not willing to acknowledge him. The clearest picture we have of this is in marriage. Here is what God said regarding marriage and divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading
This is the second in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
Common Ground and Uncomfortable Differences
In defining the Commonwealth of Israel, let me begin be reviewing the things Christians and Jews have in common:
- We all believe in the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- We all believe that God has given His Holy Word to us so that we may know Him and have instructions on how to live.
- We all believe that God will send his Messiah (Christ as the title appears in Greek) to teach us about himself and show the way to connect with God just as our ancestors Adam and Eve connected with him in the days before our unhindered relationship with God was broken.
- We all believe that something has separated us from God, or at least prevents us from achieving our full created potential. Christians call this original sin. It is hard to generalize the various Jewish positions on this question. Sin, when it factors into Jewish belief (Orthodox, Reformed, or Conservative), is defined much the same way that Christians define it as disobedience to God, or even as rebellion against God. The result is the same: separation from the Creator and inability to achieve his intent for humanity.