Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Journey to Now




When I was a Christian, I thought of Christianity as the only true way to approach the Old and New Testament.  I believed that G-d loved the modern State of Israel and that He loved the Jewish People.  But...

I also believed that He wanted all the Jews of the world to renounce Judaism and convert and become good Christians.

Then I had an awakening.

Immediately after learning how Christianity introduced certain adulterations in its approach to Scripture (namely its theological ambivalence and even antipathy towards Jews, its culture of anti-Judaism, etc), I wanted very little to do with Christianity.   I believed that Christianity was a poisoned well.  I needed pure water.   I needed to go to the source.  If Christianity was an adulterated version of the original Judaic faith presented in the Tanak and the Apostolic Writings, then I needed to find the original Judaic faith that the 1st Century Believers practiced.

My first stop on this journey to find the pure spring of the faith was a fellowship run by a Jewish Christian pastor.  While this satisfied a need to fellowship with Jewish People and I had many, profoundly positive experiences there, something wasn't quite right.  It was really just a typical, charismatic Christian gathering.  The pastor, who identified as a Christian, had no interest in living out any sort of Jewish lifestyle--that I could see.  I even tried to get him interested in Judaism.  I gave him the classic Jewish apologetic work "This is My G-d" by Herman Wouk.  He countered by giving me Sid Roth's "The Last Lap:  The Emergence of the One New Man."

So what type of religion does Sid Roth advocate?  He begins his book by explaining that Christianity has an anti-Semitic history going back to the Church "fathers" (e.g. Justin Martyr, John Chrysostrom, etc) and how in early Christian history when the "center of the Christian faith moved from Jerusalem to Rome, it became increasingly Hellenized, adopting pagan customs and philosophies rather than the God-ordained practices and beliefs of the Bible.  At the same time Christianity became increasingly anti-Jewish..." pg. 33. Not only did Roth seem to reject Christianity on the basis that it is syncretistic but He affirmed that Yeshua did not come to abolish the law (pg. 41) and he talked at length about how the moedim (Jewish holy days) are not bondage but rather a blessing.  These elements made Roth sound Messianic.

But then he made some very anti-Judaic statements in a chapter entitled "the Rabbinic Conspiracy."  To accept anything from Rabbinic Judaism, in Roth's view, is to grant supreme authority to the rabbis.  And he says that the "Oral Torah" is something that was invented after the 1st century common era and that "...one of the major goals of [the authors of the Talmud] was to keep the Jew from believing in Messiah Yeshua."  This chapter made it clear that Roth saw no value whatsoever in halachic Judaism, seeing it rather as an anti-Yeshua construct.

So then at the end of the book we see that Roth believes the perfect religion is not Messianic Judaism ( "If the Messianic Jewish [movement] of the 1970s could have ushered in the One New Man, it would have happened").  He says that the ideal is to have "One New Man" congregations and these could be mega churches:  "Some One New Man Congregations will be mega churches...Some will be very biblically Jewish in culture and others will only celebrate the biblical festivals.  Let God be God....[The Church] will have some characteristics of Messianic Judaism and some of Gentile Christianity."

Bottom line:  Roth's vision of the pure, unadulterated faith involved mega churches.  Precisely the type of environment I was hoping to escape!

But Roth also said something that was extremely inconsistent.  He said on page 23 that the commandment to "honor your father" applied to the "fathers" of the faith and that Christians were violating this commandment by rejecting the Jewish fathers of the faith and invoking curses upon themselves.  But wasn't he also rejecting the Jewish fathers of the faith by summarily rejecting all rabbinic halacha?  It was slightly inconsistent.  He believed corrupt Christianity was easily reformable with One New Man congregations but corrupt Judaism was a lost cause.

So then I went through a period of "do-it-yourself" Messianic Judaism.  I would enjoy the traditions of halachic Judaism (what little I understood) while maintaining my belief that Yeshua is the Messiah.  Everything I ate had to have a hechsher (rabbinic certification) on it.  No driving on Shabbat, etc.  My philosophy was simple:  Yeshua + as much halachic Judaism as I was capable of handling on my own.  There was one small problem with this philosophy:

Judaism is a communal faith and not designed to be practiced in isolation.  I needed a community.

My next stop on the Messianic journey then was a Messianic synagogue.  For the first time, I saw people trying to implement some of those Judaic values that I had acquired after my Judaic awakening.  The format felt Jewish, there was a "rabbi" rather than a "pastor", there was all the familiar Judaic ceremonies I had experienced from the Reform synagogue in my hometown, the liturgical songs, the delightful oneg portion of the service where people broke bread together.

But it was clear early on that to be fully accepted there you had to be Jewish.  They wouldn't turn you away for being non-Jewish; they just wouldn't suggest to you that you should be studying or practicing Messianic Judaism--because it was for Jews only.  In other words, they had a tiered communal membership structure that was unofficially based on race classification.  Non-Jews, like stray dogs, were welcome to come in and visit but ultimately they could never have that top tier membership, could never be real family (unless they married in, which many did, or unless they converted, which many did).

My next stop on the Messianic journey was in the realm of the Hebrew Roots movement.  Here were folks very similar to me...except that their faith had evolved in apparent isolation from actual Jews.  They had a passion for the Torah, a passion for study.  They were as wary of Judaism as they were of Christian teachings.  The doctrine of the divinity of Yeshua, for example, had to be rejected since they believed this was a product of Christian teaching (which is actually not the case as we see in a wide variety of 1st century Jewish writings that to believe in someone as a Creator--i.e. Yeshua--was to believe in that person as G-d since ALL first-century Jews believed HaShem was the only Creator and Sustainer of Creation).

This isolation from Jews seemed to have the following consequence:  they seemed to care very little for Jewish causes like remembering Zionist heroes, or remembering the Shoah, etc.  They didn't seem to think of their movement as something that focused on going to the Jew first.  Rather, they seemed to be creating a do-it-yourself Judaism in which little to no input was needed from Jews.

(A lot of people will say I'm being unfair in my assessment here.  This is just my feeling though. )

But I still feel that what I need is a Messianic Judaism developed by Jews, that prioritizes Jewish outreach, that delights in Jewish causes, and also welcomes Gentiles as equal members of the communal family, that walks in tension with the rabbis (rather than showing utter contempt), that promotes communal holism (rather than individualism or isolationism), that promotes representative eldership (rather than pyramidal hierarchies where one man rules all or where a group of cronies rule all), that promotes gemeinschaft communities where maximal integration exists (not just a one day of the week superficial version of fellowship).

Ah, well, I've probably talked too long!  Hopefully my Hebrew Roots friends won't be offended by this post.  I see awesome potential in the Hebrew Roots movement--provided they find ways to prioritize Jewish People, showing them the respect they deserve as our older brother in the faith.

Shalom (and please don't be mad at me for speaking so frankly!),

Peter

42 comments:

  1. Shalom akhi,

    I appreciate your thoughts. I feel they reflect most individuals line of thinking. I thought you were very fair within your rending. Great job. I hope others will see this & noticed that equilibrium is needed.

    Great job again.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I get very nervous with these types of posts...never sure how weird they might sound. So thanks for letting me know I'm not alone! : )

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  2. I enjoyed this short post. I've been lurking here for some time, almost commented a time or two, but never did. My journey is very young, and old at the same time too. I knew for the past 30 years *something* was wrong with the church, but until a few months ago I didn't understand just how wrong things were. When my eyes were finally opened to Torah, and I got through the excruciating process of reconciling everything and acquiescing, I too spent some time with a Hebrew roots group, but had to leave when it was evident they were still polluted by Christian ideas--and specifically putting their own concept of "living by the Spirit" ahead of following G-d's commandments.

    I've been spending time now with an even smaller group (usually 4 with myself, up to 8 on Sukkot) who consider themselves Orthodox Jews who believe in Yeshua. A couple have Jewish heritage, but came out of the church, and weren't halachically Jewish until conversion by (I think) an orthodox messianic beit din (out of state), and even then who knows if Orthodox jews would even accept that.

    I just wish it could be like the days of the Nazarenes, where we could join with a Jewish community and worship together despite our differences over Yeshua. I would be happy to go through orthodox conversion if Yeshua wasn't such a stumbling block to Judaism.

    I have accepted that an oral Torah was and is essential in many ways, and I am willing to accept the authority of Orthodox Judaism even when I may have a hard time completely agreeing to some of the more stringent hedges. The level of kashrut requirements in orthodox judaism for example seems to go way beyond the requirements of Torah, but I'm not opposed to accepting those requirements so long as they don't violate Torah.

    It's tough to be stuck somewhere between Christianity and Judaism.

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    1. I'm very happy to hear from you! And I'm glad that there was something in the post that resonated with you.

      I think the main difficulty in this process of learning about Messianic Judaism has been overcoming identity confusion. When I just started out, I didn't know the difference between ethnic Jewishness and meta-ethnic membership in Israel. In less fancy terms: that the idea that Israel (i.e. the family of G-d) is composed of both Jews (tribal members of Israel) and non-Jews (non-tribally affiliated members of Israel).

      Bottom line: it's okay to be non-Jewish and practice Judaism. Judaism is not just for Jews; it's for everyone.

      Just don't expect recognition from the physical realm of Israel. The modern State of Israel obviously isn't going to confer citizenship upon a non-Jew simply because that non-Jew believes in Yeshua. However, Yeshua, as the true King of Israel, recognizes you as a member of His Kingdom Realm of Israel. And His opinion is all that really matters. Let the rest of the world think of us as fools! : )

      Thanks again for your comment. It means a lot. And always feel free to message me using the contact tab if you have anything you want to talk about privately.

      Shalom and Blessings,

      Peter



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    2. It must be hard to "know it all", a little life-raft drifting in a sea of the ignorant-only you among all Yeshua's little ones have understanding of "how it should be", you are just misunderstood. You have every right to be melancholy.

      Oh, if everyone could just see what a struggle you have been through, we could all be sorry...

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    3. Merciful,

      I've been blessed beyond all imagination because I love the Jews. G-d has made me the happiest man in the world. I have a wife and daughter devoted to Yeshua---they dance before Him. They also have the joy of knowing that they are daughters of the King of Israel.

      I have nothing but a heart full of thankfulness for HaShem's blessings! Even if I had nothing but the love for Israel in my heart, it would be enough--to know that His Spirit is upon my heart is all I need.

      And I pray that G-d will pour His blessings upon you as well! May you and your family experience the joy of the L-rd!

      Shalom,

      Peter



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    4. G-d's enemies won't have you and his friends are not good enough for you.

      The world revolves around Peter, his amazing love for the Jews, his perfect understanding of how it all works, his miraculous devoted blessings he believes he deserves.

      No need of the gospel, the sacrifice God has provided himself, communion with the saved.

      Here is some torah for you: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

      Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud."

      My prayer for myself is that I experience the joy of standing with and standing for the least in the Kingdom, that G-d remove anything in my heart that despises his little ones and makes me believe I am better than them. That he lead me by his spirit to escape from the wrath to come, to leave behind those who despise his son.

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    5. Merciful,

      Perhaps all of the time you've spent in coming here to this blog and criticizing me vocalizing my love for the Jewish People--perhaps all of that time would be better spent in going out and helping others.

      Shalom,

      Peter

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    6. Peter, I have not spent any time criticizing you for vocalizing your love for the Jewish people. I encourage you to love them, I encourage you to love all peoples, not just the Jewish people.

      My criticism of you is your bashing believers of Yeshua, putting them down to make yourself look good.

      Putting down Christians and calling them names does not make you look good. Even Jews will see you as self-promoting.

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    8. Good grief Merciful. Drop the passive aggressive posts and speak plain. If you disagree with Peter on specific points then make your case without the veiled personal accusations against his character. If you can't do that then kindly refrain from posting.

      Thanks.

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    9. S.W. Shore, I do not need your approval or advice on how to make my posts. I make my points the way I want to.

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    10. Just giving you some tips on how to have a meaningful conversation with other human beings.

      You retain the right to disregard that advice.

      Good day.

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    11. S.W. Shore, I think you were trying to control me because my comments did not meet your approval. You think my comments are less than human?

      "the veiled personal accusations against his character." so, you should take your own advice?

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    12. Who are you and where do you live? I can give you more info

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  3. What does it mean you "love the Jews"? Of the few you have met, how many call you more than casual acquaintance? Isn't it more likely, you are in love with an idea, an idealized one at that?

    Now, when Yeshua says "I love" I can believe that because he laid down his life for his friends. When the bible says "for G-d so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son" I can believe that because he has a relationship with the world as our creator.

    How can you "love the Jews", you do not know them, you are not in relationship with them?

    I could say "I love Mark Twain" although I have never met him, because I "love all good writers", but that is nothing more than an idea, not a reality.

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    1. Most voices in the world are spewing hatred at the Jewish People. Just the other day, the EU said products originating from pre-1967 borders in Israel cannot have the "made in Israel" label. Day after day, hate-filled anti-Semites stab Jews to death in Israel.

      Here is a pro-Zionist blog, a philo-Semitic blog, where I focus on all the good things the Jewish People have to offer. This blog, for however many years running now, has been one long love letter to the Jewish People.

      And judging from the many visitors to this blog from the State of Israel, I can only assume they appreciate the fact that there are people in the world who love them.

      Now, they may not like the fact that I share the besorah of Yeshua with them, that I tell them that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, that is the suffering servant spoken of in Isaiah, that through Him all may have life. But I tell them anyway because I love them and know that this besorah is for the Jew first.

      Shalom,

      Peter

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  4. Chaver! Nice to see someone who shares my own perceptions and vision for a mature and inclusive Judaism that is Messianic and universal. I have been encouraging such a direction for some 30 years. But I feel like a voice in the wilderness.

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    1. My brother! Yes, be encouraged! G-d is definitely doing wonderful things in our day. We may even live to pour out our lives for Him. Stay strong!

      Shalom,

      Peter

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    2. Peter,

      Would you mind dropping me a line at mishkan.david@gmail.net? I'd like to have some offline discussion.

      Todah!

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    3. David,
      Just sent the email. Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Shalom,

      Peter

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  5. Talk about "poisoned wells", which of these major religions believe the truth, that Yeshua is the Messiah, Emmanuel?

    a. Christianity
    b. Islam
    c. Hinduism
    d. Chinese folk religion
    e. Buddhism
    f. Taoism
    g. Shinto
    h. Sikhism
    i.Judaism
    j. Korean shamanism
    k. Casdaism
    l. Baha’i

    Yeshua said "Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life. But whoever disobeys the Son will not see that life but remains subject to God’s wrath.”

    Yeshua is that pure well, not some false unbeliving form of godliness.

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  6. Peter,

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in doing so.

    Never stop growing.

    Todah rabah and shalom!

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    1. Bevakasha! And thank you for your kind note, brother.

      Shalom,

      Peter

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  7. Shalom Kefa (Peter),
    Thank you for sharing with us the journey that HaShem has guided you on. May HaShem bless you richly.

    Blessings in Messiah Yeshua,
    Bradley C Gray

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    1. Brother, I'm honored to be on this journey with you and grateful for your blessing. May you also be blessed in the name of our L-rd and Messiah Yeshua.

      Shalom,

      Peter

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  8. There are many of us who feel the same way, Peter. Ignore the negative comments. It is hard to understand the depth and breadth of understanding that comes from seeing things from Yeshua's perspective which is fundamentally Jewish in heritage and in theology UNTIL one has actually studied them from that very perspective. Same reason most Jews won't accept "Jesus" because most of Christendom as you know, make Messiah almost unrecognizable to the Jewish people. If we are to BE like and WALK like Yeshua - that indeed means embracing all that He taught. Not a modern Greco-Romanized version that was wrongly superimposed over the historically accurate Yeshua to blind the Jews to their rightful Messiah.

    It's not just your understanding that you've come to. It is the understanding of many, many others who have ventured away from "Hebrew Roots" all the way to appreciating Messianic Judaism and the further depth it offers in understand our Creator and Redeemer.

    So for "Merciful" to think it's the world according to Peter - that's laughable. The numbers of people migrating from "Hebrew Roots" to Messianic Judaism is increasing as the fullness of understanding increases.

    And for the record "Merciful" is certainly a misnomer given the unmerciful way you have come against Peter on his on blog. When you write on someone's blog - try to use the same manners you would if you were in their home. Assuming you have manners, of course.

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    1. There was a funny meme going around recently that said "It must've been tough for Jesus to be the only white guy in the entire Middle East."

      It's difficult enough for most Anglo Saxon Protestants to envisage Yeshua as an ethnic, first-century Judean. To envisage Him waking up in the morning and donning Teffilin is virtually impossible.

      Good thing we serve a G-d with whom all things are possible!

      Shalom and Blessings, Anonymous

      Peter



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  9. "This isolation from Jews seemed to have the following consequence: they seemed to care very little for Jewish causes like remembering Zionist heroes, or remembering the Shoah, etc. They didn't seem to think of their movement as something that focused on going to the Jew first. Rather, they seemed to be creating a do-it-yourself Judaism in which little to no input was needed from Jews."

    I like this.

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    1. I wrote this post after thinking about some of the things you said recently. But my intent was not to be dismissive of the Hebrew Roots movement; rather to make a constructive criticism. All congregations/fellowships in the broader Messianic movement should be taking steps to ensure that they are connected to the Jewish People.

      Isolationism is the path to the dark side...

      Shalom,

      Peter

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    2. I disagree here. Most of the HR movement are 2 housers. I will dismiss them licety split......

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  10. Hi Peter,

    Thank you for posting.

    "But I still feel that what I need is a Messianic Judaism developed by Jews, that prioritizes Jewish outreach, that delights in Jewish causes, and also welcomes Gentiles as equal members of the communal family, that walks in tension with the rabbis (rather than showing utter contempt), that promotes communal holism (rather than individualism or isolationism)" - well put!

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    1. Ms. Pinto,

      The amazing thing is that it took me so long to figure out something so simple: that something which is so close to Yeshua's heart should be close to our hearts as well. Fortunately we serve a very patient Father!

      Thank you for visiting and commenting, sister!

      Shalom,

      Peter

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  11. Excellent article, I agree, isolation is not good and it is really difficult to find fellowship in the church holding messianic views and living Torah. Thanks you for this article...

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    1. Duane,

      I just sent you an email using the email address in the contact section of your blog. Thanks for visiting brother!

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  12. Peter, I appreciate the frank evaluation of the landscape. It's accurate.

    What you're seeking doesn't exist. It should. I feel much the same way as you in a desire for an inclusive Messianic Judaism. I am aiming to create a community like that as a leader in my own congregation.

    Great post. Shavua tov.

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    1. I'm grateful that G-d has raised you up to do great things for the Kingdom.

      RE: "What you're seeking doesn't exist. It should."

      I'm going to need your input on a few ideas in the coming weeks. I'll email you about it. I believe there's a web-based way to empower local Messianic community organizers.

      Shalom,

      Peter

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  13. Excellent Article.
    I'm blessed to have found a Messianic synagogue, with a Jewish Rabbi, Yehezqel, where we practise Hallachic Judaism.
    Moved away from the Hebrew Roots and the 2 Housers!
    Thank you for this uplifting bio.

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    1. You sure broke one commandment :

      Then he forsook God who made him,
      And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
      16 They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
      With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
      They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
      To gods they did not know,
      To new gods, new arrivals
      That your fathers did not fear.

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  14. Peter it is nice to see someone who shares my own frustrations with the Messianic movement and Hebrew Roots. We recently moved to Twin Falls, Idaho and are seeking others of like mind.

    Continue with all that you are doing, we'll keep you in our prayers.

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  15. Say Peter, I appreciate your post and it has added to some of my thoughts. Christians assume that one is moving away from the faith when accepting Yeshua, it seems that they can't sparate faith and agenda, and Israel thinks belief in Him is betrayal to their heritage. So yeah, we are in a state of limbo. We are the most hated people on earth. But the funny thing about that is that their hatred just proves us right, and thats not arrogance, thats John 15:18-27.

    But what piqued my interest is, what are Christians getting wrong when they move into Messianicism? And what are Jews getting wrong when they accept Yeshua? ...It's all so polarizing.

    Personally, I'd say start a house church, write your way through the Bible (Genesis-Revelation) and do volunteer work... I say volunteer work because religion undefiled is visiting the widow #nursinghome and orphans #childrenshome.

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