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10th Anniversary of towardblog!

Today is the 10th Anniversary of towardblog!

Coming soon,  I will be writing a devotional commentary each week based on the weekly Besorah readings based on Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer’s Chayyei Yeshua reading schedule.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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Incomplete Repentance

Yom Kippur4

As we are soon to enter Yom Kippur and conclude the 10 Days of Awe with the focus on repentance.  We have to ask ourselves, What is repentance for Jews?

The common answer in the Church and for many in Messianic Jewish circles is that Jews need to repent of their sins and to put their faith in Yeshua as Messiah.  But what is this sin for Jews that one needs to repent, other than living outside the bounds of Torah and violation of Torah commands?  This leads us to ask what is the sign of true repentance for Jews?   It is to turn from violating God’s Torah and seeking to live within it’s boundaries.

A call to Yeshua faith and repentance that does not lead toward a life of walking on the path of Torah is not a true call to repentance, I would call it incomplete repentance and those that espouse a repentance and Yeshua faith without a call to turn to living in Torah ways can be an example of what Paul called following “another Yeshua and another good news”, but this Yeshua is not the true Yeshua and this good news is at best inadequate and at worst leading people to live in rebellion to God with the stamp of approval from those who espouse it.

The shape of Jewish repentance is bound up in stopping to sin by violating Torah and seeking to live Torah.  A Torah-free life of a Messianic Jew is not a God honoring life and it is not a life demonstrating a complete repentance.  If we are going to call Jewish people to accept Yeshua as Messiah our message must include that following God for all Jews (especially Messianic Jews) is a life of walking within the bounds of Torah.  If the great Messianic hope is Yom Shekulo Shabbat, a time of unending Shabbat, a time of all creation living in the light of Messiah and ordered by his Torah, should we not now call all Jews that honor Yeshua as Messiah to begin now to live lives ordered by the very Torah that the world to come will be ordered?

So as we head toward Yom Kippur, may all Jews seek complete repentance including the break with violating Torah and to begin living of Torah as an act of obeying God’s commands and also coming in faith to our Righteous Messiah, that empowers us to walk in God’ ways and live in complete repentance.

L’shanah tovah tikatevu v’tichatemu from towardblog

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Blessings for the New Year.

Check back next week for my return to new blog posts focused on the realization of a Messianic Judaism future that seeks to uphold Ezekiel’s vision of the Jewish People honoring Messiah and observing His holy Torah.

My servant David will be king over them, and all of them will have one shepherd; they will live by my rulings and keep and observe my regulations.” (Ezekiel 37:24, CJB)

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Loving Yeshua for Jews, a Pre-High Holydays Reflection

As we seek to build a mature Messianic Judaism for the future I would like to offer a brief look at how our Torah observance relates to our righteous Messiah, Yeshua, the one who lived a life of complete obedience to Torah and is our example.

The Torah is the way of life of the Jewish people and is the guiding document of what it means to live out the covenant between God and Israel. In our observance of Shavuot, the traditional time of the giving of Torah on Mt. Sinai; one of the most important parts of the story of the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt was the purpose of freedom. When God sent Moses to speak to Pharaoh, we read:

Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘Let my people go so that they may give me worship.’
Exodus 9:1 BBE

The worship of God embodied in Torah observance was the reason for being freed from Egypt and our way to participate daily in and celebrate God’s great act of redeeming Israel from Egyptian bondage.

In Yochanan 14, we see some insights about the important issue of Torah observance for Messianic Jews from the teaching of Messiah Yeshua.

If you love me, you will keep my commands; and I will ask the Father,and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me,the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever.  Yochanan 14:15-16, JNT

In verse 15, Yeshua gives us another level of what Torah observance means beyond being the obligation of Jewish people to order their lives according to Torah and a participation in the freedom from slavery in Egypt.  For the Jewish followers of Yeshua it also is a way of showing love for our Messiah by observing his commands, Yeshua being the physical manifestation of the God of Israel, the giver of Torah.

This ties in well with the words of the Ve’ahavta section of the Shema wherein as we “accept the yoke of Heaven”, embodied in observing Torah, we recite, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Each day as we recite the Shema, we affirm the connection between living a life of Torah observance and whole hearted love for God.

In verse 16, Yeshua promised that by obeying Torah we would be given the Spirit of God to be our Comforter and helper to live Torah. So in obeying Torah we are granted the Spirit of God so that we can more earnestly live within a Torah life. Let us seek to live lives of Torah faithfulness and in so doing we will be obeying God, celebrating freedom from slavery, showing love to Yeshua, our righteous Messiah and also opening ourselves to receiving the power of God’s Spirit to live more fully the Torah.

Passing of the torch to the next generation.

 

It was 8 years ago today (10/24/2004) that I began writing towardblog.  This is one of the most important posts from the last 8 years because it is so vital to the future of Messianic Judaism for those in the 2nd generation of leadership to be allowed to take their place and for those young leaders to step up as openings are made available.  Change is hard but it must take place for future growth.  I applaud those “older” leaders that have made openings available for 30something leaders and I look forward to this being a continuing step in our maturation.

The future of Messianic Judaism, the future impact that we can have in our Jewish world and our impact on the whole of creation by playing our role in bringing about the consummation of history for all humanity will have alot to do with the actions of those of us who are in their 20’s and 30’s now who will have to be the future Messianic rabbis, scholars, teachers, writers, song writers, musicians, shabbat school teachers and all the various roles in our community and synagogal life.

For awhile I and others of this age group have acknowledged that we are the ones to take Messianic Judaism into the future and to continue the work and expand on it and see a true Messianic Judaism for the future which is a Jewish life intrinsically united with the life and power of our righteous Messiah, Yeshua. Though talk is great and our acknowledgment of our role to play in the future is important, it is now time to make our words into actions.

For this to become a reality and for us to take up the torch of Messianic Judaism into the 21st century and beyond we need to do the following (not exhaustive):

  1. Find a mentor for teaching, training and encouragement.
  2. Find your spiritual gift (your mentor and peers can help you discover this).
  3. Seek education and training to more effectively use your gifting.
  4. Put your gifting to use.
  5. Make prayer for the building of a mature Messianic Judaism a daily commitment.
  6. Serve in your synagogue.
  7. Seek peers for prayer, education and encouragement.
  8. Encourage your rabbi and leaders who are currently in leadership.

 

For those currently in leadership for us we need you to:

  1. Seek out future leaders to mentor.
  2. Assist us in discovering our gifting and encourage us to use our gifts.
  3. Make opportunities for us to use our gifting in the synagogue and community.
  4. Give us feedback, both positive and negative, so that we can learn and grow to be the leaders that we need to be.
  5. Join us in daily prayer for the building of a mature Messianic Judaism.

 

This passing of the torch involves the current leaders preparing us to receive the torch and for them to pass it on to us and then for us to accept the torch and our responsibility to take our awesome role of being the ones in which the future of Messianic Judaism will rest and also the opportunity that we can play a role in changing our world for God like the first generation of Jewish believers did in their world by their faithful service. Beyond just our movement we can change the course of human history as we build a mature Messianic Judaism and reunite the breach of Jewish life from faith trust in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. This is both a joy and an overwhelming responsibility but it is our job and we must do it, if we are truly focused on living God honoring lives and playing our role in God’s plan of the ages.

So then the time has come for us to step up to be the next generation of leaders. We must do what is needed to be prepared to take the torch and for those current leaders you need to do your part to train us and then to give us the torch and allow us to enter our role to play in the future of our movement.

This is a group project and we all must do our part!

So then let us begin doing what needs to be done so that we can magnify and sanctify the name of our God by building a mature Messianic Judaism for the future.

Messianic Jewish Conversion: Avoiding “The Bandwagon Effect”

There is a concern about a possible “bandwagon effect” if Messianic Judaism established a conversion process.

This fear is unfounded if the Rabbis and leaders follow strict guidelines. Of the Non-Jews that I know in my synagogue only 1 or 2 would seek this conversion process and all have been involved in Messianic synagogues for many years. These are people who have a calling to sojourn with Israel and who as Non-Jews seek to make Torah their life.

So then, how can we hold back the “bandwagon effect or “mass conversion” of Non-Jews to Messianic Judaism?

First off, like in other forms of Judaism, the Rabbis must rebuff those seeking conversion, so as to test their commitment to the process. This rebuffing is also a test of the calling and commitment to the whole of Jewish life.

Also important is education in that the prospective convert must be committed to a Jewish life and to their connection to all of Israel not just “saved Jews”.

The prospective convert must be actively a part of the life of a Messianic synagogue, the life of the local Jewish community and have training and knowledge of Torah and Jewish practice.

They should also stand before and be examined by a Beit Din made up of recognized Messianic Jewish leaders in which their commitment to Jewish life will be examined.

Of great importance is that for prospective male converts brit milah or dam brit must be done. Circumcision is the sign of the Covenant in the flesh and this must be a part of the conversion process. At least for men this will be a real sign of commitment to Judaism and a Jewish life.

The prospective convert should also go through immersion as the final act of commitment to Messianic Judaism.

Also important in the process is the taking of a Hebrew name, as they become son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah.

This calls for leadership and guidance by recognized leaders. We can take this important step in our maturation and I believe that there are respected leaders willing to take the responsibility for this important work of allowing those like Ruth, to tangibly cast their lot with the Jewish people.

Building A Jewish religious movement for Yeshua

In seeking to be a Judaism, a Jewish religious movement for Yeshua within the Jewish people and for the Jewish people we will ask Jewish questions, seek to give Jewish answers and credibly live out our lives as Messianic Jews as a part of the Jewish community, rather than the missionary model as one who goes into the Jewish community as an outsider to target the “unsaved Jews” for conversion to Christianity. We see the Jewish people as “us” and not “them” and therefore our desire is to live credible Jewish lives that we can make the Messiah seen within Israel as the Messiah followed by Torah honoring, Jewishly connected, Messianic Jews. Our hope is to be a light for Messiah within the Jewish world.

In this identity we embrace our oneness with all of the Jewish people as an act of faithfulness to God and to His Torah and not some act of “seeking man’s approval”. We seek God’s approval by living as he intended as a Torah community that follows the Jewish Messiah.

Yeshua is central to the building of a mature Messianic Judaism, because he is the Messiah that we honor. Our desire is to make him known within the People of Israel and this can only be done by seeing the Jewish community as our community of reference and living within Jewish life embodied in our respect for Jewish tradition and Torah living as we seek to be organically connected within the Jewish community as the Jews who follow Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah.

Yeshua can only be properly seen by the Jewish people as he really is as the Jewish Messiah, by being made known by a credible Messianic Judaism that reflects a love for all Jewish people and with a vital connection to the People of Israel.

May we live lives that make Yeshua known within a Judaism, Messianic Judaism.

Glorifying Yeshua, our Righteous Messiah

We glorify Yeshua, our righteous Messiah

 

We have so far covered the important issues of our honoring of the Torah, God’s way of life for the Jewish people; the respecting of Jewish tradition, the Jewish people’s communal way of living out the Torah and we now come to the key to our “Messianic” identity namely our glorification of our Messiah, Yeshua.

We are a Judaism with a Messiah in our midst and this is such a powerful part of our identity and rather than just having a Messiah of speculation, we have a Messiah who has demonstrated his Messiahship by a life of Torah observance and a willing self-sacrifice on the stake for us.

As I think about Yeshua, I am taken aback in the wonder of it all. Rather than waiting for a Messiah to come, we know today who the Messiah is and we await his return to complete the redemption of all things. I think to the wonder expressed in the Book of Yochanan when the first followers of Yeshua encountered him and Andrew excitedly told his brother Simon about Yeshua.

He found first his own brother Simon and said to him,
“We have found the Messiah”.
(Yochanan 1:41)

 

Like Andrew we have found the Messiah!

Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, the Hope of Israel, the Root and Offspring of David and the One in whom the promises made to the Fathers is uniquely answered. So then we can only in great awe acknowledge him as both our Lord and Messiah and thereby seek to glorify him and make him known as the King of Israel.

The Messiah has come, he is Yeshua and we as his disciples now get the privilege and responsibility to glorify him as we await that great day alluded to in the Aleinu when all the nations of the earth will bend the knee, bow down and glorify Yeshua as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We get the awesome task and privilege to joyfully now today give honor and in thankfulness bow before him who is our Redeemer and coming King.

For us to build a mature Messianic Judaism the glorification of our righteous Messiah needs to be intrinsically a part of our communal life.

May we all glorify Yeshua!

The Law of the Lord is Good – Understanding Paul

Though it may seem to be a huge endeavor to deal with the difficult issue of understanding the words of Paul/Rav Shaul as it deals with issues related to the Torah, but this endeavor is guided by a simple axiom that I was taught by Dr. Mark Nanos, one of the premier scholars of the writings of Paul, including the books The Mystery of Romans and The Irony of Galatians.

First off in understanding Paul you must realize that he was writing primarily to Gentile churches.

With the first understanding clear then when reading Paul’s writings telling believers that they were not bound to Torah commands like circumcision and Jewish rituals then each of these statements per Nanos add “for non-Jews” to each statement.

In so doing it helps to clarify the point that Paul was telling the non-Jews that he was writing to that they were not bound to the Torah.  This is the same opinion that any mainstream Rabbi will give that non-Jews are not required to observe Torah and more to Paul’s stand should not observe Torah.  The special place of Torah as the Jewish people’s rights and privilege can be seen that potential converts to Judaism are to do one act that violates Shabbat so as to keep them from completely observing Shabbat before they were Jewish.

But for Paul himself as a Jew, A life observing Torah was his responsibility and the only way for him to live, even in his final speech Paul declared himself to be “as in relation to the Torah, a Pharisee”. This showing that even at the end of his life he still considered his life of Torah observance to be living to the standards of his Pharisaic training with the sage Gamaliel.

So then if we understand that Paul in addressing his non-Jewish audiences was saying that the non-Jews are not bound to the Torah’s commands (which is the same thing understood in Judaism today) this should help in understanding his philosophy. Paul as a Jew lived a life of Torah faithfulness, even after becoming a follower of Yeshua.  His harsh words in Galatians being pointed at those non-Jews who came to believe in Yeshua and were told that their new faith was inadequate without becoming Jews or becoming “super-believers” by observing Torah.  Both these views are wrong and were rightly condemned by Paul.

Hopefully this will be of help in understanding Paul/Rav Shaul…


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Messianic Jewish Leaders Speak Out Against “Christ at the Checkpoint” Conference.

A group of international Messianic Jewish leaders including the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) has come out with a pre-emptive response to the upcoming “Christ as the Checkpoint” Anti-Israel, anti-Zionism conference that represents the ugly resurgence in force of Christian supersessionist and anti-Jewish thought and policy.

Below is a link to a video and the text of the statement:

 

 

 

Leaders of the UMJC and MJAA joined forces again this month (see “UMJC, MJAA respond to Messer video) to issue a statement on a matter of deep concern for the Messianic Jewish community. The statement, on the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference scheduled for March 5-9 in Bethlehem, included leaders of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and the International Association of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues. The first “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, held in 2010, drew much criticism for its biased treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and promotion for this year’s event raises the same concerns (see  www.christatthecheckpoint.com.) Here is the joint statement in full (or you can hear it read at http://youtu.be/Mk0GPnPqtj0):

As representatives of the international Messianic Jewish community, we raise deep concerns about the anti-Israel and, indeed, unbiblical nature of the Christ at the Checkpoint conference soon to be held in Bethlehem.

The Messianic Jewish community has noted the growing opposition to Zionism and the state of Israel within some elements of the Evangelical Christian world. Such opposition ignores the profound and ancient connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and the modern history of the founding of the state of Israel. Equally troubling, this opposition is often linked to a resurgent supersessionism, the doctrine that the church replaces Israel as God’s covenant partner. This theology, which has led historically to anti-Semitism and the tragic oppression of the Jewish people, appears to permeate this entire conference.

The conference is being promoted internationally and features speakers from around the world, including prominent American and European Christians, several of whom have a decidedly anti-Israel bias. We address the following to the conference organizers as evidence of our concerns:

  • Your conference title, “Christ at the Checkpoint,” places the Israeli border checkpoints as the central issue of Christian concern. You frame the entire story of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of Israel’s alleged oppression and abuses, with no historical or political context provided, and no allegations of oppression or abuse on the part of any Palestinians or other Arabs historically or currently.
  • You state a desire for “hope in the midst of conflict,” and for peace and reconciliation among followers of Jesus. Sadly, both the structure of your conference, with its one-sided focus on the Israeli “occupation,” and the anti-Israel record of some of its key representatives, work against peace and reconciliation.
  • Your website features speakers who repeatedly raise “the grim reality” of “the occupation” as virtually the only challenge that Palestinian Christians face.
  • Your conference objectives discredit Zionism alone of any political movement, thereby undermining your own talk of peace and reconciliation, which would require seeing both perspectives.
  • You claim to “stand resolutely against all forms of violence and racism, regardless of the perpetrators,” but the only form that you mention is Zionism. There is no mention of the violence perpetrated against Jews by Palestinians, including Hamas, which regularly attacks Israeli civilians.

In the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are two claimants to justice, Jews and Arabs, and true reconciliation efforts must recognize this reality. We urge you, therefore, to be true to your own affirmations and disassociate from all anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish expressions during your upcoming conference. You have taken a stand against Zionism as “ethnocentric.” We disagree with this characterization and challenge you instead to take a stand against anti-Semitism, against jihad, against fascism in the Arab world, and against the cult of child martyrdom, as promoted by many opponents of Israel, including several that have hosted visits by your organizers.

We urge you to state support for peace efforts between Israel and the Arab world that recognize the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and its right to firm and secure borders, without any threat of terrorism.

We urge you to remember the terrible history of Christian supersessionism, which led to invalidating the Jewish people and their unique covenant with God, stripping away the Jewishness of the Biblical message of redemption for all through the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), and promulgating Biblical interpretation that demonized the Jewish people and inevitably resulted in centuries of Christian anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people.

And, finally, we urge you to remember the words of that famous Rabbi, Paul of Tarsus, who wrote these words to Gentile Christians concerning their relationship with the early Messianic Jews and the Jewish people:

But if some of the branches are broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root that supports you. Do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Rom. 11:17-18)

Paul Liberman, President

Joel Chernoff, General Secretary

Messianic Jewish Alliance of America

Howard Silverman, President

Russell Resnik, Executive Director

Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations

Jeff Forman, Chairman

International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues

John Fischer, President

Joel Liberman, Executive Director

International Messianic Jewish Alliance

 

Source: http://umjc.org/home-mainmenu-1/news-mainmenu-40/1-latest/750-joint-statement-on-qchrist-at-the-checkpointq

One Mitzvah at a time.

 

This simple concept is so important being that doing the mitzvot plays such a vital role in living out Judaism. So often Torah observance is presented as an all or nothing proposition, either you are Torah observant or you’re not. This approach can turn a lot of people off to pursuing a Torah life.

So then wherever you are in your Torah journey you can find a new mitzvah to add to your life and over time add one more and so on and so on (there are 613 mitzvot so there is a lot of on and on and on).

So this is our task find some new way to walk Torah and honor God this week:

 

1. Lighting Shabbat candles

2. Helping those in need

3. Studying Torah

4. Davenning

5. Giving to your synagogue

6. Buying kosher food

7. Putting a mezuzah up

These are simple acts and baby steps in infusing holiness into our lives.

So then let’s get doing our mitzvot, one mitzvah at a time!

Leading Like Yeshua – Servanthood

 

In Yochanan 20:17-28, we read about the important topic of leadership and we get some important lessons on leadership from our Messiah.

We read first of Ya’akov and Yochanan, the sons of Zavdai and their desire for a prominent role of leadership in the Messianic kingdom:

Then Zavdai’s sons came to Yeshua with their mother. She bowed down, begging a favor from him. He said to her, “What do you want?” She replied, “Promise that when you become king, these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Yeshua answered, “You people don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He said to them, “Yes, you will drink my cup. But to sit on my right and on my left is not mine to give, it is for those for whom my Father has prepared it.” (vv. 20-23)

Yeshua’s response demonstrates that Ya’akov and Yochanan were not aware that leadership, as Yeshua demonstrated it was a path of sacrifice.

In the next verses we get some important words from Yeshua on what a leader should be:

But Yeshua called them and said, “You know that among the Goyim, those who are supposed to rule them become tyrants, and their superiors become dictators. Among you, it must not be like that. On the contrary, whoever among you wants to be a leader must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave! For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve — and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (vv. 25-28)

The path to follow to be a leader like Yeshua is not the path of seeking power or position for selfish motives to be a tyrant or to be a leader without taking into account that there is sacrifice required. Yeshua lays out here that leadership requires one to be a servant and to like our Messiah demonstrate a life of leading by serving others.

With Passover just about a month ago, I am reminded of Yeshua giving his talmidim an important lesson in leadership which took place at Passover:

Yeshua was aware that the Father had put everything in his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he rose from the table, removed his outer garments and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the talmidim and wipe them off with the towel wrapped around him. (Yochanan 13:3-5)

In this lesson on leadership we see our Messiah taking on the role of a slave and washing the talmidim’s feet, in this Yeshua’s teaching on leadership became a visual demonstration.

As we look to the future of Messianic Judaism we must seek to build up the next generation of leaders. For those of us in their 20’s and 30’s who will have to be these next generation leaders we must follow our Messiah’s example and grow as servant-leaders. For our mentors and teachers we need your support and help to stay on the right path and if we stumble off the path like Ya’akov and Yochanan did, like Yeshua did point us back to the right path.

So then let us seek to be like our Messiah and follow his example and lead by serving and may we each play our role in building a mature Messianic Judaism for the future!