Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Thoughts on the Conversion Issue

Some musings from today...

What is Conversion?

Conversion in a Messianic context theoretically involves the following three things:

(1) Joining a religious group;
(2) Being initiated into a covenant;
(3) Receiving the right/duty to keep the Torah of Moses.

Why Convert?

In theory, one would convert in order to do the three things listed above.

What are the Issues with Messianic Conversion?

One of the central tenets of Inclusionist (i.e. One Law) Messianic Judaism, is that the Apostolic Writings teach that non-Jews join Israel when they come to believe in Yeshua.  In other words, we believe that faith (not circumcision) initiates someone into Israel, the covenants, and the Torah.

But, unless I'm mistaken (which I readily concede is a possibility) there is no precedent for a non-Jew joining a specific tribe (e.g. Judah) within Israel.  You can only join a specific tribe if your father belongs to that tribe.  For example, the only thing that can make you a Levite is having a father who belongs to the tribe of Levi--and if he doesn't belong to that tribe then there's no way you can join that tribe.

The only thing a non-Jew can hope for is to join Israel--not a specific tribe within Israel.

So, speaking as a proponent of One-Law, it seems to me that for a Messianic non-Jew to undergo some sort of conversion (e.g. MJRC-style) is misguided.  A Messianic non-Jew is already a member of Israel via Yeshua's blood, already initiated into the covenants, already obligated to keep the Law.  

CONCLUSION

For all the reasons stated above, I see no reason why any Messianic should "convert" within Messianic Judaism.  But if anyone disagrees then I encourage you to share your position with us.  

Shalom,

Peter


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Coincidence?

So I've blogged before about strange coincidences that happen when I get mail from Outreach Israel Ministries. I just wanted to briefly relate something else that happened earlier today.

Earlier today I was driving in my car and thought about all the men in prison who need to hear about Yeshua and the Way.  I thought about the ones who would be receptive...and the ones who might get angry.  And in the middle of traffic, without any warning, tears started streaming down my face.

Flash forward a couple of hours...

I open a piece of mail from OIM and, lo and behold, on the first page there's a request that people support the OIM prison ministry!

Naturally, I don't think of it as a coincidence.  For those who feel led, please visit the following link:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

On a related note, pray for Israel as there have been some rocket attacks today and things have the potential to escalate.

Shalom,

Peter

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Very Interesting Comments Section on James' Penultimate Blog Post

A bunch of people recently emailed me asking questions about conversion within Messianic Judaism.  So then I wondered what prompted all of these questions and did a quick search of the blogosphere.  I found that James has quit blogging over a recent post which you can find here:


I think the comments are very interesting and, given the number of questions I've received recently, we should definitely address this in more depth.  

I have to go to Washington D.C. but I'll write about this upon my return.  But, in the meantime, I'll pose  some discussion questions for everyone to begin considering:

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

The term "Jew" encapsulates possibly all the tribes of Israel--at the very least it encapsulates Levi, Benjamin, and Judah.  We know from Ezekiel that non-Jews (at least some of them) will eventually be absorbed into various tribes of Israel in the eschaton.  Is it possible that the Apostolic Writers did not see intermarriage between Believing Jews and Believing non-Jews to be a problem--anymore than they considered intermarriage between Benjamites and Judahites to be a problem?

I'm only asking...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Why Didn't the Ancient Israelites Care About Preserving Tribal Identity?

Musings from today:

In the pre-monarchic ancient Israel, the tribes were, for a time, endogamous--the tribes did not intermarry with other tribes.  And why?  Two things:  a strong tribal culture and also the "descent and distribution" laws that tied a tribe to a geographical allotment of land within Israel.  Back then, if you were an Israelite, you knew that your father was from Tribe X and so you identified with that tribe.

But then something happened to destroy that system…

In the post-monarchic period, it became less important to remember one's tribal affiliation.  And the Levites were an exception to this.  To this day, a Levite identifies as a Levite because of his or her father.

QUESTION 1:

But my question is why didn't the other tribes consider this patrilinear tribal identification important?  If the Levites considered/consider tribal identification important enough to remember, why didn't the other tribes?

QUESTION 2:

Why did the Benjamites allow themselves to be fully absorbed into Judah?




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nothing Like a Room Full of One-Law Messianics



Went to a One-Law Messianic fellowship this past Shabbat.

We arrived at the fellowship around 2PM (and didn't leave until I'm guessing 7PM).  The meeting place was out in the country in a modern-styled library.  The building was compartmentalized so that people could reserve the meeting room and have access to restrooms even after the library was closed.

The meeting room looked a bit like a university classroom with rows of tables, people seated with their laptops like students taking lecture notes, and a big projection screen at the front of the room.  But along the back wall there was a row of tables loaded with simmering crock-pots.  Along another wall was a kitchenette separated from the main room by a counter.  In another section of the room was an activity space for children.

To my surprise, I later learned that they were able to use this facility completely free!

THE SERVICE

The chronology of the service looked like this (approximately):

2PM to 4PM:  Group Torah-Study

4PM to 4:15PM:  Snack Break

4:15PM to 5:00PM:  Praise and Worship

5:15PM to 6:15PM:  Sermon

6:15PM:  Dinner

THE FELLOWSHIP

They identify variously as Messianics or followers of the Way or One-Law, etc.  The men (mostly non-Jews) tend to wear tzitzit.  The entire group shared a passion for Biblical languages and engaging with the various source texts (LXX, MT, etc).

As I met people, one question I  asked was "How did you come to get involved in Messianic Judaism?".  Here's the story I got from one lady named "Kate" (the names/details have been changed):

"KATE"

Kate was concerned for her best friend Lucy who lived back in Spain and was into all sorts of bad things.  But Kate prayed for her and shared the gospel and eventually the L-rd worked in Lucy's heart.

In a short span of time, Lucy was transformed into a new person.  She was "on fire" for the L-rd.  So she did what any new Christian would do, she started going to church.

But church was a disappointment.  She quickly realized she wasn't being fed at church.  So she kept searching and eventually came across Messianic literature.  She suddenly felt a strong desire to keep the Torah (Shabbat, kashrut, etc).  She learned the truth about Christmas and Easter and immediately stopped celebrating them.

When Kate first heard that Lucy was celebrating Jewish observances, she was appalled.  Over time, however, curiosity got the better of Kate.  And she thought to herself, "Lucy's faith is real...is it possible that there might be something to the Torah after all?"

So she visited a Messianic synagogue and immediately her world changed.  There were signs from G-d, there was a palpable feeling of having come home.  There was also one small problem...

The rabbi taught that non-Jews didn't need to follow the Torah.

Despite this, she still loyally attends the Messianic synagogue though she harbors a secret hope that the rabbi will one day have a change of heart.  And, in the meantime, she has the One-Law fellowship so that she can be around like-minded Messianics.

REFLECTIONS

We were very blessed to meet some wonderful people at that fellowship.  It was a great time.  It's nice to see that G-d is drawing many of the peoples to keep Torah.  All these people from different countries/backgrounds reaching the same conclusion:  there are wonderful things in His Law!

I would say more but I've got to run.

Shalom and Blessings,

Peter





 



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Daughter as Pocahontas

WARNING:  This doesn't have anything to do with religion. 

Okay, are you ready for something wonderful?  

My daughter as Pocahontas...



I'm just so proud of this girl!  And to my angel, in case you ever come across this blog one day, let me just say that daddy loves you very much ("and I'll never stop loving you").  

Rejoicing in Suffering


"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance" Romans 5:3 
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

I have to admit that I never rejoiced in suffering until this past week.  Passages like the ones above just never made sense to me.  How can you rejoice when everything is going wrong?  

But I'm starting to realize that to not praise G-d even during suffering is a kind of idolatry.  If I focus on my suffering then I take my focus off of G-d, I forget that He is "Eloheinu Melech ha-Olam", that He is in control of EVERYTHING.

What a wonderful peace it is to begin to see this!  

TRY THIS:

Take some time today (or tonight) to think about how much G-d loves you.  Satan loves to whisper in your ear, "G-d could never love someone like you".  But the truth is that G-d really does love you.  He is your Father and, like a father, He thinks about you all day long and waits to hear from you.

Then:

The next time you experience suffering try to react by praising G-d.  And really mean it!  Keep your focus on Him even when you feel like curling up into a ball and crying.  

P.S.  If anyone has had experiences where you've rejoiced even in suffering, please share them with us!

Shalom,

Peter





Dauermann is Dead Wrong About Christmas



So I just read Judah's post about Dauermann's post about Christmas... But before I give you my thoughts I think I should tell you that at this moment I'm sitting outside of a Starbucks and the speakers are playing Neil Diamond's cover of the Hallelujah Chorus--HA!

But back to the issue at hand...

Dauermann is dead wrong about Christmas.  

And why does it even matter?  It matters because Dauerman's brand of Liberal Messianic Judaism leads Jews (and non-Jews) away from Torah.  


But here's why he's wrong.  He writes:
“This whole preoccupation with avoiding “the pagan roots of Christmas” is based on what is termed the genetic fallacy–that something should and may be fairly evaluated on the basis of its origin.”
It's actually not based on the genetic fallacy at all (nice Straw Man there).  A Genetic Fallacy against Christmas would go like this:

(1) Christmas has pagan origins;
(2) Therefore we should avoid Christmas.

That's a logical non-sequittur because the conclusion does not follow the premise.  Italians, for example, have pagan origins but this doesn't mean you should avoid Italians.  And if you do avoid Italians then you'll miss out on some lovely food and music.  

Here's the real argument against Christmas:

(1) Christmas supplants Torah practice;
(2)  [Implicit Warrant] Anything that supplants orthopraxy should be avoided—even when it arguably produces some measure of good or contains some measure of truth
(3) Therefore, Christmas should be avoided

Now I'm not telling anyone to be a jerk to those who observe Christmas (can you "observe" Christmas?).  On the contrary, I have relatives who observe (?) Christmas and I'm very nice to them and say "Merry Christmas", etc.  Lastly, let me just say that Judah is quite right to encourage Messianics to focus on being charitable rather than attacking the merits of Christmas.

Now, on a more serious note...

Anyone interested in forming a Neil Diamond tribute band?  

Shalom and Blessings to the Israel of G-d,

Peter


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Great Article About Koinos in Acts 10 and 11

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Here's the part I especially like:


"The LXX never uses [koinos] as expressed her in Acts 10:15 and 11:9…The single usage of [koinos] in Jewish religious/historical literature of pre-NT times occurs in the apocryphal 4 Macc 7:6, where it conveys the meaning of cultic profanation."….It is recognition of the fact that the NT incorporates and reflects this exclusive Jewish sense of [koinos] that illuminates why Peter should argue with his Lord over whether he should eat the 'clean' creature.  In his mind, the 'clean' creatures in the sheet of the vision had now been rendered 'common' through being defiled by the presence of the 'unclean.'  As F.F. Bruce points out, in a statement noted earlier, Peter 'was scandalized by the unholy mixture of clean animals with unclean.'…Furthermore…the voice itself never mentioned 'unclean.'  It [reprimanded] Peter for declaring creatures to be 'common.'  He was never directed to consume the 'unclean' creature, but rather immediately to desist from describing as 'common' the creatures that God had declared 'cleansed.'"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Personal Update

I'm really looking forward to visiting House of David Fellowship later this month!  : )


Playing it Safe vs. Playing the Numbers Game: Messianic Tip-of-the-Day

Trying to find a compatible religious group is a lot like dating--it's a numbers game.  The more people you get to know, the better your chances of finding a good match.  The opposite of this is to, out of fear of rejection, pursue the first person you meet as though they are the only fish in the sea.  

As Messianics, we are familiar with rejections, incompatibilities, comprise.  But we should always strive to play the numbers game, to go out there and meet as many women congregations as possible.  

The more leads you pursue, the better your chances of finding a good match.





Gene Has a New Message for Messianics Everywhere

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Monday, December 9, 2013

Clarifying the One-Law Argument

Here are some musings for today:

As I go through Hegg's "Fellow Heirs", I've found myself asking, "Why even bring up the 'ger' in the various One-Law passages in the Tanak?"  After all, the main issue we're faced with isn't from the Tanka but is rather contextualized to the New Covenant and could be phrased as follows:  "Are non-Jewish Believers initiated into Israel by faith or by circumcision?"  This means that the One-Law proposition looks something like this:  "The Bible teaches that non-Jewish, male Believers are initiated into Israel by faith alone, not by circumcision."  As someone who is legally trained, my immediate thought is this:  what evidence is relevant to the One-Law proposition--that is, what would make this proposition more probable?

I think the answer to this question is as follows:  the only evidence that directly relates to the One-Law proposition (as stated above) is evidence from the Apostolic Writings.  However, we cite to the Torah and the Prophets to establish precedent, to establish that G-d can accept even uncircumcised males into the family of Israel.  But this is an extremely difficult thing to establish given that the evidence relates to a completely different period of time and a different covenant (though the argument can certainly be made).

So, in conclusion, for any Messianics interested in persuading someone about the merits of the One-Law position, focus on the case from the Apostolic Writings.  That's really the core of the One-Law case.


Shalom,

Peter

Monday, December 2, 2013

Upcoming Post: REVIEW of Tim Hegg's "Fellow Heirs"

A commenter just recently asked what is the best book to go through with a group who is familiar with Messianic Judaism but not quite ready to make the jump.  I immediately thought of Tim Hegg's book "Fellow Heirs".  And just now a friend sent an email to me asking that I review this very book!

So, needless to say, I now feel led to complete a review of "Fellow Heirs" as soon as possible.  I'll try to get it done within the next few days.  It really is one of the best introductions to Messianic Judaism that has ever been written.

If you want to get your hands on a copy, you can purchase the book HERE.

Shalom,

Peter

Sunday, December 1, 2013

REVIEW: Philippians For the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee

[CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THIS BOOK]

A REVIEW OF PHILIPPIANS FOR THE PRACTICAL MESSIANIC BY J.K. MCKEE 

Why is the Letter to the Philippians so special?  One reason is that it's about a Jew named Paul taking a very Jewish message for the first time into 'the continent of Europe' (Phil., pg. 1).  When Paul arrived at Philippi, he could not just stop by the local synagogue:


[SUJECT VERSE]
'And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.' [Acts 16:13]

[Commentary for Acts 16:13] Throughout the Book of Acts, we see that Paul's usual missionary pattern was to go to the Jewish local synagogue and proclaim the good news to those assembled on Shabbat, and he would often remain there until he would be thrown out or those attending lost interest.  Philippi is a major exception to this pattern..." (Phil., pg. 126)

How strange this must have been for Paul!  To find a compatible audience for this new Jewish Gospel, Paul was forced to go to a Sabbath-gathering of women.  His first contact there was a non-Jewish woman named Lydia:

"The first person from Phillipi who is named is a woman, Lydia....[who] being only described as a 'God-fearer,' was not a Jewess," (Phil., pgs. 126-127)

And so we have the setting for the Book of Philippians.  For some unknown reason, it was a small group of non-Jewish who started what became the future congregation at Philippi.

McKee's commentary then begins to paint a picture that would make most Christians very uncomfortable:

SABBATH MEETING TIMES

Not only did the core group of Philippian Believers initially meet on Shabbat but Paul made no attempts to alter this meeting time.  Commenting on Acts 16:16, McKee writes, "As the scene in Philippi shifts, v. 16 records that Paul and his company, 'we,' 'were going to the place of prayer.'  While not stated explicitly in the text, it is likely that Paul had stayed in Philippi for at least a week, and he was going with his associates to the riverside for a Shabbat gathering."

JEWISH HALACHAH

And in the Letter to the Philippians, Paul essentially tells the non-Jews to start following Jewish halachah:

[SUBJECT VERSE]

'Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.  For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Messiah, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.'

[Commentary on Philippians 3:17] In v. 17, Paul admonishes the Philippians, 'Join with others in following my example' (NIV).  This parallels his words in 1 Corinthians 11:1, 'Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah.'  If we can rightfully assert that Yeshua Himself followed the Torah or Law of Moses, then Paul himself likewise certainly followed it as His Lord demonstrated it (cf. Galatians 6:2).  Martin actually asserts that what Paul talks about here 'is the New Testament counterpart to the Hebrew term halakhah...i.e., practical conduct (lit. 'walking') as distinct from mental activity,'"(Phil., pg. 88)

And this wasn't the first time Paul had taught a non-Jewish audience to keep Jewish traditions:

"Paul himself commend the Corinthians, 'Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you' (1 Corinthians 11:2), indicating that there were probably some First Century Jewish traditions that he passed on to them that he considered of great value," (Phil., pg. 99)

PRO-CIRCUMCISION PAUL

Another great thing that McKee accomplishes in this wonderful commentary is to show that Paul's Pro-Torah example applies even to circumcision.  Many people are unaware that there was a difference of opinion in First-Century Judaism as to what initiated a convert into the covenant.  One group said that circumcision is initiatory; other groups maintained that faith alone was initiatory and that circumcision is but a ratificatory sign.  McKee picks up on this in his commentary on Philippians 3:2-4:

[SUBJECT VERSE]
'Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Messiah Yeshua and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence in the flesh.  If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more'

[COMMENTARY] "...We need to [remember] how in various places in the Apostolic Scriptures, 'circumcision' (Grk. peritome...) includes more than just the removal of the foreskin...'Circumcision' in the Apostolic Scriptures is a frequent reference to not only a physical operation, but more especially to the act of conversion to Judaism.  In this framework, what can appear to be Paul speaking against a physical act is more a statement of him speaking against ritual proselyte conversion to Judaism being required for inclusion in the community of God....It is right to say that Paul was infuriated by those who insisted that those uncircumcised were not full Believers or even true Believers, members of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), as reconciliation with God is accomplished through His Son Yeshua--and not a physical or proselytic act," (Phil., pgs. 73-74).

CONCLUSION

As always, when reviewing a commentary by McKee, I must state the following disclaimer:  it is impossible to perform an adequate review since such a variety of points are necessarily raised in a commentary of this type.  What I can say though, with great confidence, is that this commentary is a must-have for every Messianic library!