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I am committed to a life provoking the invasion of The Coming Kingdom through: human service, ecstatic prayer, halakhic observation, community building, nurturing hope, and drawing down abiding faith...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

To the Messianic Jewish Community: What Are We Waiting For?

Some of you may not be surprised that patience has been on my mind lately! I've been particularly struck by the patience God required of Avraham as I reflect on this week's parsha (Lekh Lekha). Avraham was not, by and large, an "arriver." He was constantly on the move, pursuing God's call. He had the requirement to be patient without the luxury of stillness. This is true of all of us. Each of us are waiting for something, some promise to come into fullness...

However, there was something that Avraham did not need to be patient about, and that actually enabled him to be patient about almost everything else:

Responding to God and hearing His voice...

Avraham was in constant relationship with God and responded to Him with urgency.

Unfortunately, I know I am sometimes "patient" with my response and relatioship with God. "I'll pray later...I know I should stop and listen for answers, but I'm busy right now...I'll eventually get to improving on that mitzvah, etc."

It is no wonder that my limited sufferings sometimes feel unbearable: I have a tendancy to set aside for later those the things I have access to right now!

I find this to be true on a communal level also....

Do we have to move slowly out of fear we might become to transformed too quickly?
Do we have to forgo living out of the identity we already have just because we need to patient for it to look how it's supposed to?
Do any of us really know yet how it's supposed to look?

I'm now wondering if we're being patient with the right things. I'm willing to be patient for every Jew in the Messianic community to daven out of a siddur. I'm not so willing to wait on davening with the awareness that in Yeshua we have inherited ALL THINGS, whether we're using siddurim or not.

It will take time for us to fully be the community we want to be, but I wonder if we're accidently opting out of the things we have inherited for the sake of getting to the external more quickly (not that any of us would have ever conciously expressed it that way). The truth is that I don't know. I'm just getting a sinking suspicion that we are in a season to shift our focus to the internal communal awarness of our inheritance so that we are able to pursue our current goals with true patience (as opposed to complacency, which tends to rule often).

I leave the question out there with the hopes of hearing some of your responses:

What are you waiting for...what should we be waiting for?

Monday, October 11, 2010


Theology can be a dangerous enterprise, albeit an important one. The process of determining boundaries and central themes of belief and practice usually ends with one group of people cutting themselves off from another. With all this inner-communal divisiveness, it is no wonder that the world is largely saying "no" to religion.

Interestingly enough, this is even a theme within religious groups! Whether it is drawing a distinction between Yeshua faith and religion, or Torah from religion, most current revivals (I've heard in Jewish and Christian groups-though it is more pervasive in certain christian groups) are growing because of the distance their leaders place between themselves and "religion." There's a big problem with this, however.

I am reminded of a song introduction from Tom Lehrer in which he sarcastically said, "I know there are people in this world who do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that!" There is a similar dynamic going on among the "anti-religion" religious of our day. There is a pervasive lie in society that "most wars are caused by relgion." Those who buy into this lie miss the fact that most wars have actually been caused by governments, and those governments use religion to justify their endeavors. People in power tend to want more. You take your average frum yid who bakes challah (who wouldn't hurt a fly) and put him in a position of power with an army at his fingertips, and see what happens...It would certainly be missing the mark to target his frummness as the problem (any takers on the pressure of having an army at his fingertips having something to do with it?). What has happened is that the need for control has been equated with the word, "religion." Whole new theologies which are completely foreign to the world of the Bible, as well as those communities that preserved it for us, are read into Scripture.

Glorifying religious systems is not a good plan, but denegrating "religion" and pretending Yeshua faith or Torah lifestyles are independant of religion isn't going to help much either.

What is the goal, then? Even those of us who admit we are religious would agree it is not to glorify religious structures instead of God.

I offer for our consideration that the goal of our faith and practice be to make God and Messiah known in this world. This requires systems that operate with God at the center. This means growing relationships with others that bear resemblance to the love Yeshua commanded us to have with our fellows. This means NOT conforming our own minds to match misconceptions of who we are and redifining ourselves accordingly, but rather being conformed into the identity we have in Yeshua. This is a spritual AND religious endeavor. I pray we may all take it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chodesh Tov-Cheshvan

For thoughts on this month, see, "Cheshvan," below.

Here is my quote of the month:

"and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what [is] the will of God -- the good, and acceptable, and perfect."

Romans 12:2, YLT

...any thoughts?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Today is Erev Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan and (as is common in this blog) I am compelled to share some about this month...I'm drawing a blank!

Why is that?!

Because unlike every other month of the Jewish calendar, there are no particular holidays or special mitzvot. Once both days of Rosh Chodesh are over, we are on our own until next Rosh Chodesh. Even Iyyar has the Omer!

What's the theme of Cheshvan, then?

We have a tradition that Cheshvan is reserved for the building of the third Temple and Mashiach's coming-events so special they'll need a month all to their own. There is something very profound going on here. Mashiach's month is one in which all traces of uniqueness and specialness are hidden and/or reserved for a later time. Mashiach is supposed to be there but there is nothing overt that enables us to see him there. While all the parallels of Yeshua are swirling around in Tishrei, in Cheshvan we Messianic Jews are reminded of a stark reality that Yeshua is largely hidden (or missing) in our tradition. Our normal mode of operation-revealing Yeshua's mysterious presence with tradition-is very important, but it's not possible on Cheshvan.

All of Am Yisrael face Cheshvan with the same experience of its surface-level emptiness. All of Am Yisrael have to "make it happen" on Cheshvan, having been filled up during Elul and Tishrei. We Messianic Jews have an even more profound task ahead-revealing the Mashiach in Cheshvan so that he be known speedily and soon. May Cheshvan be a time we bring Mashiach more into the light, revealing him not as we often do (mysteriously present within our holydays and mitzvot), but as one who in a very real way is missing from the month our tradition reserved for him (whether known or not).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Very Special Gift

I have become a very thankful member of what is, in my view, one of the greatest Messianic Jewish contributions in five years: Riverton Mussar.

Riverton Mussar consider's itself to be "a wellspring for ethical change," but I will go so far as to say it is the first modern Messianic Jewish step towards getting to the core of the renewal intended for us in the Besorah: A renewal of our minds to be conformed into Yeshua's image (see Romans and 1 + 2Corinthians)-to know that our actions and thoughts are crucial to the Kingdom Coming (see Sermon on the Mount).

Mussar is a discipline of accountability that challenges its practitioners to come into an awareness of accountability to themselves, others, and God for all of their thoughts and actions. It includes ongoing journaling and charting progress in specific character traits (middot) . Riverton Mussar sets this up as an online community with the chevruta (one-on-one) element. There are specific middot to cycle through, and physical materials mailed to recipients who subscribe.

I encourage all Messianic Jews to consider joining this group. At the very least, check out their site regularly. This is already changing my life, and giving me clarity into what is most important to me: I want to be a better man today than I was yesteday-a better man tomorrow than I am today...growing towards the image of the one who inherited all things and wants to give his disciples all things.

Monday, October 4, 2010

High Holyday Reflection

It has historically been the case that the High Holyday season tends to numb me to any "intermediate" experiences. In other words, when I wasn't in shul, thinking about shul, preparing for shul, eating one of the meals, spending time with community, etc. I would be somewhat unmoved by whatever I was experiencing. Things that might have normally impacted me wouldn't. I used to think this was a good thing, that I was being "super-spiritual." I realized something quite striking around Rosh HaShanah...we don't say "L'Tishrei Tovah Tikateivu," we say, "L'Shanah Tovah Tikateivu." The High Holydays are meant to bring heightened awareness to the remainder of our year. They are not meant to hijack everyday living, but rather to pump everyday living with renewed vigor. Thankfully, this year, my whole life was the High Holyday experience, and not just those times of prayer and community. For this, I am extremely grateful for God's patience with my historic misunderstanding of this precious season, and new understanding to put things right for years to come.