Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rabbinic Judaism and Roman Christianity

Recently I've been reading "Rabbinic Judaism: The Theological System" by Jacob Neusner. This book is fascinating and instructive on many levels. I won't dive into all of that in this post however, because I want to discuss something I've learned that isn't in the book, but which the book demonstrates nonetheless.

That is, that the so-called Oral Torah, which Neusner discusses at length, is the product of the sages, men who wrestled with The Torah, that is written Scripture. Rather than something which was handed down from Moses and Aaron on through the generations, the Oral Torah is the product of thought and philosophy by the sages. 

There is much in the Oral Torah which is interesting, even enlightening on several levels, but it should never be taken as something given by God, because that's clearly not the case, despite what rabbis will teach you. Reading Neusner's work, this becomes self-evident, though he doesn't state. (Whether Oral Torah is from God or not isn't Neusner's concern so he doesn't touch that.) I won't argue with such a preeminent scholar as Neusner-his work proves what the Oral Torah is even if he doesn't set out to do so.

And here is the tie-in with Roman Christianity: it's the same story as so much of human tradition which was basically derived from scripture by the so-called church fathers (most of whom had pagan backgrounds and were virulently anti-Jewish.) I should clarify here that when I say "Roman Christianity" I include Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, even Orthodoxy, all flavors and brands of Christianity which have adopted man-made doctrines which have no biblical origin. I call it Roman because that is truly the origin of the category error which has manifested itself in the faith of so many, a faith which has become a new religion; something I'm convinced the Messiah never intended. Just as He never intended there to be Bishops, child baptism, fining people when they don't go to 'church', etc. I digress.

Both Rabbinic Judaism and Roman Christianity have a feature in common: that they have layered countless man-made features on top of Scripture and have (whether on purpose or not) distorted the message of God and have confused/misled many people. Now, not all of the traditions are bad, per se, but what's bad is that it's presented as something it's not. If Rabbinic Judaism and Roman Christianity would simply admit that they are layering on top of what God has told us, that would be fine. But that doesn't happen because of pride and probably a whole host of other reasons.

What we have in our world are two extremes on either side of the Messiah. One side which not only denies Him, but which says terrible and slanderous things about Him and claims to do so by authority it doesn't have, by words it never received from God. The other side holds Him up but goes astray too far in the other direction, also by authority it doesn't have, by words it never received from God.

The LORD has given us His Word. He has sent us His Messiah. Men are always welcome to wrestle with the details, and that can lead to some very interesting thoughts and debates. But to usurp the LORD's authority is a grave and deadly error.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What is your job as a believer?

What is your job as a believer? Is it to convert people? Is it to "create disciples"? One thing which disturbs me about the Christian ethos (which I'm slowly but surely disentangling myself from) is the concept that as believers in the Messiah (Jesus/Yeshua) it is somehow our responsibility to go into the world and make disciples. As though God needs us to do this for Him?

Obviously, God wants us to be a light to the nations and to share the Gospel. But we cannot make anyone anything. Only the LORD can do this, in His own way, in His own time. Our duty is to share the Gospel, our faith, and what makes us who we are (loved by the Father Almighty and redeemed by our Messiah). But Christendom makes people anxious and self-important share-monsters who want to try and force something on people. When I see people engaged in this it makes me cringe.

This is not the way.

Messiah gives us an example of how to share knowledge of the One True God when He talks with the woman at the well. He doesn't beat her over the head with it, He talks with her about it. This should be our blueprint. And there are numerous examples in the Book of Acts.

Conversely, where do we find anyone forcing something on someone else? I'm not talking about debate and discussion, for those are healthy. But where do you find the apostles going out into the world feeling that it is their duty to get people to believe? Instead, you see people who are filled with God's Spirit, sharing the good news and living their lives in such a way that people are drawn to them. 

From there, God takes over.

If you do nothing else, in a moment where you may share, share that God is with us.

God is with us.
You are not alone.
He loves you.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sabbath for a believer in The Messiah

When a father teaches his child how to do something, whether it be a household chore, homework, or a lesson in social behavior, he delights when the child goes from doing so begrudgingly to doing so out of joy and a desire to please the father.

It saddens me when believers talk about the Sabbath in the context of it being a burden which we are 'now free of', or some other such discourse. How much more saddened must the Father Almighty be when He hears us complain and grumble about enjoying the rest which He has provided for us?

Certainly, much of the discourse on the topic has to do with people trying to keep numerous outdated 'rules' imposed by mankind on the Sabbath, which don't recognize the place of the Messiah or the desire that the LORD has for us to love one another and Him on His day.

One need not observe the Sabbath in the old way, with the old leaven. Rather, observe it with love for Him that has created us, saved us, and sustains us. Observe it with love for our families. Spend time together enjoying the world which He created, and all it has to offer. Spend time reading His word and praying to Him, and in being thankful to Him.

He cares less about rules on His day than He cares about us thanking Him and blessing our families with our love in His presence. He wants us to enjoy His rest as much as we can, as often as we can. But there can be no denying that He wants us to focus on Him on His day, in as many ways as we can.

Some common questions and concerns:

Should I be worried if I cook some food or 'start' Sabbath a little late (after sundown)? What if I don't say the 'correct' prayers or blessings, or miss a step, is that bad? No, not at all.

What if I spend time playing with my kids, taking them swimming or out on a nature hike? Is that bad? Nope, not in the slightest. Enjoy!

What if I don't read scripture or pray throughout the Sabbath? Does it 'count'? Obviously, the more time you can spend prayerfully reading scripture, or time in prayer to the LORD, the better. But doing such activities out of obligation to 'check the box' of Sabbath activities is meaningless. God would rather you spend time with your family, loving them, and spending quality time with them. And if you can read scripture and pray together, wonderful! He also will be pleased if you spend time helping others, so long as it is done out of love and genuine service to His glory and wishes, and not out of a dutiful sense of 'checking the box' of 'holy' activities.

Remember, the LORD wants our worship to be in spirit and truth. In our hearts and minds, not just on our lips or in outward actions which we know internally are empty and devoid of real meaning. Get real on the Sabbath. God knows what you're up to anyway, so why bother faking it?

Shabbat Shalom!