Archive for October, 2010

24
Oct
10

in the margins

If you have been around the Messianic Jewish Movement for a while you know that you are forever having to explaining yourself to the rest of the world. It starts in elementary school when friends ask you “what are you?” When you get a little older – and   for the rest of your life you get the inevitable follow up question, “How can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus” or “Why do you go to a Jewish service if you are not Jewish?” We are a misunderstood people.   While we might look forward to the day when Messianic Judaism is so mainstream that our synagogues are full and everyone knows who we are, may I suggest that we are exactly in the right place. We should not be on the defensive or  lamenting our position but rather rejoicing in the Lord!  We have always been a nation of “aliens and sojourners.”  In the wilderness, God warned us not to be like the people around us – Egyptians where we came from  or like the Canaanites where we were going (see Le. 18:3) but to be a unique people. But even within Israel, the remnant,(the prophets and those who believed them), were in the minority and quite misunderstood.  When Yeshua came it was no different.  He was considered a rebel, a radical and was rejected by most but not all of the Jewish world.    We should not be frustrated   or disappointed that we are not embraced by either the rest of the Jewish community or the community at large.  I will suggest that God has called us to be in the margins. Yeshua came to change the status quo of the mainstream community – not to simply join it! That is what he wants us to do. This is done from the margins of the community – at the edges but within the community.  We are called to be a witness of the presence of Yeshua the Messiah within the Jewish community. We do this through our words and actions. We speak into the community with the messianic claims of Yeshua and we live in community with  like minded messiah followers in order to manifest the life of Yeshua to those around us.   But we are not a ghetto.     We must  take Yeshua out of the synagogue and into the community. This means getting involved in the larger Jewish world and the world at large and displaying the life of Messiah in all of our  interactions. But we must be intentional. In other words, if we are going to change the status quo – if we are going to be radical – if we are going to be like Yeshua we must be forthright about his claims and the difference he has made in our lives. We must exhibit the radical joy; the radical love; the radical servanthood of Messiah and the satisfaction that he provides. The result will be spiritual growth in our own lives and communities as we fulfill our calling and  we will see  some people will heed the message and become messiah followers.

       Let us remember that while we may be  misunderstood  we will find those who are sympathetic and friendly. In addition and most importantly,  we are a “segulah”  a treasured possession  to the Lord.  Let us focus on being pleasing to him in all things –  in our holiness, our joy and in our calling to bring Yeshua to our people and to the world.

 

 

 

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12
Oct
10

Are we building arks or towers

It has been a while since my last blog post. It has been one thing after another since the beginning of the summer. I was quite busy with our annual UMJC conference – the Camp Yeladim, a few days of R&R visitng my daughter in Cincy and then the holidays and two weddings! Now things are settling down to normal and I will try to be better at posting regularly.

I know that it is a little late for this past week’s Torah portion of Noach but there are  some interesting insights about it that apply very much to our world.  This second portion from Breishit includes the building of two structures. One is the ark that God instructed Noah to build and the other is called the Tower of Babel.  Most of us are somewhat familiar with “Noah’s Ark”.  The narrative in Genesis tells us that ever since the sin of Adam and Eve, it has been a downward spiral for humanity. We read of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain and when we get to Noah the text tells us Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart (Gen. 6:5-7).   Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and God instructed him to build a boat so that he and his family and a representative number of animals would be saved from the flood and essentially begin all over again.

Unfortunately, the problem of sin was not alleviated and when we come to chapter 11 the descendants of the three sons of Noah are moving east toward Shinar (Babylon)  and decide to build a city and tower: They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”(Gen. 11:4) The tower symbolized the independence of man from God. According to the text, the tower who have made man invincible – godlike. 

The ark represented our dependence on God and the way of salvation while the tower represents independence from God and judgment. The ark can serve as a metaphor for a place of refuge from the storms of life.  In once sense we are to be building an ark – a safe haven for people to come and be encouraged and built up.   Ultimately Yeshua is the Ark. He is the place of safety. Yeshua said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt.11 :28-30)  That is what we are to reflect as a messianic Jewish community.  We are to be building arks.

However, I fear that we spend too much time building towers to heaven.  By this I mean relying on our own ingenuity and technology to accomplish great things. That is not to say that technology and human ingenuity are bad things. Not at all! Wonderful discoveries have been made  and great things have been done through hard work and creativity. But when  we act independently of God; focusing on our own agenda; when we  are building a name for ourselves then we become as it were, a god unto ourselves – this is the problem. We are building towers and not boats!  We can accomplish wonderful things on our own and build institutions; congregations but unless it is an ark, the heart of man remains the same. We are living in a marvelous age – an age of great discoveries and inventions. Human progress is unequalled.  But human progress without the leading and guidance of God often leads to the opposite of our intentions. As a community of Messiah followers, we must ask ourselves if we are building arks or towers. Are we bringing Yeshua to our people/ are we living out a way of life that is commensurate with refuge and shelter?   Or are we making a name for ourselves, building towers that reach to heaven?   The result of tower building is  squabbling and tearing down rather than buiding up.   Is our focus on Yeshua and the salvation that he provides or is our focus on what we can do to build our own towers, cities and kingdoms. Let us refocus our priorities and be Yeshua centered. Let us use our creativity and ingenuity to build arks, not towers.