Month 1:2, Week 1:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year:Day 5937:002 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Thursday 11 April 2013
An Invitation to Covenant & Community
Continued from Part 2
We conclude the three-part 7-0-1 series on this second day of the New Year and of the first month of Aviv as we commence the countdown to Pesach (Passover) that falls on Aviv 14, to Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) that starts on Aviv 15 (and is always a Sabbath) and Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits) that falls on Aviv 16 as it does every year and not on some moving scale as taught by the modern Talmudists. We're on track assembling on the right days according to Yahweh's own eternal, biblical Creation Calendar.
No Longer Living in the Past
I am sure you have all heard the old saying: "Don't judge me by my past - I no longer live there". This is as true for individuals as it is of groups of people, and particularly of religious or spiritual communities. Every one of us has been patterned by, has emerged from, one false system or another and have had to have it gradually washed out of us over the years. Some of us have had long wanderings through many systems as we have sought the correct derech (way) to go.
My Journey in Brief Outline
My own background is Anglican (Church of England) in which I was raised, conservative Utah Mormon (LDS) which I became as a student for a brief three years, liberal Missouri Mormon (RLDS/Community of Christ) for four years, Baptist, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Israelite and today Messianic Evangelical. To that I could add my time as an agnostic or atheist, an investigator of Buddhism and numerous Christian and pseudo-Christian denominations like the Worldwide Church of God, Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, various Pentecostal and Charismatic groups (like the Church of God of Prophecy), and the Campbellite Church of Christ, to name but a few of many others I could have mentioned . It has been a long journey of exploration and discovery.
The Background of our Members
Those who have come to this work over the years have come from as diverse a background as the various groups I have investigated myself. In our earliest days, most members were drawn from Norwegian LDS and RLDS communities but as we have evolved and grown in our understanding, as well as shifting the centre of our witness from Norway (where we were for 9 years) to Sweden (where we have been since 1997), nearly all now are either from Evangelical (Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal) or Messianic backgrounds, as one might expect, though by no means all. We are finding people coming from Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and straight out of atheism. The hundreds of converts made in India were nearly all from a Hindu background.
Names We Have Been Known As
Tying to 'map' the journey of individuals, let alone spiritual communities, is hazardous at best and folly at worst because we are all the product of numerous, complex interactions and experiences. So we should resist the urge to put people into categories or label them as this or that. Over the years we have used various names to summarise our beliefs, something as I am sure many of you will recognise is fraught with difficulties because it leads to over-simplifications and distortions of what one stands for. Just look at former US Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, both of whom claimed to be 'Baptist' yet their belief systems were radically different. The most common designations we have used have been New Covenant Christians (from the time we began in the mid to late 1980's), Messianic Israelites (since about 1999) and Messianic Evangelicals (in recent years) none really tell the 'whole story' about who we are. That's why one should be careful about labels.
The Complex Mix of Denominations
If you have ever been a member of a denomination you will know that it is never uniform in its beliefs. Look at today's Methodists compared to the early Wesleyans! There are dozens of different types of 'Baptist', for example, just as there are so many different types of 'Messianic'. There are liberal and conservative Seventh-Day Adventists who are now practically two different denominations in all but name. And there even some SDA who now follow the Creation Calendar and luni-solar sabbath! There are Anglicans, like continental Lutherans, who are virtually Catholics, those who are Evangelicals, and those who are liberal secularists.
In the end I had to write an essay explaining all the different types of 'Messianic' so that people would stop painting us with a single brush - see Messianic Heresies Exposed. Thus it would be true to say that we have more in common with Baptists than we do with many Messianic groups especially when it comes to the Deity of Messiah and the basic elements of the Plan of Salvation. But then as far as Torah-keeping is concerned, we obviously have much more in common with Messianics than we do with lawless Evangelicals and other 'orthodox' Christians who mistakenly believe that all commandment-keepers are 'legalists' (i.e. those who think they can save themselves by obedience to the Law).
Getting to Know Believers and Their Fellowships
It takes a long to really get to know a person and longer a spiritual group or family of diverse people. Each individual 'colours' the family. Accordingly we have always counselled people to take their time in getting to know us, and not to judge the whole fellowship by the occasional odd-ball (we're all works in progress and are commanded to reach out to all). You'll find odd-balls in all groups.
Giving Family Members Time
It's especially important show grace and long-suffering toward family members who might be in opposition to spouses (in particular) drawn to this work. Our families are important, particularly spouses with whom we are supposed to spend eternity if we and they will walk as the Master commands. Therefore time and patience is required as we work with them.
At Some Point Radical Choices Have to Be Made
At the same time, there is no way that the challenges and difficulties of walking in the Emet (Truth) can be minimised to please everyone indefinitely. Once you come to realise just how far off the Derech (Way) most Christians and Messianics are - the Calendar especially comes to mind - then at some point, when all the saving emet (truth) principles have been gathered together and the choice has to be made between following the pure Derech (Way) and one the many polluted mixtures, then it has to be bluntly asked:
Does Change Represent Instability?
"How long will you falter between two opinions? If Yahweh is Elohim (God), follow Him; but if Baal, follow him" (1 Kings 18:21, NKJV).
Admittedly this is not easy especially when churches, ministries and groups are continually evolving and changing...for good (embracing more emet/truth and discarding more and more false traditions) and evil (doing the reverse). Many people don't want to commit until they have found a 'perfect' assembly, at least as far as doctrine and practice is concerned. We can relate to that. Without exception, almost everyone who originally came from a Mormon background has left us because it meant discarding too many sacred cows for their liking. Messianics in love with Judaism more than the emet (truth) have also left as have Protestants unhappy with full Torah-obedience. We have changed enormously in our 26 years of existence and for some that represents instability rather than reformation and cleansing. And yet the second festival of Messianic Israel, Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread), is all about change...getting sin and falsehood out of our lives. This constant change is rather to be a feature of the qodesh (holy, set-apart) life. A community constantly repenting must expect change until perfection is reached.
The Two Constants of a Changing Fellowship
However, there are constants, and the two most important ones are the Saviour Himself and His Father's Torah:
These two are always constant. What we are doing is surrendering more and more to Messiah and obeying more and more of Torah. In that we have, I believe, been consistent and and faithful, as our history attests. We have discarded a lot of false teachings and practices whilst remaining true to our goals. It is our promise that we will continue repenting and changing until our emunah (faith) and obedience are complete.
"Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb.13:8, NKJV).
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah (Law) or the Nevi'im (Prophets). I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah (Law) till all is fulfilled" (Matt.5:17-18, NKJV).
The Emet (Truth) Has Come With a Heafty Price Tag
We have come a long way in a quarter of a century. We've changed beyond recognition. Without pressure from interest groups, the need to preserve salaries (we have no paid ministry), donors, or any of the other things that keep churches and assemblies fossilised, we have been willing to lose all for the sake of emet (truth). We lost all of our Indian congregations over Sabbath and other controversies, we lost all our groups in western Kenya (Nyanza Province) over the female circumcision controversy, and we lost many others because we would not exclude polygamist families in Africa (principally in west Kenya) and elsewhere. Many turned away from us because we reached out to society's 'untouchables', the victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse and pedophilia. In fact these last two provoked vicious persecution for years not just from former members but from the media too who are in denial about the existence of the latter or are deliberately suppressing it because of involvement in these perversions by people in high places. Much of the lashon hara, lies and misinformation that are still circulating comes primarily from these last two controversies. And we have lost most of our former Messianic supporters because we would not bow to the Jewish calendar, impose circumcision and other false traditions in Judaism.
So one thing we can guarantee those who come to us is that we will not be held captive by traditions, money, membership numbers, or the inclinations of the flesh generally. We stand by our convictions no matter what even if that means we must remain a tiny handful until "the restoration of all things" (Ac.3:21) and suffer abuse from those who don't want their darkness exposed. If you like that, then you probably belong here. If I might borrow a slogan of the Spanish Republican movement to illustrate our attitude, "ˇNo pasarán!" - Messianic Evangelicals will defend the turf of emet (truth) no matter what and will not tolerate any lies: "They shall not pass!"
No 'Pie in the Sky' Movement
So what we present to you is no "pie in the sky" theology - it has been lived out, sometimes in the face of massive opposition, and has always survived because Yahweh has been in it. The only false systems that survive are those that are backed up by lots of money, political power or passive-aggressive psychological manipulation and pressure. We have never had power or money and we have never tried to force or guilt people into remaining with us if they want to leave. And unlike so many mass religious movements that need members to get tithes to finance programs and buildings, we don't make it easy to become a member and if people want to leave, we never stop them or harrass them but send them on their way with a blessing. We don't own anyone. Rather, we have made it clear that we are not the 'one and only true church or group' (as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and others claim) and we teach that each individual must go where Yahweh places him or her. And if we ever depart from truth as a community, it is the members' duty to appeal to Biblical emet (truth) in ahavah (love) and, if we will not yield, after suitable grace has been extended, to leave with a clear conscience. I am happy to say that because of some loving pressure put on us by others we have changed in a number of key areas, most recent and not least of which has been repenting from the false sabbath and calendar generally. And these were not easy changes to make because they required a complete reorganisation of lifestyle!
Change and Constancy in Tandem
So change and constancy are linked for us, and the more emet (truth) we learn, the more constant and sounder we become theologically. There are still one or things we're uncertain of such as the precise year we're in and therefore when the sabbatical years and jubillees are but these are things we are working on together. After a quarter of a century of prioneering work we do believe we have got the vast bulk of it right now. We're more sure now than at any time previously. However, we remain teachable and always plan to remain that way.
We Are All Capable of Making the Necessary Choices
Making choices and changing is part and parcel of life in this sphere. Not everyone's learning curve is the same and more often than not there are obstacles in the form of dark spiritual oppression too. No one is, however, a helpless victim, and even though some choices are hard, there is none we cannot make in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). He is the enabler and strengthener (Phil.4:13). Stubborn resistance to the emet (truth), though, is not thought of highly by Heaven and though our Heavenly Father demonstrates great patience and long-suffering because of His ahavah (love) for us, the 'Grace Ticket' is not a blank cheque (check).
Grace is Linked to Justice
It has to be recognised that in all spheres of life that grace is not extended indefinitely and that it is closely linked to justice. Yahweh is patient with sinners but grace is not limitless. There is always a cut-off point for those who won't repent or change after they have been given ample time to do so. Judgment always follows extended grace. At that point 'Adam' has to metaphorically decide whether he is going to follow 'Eve' into rebellion and death (or vice versa, depending who the villain happens to be) and not blame her when he himself relinquishes his headship out of fear of losing her, or stand apart in Yahweh alone. 'Lot' cannot always expect his 'wife' to follow and not 'turn back'. And I'll not pretend, the cost can be high. For men called to be leaders in this end-time labour, supporting women of conviction, courage and endurance are absolutely required which is why time is needed to work with them into coming into the emet (truth). Lot's wife yearned for Sodom and she turned back longingly no doubt because of family members who would not heed the warning and follow. It's tough but separation is always at some point required for deliverance.
Like I said, there is a point at which grace expires. It expired for Lot's family and they had to leave or perish. The same is true for us and for believers in every age.
"Come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh" (2 Cor.6:17, NKJV).
Grace Has an Expiration Date for Unrepented Sin
We are fast appoaching such a time in which grace expires for the world. As I have said numerous times, judgment is coming on the world - not the Final Judgment but a major one nonetheless. We are in the midst of huge changes and as we well know history turns on small hinges. As I speak to you now we are waiting to see if the spoiled communist child-dictator Kim Jong-un of North Korea, who is a puppet of the emerging Chinese superpower bent on challenging the West for hegemony, will carry out his threat to fire nuclear weapons at South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Remember, the First World War and the whole modern era of conflict was triggered by the assassination of one man, an Austrian Archduke, in another political hot spot, Bosnia.
I wish I could promise all of you believers who have been patiently waiting for loved ones - husbands and wives especially - to embrace the emet (truth) so that you can throw yourself into the work. But such an assurance would not be realistic and certainly not consistent with the historical suffering of believers because of their families throughout the ages. In my experience if after seven years of patient and loving witness they have not embraced the Besorah (Gospel), or some difficult aspect of it, they probably never will, though there may sometimes be hope and there are always exceptions. Sometimes spouses can turn around after decades and so if unbelieving husbands and wives are willing to remain with their believing counterparts, the loving witness must continue. Usually, though, the deeper you go into the light of emet (truth) and start making changes in your life, the more agitated and hostile unbelieving spouses can become, making domestic life unbearable. Unless there is adultery, domestic cruelty or violence, believing spouses are expected to hold their ground and take up their crosses, as Yah'shua (Jesus) did for us. I know one or two of you who have been through such hell and have had to make really difficult marriage decisions. My heart goes out to you. I have been there myself more than once.
The Seven Year Marriage
Just before my wedding in the early 1980's, Yahweh spoke to me audibly and said that the marriage I was about to contract would last seven years. It was hard to believe and I did not want to hear this. Yet seven years to the date, in exact accordance with that prophetic revelation given to me (which, incidentally, I quickly forgot about as I settled into marriage life, ministry and raising a family) my first wife, whose committment to the Besorah (Gospel) was more social than spiritual, ran off with the charismatic leader of a New Age cult at a vulnerable time when we were both coming out of liberal Missouri (RLDS) Mormonism and looking for a new spiritual home. Without the spiritual rebirth which I had received before unwisely going off course into the LDS maze (I constantly praise Yahweh that I was born again in 1977), she did not have the right foundation to bounce back. To this day, a couple of more children and relationships later, she remains trapped in New Age thinking. And like all divorce (which I passionately hate and forcefully preach against) it negatively impacted our two children and certainly scarred their parents.
Conflicts Within Families
We are not promised family immunity from the trials and tribulations we must deal with in the world when the fullness of the Besorah (Gospel) lifestyle clashes with that of the unsaved in the wider community because so often that self same world is well entrenched in the family. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
Boundaries Within Families
"I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Luke 12:49-53, NKJV).
If we are avoiding making Besorah (Gospel) committments in order to keep peace within families we will not actually keep the peace. Rather, we will be denying ourselves the inner shalom (peace) that comes from being true in order, as we suppose, to make everyone else happy. It doesn't work. Because the moment you start compromising the emet (truth) for the sake of unbelievers, or for believers who love the traditions of men more than they do the emet (truth) of Scripture, they will not rest until you are like they are because that is the only way that they can remain undisturbed in their own sinning. The last thing they want is for the light of emet (truth) to shine on their own sinning.
"For everyone practicing evil hates the ohr (light) and does not come to the ohr (light), lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the emet (truth) comes to the ohr (light), that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in Elohim (God)" (John 3:20-21, NKJV).
When you have the children in the equation the choices can become even more difficult for parents in conflict over religion must also consider what is in their best interests too.
Some Decisions Have to Be Made Alone Without Help
This, then, is the dilemma. On the one hand we want to show the same kind of grace to them as Yahweh has shown to us but on the other we cannot possibly sacrifice emet (truth) on the altar of lies for the sake of compromise and an illusiory 'peace'. Negociating your way successfully and with godliness through this maze is the mark of a true talmid (disciple) and reveals what we are truly made of. This is the way spiritual steel is forged in the crucible of such fiery opposites. It's one of the main reasons we are here on this earth - to learn to do right in such a way that the best interests of everyone who comes within our domain of influence is served. There is, moreover, no standard formula that I can give to resolve each grace-justice interaction because every situation is special, tempered as it is by the unique personalities involved. Just as Yahweh had to leave Yah'shua (Jesus) on the cross alone to complete His work of atonement that left Him feeling desperate and forsaken (Mt.27:46; Mk.15:34), so every one of us has to be left alone without counsellors in wrestling at some time or another with such family and similar problems. And the triad of Besorah (Gospel), Family and the World is where we are made or broken. It's the supreme testing ground of character. If you sometimes feel alone with these heavy decisions it precisely because you have to make them alone. It's a part of the burden of cross-bearing in all its diverse forms.
Decisions Made Solely in Faith
I can't tell you the number of agonising decisions I have had to make alone in family matters. When you are in the thick of such wrestling, the carnal nature is trying to drag you in one direction by appealing to self-interest and the spiritual nature usually in the opposite to represent bigger interests than your own. The tug-of-war between the two rarely ends suddenly and dramatically with a crystal-clear vision of what to do precisely because in the exercise of emunah (faith) 'seeing' isn't a part of the equation. Indeed, it isn't the point at all. Things rarely go the way we 'want' or 'plan', do they? And the reason often is because there is a higher purpose, invariably invisible to us, that Elohim (God) is causing to work in us and for us - for a 'well-being' that is future for us and others which we cannot possibly 'see' or relate to in the present.
Families Must Organise Properly
Over the last few years we have received moral, spiritual and some practical support from various people with differing degrees of committment to the work we are doing. Our message has been for families to independently get organised and for husbands and fathers to be busy about establishing righteous patriarchal rule at home. That remains - and always will remain - our message.
The Messianic Evangelical Community Will Organise Soon
It is soon time for us to organise and to once again offer an apostolic program for those who wish to publicly come out and call themselves 'Messianic Evangelical'. This will include Bible Study programs for investigators, members and eventually those who are called into offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It will not be done all at once but gradually so that the spiritual base remains organic in much the same way that the Council at Jerusalem did not demand the first gentile converts be fully Torah-compliant all at once (giving them only 4 basic rules to begin with) so as not to quench the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in the infancy of their salvation and spiritual growth. We are not to choke babes with meat (Heb.5:12)
Preparing for Membership
We will not be registering with any government as we once did (since it none of the business of the world to regulate the House of Yahweh) and therefore will not seeking any tax concessions either - we do not wish to be beholden to the world in any form. Subject to the confirmation of the Ruach (Spirit) we will probably start baptising (and rebaptising lapsed members) into Yah'shua (Jesus) and into the New Covenant at Yom haBikkurim, performing Bar/Bat Mitzvah's (entering into Torah-obedience covenants) at Shavu'ot (Pentecost) (including the issuing of Messianic Evangelical tzitzit for the men and encouraging fathers to issue tzitzit to their sone who have come of age (12 and above) and headcoverings to their wives and daughters. Though we don't as yet have a conference-authorised constitution, it will be something along the lines of Conditions for Membership in the Messianic Evangelical Community which I have updated to give our investigators a taste of our standards. I will be updating some of our older webpages that relate to these things over the coming weeks to take into account all the developments and changes over the last decade so that those who wish to commit themselves to this work can begin prayerfully preparing themselves. This will include, for our part, expanding our Bible Courses which will take a little time to bring up-to-date. Your constructive feedback and suggestions are, of course, also very welcome. Please get in contact through the usual channels. This autumn (fall) we are hoping to have a Messianic Evangelical Inaugural Conference during the eight days of Sukkot (Tabernacles) (our main annual conference time) so please plan ahead and try to join with us in Sweden at this third Pilgrim's Festival of Messianic Israel! This year it is 19-26 October.
In the meantime we shall continue, as always, with our witnessing and teaching ministry. May Yahweh bless you as you make your preparations for the Spring Festivals in 12 days time! Amen.
 See A Glimpse into Heaven: My Life Story and How I Came to Know Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)