Month 1:22, Week 3:7 (Shini'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:22 AM|
2Exodus 4/40, Omer Count - Shabbat #1
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 18 April 2017
The Doctrinal Drifters
How They Come & How They Go
Propagandists by Nature
Shabbat shalom chaverim!
We are all of us, by nature, propagandists for our beliefs and I remain to be convinced that anyone is so impartial as not to be. We depend on the coherence of our belief system in order to live. When contradictions arise, we either struggle to resolve them or (more often than not) go into denial until we can no longer sustain that belief system any longer. Sometimes (but not commonly) people go overboard and throw out the baby with the bathwater and try something radically different and in the process suppress the cries of protest from the baby. In the process they set up new sets of contradictions, oftentimes worse than the original ones they were struggling with.
Honesty and Thoroughness
If there is one thing I try to be is thorough. Unfortunately, thoroughness can lead to much personal distress, especially as you deal with things you have previously accepted uncritically because of tradition. To be able to see multiple points-of-view is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because it gives you the opportunity to constructively evaluate what you have assumed to be true but perhaps have not thoroughly checked out your assumptions closely enough, and it's a curse because every soul wants to be settled and not constantly thrown into the turmoil that contrary beliefs bring when they challenge you. The honest accept the very real possibility of constant change caused by the admission of new emet (truth) - the dishonest do not. Honesty therefore requires both hard work and the ability of adapt.
The Complex Bible
Since the first time I took an active interest in the Bible, my views on it have been in constant change. Inevitably you start with a simplistic, childish picture - like 'heaven' is in the sky above you. Sadly, for perfectionists like myself, the Bible is no simple book to fathom. I used to think it was but the deeper I dug, the more complex it became. It would perhaps have been simpler if, like the Ten Commandments, Yahweh had written the entire volume with His own finger, and it has frustrated me more than once that He did not. There is a reason He has not chosen to do it this way, however.
To Be Concerned About Doctrine
If you're wondering where I am going with this, and why, I will tell you. As I was driving to the city the other day, two words forcibly formed in my mind: DOCTRINAL DRIFT. Not everybody is concerned about doctrine yet we are admonished to be quite clearly:
Paul to Timothy on Exemplarary Living and Teaching
"Watch ("pay close attention to" - NRSV) your life and doctrine (teaching) closely" (1 Tim.4:16, NIV).
Paul has a lot to say to Timothy in this regard. There are "things", he says, "you must insist on and teach" (v.11, NRSV). In terms of paying close attention to his "life", Paul especially highlighted the importance of "set[ting] the believers an example in speech and conduct, in ahavah (love) and emunah (faith), in purity" (v.12, NRSV). That's the 'living' part. The 'teaching' part he equally emphasises:
A Matter of Preserved Salvation
"Give attention to the public reading of scripture (the Tanakh/Old Testament), to exhorting, to teaching" (v.13, NRSV).
Living the Besorah (Gospel) out and teaching it accurately are the two ends of the sceptre of toqef (authority) not only of congregational leaders like Timothy but of everyone ultimately, since fathers and mothers must do the same with their children:
Doctrinal Divergence and the Human Condition
"Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers" (v.16, NRSV).
It has always troubled me that there is not only so much doctrinal divergence in the denominations of Christendom but that even in many of those teachings about which they are agreed there yet remains much error - error that has been so indellibly stamped by tradition that it refuses to be examined. Perfectionists like myself have never been content to simply 'let things be' for the sake of unity and it's certainly true that we can get so embroiled in doctrinal controversy that it can seriously damage inter-personal relationships. This is one of the dilemmas of the human condition. So obviously our conduct must come first - if we can't conduct ourselves in a loving and respectful way, then no amount of doctrinal correctness will serve any useful purpose. The emet (truth) is supposed to draw people together, not fling people apart. And yet we know it does, even when the party holding the the emet (truth) does so with grace and charity. The frustratingly contradictory human condition...again.
Perfection and Visible Progress
So, yes, the human condition is outrageously contradictory and handicapping. Haven't you ever wanted to tear your hair out over it? We mess things up time and time again. We know that perfection does not come in a day but realising it it unattainable in this lifetime is perhaps one of the hardest things to accept especially as we have been commanded to pursue it (Mt.5:48). But the older I get, the more I see this is inevitable. What was important to Paul, at least, was that everyone was making progress and that this progress was visible to all (v.15). We need, apparently, to be able to see how one other are "coming along" (v.15, NIRV).
The Way Men and Women See Things
By nature, I think women tend to be more pre-occupied with the "living" side of the Besorah (Gospel) whereas men are more doctrine-focussed. I realise that's a gross over-simplification as we all have different temperaments, yet broadly-speaking I think it's accurate in terms of nature and disposition. Yet clearly both aspects are important and leaders must both grasp and implement both.
We are living at a time where behaviour is increasingly emphasised at the expense of sound doctrine. Secular society is run today along existentialist, behaviourist lines. Truth, facts, logic, morality are all out of vogue nowadays. The Oxford English Dictionary (2016 edition) now includes the word 'post-truth' which it defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief." I don't know about you, but I find that very alarming and scary. And yet this trend or development is perfectly in line with the post-modernism denial of emet (truth) as an objective, absolute reality. Once you deny the importance of objective reality, you set a dangerous precedent. Marc Amber writes:
The De-emphasis of Truth in the Churches
"People's choice of narrative is driven increasingly by emotion, ideology, agenda and pragmatism rather than by truth" .
Ambler further notes that even in the churches truth is made subservient to the pursuit of church growth, academic respectability, dissemination of the Besorah (Gospel) and so on. And though this may seem innocuous at first it inevitably and tragically soon results in the displacement of the very emet (truth) that Yah'shua (Jesus) says sets us free (Jn.8:32). Emet (truth) is the doctrine is the law is the teaching is the Torah of Yahweh is objective reality. Unless we teach the "whole counsel of Elohim (God)" (Ac.20:27) we will not only deceive ourselves but rob lost souls of the full measure of their salvation.
Doctrine Shapes Behaviour
The result of truth deemphasis is actually distorted behaviour because doctrine shapes our behaviour. Right doctrine leads to right behaviour. One of Yahweh's earliest mitzvot (commandments) was:
Loving Yahweh With our Minds
"Love Yahweh your Elohim (God) ... with all your mind..." (Mark 12:30-31, NIV)
We are to love Him with all our mind in addition to loving Him with all our "heart", "soul" and "strength", my point being that you can exclude your mind or your doctrine. W.E.Sangster said:
We are All Shaped by Doctrine
"No man is changed till his mind is changed. We do most of our living within. Our deeds express our thoughts. It is into our minds that Christ must come if He is to come into our lives. From our minds, He will shape our character, discipline our will and control our bodies" .
The life we live is shaped by the doctrine or teaching that we believe and espouse. It's a fact of life. Change a man's or woman's thinking then eventually feelings and behaviour change too. Look at how our education systems in the West have destroyed the ability of our children to think logically . Heart and mind may initially be at loggerheads but in order to prevent a civil war of the soul they have to come to agreement under the headship of mind. As I have preached so many times over the years, emet (truth) defines what love is, not the other way round.
The Codependency of Behaviour and Doctrine
My insistence on the purity of doctrine frustrates many. I think many of them honestly don't get it. And it's true, if ahavah (love) is quenched in our insistence on doctrinal correctness, we have for sure failed. This is one of those divine paradoxes - emet (truth) defines what love is - whether it is ahavah (agapé) or some other kind of love (like parental or filial love or eros). Yet ahavah (correctly defined biblical, sacrificial love) is the greatest of all (1 Cor.13:13). Emet (truth) and ahavah (love) are codependent, just as behaviour and doctrine are.
Character vs. Sound
With so many different ideas about what biblical love is, we have to get this mixture right. Now it is true that my knowing how to correctly pronounce God's Name correctly isn't going to make me more loving - at least, I have never osberved that. There are spiritually beautiful and ahavah-filled believers who use any number of different names - Elohim, Eloah, God, Adonai - Yahweh, Jehovah, Yahuah, Yahuwah, Yehweh - Yah'shua, Jesus, Yeshua, Yahushua...and so on. What matters is that the know and reflect the true character of Elohim (God) even if they don't get the Name rightly pronounced. I could (if I wanted do, and obviously I won't) point to believers who pronounce the Names correctly and are pretty doctrinally sound on most things who are amongst the most unloving and mean-spirited believers I have ever met. The emet (truth) of who Yahweh is and not the truth of how His Name is spelled is obviously the higher Emet (Truth). There are different categories of emet (truth) with different rankings. The emet (truth) of how to be saved and live a qadosh (holy, set-apart) life with quality inter-personal relationships is obviously more important than factoids about correctly pronouncing the Hebrew for 'peace' (the biblical 'shalomm' as opposed to the American 'shaloame').
The Greatest of These...
I am not saying that false pronunciation or false doctrine is OK because anything that is false impacts the spiritual life in some way or another, even if only on a microscopic level. But as we all know, accumulated pennies become pounds But I am saying there are priorities. I do not compromise on the emet (truth) but equally I would never deliberately alienate a brother or sister simply because they are wrong. Observing the correct luni-solar sabbath over the false Saturday of Sunday 'sabbaths' does not make you a better person relationally - the only way you are ever going to be a better person is if you are in an ahavah (love) relationship with Yah'shua (Jesus) which then shows up in your character. Then your precision on mitzvah (commandment)-obedience will count. Ultimately everything that matters in the eternal sense are "emunah (faith), tiqveh (hope) and ahavah (love). But the greatest of these is ahavah (love)" (1 Cor.13:13, NIV).
Now I know I have said these things before and this isn't really what I wanted to talk about though it is necessary by way of an introduction. I mentioned earlier 'doctrinal drift' and I need to explain that. What concerns me more is doctrinal integrity and the best way I can explain this is by way of illustration. This has happened so many times that there's not the slightest doubt in my mind about what I'm going to tell you.
Mental Assent vs. Implementation
Over the years individuals and congregations (usually their pastors and elders) have been powerfully drawn to us by the Ruach (Spirit) because of the impact our teachings have had on them. They have been falling over themselves to join us and have professed great love, devotion and loyalty. The teachings hold them because it resonates with their souls. But it is one thing to be aroused by emet (truth) and wholly another to implement it in your daily living. How many are there who have come confessing the Creation Calendar but who then balk at implementing it because of its demands of a complete change in lifestyle? 'Nice teaching but too hard for me to do.' Yah'shua (Jesus) never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it. Besides, where is the empowering going to come from anyway?
Coming With False Motives
We have, to be sure, had dishonest people who have come to us pretending to agree with our doctrines and turning on the flattery in order to get our name (NCAY) for national registration purposes, milk (as they supposed) a cash-cow, meet an emergency financial need, for prestige or to win praise - the reasons why people operate out of the flesh and without integrity are legion.
Doctrinal Drifter I
One woman professed complete belief in our teachings to the point of enthusiastically bearing witness of them to others and spending many hours doing so, but as soon as a personal issue was confronted, she suddenly - overnight - underwent 'doctrinal drift'. One day she was defending the femininity of the Ruach (Spirit) and denouncing charistmatic-type tongue-babbling as counterfeit, the next morning the Ruach (Spirit) was masculine again and she was an ardent charismatic tongue-speaker!
Doctrinal Drifter II
There was similarly a pastor who was overwhelmed by the Ruach (Spirit) in reading our teachings and was begging us to admit his congregation. He was devouring our teachings, calling our website his 'spiritual university'. Three years passed and his congregation was admitted to full membership. Then one day, when we had to call him up for racist behaviour online and instructed him to take down some very offensive statements which were reflecting badly on us, instead of repenting, he defended himself, went sour and the day after he was wishing people a happy 'Easter' even though he had been a messianic before he joined us and knew practically all there was to know about that pagan observance. Overnight his doctrine drifted elsewhere all because he was offended at being corrected.
Either Way, You Lose
I cannot tell you how many times we have had this kind of experience, where doctrine is simply a means to some other end rather than being an end in itself as the mind and heart of our Heavenly Father. We have learned the hard way of the utterly contradictory nature of the human psyche. It doesn't matter whether you feed them line-upon-line over many years, leaving meaty doctrine to last (you are then accused of being 'cultic' or 'secretive' when they turn against you) or you whether serve all the doctrines upfront and raw, hiding absolutely nothing. Responding to accusations that we were being 'secretive' we have for some time now just served our 'hot potatoes on a plate so that investigators can deal with them there and then. It makes no difference what you do. Even making congregations wait three years before admitting them fully to ensure they properly digest and test our teachings makes no difference. If there's an agenda which is other than dedication to thes emet (truth), they'll wait three years and once they have what they want, they'll be off at the slightest pretext. It's how one group of congregations fleased me of my inheritance. You live and you learn.
Training Up a New Generation
This is one reason why I announced last sabbath that we would be changing our approach in the future. To get a good name you must earn it for yourself. We are entering a time when we must learn to flourish when there is no longer any prosperity, when the cash-cows become but historical memory, where honesty, integrity and loyalty rank exceedingly high. The dark heart of the Enemy that has invaded the Body of Messiah has to be burned out as it won't leave by gentle persuasion. And like Israel of old, a whole generation has to be trained up in these things first of all because the old dogs won't learn the new tricks of righteousness:
Integrity of Character is #1
"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it"
UNTIL INTEGRITY OF CHARACTER HAS BEEN RESTORED MOST DOCTRINE WILL BE MEANINGLESS. If people won't come for the things that really matter, none of the meaty doctrine will be of any use whatsoever.
No Compromise With the System
The last generation - the Remnant - cannot be raised by the system! They have to be raised from the cradle in the admonition of Yahweh. And that means homeschooling or Christian/Messianic schooling. That isn't to say that many won't break out of the system, struggle and overcome because some will. We have had to but it has been a long, heart-wrenching and exhausting experience that I wouldn't recommend to anyone who had the alternative option of being raised right. But most won't. They would rather have others take responsibility for the sacred stewardship of parenting and raising their children. They are condemning themselves and children to next best with all its hazzards.
Why the Creation Calendar is Important
It is my firm belief that this is why Yahweh has restored the Luni-Solar Creation Calendar at this time because the nature of the changing sabbaths (relative to the Roman system) virtually compells you to quit the system and become self-sufficient. You need to start your own businesses and grow your own food. The Remnant absolutely has to leave the system but to do that they must first renounce its authority over them along with the philosophical naturalism and paganism that frames it. If they don't, the system will swallow them whole and they will have consigned themselves and their families to all the system has planned for them. You're getting a taste of it already but it's only the beginning.
Shaken, Singed and Smelted
Doctrinal drift at a whim isn't an option for the true Remnanteers because the Remnant is founded in principles, not personalities, other than the Person of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) Himself. And this message will not generally be received, even by those called, until they have first been shaken, singed and smelted. That's what this coming tribulation is for. It is an act of mercy for believers as well as judgment for the wicked.
Come to the Assembly of the Firstborn
You need to know your doctrine and stick with it until greater light and emet (truth) is shown you. But first of all you have to come up to the Chavurat Bekorot or Assembly (Church) of the Firstborn (Heb.12:23) with the right motives, with pure hearts, without personal agendas, without unnecessary ties to the system. What matters is not High Scores in Factoid Knowledge, access to cash-cows, or being respected and admired by the world, but getting a Shem Tov - a worthy name.
Ending Mental Dichotomies
This means an end to mental dichotomy - of living in two mutually exclusive worlds simultaneously - a secular one and a spiritual one. You have to choose one or the other. And you can't have an 'upper storey' of feelings, emotions and religious 'truths' and a lower storey of facts and actions. We were not designed to be split but to be echad (one). If there are any dichotomies in your life, you have got to resolve them now!
A Coherent Theory of Everything
True believers have to have a coherent 'theory of everything' - spiritual, mental, emotional, moral, doctrinal and scientific - which means you have got to put effort into "work[ing] out" (Phil.2:12) these things so that you are not compromised in critical and life-threatenings situations. You can't live multiple lives. You have one life, one personality, one calling. The Bible provides the framework for such an integrated life in a world of ever increasing fracturing and confusion with its appetite for untruth.
Dealing With Your Hot Potatoes
I don't know what your all individual doctrinal issues may be - the familial nature of the Godhead, tongues, Yahweh's festivals, the creation calendar, the fullness of biblical marriage, Torah-observance, patriarchy, etc. - everyone has his personal hot potatoes he must juggle with until they have cooled down and he can eat them - but you have got to get these matters resolved. You can't remain double-minded!
Give Me Stout-Hearted Men!
Many have left us, and will continue to do so, in their attempts to resolve these internal conflicts. We have grown used to it and it doesn't hurt as much as it used to because we have come to understand that we don't 'own' anyone. The messianic family is a voluntary association. Our final loyalty is to the emet (truth) whoever may come or go. Gideon learned the lesson that numbers don't matter but quality. Though Oscar Hammerstein is not on my list of those I admire, he did pen some some memorable lyrics which read:
Sticking Together Through Thick and Thin
"Give me some men who are stout-hearted men
Who will fight for the right they adore;
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men
And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more"
He starts his poem:
"Hearts can inspire others' hearts with their fire
For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way"
"There’s nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan
When stout-hearted men stick together man to man"
We are still looking for our Ten. Two or three have come. "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt.20:16, NKJV). We have lost count of the many hopefulls who fell away when the going got tough. We still ask Yahweh for the remainder and then we will "soon give you ten thousand more". May your shabbat be filled with shalom. Amen.
 Marc Ambler, Post-Truth: Even in the Church? (Creation Ministries Prayer News, April-June 2017, p.1)
 W.E.Sangster, The Secret of Radiant Life (Hodder & Stoughton, London: 1957), p.174
 As a professional educator myself, this is obviously a topic that lies close to my heart. There are many good books on this subject. One, co-authored by a friend of mine, I highly recommend by Samuel Blumenfeld & Alex Newman, Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy American Children (WND Books, Washington DC: 2014). I also highly recommend the many excellent books by B.K.Eakman, John Taylor Gatto, and Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt.
Comments From Readers
 "Your last sermon encouraged me tremendously and spoke out what I had in my heart" (SW, Germany, 23 April 2017)