Tag Archives: Pentecostal

Etz Chayim – reaching for the Tree of Life

It has been almost a full year since I last posted on this blog. Much has happened. After almost 7 years of ‘wilderness wandering’, we finally have our own home again and are settled, albeit out in the rural wilds of north Cornwall, far away from any kind of Messianic fellowship or congregation. I am so thankful, so surprised with joy to receive such good fortune when we thought all was lost. But still I am terribly isolated and lonely and effectively alone in terms of religious fellowship.

I may have mentioned that I had been in search of some fellowship – any kind, really, but it was a very mixed bag of good and bad experiences.

I really liked the Anglican for its freedom of conscience, although there seemed to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish side of the faith and I had the particular bad fortune of being under a priest who had a real bee in his bonnet about evangelicals. The fact that I was verging on being an ‘ex-evangelical’ seemed not to temper his ire. As far as he seemed to be concerned, I was an idiot for ever countenancing such ideas. If anything, his attitude pushed me back into the fundamentalism I was trying to leave. (Freedom of conscience didn’t extend to evangelicals, as far as he was concerned.)

We also tried an independent Pentecostal group who said they were pro-Israel, but they turned out to be extremely negative, narrow-minded and fundamentalist in every way, and the Pentecostal displays of worship put some of my children off church entirely. After everything we have been through, I can hardly blame them.

In the end, I started going to a Salvation Army while my mother was living with us (only for 6 months as it turned out) and I have continued there although it’s far from ideal. Again, there seems to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity, and the occasional anti-semitic sermon is never a surprise. It takes a lot of energy to keep looking, so for now I am staying put. I can’t say that I am entirely happy, but they do at least put Christianity in action and reach out to the poorest of the poor.

I had wondered recently in what way I can still claim to be ‘Messianic’ – without fellowship or a believing husband to encourage me, the feasts and fasts and even a proper observation of Shabbat has fallen by the wayside. I wonder if I can ever get it back again.

I have made a very good friend online with a woman who had a very different experience of the Messianic movement, having first converted to Orthodox Judaism and come into Messianic Judaism from there rather than as I did, through evangelicalism. We disagree on many things, but her lack of Christian fundamentalism has been an eye-opener for me.

I also have a very good real-life friend who is not a believer, but who was raised in Orthodox Judaism. We have a surprising amount of experiences in common, and her friendship has been a real balm to my soul.

I have started thinking though in terms of abandoning the trappings of religious tradition entirely and instead reaching out for and trying to find the ‘Etz Chayim’, that is the Jesus/ Yeshua who embodies the Tree of Life, and ‘Ha Derek’, the Way itself, Himself.

Coming out of fundamentalism is a very emotional and difficult thing, and in a way I am having to start again and weigh everything up to see what is good and what is bad. That’s probably not a bad thing in itself.

I am trying to get to know the ‘real’ Yeshua from a different perspective now.

I am still at home, muddling through being a wife and homemaker/ housewife, still home educating my youngest.

So what is the future of this blog?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my Messianic identity, and I would love to be able to start again from scratch and incorporate more of the Jewish feasts and traditions into my life.

What I don’t want to do, however, is to fall back into the trap of legalism or fundamentalism. It wasn’t life-giving, it was a bottomless pit of darkness that I slipped into gradually without even realising I was doing it, and it nearly ate me up whole before I realised. What I need now is to find the good path, and the Tree of Life.

Out in the cold, dark night

So here we are, almost nine weeks after moving out of our rented house, from which we were being evicted, into the brand spanking new housing association property. Minus the mold and the awful landlord and letting agents, but also minus carpets and curtains, the gardens, the fabulous view and minus the dining room, the built-in wardrobes. (We’re also still waiting for our deposit to bé returned) I could go on, but I’m trying not to dwell on the negatives.

One negative I am really struggling with though is the lack of landline phone and internet. Thank God for my mobile phone, but it is costing me almost as much to run this mobile as our only phone and internet source as it was to run broadband and wifi for the whole house before.

Nine weeks is long enough, don’t you think? If I had a choice not to use BT I would certainly vote with my feet, but of course they rely on your inability to go to anybody else for a landline.

I have been through a few traumatic events in the last few years, so in one way I’m used to it, but in another, I feel battle-worn and weary, traumatised too many times.

I’m basically middle-aged now. I thought that by now we would have a stable, comfortable home with a stable, comfortable network of friends and family around us. Nothing could bé further from the truth.

Needless to say, my health has taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, to the extent that – apart from a few necessary errands – I am mostly needing to lay down in bed in my room. Even sitting up is too painful, my neck feels unable to hold my head up for long.

I had a conversation on Saturday morning with a pentecostal friend, and I mentioned my ill health, so she said a prayer online which she asked me to agree to, which I did, but then she said “Now we have done ‘spiritual warfare’ and you are healed. Don’t invite back the spirit of infirmity.”

I have spent some time in pentecostal churches, so it shouldn’t have surprised me but I was taken aback. If only life were that simple!

The problem with having such a simplistic worldview is that it becomes inevitably judgemental – if you don’t get well, if your circumstances don’t improve, you must have failed in some way, failed to adequately wage spiritual warfare, had a lack of faith, spoken negative words to “invite” negativity back into your life! (Remember the ‘Secret’?)

Unfortunately, unless you want a potentially self-defeating argument, you learn to have to watch what you say around people with this kind of thinking. I feel another sense of loss that I can’t trust this friend with my true thoughts and feelings.

Anyway, our big news is that, in view of our circumstances, in view of my health, our finances, my husband’s age (over 50 now), we don’t intend to pursue adoption.

That decision comes with another terrific sense of loss and grief and guilt, but we left it too late I think. I wish we had looked into it ten years ago, but on the other hand it would not have been good to put adopted children through what we have been through in the last few years. It looks like it just wasn’t meant to bé. (Either that, or I didn’t wage enough spiritual warfare. Joke.) 😦

I dreamt last night that there were a bunch of children that weren’t mine out in the shed, out in the wet cold night, and one of them broke into the house and threatened me with a gun. Somehow I knew that they were out there, and I was more shocked that I hadn’t let them in than that this child was standing in front of me with a gun. Dreams are stupid, but I expect that’s the guilt talking. I would let you in, but I don’t think I would bé very much good for you.

Vocation

I have always, for as long as I can remember, had a sense of ‘calling’. I thought for years that I was destined to be a missionary, and I was convinced I would be a minister’s wife but I ended up divorced and re-married to a non-Christian so that was the end of that.

But that sense of ‘calling’, that little voice calling me into ministry has become more insistent as I have got older. While I was in the Messianic fellowship, I heard the call more loudly than ever, but there was simply no clear path to pursue.

In most of the denominations I have had dealings with, women preachers have been an absolute no-no, but more recently of course again, I have been involved with Pentecostal churches, The Salvation Army and the Church of England, all of whom welcome female candidates.

I’m sure I have mentioned before that I considered Salvation Army officership as far back as my teens, but then when I got married, my then Officer’s Kid husband was dead against it; he had been totally put off churches, Christianity in general and The Salvation Army in particular due to his experience as an ‘OK’.

More recently, although I have felt the call, The Salvation Army has presented just too many obstacles – you have to be willing to move to London for training, and then be willing to be sent anywhere in the UK (or even, potentially the World as I speak other languages and have connections in various places).

I’m not free to do either of those things. And I’m also so far away from a Corps that the whole thing has just been impractical from the get-go. As much as I love the Army, I can’t see a way round the obstacles.

For the last 6 months, I have been attending my local Anglican, and over the last few weeks I have been exploring the possibility of Ordination.

Yesterday, I met with the Vocations Officer for an initial interview, and went through my journey of faith with him.

I’ve actually been having a little bit of a love affair with the Anglican church – despite all its faults and foibles, I have been surprised by how much I love the liturgy, the set prayers, the music, and even, despite myself, the gravitas of the Eucharist.

We talked about all the options for ministry and service within the Church of England, and were I to get that far, training for Ordination would be much more local and not full time, all of which makes it more manageable for my limitations.

The vocations officer told me that my age was no barrier, but he did make it clear that the chances of actually becoming a paid Priest (as opposed to a self-supporting one) are extremely slim, and could take a lot more years to achieve.

I didn’t realise until he told me this that it would be an issue for me, but I realise now that it is. There’s just no way I could afford to do it as a hobby, and I find that my ‘tentmaking’ skills are limited, at least in terms of being able to bring in the money.

Of course nobody goes into the ministry for financial reasons, but we do have to eat, and I have a lot of mouths to feed.

One thing that was encouraging though was that the vocations officer did confirm to me that he recognised that I do have a calling.

So it’s now in my hands, whether I want to pursue it or not.

So I’m back to square one, I hear the call, but I can’t determine from which direction it’s calling me.

Lenctentid

I don’t generally observe ‘Lent’, the fast in the month of March (which in Anglo-Saxon is Lenctentid, meaning the month in which the days start to get longer, that is, Spring). I have never done so before. It isn’t part of the traditions that I have been a part of. In fact, I had been taught that it was wholly pagan in origin and shouldn’t be observed at all. I am beginning to question these notions with caution, and wonder whether this is a practice that might be acceptable, beneficial, even desirable?

I am convinced that we, as the Body, do not fast enough.

Certainly, some of the traditions around lent seem to have rather dubious connections. The marking of foreheads with a cross seems to directly go against what Jesus said about fasting – “when you fast, wash your face and anoint your head.”  Additionally the practice of Mothering Sunday during lent does seem to have very ancient, pagan connections. More on that another time perhaps.

But for lent itself, I haven’t been able to find any evidence of pagan connections. The claim that it is connected to the ancient Babylonian ‘Weeping for Tammuz’ seems to be unfounded. I’m open to be proved wrong of course, but I think it is important to make a distinction between pagan practices that are specifically in opposition to Torah and those that are actually acceptable within Torah. I think that we can tend to be in danger of condemning pagans simply for being pagan, which does nothing to help them move away from unacceptable practices at all.

If you strip Lent down of any practice that might be pagan, is there any reason not to fast?

The Catholic Church doesn’t claim to have instituted the Lenten fast – it seems to have been already commonly practiced by at least the year 200 AD, well before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.

The question, ultimately, as for all traditions, is does the church have the authority to mark days that are not Biblical Moedim (‘appointments’), and to declare days of their choosing to be ‘holidays’ (in the sense of ‘holy’ days and in the sense of rest days or shabbat)?

What did it mean when Jesus said to Peter “I give you the keys to the Kingdom, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound on heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed on heaven”?

Pentecostals have taken this to mean something completely different (though perhaps connected?) to the Jewish understanding of binding and loosing, that is the allow or disallow – to determine halakha (a Hebrew work for ‘walking’ that is to say, the Way we are to Walk as believers).

The claim is often made that Jesus was referring to Peter when he said ‘You are Peter (Petros), and upon this Rock (Petra) I will build my church’ (upon which Rome’s claim to authority rests) and went on to give him the authority to build the church by determining halakha, but Petra, the Rock, is God himself, repeated over and over in the Old Testament. It was a play on words which emphasises that halakha must be based on the Rock, our only true foundation.

Surely legitimate halakha can only ever be that which agrees with and confirms Torah.

As for who ‘holds the keys to the Kingdom’ now, and the question of Apostolic authority, I am at a loss to see how or to whom this has been passed on down through the years. I cannot believe that the Roman Catholic church can legitimately make that claim since so many of their practices have been mixed and arguably some are in actual opposition to Torah.

I realise this subject is contentious, and my purpose is certainly not to provoke or cause offence. I would genuinely be interested to know your thoughts and your traditions. Please answer respectfully as I won’t approve responses that aren’t respectful. Shalom.

Read52 Week3: The Grace Outpouring

This week’s choice is a book that my mother bought me last year and which has been sitting on the shelf for several months, unread.

“The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a People of Blessing” by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts is another inspirational book documenting the incredible spiritual power being unleashed at Ffald-y-Brenin, a Christian Retreat Centre in Wales that has become a “missional house of prayer” which blesses individuals, groups, building locations, communities and whole localities (not only their own).

Like Catherine Booth’s book last week, there is a kind of infectious passion contained herein which has made me want to change the way I speak, the way I think and the way I behave. Instead of criticising and complaining, I am challenged to bless and invoke God’s blessing.

On the other hand, it could be extremely depressing to read about all the amazing, supernatural workings of God when one’s own experience of faith has not included anything like this. My own background is a mixture of Pentecostal and Cessationist. I have seen some strange and possibly dodgy things in church (and emotional manipulation by means of music to create a fake atmosphere is a pet hate of mine), but I have also been present in rare meetings where the presence of God has been so thick and heavy and beautiful it has been almost tangible.

My Cessationist background (via Baptist Midmissions – American missionaries who ran the church I grew up in) tells me to beware of ‘Strange Fire’ – and I haven’t wanted to look too deeply at the recent controversy because I think that on balance it’s not terribly helpful. Yes, be discerning and ‘test the spirits’. But I admire the Pentecostal earnestness and enthusiasm, and I wouldn’t want to dismiss as ‘demonic’ or ‘Satanic’ what might be a real move of God.