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  • Mrs Chakotay 3:57 pm on June 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: etz chayim, , , , , , legalism, , , , Yeshua   

    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.

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  • Mrs Chakotay 4:39 am on March 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anti-semitism, , , , , , , , , , , , Yeshua   

    The Kingdom Divided 

    I have been quite shocked and disappointed this week to (re-)discover two things:

    Firstly that anti-semitism is alive and kicking in the churches, particularly down here in Cornwall.

    Secondly, that there are many groups and individuals who believe that gentile believers are not part of Israel proper, only on the fringe as part of the ‘commonwealth’, and that Torah is only for Jews (and beyond that, that we need the “oral Torah” to properly understand and obey Torah).

    To my understanding of the scriptures, such a view and practice of exclusion is falsely resurrecting the partition wall that Yeshua tore down. It is a little bit like saying that gentiles aren’t really part of the Kingdom, which is after all what “Israel” is meant to be – the Kingdom where God reigns.

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free”

    We are meant to be equal and “one”, united in Messiah. As I have said many times, we seem to be yet very far from that ideal. There is still racism, sexism and class and cultural differences which separate us. But certainly we should not be perpetuating such division.

    I am supremely grateful that this was not my experience in the Messianic fellowship I attended, which was run by a very lovely, humble Jewish man, who seemed to be quite ‘colour-blind’ when it came to Jew and gentile, whereas I had been turned away from certain other groups that I won’t shame by naming here for not being Jewish! How heartbreaking and divisive!

    My conversion, which was what you might call a ‘Ruth-ite’ conversion, a simple declaration as the Biblical Ruth made that “Your people will be my people, and your God my God” is not generally recognised by Jewish or Messianic groups. I find myself in the position of being ‘not quite Jewish enough’ for some Messianic groups, and ‘too Jewish’ for some church groups!

    Since there is no official Messianic conversion process in the UK, there is a temptation – even perhaps a push by groups who exclude gentile believers in this way – to convert via Reform or Orthodox means. (In a conversation just this week I was told that if a gentile wants to keep Torah, they must convert to Judaism!)

    Since such conversion involves either hiding or denying your affiliation to Yeshua Jesus, that is totally unacceptable in my view, but it is an inevitable result when gentile believers feel particularly called to Israel and the Jewish people and to Torah, and both these things are denied to them as gentiles.

    The crux really of this matter rests on what the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 meant when it ruled on gentile believers coming into the Kingdom:

    It was being suggested by “a certain sect of the Pharisees who believed” that gentiles could not become part of the Kingdom unless they were first circumcised and kept the whole law, but Paul and Barnabus show that God had shown his inclusion of gentiles by imparting the Holy Spirit, and by many signs and miracles among them.

    “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; *And put no difference between us and them*, purifying their hearts by faith.”
    Verses 8 and 9, my emphasis.

    In verse 20, the ruling is that Gentile believers must only do the following:
    “that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” verse 20

    This is really a minimum standard, but even this has been generally ignored by the church because it seems to contradict their understanding that anything at all is permissable to eat. (That’s another discussion for another day!)

    But then in verse 21, James goes on to say, “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”

    Again, this verse is generally either ignored or misunderstood. What does James mean? Well, the early believers were meeting in the synagogue, reading the weekly Torah portions.

    In other words, they were learning Torah gradually. There is an implicit suggestion there that the gentile believers will gradually conform their lives to Torah, and so it is not necessary to lay the whole law on them at the outset, and certainly not as a condition for salvation.

    But wait, you say! Paul says the following in verse 10:

    “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”

    What does he mean by that? Of course, it has been taken to mean that the “yoke” refers to Torah itself. But is that really the case? Is God’s own law a burden and a bondage from which we must flee and escape?

    In Leviticus 26:13, God says:

    “I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and *I have broken the bands of your yoke*, and made you go upright.”
    (My emphasis)

    This is in the context of the giving of the Torah. No, the “yoke” is not Torah itself – God did not rescue the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt only to lay another bondage on them – but rather, the “yoke” is all the additional rules and regulations, what is commonly referred to as the “Oral Torah” put in place as a “hedge around Torah”. The clue is in the word “Pharisee”.

    What does Jesus say about those additional Pharisaical rules?

    Matthew 15:3 “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” He goes on to give examples of how they are doing that, and then in verse 7: “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”

    So Jesus regards the Torah as the commandment of God, holy and good, whereas the ‘Oral Torah’ is no such thing. Indeed, it can be quite the opposite when it contradicts Torah.

    The scriptures, especially the psalms are replete with the idea that the law of God is good. Even Paul acknowledges in many places that the law is good, for example in Romans 7:7 he says:

    “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid!”

    In conclusion, although I realise this is a massive subject and we could argue back and forth on the subject of the law and to what extent Christians should observe it, there is no suggestion whatsoever that Torah is for Jews only and not for gentiles.

    In as far as gentiles are grafted into the Olive Tree through faith in Messiah, we are meant to be “one new man”, part of the same body. That is not to say that you cannot retain your identity as Jewish or gentile as a believer, but the wall between us has been broken down. Don’t build it up again.

     
    • lillbjorne 3:42 am on December 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on Messianic Housewife and commented:

      I thought I would re-post this here, as I don’t usually post Bible studies on Life for Beginners, and this seems a more appropriate place. I don’t often post Bible studies here either, but this is a specifically Messianic topic. What do you think? Does it matter whether or not we are accepted?

      Like

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