Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Lessons in Yiddish, Lil' Abner, et all

Have you ever wondered what's the difference between a shlemeel, a slemozzel, a shnook, and a host of other epithets?

Al Capp, the late creater of Lil' Abner, provides us with a humourous illustration depicting all of these and more.

FYI -- Al Capp wasn't a hill-billy himself, but a Jewish New Englander. You'll find the Yiddish lesson at the lower half of the webpage containing his bio on the official Lil' Abner website.

If you like Lil' Abner, you can go to that site daily for a new cartoon. I think they're putting out ones that were in circulation 40 or so years ago.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

Scott McKnight on the Gospel

Scott McKnight has an excellent series of blogs on exactly what is the Gospel. The link above is to a page that includes the whole series, including a few more that fit into the cattigory. Start reading from the bottom of the page (in normal blog fashion).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

An Age Old Question

The question of whether it is right for a Christian to go to war has been with us for a very, very long time. Believers as early as the second century were against taking part in the army.

I have heard some very good arguments for Christians being good citizens and defending their country. I realise that there's a difference between killing and murder. I do sympathise with people who are made to go through a horrendous legal battle because they've killed someone in defence of their own life, or that of their family.

So where do I stand? I would not want to own a gun, even to use for self defence. I think I'd prefer to be killed than to kill (I said "I think" -- if I were really faced with that choice, it's hard to say how I'd see things). Because the Bible, particlulary in the Noahide Law, specifies that a murderer should be put to death, I do agree with the ethics of capital punishment. However, I would have problems with shooting someone to kill just because they're on the wrong side in a military conflict. On the other hand, I also don't know how the world Jewish population could have been saved had someone not gone to war against Hitler.

Having said all that, Scott McKnight has a compelling argument for Pasivism.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hand Cranked Laptops for 3rd World School Children

If you're interested in leveling the playing field and empowering the average person, even in the third world, check out this interesting Article from Wired Magazine:


The MIT Media Lab and Wired magazine founder stood shoulder to shoulder with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to unveil the first working prototype of the "$100 laptop" -- currently more like $110 -- at the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society here Wednesday. The Linux-based machine instantly became the hit of the show, and Thursday saw diplomats and dignitaries, reporters and TV cameras perpetually crowded around the booth of One Laptop Per Child -- Negroponte's nonprofit -- craning for a glimpse of the toy-like tote...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

How Christian is America?

Len, at NextReformation points to an excellent article on the state of the Church in America, By Bill McKibben in Harper's Magazine. It's entitled, The Christian Paradox.
Depending on which poll you look at and how the question is asked, somewhere around 85 percent of us call ourselves Christian. Israel, by way of comparison, is 77 percent Jewish.
However, he also points out that America's favourite scripture verse is, "God helps those who help themselves" ... which isn't from scripture. It's from Benjamin Franklin, who's ideas weren't all that Biblical.

The following quote probably sums it up:
America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior.
Anyway, have a read...



Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How not to develope a plot for your next novel

... or perhaps it's how to develop a bad plot ... or how to emulate those authors that make millions writing stories with weak plots ...

It's entitled The Well-Tempered Plot Device, by Nick Lowe. It's a humourously written critical opinion of trashy but popular books, but a very good read for aspiring authors. I was pointed to it by David Langford's blog in the e-zine, Infinate Matrix an online Science Fiction mag.

I'd differ from the examples Nick Low brings out in saying that often, a plot device is a good thing, if used in moderation, and that authors like Tolkien and George Lucas use them well. The Ring, in Lord of the Rings, is a plot device, or The Force, in Star Wars. Other examples he uses are red or green Kryptonite, from D.C. Comix' Superman. Poor plotting would be where the author uses it like a cruch. Nick Low refers to powerful objects like the Ring of Power, as "plot vouchers". In a tongue in cheak manner, he says:
I do recommend the use of plot vouchers to your attention if you're at all interested in writing multi-volume epics of quest and adventure, because they're terrifically easy to use and the readers never complain. You can issue your hero with a handy talisman of unspecified powers at the beginning of volume one, and have him conveniently remember it at various points over the succeeding volumes when he finds himself surrounded by slavering troglodytes or whatever, with no obligation to explain it until the series proves unsuccessful enough to require winding up and the loose ends tying.
He brings out a few examples where successful authors have gone over the top in cashing in plot vouchers.

Anyway, click on the above for a good read...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pepe -- the blurb

I just did the blurb for Pepe -- exactly 250 words. May it sell many books:

It’s 2020. We have people living on Mars, but haven’t sorted out life on earth yet. To the boy washing windscreens at the red light, it may just as well be 1920.

The boy is Pepe. He doesn't know who his real parents are. His ‘grandma’ dies in a slum fire, and he is left to fend for himself and his grandma’s biological granddaughter, whom he treats like a real sister. They live in an abandoned construction site with other homeless children.

Raul is a young computer wiz, whose hacking adventures get him in over his head. He stumbles onto knowledge that could get him killed if he makes the wrong step -- in fact, he’s seen someone murdered, through a video port on a government server.

The villain: General Don Juan Clemente, who seized power from the king ten years ago, and installed himself as president for life.

The General has a degenerative disease that is paralysing him. However, his brain has been linked to a computer network that enables him to control the country, and destroy any threat to his power.

The biggest threat to him now is the true identity of a homeless boy named Pepe.

Atsuko is a wise old man who knows more than he says, and talks about Truth as a personal acquaintance. He has the uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time.

The author writes from a background of experience with street children, and a working knowledge of computers.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pepe -- the complete rough draft

Well, there it is. There's still work to be done in editing and making it a reading experience that will be enjoyed by all, and acceptable to prospective publishers. I would like it to be readable by the same age group that reads Harry Potter. That, all by itself, probably means a lot of re-editing.

There are two aspects of this book that I feel are blogging material. The first is the subject, the life of a homeless street child.

Ever since viewing a film reel in my Bible School Missions class by the Salician Fathers, entitled Gaminos, the subject has interested me. I'm grateful to the professor of that course for making sure that I got a private viewing of that film, as I had actually missed class that day. Gaminos was set in a Latin American capital, I forget which one. 'Gaminos' is the local Spanish term for street kids. The film was about the work of a Salician Father who used to go out to befriend the children of the streets. He told about how he had to be careful not to come on too strong, or he'd lose them. Because street children are fiercely independent, they are sensitive to any attempt to institutionalise them. His whole work had to be one of 'no strings attached.' If nothing else, he'd simply get them things they needed, or befriend them when they were in trouble, even if they went right on living on the streets. Once they were confident of him, some of them consented to move to his shelter, with the full understanding that they could leave whenever they wanted.

A few years later, in Thailand, I lead a few co-workers in opening up an evangelistic centre in the South. When we moved in, we realised that a couple of homeless people were living on the premises, a man and a boy. Since they weren't related, we invited the boy to stay on with us. He did for about a week. In that time, he stole my heart.

He went away again after that one week, but that experience forever changed me.

My first (unpublished) novel, The Emissary, about the Apostle Shaul, involved a fictional first century street boy as one of the main characters. He first appears in the prologue, so you don't have to read very far. It's on line.

Much later, I got the opportunity to work for a year at a Catholic centre located in the biggest slum in Bangkok. That place is the inspiration for Mercy House, one of the main settings in Pepe. Fr. Antonio, Mother Clara, 'Madam Zudu', Phil Grub and Tony Ryan are characters inspired by real people I met there. Actually, Tony Ryan is me. The Bangkok slum is also the inspiration for Dockyards Community where Pepe lived.

Because the story line involves many other aspects, such as politics and royalty, I couldn't set the story in Thailand. I do want to be welcome back there. The social problems of the city of La Fonta, particularly the homeless children, slums and gangs, are a synthesis of Bangkok, Moscow and various Latin American cities. The level of corruption in my fictional country is much greater than I believe exists in Thailand. The monarchy is based on European traditions. The fictional nation of Cardovia would be somewhere on the Mediterranean, but it isn't stated exactly where.

The other aspect that bares blogging is that it is a parable of the Kingdom of God. The book is targeted to the secular reading audience, hopefully including young fans of Harry Potter (though it won't remind you of Harry Potter in any way). However, in the course of the story, Pepe realises who he really is, and with help, regains the throne, and the nation becomes an almost utopian paradise (The actual events in the narrative are not to be taken as a statement of my view of eschatology, however).

When he realises who he is, and becomes the rightful king -- though not yet crowned as such -- he is given a stone, called the Stone of Cardo. It has powers that are as effective as the purity of his heart. At its most intense state, it can potentially destroy evil, along with anyone who refuses to release his or her evil ambitions. Good things begin to happen, but only at the rate determined by the purity of Pepe's heart. That represents what I believe to be the life force of the church, and answers the question as to why the church is so ineffective in transforming society today, and what we must do to regain our cutting edge.

I've mentioned Harry Potter twice already. I do hope to reach a young audience, knowing that older people will read it as well (the intellectual reading level of an average adults is actually quite low). However it definately not in the style of J.K.Rowling. It's probably more like William Gibson. Making something something so Gibsonian readable by 10 year olds, will probably be the main challenge.

I believe it has enough action evenly paced throughout to keep people reading. I did learn that lesson from reading Harry Potter. Thank you, Ms. Rowling

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pepe

Here it is...the first chapter of Pepe. If there's any demand, I may post more of it in a separate link.

(21 Oct -- I just re-edited this entry so that only the first few paragraphs show, but you can click to where the whole book is posted)



Chapter 1

Pepe

© baruch


The light changed. Pepe looked down the lineup now waiting for the next green. He groaned. The bucket was heavy and drivers were always in a bad mood this time of day.

He counted his takings again. 13 Dinarios. Not enough.

With a grunt, he lifted his bucket and walked down the island to the first sedan he saw -- a Mercedes. The windscreen wipers immediately went on.

'Okay, okay! Freakin tightwad!'

He had to side-stepped to avoid a motorbike. He could see Jose doing the next row, already at work on a Porsche.

The next was a Honda Accord. Pepe's squeegee handle was long enough for a boy of his size to reach to the middle of the windscreen -- if he stood on tip-toe, and the car's body wasn't too wide.

Done. He went to the driver's window. The driver just sat there, looking straight ahead.

The scumbag!

He'd heard of one kid keeping a baseball bat nearby for such occasions -- got him in trouble though.

The next was a lorry. Too big. The next car was too old for the driver to be interested.

Ditto for the next three vehicles. Then there was a taxi.

A few intersections East was San Miguel Square, adjoining Camino Real street, La Fonta's financial district. There, the expensive makes outnumbered the cheap ones. The takings were good, but it was worked by a gang. They'd beat Pepe if they caught him anywhere near there. He sure wasn't going to join no gang -- as good as being a slave! ... more


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Blogging and writing novels

It looks like I have the same disease as William Gibson:
I currently seem to be proving my theory that I can't simultaneously write a novel and blog...
Link

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pepe

If my blogs have been scarse lately, it's because I'm in the middle of a writing project. It's a novel about a homeless street boy, who, unknown to him, is the rightful king. It's set just a bit into the future, but it's got a fairy-tail element to it. I hope I'm skillful enough to make such an unlikely mixture of sci-fi and fairy-tail work.

I may post the first chapter here soon.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Scott McKnight's Suggestions for Writers

Being that one of my web pages is a resource page for writers (which I haven't updated for a while), I always have my eye open for writing suggestions.

While I do a lot in the way of scholarly/teaching style of article, my favourite writing to do is fiction. Scott McKnight is more of a scholar type. However, many of his suggestions would apply to writers of fiction as well -- especially since some of his examples are authors like Hemmingway, and C.S.Lewis (who was also a bit of both, like me).

Anywayn click on the title of today's blog, and read Scott's 9 sugestions for writers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Craig Morton reviews Alan Jamieson's A Churchless Faith

I found it via Len's NextReformation.com blog, and his entry has already attracted an intersting comment.

The book, A Churchless Faith: Faith Journey’s Beyond the Churches, is about people who leave churches, not as in "oh, it's just the cold dead churches that are losing members", but the front line, cutting edge "EPC" (Evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic) churches. And they're not just those on the fringes. 90% of those interviewed were in leadership of some sort in their respective congregations, most of them had been members for 15 years or more, and many had been through some theological training. The number also includes full time ministers.

The bottom line is, according to the author, many of the leavers are growing spiritually in areas where their churches have stopped. Rather than blame the leavers, it would behoove us to examine ourselves and see where we might need to expand some of our concepts a bit.

Anyway, read Craig Morton's review to find out more.

Monday, August 08, 2005

lost tribes...?

I realise that when one drops the phrase, "lost tribes", it conjours up any one of a number of images, such as British Israelism, or it's more recent variation that seems to have hit some Messianic groups, the "Two Houses" idea. That is the belief that every European believer in Yeshua is potentially descended from Israelites who became thoroughly assimilated into European society.

I won't comment further on that theory, except to say that unless someone shows me some geneological records I was hitherto unaware of (which would delight me no end) I will remain what God made me: Irish. Also, the theories assume that the Northern tribes were not only lost (which some question), but also thoroughly assimilated into their adoptive cultures.

There is, however, evidence that they were neither lost nor assimilated... or maybe lost as far as Western popular history, but as the little boy found wandering about the shopping mall said, "I'm not lost, my parents are." (In the same way, we could say Columbus didn't discover America. The Native Americans knew about it all along.)

What follows is not a Christian/Messianic fad. It's something that many Orthodox rabbis in Israel are taking seriously (although opinion is a bit devided). All of my sources come from rabbinical sources, such as Moshiach Online, and the book: Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel .
You can also do a Google advance search, entering the string "Lost Tribes" and either "Bnai Menashe" or "Pathan" to find much much more.

The Moshiach Online website has information on about a dozon groups, including the Pathan, who make up a major part of the population of Afghanistan, Kashmeris, and a group called Bnai Menashe, a group of people from the Mizo/Chin tribe of India and Burma.

If you look up these links and take it all in, there's actually very little that I could add to them, except to say that this probably represents a wide open opportunity for Messianics who are considering following the will of Adonai, to consider if it may mean relocating to a different part of the world, such as, say, Afghanistan, India or S.E. Asia.

This has been a very exciting discovery for me, as I happen to know a number of people of the Chin/Mizo tribe in Burma. They were evangelised some 100 years ago, and the tribe is about 95% Christian, at least nominally, but a great percent are Evangelical, with many Pentecostals and Charismatics. A relatively small group of them, numbering several thousand living on the Indian side of the border (where they are caled "Mizos") have concluded that they are, in fact, of the tribe of Menashe. What is surprising is there are rabbis who, after examining their culture and what they remember of their history, believe them.

As for the rest of the tribe, on both sides of the border, they are still 95% Christian. Unfortunately, those who originally took the Gospel to them, besides having no idea that these could be the tribe of Menashe (and would have probably resisted acknowledging the idea anyway), put very little emphesis on Old Testament foundational knowledge. It's easy to see how many of them, having only a minimal New Testament foundation to begin with, having become nominal after a few generations, could be influenced by something with more depth such as Rabbinical Judaism. They have, in effect, exchanged a religion that lost its foundation, for the foundation itself, but without the building that it was intended for.

I believe this represents a ministry opportunity for the Messianic movement -- if not to the Bnai Menashe who have already adopted Judaism, at least to the rest, who need their understanding of their faith deepened, both so as to know how to respond to the Bnai Menashe movement, but more importantly, to know how to respond to their calling as Israelites, if that is indeed what they are. If not, at least they could use a better foundation for their faith.

The Pathan and Kashmeris are followers of Islam, but still hold Israeli traditions that are even more obvious than those of the Bnai Menashe. There are both customs and place names that are readily recognisable from the Bible, but not inherited from Islam. Even British colonists and others in history have noted the fact. In light of that, it amazes me no end, how the idea still clung on, that the 10 Northern tribes are lost and, of all things, British! The Moshiach Online website also gives other examples of cultures far and wide that could have Israelite connections.

The challange of course is obvious, but I do believe that Messianic Judaism, mixed with a bit of cross cultural adaptation and wisdom, is in the best possition to take it up. Our mandate may be bigger than we had thought. It's still about sharing Ha Mochiach with the Jewish community, and helping the Christian community find their Jewish roots, but now it's not just on a local level. Each one should pray about what it means for him/herself.

If you begin to have the feeling that there's not much more that can be said and done in your own community that the locals (both Jewish and Christian) haven't seen and heard already, maybe it's time to move on. If we truly believe we have a mandate, and that we are approaching the end times when Israel will be gathered to her home, it's something we need to take seriously.

It's not an easy decision in every case, just as it wasn't for Avraham when G-d told him to leave his country. It also doesn't pay to be rash, but for sure, take it seriously and seek G-d about it, and talk about it with the believers in your fellowship.

Then, prepare.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Why did G-d create the world?

From Rabbi David Fohrman, Jewish World Review

It's not just an idle, philosophical question. From a religious standpoint, this innocent, child-like query packs a big theological wallop. For if G-d is a perfect Being, a being who has no needs, then why would He bother creating a universe? What could a universe possibly give to a Being who doesn't need anything at all?


In the beginning of the 18th century, a Jewish thinker by the name of Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto proposed what has become a classic answer to this dilemma. His answer is deceptively simple. Luzzatto says that G-d created the world in order to be capable of love.


The words seem like a cliché, sort of like the "G-d is Love" bumper sticker you might see plastered to the back of someone's rusting VW Beatle; but rest assured that Luzzatto lived long before the beatniks, and he meant what he said seriously. His argument goes as follows:


One of the axioms that most religions, Judaism included, accepts about G-d is that He is good. But those are just words. What does it actually mean to be good? One of the things it means, Luzzatto says, is that one acts to benefit others. If there is no world, though, then there are no others that G-d can benefit; He exists alone in numinous solitude. G-d acted to create a world so that there would be other beings existing besides Himself, beings upon whom He could bestow goodness.

In short, G-d created the world because goodness demanded it. more...

Friday, August 05, 2005

what baruch calls poetry

I write poetry sometimes. However, don't ever expect anything deeply spiritual from it. Poetry, for me, serves as a form of comic relief. To give you an idea, my favourite poets are Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstien:

Anyway, here's one I just made up ...

the grand old duke of york
he had a rock-n-roll band
he hyped them to the top of the charts
though they sounded rather bland
when they were hot they were hot
when they were not they were not
when they were only half way hot
they were neither hot nor not

for more like this, go to my poetry page. There are a few crude cartoons there as well.

What makes Church? 7 - Foundations

Foundational teaching is among the most important things that make up the stability and vitality of church. It can make the difference between a handful of cheery believers who think this idea of Emerging Church (or Messianic, or whatever) is a cool idea and get on for the ride; and a committed taskforce that all know who they are, what they are, and where they're going. Both groups, by our definition, are "church", but the second one will stay together much longer.

The true foundation is Yeshua. All foundational teaching will focus on Him, and will plant us firmly on who He is. In one way, it's a simple concept -- simple enough for new believers to know which direction to begin going without complicating the issue.

However, if we consider that the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments also focuses on Yeshua, we realise that there's more to it than meets the eye. If we further realise that to understand the Old Testament helps us to understand the New, and thus roots us all the more deeply in Yeshua, we realise that we may have a ways to go to being firmly built on the Foundation.

The Messianic movement has done a valuable job in returning us to our foundations. By highlighting the Jewish source of our faith, we can now see a few things in perspective. Some may feel that they are among those complicating the issue. However, the issue became complicated long before they arrived on the scene. If anything, they're helping to un-complicate things.

We have to understand that the writers of the Gospels and the Epistles were Jewish. As revolutionary as their message was, it was rooted in Jewish culture, and in a Jewish understanding of divine revelation. But somehow, we've lost that. We no longer look at biblical revelation with a Jewish mind, but with a Greek philosopher's mind. How did this happen?

I'll answer with a short history:

To the rabbis, what Yeshua and His apostles had to say was quite radical -- radical enough for many of them to reject it outright as heresy. The early believers knew that their message was radical. The idea of Gentiles being accepted as equals without them having to become Torah observant, was extreme!

The Gentile believers knew that their new found faith was radical for their Jewish brethren. In fact, they were warned, by Paul et al, to be on guard for some of their Jewish brethren of the old school who would try to make them Torah observant. So they were. They knew they were radical.

But how radical? some of them wondered. Can we be this radical? Can we dump everything that Judaism ever taught and base our understanding on Greek style logic? By the time they were asking loud enough to be heard, the original writers of the New Testament had already passed from the scene. The majority of the Messianic population was now Gentile. So, they began to interpret the whole of the New Testament and as much of the Old Testament as they could using mathematical logic learned from Plato and Aristotle (in fact, they even began forcing Jewish believers to become Gentiles!). Because Paul sounded more Greek than the rest, and was, after all, the one who told the Gentile believers to avoid being forced into Torah observance, his epistles were understood as being foundational to Christian belief. The Gospels, because they made Yeshua sound Jewish, was understood to being targetted to Old Testament Judaism, and not to New Testament Christians. They were only good for historical value. But the real meat was the Pauline epistles.

Unfortunately, this was the theological equivalent of mistaking the window and door frames, the drywall and the roofing material for the foundation of a building, and using the foundational material for decoration.

Consider that when the New Testament writers talked about the scripture, they were referring to the Torah and the Prophets and other Old Testament writings. Only Peter, shortly before he and the other New Testament writers passed from the scene, referred to Paul's epistles as "scripture", but also said they were easy to misunderstand, and that many had twisted them out of context to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15,16). This means that one has to have a good foundational knowledge of God's revelation in Yeshua before they can understand Paul's epistles.

Yeshua said in Matthew 7, "He who hears these words of mine (i.e. the Gospels), and does them is like a man building on the foundation". Hebrews 6 gives us a list of what the foundations are, referring to them as the "elementary principals of Messiah": Repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection and eternal judgement. The Gospels open up with repentance and faith. The General Epistles, James, Peter's and John's epistles, and Jude also deal directly with faith and repentance and the other foundations.

For example, they give us a good definition of faith. The Pauline epistles talk about faith, but they don't supply a definition.

If we were to go straight to Ephesians chapter 2, and forget James 3, we would read, "By grace you are saved through faith...not of works." Later on, if we read James, who says, "Faith without works is dead," we'd think the two passages were contradictory.

In the mean time, our faith might not amount to very much. We would think, "Yeah, I believe. I said the sinner's prayer, so I'm saved. I can claim every spiritual blessing in Messiah," while living a very carnal life. Anytime someone pointed out our carnality, we'd retort, "Salvation isn't of works! I'm saved by faith!"

However, if we established our definition of what faith is by understanding the message of James, then we'd know what kind of faith Paul is talking about when he says we're saved by faith.

We're not saved by works, but real faith that saves will produce works. A life based on true faith will be readily distinguishable from a life that isn't. James and I John is full of that.

When many pollsters today tell us that the life of the average "born again" Christian looks no different from that of an average non-Christian, that tells us that we've got our foundation all wrong.

p.s. I've got a project underway, writing series of study outlines that cover foundational truth. It begins in the Old Testament, and takes us into the New. It's not complete yet, but I'm sure you could learn a lot. Click here...

This is the last in the What Makes Church? series. I haven't covered the subheading Worship yet, but there's so much good material out there on that already, and I don't feel I have anything to add to it. However, I'm sure we'll discuss issues related to this and the othe subheadings, and more besides, in future posts.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What Makes Church? 6 - leadership, authority, ministry, giftings, etc.


Just a short one today, with a few links to some useful articles regarding church.

Two are by Rick Joyner, who believes that one of the priorities that churches generally fail in is equipping the believers for ministry. Usually, only 2% of church members take any part in ministry. At Morningstar Fellowship, at the time he wrote the articles below, 15 to 20 % are involved, and he feels they have a long way to go. The two articles are:

Megatrends in the New Millennium (on Next Reformation website)

Shepherd's Astray (from Morningstar website)

Another one who has a lot to say is Andrew Strom, who believes that the next revival will be a street revival. Even calling it "house church" would be incorrect, as it will be on the streets. His website is called, Revival School. He has written an e-book called The Nine Lies of Today’s Church, available in PDF format from the adotadonai.net website. He comes on very strong, and many won't agree with everything he says. However, the last chapter qualifies the overall message by saying that to expect a church to immediately adopt all of his points (ie. selling their church building, changing the pastor's roll, trashing all programs, etc) may be impossible, and perhaps unwise to attempt. To be honest, there's nothing in it that I can say I disagree with -- though I may not come on as strongly as he -- but I would agree that the church described as the antithesis to the "9 lies" may be impossible in most places (at least in the free world) until after a major shaking has happened to Western society. We may discuss some of his points at another time in this blog.

There are also many other websites and blogs, some of which you'll find in the sidebar, that are good resources for doing church the organic or emergent way. Some of them simply offer a window into various local fellowiships. Others also offer valuable resources, as well as links to yet more.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What Makes Church? 5 - leadership, authority, ministry, giftings

In many ways, the two subheadings Leadership and Authority, and Ministry and Giftings, overlap. That's because good leadership is not only a gift, but it facilitates gifts and ministry among the members to the extant where it could be hard to tell the difference between the "full time ministers" and what we previously thought were "laity".

A few years ago, at a church conference in Thailand, I was asked to interpret for one of the speakers. He was the pastor of a Baptist church in New Zealand, who had led his church through a very interesting transition. It began as he was pondering and praying about how the church could fulfil its mandate of reaching the world, then realising that it wouldn't happen unless some drastic changes were made. The transition he took the church through was difficult, he lost many valuable members, but was worth it in the end.

Not only did the process change the structure of the church, but it redefined their concept of ministry. Under the new structure, more of the responsibilities lay with the group of elders. Some were the same who originally served on the board, but they were had a calling in one of the five-fold ministries listed in Ephesians 4. Their role wasn't so much to minister, but to lead and enable the members to minister in the five areas. The pastor reduced his own role to that of a fellow elder, albeit a leader among equals. They were only ministers in so much as they ministered. It was no longer a job that came with a title. Moreover, anyone could be a minister. It wasn't so much a matter of being chosen for a position, but simply doing what they saw needed to be done. In doing that, they had the support and mentoring of whichever elder was called to that gifting.

The whole idea of a separation between clergy and laity was obsolete. Furthermore, as a minister in this sense, it's so much easier to be humble -- no title to maintain.

As I was translating for him from English into Thai, I was becoming more and more excited by what I was hearing. I had just recently started following the Emergent conversation, and pondering what exactly is church, and what would it look like if reduced to its bare essentials. Some of the aspects, such as the definition of ministry, had been in my head and heart for many years. But now, here was someone who was actually doing it. Now, I know it's possible.

What Makes Church? 4 - Leadership and Authority...continued

I believe that Matthew 18 is key to understanding what the church and leadership in it is all about. It is very significant that this discourse begins with the following:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me..."
First, we must understand that the concept of "church" didn't exist in the understanding of Yeshua's disciples. While the word appears in some English translations later in chapter 18, quoted in yesterday's blog entry, the word should be understood as "congregation", or "minyan", a concept understood in Judaism.

Judaism also understood the concept of "kingdom of God", or "kingdom of heaven" (which are synonymous terms), used in the above passage. They might not have understood exactly what Yeshua meant by it. What Yeshua meant, includes what the Pauline epistles later refer to as "church". I realise that this is something that could take up more space in explaining than I intend to do here. Instead, I'll refer you to Scot McKnight's recent blogs on the subject. I'll just say here that too often, we've separated the concepts of Kingdom and Church.

What Yeshua is referring to here isn't just the way things will be in the sweet bye 'n bye. To be sure, our life in heaven will reflect this, but what we need to grasp is that what Yeshua is saying is, leaders in the church are to be those who are the most humble, and accessible -- like children. Later in the chapter, we see, in the parable of the lost sheep, what Yeshua expects in leaders in the way of compassion, and priorities. All of this is something we, who think we're leadership material, ought to be considering very seriously.

Again, you'll find all of this discussed in more detail in chapter 12 of my online book, Culture Shock.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What Makes Church? 3 - Leadership and Authority

Continuing our discussion on Church, leading into our second subheading on leadership and authority, compare the following two passages, one from Matthew 18, and the other from the Talmud tractate, Berachot 6a:

Matthew 18:15-20:
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church (or "the congregation"), treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Talmud, Berachot 6a (remember the Jewish concept of a congregation being a minimum of 10 attendants):
Whence is it that when ten assemble for prayer the Shechinah is in their midst? As it is said, "God standeth in the godly congregation" (Ps. lxxxii. 1). And whence is it that when three sit and judge, the Shechinah is in their midst? As it is said, "In the midst of the judges He judgeth" (ibid). And whence is it that when two sit and occupy themselves with the study of the Torah, the Shechinah is in their midst? As it is said, "Then they that feared the Lord spoke one with another, and the Lord hearkened and heard" (Mal iii. 16). And whence is it that even if an individual sits and occupies himself with the study of the Torah the Shechinah is with him? As it is said, "In every place where I cause My name to be remembered I will come unto thee and will bless thee" (Exod. xx. 24).
Notice the reference in both passages to the numbers two, three, and the congregation. As an aside, it's also interesting to note that Yeshua identifies Himself as the Shechinah -- which could be a clue to how the concept of the Trinity can be made to fit into Judaism.

When we look at it in the light of the two passages above, it seems clear that in Matthew 18, Yeshua was outlining the authority structure in the church along lines familiar to Jewish understanding.

For a more in depth study on this, read this ...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Scot McKnight on Calvinism

Scot McKnight, on his blog, Jesus Creed, is doing an interesting discussion on Calvinism. So far he's talked about how he became a Calvinist, and then he shares why he rejected it, as a theological student (now with his Ph.D.). For anyone who has ever had questions about the issues of Calvinism, this is worth a good read. There's also more to come, so stay tuned (to Jesus Creed that is).

What Makes Church? 2 - Community and Relationship

The first component in church is community, and relationships within that community. This is the most fundamental aspect, and it is, I believe, the only one that actually defines church -- believers together in fellowship centred around Messiah. It's as simple as that. The other four headings -- authority structure, ministry and gifts, teaching, and worship -- don't define the church, but only help it become what it's supposed to be: transforming, missional, an army, a family, a "spiritual hospital" etc.


It's interesting that there is no reference in the New Testament of anyone outside of Yeshua, ever planting a church. Yeshua said in Matthew 16:13-20, "I will build my church." Other than that, there's no record of Paul, Peter or anyone else literally starting a church. What they did was call people to repentance and make disciples, and only then does the New Testament refer to the resulting group of believers as the church. (In the sense of one's ministry, I won't argue with anyone who calls themselves a "church planter". In fact, I use the term myself. In our 20th century terminology, it's become synonym for making and gathering disciples.)

Because I see community and relationship as being the only defining factor, I can look at any Christian institution, totally ignore the sign over the door, and recognise that the church exists there. Their structure doesn't define the church, but as long as there are true believers there who are in fellowship with one another, they constitute the church. It doesn't even matter if they understand that fact. Even if the official doctrines of that institution were destructive to spiritual life (if one were to follow them), as long as there is life in the hearts of the believers, and they acknowledge one another in love, it's church.

Inversely, even if they had perfectly sound teaching and had a format that encourage true fellowship, they are only the church in so far as there are believers there actually doing it.

Fellowship is what makes us the church. Whatever we can do to enhance fellowship with G-d and with one another on a spiritual level, so that we become a part of one another, will strengthen and vitalise the church. That's where the other subheadings come in.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What Makes Church?

Before I go too far into this, let's get our priorities right, maybe with a very loose paraphrase of I Corinthians 13:

If a fellowship group happens to excel in all the points that I bring up in this and coming blog entries, if they are the model of the perfect church -- but don't have love: they are no more than a bunch of futile idealists.

On the other hand, if a church is so ingrained in all the traditional ways that the building and pulpit are looked on as icons of holiness; their cannon of scripture includes Scholfield's Notes; and when Messiah returns, they believe He will actually touch down at their denominational head office; and yet the first thing you notice about them is their sincere fervent love for the Lord and for one another and they would give their lives to extend that love to the world, I'd rather attend that church than the "perfect" one, as that's the one where you'll find Yeshua.

Becoming perfect is not the rout to perfection.

If you really want to know what I feel is most important in a church, here are my eight criteria. They have nothing to do with format, leadership model, authority structure, minor doctrines like eschatology etc, what day of the week they worship etc etc. I believe they are more important than any of the other points we've discussed so far in this blog, or that we will discuss. I'd really advise you to click on the link and read them before going on with this discussion. Yet, I don't know if there is a church that excels in all eight. If I did find such a church, I would stick with that one, no matter what good things could be said about Emergent and/or Messianic etc.

Having said that, I do believe that the quickest way to becoming such a church, one that fulfils the eight criteria, could be discussed under the following five headings:

1. community and relationship
2. authority structure
3. giftings and ministry
4. foundational teaching
5. worship

I hope to discuss these in the next few entries.

However, I suppose this should come with a warning label: I am not, at present, involved in the leadership of a church, let alone an Emergent or Messianic one. I believe that teaching like this should, ideally come up from one's experience. However, I have done church planting in the past. I believe I did a few things right, but I also made mistakes. I've also been involved in the development of various churches, though none of them are what I believe a church could be. I wrote a short autobiography called My Journey So Far for the express purpose of revealing where I'm coming from in what ever I teach or impart.

Quiz Result

Here's the results of a quiz I took from QuizFarm.com. The first one, What is your model of the church?, I took just now, and the results are below. A few weeks ago, I took one from the same website on my Theological Model. I've pasted the results for that below as well -- although others who took that one didn't seem to feel the results fit their perception of themselves. Alan Creech thinks the Model of the Church quize was accurate for him, however. Any, click on the links below and see what your profile is....



You scored as Sacrament model. Your model of the church is Sacrament. The church is the effective sign of the revelation that is the person of Jesus Christ. Christians are transformed by Christ and then become a beacon of Christ wherever they go. This model has a remarkable capacity for integrating other models of the church.

Sacrament model


89%

Mystical Communion Model


72%

Servant Model


72%

Herald Model


67%

Institutional Model


17%

What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with QuizFarm.com


... the one I took a few weeks ago:

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


100%

Charismatic/Pentecostal


68%

Neo orthodox


68%

Emergent/Postmodern


68%

Fundamentalist


68%

Reformed Evangelical


61%

Classical Liberal


46%

Modern Liberal


36%

Roman Catholic


29%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Terrorism -- the spirit of Amalek

From an article entitled Terrorism By Sara Esther Crispe, in Chabad.org Magazine:
The negative force of terror has been with us since the dawn of human history. The names and faces and national identities of the terrorists change from place to place and from era to era, but the primordial force that drives them has a single name. It is Amalek.

The Torah teaches us that, "G-d is at war with Amalek for all generations" (Exodus 17:16). "In every generation," say our Sages, "Amalek rises to destroy us, and each time he clothes himself in a different nation," (Me'am Loez; Devarim vol.3 p. 977).

Our first encounter was long ago. Since that time, there have been many others. Yet our mission and commandment remains the same:

"Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt. That he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; he did not fear G-d. Therefore... you must obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget." (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) ... more

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Signs and Wonders

Roger at House Church blog gives a ballanced perspective on signs and wonders.

My home church

The fellowship I attend, Emanuel Christian Fellowsihp in Lurgan, is neither Messianic (Jewish) nor Emergent. It does have its good points though. The pastor is a lorry driver. If he walked up in the foyer and shook your hand, you wouldn'd guess he was the pastor. He also believes in sharing his authority with a group of elders, and one of their priorities is equipping all the believers for ministry. They also have the beginnings of a cell group ministry. They recognise that many of their attenders need to come out of themselves and interact in one anther's lives.

To me, being Emergent and/or Messianic are means to an end. Since ECF seems to have got half way there without their help, I won't complain (anyway, who, among the best is any more than "half way there" anyway?)

The premesis that ECF occupies is an old supermarket shell, which extends into the area under the shops on High Street (actually called Market Street). A large part of that, they plan to use for a drop-in centre to minister to the needs of the diss-affected youth in the area. They are also located right on the dividing line between the two communities (the Roman Catholic and Protestant), which they feel is strategic.

The most current problem, however, is not between the two communities, but between two of the Protestant para-militaries, the UVF and the LVF, which looks like could erupt into a gang war affecting the peace of Lurgan. Last night, there was a special prayer meeting at ECF for this situation. One of those present felt lead to blow a shofar (ram's horn). Others had words, including one that it could be a time of shaking that will awaken many of the churches from their complacency.

putting experiences into perspective

The concept of dying is an under explored theme. Various Bible passages show it as the only way forward. Galatians 2:20 and I Peter 4:1 spring to mind. In the Bible, of course, it's an identification with Messiah, so we can fully partake of His life. Death is the only way forward to resurrection life.

Here's something about dying from a rather unexpected source. It's from the manifesto of a website called Killing the Buddha, a "religion magazine for people made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the "spirituality" section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God." ... which I find an intriguing description. Here's the quote:

The idea of "killing the Buddha" comes from a famous Zen line, the context of which is easy to imagine: After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: a glimpse of nirvana, the Buddha mind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what has happened is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then the master gives the student dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he says, kill him.

Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way. ...more


Is it possible that we may, at times, need to die to our own experience with God? Can our experiences, however blissful and revelational, get in the way of truly knowing Him? I believe it can.

Rick Joyner, in his vision described in The Final Quest, describes having been to the top of a mountain where he and others had an intensely glorified experience, so much so that their armour shown with that glory. On the way down, he saw some of his fellows, also illuminated with God's glory, setting off to attack the enemy. He saw something moving in the darkness behind them but he couldn't see what it was. Wisdom, who was standing with him, gave him a dingy looking robe, named the mantle of humility. It completely covered his armour, and hid the glory so that it no longer shone from him. Now, he looked like a plane ordinary person. However, he could now see what his fellows who had foolishly set off for the attack, couldn't: a whole regiment of demons set to attack them from behind. Moreover, he couldn't warn them, because they, not wearing the mantle of humility, wouldn't recognise the authority of one who wasn't letting the glory shine unhindered. However, the angels and others who did have on humility, did.

That's almost as good as dying. You forfeit the privilege of letting on you're any the better for your face to fact encounter with God. You're the same old bloke we've always known, with no pretensions -- or even fewer pretensions than before. In other words, easier to live with.

I once knew someone, whom I have no doubt was very close to God. When he lead worship, there was an atmosphere of God's glory about the place. However, there was one point of doctrine -- I won't go into it here -- he absolutely wouldn't listen to correction on. He felt he was sufficiently close to God to hear His voice personally, if He had anything to say. Therefore, he didn't need to listen to anyone else. Later, he went way off, left his wife (who never saw much of him anyway because he was off praying) and started living with his assistant.

Would he have benefited from "killing the Buddha", as in the Zen parable? It was tragic to see it happen, but a valuable lesson.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Scott McKnight on the Kingdom of God

A very central theam in Messianic Judaism is the Kingdom of God: Exactly what is it? What did the term mean to the Jewish community of Yeshua's time? What did it mean to Yeshua? What does it mean to us?

Scott McKnight, in his blog, Jesus Creed, has begun a discussion exploring what Yeshua meant by the term. He's already added his second entry, but this link will take you to to his opening entry on the subject.

I'm sure we'll get into it here as well at some later date.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Emergent plus Messianic ... P.S.

Having already said as much about the Emergent and Messianic movements as can be said in one breath, here's just one more similarity:

One feature of some Emergent groups is their use of liturgy, be it Catholic, Celtic, Anglican, whatever. When I said earlier that Emergent and Messianic was about stripping the message of what has accumulated over the centuries, that would exclude what is found to have relevancy. Many people in Emergent do find certain liturgies meaningful.

Likewise, Judaism has their seders. In that sense, a Messianic group could easily say their Shema, the Ameeda, the Passover seder, etc. or their Messianic derivitives still maintain the feel of an Emergent congregation. I've found the seders meaningful, even in an Orthodox congregation.

It's quite likely that liturgies had a bigger role in the first century church than Baptist/Pentecostal types would probably feel comfortable with. Many of the prayers are quoted in the New Testament by Paul and others. The Psalms was originally a prayer book.

But having said all that, being that I'm not Jewish myself, I would still probably choose the "free style" approach for any group that I started -- unless others in the group wanted it otherwise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Emergent plus Messianic ... IV

We've been discussing how some of the contributions of the Messianic movement could complement Emergent. I also see how becoming a little bit more Emergent could benefit the Messianic movement.

The Messianic movement predates the Emerging Church movement and in many locations, had its beginnings in an era where American suberban middle class values were the norm. For that reason, some Messianics have inherited some of the tendencies that many other churches and ministries do that target the American middle class. That is, when they grow to a certain size, they tend to go with up-market style advertising and PR. Their TV programs offer you a gift if you'll donate so much, the brochures and magazines often have larger than life photos of the chief sporting a teethy grin (if it's a one-man or one-woman ministry), and everything seems to have a price tag.

At this point, I should try to pre-empt some possible comments that could be made (which would be in bad taste) by emphesising that this is a problem with human nature, and something we could all succomb to under financial and peer pressure. As a missionary myself, I've always had the problem of how to support myself in the ministry. Many have told me that it is perfectly justifiable to try to solicit donations for my work. I'm sure that's a path that G-d does lead many to travel, but I just don't feel it's for me ...and I tend to get turned off by too much of the Maddison Avenue approach.

The problem isn't by any means restricted to the Messianic movement (and it doesn't effect all of them either -- only certain ones). I heard one famous (non messianic) healing evangelist address a group of Bible School students where I was studying, and was deeply inspired by his personal testimony, and his desire to get more people involved in ministry. Later, I got hold of a set of his tapes from a teaching seminar on evangelism that he taught through an interpreter in Africa. I found him to be a very down-to-earth individual who inspired me very much. However, when I started getting his monthly newsletter, I was dissapointed. The side of him I saw as a student and through the eyes of an African pastor, was total lacking in his P.R. Instead, it was all about how I could have health and prosperity through, among other things, giving to his ministry. It was hard to believe it was the same person.

Perhaps it's because Emergent ministries, by their very nature, are not high-budget ventures, that they're not tempted by the latest advertising techniques. The most commerce I've seen so far are links to Amazon.com, and the occasional Google ad. What's more, anything that is of teaching value is usually offered for free.

As I've been saying, I believe that some of the most valuable teaching that the Body of Messiah needs right now comes from the Messianic movement. To be sure, there are quite a few articles and teachings that you can download for free, but there are others that are advertised as being vital to one's growth and development as a believer, or are essential to an understanding of certain Biblical texts, that come at a cost, or a high membership fee.

To me, it's like health. I like U.K. for the National Health Service. I don't think something so basic as good health should belong only to those who can pay exorbatant medical fees. Likewise, spiritual health. If something is so vital to my spiritual understanding, there should at least be something about it that can be downloaded for free, even if it's not as glossy and fine as what comes in the shrink wrapped box.

Another thing about Emergents -- at least the ones I've been following -- they all try to be, on their blogs and writings, what they are in person. And what they are is friendly, respectful and easy to be entreated (James 3:17). An example of this is a collective article entitled Response to Recent Criticisms, which I found to be a humble Christlike invitation for Emergents and non Emergents to understand one another.

I'm sorry to say that many (though not all) Messianics come across with the opposite spirit. To be sure, they've been through the worst of it as far as being misunderstood by both the Christian and Jewish communities. To be fair, I'm sure there are Emergents (though I haven't come across any) who would like to take a bulldozer to all traditional looking church buildings. It's noticeable on many websites and chat forums, that many Messianics have developed a rough edge. One gets the impression that pleasing God is not for the faint of heart.

Actually, when it gets right down to it, I agree that the life of faith is more than many make it out to be. But we're here to encourage one another in the faith, not scare one another off!

Just one more thing. It's so difficult to find a Messianic blog. There are a few, but they either represent one particular congregation or other in some American state far far away, or else they're full of pro-Israel anti Palistinian rhetoric. To be sure, I do believe there are issues to be threshed out in that field, but after a while, there's only so much that can be said before one begins repeating oneself and begins to sound tiresome.

We need a few Messianic blogs with the same flavour as the Emergent ones. That's where I hope this one will begin to fill the gap.

...and by the way, I do have a number of articles and study outlines on my website that should be valuable for a foundation in the faith.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Emergent plus Messianic ... III

Along the theme of how Emergent and Messianic are complementary, perhaps sharing a little bit of my background will shed light on where I'm coming from. A slighly more detailed autobiography can be found here. That will also answer the question of how I ended up leaning towards Emergent. The following will only explain the emphesis on Messianic.

I was born in Thailand of missionary parents (with WEC, an interdenominal "faith" mission), which I feel has contributed to my having an open mind about things. I've spent most of my life in Thailand, got married there, but for the last year or two, we've been in N. Ireland.

"Baruch" is my writing name. It incompases my actual initials (B. Ch.). However, I'm a goy (gentile) from my mother's womb (as far as I know). I don't believe it's necessary for me to look and sound Jewish to benifit from understanding Jewish roots, but I did think the name "Baruch" sounded nice, and have been using it ever since. It may seem rather ironic, though, that as a Gentile, I've had more input from Orthodox Rabbinical sources than from Messianic Judaism. I still haven't worshipped at a Messianic synagogue, but I've been plenty of times to Orthodox ones.

Apart from wandering into a Conservative Synagogue a number of times in So. Cal., a bit of contact with Jews for Jesus, and attending a Messianic conference hosted by Manny Brotman, (all back about 1976), my adventures into Judaism (Messianic and otherwise) began about 1991. Spending about a year in S. England, with time on my hands (some would say "too much time"), I decided to write a fictionalised account of the Apostle Paul (or The Emissary, Rabbi Shaul, as I later renamed him). After a while, it became obvious that I needed to do research on my character and the times he lived in. Besides bits on the Greco-Roman world, etc, I began looking at books on rabbinical literature, such a the Encyclopedia Judaica. I also bought a copy of Everyman's Talmud, the Soncino Chumash, and an ancient prayer book, among others. I did my daily Bible reading from the Soncino Chumash, which was a good experience. I also taught myself bit of Hebrew, and I can understand most Hebrew words a rabbi throws into a typical English sermon. When I arrived back in Thailand, I was surprised to find there is a large Jewish community there, and so I began attending the synagogues from time to time. I did more research in their small library, reading at various tractates of the Talmud. The rabbi there is a Lubbavitcher, a warm friendly individual. I think he must have thought I was going to apply for the possition of Shavos Goy! One of the high points was dancing around the bema holding the big sefer torah scroll during the feast of Simcha Torah.

I feel that one of my spiritual gifts is in teaching, especially in the area of Biblical foundations for faith, which I see as horribly lacking in the church as a whole. In what I studied of rabbinical Judaism, I readily saw a lot of what I feel is foundational to a New Covenant faith. A foundation in the Old Covenant is vital to understanding the new. Likewise, understanding the Gospels and Acts, the life and teaching of Yeshua and the early Apostles, are vital to truly understanding the Pauline epistles. In other words, a solid understanding of repentance, faith and baptisms etc. are vital to truly understanding the Pauline concepts of imputed righteousness and being seated in the heavenlies.

It was only after this that I started reading books by people like Daniel Juster and David Stern and others, and found that my opinions are shared by many in the Messianic movement. I believe that Messianic Judaism is making a profoundly important contribution to the Christian world in providing the means to receive the Biblical foundations so badly needed.

Emergent plus Messianic II

Another major component of Emergent is community. Church isn't defined by the Sunday meetings or the "church building", but by the believers wherever they are, seven days a week. When a group of believers meet, be it in a pub, or by accident, and begin to have fellowship in Messiah, that's Church. Judaism says that where 10 male Jews are present, they constitute a congregation, or a minyan, and they can have a worship service regradeless of whether they're in a synagogue building, or on a flight from New York to Mandalay and are otherwise complete strangers. Buried in Matthew chapters 16 and 18, we see definate parallels to the Jewish concept of congregation in Yeshua's description of church authority ("...bring it to the congregation..."). I would not restrict the number to 10, nor to only male believers, but I believe that a Jewish understand of Matthew 18 can be a valuable underlying philosophy for an Emergent congregation.

In modern Judaism, the rabbi doesn't hold authority in a congregation, but rather, is something like a hired consultant/teacher, sort of the same as with the presbyterian style of congregation in the Christian community, with the board having final authority, and an elected president. Jairus, whose daughtor Yeshua brought back to life, was a synagogue president (or nasi, or in our modern English translations, "synagogue ruler").

The big difference between first century Judaism and modern, is while it still followed the presbyterian style, the rabbis weren't necessarily paid by the congregations they served. At least those of the school of Hillel, didn't believe in earning money from their spiritual work. Rabbi Hillel, one of the most respected of early rabbis, was a water carrier. Rabbi Shaul (a.k.a. Apostle Paul) was a tent maker. They were probably just as likely to be members of their local synagogue presbyteries, but they also functioned as judges. Whenever there was a row, or a suspected minor violation of the Torah, a group of three Torah experts would be called on to sit as both judge and jury (compare this also with Yeshua's statements in Matthew 18, regarding the "two or three"). If it was a capital offence, the number would be increased to 12, or 23 as in the case of the local sanhedrins. The Great Sanhedrin had 72 members. Of course, they also taught. They'd give a comentary on the Torah for their local congregations, and they'd teach their own pupils or apprentis rabbis. A good example is Paul, who taught Timothy by this method. The pupil lived with their rabbi, and not only listened to his teaching, but witnessed his life in action, and did what they were told to do.

As a Jewish rabbi, Paul is an excellent example for an Emerging congregation. He refused to accept financial renumeration for his apostleship, but rather found work to do wherever he went, so as not to be a burneden on his new congregations. He raised a number of pupils, such as Timothy and Titus and others "the hard way", so that they became as expert as himself.

In our seminaries, we learn to "sound good" when we're preaching, because that's exactly what our professors do. We don't witness their lives in action, so we miss a lot (though chances are we're not missing much as they may just be "good talkers" themselves).

What distinguished the rabbis wasn't their credentials so much as the fact that they were trusted for their experience and track record. They were chosen to sit on a panel of judges because they could be trusted. People wanted their sons to emulate them, so they sent them to become their pupils.

While I've very loosly defined church in the first paragraph above, I also see the five-fold ministry fitting in with it in exactly the same way as the tested and tried rabbis of the first century did with their local communities. -- However with one difference. As Yeshua stipulated, he who his the least shall be first. Those who are the most expert at humbly serving others and performing the menial things like the washing of feet, will be the recognised leaders of the community.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Emergent plus Messianic

The flavour of this blog site ought to reflect a synthesis of Emergent and Messianic. For a definition of Emerging Church, the best I've seen so far is this article by Alan Creech in the February issue of Next Wave ezine. A one line statement would be, Emergent is the search for the style of doing church that is both Biblically compatible and relevent to today's culture. Some would argue that on the fringes, there are those that are less Biblically compatible than others, then again, you'll find those in every movement.

And what's Messianic? The short answer is, here's a link. Short for me, that is, but perhaps a bit long if you intend to read the entire PDF file. So, the short answer would be, a community of Jews who reguard Jesus (referred to as Yeshua -- henseforth that's the rendering I'll be using in these blogs) as being the Messiah of Israel, and therefore believe that following Him is a very Jewish thing to do. They see themselves as no less Jewish for it. Not only are ethnic Jews involved, but also Gentile (or goy) believers (like me), who recognise that Judaism has preserved many things that are valuable towards knowing God, that Christianity has lost over the years.

So, how does Emergent and Messianic mix? Both movements are a journey towards stripping the gospel message of all the Western trappings it's accumulated over the centuries, and communicating it in a way that's relevant to their respective communities, Messianic to the Jewish community, and Emergent, to whatever community one is targetting, be it Postmodern, secular, Generation X, hard-core punks, whatever ethnic minority, or any group that wouldn't be caught dead inside a traditional church building. Let's face it. No matter how much p.r. we put out, there are groups that will never be reached by the traditional churches using the methods they're using today, such as the Gay community, or the Jewish community. In that sense, the Messianic Jewish Community is Emergent.

There's a lot more I could say, which I'll save for a later blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

When the Dust of the Orange Day parades has Settled...

Yesturday was 12th of July. For many here in N. Ireland, that's every bit as auspicious as the 4th of July in America. In fact, even more so, because some were even throwing rocks and firebombs in some parts of Belfast and Londonderry (instead of firecrakers and skyrockets like they do in America). It's the dayKing Billy chased the Catholics across the River Boyne, about 300 years ago, thereby liberating the N.Ireland Protestants from Catholic rule (but not the N.Ireland Catholics from Protestant rule, which is why some of them were throwing the rocks and firebombs).

Anyway, here is an article I sent to Next Wave.org, which also got reprinted on The Ooze, but I never got around to posting on my own website. It is entitled, The Problem with Western Christianity, and it explores how, not only in N. Ireland, but in North America as well, the church, from some angles, looks more like a dying political party than an cutting edge force.

Anyway, here it is... enj0y!

Welcome to my new blog site

I suppose it's time to begin blogging again.

My earlier blog site is at www.antioch.com.sg/th/twp, where you find both my old blogs (which I left off updating over a year ago) and my articles, stories, cartoons, bestselling-novels-to-be, and other regurgitations of an active immagination.

I hope I'll be more regular at updating this one. The old one was too much work, as it was a DIY site, where I wrote all the HTML code by hand, and had to cut and paste some of the code everytime I did an entry.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes...