The Pro-Torah, Pro-Israel, Pro-Jewish Apostle Paul

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I'm blown away by Paul’s theological thunder in Romans 2. 

In it, Paul says:

  • God judges people by their actions; it's not enough to believe. (vs. 6)
  • Jewish people have divine priority, both in blessing and judgment (vs 9, 10)
  • People who practice the Torah will be justified by God. (vs. 13)
  • The Torah is the embodiment of truth (vs. 20)
  • Breaking the Torah shames God's reputation (vss. 23, 4)
  • Non-Jews who keep the Torah are better than Jews who break it.(vs. 27)
  • God's people Israel includes non-Jews who keep the Torah. (vss. 27, 28, 29)
  • Authentic Jews are Jews who do what the Torah says and walk in a path of integrity. (vss. 28, 29)

In the church, we so often get laser focused on Paul's warning against religious Torah hypocrisy (vss. 21-24), that we forget he's still pro-Torah.

In Paul’s usage here, “Torah” doesn’t especially mean things like kosher and tzitzit and what we often think of Torah. We know this because his argument is that gentiles who never heard of the Torah do by nature the things of the Torah. (And gentiles without Torah aren’t wearing tzitzit!)

So, what is he talking about when he says gentiles keeping Torah? He’s talking about the basic ethical morality – Torah basics – that are ingrained in every human being. Knowing that murder, rape, cruelty, theft, etc. are wicked, despite never having read the Torah.

These Torah basics are inscribed by God on the human conscience. Non-Jews who keep them are better than Jews who break them. (Hence, Jews like Harvey Weinstein are not destined for God’s Kingdom – they know Torah but actively break it without remorse or repentance. Meanwhile, non-Jews who love God and love their neighbor will see God.

Is this an anti-Jewish message? Hardly. Paul comes to the climax of his argument in verses 28 and 29, saying that the authentic Jewish person is one who keeps the commandments of God. Talks and walks Torah.

Prolific Jewish Bible scholar and author Mark Nanos – himself a Reform Jew – argues that passages like Paul’s letter to Rome demonstrate that Paul wasn’t outside of Judaism and Jewish thought, but rather, he was a Jew within Judaism promoting a new kind of Messiah-based Apostolic Judaism:

image“I remain focused on investigating the implications for Jewish-Christian relations of my reading of Paul as a Torah-observant Jew founding Jewish subgroup communities. These "assemblies [ekklesias]" were attracting some non-Jews, but nevertheless dedicated to practicing and promoting Judaism for non-Jews as well as Jews. In other words, I propose to that we should be investigating Paul's Judaism in the intra-communal context of other Jewish groups, including other groups of followers of Jesus, which together with Paul's groups represented a coalition we might describe as Apostolic Judaism.

Nanos may be on to something. Paul reads to me as a pro-Torah, pro-Jewish, pro-Israel apostle of Jesus. Maybe Nanos is right; maybe Paul has been misread in the Christian world for a great deal of time, maybe even going as far to say Paul was promoting a kind of Judaism for Jews and non-Jews.

Returning to Paul’s Jewish context changes the way we read him.

5 Things I Learned About God and Messianic Faith in 2017

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As 2017 wraps up, I’m reflecting on this past year and the things I’ve learned about God and Messianic faith. 5 major items come to mind:

  1. Hebrew Roots is in trouble
  2. Heaven as we imagine it isn’t what the Bible describes
  3. Good works really are good
  4. Family is ministry
  5. Living faithfully is hard

How I came to realize these things, and approaches to address them in our movement, found below.

1. Hebrew Roots is in trouble

“Judah, you are deceived, leading people astray, and you have a demon.”

-A person in my local congregation after I rejected his flat earth views

This year has seen more foolishness from the Hebrew Roots world than I have ever encountered in my 30 years in Messianic faith. In particular, the full embrace of conspiracy theories has made Hebrew Roots an object of ridicule and embarrassment.

Flat earth. Serpent seed. Aliens. Portals. End times date-setting.

imageMy mind paints a picture of wild-eyed UFO hunters and frazzled Crazy Uncles holding “The end is near!” signs.

But this year, it often characterized my own people of faith: Hebrew Roots Christianity.

This year, two people left my congregation over the geometric shape of the earth.

Yes, some of the holy people of God were so grieved that we didn’t subscribe to conspiracy theories that the earth is flat, they left our congregation. The last gentleman who left our congregation over flat earth told me that, because I didn’t believe the earth is flat, I was deceived, leading people astray, and that I had a demon.

Let that sink in.

Hebrew Roots people are dividing over the idea that NASA is conspiring to keep the truth about the shape of the planet hidden from humanity.

Messiah, the Righteous One, God’s humble servant to humanity commanded us to be the light of the world. But instead, we’re fighting (and leaving congregations!) over the friggin’ shape of the earth. What a horrible representation of God’s good name and reputation. God forgive us.

This ocean of foolishness has caused me a kind of crisis of faith. If folks folks in my corner of faith are so deceived, do I really belong here? Is there a place for critical thinking and skepticism in our movement? Is there a place for scholarship, science, modern medicine, and questioning? If not, do I really fit into Hebrew Roots?

It’s gotten so bad that several Hebrew Roots teachers who don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories have ceased using the Hebrew Roots label. One prominent example is a teacher from my own congregation, Ryan White from Rooted In Torah. Rico Cortes, Tim Hegg, J.K. McKee, and numerous others have also distanced themselves from “Hebrew Roots” and now more identify with the more established Messianic Jewish movement. I can’t blame them.

What we need are strong leaders who will not bow to conspiracy theories or other distractions from the power of the gospel of Messiah Yeshua. What we need is mercy and wisdom and  guidance from the King Himself. We need renewal. Hebrew Roots needs to refocus on the Hebraic root of our faith: the Israel-centric gospel of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua. His teachings to Israel. How He kept the Torah given to Israel.

In the short time the Lord has given me to influence folks, I will strive to focus on the gospel of Messiah and avoid the foolish distractions so plaguing our movement.

2. Heaven as we imagine isn’t what the Bible describes

Heaven is not your home. (You were created as a human to function on planet earth, not merely as a soul to live forever in an airy spiritual place.)

Heaven isn’t the final destination. (You’ll be resurrected here on earth and reign with God.)

Heaven isn’t eternal life. (If you’re heaven, that means your body is dead; that would be eternal death.)

Heaven isn’t the “Kingdom of Heaven.” (The Kingdom of Heaven is a circumlocution for “Kingdom of God”, in the same way “Oh my heavens!” is a circumlocution for “Oh my God!”)

Heaven isn’t the “Kingdom of God.” (The Kingdom of God refers to the Messianic Age here on earth when Messiah reigns from Jerusalem.)

The gospels are essentially silent on the airy place of disembodied souls joining God’s spiritual abode. (It speaks often about the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God, but that refers to the Messianic nation of God on earth.)

Heaven isn’t a guarantee for anyone who said the sinner’s prayer.

So what is heaven?

It’s the abode of God.

Will you go there? Maybe. There’s no such guarantee in the New Testament.

And the disciples weren’t concerned about “going to heaven.”

They were concerned about entering the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God. That involves resurrecting from the dead when God reigns from Jerusalem. It doesn’t involve dying and going to see floating cherubs plucking harps.

3. Good works really are good

How are we’re supposed to be a light to the world? By doing good works.

What good works? Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, caring for people in need. Give to charity. Volunteer your time to do good.

That’s a tangible light to the world. Meaning, people who are outside of our faith will see this as good, right, even holy.

The Hebrew Roots sub-movement can produce good in the world and amplify Messiah’s name. It will require us to stop with foolish distractions and do what Messiah told us to do.

This is bad news for the do-nothing gospel that plagues much of Christianity, but good news for the re-emergence of God’s people.

4. Family is ministry

Some are called to be evangelists, some are street preachers, some pastors, some scholars and students.

But some people are called to create and care for a family.

Being a husband and father is a holy calling, as holy and necessary as the Apostle Paul types. It most closely emulates God our Father and Husband to His people.

I was once told by a man in our congregation that I wasn’t following Messiah since I wasn’t preaching on the streets with him or performing miraculous healings through the laying on of hands.

I’ve had other people express disappointment in me when I couldn’t attend their religious event or spend more time in study or prayer with them.

The reason I can’t do those things is I have a family.

My wife and 3 children need me. And they need me to be a present helper, leader, provider, dad and husband. More than you need me to be a prayer warrior, street preacher, or student.

5. Living faithfully is hard

Belief is easy. Works are harder. Living a faithful life of integrity in public and private is the hardest.

I’ve struggled with things in my life and this year it’s more apparent to me.

If you talk God, but fight with your wife, it’s hypocrisy. If you preach self-control, but lose your temper, it’s hypocrisy. Ditto for porn. Ditto for lying. Ditto for stealing in all its forms; like stealing money or time from your employer.

It’s hard to live a faithful life. And I think why so many secular people see us believers as hypocrites is because we actually are hypocrites. And the reason for that is because walking a path of integrity is hard.

We need again a renewal, an actual and authentic help from the Helper, the very spirit of God inside us. At least I do, friends.

These things I have learned this year in my walk with the Lord. What about you?

Guest post: How to Avoid Spiritual Carnage

Shalom, Kineti readers. Today’s post is a special treat: a guest post by someone who is legitimately the kindest, sweetest person in the world you will ever meet, my aunt Mary Dodd.

Mary has witnessed friends and family go from Torah observance to apostasy and atheism. Yet through these heartaches, she learned a divine lesson; one which many Messianics still need to learn. She passes that wisdom onto you, dear reader, here in this post and in a new book, The Pink Toolbelt: Spiritual Remodeling for Women.


How do I fulfill God’s commandments without losing my relationship with Messiah?

imageMy eyes have witnessed much spiritual carnage. Friends and family members whom I always thought were solid in their faith have suddenly turned their backs on the Father. They no longer look at God’s Word as truth. They have stepped off the path that leads to Father, and have chosen an easier wider path to follow. They drop like flies.

There are no words in the language of men that can describe the intense pain that this carnage brings. I have felt it in the past—and I continue to feel it to this day because some of those family members who have left their faith are my very own children.

The observance of any form of Judeo-Christianity can be confusing when we don’t place Messiah’s teachings first. Man-made religiosity has made a slippery slope of confusing doctrines—that not only are un-Biblical, but also cause souls to abandon their faith altogether.

The key to spiritual success of any form of Judeo-Christianity is Messiah—placing His teachings first, and His way of living out Torah is based on how we treat our fellow man.

Becoming like Messiah is the Key

Messiah’s teachings were profound. He taught us how to gain status in Father’s Kingdom: Be last, be least, go the extra mile, forgive those who hurt you, pray for your enemies, don’t even be angry and don’t be lustful.

He didn’t just teach the truth, He lived the truth and showed us how to live out our faith in the best ways that please Abba Father.

He taught by example—which I think is the best way to teach.

He showed us how to forgive perfectlyby forgiving the soldier while he was in the act of crucifying Him

Christ showed us how to obey perfectlyHe obeyed His Father’s will even when it meant sacrificing Himself.

He showed us how to honor our parents –He honored his mother by asking one of His disciples to look after her, He did this all while hanging on the crucifixion stake.

He showed us how to serve each otherThe KING fed the hungry, He healed the sick, He loved the unlovable and unclean, He washed, He bound the brokenhearted, He died for all.

When we work hard to look like Messiah in every area of our lives; from our forgiving, obeying, our honoring, and our serving, to our words, our thoughts, our attitudes, our praying, and our loving—we are walking out our faith perfectly. Because Messiah perfectly shows us Father’s good, kind, beautiful, benevolent heart, it only makes sense that we should follow His perfect, kind, and merciful example.

What do you think?

toolbeltWhat do you believe about this topic? I’d love to hear what you think. Comment below as well as check out my newly released book.

The Pink Toolbelt—Spiritual Remodeling for Women, is all about spiritually remodeling our lives into the image of Messiah’s life—becoming a true disciple—in fact, a mirror-image of Him.

If that is needed in your life, I encourage you to read The Pink Toolbelt. You can find it on Kindle and paperback.