Review – The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

Life is a funny thing sometimes.  As I have journeyed down the path of discipleship, I have found many things along the way that helped my journey: people, books, audio messages and video messages and music that have inspired me at various times.  In the last couple of years, I have gotten to know a brother in the Lord who sprang from the same hometown as I did; but whom I didn’t know in person at that time, even though I knew his siblings (and even graduated with one of them).  I first started reading Darren’s work on his blog, Digging with Darren, which you will notice is linked in the sidebar here.  Over the last couple of years, we have exchanged the occasional message on Facebook or in the comments at either his blog or mine; but that was the extent of the interaction, until I noticed his posts and musings on discipleship.

Discipleship has been a strong point of emphasis for me as a believer for a long time.  I have long held that one of the reasons that our churches struggle as they do is because of a lack of intentional discipleship on our part.  We have done an excellent job of trying to get as many converts as we possibly can, but we have little idea what to do beyond that other than to tell people to “come to church” and participate in whatever their church has on offer.  This is why I was intrigued and excited to read some of Darren’s ideas regarding discipleship and I am glad to see them placed into written form that can be shared with others.  The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a work worth checking out if you are interested in discipleship and how to make disciples.

Darren has done a wonderful job of taking some of the more recent works about how we make disciples and blended these ideas with the “ancient paths” of discipleship that have in many cases been lost or ignored.  Essentially, this booklet has been structured around a simple process of forming disciples in four areas: Dedication, Memorization, Imitation, and Replication.  I will not expound on them here as the booklet does a good job highlighting what is needed in each of these areas.  Let me simply say that this booklet is a quick and challenging read that will give you a clearer vision and some concrete, practical tools for working to become a disciple of our Master, if you are not one already; or else it will give you a framework for working with others who wish to become disciples as well.  After all, you cannot make disciples for Jesus if you are not a disciple of Jesus yourself.  I highly recommend this work for all who wish to undertake the lifelong journey to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Disclosure: Please note that I received a copy of this booklet as a thank you for my work in volunteering to help proof the text and format of the book.  I have included a link in the review to the site where the book is available for purchase at Emet HaTorah.

Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, Discipleship, Messiah, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Understanding

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  – Proverbs 4:7

I have a funny post queued up for later in the day, but I wanted to get this up first.  I have been doing several messages in the last few months playing off of this realization that we frequently misunderstand or make up meanings for obscure or difficult things in Scripture.  It is based on something I heard from First Fruits of Zion a year or two ago.  I found a couple of video clips on youtube that give a fuller explanation of this concept that I highly recommend.  It will take about 15 minutes of your time to watch these two clips back to back.  It is time well spent.

I know the end of the second clip includes a promo for some of their study material, but I can say this. Their study material is some of the most in-depth and thorough stuff I have ever seen.  When I got my first copy of Torah Club Volume 4 several years ago, I went through it with a fine tooth comb to look for areas of questionable scholarship or theological issues.  These guys do a great job of providing information as well as the sources that go into their materials and conclusions.  I highly recommend their work to anyone I talk to these days and I always enjoy checking out their new materials.  I currently have a small wishlist going for stuff I haven’t yet managed to purchase.

Here is one last video that talks about some of the deeper Hebraic concepts in the Gospels.  Enjoy.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Discipleship, Faith, FFOZ, Giving, Gospel, Hebrew, Holy Spirit, Humor, Kingdom, Questions, theology, Truth, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preparing for an Encounter

Tonight we are going to do a Passover Seder dinner at the church with our church family.  I am using a new Haggadah from FFOZ this year and combining an element or two from the older one that we used the last two years.  We have more people planning to come this year and I am looking forward to an exciting night as we relive the last meal our Master shared with His disciples before His crucifixion.

I expect posting to be a little sparse (I didn’t get anything yesterday) as we make final preparations for the meal and fellowship tonight.  Tomorrow I plan to post a couple of videos that are part funny and part thoughtful.  May the blessings of this season be yours in abundance through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Categories: Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, family, Feasts, Fun, Gospel, Grace, Hebrew, Messiah, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holding Fast to the Truth

I have gone back and forth on whether or not to even say anything about this story in the news, but I think I will share a little something.  With all the flap out there about Rob Bell’s new book, this is almost a side issue, but I think it is an important one.  Many of the “mainline” denominations have been struggling in recent years to hold onto a biblical orthodoxy.  Various denominations have caved on issues like homosexuality and even the “exclusivity” of Christ as the only Way of salvation.  For that reason, I am actually a little surprised to hear that a Methodist church fired their pastor for echoing Bell’s universalism.

It was just a couple of years ago that we had a Methodist campus “pastor” come and speak at a baccalaureate, put together by the ministerial association here in town, and essentially espouse a similar type of message.  She asserted that various faiths like Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhism, Islam and so forth all espoused some variation of the “golden rule” and believed in “god.”  Of course, she wasn’t much for mentioning Jesus Christ and hedgingly referred to a Creator a few times.   It is the Methodist church that has been running the “open doors, open hearts, open minds” ad campaign for several years now as well.  I have been worried about my brothers and sisters in the Methodist church from recent experiences.

The pastor in question mentioned in the story that he had expressed some other “controversial views” recently:

Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the “last straw.” Holtz and his family plan to move back to Tennessee, where he’ll start a job and maybe plant a church.

“So long as we believe there’s a dividing point in eternity, we’re going to think in terms of us and them,” he said. “But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you’re saved. Live like it.”

When someone makes a statement like this and declares to be a follower of Christ, I have to ask myself what Bible they are reading.  Are they reading the Gospels?  If they are, they don’t believe them.  Jesus made exactly this distinction over and over again.  Sheep and goats, wheat and tares, and others are exactly and precisely about a dividing line and a demarcation.  To declare otherwise is nothing short of an attempt to gut the teachings of Christ.

We cannot compromise the truth and we can’t rewrite the words of Jesus to make them more comfortable for our generation.  We are not “new” or special.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Those who reject the God who is will always seek to make a god to suit themselves of their own design.  It’s called idolatry and it still happens today.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Culture, Faith, False Teachers, Gospel, Grace, Heresy, Love, Messiah, ministry, Salvation, theology, Truth, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Things Seem Hidden Away

Last night was the celebration of Purim among the Jewish people and those who embrace the Jewishness of our faith in Yeshua.  I have been reflecting on the story of Esther again and after reading a post at another blog a little bit ago it hit me a little harder.  We often get the impression that we must be in the spotlight to help others, so much so that many in our culture tend to seek out fame or influence as a means of “helping” people.

I am thinking of the young sports talents who look to “get big” so they can “give back” by helping others and those who seek celebrity and so on and so forth.  But we don’t have to be a celebrity or wealthy or of huge reputation to be involved in Kingdom business.  In fact, God delights in using those who are of no reputation.

Esther is unique in that God’s name does not appear anywhere in the text.  God chooses to work “behind the scenes” and out of view in this story.  In the book of Esther, Mordecai does a great service to the king by revealing a plot against his life; and while it would seem that it is Esther who is the “spotlight” person of influence, it is Mordecai, the unnamed fasting Jewish people, and most importantly God (whose name never appears remember), who are key to the story.

God may seem hidden at times.  The book of Esther and her story, reminds us that even when God seems hidden, He is still at work.  He is always at work.  Let us not be tempted to think that in order to accomplish big things we must be big.  God does not need the biggest or the most well known to accomplish His purpose.  He doesn’t even need you.  Rather, He will use the things that are hidden away, unknown, or of no reputation far more often than not.


Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Giving, Hebrew, Kingdom, Love, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Picture Perfect

I was reading some blogs and ran across an interesting question that was posed in the comments of one by the blog’s author and a frequent commenter here, Steve from theoldadam.  The question revolves around Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5 that instructs us that we are to “be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect,” which is Matthew 5:48 to be specific.  What does it mean to “be perfect?”  Is this a serious instruction for us or is it some kind of expression intended to point to our inherent imperfection in some way?

There are many who would suggest that it is the latter.  In fact, there are many who look at the entire Sermon on the Mount section of Matthew (chapters 5-7) as some kind of uberlaw that is unattainable and used to exaggerate our own sinful state.  I even found myself in this same category for many years.  I had long assumed that Jesus was “raising the bar” if you will and elevating lust to the level of adultery and hate to the level of murder.  I believed that Jesus was pointing out the utter inability of humanity to attain to God’s standard at all.  The last year or two has seen a shattering of that mode of interpretation for me.  When I saw this question about the perfection statement; it got me to thinking again.  What is Jesus trying to say? Continue reading

Categories: Bible Misunderstandings, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Freedom, Gospel, Grace, Kingdom, Law, Love, Messiah, ministry, Questions, Salvation, theology, Truth, Yeshua | 23 Comments

Grabbing the Commandments

As I have started to write some of the things I have found, particularly regarding the commandments of God (lately the dietary things), I note that there is a sort of generalized resistance.  I understand it.  In fact, I have offered many of the same arguments internally as I have walked down this road.  I grew up with the same general teaching of Christianity that many of you did.  The theological arguments about the “cancellation of the law” are not new to me; they are within my upbringing and years of study.  But there are always questions to be asked and when the answers are different than we expect, we should be willing to dig deeper.

I could honestly take this post in about ten different directions, but I want to focus so I have decided to present an interesting concept that came to me during the last session of the HaYesod (the Foundation) class I recently took from First Fruits of Zion.  It involves a prophetic passage from Zechariah 8.  Let’s look at the verses:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ ”

-Zechariah 8:20-23

It is the last verse that I would like to discuss further.  The idea of ten men taking hold of one Jew is a symbolic picture.  Since there are obviously more than 10 nations or languages (and there were in Zechariah’s day as well), this is an image to represent a group from all nations collectively.  The number 10 is significant because it represents the number of men needed to form a minyan or congregation in Hebrew.  Thus we can see that a “congregation of the nations” is spoken of here.  Be patient and we will tie the images together in a moment.

These people will take hold of “one Jew.”  Personally, I always took this verse a little more literally(not completely so), so I had this picture of groups of Gentiles gathered around individual Jews begging to follow them to Jerusalem or something.  If there is “one Jew” that men from every nation would want to grab hold of, who do you think that would be?  If you said Yeshua, or Jesus, go to the front of the class.  This part of the prophecy is already a little clearer.  We see men from all nations coming to Jesus even today, but there is still more to see.

These people take hold of the “hem of his robe.”  This word in Hebrew is used for the corners of the garment, and I want to point out something very interesting about this.  Let me give a couple of verses to help this picture.

Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear. -Deuteronomy 22:12

“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. 40So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.                           -Numbers 15:38-39

The word “corners” in these verses is the same Hebrew word used in Zechariah 8:23.  The corners of  Jewish man’s robe would have the tassels (Hebrew tzitzit), to stand for the commandments of God.  It is these that the men of the nations are to grab firm hold of on the person of Yeshua (Jesus).

This is all of the commandments of God.  As it turns out, Jesus said something that makes this verse so meaningful to you and I:

21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

-John 14:21-24

Let me make this abundantly clear.  These commandments aren’t about salvation.  You cannot be saved by doing them.  They are about love.  Do you love Jesus enough to take hold of the corner of His garment (the commandments)?  Will you follow Him wherever He goes?  Because He walks in the Ways of God and the path of Torah, God’s instructions.

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Gospel, Hebrew, Law, Messiah, Prophecy, theology, Truth, Uncategorized, Yeshua | 2 Comments

There Really Is Only One Way

I am about to offend some people with this post.  Sometimes, it just can’t be helped.  It isn’t an offense over personal preferences or something mundane.  I long ago gave up on trying to quarrel over such things.  I recently had a friendly discussion with some folks regarding a TV show that I discovered (well after it was on the air and long gone) and found that I enjoyed.  The discussion centered around a message portrayed in the show (and also a movie based on the story line), that basically it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you “believe” it, whatever that is supposed to mean.

This idea appeared recently in an article about an “enlightened” decision for a new way to train people of differing faiths (Muslims, Christians and Jews) at United Methodist Church’s Claremont School of Theology.  They claim this is possible because not all adherents of these faiths believe that “their faith is the only way to God.”

The more I think about this; the more I have come to the conclusion that this might be the most clever lie that Satan has ever concocted down through the history of mankind.  There is only one Way to God and it isn’t open for discussion or debate.  There is One who was bold enough to claim that He personally represented that very Way(John 14:6) and then proceeded to back up His claim by coming back from the grave.  Perhaps someone would like to speculate further about why the early believers in Jerusalem were called people of The Way (Acts 9:2).  This imagery was prominent in early Christianity and is thoroughly biblical in nature. Continue reading

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, False Teachers, Gospel, Grace, Heresy, Law, Love, Messiah, Questions, Salvation, theology, Truth, Yeshua | 2 Comments

Shrouded in Mystery

Update:  There is another interesting article that was put out this week regarding the back of the Shroud.

I will admit that the Shroud of Turin is one of those things that just fascinates me.  I have no problem believing that it might be the genuine article, but my faith does not hinge on its validity one way or the other.  This latest stir about it is interesting to read about though.

I found this to be worth further reading:

Rogers’ paper made an impact on the Shroud of Turin research community worldwide, because immediately after the results of the 1988 radiocarbon dating were made public, he was a leading voice asserting the shroud was a medieval forgery.

. . .

Rogers concluded in his 2005 paper that the linen in the main body of the shroud had lost vanillin, much like the Dead Sea scroll linens, suggesting the shroud itself is much older than the radiocarbon dating had suggested, very possibly reaching back 2,000 years to the time of Jesus Christ.

So, what do you think about the Shroud of Turin?

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Categories: Christianity, Faith, Science, Yeshua | 5 Comments

Understanding Hebrews

I have had a longtime love of the book of Hebrews.  Some of my favorite verses in all of Scripture come from that book in fact (Hebrews 12:1-2 tops that list).  I took a book study course on Hebrews when I was in college years ago and loved it.  I have several commentaries and felt like I knew the book pretty well and had a pretty good understanding of it in fact.

A lot of that changed about three years ago, when a good friend of mine (that would be the occasional commenter known here as “E”) started asking me some honest questions about my opinions regarding Melchizedek.  I offered up my opinions, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy some of the issues; and I shelved the niggling points of disturbance away for some other day to think about.

A few weeks ago, I ordered a CD set called What About the Sacrifices? from First Fruits of Zion.  I was intrigued by the study topic as I have certainly had more questions than answers about the sacrificial system these days.  A literal reading of many of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament indicates that there will be sacrifices offered in the future in accordance with God’s will and plan.  A more careful reading of Acts shows disciples continuing to worship in the Temple and continuing to observe the times of prayer (Acts 3 for instance) as well as Paul and several believers in Jerusalem offering sacrifices there as believers (Acts 21:17-26).  Most believers either don’t realize what this means in regards to what we have been taught about the OT sacrifices; or else they have decided to dismiss it in some manner as a “misunderstanding” of some kind.  There might be other rationalizations as well, but I am only giving a sample.

In any case, I thought the teaching would be an interesting way to learn more about the subject.  I certainly trust the folks of FFOZ as I have used some of their materials before and I have always found them to be thorough and truthful and honest to a fault.  Their recent travails over their decisions regarding “One Law” theology are a testament to their integrity in my opinion.  So I ordered the teaching and sat down to see what they had to say.  With my Bible and online study tools at hand, I began to see a whole new world in the book of Hebrews.

The sacrifices and offerings are only “lawful” within the Temple structure itself.  This is God’s design for them.  The writer of Hebrews is careful to point out and explain that Jesus’ ministry is different than the ministry of the Levitical priesthood on earth.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews is writing at a time when the Temple sacrifices are still going on based on his use of present tense to describe them.

It would be impossible to catalog all that I have gleaned so far, and I am still re-listening and processing these things against God’s Word, but here are a few highlights for now that I have gotten from my study alongside their work.

Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice are based on a principle deeply rooted in Jewish thought that the righteous can suffer on behalf of the unrighteous.  This understanding tends to be assumed by most of the New Testament writers, but the author of Hebrews spells the theology out for us a little more.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers
– Hebrews 2:10-11

Jesus’ ministry was further found in his identification with us as human beings subject to death.  He had to be like us in order for his suffering on our behalf to be effective.  The writer also makes comparisons between Jesus and the angels in the first few chapters that make a lot more sense in regards to the Melchizedek imagery.  I may have to elaborate on that in another post.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted – Hebrews 2:14-18

You might recognize this concept from Paul’s writings in Romans.  The penalty of sin is death and Jesus has destroyed that penalty through His own death as a sinless man.  Jesus’ sacrifice for sin is depicted in Hebrews as a sacrifice in the heavenly tabernacle.  Without getting too technical or detailed; understand that sacrifices on earth in the Temple were designed to bring the offerer nearer to God, as one would be unable to enter His presence without them.  In the same way, Jesus sacrifice allows us to enter God’s presence in Heaven itself.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
– Hebrews 10:19-22

Going back to the earlier chapters of Hebrews, the writer seeks to relate our situation to that of the nation of Israel in the desert after they were redeemed from Egypt.  He does this because God has not changed (Hebrews 13:8) and still deals with His children in the same way that He always has and will.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

6Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts.”

-Hebrews 4:1-3; 6-7

This is a crucial piece of the argument.  The Hebrew concept here involves the difference between hearing and hearing. Hearing means that you can acknowledge that something has been said; maybe even repeat it back because you heard it physically.  Hearing means that you have indeed heard it as evidenced by the fact that you are actually responding to what you heard in obedience (see verse 6).  This is the crucial meaning behind Jesus’ statements about seeing but never seeing and hearing but never hearing that we find so often in the Gospels.  This is a struggle that many have trouble with as they equate the very notion with “salvation by works” or something along those lines.  To be perfectly clear, obedience is not in our natural selves.  The Bible is perfectly frank that our own nature is rebellious to the core.  God desires to give us a nature that is willing to obey through His Spirit, but He doesn’t force Himself on anyone.   We don’t “work” our way to God.  He works within us and works through us and gives us a new heart that desires to follow Him.  Otherwise it would be foolish for Him to say, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” as He did in Jeremiah 29:13 and Proverbs 1:20-33 would simply be a cruel joke.

This model of obedience to instruction was a primary characteristic of  Jesus’ ministry as further described in Hebrews chapter 5:

7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

– Hebrews 5:7-10

I know there are some who wish the Bible didn’t talk this way, but it is folly to pretend it isn’t there and it is irrational to try and allegorize it away.  Read this passage from Isaiah 50:4-7 and see how this obedience was anticipated in the life of the Messiah in prophecy.

The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.
5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
6 I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting. 7But the Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

There is a whole other interesting avenue to get into (actually several), including Melchizedek and the ministry of angels in the heavenly temple, but I think I will save it for another post.  Tell me what you think?

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, Discipleship, Faith, Gospel, Hebrew, Holy Spirit, Law, Love, Questions, Salvation, theology, Truth, Yeshua | 2 Comments

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