We Need a Cow
We are back in the States after a brief respite for both vacation and editing work on the BEKY Books, and it's exciting to see the material in the pipeline for the first round of BEKY Books (Book Encouraging the Kingdom of Yeshua). For the newsletter this week, I'm including an excerpt from the introduction to a BEKY Book entitled "Messianic Shabbat Service," which is an introduction to curious Christians or those attending a Messianic congregation for the first time. The introduction gives a bit of Messianic history and rationale.
The Messianic Pattern of Worship
The Messianic Movement derives from various backgrounds. It is one of the most racially diverse religious groups in the United States, and it is considered a "grassroots" movement. The Messianic Movement is a growing phenomenon, both within the United States and worldwide. Many traditional Christians are now choosing to keep the Biblical Feasts, so there are even more non-Jewish Messianic fellowships today than Jewish.
Messianic worship has the potential to be a fulfilling and profound experience. Although Messianic congregations and fellowships are springing up all over the world, the diversity of religious, ethnic, and academic backgrounds makes every congregation different, whether primarily Jewish or Gentile. There is no all-inclusive pattern for Messianic worship, so the best approach is to describe the more usual components of a service.
Like the first disciples and apostles of Yeshua (Jesus), no one really knows what to call this movement. Although it is often called the "Messianic Movement," that's a bit of a misnomer. Those who follow Messiah Yeshua are Messianic, but then again, so are observant Jews. Although Orthodox Jews do not believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, they nevertheless await and pray for his coming daily, so they, too, are Messianic in expectation. The difference is that Orthodox Jews are looking for the Messiah's first coming, but "Messianics" are looking for his return.
In the First Century, believers in the Messiahship of Yeshua were called by many names: The Way, The Nazarenes, and eventually, Christians, a name that is reflected today by saying "Messianic." Since most people understand that a Christian is a follower of Yeshua, people today also understand that a "Messianic" is a follower of Yeshua. This does not make the Orthodox Jew any less messianic in his or her expectation.
Modern Messianics trace their history back to the very beginning of Christianity, but they particularly identify with the early Nazarenes. Epiphanius of Salamis, a 3rd Century Bishop, described Nazarenes as having the following practices:
1. They use both Old and New Testaments
2. They have good knowledge of Hebrew and use the Old Testament; they read at least one gospel in Hebrew.
3. They believe in resurrection of the dead.
4. They believe that God is the Creator of all things.
5. They believe in God and His son Jesus Christ.
6. They observe the Law of Moses.
7. They originated in Jerusalem and later fled to Pella before 70.
8. They were located geographically in Pella, Kokaba, and Coele Syria.
9. They were hated and cursed by Jews.
The Nazarenes were not considered heretical by the Church until the 4th Century. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) marks a turning point in the history of the Church's view of Nazarenes. Augustine's acceptance of Epiphanius' judgment fixed their fate and led to their final rejection by the Christian Church. Augustine says about the Nazarenes: "They profess to be Christians and profess that Christ is the Son of God, they practice baptism, they keep the old law, specifically circumcision, Sabbath observance, food restrictions, and are few in number." Jerome states that the Nazarenes existed into the early 5th Century.
Why so Jewish?
Synagogue services have changed very little in the past 2000 years, and even today a Shabbat service gives a glimpse into what Yeshua and his disciples experienced. Because the language of the Orthodox Jewish prayer service and many Messianic congregations is Hebrew, an "unprepared visitor has little insight into what is transpiring...everyone seems to be standing, sitting, bowing, reciting, and moving about in a way that seems unfamiliar and random." (Hizak, 1988, p. 5) The objective of this booklet is to guide the visitor through this unfamiliar territory so that he or she can appreciate the ancient, yet beautiful traditions experienced in a Messianic worship service.
Like a synagogue, a Messianic fellowship does not require a specific type of building. The primary function of the building is to facilitate the reading and study of the Torah, the Word of God. It is to assemble on Shabbat and at the appointed feasts (
) of Israel: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25 KJV)
The pattern of worship usually is derived from Scripture and from the "traditions (customs) of the fathers" passed down through Judaism, the roots of the faith. Traditions can be good or bad, and Scripture is the guide. Paul, the great Jewish rabbi, apostle, and author, wrote that there are good traditions we should uphold:
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:2)
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2)
The Greek word for "traditions" is
(Strongs #3862), which specifically refers to procedures and decisions based on the Jewish oral law, not the written Word. Since Paul passed on Jewish congregational traditions to the righteous Gentiles of Thessalonica and Corinth, there is richness within synagogue practice from which Messianics draw.
Yeshua had the custom of going to the synagogue every Sabbath to worship even though this custom was not expressly given as a commandment: "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom. And he stood up to read." (Luke 4:16) All of the apostles, including Paul, followed Yeshua's example; his customs were their customs. Yeshua's last instructions on earth to his disciples were to teach his Father's commandments and ways to all nations.
Scripture can speak very strongly against bad traditions. Yeshua addresses these in Matthew 15:6 by saying "...you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition." And in Mark 7:8 "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Yeshua teaches that it is not good to hold onto a tradition, yet let go of the actual written Word.
The simple test of whether a tradition is good or bad is whether it leads a disciple into rendering the written commandment of God powerless or powerful. Yeshua gave his disciples some tests for customs and traditions with which to determine a custom's validity.
While there is definitely a problem with substituting tradition for the actual written Word, there is no conflict between truth and tradition when the tradition grows from the seed of the Word. Such a tradition produces harmony that exalts the actual Scripture. The tradition, like the fruit, becomes the vehicle for the observance of the truth, giving it expression and life in a dynamic world. For a more thorough look at the relationship between truth and tradition, look for a BEKY Book called Truth vs Tradition.
The desire of a congregation is not just to talk about Yeshua's walk, but to walk as He walked. "...this is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yeshua did." (1 John 2:5-6). This includes patterning our worship after the way Yeshua worshiped and the patterns of the Eternal Word.
In his book,
God's Appointed Times
, Messianic Rabbi Barney Kasdan states:
The typical service, while having flexibility, has followed the same basic structure since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8). There are opening praise psalms and hymns largely based on the Book of Psalms, along with rabbinic reading, followed by the public reading/chanting from the scrolls of the Torah (Law) and the Haftorah (Prophets)...A third major section of the service is a sermon on the passage for that week. After a closing hymn, the service ends with the Oneg Shabbat (delight of the Sabbath)."
Why Hebrew Prayers?
Questions about Hebrew prayer are common from non-Jews who begin to see Yeshua in the Torah; they know that they are not to become Jewish, so how much Jewish tradition is necessary? It's perfectly understandable to be cautious about trading one set of traditions for another without evaluating the purpose, source, and Scriptural foundation.
Start with the understanding that whether you do or don't participate in corporate Hebrew prayer, it does not affect salvation or right standing with Yeshua. It will more likely affect one's relationship with his brothers and sisters in Messiah Yeshua and one's Orthodox Jewish brothers. To stand with someone is to pray with him or her.
It is important to address whether corporate prayer has value to the modern believers. Corporate, or liturgical prayers are prayers said or sung collectively, such as the liturgical songs and prayers in the Psalms. This practice is common to almost all churches, and it shouldn't invoke fear. Corporate prayer enhances brotherhood and fosters a more shared, united experience. It is perhaps when those prayers involve collective body movement other than close-your-eyes-and-bow-your-head that non-Jews can experience trepidation.
It is a given that human beings fear what they do not understand. While learning about the background and Biblical significance of Hebrew prayer can remove the fear of "vain repetition," the fear of a new language can remain.
Because the Jews have guarded and protected the Torah and Shabbat with their very lives for thousands of years, the privileges and obligations of worship devolved upon them, as Paul acknowledges in Romans 9:
...my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:3-5)
Goble explains, "Modern scholars such as Bousset, Oesterley, Baumstart and Werner have shown that the early Messianic community functioned liturgically very much like a synagogue." (p. 28) The earliest church was completely Jewish, for this was the plan of Heaven.
If one people-group was given this scepter since the reception of the Covenant, then some of the ethos of worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be Jewish. If one attends a Messianic Jewish synagogue, he or she should expect this style of worship; Yeshua didn't change the Temple prayers or times of worship, neither should newcomers expect to "fix" a style of worship they don't yet understand. In a non-Jewish Messianic congregation, one may find more of a blend of church and synagogue customs.
Evangelical Christian worship is likely to be just as remote an experience to a Jew who has always worshipped in a synagogue. What the Christian considers a move of the Holy Spirit, the Jew may identify as a whirlwind of soul music that depends upon feelings to function or hear the voice of Adonai. To the Jew, the hushed prayers of the Amidah are attuned to hear the Spirit in a "still, small voice." Both reflect culture, and each strives to establish that relationship with Heaven.
 I Kings 19:1-12
 Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16
 Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Acts 17:2; Acts 26:3)
We Need a Cow
There's an old expression I remember from my childhood; it describes a person's overreaction to something. We used to say things like, "Mom will have a cow if she sees this mess."
Messianics are a bit notorious for having cows over doctrines and interpretations of Scripture, but I'm pleading now for us to really have a cow. A productive cow, not endless arguments over correctness.
We need a cow.
We received an email from Pastor Ndungu this week. He has done an amazing job of building the LeMalah Children's Centre, and rather than summarize his email, I'm posting salient portions of his text below. For those of you who support the Children's Centre already, THANK YOU. This is more than heaping knowledge to one's self; it is BEING Torah to the nations. If you read something below that touches your spirit, then please consider sponsoring the work there, either with a one-time gift or a monthly recurring donation.
I read this email while I was finishing up at physical therapy this week, and the trainer noticed something about the look on my face. She asked, "What is it?"
I answered, "We need a cow."
She looked confused, and I briefly explained and even showed her a picture of the Centre's building. When I explained what I did with the income from my workbooks and speaking honoraria/love gifts, she still looked confused. She said giving away one's profits is not "normal."
No, it's not normal, but it is the Kingdom of Yeshua. I urge you to do something that's not "normal." Consider helping children such as those below to have a safe home, education, and spiritual foundation:
"Shalom My sister Hollisa.
I hope and pray all is well with you.
Meanwhile there are numerous needs at the Lemalah children's Center. One of the challenges is milk and the only way to resolve this is to have a cow...
I have a tricky issue am handling and am making a special request. Yesterday morning i received a call from a primary school headteacher neighboring our praise house. A young girl named ---- had been to his office for a number of days seeking help to continue with her education. Her parents are separated and the father do not communicate, nor is his whereabouts known. From what i gathered, the mother may be into drinking and probably prostitution. This girl did her primary exams in 2014, joined high school briefly and then discontinued. Then she lived with her fathers mother who lives in a rented shack . She then asked her to go to her mothers mother to try her lack. Basically she lost the whole of last year. As at now the school year has started and we are into the 3rd month. The headteacher wanted us to put our heads together to see if we can help this indigent child.
I have my shoulders full and we discussed this with my wife and thought under all circumstances we must help this child. So this morning, without a dime in my pocket, together with the child and her grandmother we went to a nearby school and i literally begged the principal to give this kid a 2nd chance. She eventually but reluctantly agreed. The school fees for a whole year in this particular school is about 320 dollars. An year that is, and the money can be paid in 4 installments in January, April, July and September. High school here is 4 years . So for about 80 dollars quarterly, this child will have a bright future. We are living in a time when lives of such young children is going to ruin and seeing the passion in this child to learn, i was moved to tears. Please help us make the dream of this child come to reality or even seek some one who can give even 50 dollars after 3 months , we try and do the rest this end.
Right now, the school needs kshs 4500 for her to get school uniform and a school I.D. That is less than 50 dollars. I am running around until she is comfortably settled in the school. Abba bless you even as you consider the extra ordinary plea.
All beginnings are difficult but with Abba's favor and commitment, we believe all will be well. On a personal note, am having my own challenges with schooling my kids but as i told the head teacher, i have a big heart and passion to see lives get better for the less privileged here.
It is our intention to buy food in bulk when we receive funds for the children's center this month. Preparations too are in full gear for Pesach and FUB. There are some things we need to replace in the Assembly which are essential during the solemn days...
Shalom and blessings,
As you prepare for Passover, please remember, we need a cow.
To donate via PayPal,
and specify "Kenya" or send a personal check to:
The Creation Gospel
PO Box 846
East Bernstadt, KY 40729
From our home to yours,