Thursday, January 31, 2019

Get Back to the First Century: I Did it My Way

I Did It My Way!

Is there such a thing as being too old-fashioned? Yes, when you become so old-fashioned that you blindly and ignorantly impose and peddle your cultural ideas, customs and traditions as if the whole world should hold to them.
I know this and have seen this all too many times growing up in Protestant Christianity that has been influenced by the culture of the Southern United States. In sermons, preachers have constantly imposed Southern culture upon the characters of Scripture and painted them, from Moses to Paul, as being Southern Baptist style Christians. Sadly, such foolish sayings and songs have emerged as a result:

“If it was good enough for Paul and Silas it is good enough for me.” This is usually in reference to exclusively using the King James Translation of the Bible. But Paul and Silas didn’t have a King James Bible, they Only had the Tanak (Old Testament), which they fiercely obeyed!

“Give me that old time religion,” as if Moses, David, Paul or Yeshua sang southern style hymns and worshipped in a church. No, they kept and followed Torah, that was the old time religion for them.

There is also a thing of not being old-fashioned enough, in that one refuses to look beyond their own cultural interpretation of the Scriptural and foundational absolutes and does not live and apply them from the ancient framework into an acceptable modern adaptation that does not take away from the core absolute.

We must look upon our culture through the lenses of Torah and not look upon Scripture through the lenses of our culture.

ADOANI and His ways come before any man-made cultural standard. There is nothing wrong with one’s indigenous culture as long as it does not contradict or twist the Commands of Torah. One’s culture can honor GOD as long as we bend it to the ways of Torah and do not attempt to bend Torah to fit ones culture. This is especially important when ministering as a missionary in a foreign culture.

Catho-Christianity is classically known for synchronism in regards to its missionary evangelistic activities. By this, I mean molding ones culture and indigenous religion to fit the missionary’s religion. This is why we see such hybrid cults like Catho-Christian influence on voodoo that comes out of Haiti, Louisiana and Mexico. This trick has been used since the time of Constantine to have a unified Empire through religion, while at the same time still allowing individuals to practice their mother pagan religion by keeping the rituals, but changing the names of the pagan gods with characters to Biblical ones.

There must be integrity and purity in bringing Torah and Messiah to other cultures.

Most Jews agree on observing all 613 Mitzvot (Commandments), but we all differ on how, and to what extent we keep the Commandments.  The way any particular Jewish sect keeps the Commandments is called, “Halakah”, meaning, the way one walks.  Keeping Torah does not mean one loses their cultural distinctiveness.  In Judaism, there is Sephardic Jews, Yemenite Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Karite Jews, Nazarene Jews, etc.  These are all Jews who follow and keep Torah. Yet within these and other groups, there is enough room for them to keep Torah in their own way, and maintain their unique cultural identity, such as dress, food, music, customs, etc.  Each group has their own way of tying tzitzit, and laying tefillin. The Torah says to do them, but not how.  Culture and custom help define this, as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way!”   And, each group’s way of fulfilling the Commandments vary and are so pregnant with meaning and depth.  

Needless to say, a Holy careful balance needs to be struck. We have to see faith through the original language and culture to which it was written in, and find ways to adapt them today without compromising the original intent.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

This may shock some when they find out I’m not a big fan of Messianic Jewish Music or that I do not like Ashkenazi cuisine. I like more of the folky, coffee house style of praise and worship. I also like Christian Rock and Heavy Metal. And as far as food goes, I love Asian and Indian food.

You don’t have to like culturally Jewish things to be obedient to Torah, God’s Commandments. The Torah has enough elbow room to express ones likes, tastes, flavors and ethnic culture.

Because I keep Torah to the best of my ability, doesn’t always mean I dress or practice my faith like a European Orthodox Jew. Some people like, and due to their personality, needs that kind of structure and expression. Not me, I’m more of a hippy. I like to keep the Faith, Sola Scriptura (Obeying the Scriptures only), and I don’t concern myself so much with Jewish custom and tradition.

For me, if I’m a stickler for keeping custom and traditions on top of the Torah itself, I tend to get bogged down and the rituals end up becoming robotic, mechanical and lack heart and that does not please the Father. God let Israel know just this when they began to worship God with no heart.

10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. – Isa. 1:10-15
If I feel led and or inspired, I’ll participate in the cultural aspects of Jewish life. For me, that way, they fresh and meaningful and I enjoy them instead of end up distaining them as a drudgery.

Culture vs. Commandments
Tradition vs. Torah

There is a vast difference between the Commandments of Adonai and Hebraic culture that can’t help but get meshed together. To put it another way, there is a vast difference between God’s Torah (Law) and man’s Traditions related to Torah.

Torah and Commandments are non-negotiable Laws and Instructions from the Father Himself.

Culture and Tradition are man’s ways to express obedience to those non-negotiable Commands.

You’ve heard the expression, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”? Well, there is more than one way to keep a commandment. For example, the commandment of mezuzah, to write God’s Law on your doors. Judaism has come up with a tradition to write out certain passages of Torah on a parchment, roll it up and put it in a cylindrical container and affix it to your door frame. But equally as valid is one can paint, print with a Sharpie, chisel or burn God’s Word on one’s door frame with a wood burning pen.

An example of culture would be the kippah, the “beanie” looking skull cap we Jews wear. That’s a custom, or a tradition. Only the Levitical Priests were commanded to cover their heads, but because God called Israel a nation of priests (Exd. 19:6) it was reasoned that we all could cover our heads and so it became a tradition (not a Command) to cover our heads. This happens to be a custom I choose to keep.

A Man Made Construct.

Many want to be Jewish or practice Judaism because Jesus was Jewish and practiced Judaism. However, Judaism in and of itself is a manmade construct, like culture and social acceptable behavior and expectations. Judaism, like Christianity was simply a way to arrange and organize Biblical belief and practice in a way that was practical, cultural and made sense. It’s neither right nor wrong, but just a way one can choose to express and practice Biblical belief and principles.

Jesus was raised in and submitted to and worked within the framework of Jewish belief and practice, except when it contradicted God’s Word itself.

As a Torah Obedient Believer in Messiah Yeshua, I straddle the fence of Judaism and Christianity. Respecting both, but bowing to neither. I only bow to God and His Word.

Beginning and End

Gen. 2:16-17, 3:8, 15. Rev. 14:12. It began with guarding and obeying God’s Torah (Law/Instructions) and keeping the Faith with and in Messiah Yeshua and so it will end. Continuous from beginning to end the Law has not been done away with.