“Who do you say that I am?” The master asked his disciples. It is a practice that is inherent in our nature and begins with creation. We must give and get a title, a role, a position, a group, a class; we must belong to someone or something. This creates order and helps us identify ourselves and others. This is all the more so in matters of faith, religion and culture. It’s just the way the world works. What’s your name? Who do you belong to? Why is that? What does that mean? becomes What is your religion? What denomination is that? What do you believe?
These questions and many like them are the typical type of questions that will usually happen at some point in the conversation on faith matters. Usually this happens after I say something that might be considered “unorthodox”, “kinda strange”, “cultist” or just plain “weird” to the ears of the casual believer or non-believer in the Bible Belt. It’s at that point when the conversation transitions from small talk of weather and sports, to the deeper things in life such as family & faith. It happens when I say Yeshua instead of Jesus. It happens when I refer God’s law the same way David did in Psalm 119. It happens when I say I’m a disciple of Jesus but practice a form of Judaism. “Are you Jewish?” “You believe in Jesus but he did away with the Old Testament Laws?”, “Jews don’t believe in Jesus do they?”, “What is Messianic Judaism?”. All these things and many others have been said to me personally and to people I know over the years. These are all valid statements and fair questions that as I begin this journey I asked myself and others!
-Where I’ve Been is not where I’m Going but it’s a part of who I am-
For the first 24 years of my life, especially from the age of 14-24 I was consumed with myself and this world. I didn’t have a heart, mind or the eyes that could see the boundless love of The Creator or the inherent dignity of His creation, at least nothing more than that which was superficial and self-serving. Slowly this started to change sometime in 2003 (at least from my inadequate vantage point). God began gently whispering, wooing, chiseling, building up, tearing down, shifting, transforming and restoring my brokenness, changing my wickedness and completing my incompleteness into the image of His Son, according to His will, all for His glory. This process, since the beginning, has and will not continue to be an easy road to follow. In fact, without His grace and love towards me, I would surely fail on my own accord. I have been scarred heavily by years of pride, guilt, fear, idolatry and immorality. I still struggle daily with my old nature rearing its ugly head. Negative thoughts will spring forth out of nowhere and bring along fear and doubt to play in my mind. But Praise be to God for the sanctifying work of His Spirit! For His grace is sufficient! The death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and all the truth associated with it is truly life shattering, life altering, life energizing, and life eternal! That is Good News!
I was raised in a “Christian” home. I put “Christian” in italics because it would be considered a liberal Christian upbringing at best. My family rarely attended church other than the annual Easter and Christmas services. My parents did teach me a few things about Jesus and to generally be a “good” person. That seemed simple enough for me, not to time-consuming or anything that would interfere with my so-called “real” life, or I thought at the time. My paternal grandparents were Baptist and my maternal grandparents were somewhat Pentecostal. I would occasionally go to a church service with them before I became a teenager and I would usually find myself bored out of my mind while there. It just felt, stuffy, old, and irrelevant. Growing up, I did have a best friend whose father was a pastor and I would stay at his house on many weekends and attend their church or go to a summer camp. I enjoyed that much more, but I still always felt kind of out-of-place and too uptight at most church services. I couldn’t just be there and be myself – initially this was a stumbling block to getting me really interested in trying church again as an adult. My apathy toward church and relationship with God continued throughout High School and College. By this point in my life when I did occasionally go to a church service with a friend, it was usually to impress or shall I say, try to impress some girl I liked.
Then quite suddenly something slowly started to change. Now that’s irony! Somehow I began to have a different perspective about these things and I begin the search. It was sometime in 2003 (the day and month I don’t know) while at a keg party (but maybe that’s why), that a guy I barely knew told myself and one of my best friends about this church he was attending. He was really excited about it and said we should go check it out sometime. He said they had this young pastor who was funny, genuine and didn’t give you a bunch of bullshit. This sounded completely opposite of the places I had attended growing up. At the time I thought I’d like to check it out at some point, in which later usually ends up meaning never. My friend Coley did go to check it out not too long after that keg party and God begin to really move in his life. Not just a few months had come and gone before I finally had to find out what this church with the young hip pastor was all about. I could tell that my friend Coley was beginning to show evidence of a life change for the better and I was curious about what was spurring this on. Finally, I went with him to visit this church in Highland Village, Texas – The Village Church and the pastor was Matt Chandler. There was something about The Village and Pastor Matt that did really feel different from my experiences in churches growing up. It was more than just a feeling, it was different. Their approach, their methodology, their theology. I couldn’t really place my finger on it, but the message was undiluted & raw, the worship music had depth, the setting was authentic. For my whole life, I had postured as a Christian but I was quite far from being Christ-like. Now my true faith journey was about to begin. I didn’t expect it and I wasn’t looking for it, but here it was and I wasn’t completely sure why. Within a couple of years I had become a covenant member at The Village Church, joined a great home group and was baptized in a backyard swimming pool of our home group celebration party. To make my encounter with The Village Church even more interesting, I had just met my future wife (Elizabeth) in early 2004 and within an hour or two of talking to each other, we both realized that we had just started visiting The Village independent of each other. We were on the same trajectory and by God’s grace were married on April 1st, 2006. Exactly 9 months to the date of our wedding, our daughter Braylee was born. Within just a few short years, my life had been radically changed. Everything was rocking along just as it should. We were a young family with an increasingly growing passion for God, and the largest part of this was due to the teaching and leading of The Village Church and our home-group.
Then in the spring of 2007 my faith paradigm was rocked when I went to see a Biblical Hebrew Linguistic teacher named Brad Scott. Brad has a teaching ministry named Wildbranch Ministries, and he travels the world teaching the Jewish roots of Christianity. In the weeks following Brad’s teaching I felt an increased desire to learn more about the God of Israel, The Jewish Jesus and The Hebrew Scriptures than I had ever experienced before. It was a few months after seeing Brad that my brother told me about Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue. I was eager to share what I had learned about the Hebrew and Jewish roots of Christianity with my family, friends and others at The Village. I very quickly found out that this feeling of excitement and enthusiasm wasn’t mutual. In most cases I was met with great resistance from even those I had close relationships with (in hindsight, I was probably not very tactful when I first started to share this new-found knowledge). I didn’t understand the negative or indifferent reaction from my family, friends and even other Christians that I spoke with about these things. In short order I became frustrated and bitter. The more I researched and learned about historical Christianity, the more I felt duped and jaded at the whole thing. Our fathers really had inherited lies. Thankfully, God didn’t leave me to my own judgment and confusion, but continued to burn an unquenchable fire inside of me for Him and His Word. I emerged with an ever-growing sanctification and maturity of relationships with family, friends and the faith community whose views and interpretations were now slightly (or largely depending on the doctrine) different from my own.
In July of 2010 we felt led to make the difficult transition away from The Village Church after more than 6 years together. This also meant that we had to leave our beloved home group that we had been a part of for more than 3 years. We feel blessed to have been a part of The Village and all the equipping and experiences we had while there helped to grow and strengthen our faith immensely. It was and will always be my foundation. The main reasons we felt compelled to leave The Village were theological in nature and concerned differences in respect to Israel, Torah and Judaism.
To be perfectly clear, I am not Jewish. Nor do I have any Jewish ancestors as far as I know. My wife Elizabeth on the other hand has Sephardic Jewish ancestory from her maternal grandfather but that is not what drew us to Messianic Judaism. It doesn’t have anything to do with heritage in that sense. We simply feel we have been given a heart for the land and people of Israel. We want to see the Jewish people come to faith in Yeshua as Messiah and King of Israel, while at the same time remaining distinctively and culturally Jewish. This is their covenant heritage and it will mean the Resurrection to the Church as this message continues to be spread and embraced. We feel drawn to the expression of faith, theology and tradition as espoused by a mature and well-balanced Messianic Judaism, which as ironic as it may sound is the oldest form of “Christianity” in existence. Messianic Judaism is the Judaism of Jesus. It’s what the Book of Acts refers to as “The Way”. It’s the faith of the Apostles. Some scholars call it Apostolic Judaism. It’s the faith of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Messianic Age, the Millennium reign of Messiah!
Buyer beware, there are many forms of “Messianic Judaism” being sold. Having been involved with Messianic Judaism in some form or fashion since 2007, I can say first hand that it is a movement full of many “messy antics”. There are far too many independent teachers without solid accountability. There are also far too many independent “congregations” and “congregants” with an unhealthy view of Christianity and Judaism, not to mention the scholarship and traditions involved with both. A mature Messianic Judaism has a profound respect and healthy approach to teaching Biblical truth while incorporating the rich traditions and theology of both Judaism & Christianity.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Messiah’s gift.” Ephesians 4:1-7