Thursday, December 31, 2015

Parashah Messiah: United With The Vine

Torah Portion: Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)
Gospel Reading: John 15:5
Commentary by: Sonja Langford

“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” This loaded question sits squarely in the center of Sh’mot, the first parashah of the book of Exodus. God called Moses from his pastoral duties and gave him the starring role as central protagonist and hero in the fulfillment of a promise made over 400 years prior. But the thing is, Moses had no desire to be the hero. Through a running dialogue of 28 verses spanning two chapters, he challenges God’s calling five times before God’s anger is provoked, and Moses seemingly agrees to accept it. And thus begins one of the most powerful relationships recorded in the scriptures between God and a man.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meta-Hermeneutics

I've ordered myself some material on hermeneutics and reading the Bible to help give me some foundation for this study I'm doing on the subject. Of course, when you're waiting for a good book to come in the mail, it always feels like forever before it gets here. In the meantime, I've been doing some thinking on the subject of meta-hermeneutics--or why we choose to read the Bible the way we do.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Parashah Messiah: King of Glory

Torah Portion: Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)
Gospel Reading: John 12:12-13; Matt. 28:18
Commentary by: Chris Knight

Often when we think of the person of Yeshua, things such as “Savior,” “Teacher,” and “Messiah” come to mind. We reflect on the greatness of His teachings and the way He explained the Torah in a way none before Him ever could. We sing songs of His great sacrifice and love for His people. Sometimes, however, I think we forget the awe-inspiring nature of His rule and return as the King of all Heaven and Earth!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Parashah Messiah: Family Reunion

Torah Portion: Vayigash (Genesis 44:18–47:27)
Gospel Reading: Romans 11:1–36
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it is not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7–8, NASB).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Made for Dancing

Photo Credit:
Inspired by Mason Clover's song "Made for Dancing", one of Yeshua's parables, and a friend on crutches. Re-published from ChasingAfterTheRuach.

There once was a king who was preparing for his son's wedding. So he went out to find guests to dance at the wedding feast. He sent letters to all the those who had trained in dance inviting them to his feast. He said, "Come dance before me, for my son is taking a bride." But on the day of the wedding no one showed up.

So the king went out and gathered all the lame, the blind, the deaf, the mute. He took men from the prisons and took slaves from their masters. He took the sick and the elderly and the young children. He took those who didn't know their right foot from their left foot. And he brought them all to the wedding feast and commanded them saying "Dance before me."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Parashah Messiah: A God of Weakness

Torah Portion: Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-16
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Yeshua begins His sermon on the mount with the beatitudes--a series of sayings that turn the world upside down. It's not the strong or the go-getters who inherit the earth, but the meek. It's not the zealots and radicals who are called sons of God, but the peacemakers. It's not the rich and successful who receive the Kingdom, but the poor in spirit. The kings of this earth may think they are something, but God takes the lowly to confound the wise and the powerful.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Book Review: The Heaven Promise

http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/9781601426284?height=450&alt=no_cover_b4b.gif
The Heaven Promise
(by Scot McKnight)

Here is yet another book to add to my "books about the Kingdom" shelf (one of my favorite topics). In The Heaven Promise, Scot McKnight (who is quickly becoming a favorite author) cuts past our cultural images and wild imaginations to see what does the Bible say about heaven? The answer is, actually, quite a lot.

Both the premise and the organization of the book are quite simple--you won't need a PhD to understand it. McKnight starts with some background about why we think about heaven and what various ideas are out there. Then, he moves into the six heaven promises that form the foundation of how we should think of heaven. These are pretty simple ideas like "God will be God" and "Heaven will be the utopia of pleasures."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Parashah Messiah: Humanity

Torah Portion: Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23 )
Gospel Reading: Matthew 1:1–25
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

Part 1
Just when the suspense of the Joseph story has heightened, the narrative veers away to focus on another brother and his problems: Judah, in Genesis chapter 38. Judah and Tamar’s story isn’t very pleasant, let alone an example of godly living. What then is its purpose?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Take Courage and Be Kind

http://www.dreameroftheday.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cinderella_text-300x300.jpgBrittany and I went out to the movies the other night (well, it was the other night when I originally started writing this post) and watched the new Cinderella movie (wonderful movie). Throughout the film, a single theme echoed: "Have courage and be kind." I love that. So simple, so easy to remember, yet so powerful.

One of the things I love about the phrase is how it is a dichotomy. Courage and kindness are not synonyms--rather they have almost opposite connotations. Courage is powerful, while kindness is soft and compassionate. Courage takes charge, while kindness simply serves. Courage strengthens the weak, while kindness comforts the broken.

Yet, one without the other is incomplete. Courage without kindness is a dictatorship. It becomes harsh and uncaring. Kindness without courage is powerless. Without the strength to stand, it waffles and bends and is trampled over. Only together do they become truly virtuous. Courage strengthens kindness, giving it the strength to make a difference in this world. Kindness tempers courage, allowing one to lead with patience and mercy.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Parashah Messiah: Children of Promise

Torah Portion: Vayishlach (Genesis 32:3-36:43)
Gospel Reading: Heb. 11:1-12:2; Gal. 3:26-29
Commentary by: Chris Knight

In this week’s portion we read of Jacob and his return to the promised land. As we read about his journey home, we notice that Jacob is in great fear; fear of his brother Esau. I can only imagine what might have been going through his mind after all these years of being separated from his family. “Is Esau still planning to kill me!? What could happen to my family!? Will I ever truly get to see the inheritance promised to me through Abraham and Isaac!?” Jacob had many reasons to be afraid for his life and his future in the land of Canaan. However, he also had the greatest reason to have no fear and to be at peace!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Parashah Messiah: The Ladder


Torah Portion: Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:2)
Gospel Reading: John 1:51; Gal. 3:1-29; Heb. 8:1-6; John 14
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

Jacob’s dream is one of the most tantalizing, mystical episodes in the Torah. I get excited just thinking about it…imagining what it looked like, what it meant to Jacob, and if it symbolizes something more than surface skimming reveals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Review: A Community Called Atonement

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51P2XTfDxqL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
A Community Called Atonement
(by Scot McKnight)

I picked up this book while searching for information of the different theories of atonement. I didn't find exactly what I was looking--but what I did find was no less marvelous.

In "A Community Called Atonement," McKnight builds a unified theory of atonement from the ground up, resting it on thoroughly Biblical foundations. I love how creatively titles Part 1 "Where to Begin?" and follows that with chapter 1, "With Jesus, Of Course!" This may seem an obvious place to begin, but as McKnight points out, many theologians try to begin with Paul. Without a proper understanding of Jesus and His message as understood through the Gospels, McKnight argues, we cannot truly understand the depths of His atonement. It's only when we start with His Kingdom message that we can see that atonement is about more than personal salvation--it's about raising up a people to worship God in unity.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Parashah Messiah: Freedom & Destiny

Torah Portion: Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9)
Gospel Reading: John 13:36-14:7; 21:15-19
Commentary by: Matthew Day

When I realized that I was scheduled to write a Gospel commentary based on this Torah portion, the first passage that came to mind was Romans 9. It's the story of Jacob and Esau, after all--what better springboard for diving into a discussion about free will and predestination? But, that's not where I wanted to go. Men have been fighting that battle for hundreds of years. This is not the place for yet another stone in that fight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Movie Review: Divided

Divided: A Review
A friend posted this documentary about youth groups and family integrated churches on Facebook. Having a strong interest in how we raise the next generation, I decided to give it a watch. I was left with mixed feelings about the movie and its message, but it raises some important questions--and that's why I decided to review it here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Parashah Messiah: Who is the Bride?

Torah Portion: Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Out of Yeshua's various end times / judgment parables, the parable of the sheep and the goats has got to be my favorite. I love this illustration because of how it points us back to the things that are important, the heart of the Torah. It gives us the attributes of the bride.

One could argue that this passage comes as a midrash on our Torah portion this week. At first glance, Genesis 24 seems nothing more than a recount of Abraham's servant's search for a wife for Isaac. But, on a deeper level, this is about God's search for a bride for His son.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

1st Session of the FarFromHome Storyboard Conference

Photo Credit: Sergei Zolkin
Click.

"Are we recording?" Emily asked.

"Recording," Ryan answered.

"Great! Well, welcome to the first ever session of the Far From Home Storyboard Conference."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Parashah Messiah: "Before Abraham Was, I AM"

Torah Portion: Vayera (Gen. 18:1-22:24)
Gospel Reading: John 8:48-59; Hebrews 11:8-19
Commentary by: Chris Knight

Vayera is translated as “He appeared” in English. In this week’s portion, it is in reference to the Lord, YHVH, appearing to Abraham at his tent. Interestingly enough, God’s appearance to Abraham takes the form of three “men” or “angels.” However, when reading this passage of the Torah in Hebrew, it becomes evidently clear that there is something distinctive about one of the three men in particular. In Genesis 18:1-3 we read, “Then YHVH appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, 'My Lord (Adonai, singular), if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your (singular) servant.'

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Gospel in the Torah

How often I've heard in Messianic circles "Torah does not mean law." Yet, that's how we treat it. We obsess over obedience for obedience sake as we try to subject others to this new understanding of ours.

In a sense, the Torah is indeed law. But, in a sense, it is also gospel--good news. It is good news to the orphan and widow, for God has brought them justice. It is good news to the stranger, who is brought near in equal standing before God. It is good news to humanity, as rest is granted to us from our toil.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Parashah Messiah: Called to Follow

Torah Portion: Lekh Lekha (Gen. 12:1–17:27)
Gospel Reading: John 17:1–26
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I shall curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Gen. 12:1–3, NASB)

Thus begins Abraham’s story in Genesis 12. God has a history of choosing one specific individual or group to do a task, a mission that furthers God’s purposes for His kingdom. They must leave behind what they’ve known and try not to look back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Introduction to Far From Home

How does one tell a story?

This is the question I am wrestling with today. Some tell their stories through artwork. Some through music. Some through a kind word or deed to a stranger. I tell my stories through written words. But even here there is much freedom and much challenge.

What is a story?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a story as "An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious." This is true in a literal sense. A story relates events. But why? What is the purpose (besides mere entertainment)?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Parashah Messiah: All Have Fallen

Torah Portion: Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)
Gospel Reading: Romans 3:9-31
Commentary by: Matthew Day

In the last Torah portion, we ended with God's declaration of man's depravity: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). This is not unlike what we read in Romans when Paul declares that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Ever since the fall of man, this have been our condition. We were told that when we ate of the tree of knowledge we would reap death, and so we have been continually reaping death for the last six thousand years.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Parashah Messiah: The Word

Torah Portion: B'reisheet (Gen. 1:1-6:8)
Gospel Reading: John 1:1-18
Commentary by: Matthew Day

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" -- These are the opening words of the Gospel of John, the declaration of what his testimony is about. John mimics the opening words of Genesis, but he digs deeper. Whereas Genesis speaks of the creation, John speaks of the life and light behind the creation.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Some Things You Don't Have To Do To Earn God's Love

https://images.unsplash.com/reserve/Af0sF2OS5S5gatqrKzVP_Silhoutte.jpg?q=80&fm=jpg&s=aa0399d0a07be6afd5470a6dd6092bb3(updated from the archives)...Kinda inspired by Brant's "Here’s a 'Bucket List' of Things to Do Before Going to Hell", here's a list of things you don't have to do to impress God or earn His love. Cause it seems that I continually find myself trying to.


- Read your Bible every day
- Pray every day
- Post inspirational or religious quotes to your Facebook wall
- Blog about your faith
- Listen to only Christian music

Monday, July 27, 2015

Heretic Hunter: The Folly of Wisdom

Warning: Auto-defender has identified this post as bearing the marks of the infamous Heretic Hunter. The views contained therein are not representative of The Hopeful Heretic. Please disregard. Steps are being taken to prevent further infractions on this blog.

I have noted a disturbing trend among believers. There seems to be an uprise in the use of unsound methods for making decisions. Bible believers far and wide are abandoning proven strategies such as the still small voice for this sorcery known as "wisdom."

This trend greatly concerns me. People have tried to reassure me by telling me that different people hear God in different ways, but I do not think they understand the gravity of the situation. They have not studied out wisdom and its roots like I have. It is dangerous and carnal and liable to lead to a decrease in the overall religiosity of believers. I don't understand why believers would resort to such witchcraft when there are already so many proven methods already available.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

It's been a while. For the most part, I haven't posted on here in several months. I figure I owe it to you to let you know where I've been, and I want to let you know a little bit about where I'm going.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Radical Christian

All my life I've wanted to be a world changer, to make some big difference in the world. That's what led me to initially consider becoming a missionary or going into the medical field. I was the guy who would eat up books like "Radical" or "Not a Fan" or "Christian Atheist"--you know, those books that promote a radical Christianity. For the longest time, I didn't want a family because I thought they would slow me down. But, one of the things I've been learning (and am still learning) over the past several years is that the greatest ministry anyone can have is in loving his own family. The greatest difference anyone can make in this world is in raising up the next generation and loving those around him.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: Bringing Heaven to Earth

Bringing Heaven to Earth 
(by Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment)

How do you imagine heaven? Golden streets and pearly gates? Clouds and rainbows and harps? According to a survey cited in this book, "81 percent of Americans...said they thought heaven was going to be nonmaterial, and that we would be ethereal or ghost-like."

What we believe about heaven affects how we live today. That's one of the main points that Ross and Storment try to drive home in their book, "Bringing Heaven to Earth." If we see heaven as our escape from this earth, then we will find little motivation to try to make this world a better place. Why does it matter? It's all going to burn up anyway. But, if instead we see that heaven is not an escape from earth, but rather a reality coming down to earth, there we will find a vision for bringing heaven to earth.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

When the OT and NT Contradict, Which Do We Follow?

Recently, I came across an intriguing question. When the Old Testament and the New Testament contradict, which one holds more authority? If you had asked me several years ago, I would have told you the Tanak for it is the foundation.

The question is leading--it sets up a problem that may or may not exist and asks you to solve it as if it does exist. It then follows along the lines of a black and white fallacy: one book or the other must be more "authoritative" than the other. Either the New Testament is supercessionist or it is plain wrong. Those are the only answers available. Since the question is usually posed to those who have already rejected the first answer, it naturally leads to the second. The New Testament is false because it contradicts the Old.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Unleavened Souls

This is the season for getting rid of leaven. Typically, leaven is seen as a metaphor for sin, however, I want to suggest a different interpretation. I see leaven as teaching or doctrine. That's how it seems to be used in Matt. 16:12. You might say "But teaching isn't always a bad thing." True. Leaven isn't either. Matt. 13:33 uses leaven in a positive context. Lev. 23:17 describes an offering that is to be baked with leaven. Of course, this is all just a picture or midrash.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Little Feet Walking In My Footsteps

Photo Credit: Eric Chan
I've heard that in the first hour of life, a newborn can be quite alert as she searches for the faces of the people she will soon call mother and father. The question I have been asking myself over the last few months is who will she see when she looks into my face? Will she see a man of integrity who stands by his values and walks out his faith day by day? Or will she see a hypocrite who says one thing and does another?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Portraits: The Saga of Moses (part 2)

"But, that's impossible, Lord. How can a mere man save an entire nation?" Moses asked the bush. It had been nearly forty years since he had last seen any of his brothers. Forty years since he last saw Miriam and Aaron.

A voice echoed from the fire, "Walk before me."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Little Things of Marriage

#ChickenSoup
It was not a day after our wedding when I came down with some sort of sickness. The details are a little fuzzy (at the time, everything was a little fuzzy), but I remember it was enough to keep me in bed. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, I was taking Brittany as my wife--now we were celebrating our honeymoon with chicken soup. Yet, through it all, Brittany did nothing but shine.

While I stayed in bed and tried to get some rest, Brittany volunteered to go out and get some chicken soup. She took care of me much in her kind and compassionate way. That's one of the reasons I married her--her servant's heart. I love this moment for two reasons. One, I got to see Brittany's character shine. Two, for the first time since moving out on my own, I was not alone. I had someone to care for me and be there for me. I didn't have to bear this burden by myself.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Messianics and the Stop Sign

Photo Credit: Jorge ElĂ­as
A long while back I saw an article describing how people of different hermeneutics would approach a simple stop sign. I really liked the concept, so I decided to try to apply it to Messianics. It's good to laugh at ourselves once in a while (all is meant in good fun--I myself fall into several of these groups). Which of these fits you?

The Traditional Messianic
...comes to a complete stop at the stop sign for a minimum of three seconds, says a blessing, then continues on.

The Ultra-Traditional Messianic
...also explains all the ins and outs of who should go first should two, three, or even all four cars approach the intersection at the same time. He also knows how to handle the situation if pedestrians, cats, and/or dogs are thrown into the mix (including the halachic difference between a cat and a dog).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Portraits: The Saga of Moses (part 1)

"You did what!?!" Miriam asked.

"He was hurting one of our brothers!" Moses reacted.

"What did you think you were doing? Have you lost your mind?" Miriam began to pace, speaking more to herself than to her brother. "We'll have to move again. We'll have to hide. I don't know what we'll do. Did you never stop to consider the consequences?"

"Consider the consequences if I had done nothing, Miriam. Consider the consequences if we do nothing. We let these Egyptians walk all over us and treat us like dirt--"

Miriam interjected. "And that justifies killing one of them?"

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Confessions of a Hypocrite

My desire is to teach--to challenge and encourage and help the Messianic movement move forward. But, sometimes I fear I go about it in entirely the wrong fashion.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Understanding the Role of the Holy Spirit (in a not so charismatic way)

I've never felt like I had a firm understanding of the spirit or its role in our lives. Most of my exposure to teaching on this subject comes from Pentecostal and charismatic sources--of which I have always been slightly skeptical. Mostly because they did not match my own experience.

I was "baptized in the spirit" back when I was about twelve or so. I went out into the hallway with several other kids where we were prayed over and told to start speaking in tongues. Speak in tongues? How? I didn't know. At first I just waited for it to happen. But nothing came. One of the teachers told me to just say whatever comes to mind. But nothing was really coming to mind. So, I faked it. At the time, I thought maybe that was what I was supposed to do--you know, just let your lips make whatever incoherent sounds that come. Maybe that was the spirit talking through me. But, somehow that didn't seem right. It sure felt fake to me.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Difficult Passages in the Bible

Photo Credit: Mikhail Pavstyuk
One of the biggest moral difficulties in the Bible is the supposed God-endorsed genocides of Amalek, Canaan, and Midian. These passages grate against our consciences as they seemingly paint a picture of a wrathful and unjust God. We echo the cries of Abraham: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Most of us are content to leave these passages alone. They are like those dark parts of our history that we have doomed to never see the light of day. We have some vague notion of the common explanations for these passages and we accept those explanations or simply have faith that there is an explanation. Why should I bother myself in trying to figure it out? My faith is just fine as it is—what profit could I gain from such an inquiry other than to prove to myself that the Bible is indeed true?

Monday, January 5, 2015

More Than A Label -- Why I am Committed to the Messianic Movement

Photo Credit: Allison McDonald
My last post kicked up quite a firestorm, proving far more popular than I had imagined. Now that I've got that rant out, I want to take a step back. When we constantly hear about and observe the various problems of the Messianic movement, the temptation is to throw in the towel. With all the infighting and various crazy doctrines that permeate the movement, many simply choose to disassociate themselves from the Messianic identity and community. They continue in Torah and Messiah, but they do it solo.

One of the reasons I come out so strong against "pagan root" theories, is because that is one of the areas where my family has felt the sting of judgment and betrayal. Like all of us, I too have been hurt by the movement. Sometimes that hurt comes out in my writing.

Yet, I have hope. And I pray that in everything I say and do, the hope outshines the hurt.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Pagan Roots of "Pagan Root" Theories

Photo Credit: Kaley Dykstra
Every time I see a post on Facebook about how such and such actually comes from paganism, I cringe. What I see in these types of posts is a huge "holier than thou" wall that stands in the way of unity and understanding. I see commandments taught by men, the "appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body" (Col. 2:23). Instead of helping us grow closer to our Creator and Redeemer, these theories distract us by making us feel righteous and holy without the hard work of actually molding our character into the image of Messiah.

Let me explain why I do not accept "pagan root" theories as legitimate or Biblical.