Thursday, December 29, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Wisdom of the King

Haftarah Reading: Mikketz (1 Kings 3:15-4:1)
Gospel Reading: John 18:36; 19:19
Commentary By: Daniel Clayton
To give the context of the Torah portion in a nutshell, this is when Josef is brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and is then put into a position of power because of the obvious wisdom and divine guidance inside of him.

Moving to our Haftarah, Solomon is now the reigning king, and has been given wisdom above any other leader that was alive. Two women give birth one night, and one of them accidentally kills hers in the middle of the night by rolling over the top of it. They come to Solomon and fight over whose baby is the one still living and whose is the one now dead. In response, Solomon says,
“Bring me a sword.” They brought a sword to the king. The king said, “Cut the living child in two; give half to the one and half to the other.” At this, the woman to whom the living child belonged addressed the king, because she felt so strongly toward her son: “Oh, my lord, give her the living child; you mustn’t kill it!” But the other one said, “it will be neither yours nor mine. Divide it up!” Then the king answered, “Give the living child to the first woman. Don’t kill it, because she is its mother.” All Israel heard of the decision the king had made and held the king in awe, for they saw that God’s wisdom was in him, enabling him to render justice properly.” (1 Kings 3: 24-28)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Fool's Gold

Haftarah Portion: VaYeshev (Amos 2:6-3:8)
Gospel Portion: Luke 6:20-26
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

It may be a good thing we don’t get everything we want in this life.

The wealthy, complacent Israelites that Amos was sent to thought they had it all—including the right to oppress the poor, worship other gods in addition to Yahweh, and control His prophets. They were privileged, enjoying all this life had to offer. Nothing was there to vex them, until the God they ignored spoke to them through Amos.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Intervene

Haftorah Portion: Vayishlach (Hosea 11:7-12:12, Obadiah 1:1-21)
Gospel Portion: Matthew 25:35-40
Commentary by: Brian Serrano

Human to human interaction is at an all time low. We live in a society now where individuals will have thousands of Facebook friends or Instagram followers but then commit suicide because they are depressed and lonely. Our society has far more screen time than they do face to face time. So with interaction at an all time low, people positively intervening in someone else’s life in a rarity.  This is a sad state of being, because we need each other.

Let me be clear, I do not mean meddling or trying to manipulate or control someone, I mean intervening when we see a real need.   In his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language Daniel Webster says it this way:

1. To come or be between persons or things; to be situated between.
2. To come between points or time or events;
3. To happen in a way to disturb, cross or interrupt.
4. To interpose or undertake voluntarily for another.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Sting of Death and The Source of Life

Haftarah Portion: Vayetze (Hosea 12:12-14:10)
Gospel Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
Commentary by: Matthew Day

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55 ESV)
Most of you probably recognize this verse from Paul's letters. It's part of Paul's larger argument for the Resurrection (on which all our hope rests). It comes across as a poetic taunt against death as it is defeated through the work of Yeshua.

Curiously, though the question sounds rhetorical, Paul actually supplies an answer to it in the next verse: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." Where is this from? Let's go back to Hosea, the original context for this jab at death's lack of power over Yeshua.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Honor of a King

Haftarah Portion: Toldot (Malachi 1:1-2:7)
Gospel Portion: Colossians 3:23-24, Mark 12:41-44
Commentary By: Chris Knight
‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?’ Says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:6-8 (NKJV)
In this passage of Malachi, we see a strong rebuke from God: where is the honor that belongs to God?! At this time in Israel’s history, the people were not treating the temple service with the reverence and honor that it was due. As we see from the passage, they were offering the lame, sick, blind, and defiled of their flock rather than the first and best of what they had. The people were keeping the finest of their herds to themselves, while offering God the leftovers. God then compares Himself to a master, a father, and a governor. He reminds us that this kind of treatment isn’t honorable or acceptable for our local authorities. So why would this be acceptable to Him?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Where Faith May Be Found

Haftarah Portion: Chayei Sarah (1 Kings 1:1-31)
Gospel Reading: Luke 18:1-8
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

King David, once a force to be reckoned with, was deteriorating. Without consulting his father, David’s fourth son, Adonijah, decided that he was supposed to be the next king. Adonijah’s older brothers were out of the picture, and normally the oldest living son was first in line to the throne, so Adonijah thought all was clear. He and some of David’s advisors set himself up as co-regent with his dying father.

But that was outside David’s plan and God’s intentions. David had sworn to his wife Bathsheba, “Surely your son Solomon shall be king after me and he shall sit on my throne” (1 Kings 1:17, NASB). Bathsheba and Nathan the prophet clung to that promise. Solomon and his supporters were put in danger by Adonijah’s actions; seeing that Adonijah had acted so precipitously and that he hadn’t invited them to his coronation banquet, there was no telling what he might do to Solomon as a rival.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Living Faith

Haftarah Portion: Vayera (2 Kings 4:1-37)
Gospel Portion: Matthew 8:5-13
Commentary By: Daniel Clayton

The Torah portion of Vayera is filled to the brim with rich, meaningful accounts and messages. There is much that could be said about this portion, but as we’re focusing on the Haftorah this year round, I will just ask you to keep the binding of Isaac in mind as I go through it all.

In the span of Elisha’s life and happenings, he encountered a particularly hospitable woman who opened her house to him whenever he might be passing through. The kindness this woman showed was apparently remarkable enough to put in him the desire to repay her.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Creator God, Redeemer

Haftorah Portion: Lech Lecha (Isaiah 40:27-41:16)
Gospel Reading: Romans 8:18-39
Commentary By: Matthew Day

Remnant Israel stands in Babylonian captivity. They cry out, “Why is my way hidden from the LORD? Why is justice denied to us by our God?” (paraphrase Isa. 40:27). Seventy years they have waited in captivity for the time of the exile to end. Seventy years they have waited under the oppression of foreign power in conditions we can only imagine, crying out for a Redeemer. The LORD responds,
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? (Isa. 40:28a ESV)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Review: The Great Spiritual Migration,204,203,200_.jpg
The Great Spiritual Migration
(by Brian D. McLaren)

Most people who know me know that I try to keep an open, yet critical mind about new ideas. I will consider the ridiculous, try to get into the shoes of those who believe it; but when I'm done, I'll apply the same ax that I apply to my own beliefs. It is in this vein that I opened up The Great Spiritual Migration and it is under this standard that McLaren's book failed to hold up.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Strength in Weakness

Haftarah Portion: Noach (Isaiah 54:1-55:5)
Gospel Portion: 2 Corinthians 12, Philippians 4
Commentary By: Chris Knight

The Haftarah portion for Noah is a beautiful passage from the book of Isaiah in which we see God comforting His people, Israel. In a time of destruction and exile, God shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He shows us a glimpse of restoration and redemption with all credit going to Him. We read,
"Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited. “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” says your God. (Isaiah 54:1-6 NKJV)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Let There Be Light (In a Dark World)

Haftarah Portion: Breisheet (Isaiah 42:5-43:10)
Gospel Portion: 2 Corinthians 4
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

In days of increasing darkness, followers of Yeshua can get discouraged by the lack of effectiveness their ministry seems to be having. Fewer people seem to be responding to the call of the Gospel, more seem to be falling away from the faith. When we see this, it’s easy to blame ourselves. Ironically, those who work the hardest for the Gospel are often the ones who berate themselves for not doing enough. And then they get burned out and withdraw from the struggle, asking, What’s the use?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Parashah Messiah: From Moses to the Prophets

Torah Portion: Vezot ha'Bracha (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)
Gospel Reading: Acts 3:17-26
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Several weeks back we read that the Lord would raise up a prophet like Moses from among the children of Israel. In this week's portion, we read that "there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,  and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel" (Deut. 34:10-12). When this text was written is debated among scholars, but we can be pretty sure that Moses didn't write it. Such would make not sense--of course, no prophet has risen up since Moses. Moses is still writing the Torah! More likely, this line was penned  much later, perhaps sometime during the kings of Israel. This would have it looking back on the myriads of prophets that had arisen since Moses, saying that none of them could even be compared to Moses in their relationship to God or the signs which they performed. Not yet, anyway. There was still the matter of the Prophet like Moses that was still yet to arrive.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Listen

Torah Portion: Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-52)
Gospel Portion: John 10
Commentary By: Brian Serrano  

Listening is not enough.

It’s not enough to just listen, you have to take it to heart and put action to it. When I ask my children to take out the trash I do not want them to just listen. I don’t want them to memorize what I said. I don’t want them reading books by other children about how to take out the trash, or what it would look like if the trash was taken out. I do not need them to have study groups with there friends about the 4 levels of meaning behind taking out the trash. I do not want them to tell me how to say take out the trash in Hebrew or Greek. None of that is what I want. I want them to take out the trash. To get off their rear, put down the ipad, and take the trash out. Listen to me, and show me that you listened to me by taking some action.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Children of Promise

Torah Portion: Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)
Gospel Reading: Romans 4, Galatians 3
Commentary by: Chris Knight

As we approach the end of the Torah cycle, we come to parshat “vayelech” in which we discuss the passing of the baton from Moses to Joshua. We read in Deuteronomy 31:1-8,
Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them: ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross over this Jordan.” The Lord your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said. And the Lord will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. The Lord will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.’ Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.’ (Deuteronomy 31:1-8 NKJV)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Final Redemption

Torah Portion: Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)
Gospel Reading: Romans 10:1-21
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant / Matthew Day

In Romans 10, at a time when it seems God has given up on His people, we read about Paul’s longing for the fulfillment of the prophecy in Deuteronomy 30--the repentance and restoration of Israel. Deuteronomy 30 foretells the time when Israel will finally be restored to full fellowship with God – keeping His Torah, living in the Land, loving Him with all their hearts. This is not just a restoration of physical blessing--it’s a transformation that goes as deep as the heart: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” (Deut. 30:6 NASB). Even at that present time, when Moses was speaking to the Israelites, he made the point that loving God, obeying Him, clinging to Him, “is your life and the length of your days” (v. 20). As Paul expressed in Romans 10, if only the Israel of his day would heed these words, then the prophecy could come to fulfillment. Yeshua is the Life that they should choose (30:19), He gives the righteousness they need. The word is near them – they have only to believe in Yeshua and confess His Name (Romans 10:8-10).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Through the Lens of the Gospel

Torah Portion: Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
Gospel Reading:  Luke 6:20-36
Commentary by: Matthew Day

The conclusions one draws from any particular passage are dependent on the questions one asks and the perspective one brings to the table. If the questions arise out of error or if the perspective is warped, the conclusions drawn from the passage will be faulty. This can be true even with a seemingly simple passage like the blessings and curses in this week's Torah portion. Wrong questions and wrong perspective will breed wrong conclusions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Do What's Right

Torah Portion: Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Gospel Reading: Luke 23:1-25
Commentary by: Brian Serrano

As Torah (or “whole Bible” as I like to say) keeping Christians we try to follow Yahweh’s laws to the best of our abilities. We try to do what is right. But what does that mean? What does it look like? What do others think it looks like? To us, we can answer the first two questions easy. It means following the Bible. It looks like Messiah, because we walk His footsteps. However, I think sometimes we are so eager to please our God and King that we overlook that this walk takes some explaining to others.

From the outside people can take snippets of the Bible, or take the Bible out of it’s Hebraic context and be confused.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Authority of Yeshua and The Apostles

Torah Portion: Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)
Gospel Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 28:16-20
Commentary by: Chris Knight

When you speak about Torah and any of it’s commandments, you inevitably come across varying interpretations, opinions, and beliefs on what those commandments look like or how they should be lived out in our lives. This is not a new problem or one that would have been foreign to those living in biblical times. In this week’s portion, Shoftim (Judges), we are presented with a system designed to, in one way, solve this problem and unite God’s people on how certain commandments should look when lived out properly. We read,
“If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.”
Deuteronomy 17:8-11 (NKJV)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Hands of Love

Torah Portion: Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

When we think about what Torah-keeping means, we may have the tendency to specify only Sabbath, festivals, kosher, and whatever else sets us apart from mainstream Christianity. But readings like Parshat Re’eh quickly remind us that a huge part of keeping the Torah is about loving people.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Circumcision of the Heart

Torah Portion: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)
Gospel Reading: Romans 2
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Many of us when we joined the Messianic movement were surprised to find grace in the Old Testament, that Israel was not saved by works, and that circumcision of the heart is actually in the Torah. No where is this more explicit in the Torah than in this week's portion. Moses warned the children of Israel not to say "It is because of my righteousness" (Deut. 9:4 ESV). On the contrary, Israel was a stubborn people. Even after seeing the ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, and receiving the ten commandments, they still turned around and built an idol. And continued to test God time after time after time. Moses reminded them of all of this. No, it was not because of Israel's righteousness, but because of God's faithfulness to His covenant.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Who Is My Neighbor?

Torah Portion: V’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
Gospel Reading: Mark 12:29-33, Luke 10:30-37
Commentary by: Chris Mumford
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (​Mark 12:29-33 NASB)
V’etchanan is a heavy portion regarding theological material. Moses is continuing his pep talk and stern warning before Israel enters the promised land. The parsha contains the Ten Commandments and the Shema. I want to contrast the stories of Yeshua’s teaching on the greatest commandments and the context from which the mitzvot are given. Yeshua had this portion in mind when he was asked what is the greatest commandment. What is intriguing about his connection of Leviticus 19:18 to this parsha is context of both. The word for neighbor in Hebrew is “rea,” literally reysh ayin, and the word from which Ruth’s name is derived. The word is actually pretty general and can take on meanings ranging from intimate friend to strangers. In Luke’s Gospel Yeshua is asked directly who is a neighbor. He responds with my favorite parable.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Retelling of Faith

Torah Portion: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)
Gospel Reading: Hebrews 12:1-11
Commentary by: Chris Knight

This week we begin the book of Deuteronomy with Parshat Devarim. Deuteronomy is unique in that the generation that left Egypt has passed away. All except Moses. Now Moses is recounting all the events, challenges, failures, and victories their parents had faced before arriving here at the bank of the Jordan. Moses hopes to inspire this generation to trust in God’s faithfulness, to obey the Torah, and to not make the same mistakes that their fathers had made before them.

One of the biggest challenges the previous generation had faced was their lack of faith in being able to conquer the land of Canaan. In fact, this is the reason why they could not enter the land and had to die in the wilderness, leaving the promise to their children. When they had spied out the land, they saw the enemy as too great, too powerful, too strong for them to overcome. They looked at their own might rather than God’s faithfulness to His word. Moses hopes this new generation won’t make the same mistake and says to Joshua in chapter three,

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Refuge to Resurrection

Torah Portion: Mattot/Massei (Numbers 30:1-36:13)
Gospel Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

One of the best Torah illustrations of the Gospel is found in Massei, the second of this week’s double parashot. Numbers 35:9-34 explains the vital institution of the cities of refuge…and supplies us a lot of food for thought about our redemption through Yeshua.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Law That Couldn't

Torah Portion: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)
Gospel Reading: Romans 3:21-31
Commentary by: Matthew Day

I want to use this week's Torah portion to draw an illustration for you. For all you apologists out there, keep in mind that an illustration is not a proof (as tempting as it may be), but a teaching tool. That being said, I find it remarkable the ways in which the story of Israel's entrance into the land parallels Romans 3.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Prophesied King

Torah Portion: Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)
Gospel Reading: Hebrews 1:8-9; Acts 4:24-30; Revelation 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:26-28
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.” (Numbers 24:17, NASB)
Our portion this week contains one of the first Messianic prophecies in the Torah – Yeshua is literally in this parashah! Almost universally, Jews have understood this reference to the star and scepter as being about the Messiah. Even before Yeshua came, texts such as the targumim (amplified Aramaic translations of the Bible) confirm this understanding. Let’s examine the concept of Messiah as “scepter” and “star” and how the New Testament shows that Yeshua fulfilled this prophecy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Serpents and Salvation

Torah Portion: Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)
Gospel Reading: John 3:10-17
Commentary by: Chris Knight

This week’s Torah portion, Chukat, contains one of the most beautiful pictures of Yeshua in the entire Torah; the bronze serpent. In the book of Numbers, we read about the children of Israel and their encounter with an unusual plague from God. In chapter twenty-one we read,
“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:4-9)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Standing in the Gap

Torah Portion: Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)
Gospel Reading: Luke 23:1-48; Acts 2:21-41
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Korah and his followers demanded of Moses and Aaron. Discontent with their position and tired of submitting, the forty-year wilderness sentence was the last straw for certain Israelite leaders. They stirred up yet another rebellion – this one aimed at Moses and Aaron, God’s appointed leaders over Israel.

By scorning Moses and Aaron, they scorned God (Numbers 16:11, 30). Like almost every other human being, they weren’t happy with the way He was running the program. They hated that He had put someone in charge and expected everyone to obey him. It wasn’t enough that He had blessed them with responsibility and authority of their own – they wanted more. They wanted supremacy.

Judgment was in store for them:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Review: Spiritual Sobriety

Spiritual Sobriety
(by Elizabeth Esther)

Addiction is a nefarious sickness that can take any number of disguises--including spirituality. In Spiritual Sobriety, Elizabeth Esther (a former religious addict herself) shares advice on how to recognize and overcome religious addiction.

As a recovering religious addict myself, I found the concept behind this book intriguing. In our faith walk, we're always trying to figure out how to do things right so that we can be righteous and accepted and so that we can feel close to God. But, how often do we ask ourselves what is healthy? Is it really healthy to continually be looking for that emotional high we get at worship services? Could our constant fretting over whether or not we're doing the right thing be a sign of a deeper problem? Esther says these are signs of spiritual addiction, and I'm inclined to agree.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Edge of the Promise

Torah Portion: Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
Gospel Reading: Hebrews 3:7-4:16
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Sometimes the Gospel message gets a little distorted from the original message. Sometimes instead of a full cob of corn, we're given cornflakes. Such is the case when faith gets confused with mere belief. How is it that such a critical point of our walk can become so muddled? Between mainstream Christianity and the Messianic movement you can find opinions ranging from "just believe these essential doctrines and go to heaven" to "faith = works or faith = obedience" to "you have to believe enough for faith to work" to "faith is something God does for you." What is faith really about?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Perspectives of Power

Torah Portion: Beha'alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:15)
Gospel Reading: Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 9:46-50
Commentary by: Chris Mumford
Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11) 
An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:46-50)
Let's talk about power.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Exposing the Darkness

Torah Portion: Nasso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)
Gospel Reading: 1 John 1:5-9; John 8:2-12
Commentary by: Chris Knight

This week we read about laws regarding restitution, the woman suspected of adultery, nazarite vows, and uncleanness outside the camp. I want to focus in on the passage regarding adultery and God’s attitude toward the exposure of sin. When we read this passage of Numbers, we see that it is concerning a wife suspected of adultery, who has decided to cover up her sins. No witnesses, no proof, no evidence. God gives the prescription; a most embarrassing ceremony that will bring the truth to light whether for good or bad. Too often this is our tendency as humans. Sin is almost always accompanied with guilt, fear, and embarrassment; so why not hide it? Why not cover up the most embarrassing part of ourselves? After all, what believer who professes a life in service to Christ would want their sins against their own savior to be known by their peers?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Army of God

Torah Portion: Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)
Gospel Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

Israel had been free from Egypt for a whole year. No longer could they fear being enslaved by their former oppressors – Yahweh had kept them safe in the wilderness this entire time. They hadn’t been without their struggles, but here they were, advancing nearer and nearer to the Promised Land. After setting up civil and religious establishments, they were ready for the next stage of organization.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Faithful God

Torah Portion: Bechukotai (Lev. 26:2-27:34)
Gospel Reading: Romans 11
Commentary by: Matthew Day

On a surface level, the blessings and curses of Leviticus are about reward and punishment. You do good, and you get rewarded. But if you do evil, you get punishment. It seems fair and runs in line with human intuition. Indeed, this is why so many believe in a sort of works based salvation. However, if we dig a little deeper, we'll find that there is a message beneath the surface--one which moves beyond fairness and justice toward mercy; a message which brings a hope that defies all common sense: God will never reject His people.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Creation's Jubilee

Torah Portion: Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)
Gospel Reading: Philemon
Commentary by: Matthew David Wiseman
Proclaim release in the land, to all of its inhabitants! It is a Jubilee for you, and each one of you will return to his inheritance, and each one of you will return to his family. Leviticus 25:10
Parshat Behar is about a lot of things. We could talk about God’s plan for creation, for planting and harvesting and resting. We could talk about the kinsman redeemer, about family and about Yeshua’s redemption of the world. We could even talk about economics from this chapter, about inheritance and about community. And we will touch on a few of those topics, but I want to focus on a different subject: slavery.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Updates! (Parashah Messiah, New Messianic Lectionary, Faith Beyond the Letter)

So, if you haven't heard, there's a few new things going on that I'd like to share with you. Life's been pretty busy, so this is just going to be a quick update, but I wanted to make sure I posted at least something about these latest projects.

Parashah Messiah: God's Pursuit of Man

Torah Portion: Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)
Gospel Reading: 2 Cor. 5:18-21; John 17:20-23
Commentary by: Chris Knight

There is something I believe to be completely necessary and revolutionary for one’s personal faith in God and view of the scripture. That is the fact that God is much more in pursuit of man than man is in pursuit of God. God is not solely a righteous judge waiting to render judgment on a sinful world. Rather, He is a loving Father Who desires to see us live, prosper, succeed, and have the most fulfilled and abundant life imaginable. He is on our side! Pause and let that sink in. Often we can view God as an intimidating teacher-like figure waiting to grade our “test” of life; looking forward to marking every mistake possible and rendering to us the grade due. However, I’ve found that God is actually more like the gracious, loving parent who is giving you quizzes and worksheets, staying up late helping you study, and tutoring you in every area needed. He goes out of His way to help you and I succeed in this “test” of life! The scriptures testify to this when they say,

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Living Holy

Torah Portion: Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1–20:27)
Gospel Reading: 1 Peter 1:13–2:3; James 1:21–22
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1, NASB)

When I hear the word “holy,” without reference to any concrete definition, the slate of my mind is blank. God’s children are supposed to be holy, but what does that mean? What does it look like? The commandment to be holy is all over the Bible, so we have to understand what it means in order to follow it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Parashah Messiah: The Nature of Atonement

Torah Portion: Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)
Gospel Portion: Matthew 16:24-28; Romans 6:1-10
Commentary By: Matthew Day

Atonement--it's a word that typically brings to mind images of sacrifice, of offering up an animal as payment for sin. But, this (which we call substitutionary atonement) is really only one aspect of atonement. Buried within the commandments for the Day of Atonement, hidden away in Jewish tradition, alluded to by Messiah, and expanded upon by Paul we find another aspect of atonement which calls upon us as participants--vicarious atonement.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Pesach Reflections

Torah Portion: Pesach (Exodus 12:21-51)
Gospel Portion: 1 Cor. 2:1-5; 5:6-8
Commentary By: Matthew Day

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. -- 1 Cor. 5:6-8 (ESV)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Sacrificial Love

Torah Portion: Tazria (Leviticus 12:1–13:59)
Gospel Reading: John 16:21; Hebrews 12:2
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4–5, NASB)

Leviticus is known for its purity laws that guard the holiness of Yahweh’s dwelling place. The list of commands starts in a logical spot – at childbirth, the beginning of life. Yet when we contemplate Leviticus 12, we see that the childbirth laws can also teach us about Yeshua’s mission.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Parashah Messiah: A Holy God

Torah Portion: Sh'mini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)
Gospel Portion: Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:19-22; 12:18-29
Commentary By: Matthew Day

"Our God is a consuming fire." Nadab and Abihu experienced this truth firsthand when they walked into the holy place drunk with unauthorized fire. Up until this point in Scripture, God has been instructing us in how to draw near to Him. Indeed, this seemingly unending detail about sacrifices comes to a climax in Leviticus 9 as on the eighth day the "glory of HaShem appeared to all the people And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces." Immediately after this, the story relates how Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, attempted to draw near to God. Unfortunately, they did so without the fear and reverence instilled into Israel at Mount Sinai. It is on this point that we turn to boundaries of holiness and separation--sanctification.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Table of God

Torah Portion: Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)
Gospel Portion: 1 Corinthians 14: 16-18, Luke 22: 19-20
Commentary By: Chris Mumford

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Messiah? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Messiah? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? -- 1 Corinthians 14: 16-18

Picking up where the last Torah portion ended, parashah Tzav continues its sacrificial regulations. If you are like me, you honestly find these portions boring and struggle to glean the ever desirable Torah “nugget” of divine revelation in them. I mean, why do we need to know these things anyhow? There is no altar, temple, or tabernacle upon which to practice these rites. Modern Judaism teaches that prayer, charity, and repentance take the place of the sacrificial rites. However, all three of these things existed during and prior to the sacrifices. What makes the altar especially important? What grand purpose did God intend?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Drawing Near

Torah Portion: Vayiqra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)
Gospel Reading: John 3:16-17
Commentary by: Chris Knight

Leviticus. Temple Service. Priesthood.
These are some of the topics we begin to dive into as we enter the book of Leviticus. For much of the book of Leviticus, we can very easily feel disconnected from what we read. This is very understandable due to the fact that we haven’t had an active temple service for nearly two thousand years! Let’s put that into perspective. We are talking about a practice that nobody has seen since before Genghis Khan, Muhammad, the Ottoman Empire, the formation of Great Britain, the building of the Colosseum, the end of the Mayans and Aztecs, the Bubonic Plague, etc. That is pretty hard to wrap our minds around. Since then, there have still been billions people around the world following the God of Israel, reading the Bible, and pursuing a life of righteousness to God. So, why do we even look at Leviticus and the temple service?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Parashah Messiah: A Spirit Filled House

Torah Portion: Pekudei (Exodus 38:21–40:38)
Gospel Reading: Colossians 1:16–22; Hebrews 3:1–6; Romans 8
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

The Tabernacle stood complete in all its splendor. All the Lord’s instructions had been carried out. Moses, the man responsible for the monumental project, gazed on it with humble and grateful satisfaction. 

And then the visible cloud spread over the complex, and the kavod (glory) of Yahweh cascaded into the Tabernacle. The Presence was so strong Moses himself was unable to enter (Exod. 40:35). Somehow, it was tangible, if not exactly physical.

Friday, March 4, 2016

How to survive the rise of tyranny

I have to be honest--the results of Super Tuesday surprised me a bit. I thought surely authoritarian supporters would be a minority. Surely, people would hear the rhetoric of Hitler and Mussolini behind the words of this man who "speaks his mind", a man who publicly stated that he wants to increase the power of libel laws. I never thought this idea of building a wall was even meant to be serious, yet we're still talking about it. I believed in the goodness of people, yet here we are promoting an ideology of fear and hate even among Christians! Especially among Christians.

Vox has an excellent article that explains some of the sociology behind all this, showing the personality profile of authoritarians and how fear is a driving force in bringing their dark side to light. One of the interesting things they mention that is easily lost is that Trump isn't even the real problem. The real problem is an American people who espouse an ideology that creates and supports people like Trump. I want to say that he doesn't represent the Republican party, but from the people's point of view, he does (or at least more than half of it). And that means that even if Trump can be defeated, we will see more people like him in the future, because that's what the people are demanding. What we're seeing is a people who are so scared that they want a strong leader, one who will stop at nothing to ensure their security.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Dwelling Place

Torah Portion: Vayak'hel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)
Gospel Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22
Commentary By: Matthew Day
But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deu 4:20 ESV)
When we think of the Gospel we typically think of personal salvation leading to personal obedience. Yeshua becomes my personal forgiveness, securing my personal ticket to heaven. While this is in a sense all true, I think the Gospel goes beyond that. Placing all the emphasis on personal salvation from sin is a bit like focusing on personal deliverance from Egypt. It's only one small part of a bigger plan. There is purpose in what God does, purpose bigger than any one of us individually. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Beyond the Veil

Torah Portion: Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)
Gospel Reading: 2 Corinthians 3; John 1:18; 17:3,26
Commentary By: Matthew Day

This Torah portion puts us square in the middle of the Tabernacle passages. This section describes in detail that symbol of God's ultimate purpose in us—that He might dwell among us. Yet, in the midst of all of this, something terrible happens. Panic sets in. The people break loose. An idol is set up to lead the way into the carnal ways of the flesh.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Parashah Messiah: We Are His Precious Gems

Torah Portion: Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)
Gospel Reading: Hebrews 2:17; Romans 8:31-39
Commentary by: Chris Knight
This week we learn about the clothing of the High Priest for service in the temple. This is one of those portions that, at first glance, is easy to be disconnected from. We don’t have a standing temple or a priestly service to physically see and experience in real time, which can make it hard to see the beautiful picture being painted by God.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Parashah Messiah: A House Built with Love

Torah Portion: Terumah (Exodus 25:1–27:20)
Gospel Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1–13:13
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

Winding throughout Scripture is the concept of a place where Yahweh can meet His people. Even the first letter of the entire Bible, heading the Hebrew word for “In the beginning,” is Bet, which means “house.” The earth was meant to be a house where Yahweh and mankind could have a relationship. It starts in Genesis with the Garden of Eden where He walked with Adam. Likewise Revelation depicts the end – “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them’” (Rev. 21:3). I know I, for one, can’t wait for the fulfillment of that promise: when Yeshua will physically be with us.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Family Vision

Build a Foundation
Create a Home
Inspire a Generation
Grow a Family

Build a Foundation
Values: Faith, Scholarship, Questioning Spirit

I want to build a foundation for faith and practice for my family from a position of scholarship and discipleship, to challenge them in asking questions so that they might own their beliefs, and above all to encourage them in placing their trust in God and His promises. I want my children to be prepared when they go out into the world, such that they know their foundation is sure and tested.

Create a Home
Values: Family, Tradition, Authenticity

Home is where we are free to be who we are. I want to foster an atmosphere of warmth, of tradition, and of freedom. Warmth, that we might each find rest in each others love. Tradition, to carry our identity and guide us in the ways of life. Freedom, to be uniquely ourselves without fear of judgment in a world that often pressures us to fit in. It’s a shelter from the world, a Sabbath all of its own.

Inspire a Generation
Values: Hope, Tikkun Olam, Joy

Our vision is one of hope, centered squarely on the Gospel. It's this hope that propels us to redeem our world through the deeds of Tikkun Olam. It is this hope that brings the sparks of eternity, moments of joy into the everyday of our lives. Open your eyes, see the joy and wonder in the world--there is so much more to life than meets the eye.

Grow a Family
It is in bringing these all together that I hope to see our family grow, recognizing each person's unique talents and working together to build the Kingdom. Ours is a faith that is unshakably rooted in God and His Word, joyously reaching toward hope, and compassionately wrapped in the day by day expressions of love.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Eye for Eye

Torah Portion: Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:17-48
Commentary by: Matthew Day

In the last parashah we just finished reading about the magnificent Ten Commandments, those ten words that have come to represent the totality and height of morality in our eyes. He speaks these words from Mt. Sinai in a thundering voice such that all the people are afraid. Never before and never since has an entire nation heard the voice of God at once. This was a big event. Which makes what follows seem a little anti-climatic.