Welcome to Home Shalom!

Welcome to Home Shalom and Shalom Farm. We pray your visit here be blessed. We are learning to walk in the Ways (Torah) of our Father YHWH and follow Y'shua, His Messiah until He returns to "set things straight". We call it a "Messi-Life". Our walk is neither tidy nor perfect, but it is filled with passion, devotion and desire to serve our King. We are learning to be humble servants, and to be good stewards of the things that He has entrusted to us: His Word, our marriage, our children, our family, our community, our health, and our farm. Hitch your horse and stay a while--our door is always open!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Unity, Diversity, and Passover

Unless we have purposefully restricted ourselves to one teacher or one school of thought, it doesn’t take long to realize that there are many “disputable matters” in this ‘Torah and Messiah Centered’ walk. There are at least 8 ways to pronounce YHVH (or is it YHWH?), not to mention His ‘nicknames’. I know of 4 reasonable ways to determine when the year begins and therefore 4 different schedules to celebrate the other appointed times. Some Torah keepers avoid speaking the commonly known names of the days of the week, as each one is named after one false god or another. There are even some who won’t eat bananas or mushrooms because, according to modern scientific definitions, they don’t have “seeds”. (Genesis says only green and seed-bearing plants are for food). From the outside, modern Christianity may view these disputes as legalism run wild, and from the inside, this may seem like chaos or even a good excuse for a good old fashioned schism. Instead, I have come to appreciate this reality as an object lesson of The Creator’s love for diversity, and as evidence that the “Restoration of His Kingdom” is HIS job, not ours. The Passover meal is both an opportunity to celebrate our unity with the Father despite the complex variations of our specific theologies and doctrines, while at the same time it is also an important object lesson reflecting who is NOT part of the Body.
Before we discuss Passover, we have to breech the tough subject of what is diversity and what is “heresy”. First let’s realize that “variation within a species” is part of His pattern--not some twisted evolutionary idea. Darwin’s famous multi-colored finches, for example, perfectly demonstrate the heart of the Father. Like the finches, His people should all share a remarkable resemblance to each other. Even if some of us have red stripes (because we say “Yahweh”) and others have blue stripes (because we say “Y’hovah”), we are still of the same “kind”. We have the same identical seed of the Holy Spirit planted within us, but we do not all express that fruit in exactly the same way. We are all growing towards the perfect resemblance our Messiah and our mutual Father, but that transformation is caused by Him, directed by Him, and finished by Him. In the mean time we need to open our eyes and hearts to this diversity, while being especially watchful for the penguins in our midst and cautious of cats with feathers pasted to their fur.

This same concept is expressed in the Torah. We are told that the survivors of the flood “exchanged stone for brick” and began to make themselves a great tower. In other words, rather than humbling themselves after the flood, their instinct was to create an elaborate man-made system. The idea of making bricks (all uniform, all the same size, and mass produced) in order to create an artificial “high ground”, was a direct challenge to God’s authority. Creating a religion of bricks (we call it “bricki-anity” in our house) fits the pattern of our sinful human instinct. Conversely, we are told in Exodus NOT to create bricks for His Altar and not even to chisel the stones to fit better. We are only to use plain earth, or to use the stones that HE has carved. He is trying to tell us that His way should not be turned into a standardized religion, and we should not be attempting to turn each other into uniform bricks to more efficiently and affectively build His kingdom into the way we would prefer it to look. We are to be “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5), cut and fixed together by the Father, for His purposes using His design. This path the Father has put us on IS NOT A RELIGION…it’s simply “The Way” -- in fact it’s a very narrow way that only a few will find, according to Yeshua Himself. Sometimes it seems that even naming, labeling, or “branding” our path (as “Messianic” for example) seems to only restrict us to certain traditions and man-centered understanding.

In many ways, the times in which we live are a close parallel to our ancestor’s experiences in The Book of Judges, after the death of Joshua. Both we and our forefathers have had our leader, teacher, and Savior lead us into the Promised Land. He then left us, for a time, with detailed but incomplete instructions with how we should manage our relationships with each other, until the King returns to restore order. Throughout the time of “Judges, one savior (little “s”) after another, rose to the occasion, through The Holy Spirit, to get our people through one trial after the next. Eventually, enough frustration and impatience built up among the people, that they demanded a human king to take control over their leaderless mess of a kingdom. Of course, they got King Saul, who was not even from the specifically appointed kingly line of the tribe of Judah, and in many subtle ways was a type of anti-messiah. There may have been order and a resemblance of unity for a time, but the result was a Torahless disaster. This dangerous mistake is the one we need to avoid, in our present time, as we wait for the return of our Savior and King to restore proper Holy order. According to prophecy and daily headlines, however, it seems like mankind as a whole is more and more eager to find and anoint some sort of worldly king to fill that leadership gap. Like His loyal remnant minority always has, we must wait for the True King to unite our squabbling tribes, and protect us from the enemy, and avoid the temptation to look to charismatic men for the answers.

Like our fellow Israelites in Judges, we have been given the Torah as our national constitution, eternal instructions, Holy principles, and wedding contract. Today, however, we also have the added benefit of our forefather’s experiences to learn from (the writings and the prophets). Beyond even that, we have the personal instructions of the Messiah Himself as he lived and taught Torah…knowing full well He would be leaving us for a time while we put His teachings into practice. Finally, we have the book of Acts and Paul’s letters to the early believers… all re-expressing the Messiah’s method of living and breathing Torah. We are to love one another, encourage one another, and allow one another to “sharpen” one another, all within the safe guidelines of Torah and our Master’s example.

Some are still confused as to HOW to use The Scriptures as a guideline, which is an entirely different discussion. It’s summarized by acknowledging that the heart of The Father is unchanging (His grace, mercy and love, for example are not New Testament concepts). The Faith of Abraham, the Obedience of Moses, and the Heart of Messiah, are all requirements to live an honest life in the presence of the Father, and no properly understood Scripture can contradict or overturn any of those principles. The three covenants and their “signs” (circumcision, Sabbath, and the Holy Spirit) are eternal and beautiful, and any Scripture that seems to say otherwise is being misunderstood and much prayer and study are needed to reveal and repair the error. We are to use the Torah as our instructions, Messiah as our role model, the Holy Sprit as our guide and inspiration, and the book of Acts and the Epistles to clarify “grey areas” when needed. Many people reverse this order, and use Paul’s writings as the core scriptures, creating out-of-context false doctrines that actually contradict Yeshua and Torah. Keeping it all in the proper order and perspective helps clear up any obvious conflicts. From my own experience, once I put the Book in the order in which it was designed, it was like finding the focus on a telescope (or microscope). I have fallen in love with the entire Bible, even the parts that I still don’t understand fully. Understanding how to use the Scriptures is the first step towards unity in the body, but it cannot by itself answer most fine details of how to follow the Father’s instructions.

If our instructions from the Father are broad, as they often are, (i.e. exactly how to tie Tzit Tzit, who should wear them and where, should women speak in the “church”, do non-farmers have to tithe, what does “keeping the Sabbath” fully entail, etc...) we need to show abundant grace to one another. Make no mistake, the embracing of diverse biblical lifestyles does not mean that all doctrines and lifestyles are acceptable. If someone who claims to be a Torah keeper disobeys the unambiguous instructions from the Father, (i.e., by refusing to love one another, ignoring the needs of widows and orphans, defiantly eating bacon, or refusing to set apart His Holy Sabbath, etc…) we as believers are to gently correct these errant brothers and sisters in love. And then, if they continue to abuse His grace and exploit diversity (like a cancerous defect that grows unchecked), and do not respond to a Scripture focused rebuke, the Torah compels us to “cut them off” or as Paul said, “hand them over to Satan” (1 Timothy 1:18-20). Once Satan has done the job he was designed for (making the errant and lost very aware of the errors of their ways), and they repent, they are forgiven and embraced back into the diverse family of His people. Of course, those who have accepted Messiah (usually as “Jesus”), but remain ignorant of what He really taught and how He really lived, can’t be held to the same standard by us their brothers, but will be held to that standard by YHVH. We are still called to be lights to all men, but must be guided by the Spirit with how brightly.

Ironically, this concept of HOW we “expel the immoral brother” can be just as disputable as other disputable matters. Rather than the Catholic “excommunication” or the Amish “shunning”, I think the better way to think of it is more of a “purposeful distancing” from the wayward brother. This concept is expressed in several ways in the Torah. At various points at Mt. Sinai there were three levels of relationship with the Father revealed. The as-yet-to-be-sanctified people were told to put up a fence and NOT to ascend the mountain; Joshua however was allowed most of the way up, while Moses was allowed on the tippy top. In the tabernacle, there were likewise three levels: the outer court, the inner court, and the Holy of Holies. Even in our very being we are made up of flesh, soul, and spirit. The very word “Torah” in the Hebrew language conveys the idea of a “target” with the heart of The Father as the bull’s-eye, and “sin” as missing the target altogether. It is crucial to study the target closely, to ensure that each shot we take gets closer to the center, and that we don’t get the principle of Holy diversity confused with simply shooting at everything that moves.

How do we implement this principle with those who claim to be on our archery team, but continue to launch arrows thoughtlessly, or at worse into the crowd? Simply put, these people have made a choice, demonstrated by their behavior, to distance themselves from the light of the Torah, and therefore have chosen to separate themselves from intimate fellowship with not just The Father, but those of us further “up the Mountain” as well. I would be wandering well off my intended subject if we spend any more time discussing backsliding or false brethren. It is worth pointing out, however, that the very nature of The Passover meal itself provides an annual platform for this type of lesson of who is considered truly part of the Family.

The Scriptures clearly warns not to allow the “uncircumcised” to take part in this meal. Of course this refers mostly to our heart condition, than just our outward fleshly condition. If there was a “physical circumcision inspector” at the door, even the most Holy invitees will probably eat at home. Even Abraham must had had a “circumcised heart” first, otherwise he never would have obeyed the more physically painful and radical outward sign. An uncorrectable brother, just like a non-believer, is blatantly showing their uncircumcised heart, and should not be invited to anyone’s Passover meal. This meal is specifically meant for the “in crowd” and excluding some (or even most) from attendance is part of the object-lesson embedded by The Father into the very day we are remembering. We certainly have an open-door policy (as is literally done even the Jewish tradition) but only those with hearts “leaning towards obedience” are allowed through the door.

This year, 2011, presents a unique opportunity to embrace the diversity of others on this walk. The day of the Passover meal itself is defined as the 14th day of the month of Aviv, but there are various understandings of exactly how that’s day is calculated. If we use the traditional Rabbinic Jewish calendar, the date falls in late April. If we use the Spring Equinox in combination with the first new moon, we can end up either in late March or late April, depending on which moon you use to start counting. If you believe the Book of Enoch is valid scripture, your Passover falls in early April somewhere between the other dates discussed. Finally, if you are waiting to see when the barley in Israel is ripe (Aviv implies “ripe” in Hebrew), you potentially won’t know when to celebrate Passover until only a couple of weeks before the meal itself. The question is…even if we can appreciate the beauty of diversity, who decides who is right?

The Father display’s His grace on this issue clearly in The Scriptures. There is actually a “do-over” Passover allowed for in Numbers 9:6-13. YHVH gives His people a one month delay to celebrate Passover, if they missed their opportunity to celebrate it “on time” for various reasons! This seems to express the principle that His love for His people and His understanding of our calendar predicament outweighs His desire for an absolute and inflexible date. He is far more concerned with the conditions of our hearts, and whether we are searching to deepen our relationship with Him, than our current understanding of the barley ripening process or the precise timing of the Equinox. When the trumpet sounds on some future Yom Teruah, all of our calendars and ingenious theories will suddenly be irrelevant—replaced or corrected by the Author of time itself.

We have personally found that the more we learn, the more Feasts we honor and enjoy, the more we are transformed by His Torah, the more we realize how much growing we have yet to do. It is so easy to get puffed up with knowledge, but The Father always chastens us and brings us back to that place where we are completely dependant upon Him. He uses the Torah itself to work us over on the inside, purging impurities and incorrect heart attitudes and leaves us humbled and actually eager for the next makeover. Instead of judging our brother’s method or timing of worship, we need to compare our understanding closely to Scripture to see if there is a direct conflict to any of YHVH’s principles, or if our neighbor’s view provides harmony worth embracing ourselves. Even if their interpretation is unusual or radical, if there is no conflict with the letter or the sprit of the Torah, we still must embrace that brother as a fellow traveler on The Way. If our hearts are directed towards honest obedience to the Father, we know that each successive Passover we will likely have grown into new places. So it is on our hearts to be at peace with all men and keep our eyes on YHVH as we try to keep His Moedim as best we can in this time of HIStory.


Millie said...

Thank you Ben.

Andi said...

Ben and Pamela,
As I sat down to read only one post, so that I can prepare my home and heart for Sabbath...the Father led me here...and I am ...now crying...thank you ...it's a good cry...so often I feel like a failure in the eyes of the Father, and nothing that I can do is every good enough...I cling to the Yeshua because that is all I know...in side...I desire to obey with my 'knowing' heart....and sometimes I still fall. I really can't explain how much our hopeful time together will mean...to our whole family....I am praising Abba for this open door....thank you my family....Shalom and Love!

Sigalit Chana said...

Ahh... Praise the Father for giving you the words to write to us His family! I would like to link to this post from my blog... would that be okay? Shabbat Shalom dear ones!
Love you!

Ben said...

Feel free to link to this post if you feel so led. Thanks for kind comments, everyone.

Steve said...


Thank you for sharing this with us all. I agree that we need to look past the disputable matters and walk in the love of Yeshua. Thank you , brother.



Moira said...

Yes, it does seem that there is a new fraction made with every moedim, confusion at every turn(we know who the author of confussion is, and I think he is having a field day with all of this).

It has gotten to be overwhelming at times~who do we fellowship with~or not???? At this rate we will be completely alone! There have been times that I want to shut off all comunication, but I that is not the answer. Distance for a time, I think is a good idea, it gives time for the Ruach to work on both parties.

We are all at different stages in this learning curve, some of us have been out of the church for a day and others 10 years. There is bound to be some differences along the way!

If we can remember to have patience with one another and love each other through it.

I look forward to the day with anticipation, when our Messiah sets us all straight!
Thanks for the article, shalom,

Traci said...

Amien, Amien! Someday soon we will all have the understanding of Abba's plan and know that He is able to use us exactly where He has placed us according to His purpose.

This understanding is the beginning of wisdom, love and faith in Abba's perfect ability to bring all things to perfection in HIS time.