Excerpt From The Editor’s Introduction
WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
Despite the fact that this book contains the testimonies of dozens of current and former Christians, this is not a book about Christianity. This is a book about geula. Geula is the Hebrew word that refers to the Final Redemption.
More specifically, this book is about the role of the Nations when it comes to the Final Redemption. We know that in the End of Days, not everyone will be Jewish. How do the Nations fit into the Final Redemption? That’s one of the most important questions this book attempts to answer.
In her essay, contributor Dina Yehuda calls our attention to Psalm 126, known to Jews as Shir HaMa’alot and widely understood to be about geula. In verse 2, the Nations declare that God has done great things for the Jewish people. In verse 3, the Jewish people respond: God has done great things for us. Contributor Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz expands on this idea by making the case that these verses show us that, indeed, the Nations have a central role to play in the Final Redemption.
Although it took me some time to put the pieces together, in my case, individuals from the Nations were the ones who showed me that there is a worldwide Torah awakening going on. Little by little, over the past few years, it became clear to me that something momentous is happening out there.
All over the world, current and former Christians are becoming aware of Torah. They are learning about, and implementing, what most of the world thinks of as Jewish practices, including celebrating Shabbat and the Biblical holidays. They are refraining from eating pork and shellfish. They are studying Torah and seeing the Land of Israel, and especially the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, in a new light. They are building positive relationships with the Jewish people.
A huge paradigm shift is happening. With this book, I am like a sociocultural anthropologist, attempting to map the phenomenon of this Torah awakening in all its facets. My hope is that someday soon, what is being introduced in these pages will be common knowledge, as it says in Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 11:9: The land shall be full of knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea bed.
A WARNING FOR READERS
For Jews, reading about non-Jews who dress like religious Jews, complete with kippot and tzitzit for men and modest dress and head coverings for women, can be disorienting. Hearing non-Jews refer to God as Abba and name their children Biblical and modern Hebrew names can cause discomfort. Reading about non-Jews celebrating Shabbat, learning parsha, fasting on Yom Kippur and going camping together on Sukkot can be baffling.
For Christians, reading about current and former Christians who no longer celebrate Christmas and Easter, who have left mainstream churches, some of whom have renounced a belief in the divinity and/or messiahship of Jesus, who look and behave more and more like Jews, can be upsetting.
There are chapters in this volume that will make every single reader uncomfortable, no matter where they are on the continuum. Even the contributors don’t see eye-to-eye with everyone else whose story is told in these pages. It is my hope that the book will find readers brave enough to push through the discomfort long enough to glimpse the bigger picture.
What I most want for readers to conclude is that there is an inexorable movement toward Torah among increasing numbers of current and former Christians. Each contributor has a different story, but the book as a whole maps an undeniable progression.
A PERSONAL DISCLAIMER
It’s very important that I be as clear as possible about a few things:
- I am a Torah Jew. I do not believe that Jesus/Yeshua is divine in any way. I do not believe that he is the messiah, the redeemer for whom the Jewish people have been waiting.
- I do not believe that it is possible for non-Jews to be restored or reconciled to the greater House of Israel while retaining a belief in the divinity or messiahship of Jesus/Yeshua.
- Inclusion in this volume does not equate to my personal theological endorsement. Indeed, I have sharp theological difference with many of the contributors to this volume. Nevertheless, I recognize and welcome the massive Torah awakening occurring among non-Jews in the world today. I absolutely believe it to be part of the redemptive process.
- I believe the Torah was also intended for the non-Jew, to help them live their lives in a Godly fashion. I believe that the Jewish people have a role to play in guiding and teaching non-Jews who are genuinely seeking truth.
Over and over, I have been overwhelmed by the spiritual longing for Torah and for truth as expressed by the people who tell their stories in this book. I have tremendous respect for the devotion to God and the genuine attempts to discern His truths as illustrated in the pages of this book. Many contributors describe having lost important relationships when their spiritual understandings changed. That’s a high price to pay, and I salute it.
There is still a tremendous lack of clarity about where this is all heading. In the course of researching this book, I’ve learned of dozens of different agendas and end game scenarios. Some match my personal theological understandings. Many don’t. One thing we agree on is that God will ultimately settle all these differences.
None of us are finished products. Every one of us is on a journey. Where any individual is today may not be the same place he or she is tomorrow. Where a contributor was when they submitted their story may not be where they are when the book is published or when you read their chapter.
Along with the 40+ contributors, I put my heart and soul into telling the story of the Torah awakening that is occurring in our day. Despite whatever theological discomfort you may feel as you read these pages, I hope that you will see the inexorable approach of geula in this process. As it says in the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith:
I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.
God Does Not Change
by Dennis Northington
I vividly recall that beautiful, early summer morning as we drove our rented RV along the Bighorn River in Northwest Wyoming, headed for the Royal Gorge bridge outside Canon, Colorado.
We had not seen anyone on the road since we’d left Yellowstone Park. It seemed so quiet, looking through the huge windshield as I was praying. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the craziest thing. It was majestic but so strange; an eagle suddenly swooped down on our right side. I glanced at the speedometer and was awestruck. The bird seemed just a few feet away, flying over 60 miles an hour.
My hands were squeezing the steering wheel. I had been wrestling with it since we had crossed the Hoover Dam. I had been crying out under my breath to God every day, praying sunup to sundown, even waking up in the middle of the night praying like I had never prayed before in my entire life.
I was seeking an answer, but nothing was coming from my impassioned and repeated pleas! God was quiet, so my prayers got louder and bolder each day. I could not let go!! I had to know the answer! So once again, as I looked out that windshield at the eagle, I cried out to God: “Lord, what do you want me to do?!! Just tell me I will do it!!”
And then, without any warning, with my wife at my side and my kids in the back of the RV, suddenly, for no apparent reason, the eagle banked hard left directly in front of us!
My amazing wife agreed to that big road trip. She really doesn’t like to travel much more than four or five hours at a time, but she never hesitated. With no fuss or bother, we began our 4,000-mile summer adventure as a family. Our goal was to retrace the trip my parents had taken my sister and brother on some 40 years earlier.
I had just sold my insurance business and thought it was time for a break and an adventure. Every stop was planned to share my childhood memories with my children, or so it seemed as we left San Antonio, heading west on I-10.
Just as we crossed the Texas-New Mexico border on Highway 285, a brutally strong wind suddenly hit us hard and we slowed down to a crawl, unable to see the road 50 feet ahead through the blowing sand. The wind gusts were so powerful I was afraid it could knock our rented motor home over on its side. My first thought was to try to turn the RV headlong into the buffeting cross wind, but there was no room to maneuver that I could see, so we stopped and prayed.
This was definitely not a part of the plan. There we were, pinned down, shut down by the wind in the middle of nowhere, with no one in sight. Who would help us if we tipped over? All we could do was pray, so we just kept praying, and then after a few minutes, just as quickly as the wind hit us, it subsided. That really got our attention.
Thank you, Lord!
The next morning, we hiked down into the heart of a mountain. We were now at Carlsbad Caverns, our first big stop on our summer tour. There we were in the middle of the Kings Palace gawking at the huge limestone columns. It’s the deepest chamber open to the public in the park, some 800 feet below the surface of the desert.
With a few stops in between, including Meteor Crater, Arizona, our next big destination was the majestic Grand Canyon. My wife and I were really excited about visiting the canyon. A couple of years earlier, we had attended a lecture series by Walt Brown about the mechanics of the flood. Dr. Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, explained his research that the Grand Canyon may very well be one of the locations of the fountains of the great deep that burst forth from the earth, as described in Genesis 7.
Our next destination would require a short drive across the Hoover Dam. That’s where the trip took the turn, after we crossed high above the Colorado River and pulled up to a tour helicopter pad near Las Vegas. Unplanned and on a whim, my daughter and I decided to take a ride and check out the sights. Just as we were about to buy our tickets, my wife yelled out from the parking lot below, “You have a flat tire.”
So much for the helicopter ride. The good news was the RV had dual rear tires, so after a call to AAA, we were able to slowly make our way to find a hotel to escape the sweltering heat. We had not seen a television for days, so as soon as we arrived in the room, I flipped the switch to catch up on the news. There on the screen we saw an array of firetrucks and ambulances at the scene of a special news report.
What was all this commotion? Had there been a bad wreck? Suddenly, we all realized what happened. We recognized it and I dropped to my knees. That helicopter flight ran into big trouble and ended up with a very hard landing in the middle of the road, but thank God, we were not on-board. We just could not believe our eyes!
We suddenly knew that flat tire was no accident at all; it was a blessing from Heaven. There we were praying as a family, thanking God again.
Two days later, with my wallet $300 lighter and the blessed tire replaced, I pointed that motor home straight to Zion. We were headed to Zion National Park, Utah. It’s there that our prayer of thanks turned to my question. As we headed that motor home toward Yellowstone Park, my constant, unrelenting prayer was: “Lord, what do you want me to do? Just tell me and I will do it.”
I kept praying quietly, expecting an answer. I’d gone to church all my life, sang in the choir and my wife and I taught Sunday school. At age nine, I asked Jesus into my heart, but I had never really heard from God, at least not that I knew of.
The Eagle at the Bighorn River
It had been over two weeks since we crossed over the Hoover Dam as we made our way out of the east side of Yellowstone. Then, about three hours later, the answer came out of nowhere.
I slammed on the brakes as the eagle suddenly turned in front of us and just like that big wind that hit us on day one, the answer to prayer came suddenly. It was bold and explosive. It seemed audible, but it was not at all what I had expected: “Study My words; they’re not old. Start in the beginning.”
I was stunned at those words. I hit the brakes and pulled the RV over to the side of the road asking my wife, “Did you hear that?” I was flush with adrenaline. She knew I’d been praying constantly for two weeks. “Why on Earth would God want me to read the front of the Bible?”
My life journey took a very unexpected turn as we headed for home.
That long drive gave me a lot of time to consider the fact that God had disrupted our plans to get our attention and to protect us. I have no doubt that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob revealed His presence in the middle of the wilderness. When I think back now, I know it started with that big wind.
Perhaps He is doing the same for you and that is why you are reading this; will you pay attention and pray with an open heart? If so, get ready for the turn.
Later that summer, back home as I was reading, the short answer to my prayer showed me that some 3,500 years earlier, in an earth-changing wilderness journey, Moses provided a little-understood prophecy that had begun to come to light on our trip. It is summed up in the middle of the sermon found in Deuteronomy 30:1-10. There Moses describes repentance and restoration with a sequence of events marked by a beginning that I believe the world witnessed in 1948.
Like many sermons, Moses’ gives three major points.
Point one is that even though they were headed there, Moses describes that God promises a return to the glorious land. Point two describes a circumcision, but it’s not quite what you think; this one is a circumcised heart to obey the voice of The Lord. Point three describes the final redemption to come when The Lord will again rejoice over you for good, as he rejoiced over your fathers.
Before that summer in 2001, I really knew nothing about this prophetic sermon in the front of the book. After all, I had always thought of it as old, done away with. I basically believed everything I had heard from other sermons that the Old Testament was just that — old and replaced by a dispensation of grace.
Yet, deep down, I knew grace is not cheap; it comes at a very great price.
That summer of study became three and a half years. My wife asked me from time to time, “When are you going back to work?” My stock reply was, “As soon as I work through all the contradictions of my faith.” I was restless and confused as I studied day and night, often not sleeping as I desperately wanted to reconcile with the message of the Bible. I had much to work through. I’d heard all my life that the law was old, passed away, so I had grown to ignore the heart of the Bible, but now I was now on assignment with no options.
I once thought the front of the Bible was antiquated, for the past. Little did I know, through all those years that the word law is actually Torah, which means teaching and instruction. Incredible now, I only learned that in 2001. I was shocked by the Bible and I was absolutely stunned by the meaning of Torah.
Of all places, it happened at a Christian bookstore after we arrived home. I was there once again looking for the right Bible. In my assignment, I had bought at least a half-dozen English translations that summer and they all seemed to be lacking something. I couldn’t put my finger on it. So there I was again, the best customer in the neighborhood, asking the store manager if she knew of a faithful version. She asked what I meant. “Well you know, a translation direct from the original Greek.”
She smiled kindly, but didn’t laugh and then she looked me right in the eye and softly whispered, “The original Bible is not Greek; it’s Hebrew.”
What? I was shocked.
I thought the Septuagint was the original and here she was encouraging me to purchase a copy of The Jerusalem Bible because it was the only Bible she had that showed the Hebrew and English translation side-by-side.
Today, my ignorance seems incredible, but before I walked into that bookstore, I had never heard the word Torah, yet there on the front page that word stared back at me. What was going on? The Five Books of Moses that I was familiar with were called the Pentateuch. Until I opened that Bible, I never even knew God had a personal name!
I treasure that wonderful Bible; it remains front and center in our home.
At first, I found it hard to believe that the words of God, penned by Moses and the prophets were written in Hebrew. And that word Torah, well to say the least, it dazed me. Yet it allowed me to see that the Bible is the unchanging message binding heaven and earth by the foundation of the Hebrew scrolls, all inscribed by faithful Jewish men who, no matter the cost of life or limb, listened to and obeyed the Torah of our Creator.
When I reread that great prophetic sermon penned by Moses and continued studying what I had once mistakenly called the Old Testament, I realized it was not old at all. It’s living. That’s why we need to quit using the words Old Testament. Sadly, they reflect a division and a 1,700-year rejection of the faithful Jewish people who worship God. Thankfully, that division is now crumbling.
The Torah is living and when I began to understand this, I began to understand Moses’ sermon of repentance and restoration. I discovered the Hebrew word shuv means to return, to go back, restore. That year, the process of my teshuvahdoes began, as I read on and studied earnestly, but I felt pretty confused, to say the least. I needed clarity. Then I reached the words of Malachi 3:6: For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
I was dumbfounded and disappointed at my lifetime of ignorance. I had read that Scripture years earlier, but now I was at the crossroads of good and evil. God does not change?
That truth is disruptive to say the least for anyone who believes that the Bible has changed from old to new, or listened to dispensational perspectives and replacement theologies that are in direct opposition to how God describes Himself.
Who was I to question Malachi?
After all his Hebrew name means my messenger and he plainly recorded the voice of Almighty God and His words to the prophet: For I, The LORD, do not change.
God’s words demanded personal repentance and the circumcision of my long-held, hard-hearted belief that the church had replaced Israel and that God’s law had been done away with. It was time to let that go, as Malachi gives an unchanging promise by the words of the Lord:
“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. But you say, “How shall we return?”
How shall we return? This question was now mine; I owned it and it had to be answered, because the return that Moses describes relays the promise of the final redemption, the restitution of all things, when God’s glory presence will return and restore the planet and The Kingdom.
Return to Me, and I will return to you is the great promise and the Father does not leave us without a plan of action. He gives us these words: And you have turned back and considered, Between the righteous and the wicked, Between the servant of God and him who is not His servant.
During the first redemption, the Tabernacle’s blueprint was designed by God but built by men, showing that we have a partnership with God’s work if we accept the task. Joel is a witness to the decision that was before me and my wife; I discovered, the same questions were being faced by others:
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13
I read this just a few years ago as I was discovering the words of God are living, unchanging words, and I realized I had not turned back, I had not returned with all my heart toward the Lord’s walk. Instead, perhaps innocently and most certainly misinformed, I was walking away from Him. God is not a God of confusion. God’s word stands forever. I realized, if I continue to oppose these truths, I oppose God’s will.
I had always sensed something.
Through the years, I’d sensed something was not quite right in my life. The nagging feeling in my heart was that there had to be more, but I did not know what it was. I had resigned myself to ignorance until my family and I stared at that TV news broadcast.
Once home, I earnestly studied and read the word of God from the beginning, I realized that my Mom and Dad had not lost their marbles too. For about 10 years they had kept trying to encourage me to honor the Sabbath and study the Feasts. I thought they were on the fast path to an old folks’ home. Then I too began to walk away from traditions and views that I had held so near and dear, but could never verify in the Scriptures.
Perhaps my perspective was innocent, but I was wrong; I had missed the mark. Then it dawned on me — the teaching of God, the Torah, is what we get to do because we love Almighty God. The church never replaced Israel. In fact, the word church is nowhere to be found really, even in the New Testament. The Greek word seen there is ekklesia; it is the same as the Hebrew kahal. It means assembly or congregation.
The Torah is not a prescription to earn salvation. That is impossible. The Torah plainly shows us that. It also teaches us the assembly of multitudes promised Abraham would begin at a covenant journey from Mount Sinai. So today, my goal is to encourage everyone with an ear to hear, to open and use the Bible; it’s not old. It speaks God’s enduring, unchanging truth.
To learn God’s ways, we must study the Scriptures with an open heart and pray to allow the Spirit of the Lord to unwind our doctrines and man-made traditions so that we can behold the truth in what we think and do! King David sought the same thing: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Torah. (Psalm 119:18)
At first, my wife and I felt all alone. It seemed that everyone we shared our story with about the unchanging nature of God stared at us in disbelief. I was told I was losing my faith, but we held on tight to the promise Ezekiel was honored to declare:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
We found that Proverbs speaks plainly about our new heart and spirit and it provides a key to understanding God’s message to mankind in the Tanakh, also known as the Bible:
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
In order to understand and find the hidden treasures and wondrous things God has in store for us, we have to return and seek understanding and give each other some room and a lot of encouragement to find the truth. It’s an amazing process to learn this, and I soon discovered it’s the lifelong goal of many Jewish rabbis.
We all share in the responsibility to bring the coming Kingdom forth. It’s our assignment. If you will just consider that God does not change, then His word will call out for the re-examination of your faith and a restoration. That’s what began for my wife and me in 2001 and each day since.
It’s the old lie of the deceiver to fall for the idea that God does not mean what He says or that He has changed His mind. Don’t listen to that invention of the adversary any longer; it’s been a death sentence since the beginning. I’ve learned the wisdom we were given from Proverbs is as certain for us today as it was the day it was written: Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:6)
I was found to be a liar as I was gradually walking away from the instruction and teaching of Almighty God. I was indeed falling away. Countless others have done the same, but it is time to wake up, repent of the lies that began in the Garden and return to the Book of Life.
The Torah is all about relationships that rely on God and it encourages us to show others how to do the same. Honoring our Father’s instruction allows us to demonstrate our love for the God of Israel and what He has done in the first redemption, what He is doing now and what He will do in the final redemption. Despite all the confusion, the heart of the Torah is precisely what Yeshua, the Jew from Nazareth taught. If you doubt this, then may I encourage you to bravely and honestly examine these words from Matthew:
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:16-19)
By the way, that word translated as fulfill is plēroō. Yes, it’s a Greek word, but its meaning is to make full, to cause to abound. It does not mean to do away with, as many have heard. It means the opposite, to cause to abound. It’s a hidden treasure. But to see it, we have to circumcise our heart to understand the truth.
So, if you call yourself a Christian, consider a change in your Gentile thinking. Do not think that Jesus came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; He did not come to abolish but to cause it to abound! If you are a Jew, you have been misled by the church. Please forgive us!
Jeremiah speaks directly to the change that is underway: O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and [things] wherein [there is] no profit. (Jeremiah 16:19)
Bottom-line, we all have to face our past. Truth does not change. Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people are front and center in the final redemption! Just read your Bible; you will find this unchanging truth everywhere, because the God of Israel does not change. His covenants and promises do not fade. Sounds simple enough, but when you hear this truth and walk in it, you will begin to understand God’s word for what it is and live in it.
No matter who we are, we can all turn away from inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Many Scriptural passages teach this. I love this one: By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. (Isaiah 45:23)
God’s Word is truth and it is the only word that remains in the end. I thank God for the faithful Jewish people who were entrusted with the oracles of God. Right now, that is my connection and I humbly look forward to the final redemption. No matter how it looks, I want to be a part of it, grafted in like a sojourner from Egypt.
Today, many are like me. They once refused to study and follow the teaching and instruction of God in the Torah. Yet there is teshuvah, a move of God’s Spirit occurring around the globe as people are turning back to the Jewish roots of their faith, a faith whose home land is Israel.
I once followed the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel. Again, please forgive me!! My stumbling block was ignoring God’s word as if it were an old book to be kept on a shelf. I usually opened it when one was available on the pew in front of me.
I once believed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had discarded His set apart Sabbath and His Passover, morphing it into an Easter egg hunt while doing away with His Appointed Holy Days, but now I am learning the truth. God does not change. Many still teach God shifted gears, but a remnant are beginning to understand the truth has sadly been profaned from the words of Ezekiel 22:26:
Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
No wonder Yeshua is rejected and so misunderstood. Just like the Jewish people, in violence He has been harmed. When we believe the howl of a wolf in sheep’s clothing as I always had, we are bound to miss the mark and fall without ever knowing what God has to say, relying on others to teach a misguided tradition. There is no covenant change that is as sure as the bright glow of the sun, the orbit of the moon, the shining of the stars and the roar of the ocean. Jeremiah is the witness:
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever. (Jeremiah 31:35-36)
I once thought my role was to sit idly by doing my weekly duty in a pew, never seeking the difference between unclean and clean and disregarding God’s Sabbath and His Appointments. It seemed that God never heard my prayers and no wonder: He who turns away his ear from hearing the Torah, even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9)
But thank God, I’m changing.
Slowly perhaps, but dramatically, as promised by the Prophets who preached a message of hope that God would faithfully use Israel to bring His blessing to the world and restore it. They knew that God would fulfill His promise through a future king, the Messiah, because they listened.
Is this circumcision of heart for justification? No. Is it for salvation? No. It is about faith and a demonstration of faith by works of love. This is the misunderstood message from the Newer Testament by the words of James (well actually, his name was Jacob):
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:15-18)
In order to honor God’s Glory, many are now learning that if we love The Lord, we get to walk His walk, talk His talk and do the word of God just like Abraham:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24)
We are in a restoration of this ancient faith. It is the same way of the historical, Jewish Yeshua born in Bethlehem. We are awakening from the voice of Elijah to remove leavened teaching and tradition from our lives that are not based on God’s bold, unchanging voice throughout Scripture.
It is time to repent, to walk in God’s truth just as Malachi inscribed, Return to Me and the promise of the coming redemption is simply amazing: I will return to you.
The thing many now see is that the return is rooted in Jerusalem, the home of the most amazing people on the planet, the Jewish people, our brothers and sisters who, through the greatest trials of history, have stood fast and firm because:
God Does Not Change.
Dennis Northington is the proud father of two amazing college graduates and his wonderful wife is the bride of Proverbs 31, handpicked by The Father. He and his wife participate in a Torah study group helping other Christian friends take Bible study and lifestyle to a proper level of honoring Torah out of love. From 8 AM – 5 PM each day, he is incognito as an insurance broker and business risk consultant for one of the finest companies in Texas. His true enjoyment is assisting healthcare organizations that serve the underprivileged in his community as well as nonprofit social service organizations. Dennis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ger In The Gate
by Russell Kirk
It was a fall evening on a Tuesday when a church friend and I were driving back from a meeting. We began to talk about what the perfect church would look like. My friend said, “You know, you could start your own church and do everything you’re talking about.” I told him that I wasn’t interested in that now, perhaps later on.
My wife and I were the epitome of “church people”. We were members of the seventh largest Assembly of God church in Texas and we were there every time the door was open. We paid our ten percent tithes. My wife sang in the choir. The kids were involved in the youth group. I sat on board as a church leader and taught Sunday school.
Outside the church, I took Bible classes at a local Assembly of God college, my wife and I were pro-life leaders in our community, we were involved with a motorcycle ministry that focused on wayward youth and I was a Volunteer Chaplin in the state prison system. I was ordained in a small fellowship, because of my work, the youth and the Prison Ministry. I was elected to the board of this pastoral credentialing fellowship were I worked to help establish churches, pastors and various other ministries, such as chaplains.
This level of involvement and dedication was a testimony that we not only loved the church, we lived the church. It was the very next night, after my conversation with my church friend as I was sitting in the church pew waiting for the Wednesday night service to start, that the Pastor stepped up to the pulpit and said in loud voice directed to me, “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be starting your own church?”
Partially stunned I replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The next day I went to the Pastor to ask him what he was talking about. While discussing my previous conversation about the church, the Pastor kept encouraging me to go ahead and start a church. I did not view his comments as his faith in my success or as encouragement to move to the next level of my ministry. In fact, I was quit aggravated with the way the conversation was going.
I was really not interested in starting a church mainly because I was happy with the way our family’s spiritual life was going within a big traditional denominational church. But as I thought about the way all the events had unfolded I said to myself, “So be it. If God wants me to start a church, I’ll start a church.”
This was a Thursday, and that Sunday we had our first church service on the 15th of October, 2000. I remember the date because it was the day before my 40th birthday. In our home we had a very large room separate from the house, but still attached to it, so we got busy and set it up for church. We placed a podium in front and put about thirty chairs facing towards the podium in a traditional church style. We hung a huge classroom chalk board behind the pulpit. This was going to be a teaching church. The decorations consisted of an American flag and a Christian flag, along with some fake ficus trees. It had the look of a typical church.
Who could have ever guessed the turn of events in this humble room would be anything but typical and would lead to one of the most profound Torah awakenings in two thousand years?
It all began with that first sermon where this small group of friends and family agreed to pray and study together until we found out how God wanted to be worshiped, and no matter what we found out that was how we were to worship God. Now, with our agenda set, we moved forward in total freedom from the denominational dogmas from the church to truly connect with God.
Our first major revelation came in early spring as Easter approached. Naturally we began to study the Passion Week by mapping out when all the events were actually happening from all four gospels. We diagrammed them out on our big chalk board, but we soon found out we had a real problem with understanding the Jewish concept of the day beginning at sundown., Also, we never fully understood that some Jewish feast days were considered as a Shabbat day and that this Shabbat could occur in the middle of the week. This totally changed our perspective on the events of the Passion Week. Without going into any detailed specifics with what we discovered in this studying, I can say what we found was a fascinating and surprising conclusion with our New Testament study of the Passion Week.
In our study of the Jewish concept of time and the Jewish feasts and Shabbats in conjunction with the Christian gospels, we concluded that all the Apostles and followers of Jesus were still keeping a seventh day Sabbath. What did this revelation mean to us as Christians? It meant that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus did not change anything with the laws and customs of the Jewish faith. In other words it did not change anything about how God wished to be worshiped. The tradition of Moses from Mount Sinai was still in effect for those Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus.
This begged the next obvious question. “What did the worship of God look like when both Jew and non-Jew worshiped God together in unity?” It was the pursuit of this question that led our group out of the false teachings of the church. There are many examples from the New Testament that I could share that we found showing that the Apostles were always practicing Judaism by following the Torah commands and by keeping Jewish traditions, which was to us a direct confirmation that Jesus changed nothing concerning sin.
You sinned you still had to repent and make restitution. There was a mandate instituted because of the death, burial and resurrection to do away with the seventh day Sabbath worship of the God of Israel. Long after the death of Jesus, the God fearing non-Jews were still found in the same place they have always been, which is worshiping God with the Jewish people.
We found this in the New Testament where Paul, then Saul, asked Caiaphas for a letter to take to the Damascus synagogues to remove the non-Jews who were following Jesus who were worshiping with the Jews. Who were these-non Jews in the synagogues of Damascus worshiping? They were worshiping the God of Israel, not Jesus as a demi-god.
These revelations in the New Testament really challenged us as to who we were as non-Jews worshiping the God of Israel. The next questions that came up took us down a long road of study before we came up with any real answers and even those answers turned out to be only half the story.
The Jews and the non-Jew worshiping together in the synagogues presented our group with new questions. Who were these non-Jews who worship the God of Israel? What happened to them when the Jews went into exile and what do we do to reconnect to this original worship of the God of Israel alongside the Jewish people?
We were still considered a traditional church at this time, even though we were pursuing these types of questions. In fact, the church was trying to grow, but the size limitations of our backroom was keeping us from adding the new people who wanted to come. That’s when we found out about a small church in our neighborhood whose pastor had left along with all the money in the bank account. With no pastor and no money, many of these church members moved on to other churches leaving only a few people at this church. They were looking for a pastor and we were looking for a bigger building; it sounded like an opportunity made in heaven.
However, it was at the very same time when I was trying out for the pastor position of this church and negotiating the merger of our two churches that I went to hear a lecturer on Biblical archeology. The gentleman giving the lecture wore ancient biblical clothes and spoke of how the idolatry came into the church and separated the church from its Jewish roots. Now, I did not exactly know what to think of this man’s teachings but I knew I had to find out the truth concerning the questions we had in our own study.
I called a meeting with our church and told them I was going to seriously pursue this Jewish connection to the church that we have been studying. I invited anyone who wanted to stay, to stay with me, and if anyone wanted to move on I understood. I then went to the church that we were planning on merging with and told them we moving in another direction and they told us they understood. I took the podium and the chairs out and put in big sofas that formed a circular seating area. Nothing was to be left of the Greek mindset created by church thinking. We were now ready to discuss the taboo subject of the legitimacy of the New Testament.
This was an especially hard time for everyone to go through and it was not to long after this that we lost at least half our members. Nevertheless, we pressed on with some very tough subjects for Christians head on, such as the deity of Jesus and salvation through the shedding of his blood. Each one of these type of subjects we fought through and found not to be supported by the Torah. We tore our entire faith structure down until we looked atheism straight in the eye, because we didn’t stop until we had nothing spiritually left of the church in our souls.
It was only out of this dark nothingness that we got the revelation that God had everyman in mind when He created the world and in His Torah He established grace, mercy, redemption and salvation for both the Jew and the non-Jew together. We knew then what we always heard was truer than we ever could imagine; the future Temple would be a house of prayer for all people and this undeniable truth would someday be known throughout the world. Ironically, the name of our humble little church was Believer’s House of Prayer.
It was during this time that my wife Teresa got a new job. She was setting in her cubical when she overheard two people talking about the Bible. Teresa thought to herself how one of them sounded like he believes just like we believe. She found out who he was and introduced herself to him. She found out there was another whole group of people right here in our town who were studying many of the same things we were studying. In fact this other group was at the same bible archeology lecture.
It was not long before we were all studying together on Saturday mornings. It was in this larger group that we really began to seek who we were in Torah. We studied the Ebonite, Nazarenes, Karaite, Coptic Gnosticism and the Messianic movements. None of them worked out to identify what we were in the Torah.
Then we came across the B’nei Noach and the seven laws of Noah, a universal Torah. Now, we found something that really connected us with the Torah and with what we were already doing naturally. It had been a little over four years since that first sermon and now we had some kind of idea of who we were in Torah. We were the righteous among the nation.
We began studying the seven laws of Noah and calling ourselves B’nei Noach, but we knew of no other non-Jews who believed this way. We truly thought we were the only ones in the world actually living as the righteous non-Jews in the Torah. It was not only the isolation of no other Torah believing non-Jews that was putting a heavy burden upon us, it was the isolation from our families, friends and traditions that bore the hardest psychological burdens upon our lives.
How were we to ease this burden that came into our lives that weighed heavy on my soul? We had crossed the abyss from false religion to no religion only to find ourselves on an island with no past to cling to and no future to grasp. I knew we could never endure psychologically from this void in our lives.
Then I asked myself the question, “What was it that kept the Jewish families together after the destruction of the Temple and the exile from the land of Israel?” The answer was clear and simple; it was the Shabbat table. The focus of Jewish faith in the home was the Shabbat table, which is the symbolic space of the Temple Holy of Holies.
The table itself is the ark, the challah bread is the manna, the two candles are the cherubim and the wine is the Torah scroll. I knew this was the formula that kept the Jewish people from losing their way and it would work to keep the Torah observant non-Jews from losing our way.
We rearranged our big room once again. We moved the couches around and set a long table and we began meeting on Friday nights. Teresa would prepare a big meal with bread and wine. She would light the candles on a beautifully arranged table adorned with flowers. This was the space we created to connect with God through prayers and psalms. After eating, we would study the weekly Torah portion into the night. This was a powerful experience for all of us that not only gave us purpose and direction, it instilled in us an unwavering passion for Torah. It was at this point, for the first time, I felt our desire to worship God as He wanted to be worship was being fulfilled.
Now it seemed we made it through many trials and tests and survived; we were stronger in our faith and sure that what we were doing was truly of God. It was at this time when a strange sequence of events happened that would open up the world of the righteous non-Jew to us in a way we would have never imagined.
We had a little website where we posted recordings of our weekly teachings for those who missed the class and for those who wanted it to review. The website had an email address and I started getting emails addressed to a Rav Schwartz. I did not know who this Rav guy was and I made no sense of the emails, so I disregarded them. Then I received an email addressing this Rav Schwartz, but this time it had a photo attached to it and in the photo were a lot of people with a banner that said, “B’nei Noach High Counsel”.
I was very excited to see this picture, because it was the first time I was able to associate contemporary non-Jewish people outside of ourselves with B’nei Noach. I emailed the person who had been sending me these emails and I said to them, “My name is not Rav Schwartz and he is not getting your emails, but I am a B’nei Noach and I want to know what is going on in the picture”.
The person replied to my email and she told me that she lived in Israel and that she had confused Rav Schwartz’s email address that was bnei_noah and mine that was bnei-noah. She was friends with none other than Rav Yoel Schwartz of the nascent Sanhedrin who oversaw the non-Jewish affairs for the nascent Sanhedrin.
We began to communicate and became friends. She was an Ephraimite before converting to Judaism and moving to Israel. I told her there was a group of people here in central Texas that was following the seven laws of Noah, but we did not know of anyone others who were Torah observant non-Jews. She connected us to some people in Lubbock, Texas and after meeting them and meeting their rabbi, we found out that we were surrounded by many other B’nei Noach in our area, one of whom was Professor Vendyl Jones, the famed archaeologist who is credited with founding the modern day B’nei Noach movement.
We became close friends with the Joneses, as well as with many others, including many rabbis who were teaching Torah to the non-Jews. It is important to understand that our group had made this four year journey out of Christianity into Torah obedient non-Jews without ever knowing a Jew or any righteous non-Jew. That had all changed. Now it was 2005, and our Torah experience and learning took on a new level and our lives would never be the same again.
For the first time in our Torah experience, we had the real sense of the hustle and bustle of a community, albeit spread out, but this was Texas and everything is spread out. Now we had big gathering for the feasts, Shabbats at different people’s houses during the month. There were many Torah study groups at different places we could go to and rabbis teaching us Torah in online classrooms. It seemed like a golden era for the Torah non-Jew in our area. “To good to be true” as some would say, and in some ways that was true.
We all were growing spiritually and advancing in our Torah understanding, each at his own pace. Yet, there was still a feeling of something being incomplete or unfinished. The B’nei Noach identity in Judaism was undeniably true, but who was the B’nei Noach in the Torah? What scale should we be using to gauge what is too Jewish for the non-Jew and what is not Jewish enough for the righteous among the nations?
A new era of debate arose within the now expanded B’nei Noach communities of central Texas. I began to work with B’nei Noach organizations, leaders and rabbis to help create a more universal global B’nei Noach community. The idea of B’nei Noach developed as such a basic concept that it created a void that was being filled with many different dynamics to identify what is a B’nei Noach within Orthodox Judaism.
These discussions went on for years as the B’nei Noach communities and various groups were broadening, or in some cases narrowing, their perspective ideas of what B’nei Noach should and should not do.
It was not until 2013 that I reluctantly came across the teaching of an innovative young rabbi named David Katz. His teachings on the “Torah of Shem” and the “Ger” where so profound, I had to asked other rabbis and teachers of mine what they thought about this new teaching and whether it was kosher. I was told that Rabbi Katz’s “Torah of Shem” and “Ger” teachings were perfectly kosher teachings.
I then asked them what the all the controversy was about. I was told that the teachings of Rabbi David Katz made other rabbis nervous. I thought to myself, “Made the rabbis nervous? He must really be teaching something that is true.”
I began to seriously study these teachings and it was not hard to realize that Rabbi Katz was teaching a universal Torah that is so pure, it was ancient and it was so ancient, it was new. The multiple identities of the Ger personality throughout both the oral and written Torahs completely explain the diversity we were experiencing within the different B’nei Noach groups.
The word Ger literally means stranger, as in not a Jewish person, but in Rav Yoel Schwartz’s approbation of the book The World of the Ger, he defines the word Ger as mankind.
The B’nei Noach who did not fully reject the church are potential Ger shituf, and they continue in joining something else to God.
The B’nei Noach that were not adamant in their belief in God, who were not careful in keeping the seven laws of Noach or are always striving to do the very least they could with the seven laws of Noach are potential Ger nochri who were never really in, never really out and never really to be trusted.
The B’nei Noach who desired to live in the land, but not convert to Judaism are the potential Ger toshav who can never be recognized to live in the land of Israel, because of legal dogmas.
The B’nei Noach who feel deep within their soul that they are Jewish are the potential Ger Tzedek, so they convert to Judaism if possible.
The B’nei Noach who truly believe in God and are careful in keeping the seven laws of Noach and have made a personal commitment to do so or a public pledge before three righteous Jews to do so are the potential Ger in the gate from Deuteronomy 14:21. It is this Ger who is to be considered like a Ger toshav today, even if he does not live in the land of Israel. It is this Ger who can eat the nevailah if they so wish, because he or she is not a convert to Judaism. It is this Ger who is free to study Torah without persecution and partake in Shabbat.
It has been almost a 16 year journey for me, my family and many of my friends and we finally found the place where the Jew and the righteous non-Jew worshiped HaShem in peace and unity through the teachings of Ger. It was only by the grace of HaShem that we now truly understood how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity in a house of prayer for all peoples. No matter where we were as a Christians or as B’nei Noach, we always inherently knew that our destiny was to be the Ger in the gate.
Russell Kirk is a native of central Texan, born in 1960 to a modest working-class family. He grew up in construction and, in 1984, began his career as an electrician. In 1992, he married Teresa Freedman who introduced him to a life of faith. It is safe to say that Russell has never walked the path of a conventional religious person, leaving denominational Christianity to truly seek out God, vowing to accept God in whatever manner that He presented Himself. No one expected that Russell would find the path to experiencing a pure worship with the God of Israel and a true brotherhood with the Jewish people, as one of the righteous from among the nations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
You Couldn’t Get Here From Where We Were, But Yah Had A Plan
by Valerie Parham
I was raised in a religious Christian household. Because my parents read the Bible to us every day, I learned to love His Book and His Words. When I was given my first personal full Bible, I wanted to be able to say I had read the whole thing by myself, so I began that exercise when I was somewhere between 10 and 12 years old.
Of course, when you begin that kind of exercise, you should expect some surprises, I suppose. I had a couple, and as I look back on that time, I can see that the Father was calling me home from an early age. The first surprise to me was that He called the keeping of Shabbat and the feasts eternal or everlasting, for ALL your generations-type commandments.
I know that I had had a serious contemplation meeting with the Father when I was about 5 years old about heaven and hell and so forth. I knew, and made a decision at that time, that I always wanted to be in HIS camp, not the rebellious one.
I was baptized into the Christian system the day after my 10th birthday. My parents didn’t want me to do it before 10, as that was an age they considered that I could know enough to make the decision and be accountable for any of my actions. But, as we were approaching that day, when I was still 9, I took my father aside to ask some God questions. I knew I had faith that there was a God and I think I knew I had always believed, but I wanted some science answers. I asked, “What if we were wrong?” and “How can you understand eternity?” My father had good answers for me on that.
But, when I started on the whole Bible reading by myself and saw those everlasting commands for our generations forever, I took my dad aside again and began to question why we didn’t keep the Sabbath and the feasts. He gave me the answer his ancestors had given him. Today, I understand it was part of our inherited lies (Jeremiah 16:19).
You see, according to the church, at least the one I grew up in, everlasting and for your generations forever, really just meant until Jesus came and changed it. It was all finished when He came and He made something new. Everyone was supposed to understand that forever really, and only, meant until He got here. My father didn’t say it exactly like this, but this was the gist of it.
What happened as a result of that caused some spiritual concern in me. I was thankful. In fact, I might have prayed thanks that Jesus came before I was born, because I could see that if anyone came preaching a different gospel than what was written, the people weren’t supposed to believe it, according to the Bible, even if the person did miracles. It was a little distressing to me that I might not have believed Him, if I had been alive at that time.
A caveat before we proceed — I now know things like His Name is Yeshua and He wasn’t preaching that He stopped anything and changed anything. That teaching from the church was part of the lying system we inherited.
My personal ancestors obviously bought the lies about everlasting and forever meaning only until the Messiah came. I can’t boast about being any better than they were, because I bought the lie myself. Being a child in my parents’ house, I assumed they were telling me the truth. I accepted it. I taught it. I made the same bad choice they did. I became just like that part of the pagan nation that got sent to the Diaspora. I became part of the spiritually adulterous House of Israel.
Another interesting thing I discovered reading through the Bible is that it helped me understand the grace that Yeshua discussed in a way no sermon could. Partly because of the inherited lies, I knew I couldn’t keep the commands I had read in what we called the Old Testament, but I decided I wanted to do everything Jesus said.
I decided I would underline every command so I wouldn’t miss any. Then I would know I was keeping His Words as much as anyone could. But I quickly discovered that I would never be finished and would never arrive — because when can you complete love? When will you conquer worry? When will you finish showing kindness or compassion? So much of what Yeshua taught was the heart behind the actions that were the commands in Torah. Of course, I now know that this was Yah’s heart for us from the beginning as well.
Now, my father did lots of things right. He wouldn’t let us celebrate Easter with the Easter bunny and all that and we couldn’t have a Christmas tree. The church I grew up in didn’t have special Christmas or Easter celebrations. When we, as children, would ask for a Christmas tree, my father would make us do an encyclopedia report on it. I did that several times. After doing the report, he would ask, “Now, do you think you can have a Christmas tree?” I would say “Yes, of course.”
Later in life, we discovered the source of our miscommunication. I thought he was against Christmas and Christmas trees because the Catholics did it. (In non-Catholic churches, the Catholics are seen as the real heretics.) I just couldn’t see that as a good enough reason not to do it. My father was seeing that it was pagan and thought that was what I was understanding. I saw the pagan thing, but it had been cleaned up by now, or so I reasoned. When we would finish our article and ask for a tree, he would then say, “Not in my house. When you grow up, you can do whatever you like in your own home.”
So, the terrible ha-ha was that as soon as I got married, I got my tree! As we came into the roots of our faith understanding, my husband and I put away the tree. When my parents visited us and realized we didn’t have a tree at Christmas, my dad asked about it. I told him I put it away because it was pagan. He said that was what he was trying to tell us all those years. I explained I thought he just didn’t want us doing it because the Catholics did it and I didn’t think that was a good enough answer. We had a good laugh.
The Father in heaven was still after me. From 1989 to 1991, we were living in San Antonio, TX. Our church was supporting a Messianic-style ministry in Jerusalem at the time and a Jewish believer came to speak to this group every three years or so. Part of the belief in the Messiah of the Bible is the belief in the kingdom where He will really be king, physically, not just spiritually. The churches we grew up in mostly taught that the 1000 year thing in Revelation is spiritual and you can’t understand a lot of the prophecy in the Old Testament because it isn’t physical, just spiritual.
Well, when this man came to speak, he was speaking about the coming physical kingdom, and none of the elders were stopping him. He was reading Scripture concerning it. I was taking notes. He spoke about three times that weekend.
By the way, I didn’t just read my Bible through once. I read it lots. I did the 4 chapters a day to read it through each year many times. I always loved the Old Testament, too. When this man finished speaking, I prayed that if I had missed something about an earthly kingdom, that Yah would show it to me.
The next day, I was starting the book of Isaiah in my reading. Needless to say, the kingdom is all over as well as through the rest of the prophets and even obvious in the New Testament Scripture if you are looking for it. While this piece of the puzzle might not seem important to some, it was important in our walk, because in order to understand who we are and where we needed to get home to, we needed to understand that there was a physical kingdom coming.
I also found out that there was such a thing as Messianic Judaism while we were in San Antonio. I heard them talking about doing Passover Seders for a couple of years and had a strong desire to go, but always had a conflict while we were in that city — obviously another pulling from the Father.
When we moved to San Antonio, we got into a mess with Bob’s job. I was given a promotion and his company said he could transfer, but didn’t go through regional channels, and, as chance would have it, they were pulling back on personnel at the time. So, feeling bad about it, they put him on a schedule to help us, but it was a hard time for us. My company had hired two people to replace me and our house had sold in one day – way before we found out they couldn’t accomplish the move they thought they could.
Yah had a plan for us and was moving us along at His pace. In order to work everything out for our future, we ultimately had to make a move to Dallas/Ft. Worth. I took over an office there for my company and Bob got a position in the regional office for his company in Dallas. I was responsible for hiring and training sales people in addition to office responsibilities.
I hired a Jewish girl not long after we got to Ft. Worth. We became great friends but, as religion is one of my favorite topics in the world, I realized really quickly that we couldn’t even talk. I didn’t know any Hebrew names for the books of the Bible. I didn’t know anything about Jewish customs and halacha. She didn’t know English names for any of the above and really didn’t know the book teachings like many Christians do.
To rectify the situation, I ran out and got some books by Jews talking about Judaism, like The Jewish Book of Why, Jewish Literacy, etc. I got a few books written by men who tried to bridge the gap between the two groups. One book was by a man who wrote about Judaism for the President and Congress. While I was busy trying to figure out how to talk from my perspective to my Jewish friend, Yah was working with me to further my personal walk into His ways as well.
Around 1998, I heard a Jewish man on Christian radio one morning while I was getting ready for work. He was talking about Yeshua in the Torah and it was incredible to me. The program host was also explaining that this man would be speaking at the Biblical Arts Center in Dallas for two nights starting that night. I called Bob at work and suggested we attend. We called about 12 friends and all went. It was great. It gave us a great thirst for MORE. It was better than most college theology classes we had ever sat through.
We went looking for more teaching at that point. We found out that Zola Levitt was teaching at the Center on Friday evenings, so we started attending. I say now that Zola was a really good Baptist Jew. He introduced us to the Sabbath and feasts in a way we could receive it from our fundamental background, but we wanted MORE.
We also knew that the area we lived in had a lot of Jewish and Christian intermarried couples and that they were the large unchurched in the area. There were no synagogues and they didn’t attend churches. We were eager to share what we were learning and wanted to start a Bible study in our area, thinking the intermarried would also enjoy it. I put a short public service announcement in our local newspaper and we had about 30 people in our home the first week.
A local Messianic rabbi agreed to come and teach us and his best service to us was to help us with our theological questions. We had all been taught that Torah was done away with. He asked us to pick a verse we thought was anti-Torah. He would ask us to first say what we thought it said. Then he would have us read it out loud and then he would ask, “Now, did it SAY that?”
We would have to reply, “No.” Before we could say, “But,” he would say, “Next verse.” Very soon, we realized our Christian premise of non-applicable Torah was built on a house of cards, with no foundation. The incorrect premise was the only thing that held everything together because NONE of the scriptures actually said what we had assumed they said. While we knew Yeshua was Jewish and kept Torah Himself, we discovered that He never indicated in any way He meant for us to stop keeping it, or assumed we wouldn’t keep it, too, if we really loved Him and wanted to follow in His steps.
We discovered that Paul was a really good rabbi, and upon careful re-reading of his words and story, found that he upheld Torah. Peter didn’t tell people to quit eating kosher meat. He said God was trying to talk to him about people being clean, while he was hungry. He was to go into the gentile man’s house and witness the salvation of Yah’s people. Peter never said the vision was about changing the food laws. The text says they were liars who said Stephen was preaching against Torah.
Soon after coming into the roots of our faith and starting the group that became a congregation with 150 members at its maximum, before we left the US, we started praying for a way to come home. We really thought Yah wanted us in the Land, but didn’t know of a way to come. None of us were members of a real Jewish synagogue and none of our parents were members.
It was during this time that we began to discover that we had Jewish surnames and lots of them. We ended up hiring the Jewish man we had heard on the radio to teach for us and he taught Yeshua in the Torah all through the Torah cycle.
Yah only gave us one way to come to the Land within the borders He promised Abraham; it brought us to Aqaba, Jordan. We found a group that was trying to create jobs for people like us and were trying to form greenhouse communities in the Aravah. We were to have greenhouses in Jordan and houses in Israel. It was to be a cross-border project. We were to be granted residency in Israel.
Unfortunately, the project was not successful in starting, but it got us here to Aqaba. While we were waiting, we got offered jobs teaching school. That allowed us to stay. We weren’t old enough to retire and had only brought a couple of years of income with us.
As time has gone by, Yah has continued to confirm to us, personally, who we are. Many Christians have a hard time with the core realization of the fact that we could be physical Israel that was sent away from the land, and that we, too, because of the physical part of it, have an inheritance waiting for us from OUR fathers. The covenant everyone wants to be a part of — that one with Abraham — included descendants AND land. We have had DNA tests, done name searches, worked on genealogy. One of the things we were also taught in the church, based on some misread or misapplied verses in the New Testament, was that our heritage wasn’t important.
When you do a study about how the Father feels about all that, you can see that He had the Levites coming home from Babylonian captivity shamed because they couldn’t even keep their family records for 70 years. Their very jobs in the Temple demanded they know and be able to prove their genealogy. Your genealogy determines where you should inherit land. How sad for us that many of us don’t think what HE thinks is important, is important.
The greatest thing about living in Aqaba is that we have been able to go up to Jerusalem for all three pilgrimage feasts for the last 12 years. We haven’t had to miss a feast since we arrived in 2005. HalleluYah! We can afford to cross the border and go up. In the years when money was scarce, He even provided free places to stay. When you put forth the effort, He compensates.
We believe Yah is calling His people home. Just like listening to someone’s conversion story to Yeshua, there usually is not just ONE event that brings it about, but a journey of meetings, what we call divine appointments. The same is going on now, bringing Israel home.
Each year, we meet more and more people who are coming for the feasts when we get to Jerusalem. They are looking for ways to come home. Not all of them are a fit for our community in Aqaba, because of the lack of decent paying jobs for family support. We are all looking for ways to be invited into the Land of Israel proper.
We personally do know of prophecy regarding Edom and the fact that we might be helping to take care of the people who will need to flee Jerusalem and Judea at the time of Jacob’s trouble. If that is our job, we gladly take it.
In the meantime, during the wait for permission to become part of the family again, Abba has been connecting us with precious people, like the editor of this book. We value the friendship of those He has obviously appointed to get to know us, and are grateful that they are also listening to His call to be involved in this process of bringing the tribes home.
I see people on the Jewish side and the House of Israel side being chosen to help this reconciliation process. Isaiah 49:1-7 is a passage of Scripture that has been given to us by others on multiple occasions, and I think it applies to people on both sides, particularly verse 6 that refers to establishing the tribes of Jacob and bringing back the besieged of Israel.
Valerie and her husband Bob Parham are Americans living in Aqaba, Jordan, in order to be close to the Land of Israel. Married for 41 years, they have lived in Jordan since 2005. Bob has a background in transportation management and Valerie has a background in sales and sales management, including real estate sales. They have run a couple of different businesses. They have also been actively involved in the Hebraic roots movement, with congregational start-up, support and teaching. Valerie currently teaches on HebrewNationOnline. They left the church system somewhere around 2000 and feel a much closer affinity with Judah than their inherited religious system. Valerie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.