When you walk into a Messianic synagogue service on Shabbat, you’re highly likely to hear and see things like head coverings, prayer shawls, liturgy and siddurs, the reading of the Torah portion, a Torah scroll processional, the kiddush, the hamotzi, and the traditional Jewish blessings. Throughout Messianic Judaism and the various Jewish/Hebraic roots movements, such elements—adopted from traditional, rabbinic Judaism—have become inseparably blended into Messianic culture and expression. But what do these traditions and customs accomplish for us as disciples of Messiah? Read more

Messianic believers in Yeshua rely on the Scriptures for guidance on things such as Torah-keeping, celebrating the Feasts, and so forth. Yet some say that in addition to the instructions of God’s word, we should also be keeping the traditions of Judaism—that this is a clear teaching of Paul. But is this what Paul really teaches? What should our attitude be toward Jewish tradition? Read more

Click here to download “The Name” PDF.

This paper is related to the “Unholy War of Names” post, but is provided here so that it may have its own discussion thread.

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Q: Okay, I’m confused. From my understanding, using the name of “Jesus” and “God” are like worshiping a false god, Baal and so on. What I am asking is: do we call God Yahweh (yhvh), or Adonai (and how do you pronounce it?); and what’s the difference between Yeshua and Yahshua? When I am worshiping, I want to talk to Him and know for certain that I am not calling Him someone else’s name or a title. Plus, I have little ones at home, I want to teach them the correct thing. I don’t want to miss Heaven on the account of a technicality. Remember, He’s going to turn people away because He didn’t know them. Well, how can you know someone without knowing their name? You would only know of them.

A: Thank you for your important question. I understand why you feel confused. Let me address each issue in turn, and then I will conclude with some comments and observations. Read more

The Tainting of Torah, Part 1

Q: Kevin, I’ve been so drawn to the Messianic way for a few years, but haven’t found a group of Messianic believers who get along. On Facebook there are 3 or 4 different groups who don’t agree with each other. Who can I trust to teach me when they all disagree on different things? Some [are] very legalistic to the point of saying believers who aren’t Messianic are going to hell… others I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to say. If I believe what some are saying, [my husband] is going to hell because he wants to give gifts on Christmas, and because his job requires working Saturday. Shalom.

A: First, let me say that I empathize with you—you are not alone in recognizing the divergent and often antagonistic views in Messianic (or pseudo-Messianic) circles. I think you have already uncovered your answer with regard to whom you can trust to teach you—or rather, whom you cannot. Paul acknowledged in 1Timothy 1:6-7 that even in his day, “certain [men], having swerved, turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of Torah, not understanding either the things they say, nor concerning what they [confidently] assert.” If you’re confused about what they’re trying to say, it may be with good reason—their discussion is most likely “fruitless.” And without a doubt, the Legalist, and the one who condemns “non-Messianics” to hell should not only be completely ignored, but sternly rebuked. As for your husband, I think you already know to discard the words of those “teachers” regarding his fate. Celebrating Christmas—even working on Shabbat—is not going to send him to hell… not even close! Read more

… is Far From Being Right

Q: Hi Kevin. I was wondering: we have some friends here that have gotten into the… stuff [being espoused by a controversial Jewish-roots teacher, i.e.], “special” understanding of the calendar, New Moon by email sightings in Jerusalem, etc. We know [from personal experience that the teacher is] bad news. This time around it’s divisive—for example, [while our congregation observed] Rosh HaShannah on 9/8 with the rest of the world, [our friend insisted it should be] on 9/10 when his email says the moon was seen ([and] therefore all the [following holy] days [are to be observed differently] as well). If you choose to observe some other date, [most Jewish people are] only going to be aware of the dates on a generic calendar, and [if they want to attend a Messianic synagogue service]… you miss the chance to witness to them about Messiah. Have you ever had to try and lead someone out of [this] kind of junk? Thanks!

A: On one hand, I’m sympathetic to the desire to follow Israel’s calendar according to observation, rather than the often inaccurate, traditional Jewish calendar. I have to admit that knowledge of the erroneous nature of the currently accepted calendar makes me yearn for the calendar’s restoration.

In my experience, however, most people’s motivation for such a restoration comes not out of a desire for the restoration of the Jewish people, but out of the desire to be “right.” Sometimes this desire is pure, wanting to honor the Word of God, but more often, I have seen it spawn from negative, anti-authoritarian sentiments, usually aimed at proving Christianity wrong—and in this case, it would be to prove everyone wrong, including Rabbinic Judaism. While I am no fan of rabbinics, my personal desire for a restored calendar does not come from a need to disprove a practice of Judaism and assert an alleged spiritual superiority. All that to say, when dealing with such a person, it is crucial to discern the motives of his heart (Prov.16:2) before confronting him about the division that is being caused. Read more