There’s been a lot said concerning race, racism, racial injustice, and many more associated topics in the last few weeks. I’ve been discouraged by some of the things that have been going around, but I’ve been encouraged by others. I’m glad it’s getting talked about. It makes people feel uncomfortable, but that’s a good thing. Uncomfortable conversations lead to change.
I didn’t see racism growing up, because I wasn’t raised by racist parents. I was taught against it as a child, even though I didn’t really know what all was being said. I just heard my parents telling me to love everyone, and treat everyone like you want to be treated. They told me not to look at the color of someone’s skin but at the content of their character, or something like that. I realize today people are saying not to be color-blind, but back then (in the 80’s and 90’s) my parents meant the same thing. They were just telling me to love everyone no matter what they looked like, and they practiced this. It was a great example.
I had a best friend in grade school named Devonte. He and I just clicked. That’s back when I was oblivious to most things in life. As a kid, you really don’t know what’s going on, you’re just having fun. Devonte and I got along great. I never saw him as “my black friend.” He was just my best friend who happened to be black. I didn’t know that was a strange thing to some people. It was the 80’s, not far removed from what happened in the 50’s and 60’s, but again, I had no clue. I was just a kid who had a best friend.
Fast forward to high school. Basketball was my life. I played for a small, Christian school in Georgia, mostly unknown, but I didn’t care. We had a good program, good coach, practices throughout the week, and Friday night games. We had one black guy on our team, Jemia, a super nice fellow and friend to me. He and I got along great, and he‘d come over to my house sometimes to hang out. We were friends who enjoyed each other’s company. I didn’t really see this friend as black either. It wasn’t because I was trying to overlook that, I was just raised to love everyone. My mind began to be awakened to the concept of racism during this time, but due to my upbringing, it was never an issue.
It wasn’t until I had grown up enough to understand more things in society and culture that I realized racism was a problem. Some people don’t think it’s a problem, and if we’re talking about racially motivated fights and riots in my home town, I haven’t seen much of that. From the late 90’s till now I have ventured out into my city and the surrounding area most days for work, and people interact with each other without there being a big issue among blacks and whites (and other ethnicities) in the community.
Here’s the problem though. Racism exists in private, at least around here, much more than it does in public. Someone cuts a white guy off in traffic, and he mumbles, “They’re probably black.” Someone gets a cashier at the gas station who is tired and stressed out from a long day of work, that cashier happens to be black, and the customer thinks that’s the reason they weren’t nice to them. Or, someone decides not to go into a certain line at Home Depot because a black person is running the counter.
Many white people will immediately go, “What about black racists?!” I’m not black, I’m white, so I’m trying to look at me and those that look like me. I’m trying to better myself, and get those who look like I do to start thinking.
I know for certain all of this happens, because each of these examples have been me at one time or another. As an adult, I began listening to more racist ideologies, and they began rubbing off on me. I wasn’t taught that way, and I had really never even heard of such things growing up, but they existed.
For me it began by looking into a concept known as the Christian Identity Movement. A group of Bible believers who claim that the Anglo-Saxon peoples of the earth are the true descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that the modern day Jews in Israel are either (1) imposters from another ancestry, or (2) the seed of Satan from the garden of Eden. I never accepted the serpent seed doctrine, but I did (for a time) believe the other.
There were so many racist people that I met in this movement. Some to a high degree and others to a low degree. I still remember a high degree racist (just after he played a song on a radio program that talked about a “big-black-spook”) saying in a conversation that he would “still change a tire for a black woman that was broke down on the side of the road,” as though that okayed his belief system. Maybe it gave him some solace in his way of thinking, I don’t know, but that just stands out to me.
This guy and others like him invited me on a radio program to talk about another subject in the Bible. It felt weird but I went on anyhow. During the conversation there were some racist things said. I didn’t say anything on that subject myself, but my heart was hard at the time, and I told them in private that I agreed with what they were saying. Something deep down inside me told me I was wrong, but I ignored it. It makes me embarrassed and sad now.
I never got into the open, militant, racist stuff. It always made me uncomfortable. But I did get into the idea that white people are the superior race, and the other races were created as less, or may have even been classified as something other than human. It’s not easy for me to type this out now that I’ve been delivered from this way of thinking, but I have to in order for my testimony to be true and impactful. I actually believed this way at one time.
This part of my life started from about 2003 and lasted till around 2012. It didn’t start all at once, but it increased as time moved on. It didn’t stop all at once either. I’ll talk more about that later.
During this time I would tell my young children, “Be nice to black people, but don’t make close friends with them.” Or, “if one of them tries to get to close to you come and tell daddy.” I put those thoughts in my children’s heads, because of my studies in the White Identity Movement. I began to think that we were special, simply because of the color of our skin.
The entire time I believed this way there was a battle going on in my mind. The battle existed because I would still run into black believers that I liked to be around, and I would treat them one way to their face, but believe things in my mind and say things in private to others that were contrary to the way I was acting. I might make a joke in private, or even use the word nigger casually to describe something a black person did to me that day. Yet, when I’d meet up in town with a black person I liked, I’d treat them kindly and with respect. I think it stemmed from my upbringing. How I was raised impacted me greatly, and I never could let go of the love I had for people, for the simple reason that they were people.
So... I lived this way. Some days it was heavy, other days it was light. Some days I would blame all the world’s problems on black people. Other days I would lay down at night wondering why I felt the way I did, and ask myself if I should change. But I’d dig myself deeper into this racist ideology, so deep at one time that I didn’t think there was a way out.
I think what some white people have done is gone to the Bible with their prejudice already in place, and then searched for Bible verses to back up their preconceived notion. I’ve preached on this use of the Bible before, where people don’t really believe what the Bible teaches; they already have what they want to believe in place, but they want the Bible to justify it. And it’s not that hard to do if you take a few verses out of context, paste them together, and come up with something that makes your flesh feel better.
I could hide my feelings pretty good. I could do a job for a black person and act cordial and smile, but the entire time I’d be waiting for them to do something wrong. The weird thing is that part of me didn’t want to be this way, but I kept smothering that part for some reason. It was my pride that made me do it. I was too proud to admit my wrong, and change.
The first step in healing from a sin is to admit that you have a problem. If you never admit it, get it out in the open, confess it, and openly repent, the healing process will never take place. I’ve heard people saying something like this, “Well, I’m not racist, but...” What comes after is low-key or sometimes high-key racism. It’s like when someone starts a statement by saying, “With all due respect,” you know that the next thing that comes out of their mouth is going to be disrespectful. These are statements that come from us when we aren’t fully willing to let go of our sin because of pride. Pride keeps us from saying, “I’m sorry. I have sinned. I’ve done something terribly wrong.” We want to save face, because we hate admitting we are flawed.
If I want Yahweh to forgive me, the Scripture is clear that I have to admit my sin, confess my sin, and repent of my sin. If I don’t do those things, Yahweh will not forgive me. His hand is there waiting to pick me up, but my unrepentant sin separates me from having a relationship with Him. If I confess my sins, He is there with open arms waiting to give me a hug and say, “You are forgiven my child, no strings attached.” He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes his sin shall find mercy.
So what changed me? How was I delivered from racism? First of all, I do believe this is a sin that people need deliverance from. It’s like alcohol or drug addiction. If you’re an alcoholic, you’ll be the last person to admit it. You will tell people you don’t have a problem. You’ll cover it up. You’ll be in denial, all because you want to continue to do what you want to do. It’s no different with racism. People don’t want to give it up. It’s a drug that even in private makes them feel superior about themselves.
What changed me was of course Yahweh, but he used certain people, and a New Testament epistle to do it.
So much changed in my life in 2012. I look back now and think about how I was 30 years old when 2012 began. That’s the age the Aaronic priests began their ministerial duties and that’s the age our Messiah began his ministry. I began ministering when I was in my early 20’s, and even some in my teenage years. If I had it to do over again, I’d patiently wait until I was at least 30. I now see that my brain was still developing, and I was still learning about life. I had my fifth child shortly before this time, and I was beginning to understand some things I had never seen before.
During this time, Yahweh was gracious to me by allowing me to deal with certain sins in my life I had been ignoring. He could have taken me out and been just, but He chose to instead show mercy. He did not deal with me as my sins deserved. I went on a seven day fast around this time, did a lot of repenting, and wrote a song about mercy. It was one of those great spiritual awakening times in my life, and one of things He dealt with me about was my racism. I began to change because He began to change me.
In 2013 I had the opportunity to go on live television and talk about a book I had wrote titled, “Learning to Love His Law - Training our Minds to Think like the Creator.” This was on a local station to Atlanta, and the program was called “Atlanta Live.” I had actually sang on that station before, and I had watched other interviews being done live with other authors and speakers.
My dear friend TJ Martin went with me for the interview. TJ was my next door neighbor for around 10 years, and is still my best friend and the person I enjoy discussing Scripture with the most. TJ and I have a long story to tell about our friendship to start with, but that’s another post, lol. I had asked him to go with me, and he was excited to go. We both loved talking about Biblical law, but I was nervous, so TJ was a great support.
When I walked into the station, I expected to see the man that normally did the interviews. I can’t remember his name now, but he was a short, red-headed, white fellow. He’s the one I had coordinated it all with. I didn’t see him at first, but then he walked out and started talking to all those who’d be singing or speaking that night. He walked up to me and started telling me who would be interviewing me. He pointed over to a black lady and said, “Her name is Cherise.” I don’t know if I’m spelling that right, but that’s how I remember her name. I smiled, and thought, “Okay Yahweh, I see what you are doing.”
When I sat down with Cherise on live camera I felt peace. She was so friendly to me, both on and off camera. She had a big smile that just lit up her face while I was explaining the Scriptures, and the content of my book. I was talking so fast at one time that she made a facial expression that came across like, “Where in the world is all this information coming from?” Hahaha... It was a great 15 minutes or so. The best part about it for me though was that Cherise ministered to me in a way that she knew not of. She may never know it, but Yahweh knows. She helped open up my heart.
After the interview, I had another lady (that was there that night to sing I think) pull me to the side and tell me she wanted me to come and teach at the church she ministered in. She told me she had never heard teaching like that before, and she was amazed and felt the Holy Spirit through it. She too was a black lady, and was so kind to me. The thing is, I don’t remember anything else she said, because all I could think about was two super friendly black women who listened intently to me as I explained the Scriptures, and treated me with nothing but respect. I didn’t say anything about this to TJ on the ride home, and I’ve never said anything about this to anyone until now. The live TV interview that I went to do to help others was actually orchestrated by the Almighty to help me.
After that I began noticing all the nice, kind black people I had never noticed before. I meet a lot of different people in my line of work, so this is something that had been going on for years, but my heart was hard to it. I would only see the mean, black people, but I never realized that they were just mean people, lol... it wasn’t because they were black. Some of the best customers I have are black, and they keep using me for service because they like me and the quality of work I give. I’ve built up some good relationships with my black customers over the last 7 years, and I just love this!
Okay, let’s fast forward now to late 2015, when I began studying the book of Galatians. I didn’t start preaching on Galatians until 2017, but I began looking at it towards the end of 2015, and got deep into it through 2016. My reason was that I had so many believers in the Torah Community ask me questions about Galatians. I knew that one day I would teach through it, but I knew it would be a task. Some task it was. I ended up teaching around 60 sermons and writing hundreds of pages of notes. I breathed, ate, and slept Galatians for a while. It was all I thought about at times.
Through my studies I would read, re-read, and cross-reference this epistle. I also had several commentaries I’d comb through as well, from all kinds of angles. I always tell people that it never does you any good to just listen to people who agree with you. You learn by listening to people who don’t agree with you, and seeing where they are coming from. Through the process you’ll either change for the better, broaden your scope, or fine-tune your position.
I was listening to a teaching on Galatians while mowing my grass one day. It takes me 4-5 hours to mow and weed-eat my property, so this is prime-time podcast or sermon time. I still remember where I was at in my yard when I heard a Pastor say something that made me pause. I stopped the recording, cut off the blade, turned down the motor, and just sat there idling. After a few seconds I shook my head in disbelief. I couldn’t believe that Galatians dealt heavily with the area Yahweh had been working on in my life. I was focused on law and grace (which Galatians does deal with), but I didn’t realize that this epistle had so much to teach me about prejudice and ethnicity.
I’m not going to repeat all my notes here in this post; you are welcome to go listen to my sermons. Let me just say that Galatians 3:27-29 is the hub of the book. That’s the one section that explains the book better than any other verses therein. The main issue in Galatia was that there were Jewish believers that did not believe Gentiles could have salvation, or the same status as they, because of their ethnicity and upbringing. The only way they believed a heathen could be saved was through proselytizing to become a Jew; changing their ethnicity so to speak. Many people don’t ever see this, because they just read a few verses here and there, and don’t spend time studying the cultural context of the epistle, or its entirety.
This changed my whole life. I began to see things I had never seen before, and I began reading the Bible with fresh eyes. Instead of reading to try to prove something I wanted to be true, I started to read to understand what was true. I’d done this before on other subjects, but this was a big one for me because I was being delivered from a sin that I at one time didn’t want to admit I had: hatred and prejudice towards a people group because of their skin color. It was an exciting time in my life, and continued to be the entire time I taught through Galatians. My first lesson was in May of 2017. My last lesson was in February of 2020. I took breaks here and there, but that’s how long I continued to study this epistle.
In July of 2018 I began getting into the section of Galatians I mentioned above. I spent four sermons on Galatians 3:26-29, and on August 4, 2018 I taught a message that I titled: “Galatians Cured My Racism.” I was nervous, I was scared, I’d been fasting so I was weak, but I was ready to speak about my problem and deliverance in public. In several sermons up to that point I had dropped a few nuggets, but I hadn’t come out specifically about my change until I got to this section. There were a lot of people in our fellowship that day, and even some visitors. I didn’t know if people were going to hate me or love me. I cared about that, but I cared more about openly confessing my sin and repenting in front of my wife and children. I had put thoughts in my children’s minds that I shouldn’t have, and I wanted them to see that their daddy was sorry, and that Yahweh changed his heart. (Thankfully my wife was supportive of me as she has always been, through the good times and the bad times. Yahweh blessed me with the best woman on the planet.)
When you have small children, you don’t think much of them one day becoming adults. You live in the moment you are in at each time. That’s just how it happens. Even now as I have grandchildren I look at them the way they are. I don’t think about them being my age one day, but it will happen. The older your children get the more they will develop thinking skills. They’ll begin to see things they couldn’t see before, and they will begin to realize that their parents aren’t perfect. When they are little, they think you hung the moon. Once they get older, they see all the faults, frailties, and sins that exist in their parent.
One thing I’ve tried to do is spend a lot of time with my kids, and ask them to forgive me when I do something wrong or sin against them. Parenting is super-duper-hard, and we are called by Yahweh to train and discipline our children. But that doesn’t excuse our anger or harsh speech as adults. Sometimes we abuse our authority as a parent, and lash out at a child, causing more harm than good. There have been times when I’ve disciplined in anger, later realized it, and then apologized to my child, asking them to please forgive daddy. Well, in this particular sermon of 2018, I had grown children. I had two that had already gotten married, and then two more teenagers at home. I still had a 9 year old, but for the most part, my kids could see things now that they couldn’t see before, so I had to openly repent to show them I was serious.
I had already made my peace with Yahweh. I can’t remember an exact day, but it was sometime in 2015 when I got serious with it. It started around 2013 with Cherise, but I got intentional in 2015-2016. What a relief it was after I taught that sermon in 2018. It wasn’t long, only 20 minutes or so, but it felt like a lifetime when I was talking.
After the sermon I dismissed everyone in prayer. I had two people approach me that night telling me thank you; they had the same problem I had, and the sermon struck a chord with them. Others over the last two years have contacted me about the sermon too, expressing gratitude and telling me that they needed to hear it. Praise Yahweh for this confirmation.
In 2017 when I was preaching through Galatians, my sister-in-law found out she had cancer. Her name was Denise, and she was a great person. She loved Yahweh and had a heart for all people. Her and I would talk sometimes (after church or band rehearsal), and she would tell me about people she had met and witnessed to. Sometimes the people would be black people, and she’d tell me they were hungry for what she was testifying about. I hadn’t come full circle yet in being ready to share my testimony publicly, but I was soaking in what she was telling me. I even told her to keep up the good work. She inspired me in being so kind to everyone and not judging people by their outward appearance. She passed away in November of 2017.
On the way to her funeral I was praying and crying. I felt the Holy Spirit tug on my heart and I made a phone call to a black fellow I knew. I had mistreated this person in my life years ago. I had ignored texts and phone calls, all because I didn’t want to be around him, but he hadn’t done anything wrong to me. I had never told him I was sorry since Yahweh began to change my heart, so that day, on the way to the funeral, it was time. I called, he picked up.
Through tears I asked him to forgive me for how I had treated him in the past. He immediately forgave me and told me he looked up to me and I had always been nice to him. Ha... I had tried hard to put on a facade in the past, but I know how I had felt and what I had done. I explained some things to him, and it felt good to get it off my chest. My sister-in-law Denise was the cause of this. I had seen how she treated others that weren’t like her, and on the way to memorialize her life I was motivated to do the same. She wasn’t there in 2018 when I gave my repentance message, but I wished she could have heard it. There are things I had told her in the past that I wanted her to realize I was wrong about. I will see her again one day. Maybe I’ll get to tell her then.
Here we are today in 2020. So much is going on that breaks my heart. Racism still exists, and will continue to exist in the minds and hearts of people. I just heard some racism from someone a few weeks ago. I’m able to have compassion and approach those in this sin with gentleness, because I see myself there not too long ago. I try to plant good, little seeds in hateful hearts when I can, and I try to be intentional in how I interact with people of color now.
There are people who do not understand some of my actions, maybe because they haven’t been where I was, or maybe because they don’t want to understand. The other day, I went to a peaceful protest that supported black lives. I don’t belong to the Black Lives Matters Organization, and I don’t support all the things they stand for, but I can be for the cause without being for the organization. That shouldn’t be hard to grasp. I marched with everyone there that day, mostly black people, and I prayed for racial reconciliation while I marched. I cried. I repented again. I smiled at everyone. For me it was more open repentance. I feel bad for things I said and did in my past, so I’m trying to bring forth fruit now that is consistent with repentance. Repentance is not just asking for forgiveness and stopping the sin, it is also doing positive works the opposite of said sin. I want the black community to know I love them, and support them as my neighbor. I am trying to love everyone where they are at, because Yahweh loves me where I am at, and I am not yet as I should be. (Heck, I don’t believe in everything Target stands for either, but I don’t walk in there with a chip on my shoulder.)
I am seeing things now that I’ve never been able to see before. Yahweh has opened my heart in such a way that I am able to look at things through the eyes of other people. I want to somehow feel what they feel, even if a little. It’s been a blessing. I’m reading things I would have never read before, and I’m listening to Christian black men and women gently explain how they feel, and how we can help bring about change for them and the betterment of us all.
Last week I did a job for a lady in my home town. My son-in-law exited the work truck and went to talk to the customer while I made a couple phone calls. When I got out and walked up the driveway, I heard the lady (a black lady about my age) say something about her Mama going through a tough time right now because she lost her husband. This lady started crying right there in the drive-way, telling me she missed her daddy. I told this lady I was so sorry, and it hurt me that she was hurting. She kind of looked at me funny, and I think it was because I was just a random septic tank man that came to work on a problem they were having.
We worked on the septic tank, fixed a problem, showed the lady what was going on, and got to the end of the job. While I was writing the receipt I felt something tug on my mind and heart... “You need to talk with the lady who lost her husband and tell her that I love her. Go comfort her.” I don’t experience things like this much, so I wanted to shrug it off. Thankfully I didn’t ignore the Almighty. That’s who was talking to me.
I was around at the back door and I had the young lady sign the receipt. After I gave it to her I said, “Ma’am, can you please get your Mama. I’d like to speak to her.” She did, and a few seconds later this little, old black woman walked up to the door. You could tell she had been crying. Come to find out she had lost her husband two months ago and was still hurting and mourning. Her eyes looked tired from crying. She looked frail. She had been married for around 60 years.
I reached out and grabbed her hand and said, “Ma’am, I know you don’t know me, but the Lord has told me to give you a word from Him. He wants you to know that He loves you, cares about you, sees your tears, and has compassion on your pain.” This little old lady fell into my arms and cried on my chest uncontrollably. I continued through my own tears, “It’s okay to cry and mourn. The Lord understands. Don’t let anyone tell you to get over this. You spend as much time as you need to mourn your husband. I know he loved you and you loved him.” After she gained the strength to stand back up, she told me, “I talked to God this morning, and he told me someone was coming. He sent you.” I grabbed her hand again and looked her right in the eyes and said, “You are a beautiful person. You are special. I love you so much.” At that point her daughter behind her was crying too and told me she needed a hug, lol. We all hugged. Yahweh had sent me there for that reason, and the neat thing is that they didn’t realize it was part of the healing process for me.
I have been delivered from racism. I am not proud of my past, but I am excited about my future. I praise Yahweh for His work in my life. I take none of the credit. He put people in strategic places in my life. He opened up an epistle in His book to me. He sent me to a woman’s house. He‘s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. I love all of you who have read this. You are all special. Please love your Creator, and love all of your neighbors.
My Atlanta Live Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4AEC43PoMk&t=857s
Galatians Cured My Racism: http://mnc.buzzsprout.com/17852/773218-609-galatians-cured-my-racism-gal-pt-39
Exodus 12:3, 5-6 (Darby Translation)
Speak unto all the assembly of Israel, saying, On the tenth of this month let them take themselves each a lamb, for a father's house, a lamb for a house... (5) Your lamb shall be without blemish, a yearling male; ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats. (6) And ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; and the whole congregation of the assembly of Israel shall kill it between the evenings.
THE WORKS OF PHILO
The Decalogue XXX.159
...and the day called by the Hebrews in their own tongue the Pasch on which the whole people sacrifice, every member of them, without waiting for the priests, because the law has granted to the whole nation one special day in every year the right of the priesthood and of performing the sacrifices themselves.
Special Laws 2.XXVII.145-146
After the New Moon comes the fourth feast, called the Crossing-feast, which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Pascha. In this festival many myriads of victims from noon till eventide are offered by the whole people, old and young alike, raised for that particular day to the dignity of the priesthood. For at other times the priests according to the ordinances of the law carry out both the public sacrifices and those offered by private individuals. But on this occasion the whole nation performs the sacred rites and acts as priest with pure hands and complete immunity. The reason for this is as follows: the festival is a reminder and thank-offering for that great migration from Egypt which was made by more than two millions of men and women in obedience to the oracles vouchsafed to them. Now at that time they had left a land brimful of inhumanity which made a practice of expelling strangers, and what was worst of all, assigned divine honours to irrational creatures, not merely domesticated animals, but even wild beasts. So exceedingly joyful were they that in their vast enthusiasm and impatient eagerness, they naturally enough sacrificed without waiting for the priest. This practice which on that occasion was the result of a spontaneous and instinctive emotion, was sanctioned by the law once in every year to remind them of their duty of thanksgiving. These are the facts as discovered by the study of ancient history.
Life of Moses II.224-225
In this month, about the fourteenth day, when the disc of the moon is becoming full, is held the commemoration of the crossing, a public festival called in Hebrew Pasch, on which the victims are not brought to the altar by the laity and sacrificed by the priests, but, as commanded by the law, the whole nation acts as priest, each individual bringing what he offers on his own behalf and dealing with it with his own hands. Now while all the rest of the people were joyful and cheerful, each feeling that he had the honour of priesthood, there were others passing this time in tears and sorrow.
QA on Exodus, Book 1.10
Now at other times the daily priests (chosen) from the people, being appointed for the slaughtering and taking care of them, performed the sacrifices. But at the Passover, here spoken of, the whole people together is honoured with the priesthood, for all of them act for themselves in the performance of the sacrifice. For what reason? Because, in the first place, it was the beginning of this kind of sacrifice, the Levites not yet having been elected to the priesthood nor a temple set up. And in the second place, because the Saviour and Liberator, Who alone leads out all men to freedom, deemed them (all) equally worthy of sharing in the priesthood and in freedom as well, since all who were of the same nation had given evidence of equal piety.
*This was originally a post on Facebook*
I probably see at least 10 memes a day I disagree with. I'm not talking about political memes, or just weird stuff, I'm talking about "Biblical" memes. Pictures people share that you can look at and read in 20 seconds or less, hit like, share, and think we’ve proven your case.
I usually just roll my eyes and keep scrolling. If I had to respond to everything I disagreed with on the internet, I wouldn't have a life. Sometimes I want to "correct the world," but then I remember, that's not possible. Sure, there are times when I see one that is accurate and clever, and I'll chuckle and say to myself, "that's right," and hit like.
A big problem though with this stuff is it desensitizes folks from studying. It's much easier to just scroll through Facebook, see something you like or agree with, do a 5 minute Google search (if that), share what you like, and then move on, acting like you are some kind of spiritual sleuth. It breeds laziness. Few spend a lot of time studying any more. People will even read a post like this one, get as far this point (maybe) and think, "Man, I ain't got time to read one of these long posts." That might be you right now. 😃
Anyhow... I ran across this picture the other day (shown below) that said, "Where did the church meet?" It listed 13 Bible verses, and out beside each of them said something about a house. I saw person after person sharing it, and then as I would read posts and comments under posts, I'd also see that folks acted like... "das it." Believe these house verses or you're just in bondage to organized religion. There was also the tendency to think that coming together in a house just meant everyone gets equal say, we all get to take turns teaching, and there's a warm, cozy feeling that comes along with that.
I have been involved in home fellowships before, and I've been to some good ones. *I don't believe there is anything wrong with a fellowship of believers meeting in a home on Sabbath.* But I also don't believe there's anything wrong with a fellowship of believers meeting in a synagogue, or a "church building," or a rented room at a hotel, or under an oak tree.
What “got my goat” right from the start was how this picture presented home fellowship as the only place the "church" (early fellowship of believers in the NT) met. As a matter of fact, the very first scripture cited on the picture, Acts 2:46, says that the early believers met *at the Temple.* It says, "And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together *in the temple complex,* and broke bread from house to house." The picture below just says "Acts 2:46... 'house to house,'" and leaves it at that.
When Yeshua walked the earth, his custom was to go to the synagogue on Sabbath (Luke 4:16). That doesn't mean he didn't go into homes and minister to people, sharing the scriptures with them, but it does mean that when Sabbath came, his custom (habit, manner, that which he was used to doing) was to enter a place of worship and participate in the prayers, readings, listen to the teachings, sing psalms, etc. Someone might argue, "Well, synagogue just means an assembly of people." They are wrong. That is not what synagogue "just means."
Matthew 4:23 says that Yeshua taught "*in* their synagogues," (also Matthew 9:35; 13:54). Mark 1:21 says he *entered into* the synagogue and taught. That's talking about a place of worship; a place specifically built for people to come to on Sabbath and fellowship under the banner of the Almighty. Time and time again you find verses like this in the gospels. Just do a search on the word synagogue and synagogues in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
An interesting verse I found while I was teaching through Luke's gospel was Luke 7:5. This verse speaks of a well known centurion, know among the Jewish people of that area and time, building a synagogue for true worship. The people told Yeshua that the centurion "loves our nation and has *built* us a synagogue." That's a building folks, and the construction of it (financing) was looked upon as a prestigious act.
There's another verse that gets overlooked due to its English translation, James 2:2. James speaks of a man coming into a meeting (HCSB) or assembly (KJV), but the Greek word is synagogue (sunagoge). James is here writing to believers in the Messiah (1:1). (Acts 22:19 and 26:11 mentions that Saul of Tarsus, prior to his conversion, persecuted those in the synagogues who believed in Yeshua as the promised Messiah.)
Acts 15:21 is another one. Long story short: the new, Gentile converts to faith in Messiah were placed under four basic guidelines after their acceptance of Yeshua, because as they attended synagogue service, they'd hear the rest of the law of Moses taught, and they'd grow in grace and knowledge in time.
See, all this got left out of the picture below, and therefore the picture was misleading in its content. But this is not the only misleading content in the picture.
Another problem is that the first 9 verses in the picture don't even talk about home fellowships; only the last 4 verses. See, the first 9 verses in the picture only speak of people's homes. They say zero about people holding a Sabbath service or holy convocation inside of a home. In other words, those 9 verses are NOT about "house churches."
Acts 2:46 just mentions believers sharing meals in different homes. I'm sure they were talking Scripture, just like I do just about every time I sit down for a meal, but the verse isn't about a "house church." Acts 5:42 is speaking of the Apostles of Yeshua proclaiming the gospel at the Temple and in various homes; no "house church." Acts 8:3 just mentions Saul of Tarsus dragging people out of their homes; people who believed in Yeshua. When it says "Saul was ravaging the church," that's a text that shows the church is more than a place of worship - it is the people. That doesn't mean a church has to be less than a place of worship, it just shows that it is more than a place. You can have a place but no people. It is the people who are primary in making up the church.
Moving on, Acts 10:2 just says Cornelius feared the Almighty with all his house. Nothing about a "house church." Acts 12:12 mentions the house of Mary mother of John Mark, and it says people had gathered there to pray. They were there praying because Peter had been thrown into prison; nothing about a "house church." Acts 16:32 just mentions Paul and Silas sharing the gospel with a jailer and all his house, speaking of his family. Acts 16:40 just mentions Paul and Silas going to Lydia's house to encourage some brothers. Acts 18:7 just mentions in passing Titius Justus' house, and then goes on to mention that his house was next door to *the synagogue,* i.e. place of worship. Acts 20:20 mentions that Paul taught in public and from house to house.
Not a single one of these verses I've just mentioned, the first 9 verses on the picture below, talk about a "house church." Someone may say, "Well, the last 4 verses do," and that is true and fine. Just put those last 4 verses on the pic. Why in the world would we want to manipulate 9 other verses, and then write nothing about the synagogues of the first century, and then share that pic? Here's why: people love tradition more than the Scriptures. That's the hard truth, and it's not just the "Christian Church" or "Christianity," it's also the “Hebrew Roots, Torah Observant followers of the Way.” People as a whole are more content to peddle something they think or like than they are to do the hard work of diligent study and research in the Scriptures.
This is why that picture will probably continue to get shared on Facebook and other social media outlets, but a more lengthy, detailed post like this will not. We are lazy, stubborn, and don't want to work hard; in the natural or the spiritual.
Ok, let me deal with something else. I believe the picture is also misleading in intent. I think most people sharing this pic do not like organized, structured church. I know this, because I’ve been in this “Torah movement” since 1997, and I’ve met and talked to hundreds (maybe over a thousand or more) people who have been hurt or let down by Christian churches who have turned into a business rather than a genuine place of prayer, worship, teaching, family of faith, etc.
Listen to me: I understand the hurt. I’ve been there. I’ve seen behind the scenes. I’ve heard pastors say they are running a business. I’ve listened to sermons that had little to no scripture in them, and what verse where there were taken out of context. I’ve watched people get stabbed in the back. I’ve watched people care more about their name than the name of Messiah. I’ve seen preachers live lavish lifestyles while congregants have little, or can’t pay a light bill. I’m with you. All of that is garbage. I don’t want any part of that.
But... don’t let the misuse of something turn you away from it’s proper use. People do this all the time in various ways. They’ll see something abused, and they’ll forget there is a proper use of that something, and get as far away from it altogether as possible. It’s like being bitten by a dog, and then you never want anything to do with dogs. Or being involved in an abusive marriage, so you think all marriages are trash. You shouldn’t operate like that. Just because you’ve been in a bad church doesn’t mean there aren’t any good, organized, structured churches.
The NT not only teaches about a place of worship (synagogue), but it also teaches about structure, order, and leadership. It’s not just a free for all. It’s not everything goes, or “we just do what the ‘spirit’ leads us to do.” No, no, no, that’s not taught in the Bible, but that is the mentality of the majority of people who only promote “home church.” They’ve had bad experiences, so they want to try something different, even if it means plucking a few verses out of the NT about church in someone’s home, and then forming a way to do church differently. I think a lot of times the intentions are good, but it ends up being more of a reaction to an abuse rather than a, "let's look at the Scriptures and see what a NT church should look like."
Acts 14:23 mentions that Paul and Barnabus appointed elders in every church they planted. An elder refers to a leader. An older man who is seasoned in the faith, and meets the qualifications listed for an elder in both Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. In the list of qualifications, Paul speaks of man *managing his own household,* and then likens it to how this same man will be able to *manage the church* (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Paul also mentions that his directives were to appoint elders in every town, and he calls the elders overseers and managers (Titus 1:7).
When there was a dispute among the early church, the *apostles and elders* met and discussed (Acts 15:1-2, 6). Towards the end of the discussion, Peter spoke up, and then James settled the matter (15:7-21). Acts 16:4 mentions the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. There wasn't a free for all where everyone got to decide what was to be done. It was trusted, qualified elders who made those decisions. I guess someone could have stood up and tried to rebuke James and Peter, but they would have been in the wrong.
Acts 20:17 mentions that Paul sent for the elders of the church. 1 Timothy 5:17 mentions the elders that rule well, and it even goes on to say that they are worthy of ample honorarium, which is double financial support to what the genuine widows are receiving, because the elders labor in word and doctrine, or work hard at teaching and preaching. James 5:14 mentions calling for the elders of the church to pray over one who is sick or weak. 1 Peter 5:1-4 is an exhortation for the elders of the church to feed the flock, take oversight, and not do so out of greed for money or a desire to lord over people, but to set a righteous example for them.
There is also 1 Corinthians 14 which mentions that everything in the church should be done decently and in order (14:40). The context deals with the proper use of the gifts and talents inside the church.
I didn't mean for this post to be this long, lol... but I had to touch on these matters, because I think so many in the Torah Observant movement ignore them. They have a lone ranger mentality that thinks, "I can just stay home and read my Bible and that is my church." Others may meet with a few people on Sabbath, and don't get me wrong, that is great, but they then look down upon structured, organized church in a building other than a home. Again, I get that this stems from seeing abuse, but there are places that do it right rather than wrong.
I'll close with this. I am still learning, and I do not claim to be without fault, but I have been an elder in a congregation now for over 10 years. I'm not the sole elder. We have two other brothers who help teach, lead, and guide, and another elder who leads and guides more in a one-on-one teaching capacity. We don't always agree, and everything is not seamless, but we shepherd a flock of people. We gather weekly to pray together, read together, sing together, and then actually study the Bible. I teach through books of the Bible, or do multiple sermons on certain topics. Another brother does the same. Then we have a brother who teaches in more of an encouraging, edifying way, and that is good, because we need balance. It can't all be dotting i's and crossing t's. We have to have doctrine *and* encouragement. We have to laugh *and* cry. We have to study *and* be encouraged.
We also have a testimony or prayer request "service" after the teaching, where people can share what's on their heart, ask a question, give a prayer request, etc. Sometimes it's therapy. Sometimes people cry as they share. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes we open the Bible back up and discuss what's been taught. Sometimes we debate back and forth. All of this is healthy.
This can be done in a home or in a synagogue. I don't look down on "house church," so long as the Biblical guidelines are followed. But please don't look down on or believe that holding meetings in a "church building" or synagogue is bad or second class. Having leadership is not bad. There is such a thing as good men who lead in gentleness and by example, with a light yoke (like Messiah; Matthew 11:28-30).
I believe that structured, organized, weekly fellowship is so important, that if you live somewhere where you don't have this, you should seriously think about doing some research online and move to a place where you can have this. Praise Yahweh we have technology today whereby we can fellowship across a computer screen, but you can't hug a computer screen. You can’t sit down and have coffee, and reach out and shake hands over a computer. You can't really get to know someone unless you spend personal time with them. Being around someone for an extended period of time causes you to get to know the real person, and build community. And you really shouldn't trust a man or his message until you examine his life. That verse from 1 Timothy 3:4-5 shows this.
I realize some people can't move or re-locate. I realize some people are elderly and not very mobile. Some people are locked in financially. In these cases, I will tell you what I would do. I would find a small, local church that had good leadership, and I would join. And I wouldn't join to try to stir up trouble, I would join to add grace, joy, and knowledge to that fellowship. I would see where ministry was needed, if needed. I'd offer my gifts and talents to the church. I'd help out whenever and with whatever I could. I'd get to know everyone there. I wouldn't beat people over the head about Christmas or pork. Some of y'all need to read that last line about 10 times. I would just serve the church, and as time and Yahweh allowed, I'd share with the pastor or elders, the things that I believe Scripture teaches and emphasizes. And I'd share with patience, because goodness knows Yahweh has been oh so patient with me. I would do all of this, because I believe so strongly in local, weekly (and beyond) fellowship.
Anyhow... this is why I just scroll past most memes or pictures I don't agree with, lol. I don't have time to write posts like this every day. But sometimes, I just can't take falsehood being shared over and over again. I love the truth too much.
I did a job for an elderly man today. Born in Italy, then raised in New York as a teenager. Ended up he is now a Baptist. 82 years old.
He told me he loved his great grandmother, and she always encouraged him to read the Bible and listen to the Lord. He said he ignored her completely, until he was about 40.
One evening he was flipping through the channels, and Billy Graham was on preaching. This was like the late 70’s. He watched and listened carefully. His great grandmother came back to his memory. The message provoked his heart. He knelt down in the living room and said, “Please Lord forgive me of my sins. I want my life to be for you.” I thought that was beautiful.
I didn’t try to correct this old man on anything he said. I just listened and smiled, and I kinda teared up a little once. He was speaking from his heart. I respected where he is at in his walk.
He did end up asking me where I went to church, and I answered him briefly, and ended our talk by sharing with him the meaning of the word Hallelujah, and left it at that.
We are not commanded to fix anyone. We are commanded to plant and water seeds, and let Yahweh give the increase. There’s likely a lot I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye with him about. I’m not big on Baptist doctrine, lol, but I love me some Baptists! 😃 The point is that I could have smothered him with feast days, dietary laws, tassels, or the lunar-solar calendar, and a whole bunch of other stuff... that yes is important, but would have turned him away had I became pushy and belligerent... like I see so many do on social media.
You’ve got to realize that people aren’t going to listen to anything you have to say if you just pound them over and over and over. The Bible isn’t to be used as hammer to nail people down.
“Do you ever get forceful brother Matthew?” Yes. Yes I do. Mainly when I’m talking to pastors who’ve been leading people for 20+ years and aren’t doing anything but making money off of folks. I get pushy. I may even seem a little mean. But I save it for those who should know better, not for people who are seeking for the truth the best they know how. Believe it or not there are so many good hearted folks in the world who walk in all they know to walk. Just like you and I do right now. Ain’t none of us got it figured all out.
I’d encourage everyone to take a deep breath, and just try to love people. “That never works!” Yea, yea, yea... It’s never worked for you because you have never tried it. You may have tried it for a day, but you’re flesh couldn’t stand it, so you went back to thinking you could pound the truth into somebody.
Please... slow down. Love people where they are at. Help them. Be a neighbor to them. Listen when they talk. Shut up for a while. Just be like the Messiah.
Anyhow... that’s been going through my head most of the day. ✌🏼
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.