Enjoying the beautiful land of Israel

Blessed is the one who fears the Lord

Blessed is the one who walks in His ways

His blessing will be like this:

    - He’ll see the fruit of his hard work
    - He’ll see these divine riches:   
    - His wife will be like a fruitful vine
    - His children will be like olive plants
    - He will see his grandchildren
    - He will see the good of Jerusalem
    - God will bless him from Zion

-Psalm 128

I love Israel.

I love the land itself - from the deserts in the south to the lush mountains in the north.

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I love the people – they’ve been kind, hospitable, generous. Secular and religious Israelis alike have shown me so much kindness and hospitality, I feel like I’m indebted to them.

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I love the language. It’s the old language of prophets and kings 3000 years ago, yet revived through a small miracle in the 19th century, and spoken everywhere in Israel, albeit with a modern take on the ancient tongue.

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I’ve been here almost a month now. Not on some tourist-y Disney Holy Land experience, thankfully, but instead seeing Israel for what it is, good and bad together, meeting old friends and making new ones, seeing Israel beyond just the landmarks and holy sites.

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I hiked out at Karmi’el (Vineyard of God) the other day. Didn’t plan to hike there, just happened to see it as I was exploring. Next thing you know, I’m hiking for a solid 3 hours, just taking it all in as the sun set over the Haifa horizon.

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At one point during the hike, I just stood there in one spot, admiring the beauty of the land as the sun went down. Thanking God out loud for bringing me here, what a privilege and honor it is to be in this land. I must have spent a good 30 minutes in that spot, just giving thanks to God.

I don’t really want to leave. Smile

Thankfully, I am here for another week.

I am looking forward to seeing Zion one last time, to go back to old Jerusalem. Going to go there this weekend. Such a special place – every student of the Bible, every Christian, every Jew needs to go up to city of David, that ancient, history-soaked holy place!

Jerusalem – I was glad when they said to me, “Let’s go up to God’s house.”

Jerusalem – my feet are now standing in your gates!

Jerusalem – the city built in harmony!

Jerusalem – where the tribes of the Lord ascend as a witness to all Israel!

Jerusalem – where God’s people give thanks.

Jerusalem – where David’s throne of justice was established forever.

Jerusalem – pray for its shalom!

Jerusalem – prosperity on everyone who loves you!

Jerusalem – shalom in your gates!

Jerusalem – joy in your streets!

Jerusalem – home of friends and family!

Jerusalem – for my friends’ and family’s sake, I say, “Shalom be with you!”

Jerusalem – for the sake of God’s house, I will seek your good.

-King David, Psalm 122

Signing off (while singing the above psalmSmile) from the rich and beautiful northern Israel, fine Kineti readers.

Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim!

Shalom from Israel!

Fine Kineti readers, I've embarked on a month-long stay in the Holy Land, courtesy (and much thanks to!) my employer, an excellent small tech startup in Hadera, Israel.

[Israel 2014 photo album]

It's kind of a working vacation: The company flew my wife and I to northern Israel, rented a nice apartment in the beautiful and historic Caesarea (pronounced "kaySARea" by Israelis), and rented a car for us for the whole trip.

In return, I sling some code for them during the weekdays at the office in northern Israel.

Sensing a rare opportunity, my wife and I decided to take the whole family, bringing my 14 year old son and 5 year old daughter to see the Land.

Quite the deal! So grateful. We've been here a week, and are having a wonderful -- and meaningful -- time here.

I visited Israel two years ago, yet this trip has been a pleasantly different experience.

Namely, having access to a car is rather liberating. My last trip to Israel two years ago I had no car, limiting me to sights near my location. (Bus transportation is effective, but can get crazy when you don't know your stop, and the driver's English is not so good. And taxis are expensive and the drivers try to extract every shekel from your American wallet.)

But with the employer-provided vehicle, we've travelled from Caesarea to Arad, Nazareth to Ein Gedi to Jerusalem and Samaria. Such a blessing.

Last trip, I photographed and wrote blog posts every day, relishing and preserving every moment. Now it's different; rather than feel the need to document everything, I've just stepped back and enjoyed the experience with my wife and kids. Sure, I'm still taking some pictures to preserve the memory, but that's the extent of it!

As an example, I write this already a week into my trip, and only now as I sit here lounging near the water in a moment of leisure. :-)

So, fine blog readers, thanks for reading this quick update. I am grateful for your prayers while I'm in Israel. Shalom from the Holy Land!

Torah-seeking Messianic gentiles are a work of God

"I am a non-Jewish Messianic Believer, and have been told that my calling as a 'Messianic Gentile' is to go back to a church and not become Torah observant."

In the broad Messianic world, there has been a large movement of Torah-seeking gentiles.

In fact, many Messianic ministries like First Fruits of Zion, Outreach Israel Ministries, and Torah Resource, are supported largely by non-Jews who are seeking a Torah-based lifestyle.

This was unexpected. The Jesus Movement of the 1970s, when God’s spirit was poured out on millions of Jews and gentiles, spurring the birth of the modern Messianic movement, did not anticipate all these non-Jews seeking Torah. It’s been my experience that Messianic Jews don’t really know what to do with all the Torah-seeking gentiles, except be ashamed of them.

Some Messianic believers, particularly those in the Messianic Judaism sub-movement, have reacted negatively. “You’re Torah observant? Pfft! You’re just playing Torah, not following it in the proper manner. Go back to the Church!”

Such people will cite 1 Corinthians 7, Paul’s recommendation to “remain as you were called.”

You know, where Paul says, paraphrasing,

“Circumcised? Stay that way! Uncircumcised? Stay that way! Slave? Stay that way! Free man? Stay that way! Unmarried? Stay that way! Married? Stay that way!”

Each person should remain in the situation in which God called him.

This is now being used against Torah-seeking, Jesus-following gentiles.

Should Messianic gentiles remain as they are, and cease seeking Torah?

My friend and Messianic scholar J.K. McKee has an excellent response.

J.K. McKee – Examining Paul’s Rule in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

He notes how this same passage in 1 Corinthians has historically been used to justify slavery and theologically chastise those slaves who sought freedom: "Were you called while a slave? Remain as you are.”

It has been used to chastise women who leave abusive marriages: "You’re married - remain in the condition you are called!"

Religious authorities have repeatedly abused 1 Corinthians 7 to put less favorable believers – slaves, women, and gentiles – in their place.

McKee cites Christian bible scholarship and teaching which notes, and commends avoiding, the historic abuse of this passage:

“Paul’s...counsel...[in 7:24] can be mistaken as a call to inaction, to do nothing, or even to embrace the status quo. There are circumstances that the gospel cannot abide and we must be unmistakably clear about that. For example, no one should remain in a physically or emotionally abusive situation. The gospel does not call for one to do that. In a similar way, Paul’s counsel to ‘remain’ should not be used as a justification for not seeking better circumstances for oneself and an improvement of one’s circumstances.”

McKee digs further, getting into the Greek linguistics to answer whether the “remain (abide) as you are” pertains to a vocational calling of one’s status in life, or a calling by God to salvation and sanctification.

The takeaway is this:

Non-Jewish believers who are seeking God’s Torah – and for the first time in a long while, recognizing the whole of Scripture as holy and good and righteous – are drawn by God to live a life characterized by the Scriptures more than the secular world. Divine spiritual betterment. Messianic gentiles are evidence of God-at-work in the nations.

That confounds some who don’t understand what God is doing.

Perhaps Messianic Judaism should remain in the condition in which it was called: bringing Jews to the Jewish Messiah and Jewish Torah. It’s a righteous and holy mission. But legislating and regulating and discouraging God’s move among gentiles is a wild tangent and a distraction, and ultimately opposes a work of God in the world.