Let me share some relevant information about myself so you know where I’m coming from.
I am married to my lovely bride, Michelle, and we have been together now going on 30 years. Together, we have five children as well as five grandchildren.
Currently we are part of a Messianic Jewish congregation near Atlanta, led by my good friend and Rabbi Ryan Lambert. I serve at the synagogue in various ways, including as part of the teaching rotation.
Having a community of like-minded believers to belong to was a major reason that we relocated from Vermont to Georgia in 2017, as this was difficult to find up north.
I practice Judaism, because I believe that Judaism is the religion of the Bible. All the men who wrote the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments) were Jewish and practiced Judaism their entire lives. (Even Luke is considered by most scholars today to be a convert to Judaism).
What does that mean? That’s a great question. If you ask 50 different people, you’re likely to get as many as 50 different answers. For me, it means I’m a worshiper of the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, and a follower of Yeshua, known in most of the English-speaking world as Jesus. It also means that my faith community is a synagogue, not a church. I observe the Torah, to one degree or another, depending upon (of course) how a person defines what that looks like. In truth, where I’m at today in my faith walk is a result of a lifetime of learning, growing and pressing in towards a faith expression that is hopefully consistent with the intention of the apostles.
I was raised as a Roman Catholic in southern New England by morally responsible and hard-working middle-class parents. In tracing my bloodline, I learned that my family ancestry dates back to Sephardic Jews who fled northern Spain during the Inquisition and were forced to convert to Catholicism. They eventually left southern France and immigrated to Canada, from where my immediate ancestors, long-since removed from their Jewish past, and intermingled with French and Scotch blood, migrated into New England.
I know I have a Jewish heart, but legally and halachically, I am not Jewish. I would need to formerly convert in order to be recognized as such. But in my heart I know who I am.
In college, at the age of 19, I had a very personal encounter with God that changed my life forever. One of the results of this was that I shifted out of Catholicism and migrated into Evangelicalism. I felt this was necessary at the time.
Soon, I married and began raising a family. She had been raised Catholic as well, and early in our dating life I led her in a “sinner’s prayer”. Our spiritual journey took us through many environments; from Southern Baptist to Fundamentalist, to Reformed, then Charismatic, including FourSquare, Assembly of God and Calvary Chapel.
After 20 years of searching, including an 8-yr stint as an assistant pastor, I became dissatisfied with my Christian experience. Not, “I wish I was a better Christian” dissatisfied, but more like “why don’t the things that all these teachers tell me make any sense to me anymore” dissatisfied. My belief in God never wavered, just my sense of balance and my confidence concerning my understanding of the scriptures and what I was supposed to be doing with them. I started having questions that I had never asked before. I began realizing that the Bible didn’t even teach some things that I had been told were “non-negotiable elements” of my faith.
What had seemed for so many years to be very simple had, over time, become anything but. Certain presumptions were no longer providing answers or even the needed perspective that was required for me to make sense of the many questions I found myself wrestling with.
One day, during this period of transition and uncertainty, I discovered some Jewish commentaries on the Torah (the books of Moses). I had studied this part of the Bible faithfully for nearly a decade and yet the insights I was gaining while studying the books from a Jewish perspective were just astounding. Things started making sense to me again. The Bible lost some of its inaccessible mystery and began to take shape in a truly cognitive manner.
Since that time, God has lit a fire within me to help other people like myself to navigate their own spiritual journey towards a deeper and more fulfilling understanding of the scriptures. I have found that there are many people who are finding themselves unable to relate with or connect to the modern Church. Many of these folks are still involved, but it’s only because they recognized the need for community. Some have even given up on that, and have turned to small groups, or television, or even other religions, to see if they can find what’s missing. They are curious about knowing more. Going deeper. That is what The Oasis is all about.
This is a safe zone for both Jews, Christians and others to wrestle with the Bible and with faith in an intellectually stimulating format, without fear of marginalization from their present community.
My life is not all that it could be but I do my best every day to bring a small measure of healing to the world around me; healing that I’ve needed myself and am still in the process of experiencing.
I suspect you’re probably feeling the same. Thanks for reading.