Grace After Meals

Well, my apologies to those who have been patiently (and not so patiently, yes, you know who you are) waiting for The Offerings of Our Lips. But, after going back to the drawing board in regard to the content, I’m finally getting very close to the place where I will feel ready to start approaching a publisher or two about getting this out.

As a reward for so patiently waiting [small grin] and because I’ve been requested to do so, I’ve decided to post the text of my “Grace After Meals” prayer.

It is actually one of my favorite prayers from the collection, as it has significance on several layers. But I leave it to you to discover those on your own. While this is one piece, those who are familiar with the traditional Jewish liturgy will probably recognize the influence of the four traditional blessings of Birkat haMazon. More readily apparent however, is the prayer’s reliance on Deuteronomy 8:1-18, where we find the command on which the prayer is based.

I hope you enjoy using this, and that it holds many blessings for you and your family. One final comment, the prayer is designed to be reader-response. The reader indicated by regular font and the responses of all by italicized font. Feel free to use it in whatever manner you find works best for your family, however. Given the age of my kids, I often read a phrase and my kids repeat it, and we go through the whole prayer like that. We’ve begun to put motions to it that help them remember and even my three year old (almost four) is all ready beginning to repeat the lines before I finish. They really enjoy it; which has been my great delight. Well, without further ado, here is “Grace After Meals” from the forthcoming prayer book, The Offerings of Our Lips.

Grace After Meals

Let us bless the Lord together.

Lest we forget the Lord our God. Who brought us out of slavery and brings us to a good land

May we be careful to do the whole commandment that He has commanded us

That we may live, go in, multiply, and possess the land the Lord swore to our Father Abraham.

Bless the Lord together.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and remember the road on which He has led us.

He has tested us that we may know,

That man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Know in your heart, that our Father, God, will discipline us.

So we will keep the commandments of the Lord our God, walk in his ways, and fear Him.

May the words of our mouth be the will of our heart.

As it is written, “and you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless YHWH your God for the good land He has given you.”

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God,

by not keeping His commandments, His ordinances, and His statutes.

Lest when we have eaten and are full, lest when we have built good houses, and all we have is multiplied,

We lift up our hearts and forget the Lord our God.

Beware, lest you say in your heart,

My power and the might of my hand have earned me this wealth.

Remember the Lord your God

For it is He who gives us strength to confirm His covenant that He swore to our fathers.

Bless the Lord.

Blessed is the Merciful One, Ruler of the world, Who created this food. We bless You, we honor You, we thank You. We are Your people and You are our God.

Deuteronomy 8:1-18

 

(c) copyright 2006 Nathan A. Long

A Bit of Levity

The following quote struck my funny bone, and especially at this time of the year, I figured it was apropos:

“I read about the evils of drinking, so I gave up reading.”

Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said this, but if any of you recognize this I’d be interested in being reminded.

Of course, the quote is not autobiographical at all, since I’m far more addicted to reading than I am to drinking! It’s a good thing an additiction to books is socially acceptable.

Perhaps You Were Wondering…

Some of you reading this blog may be wondering, “Where in the world is this guy’s perspective coming from?”

It’s a legitimate question; to many in the evangelical Christian world a torah-sensitivity comes completely out of left field. Some time ago a friend’s dad wrote me a short note inquiring something similar. I thought I would share his note and my response as a sort of short intro to the background of my thinking.

Please don’t take what follows to be a comprehensive explanation, but it can be a great introduction to some books and some scholars that you might want to check out as they are heavily impacting Christianity, and will have a decided affect on the future of evangelicalism.

Nate,
How did you happen to get into this arena of reading? I’m not familiar with this approach at all.

You say it is burgeoning. What else can you tell me about it? Where is it coming from? Much of it sounds like Messianic Jewish perspective. Is this what you are referring to as Promise/Remnant theology?

I wouldn’t say dispensationalism has been the dominant theology. It has certainly been a strong one, represented, for example by, Dallas, Moody, and Wheaton, etc. But I think reformation and covenant and arminian and baptistic theologies are also quite strong.

And my response:

I was initially introduced to this line of thinking several years ago via a gentleman named Dwight Pryor, who is President of The Center for Judaic Christian Studies and a member of The Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research , which began as a result of the unique collaboration between Dr. David Flusser, a Jewish professor from Hebrew University, a philologist and expert in 2nd Temple Judaism, and Dr. Robert Lindsey, the Baptist pastor of Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem from 1946 till 1986. The introduction to that information started me on a search for corroborating theological information, and I discovered the upheaval in theological studies that has been underway since 1977.

What can I tell you about it? The presence of a Jewish nation in the Land, and the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls produced an absolute revolution in New Testament and Pauline studies, not to mention in the understanding of 2nd Temple/1st Century Judaism. From what I can piece together primary factors were as follows:

  1. as the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls trickled out of the Vatican’s tight grip it became apparent that our previous understanding of Palestinian Judaism had been mostly caricature (see Martin Abegg, Emmanuel Tov, E.P. Sanders, David Flusser & N.T. Wright), and
  2. the failure of both Covenant and Dispensational theology to construct a satisfactorily whole explanation of Scripture as a unified document began causing evangelical scholars to look elsewhere (see Walter C. Kaiser, James Strauss, Mark Nanos, Brad Young)
  3. hence Promise Theology (rooted in Dr. Kaiser and Dr. Willis Judson Beecher) and Remnant Theology (rooted in the work of the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research), and likewise, Progressive Dispensationalism (see Darrel Bock, Craig Blaising, and Robert Saucy) for those who couldn’t stomach abandoning Dispensationalism all together.

Promise Theology and Remnant Theology are still fledgling names that even some of the contributors may not agree on; there are a lot of varying ideas among similar larger-picture perspectives still. My guess is that by the time they have solidified in name and content they’ll have merged. The contributors are all reading each other anyway.

What fascinated me was to discover that this movement had independent momentum in Scandinavia, Asia and the Pacific Rim. There is a significant movement taking place in the Lutheran seminaries of Scandinavia, for example, as represented by the writings of Oskar Skarsaune. Ray Pritz and Gershon Nerel represent the same movement in Israel, as do the many now associated with the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research. Several months ago I began running into the same teaching coming out of Hong Kong, New Zealand & Australia, from completely independent sources. What struck me about the teaching from Pac-Asia was its lack of awareness of being anything other than the norm. These churches/teachers are advocating the keeping of the festivals of the Lord and their significance in prophetic interpretation, for example, as the Christian norm.

There is at this point a great degree of disparity in the various teachings & viewpoints, but it all seems to hold in common a return to the Jewish Roots of our Faith (not just from a Messianic Jewish perspective), and an historico-grammatic hermeneutic.

I would highly recommend Our Father Abraham, by Marvin R. Wilson as a good launching pad for investigating the movement. Toward an Old Testament Theology by Walter C. Kaiser and/or Jesus the Jewish Theologian by Brad Young are great follow up reads. A lighter read which accurately represents a Promise/Remnant Theology interpretation is The Letter Writer by Tim Hegg, a book on Paul, his theology, etc. Our Father Abraham represents some of the early thinking and The Letter Writer its logical conclusion played out half a generation later. Each of those books are equally as valuable for their extensive bibliographies.

Similarly, if you are going to track down these ideas further you’ll eventually want to read The Mystery of the Gospel by D.T. Lancaster and Fellow Heirs by Tim Hegg. I would be remiss not to mention the writings of James D.G. Dunn, Clark M. Williamson, R. Kendall Soulen, Peter Tomson, and Geza Vermes, as being significant contributors to the development of Post-Shoah theology and New Perspective thinking. These days Stephen Westerholm, Simon Gathercole and Andrew Das must also be considered, as reactions to the New Perspective.

In regard to Dispensationalism I was speaking in general terms, which certainly need qualification. I pretty much lump Reformed and Covenant Theology together as essentially the same thing. A second and major qualification is that I generally classify all major historical theologies under either Covenant or Dispensationalist theology; no other major theology besides the developing Promise/Remnant Theology has distinctives which necessarily place it in opposition to the defining characteristics of Covenant or Dispensational Theology. For example, arminian and baptistic theologies can live in either camp.

Why do I say that Dispensationalism has been dominant for the last 40-odd years? First, because I’m referring to America not the world. Secondly, because while Covenant Theology is alive and kicking it doesn’t seem to be as potent in terms of what its adherents produce or in terms of its visibility in secular society. Which camp has influenced major study bibles of the last 30 years? Which camp has written the most popular commentaries of the last 30 years? Which camp is producing conferences, books, music, etc. that are visible in popular culture? Promise Keepers, the Navigators, The Left Behind Series (ick!), contemporary Christian music, Christian Counseling, Nouthetic Counseling, etc.

Why would I say Dispensationalism is on the wane? Because not even Dispensationalists still hold to the Dispensationalism of Ryrie, Walvoord, Scofield, et al; it’s my impression that Progressive Dispensationalism has carried the day in most dispensational-leaning seminaries (actually I think reactions to Progressive Dispensationalism have carried the day, and there is no coherent, dominant theology these days). That will trickle down over time into our pulpits and eventually even into our pews. But the really honest theologians are admitting that Dispensationalism just can’t be fixed, and that Progressive Dispensationalism doesn’t go far enough. The entire construct of Dispensationalism is based on a prejudicial belief that Israel and the Church are two separate entities. That presupposition cannot be accurately supported by Scripture, so ultimately Dispensationalism will die out.

Similarly, in the past few years I’ve noticed that Reformed theology is experiencing a major revival as people recognize the necessity of reading the Scriptures as a unified document, and as people seek a systematic theology with deeper roots. Emergent movements are heavily influenced by the Reformed perspective (and a wide array of other post-modern influences), and many who are dissatisfied with the current state of the church are seeking a more traditional expression of their faith. However, roots are an interesting thing to contemplate. People will eventually find themselves disappointed with “roots” that only go back to the Reformation, or that go back to Rome or that go back to Antioch. It’s to Jerusalem that we need to look for our roots, and only theologies that attempt to re-discover the authentic faith and pedagogy of Yeshua and his disiples will endure.

That’s a pretty long-winded reply, but I tried to answer it more succinctly and just didn’t feel I’d satisfactorily replied.

In Messiah,

Nate Long

For those of you intimately familiar with the New Perspective, Post-Shoah Theology, the Hebrew Roots Movement, etc. I should almost apologize for this as it paints with such a broad brush. However, it was an attempt to introduce some ideas and some names that can start people in a positive direction.

Woundedness

“Without your wounds where would you be? The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of earth as can one human being broken in the wheels of living. In love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve.”

Thornton Wilder

Do We Need Torah?

Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Of course, not all of the Torah can be applied today: we don’t live in a theocracy, so stoning an adulterer does not apply; we don’t have a Temple nor an Aaronic priesthood, so the sacrificial system is not active; however, whatever we can heed, we ought to.

We are desperately searching for “the program” that will solve our dilemma(s) in the church today. How do we manufacture disciples/servants, not pew-fillers? Why do a majority of our flocks seem not to have latched on to “good news?” I believe the reason is because we have abandoned God’s divine program for life–the Torah. We can stop searching and stop brain-storming; our Creator already designed the program that will yield lives of maximum peace, the most fervent evangelists, the truest disciples–lives that will be light and salt.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-6

  • The Holy Spirit wrote God’s Torah on our hearts; for St. Paul “walking in the Spirit” is a euphemism for walking according to God’s commandments.
  • God knew we needed the “memorials” or reminders that He built into Torah as a way of life, in order to successfully live a life of holy imitation; abandoning the instructions of the Designer is the ultimate arrogance.
  • Read Leviticus 23:2-4 and then read Hebrews 10 again. Note particularly verse 25 and tell me if it doesn’t strike you that these ought to be connected. Heb 10:1-18 establish that we have remission of sins by a once for all sacrifice. Verses 19-31 exhort us therefore to keep God’s laws with all diligence, lest we trample on the very Grace by which we have been declared guilt-free.

If the Church didn’t start at Pentecost but in Genesis 12:3, and if the Great Commission didn’t originate God’s missional purpose, but Gen 3:15 does, and if Gen 10 lists all 70 families that comprise all the families of the world as those destined to be blessed via Abraham, then perhaps we ought to re-consider the purpose of the Torah.

There is one standard of righteousness. That is, and is described in, God’s Torah. In fact, Yeshua is the Torah-incarnate. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children.” (Eph 5:1)

When the finger of God (the Holy Spirit) wrote God’s Torah on our hearts, He was informing our conscience. How many of you would say that you are so in tune with your conscience that you know without fail whether a certain prompting is from your natural man or from the Spirit of God? If the Torah of God is what defines holiness and we are commanded to be holy, wouldn’t it be prudent to heed the holiness manual as we continue to be conformed to His image?

Music Recommendation

I ran across a website that I thought was worth recommending. I don’t know anything about this guy other than what he writes about himself on his site, but, it rings true to me, and the music is well done, with a great message.

His style is reminiscent of Keith Green with more jazz influence, and his voice is more enjoyable.

And here’s the deal: his music is all available for free. Check out http://www.seandietrich.com

Examining the New Covenant – Part 6

If this is true [the validity of Torah to our present lives]…how did Christians miss it for long (and so many still do)?

It occurs to me that when we ask that question we are assuming the same thing has been believed since shortly after Yeshua walked the earth. That is simply not the case. Why don’t we ask the question, “How did 1500 years of Godly men miss the truths that God revealed to Luther, Zwingli and Calvin?” Of course, there are a lot of answers to that question. Similarly, there are a lot of answers to why did the Reformers and most theologians since miss the applicability of the Old Testament to our lives?

I think it is vital to focus on the evolution of theology. We tend to think that what we believe is what most Christians have believed for centuries, but that is simply not the case. Dispensationalism, the theology behind what many of us take for granted, is a very recent development. It didn’t even appear on the scene until the late 1890’s and didn’t become a force to be reckoned with in Christianity until the 1940-50’s. I have a diagram that I use to try and visually illustrate this concept in tandem with the concept of Progressive Revelation. (http://www.cyberhedge.net/docs/History_of_Theology_diagram.pdf )

Progressive Revelation is very important to answering this question. I find it helpful to focus on the covenants; while Paul makes it very clear that a later covenant cannot annul a previous covenant (Gal. 3:17), what God does in each of His covenants, even in each subsequent stating of the same covenant, is get more specific as to all the details of His eternal plan. For example, Abraham knew that God was going to bless all nations through his Seed. Moses finds out that God intended to inaugurate a very special, covenant relationship with a group of people. David finds out that not only is the promise of God going to be fulfilled through Israel, God’s covenant people, but that it will be through David’s family line. Yeshua reveals the specifics of how God is going to redeem us from our spiritual Egypt. This progressive revelation of information seems to be a consistent practice with God.

Note that throughout history God has incrementally added more and more books to His Word to us. Abraham may have had a form of the book of Job. Moses writes the Pentateuch. Samuel contributes more. By the time of Ezra there is a skeleton of our Old Testament. By 367 CE there is a general acknowledgement of the books that we now call the New Testament. But for 300 years after Christ, believers did without the New Testament–at least as a codified, reliable collection of Scripture.

Here’s a possible reason that seems to make sense, but that I can’t prove. Perhaps God allowed the “partial blinding” or “partial hardening” of hearts to certain truths for a time in order to facilitate a massive infusion of Gentiles to His covenant people. There is certainly established precedent of God doing this. Paul tells us that God veiled the eyes of the Israelites at Sinai so that they would not understand the fullness of His covenant with them (2 Corinthians 3:12-16). In Romans Paul tells us that God has partially hardened the Jews until the fullness of the Gentiles have come in (Romans 11:25).

Perhaps He did the reverse to allow large numbers of Gentiles to come in-Gentiles who would have been hesitant if Christianity had been widely perceived as a “Jewish” religion over the centuries. After all, prior to Pentecost, though there had always been Gentiles (strangers, aliens, sojourners) among the congregation of Israel, that believed in God (God-fearers) they were a small minority. Conversely, by the time Paul wrote the letter to the Roman congregation, it appears that 80% of the synagogue in Rome may have been Gentile (based on the list of names in Chapter 16 of Romans – thank you, Mark Nanos, for that idea).