I was 19, finally finished with high school, and feeling totally burned out on church – yet again, I had to experience another church split and this one was the absolute worst. It was a complete shit storm all the way around and I know many of us still haven’t recovered all these years later. I’ve never regularly attended a church since then and I wonder if I ever will.
I was ripe for a change. I needed a new direction. Enough with all this feel-good emotional Charismania, it just wasn’t enough. I wanted something more solid.
I can now describe exactly what this change of direction was about. I was completely ungrounded. I had no real religious traditions/rituals or even a relationship with the Earth to keep me grounded. I was a balloon with no tether, always threatening to fly up and away. I was searching for deep roots.
This is when I discovered the Hebrew Roots movement. This nearly decade-long experience was both my salvation and my damnation. It offered me so much rich history, insight, and groundedness, but at the same time it became a heavy weight that chained me down and constricted my access to the Holy Spirit and my own intuition. It was a very necessary part of my spiritual journey for several reasons and I do not regret the experience whatsoever. Let me tell you how this part of my journey began:
For some reason I decided to begin the exploration of my faith by reading Richard Dawkins’ famous book The God Delusion. I wanted to know what this guy had to say (I was honestly baffled at how anyone could be an atheist). I found the book to be one long angry rant against the evils done in the name of religion, which doesn’t disprove the existence of God whatsoever, only that people are generally awful. But he did bring up some supposed contradictions in the Bible for which I had no answers. I was very bothered by this.
As it happens, I listened to Michael Rood’s teaching series “The Jonah Code” right after this. I still remember painting my bedroom and listening to this guy open up a whole new understanding of the Bible for me. He happened to address the very contradictions Dawkins’ brought up that had bothered me so much. He explained the confusion and solved the riddle for me.
It was not until then that I realized – really realized – that Jesus was a Jew. The disciples were Jews. The New Testament was written by Jews. If I was to understand anything in the Bible, then I needed to understand the Jewish/Hebrew culture.
This felt so profound to me. I had spent years puzzling over so much of the Bible and not understanding many of its teachings and sayings, and I was now convinced that this Hebrew lense was the right ticket to understanding the scriptures. In some ways I still stand by that. If you really want to know what the writers of the Bible were trying to communicate, then you need to have an understanding of Hebrew culture and the Torah. That seems so basic and obvious and yet so many Christians (and non-Christians!) completely miss it and are either subtly or outright anti-Semitic.
I was drawn to the Hebrew Roots movement for several reasons:
1. I needed to make sense of the Bible and it’s supposed contradictions. I wanted to know the Bible was trustworthy if I was to base my life upon its teachings. I had been taught that the Bible was God’s infallible Word, absolute and never-changing. I needed to prove this was true. In order to do this, I needed to go back to the Hebrew origins and discover what got lost in translation.
2. I wanted more direction on what to do, not just what to believe. The Torah offered practical direction, while the New Testament seemed obsessed with belief and complicated spiritual doctrines.
3. I was in desperate search of absolute truth. I wanted something sure and solid to base my life and identity upon (this is the core desire of being Enneagram type 4). Christianity felt rather flippant to me and I could no longer tolerate such seeming instability. I knew I was emotional and constantly changing, and I needed to find something absolute and never-changing to tether myself to or I’d spiral out into an existential crisis (which is exactly what happened years later).
4. I needed roots. I needed grounding. I desired to have a deep relationship with God and therefore, I needed to go to the ancient sources of my religion/faith. Go back to the beginning, understand the original design.
Although my interest in Hebrew Roots was piqued at that time when I was 19, it wasn’t until I was engaged to my husband almost two years later that I really began to study it, as he just so happened to be a Torah-keeper. It began with a teaching I came across called “Law vs. Love” which addressed the question of whether or not Jesus did away with “the law” (Torah) and if the law and love truly were at odds. I listened to this teaching over and over again trying to understand. For years I had asked why Christians do not abide by the laws of the Old Testament but I never received what I felt to be a satisfactory answer. Here, someone was finally talking about it and insisting that the Torah was still relevant. After digesting it, I was soon convinced that indeed, the Torah was still relevant and that Jesus never intended to do away with it.
I have zero interest in going deep on that topic here. I wrote an entire blog series years ago about the relevance of the Torah and how the New Testament has been badly interpreted to more or less say the Torah is bad and done away with. (For anyone interested, I can dig it up and send it to you.) What I really want to express here is that my conclusion of still adhering to the Torah is a logical conclusion of taking the Bible as God’s literal and unchanging word. I really don’t understand how Christians say the Bible is absolute truth and yet ignore and belittle more than half of it.
What I was trying to do was reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God/Savior of the New Testament, and I was able to do a fairly decent job of it. It gave me deeper peace in my faith to find this greater balance. I find most Christians just ignore the Old Testament because it’s confusing, messy, and uncomfortable, which, to be honest, I find rather cowardly. The God of the Old Testament cannot simply be done away with, shoved into some box labeled “previous dispensation.” I encourage all Christians to really study the very foundations of their faith. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the Old Testament through the lense of the cross, and I think that’s good. But it’s definitely time to take another perspective and look at the New Testament through the lense of the Torah. You’ll see things in a completely different light and enrich your understanding of who Jesus was.
Studying Hebrew Roots caused me to read my Bible, and especially the Torah, over and over again, more than I ever had before. While I’m still far from being a scholar, I have a fairly good knowledge of the Bible’s contents and teachings. I can probably argue doctrine with the best of them if given a chance. And if I get stumped on something, then I research and read my butt off trying to understand. I was completely dedicated to searching out God’s will, which I believed was found in the Bible.
I learned a lot of great things during this period. I’ve particularly loved learning about the Feasts and how Jesus fulfilled them. It’s really quite fascinating. I’ve loved celebrating these holy days and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep Saturday Sabbath until the day I die. I learned about rhythms and cycles, which is glaringly absent from Evangelical/Charismatic Christianity. At least the more older denominations actually keep traditions and rituals, which are meant to be reminders of spiritual truths. These cycles and rhythms help put us in harmony with the true nature of life.
I wrote an awesome song in response to the “Proclaim the Name Campaign” by Keith Johnson and Nehemia Gordon. I still haven’t worked out the chords or completely finished the song, but one day I would love to have the opportunity to record this song with a full band because it’s pretty awesome. Here’s me singing a clip of it:
However, there was a darker side to all of this, and that was the rejection of anything that had the slightest whiff of paganism. In the Torah, God commanded the Israelites not to worship him in the same ways the pagans worshipped their gods. We all remember what happened with the golden calf incident? Read the text carefully and you’ll notice that the Israelites did not think they were worshipping another god. They actually thought they were worshipping YHVH. They created the calf to represent him and worshipped him through it. And God was NOT happy about that. In fact, one of the reasons God had the Israelites exiled from the land was because they began adopting many pagan worship practices.
As it turns out, a great many Christian practices are actually pagan in origin. Christmas and Easter are the big ones. I learned about the pagan origins of Christmas when I was 16 and working in a library. I came across a book on the topic and was horrified. I actually felt betrayed and lied to by the Church and couldn’t understand why we celebrated this holiday. I tried to boycott Christmas at the time but it didn’t quite stick back then. This was during the time when Christians were just starting to get mad about “the war on Christmas”, and claimed we needed to “put Christ back in Christmas!” And I wanted to reply screaming, “Christ was never IN Christmas!!!”
As soon as I got on board with the Torah, I started a vigilant crusade to rid my life of all pagan influences. This even included C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia because WOW there is sooo much paganism and Greek mythology all up in this series of Christian allegory. Out the door went so much, from entertainment to religious rituals and symbols. I began to be paranoid and suspicious about everything. It started to get a little insane. But God said no to all these things and so I must obey. I didn’t want anything to stand between me and my relationship with God. For seven years I exhausted myself in a never-ending quest to be holy as he is holy. Even my husband noticed I was taking things too far. I was just trying to be consistent with my beliefs! If I say I love God then I should do whatever he says, even when its difficult or unpopular! Although I look back and think I was so blind at the time, I will always respect and admire the level of dedication I exhibited. And I believe it was that extreme dedication and zeal which eventually broke me free from it all.
But before I can continue telling my spiritual journey, I have to back up and start telling my health journey…
Tomorrow I’ll share about my health crisis nine years ago and it’s lasting effects.