My Faith - What Am I?

(as my mother-in-law puts it)

Make up your mind already! Are you Jewish or Christian?

Our friend Rabbi Daniel Klutstein put it this way: "I am a Messianic Believer."

I think that best describes it (at least in a short phrase). I believe that Yeshua (aka Iesous/Jesus) is our Meshiach/Messiah (Christos/Christ/chosen one). I believe he died for us, to pay the penalty for our sins. I believe he rose from the grave. I believe that the Bible, as we have it, is (for the most part) a reasonably reliable copy, transliteration, and/or translation of the original writings, and that when Yeshua said he did not come to abolish the Torah, he meant it. I believe that we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as revealed to us in that same Torah, and further revealed in other writings such as the rest of the Tanakh (aka "Old Testament") and Apostolic Writings (aka "New Testament", "Brit Chadasha", or "Renewed Covenant").

I also believe many other things of course, but those are some of the central ones, though definitely not exhaustive. Therein lies the problem with trying to put together some kind of "Statement of Faith": you can't quote the whole Bible, so what do you leave out? Some things are simply my interpretation of various passages (and am perfectly happy to listen to differing opinions), other things I believe are central to our faith (and would therefore lead to heresy). However, some "central" beliefs are also highly subject to misunderstandings due to semantics, and no doubt (in the paragraph above) I've misspoken in an effort to try to keep things short.

So I guess I'll stick with "Messianic Believer" for now - mainly because it's generic enough that it shouldn't contradict what I believe. No other "label" seems to quite cut it. I tend to not be "denominational", but here's my understanding of a few organizations/labels:

Messianic Jew - tends to imply a Jewish eithnicity (which I may in fact have, since "Camara" aparently was a name of an orphanage, and there were significant Jewish populations in the Azores and Madeira at one time, and by father's lineage I don't really know - see "Jewish Groupies" etc. below for why it doesn't matter), but from what I've heard there tends to be a form of "Jewish elitism" in the Messianic Jewish Movement that doesn't quite know what to do with non-Jewish believers (see still trying to find the link for a discussion of the difference to Nazarene which may not be typical). Which leads, of course to:

Nazarene (Judaism) - this is probably the closest label. Unfortunately, it can also be a little misleading - implying a stronger tie to Modern Judaism than I believe there should be (or is). Then again, I'm not an expert on what the beliefs are.

Torah Observant is also a not-quite-accurate label according to some, since we don't practice the entire Torah, which would include stoning, various temple-oriented commands, etc.

I happen to currently be a part of a congregation that's technically Southern Baptist (Mountain View Community Church), though Pastor Rob describes it as "Bapti-Costal" (because of our heavily Spirit-led, aka Pentecostal, influence), and we're listed under "CHURCHES-OTHER CHRISTIAN" in the yellow pages.

Jewish Groupies - as many of us learn more about the roots of our faith, there tends to be an initial enamory with all things Jewish. However, there is both good and bad - some things have been preserved (that were lost by the "Christian" Church) and should therefore be studied and reclaimed, but just like others there have been traditions that were added (many for valiant reasons) including some in existence during Yeshua's day, that don't need to be adopted by us today. Just because it's Jewish (or Christian for that matter), doesn't make it right (or wrong), but in all things, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We (believers) are all "Jews" in the sense that we're God praisers and we're grafted-in (one Torah for all; no longer a Gentile or Jew; etc.). Having Jewish blood doesn't really make much difference if you weren't raised celebrating the feasts, etc. because God's selection of the Israelites as his "chosen people" was not about a "master race" but about a "holy people". The Torah was for all people, and converts were considered as if they had been born "Jewish" (though there were exceptions in practice, including what Yeshua, Paul, etc. tried to correct). So it's a benefit to you if you were raised in instruction and observance of various Torah commands, but just the fact that you have a bloodline doesn't (and since the dispersion, I believe it highly probable that most people are now related to the "other 10", if not the "2" from Judah).

I strugle with finding a balance between striving for renewed unity (which I see slowly happening as wounds heal) and seeking and maintaining a better obedience to God's word without causing further division and discord. How can we be united without compromise? How can we compromise without compromising our faith?

last edited 8/27/2008, but expect more changes...