October Update - 2019
Welcome to my Romans 15:8 monthly blog for October 2019. I am writing this on All Saints Day so it seems appropriate to send greetings to all the ‘saints’ on the Romans 15:8 list! This month 5 new saints (members) have joined the Romans 15:8 network and their names will soon be placed on the contact list. Can I encourage you if you are reading this blog and have not yet signed up to the network, please to consider doing so? We are trying to get the membership up to 100 prior to the end of the year.
Also please do use the question option on the site - as always it’s good to get questions and feedback and to enter into discussion with network members and others.
Teaching reflection of the month (October)
This month I have taught on 2 occasions relating to ‘Knowing Jesus in His Jewish context’.
A key part of the identity (person) and ministry (work) of Jesus is His Jewish identity. This identity should be clear from any careful encounter with the gospels. For example, Jesus is born into a Jewish family (see the genealogies) and is dedicated in the Temple. He is circumcised on the 8th day. At the age of twelve He has an astonishing encounter with the Torah teachers in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). He grows up with a deep love to His family, to His people, to the festivals, to the Scriptures and to Jewish history and Jewish hope.
In His public ministry He is often referred to as ‘rabbi’ and his dress (Luke 8:44) and cultural practices places Him within a Jewish setting. There is also a respectful yet robust engagement with Torah interpretation as well as with key religious groups and institutions as He travels through the Land of Israel. Through all of this His message is the Kingdom and His method is to call people to discipleship. This message and this method can only be fully understood within the context provided by 1st century Second Temple Judaism.
This ‘Jewish context’ continued to be reflected in the life of the early Church (Messianic community) and this can be traced in the book of Acts and the epistles. In regards to the epistles I often reference James 2:2 with the reference (or non-reference) to the term synagogue (see my book Receive the Truth – Question 19 for a fuller study on the use on none use of the term).
Yet the Jewish context is more than simply the outworking of Jesus’ life and the ministry of the Church, it is embedded into the Gospel. For the Gospel is the outworking of the narrative of the Jewish people and nation within the covenantal faithfulness of God. The Gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) because it is also from the Jew (John 4:22 and Romans 9:3-5).
Shockingly and sadly this Jewish context has often throughout history been distorted, diluted, denied or destroyed. It is a calling of CMJ to help ‘dismantle the barriers’ and to ‘build the bridges’ in order to help Jewish people today to engage with the Gospel, which is from them and for them. This is indeed a high calling and an immense privilege and challenge.
Ministry news update
The past few weeks I shared in the Yom Kippur Prayer event hosted in London. This annual day of prayer and fasting was well supported with about 25 attendees, including the CMJ president Rev Ray Lockhart. Most of us were able to stay for the 6 hours of prayer and to hear news from various mission leaders, yet some came and went as their schedules allowed. I was particularly encouraged by a number of Jewish Believers in Jesus who came, some of whom shared in their Synagogue services earlier in the day.
In addition to this I (along with leaders from Partners in World Mission) met with Archbishop Justin at Lambeth. It was good to hear of his recent visit to Sri Lanka. Also I spent a day with Jonathan our Community Based Evangelist based in Manchester. Jonathan continues to do important outreach work among the Haredim Jewish community. Arguably this community is one of the most ‘closed’ communities to hearing and receiving the Gospel.
I have enjoyed reading this month two very different book. Firstly, The Scandal of Evangelism - A Biblical study of the Ethics of Evangelism by Elmer Thiessen (Cascade, 2018) and secondly the first volume of the epic biography of the Nobel prize and Pulitzer prize winning author Saul Bellow – The life of Saul Bellow by Zachary Leader (Vintage, 2017). I particularly found the opening chapters of this biography fascinating, moving and at times sad as the author traces Saul’s family background and his Jewish identity and religious practice growing up in Montreal and later in Chicago.
Monthly Memory Verse
“For we are His workmanship – created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.” (Ephesians 3:10)
(Verse taken from the MJFB)