What Would Yeshua Do?

Tikvat Israel

Tom Douglas and his wife Lynne are regular fixtures in the 8:30 worship service at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, but they are also regular fixtures in the worship services of a synagogue just down the street.  How do they manage both, and what does it mean?  Take a look at Tom’s article below and his suggestion about how we might partner with our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters.

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Three weeks ago, we ended our first year of KOH2RVA: “A year long, every member mission trip.”

Lynne and I weren’t there for the One-Sunday event but we were able to watch it on our computer at home. It was heart-warming to listen to the awesome testimonies that were given, to see what so many wonderful people have been doing and it made us very proud to be members of this church, to be associated with people who really are involved in community efforts that are much needed.

The next Sunday, Pastor Jim charged us to not only continue what we had started a year ago, but he asked the church to extend beyond our boundaries to include partnering with other organizations and he called it KOHX2.

We have a wonderful opportunity to partner with Tikvat Israel. Tikvat is the Messianic Jewish Synagogue located within walking distance of First Baptist, at the corner of Boulevard and Grove. Who better to partner with than our Jewish brothers and sisters who believe, as we do, that “Yeshua” (that’s Jesus’ Hebrew name) is our Messiah?

Briefly, Messianic Jews worship much like the first century Jewish believers in Jesus did. They live a Jewish lifestyle and they celebrate all the Jewish holidays and customs that God Himself gave them and they believe in Jesus as Messiah.

I have been attending Tikvat for a number of years now and have many friends there. They are a friendly and loving congregation just as we are.

I would like to propose that First Baptist partner with Tikvat in its prison ministry. I have been overwhelmingly blessed to have been a part of this ministry for five or six years now. The thing about those who are in prison is that they basically have nothing. As with any such group–the homeless, the less fortunate, the underprivileged–you find people who have no pretense: people who are at the lowest point in their life, just looking and hoping that someone on the outside will do something to let them know that they matter, that they may be welcomed back into society when their time is up.

I visit this group of Messianic believers once a month. We hold a Messianic Jewish worship service. What you could do to help is maybe write letters to one or more of them, maybe visit one or more of them, or maybe come with me to one or more of our services. Or maybe make a donation, we always need prayer books and other religious materials. Passover comes around the time of Easter and supplies are expensive.

This would be a step in KOHX2 and a step in enhancing Jewish/Christian relations, which have suffered way too long.

Matthew 25:31-40 says:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.‘ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Thank you for your consideration. God bless all of you in whatever mission you do.

Contact:

Tom Douglas
Home: 264-0774 after 6:00pm
Cell: 804-334-8038
E-mail: tomatbap@yahoo.com

KOH2RVA: Day 296

David PowersI had a long talk with David Powers yesterday and got an update on his dream.

David heads up the Communication ministry at First Baptist Church, which includes the weekly telecast of our worship services, the development and maintenance of our website, our social media presence, the streaming webcast of Sunday morning worship and Bible study, and the internal and external publicity of events. And those are only the most obvious things.

But for several years now David has had a dream of making a movie based on the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. And for even longer than that David has been studying that parable, peeling back layer after layer in search of its core, which he believes is the very heart of the gospel. It has changed the way he looks at Jesus. It has changed the way he thinks of God.

And so, as we began to talk about this year-long, every-member mission trip called KOH2RVA he began to dream that within this year the members and friends of First Baptist Church could make a movie. He called his dream “the Prodigal Project,” and spun out scenarios involving hundreds of volunteers and dozens of crew members—an epic film on the order of “The Ten Commandments.”

The first few drafts of the script were essentially re-tellings of the original parable, and they were good, but it turns out someone releases a cinematic version of the Prodigal Son almost every year. I was telling my brother Gray about this last August when we were at the beach together and he suggested, jokingly, that we should make a movie about a church making a movie about the Prodigal Son.

And that changed everything.

The last three or four drafts of the script have used that basic premise in a way that surprises and delights, with a Jewish kid from the Bronx—a graduate of NYU Film School—coming to Alabama to help a Bible-thumping Baptist preacher make a movie about the Prodigal Son. David hired a professional screenwriter to polish it up and work out a few plot problems and yesterday he dropped the finished product on my desk.

So, it might not happen in the next few days, but within a few weeks or months I think we’re going to start shooting a movie. David was telling me yesterday about the money he’s been raising and the cameras he’ll be using and the number of extraordinarily talented people who have agreed to do the sound, lighting, music, and photography.

Suddenly, everything seems to be coming together.

That’s all very exciting, but I remember the reason David dreamed up this project in the first place, and that excites me even more. David was concerned that 20-30-somethings—his children’s generation—were dropping out of church. He began to wonder: “If they won’t come to church, what will they come to?” His answer? The movies. Young people will come to the movies. And if there was a movie that wasn’t too obviously a “Christian” movie they might watch it. And if, in that movie, the radical grace of God could be communicated—the kind that welcomes prodigals, and throws parties, and causes angels to rejoice when sinners repent—then they might decide that they want some of that grace for themselves.

It’s a huge challenge, and nobody—least of all David—knows if he can pull it off. But this is his hope: that someday, somewhere, some young person will watch this movie in a darkened theater and feel his heart breaking open and the tears sliding down his cheeks as he realizes that this grace—the joyous, unrestrained, party-throwing, prodigal-welcoming grace of God—is for him too,

And heaven will come to earth.

KOH2RVA: Day 158

ShawarmaYesterday was Ash Wednesday, and often on that day I fast—that is, I “go without food for religious reasons.” Last year, for example, I promised myself that every time I felt a hunger pain on Ash Wednesday I would think “Jesus is Lord,” to remind myself that my stomach is not.

I was going to do that again yesterday but when I checked my calendar I saw that I had already made plans to have lunch at the Old Jerusalem restaurant, and so I shrugged my shoulders and let out a half-hearted sigh. “Looks like I’m not going to be able to fast today,” I said, to no one in particular. “I forgot that it was Ash Wednesday when I made the appointment and now it’s too late. I can’t very well call off lunch, and it would be rude to sit there and watch my guest eat while I didn’t.”

Plus, I love the Old Jerusalem.

It’s near the intersection of 7th and Franklin downtown, just a few steps up the hill and to your left. There’s a sign on the front door that says “Halal,” which is the Muslim equivalent of “Kosher.” One of the things I love about the restaurant is that you can take your Muslim or Jewish neighbors there without any fear of offending their dietary restrictions. There’s no pork on the menu, and no alcohol either. Everything is prepared according to the traditions of the Middle East, which is home to both Muslims and Jews.

For all of those reasons, it’s where I usually meet with my interfaith group. We sit at a big table near the window, and the owner brings out platters of hummus and warm pita bread to get us started. Soon we are munching on (delicious!) falafel, digging into hearty beef and chicken shawarma, and finishing up with hot tea and “ladies fingers” for dessert. Throughout the meal we are talking and laughing and making wild gestures, often to the servers to bring us more food. It’s fun.

Which is part of the reason I was there yesterday.

The owner, a smiling, gregarious Jordanian named Tahir, wants to renovate the restaurant. He wants to create the kind of ambiance that will attract the dinner crowd (right now the Old Jerusalem looks a whole lot more like a lunch place than a dinner place). But it’s going to cost some money and he’s having trouble getting a loan. He was in the construction business before this and went bankrupt when the economy crashed in 2008.

That’s where Jeff Dortch comes in.

Jeff is a member of First Baptist Church who used to be a banker. One of the things he does is consult with church members who have fallen on hard times. He takes a look at their finances and helps them come up with strategies to get back on their feet. I took him to lunch with me to see if he had any suggestions for Tahir.

Tahir greeted us with a smile. He seated us at a booth. He asked the waitress to bring out some hummus and warm pita. And then he told Jeff his story, complete with his plans for renovation. You could see his eyes sparkle as he described the stonework, the arches, and the fountain he hoped to put against one wall. When he went back to the kitchen Jeff told me quietly that restaurants were notoriously bad investments. He wasn’t sure he would be able to help Tahir. But he also agreed, as he took another bite, that the falafel was delicious.

Why am I telling this story on the 158th day of KOH2RVA, our year-long, every-member mission trip to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia? Because my friend Imad Damaj (a VCU professor) knew a Muslim brother who was struggling to keep his restaurant going. He invited Bill Sachs (an Episcopal priest) and me (a Baptist pastor) to join him for lunch. He introduced us to Tahir and asked if we knew any way to help. I got in touch with Jeff Dortch and took him to lunch at the Old Jerusalem.

I don’t know what will come of it all, if anything, but at the heart of it is one person trying to help another, and reaching out through friendship to another person, and then another. It’s the stuff the parable of the Good Samaritan is made of,

And the stuff of which heaven is made.

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Click HERE to see the Yelp! reviews of the Old Jerusalem, remembering that there will be at least one crank in every bunch who loves to complain.  And think about this: if you’ve ever been to the Holy Land consider hosting a reunion lunch or dinner at the Old Jerusalem.  As the sign above the door says, it’s “A Taste of the Holy Land.”

KOH2RVA: Day 149

Personal TrainerMy friend Peter is a personal trainer at the Jewish Community Center.  He is also a committed Christian.  Yesterday he asked me how far he should go with the Great Commission in a place like that.

“Well, that depends,” I answered, “on whether you’re trying to make converts or disciples.

“When you try to make a convert,” I said, “you’re hoping to bring somebody around to your worldview.  You want them to believe all the things you believe.  As a Christian, you might want them to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, that he rose from the dead, etc.  And if you try to do that here, at the Jewish Community Center, you might lose your job.

“But making a disciple is different,” I said.  “Look at the way Jesus made them: he didn’t ask those fishermen to believe that he was the Son of God, he just asked them to follow him.  It was only after months of listening to him preach and teach, watching him help and heal, that Jesus asked them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’  And that’s when Peter said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!’

“So, why not simply invite people to join you in Christ’s mission, instead of trying to convert them to a Christian worldview?  Eventually they will come to see him for who he really is.”

And then I talked to Peter about his work as a personal trainer.  I said, “You don’t want people to sit out in the lobby and read fitness magazines; you want them to come in here and work out.  You don’t want them only to believe that exercise is good for them; you want them to experience it.  When they do, you won’t have to convince them; they will know it for themselves.  That’s the difference,” I said, “between a convert and a disciple.”

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned Warren and Julie Pierce, who have been helping refugees get resettled here in Richmond.  Today I want to share this invitation from Julie (below) to help out with a massive clothing distribution for New Americans (i.e. refugees) this Saturday.  This could be your opportunity to follow Jesus in discipleship and to invite someone else to come with you.  You don’t have to say, “If you died tonight do you know where you would spend eternity?” (the standard street-corner evangelist’s question).  You can just say, “Hey, I’m going to help distribute clothes to refugees on Saturday…

“Want to come?”

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Dear ones, this is a two part message –

(1) an opportunity for you to bring heaven to earth and

(2) an update on the New American ministry

We appreciate your time in reading this, and also your response whether in person or through much needed prayer.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NKJV).

We are offering another of our quarterly massive clothing distribution events hosted by Westover Baptist Church, 1000 Westover Hills Boulevard, just across the Nickel Bridge.

Saturday, February 9th

8:00-9:00am Team needed at Outreach Center** to load clothing bins & hanging clothes – transport to Westover BC and unload (trucks/station wagons needed)

9:00-10:30am Set up team needed to unpack and display clothing on tables and on hanging racks

10:30-11:30am Actual event

11:30am-noon Break down – load bins/racks and transport back to Outreach Center, all leftover clothing to Goodwill

12:00-12:30pm Sweep and clean church

All done in ½ day!

Any questions, please respond to this email and if you can volunteer for all or part, thanks for letting us know. If you have donations, you may bring them on that day to Westover BC, however, they must be received during the set up time between 9:00-10:30am. Thanks for bringing dresses, blouses, all coats and men’s shirts on hangers if possible on that day. We are in desperate need of coats, hoodies, sweaters; all sizes, all types. We have very few men’s clothes at this time. Please take a look in your closets and get those to us before February 9th.

**Outreach Center address: 2944 West Marshall St. 23230 3rd building back from corner faces Altamont, yellow w/brown doors.

–Julie Pierce

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Editor’s Note: Julie is being ordained as a deacon tonight.  Do you see what happens when you begin to follow Jesus and work alongside him to bring heaven to earth?  People notice.

Getting to Know You

If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate. 
                                                                              —Elbert Hubbard

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Articles in last week’s Time magazine and the August 23rd edition of the Washington Post hint at a growing anti-Muslim sentiment among Americans.  Or maybe I should say “anti-Muslims” sentiment—plural—because that’s part of the problem.  When you lump people together you tend to stereotype, and judge the whole group on the behavior of a few. 

It’s happened to me. 

Three decades ago a Southern Baptist evangelist named Bailey Smith said publicly, “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”  He claimed that he said it “with all due respect to those dear people,” but last Sunday afternoon I was invited to an open house at a local synagogue where I got the feeling that some of those dear people had not forgotten what he said.  They greeted me warmly, thinking I might be a prospect, but when I introduced myself as pastor of First Baptist Church there was a brief  pause and then the question: “Are you…Southern Baptist?”

This kind of thing happens to me often, and not only in Jewish synagogues.  Because some Baptists have done or said offensive things, many people assume that all Baptists are like that.  I encourage them to get to know some Baptists, because no two of us are exactly alike.  Billy Graham is a Baptist, but so is Bill Clinton.  Jesse Helms was a Baptist, but so is Jesse Jackson.  Lottie Moon was a Baptist, but so is Britney Spears.

See what I mean? 

I would guess that the same is true for Muslims, that if we would take the time to get to know some of them we would find that they are like people everywhere: concerned for the health and well-being of their families, for their children’s education, and for the freedom to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life, like a picnic lunch on the Fourth of July.  And in the same way I wouldn’t want anyone to judge me on the basis of the worst they have ever heard about Baptists, I wouldn’t want to judge an entire religion or its 1.5 billion adherents on the basis of what some Muslims have done, would you?

So, get to know your new Muslim neighbor.  You may find that he has as much in common with Osama bin Laden as I have in common with Britney Spears, which is to say…not much.

BONUS: Here’s a song that will have you humming the rest of the day.