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 231

peter-cornelius-the-bibleIs it just a coincidence?

On the same day I’m preaching about the time Peter went to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, someone who was considered “unclean” by the Jews, I have been invited to a reception for the retiring pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church—what some people call “the gay church.” After that I’ve been invited to serve on a panel at Congregation Or Ami—a reformed Jewish synagogue just off Huguenot Road—for a discussion on aging with dignity that will include end of life issues. After that I’ve been asked to say a few words at the ordination of Krista Mann Manuel, a recent BTSR graduate who is now serving at Tomahawk Baptist Church.

Fifty years ago there wouldn’t have been a “gay church,” I probably wouldn’t have been invited to serve on the panel at a Jewish synagogue, and a Baptist church would probably not have been ordaining a woman. The times they are a-changin’ as Bob Dylan might say, and the question I have to ask is this one: Is the church caving in to the culture, as some people fear, or is the Holy Spirit on the move?

Here’s an excerpt from today’s sermon:

The Jewish Christians, the ones Luke calls “the Circumcised,” wanted to know why [Peter] had been spending time with the Uncircumcised and eating with them. It was against the law!—the Law of Moses, that is—it was contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture! I was trying to imagine a comparable situation last Friday when I bumped into Victor Davis over at Clark Springs Elementary School, where I tutor. Dr. Davis is the Baptist minister who did our January Bible Study last year. I said, “Victor, in our time and place, who is it that would be considered ‘unclean’ by the church?” And without hesitating he said, “The gays.” And so, on the way back to church, I thought: What if a local Baptist minister went on a mission trip to New York and found out when he got home that pictures of him hanging out at a gay nightclub in Manhattan had been published on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch? Don’t you think there would be a special called deacons’ meeting that very afternoon where the chairman would hold up the newspaper and ask, “What’s this all about?”

I don’t have time to tell you how the sermon comes out, not now, but if you’ll come to church at 8:30 or 11:00 this morning, or tune in to our webcast at http://www.fbcrichmond.org, you’ll hear the rest of the story. And maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll tell you what happened at the pastor’s reception, and the panel discussion, and the ordination service.

It’s an interesting world we live in.

KOH2RVA: Day 97

Bowling ShoesIt may have been the article I posted back on Day 61 about bowling alleys that inspired me, but whatever it was, when my interfaith group started talking about how we could move beyond dialogue to friendship I suggested that we go bowling together.

Interfaith Bowling.

At first they thought I was joking. I sometimes do. But the more we talked about it the more it seemed that almost everybody was willing to throw a few gutterballs for the sake of friendship. And so we picked a time and place and agreed to show up at Sunset Lanes on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks later.

When I got there Bill Sachs from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was waiting, his bowling shoes already laced up. I paid my money and got my shoes and a ball and was feeling pretty good until Ben and Karen Romer from Congregation Or Ami showed up, with their own custom-drilled balls and non-tacky bowling shoes.

I should have known right then.

Imad Damaj and his son, Bilal, from the Islamic Center of Virginia showed up a little later. Several in our group had to cancel, and so we ended up with just the six of us—two Christians, two Jews, and two Muslims. We bowled three games, and talked and laughed and cheered each other on, but when we added up the totals at the end it was clear:

The Jews killed us.

I know that doesn’t sound very “politically correct,” but it’s true. Karen Romer, the rabbi’s wife, is a personal trainer and a regular bowler, and she was bowling strikes or spares in almost every frame. She had a high game of 188, which was so much higher than my own high game I won’t embarrass myself by telling you the number.

But apart from all that friendly competition, interfaith bowling “worked” in the sense that it brought us closer together. It helped us see each other as human at a different level than when we’re all dressed professionally, sitting in a conference room, talking about our work and how important it is.

It’s hard to be pretentious when you’re wearing bowling shoes.

Why is interfaith friendship so important? Because religious pluralism is a fact of life in America these days. We can no longer pretend that we are a “Christian nation.” It leaves us with a choice: when we learn that our new neighbors are Muslim we can either hunker down and hide behind our neatly trimmed hedges or go over and invite them to tea.

If the Kingdom of heaven is ever going to come to Richmond, Virginia, it’s going to come by extending an open hand, not by raising a clenched fist.

And that applies to everybody.

A Simple Question

My recent visit to the mosque stirred up a good bit of discussion on Facebook, most of it from a college friend who is convinced the Muslims are trying to take over America.  I don’t believe “the Muslims” (all 1.5 billion of them) are trying to do anything of the kind, although I wouldn’t put it past some Muslims (or Christians, or Jews, or Buddhists, or Hindus) to give it a try.  There are extremists in every religion.  

One of the extremists in my religion has declared September 11th “International Burn a Koran Day.”  His name is Terry Jones and he is the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, which he describes as “a New Testament church—based on the Bible, the Word of God.”  A link on the church’s web site directs you to a Facebook page called “International Burn a Koran Day,” where you are greeted by a banner that reads, “Islam is of the Devil.”  Under the banner is this announcement:

On September 11th, 2010, from 6pm – 9pm, we will burn the Koran on the property of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!

Frankly, I cannot imagine a more effective way to stir up the anger of the Muslim world than to publicly burn its sacred text.  I can think of a hundred good reasons not to do it.  But the one that comes to mind most quickly comes straight out of the New Testament, which Pastor Jones describes as “the Word of God.”  Here it is, from Matthew 7:12: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So, I want to ask Pastor Jones a simple question: “Do you want a Muslim Imam to burn a Bible on the property of his Mosque on September 11?  If not, then don’t burn a Koran on the property of your church.  This is good advice, and it comes from Jesus himself.  If he is your Lord, and not just your Savior, then you might want to do as he says.  If you won’t do what he says, then (with all due respect) what kind of pastor are you, and what kind of ‘New Testament church’ is the Dove World Outreach Center?”

I’m just asking, because I don’t want to have to answer that other question, the one my Muslim neighbor will ask me on September 11: “Why are you Christians burning the Koran?”