It All Started When…
My parents accepted Jesus as their savior when I was a baby, and I grew up in church. Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, church services again on Sunday night and Wednesday night, and sometimes a mid-week Bible study in someone’s living room. Starting in third grade, I attended Christian schools and graduated from a Christian high school. It’s fair to say that I was thoroughly steeped in Christianity and the Bible.
After high school, I enlisted in the United States Air Force and proceeded to make the same foolish decisions concerning money and relationships as most others make, and although I never went completely off the rails, my spiritual life faded away. It’s not that I stopped believing in God. Rather, my beliefs stopped having a huge impact in who I was or how I chose to spend my time. Religion (God, faith, theology, whatever word you want to use) was entertainment for me, something to argue with people about, not something to build my life around.
I remember one of those debate sessions more than any of the others. A good friend asked me why God changed the rules. I had been taught (by constant implication if not explicitly) that the Jews were “saved” by offering animal sacrifices, then Jesus came and changed all the rules so that now we’re saved by faith. Why would God make the Jews follow all of those complicated rules when faith without any rules–except no drinking, smoking, or dancing–could have been good enough all along? I had answers, of course, but the truth is that those answers weren’t even satisfactory to me. How were they supposed to address the doubts of an unbeliever?
That conversation stuck in the back of my mind for years and when another friend–this time a fellow believer–pointed out a law in the Old Testament that was clearly moral in character and was never abrogated in the New Testament and asked “Why don’t we do that anymore?” I was determined not to regurgitate my youthful indoctrination in response to a serious and important question. I said, “I don’t know. Let’s find out what the Bible really says about this.”
And Then It All Changed…
And down the rabbit hole I went. Blindly at first since I didn’t know anyone else at the time who was even asking these questions. I discovered that the list of things the Bible says we should be doing but aren’t, and shouldn’t be doing but are, is long. Every answer turned up a whole new set of questions. Fortunately, within a few years I also learned that I wasn’t so alone. I connected with other believers who had come to many of the same conclusions. I started learning a new vocabulary: Yeshua, Torah, Shabbat, Brit Chadashah, and so on.
Eventually, I even started getting my head on straight. Give me another lifetime or three and I might get it all the way turned around. I’ve made mistakes along the way, and I’ve had to change my mind on a few things. I probably will again.
But here I am today, trying my best to humbly and faithfully obey my Creator and Messiah–call him Jesus, call him Yeshua, I don’t care so long as you call him Lord–and what I am really passionate about is sharing some of my journey with you, helping you to find the answers to the hard questions so you don’t feel like you’re lost in a maze of theological mumbo jumbo and religious bureaucracy.
And So It Goes…
To be totally honest, the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish world is a minefield of DIY insanity, a theological wild west. Once people begin to realize that some long-held, cherished beliefs didn’t come from the Bible and might even be harmful, it’s very tempting to get angry, to begin throwing out anything that looks the slightest bit off, and to begin accusing everyone in the world of knowingly conspiring to keep us locked in ignorant darkness.
….but that’s an even more unhealthy place to be. Asking questions is good. Answering every question with an accusation is a pit of anger, paranoia, and loneliness. It hurts me to see this happening to well-intentioned people…good people…who are sincerely seeking answers.
Why “American” Torah?
I have always been an American patriot. I was born in the USA, served in the Armed Forces, and, until this year, proudly flew an American flag on Independence Day. Sometimes I still get teary at the National Anthem. I was born in love with the USA, with her history and her ideals…or at least what used to be her ideals.
The nation I believed in when I was young hasn’t existed for decades–maybe it never did–but the ideals of justice, liberty, and the right to be left alone to follow the dictates of one’s conscience live on within a significant minority of the people in this land. We are no longer “united” and, since the United States Constitution is no longer recognized as the supreme civil law of the land, we are no longer even legally the united States of America. That covenant has been discarded by every single State that once swore to keep it and the federal government that still uses the USA designation is a farce.
None-the-less, the culture that shaped me was a good one, even if it wasn’t perfect, and I don’t think I could excise it from my soul if I tried. I have a higher allegiance, to the King of Heaven and Israel and to his kingdom, but I was born an American and I will always be an American, and I know I’m not alone. There are millions of disinherited Americans out there, just like me, who feel betrayed and abandoned by their communities, friends, and government, sometimes even by their own families.
I called this website and my ministry “American Torah” because everything I learn and teach from the Scriptures will inevitably be filtered through American lenses. The people I want to reach with God’s perfect ways more than anyone else are my fellow Americans. My ministry is an American Torah (Hebrew for “instruction”).
Instruction for Life in Post-America According to God’s Torah
Whether it’s the Sabbath, God’s holy days, marriage, or something else, I want to help you answer the question of “The Bible says this, so why does the church say that?” “If we’re to be imitators of Christ and he did this, why don’t we do this too?” And I want to help you answer those questions in a way that will actually help you and your relationships with God and your community, and not isolate you from the people who love you.
Stick around. I might not have all the answers, but I hope we can find them together. And just maybe, we’ll be able to put some of the Godly principles that America’s founders valued so highly back into the new America.
Your brother in Yeshua HaMashiach,
P.S. I spend a lot of time studying the Scriptures and I try to post some of my thoughts at American Torah at least once per week. I know your time is valuable too, so I try not to waste it by posting drivel. Leave your email address below, and I’ll keep you up to date about new articles and ongoing projects, plus some other cool tidbits from around the Web and from American history.
P.P.S. American Torah is not a tax deductible charity. I have no intention of filing for 501c3 status or any other government stamp or license to teach. I’m doing what I believe God has called me to do. If you want to support my work by sending a donation via PayPal or some other means, I will receive it with gratitude. If you want to support my work by buying a book, a course, or some other product, I welcome that even more.
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