Going Against the Grain; Again

So we’re at the climatic stages of the football season, with the Super Bowl in sight and the College Championship being played tonight, as of this writing. I’ve been a major fan of the game for as far back as I can remember, and to be honest, I can very easily get too wrapped up in it. In fact, I was watching my team play last evening in its first playoff game and they lost. I yelled at the officials, I pleaded for the blitz, and I groaned at missed opportunities. In being a little transparent here, I HATE TO LOSE. I’m not a sore loser, but I hate to lose, at anything from board games, to cards, to party games, and especially sports. I have to admit it. I am too competitive.

This urge to win is complicated by my tendency to choose the less popular brands or teams and follow my Dad’s propensity to cheer for the underdog. Growing up, most of my friends and family preferred Chevy’s, but I’ve always liked Fords. The popular team was the Dallas Cowboys, but I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan forever. As a musician I play Fender, when the popular choice for many is Gibson. Why can’t I simply go mainstream and take the popular choices and be happy with the majority when they win? The answer is I’m just not wired that way. I was designed with a preference to go a bit against the grain and see things from a different angle.

I found myself in the middle of mainstream church life, pastoring and shepherding, leading worship, and administrating a local church. I preached the acceptable and standard doctrines that were expected, trying to keep them fresh and appealing, but to a desired result. However, that thing that makes me different, that part of the wiring schematic that is unique started to affect my heart. I became discontent and wanted to find a sharper spiritual edge. I grew dissatisfied with the status quo and the urge, no, the urgency to find more depth in my prayers began to consume me. I had to go beyond talking at my Redeemer up there somewhere to finding the place where I could look into His Face and into His Eyes. I had to know Him, not just about Him. This pursuit of Him cause my reference point to turn completely to the opposite direction. I was now going against the grain and finding myself out of the mainstream; again.

In the wisdom of Mishlei/Proverbs 27:17 we read, “Iron is sharpened by iron, and a man sharpens the face of his friend.”

For an effective edge to be gained there has to be something abrasive, capable of removing that which is not needed, and able to refine and hone. When it comes to applying this thought to your friends, you don’t want to destroy them, rendering them dulled with no edge at all. You want to refine them, reveal the unnecessary parts and help them become their best. This is my hope and desire for you. You may have found the opposing grain too rough to endure and no longer can simply go with the popular flow. But there are others like yourself and others who understand how you feel. Remember that I tend to choose the underdog and the less popular. This wiring that Yah chose to put inside me causes me to believe that hurting and frustrated people can find Him and look into His Eyes. They can learn to discern the tone of His Voice. People such as yourself can absolutely find His Heart and determine what and who it beats for. It requires a process and a commitment to letting go of whatever stands in the way. You will have to choose to go against the popular and the mainstream, but that’s the path that leads to Him.

I’m just offering a word of encouragement. I choose you. I believe that Y’shuah chooses you. We may disagree and even get abrasive, but let’s sharpen one another until we both find the edge we need. Come on. Take the more narrow, less traveled road that leads to a place worth finding. That’s where Y’shuah waits.

 

Shalom, shalom

 

 

 

Positive Unpopularity

Now is not the greatest time to be a Washington Redskins fan. Our record ranks among the worst in the NFL. Our starting Quarterback is sitting on the bench for poor play, the defense gives up huge gains, the offense is sputtering, and our rookie Head Coach doesn’t seem to have the answers needed to tun the team around. Last week you could pick up a ticket for a grand total of $4.00!

I was raised in a home where my Dad groaned about Billy Kilmer’s failings and prayed for Sonny Jurgensen to be put into the game. Now I stand in my living room shouting at my TV and threatening to send all of my “Skin’s” stuff back to owner Dan Snyder, along with my fan resignation letter. In reality however, I’m not a fan because my team is the most popular, but rather because their my team. And so, I’ll continue to groan, complain, and pray for next year.

Twelve years ago I walked out of the Overseer’s office of the denomination I grew up in. I had just resigned my church that I pastored and turned in my ordination credentials. The denomination was and is large, spanning the globe and numbering in the millions of members. I had spent 20 plus years in becoming a seasoned pastor and gaining the acceptance and respect of my peers. But I could not continue to pursue popularity and acceptance if that meant I had to compromise the truth of what the Scriptures were revealing to me. While sincere and well intentioned, the church I was apart of did not have room for the avenue that I was seeking to walk. After pushing the limits for a year and a half, and after consultations and phone calls, I was faced with the choice of compliance or departure. I left.

My choice prompted questions like, “If what you are teaching is true, then why doesn’t [insert TV Evangelist name] preach it?” “How can the whole church be wrong and you be right?” “If we’re wrong, then why is our church seeing so many people coming and being blessed?” Needless to say, I didn’t always have a good answer or explanation. How do you explain to someone who’s whole life is centered around one perspective that a different perspective offers a greater advantage? How do we escape the emotional attachments to what we believe and to those who have taught us? 

Large numbers, in and of themselves, do not grant irrefutable evidence that a belief is correct. A well received and popular personality may espouse doctrine or belief, but their wide acceptance does not authenticate their teaching. Not everyone sitting on a pew alongside hundreds or even thousands attends a meeting to get spiritually fed. Excitement breeds excitement. But I ask, when the novelty wears off, and it will, are you left with enough substance and foundational understanding of the Word of Yah to know how to walk more effectively? Is your life better or do you merely feel better?

For some time now my concern has been that among those who have chosen to return to their Hebraic Roots, there may be some who may falter when the novelty is replaced with reality. When they find themselves more alone in their beliefs, or when anti-semetic persecution raises up in greater degrees, will they continue to pursue Yahshua in His reality or yield to outside pressures? We must not choose to walk according to the Torah’s teachings because it is popular or our friends have chosen to do so, or because we are excited about what we are learning. We must examine our purpose at a greater level than these. We should determine that there is only One Who is worthy of being followed. Yahshua prayed alone in the garden. He stood alone at his trial. At the intensity of His teaching,  the numerous thousands had dwindled to the point where He asked, “Do you also wish to go away?”[The Scriptures, Yochanan/John 6:67] The truth is, following Yahshua has always had consequences. His Word has always divided relationships, rarely causing us to be popular.

Now is not the time to change teams. This is the time to remain focused and alert, seeking to solidify your walk with intense practice of prayer and study. This is the time to listen closely to what Yahshua’s plan for our future holds and requires for us and to count HIm worthy of that cost. Sports and entertainment will fail to be a blip on our screen. People with questions, frustrations, and spiritual wounds must become our cause. For all its modern versions and reinventions of itself, the system still leaves many seeking and asking, “Is this all there is?” We must be ready to answer that question and do so without feeling that we need to ask the same of what we’re walking. We have to know that we have found what we’re looking for. We may very well not know all that there is to learn, but we must know that we have found the way to the answer. Yahshua said, “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard pressed which leads to life, and there are FEW who find it.” [The Scriptures, Mattithyahu/Matthew 7:14]. Again, Yahshua said, “If you love Me, you shall guard My commands” [The Scriptures, Yochanan/John 14:15] We are to walk in His Commandments, even though that walk is not well numbered. Even more profound are Yahshua’s words in Yochanan 16:1-3. “These words I have spoken to you, so that you do not stumble. They shall put you out of the congregations, but an hour is coming when everyone who kills you shall think he is rendering service to Elohim. and this they shall do to you because they did not know the Father, nor Me.” [The Scriptures]

Hey, be encouraged to walk rightly. You may be lonely but you are NOT ALONE. If you have found the way to return to what has been missing, finding again the roots of our belief, and finding the beauty of walking according to His Torah, then you have found something worth living and dying for. This is not a passing fad or doctrinal crusade for new members. This is about Truth, about allowing the Word to speak for itself, and above all, about finding the authentic Messiah; Yahshua! So, come on and walk with me. Walk with us. Find the Gate. ENTER IN!