A Messianic Spiritual Inventory

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A Messianic Spiritual Inventory | J.K. McKee | Messianic PublicationsMy family has been formally involved in the Messianic movement since 1995. As has been described in numerous places throughout our publications, we would not have entered into it, if it had not been for some unique circumstances. When my parents, Kimball and Margaret McKee, came to saving faith in 1984, not only did they return to going to church again—but they also started, albeit nominally, investigating their Hebraic Roots. My father, employing some insights which were being taught by the late Zola Levitt, integrated various Hebraic Roots components into his Sunday school class, and even gave a presentation on the Passover at our Methodist church in Northern Kentucky.[1] When he passed away in 1992, and my mother remarried in 1994 and we moved to Dallas, Texas —Mark and Margaret Huey, now, were not going to be Methodist, nor Bible church. As a new family unit, we got involved in the charismatic movement for a brief season. It was following Mark and Margaret’s December 1994 trip to Israel that they felt the pull of the Holy Spirit into Messianic things, and so it was in the Fall of 1995 that we started attending a Messianic Jewish congregation, and were significantly exposed as a family to our Jewish Roots, things of Torah, and some Messianic controversies still in their very early stages. From that time onward, it has been a unique experience as we have become acquainted with many sectors of the broad Messianic movement, and we know that the story in 2013 is far from over…[2]

While a junior in high school in 1997, I started the TNN Online website (www.tnnonline.net), which was originally called Tribulation News Network (now just Theology News Network)—as many people, myself included, were expecting some sort of prophecy-related events to occur in conjunction with the new Millennium. Y2k came and went. In the early 2000s, though, something in the Messianic movement really began to stir, as it was obvious that more was happening beyond just the salvation of the Jewish people. Non-Jewish Believers, as our family had already experienced to a degree, had begun to embrace their Hebraic Roots en masse, living lives of Torah obedience. Between 2001-2002, while a junior at the University of Oklahoma —from my dorm room of all places—I began to write a wide variety of apologetic articles on various aspects of the Messianic lifestyle. I had already taken a semester of classical Greek, was taking modern Hebrew, and was also taking history classes germane to the broad Biblical period. The early 2000s were a time where some highly sensational literature had hit the Messianic world, written by individuals poorly qualified to offer opinions on theological and spiritual topics. Given my family’s background in both ministry and education going back several generations,[3] I certainly did not see why I could not start writing myself—and in the process offer some more balanced perspectives and opinions.

After having served in a consulting capacity with some Messianic ministries, by my senior year of college in 2002-2003, my parents started Outreach Israel Ministries (www.outreachisrael.net), which TNN Online was naturally folded into. When I graduated in 2003, I joined the ministry full time, and I took a year-and-a-half off as we got things established. Since then, Outreach Israel has developed into an educational Messianic ministry, which produces materials addressing a wide range of (complicated) issues germane to our broad faith community.

In the Spring of 2005 I started classes at the satellite campus of Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, to work on my M.A. in Biblical Studies. Because of my family’s past connections and involvement with Asbury in Wilmore, Kentucky at various church functions, I had a certain degree of comfort at Asbury, and an even greater familiarity with what to expect because of my Wesleyan heritage. Unlike, perhaps, some other Messianic people who have gone to Christian educational institutions—I went to Asbury to learn skills, be familiarized with discussions in current Biblical Studies, become acquainted with various perspectives present across the theological spectrum, and hone in on my Hebrew and Greek. This meant that I was very careful and tactful in challenging anything—as opposed to how some might have caused controversy by forcing their Messianic beliefs onto others.[4] For the variety of issues on which a Messianic person like myself may have disagreed, I took notes and made observations, filing them away (possibly to be used at a later date). If there is anything I was definitely taught that has remained truly invaluable for me, it was that in my Inductive Bible Study classes and exegesis classes, we were taught to stick with the text. My professors would tell us as students that even though we would be accessing various commentaries, articles, and other academic resources—that we were free to disagree with opinions offered, provided we could defend our position from the Biblical text. Learning how to do this well, was a definite skill for which I will always be thankful!

Of all the seminary experiences that I had, which I continue to carry with me, was that of walking into the Asbury library multiple times throughout 2005. The first impression you get is personally knowing that your own library is going to have to expand, as you begin to acquire an entire host of reference books, encyclopedias, commentaries, and specialized studies. Your second impression, as a Messianic person, is realizing that while there are many books on many theological and spiritual topics—is how little written material there actually is from a Messianic Jewish/non-Jewish perspective, on some major issues of substance. Even now in 2013, much of what has influenced our broad faith community has been from those who have only written two or three books, and who then often stop. In 2005 I had to seriously consider whether it would ever be possible, for a shelf of well-written and lucid resources composed by future Messianic people to be realized. If so, it would mean a great deal of heavy labor, time, and energy committed… Many teachers and leaders continue to kick proverbial cans down the road, presumably leaving their successors—younger people such as myself—to handle the work.

In the 2000s, the Messianic movement grew too quickly and too big, and the theology has not been able to catch up with it. There was a significant amount of cutting corners by various leaders and teachers, and important details left out of key discussions. The 2000s have also been a time where a polarization began to emerge, particularly between the religious politics of various Messianic Jewish denominations, and the antics of various independent Messianic figures.[5] Recognizing, especially from my seminary studies, that the amount of work that a ministry like Outreach Israel and TNN Online were going to have to accomplish would be immense—we found it most prudent to adopt the policy of preferring to deal with teachings, and not teachers. The broad Messianic community is so small, that generally everyone in some position of leadership has either met or encountered or at least heard of another at some point in time. The need to stay objective—but above all emotionally distanced—is most imperative if issues of controversy are to be fairly addressed. Writing refutation papers, as opposed to theological analyses, is a habit that needs to be broken.[6]

I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with my M.A. in Biblical Studies in the Spring of 2009—and I even received the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek, no less. At the end of 2009, though, with the new decade looming, circumstances within the contemporary Messianic movement made it obvious, to me, that some big changes would be in store for all of us in the 2010s. Some theological flip-flopping and negative religious politics by some more well-known and popular Messianic voices made it clear that some significant, necessary shifts and alterations, would need to occur among men and women within our faith community. Some of these would be painful. The biggest of these changes would be the fact that a new kind of Messianic spiritual culture had to emerge—one that emphasized the common faith in the Lord Yeshua and what He has accomplished for redeemed sinners as the most important thing. Unfortunately for far too much of the broad Messianic movement (Messianic Judaism, the One Law/One Torah sub-movement, the Two-House sub-movement, various other independents, etc.), differences among people and what makes a sub-group or clique unique or presumably “special,” are believed to override (or in some cases nullify) the common bonds among those saved by God’s grace. The actual change that needs to be made, in emphasizing what Yeshua has accomplished for us as being the most important, is quite simple…but is also quite difficult…[7] Yet, I think that the changes which need to take place among individual people and families, is much easier to implement, than in trying to change leaders.

As we entered into 2010 and a new decade, how many of us who had been in the Messianic movement for some period of time, were listening to what God was communicating? All of us, be we Jewish or non-Jewish, compose a very special and significant faith community (especially now in the very early stages, where those involved have to likely be specifically called of God into it, given its current growing pains). When we can respect the high virtues and positive accomplishments of the Jewish Synagogue and Christian Church, and come together employing those strengths in mutual submission to one another—then today’s Messianic people possess a significant amount of spiritual power to accomplish God’s objectives for the final stages of salvation history. The enemy knows this, and this is why there has been so much division. When we can get our “act together,” as it were,” I believe that there will be very little that can stop us.[8]

The 2010s are going to be a significant season of a retaking of spiritual inventory for all of us in the Messianic world. What are those things that we have all been avoiding for far too long? Where have some of us gone too far, and where will we need to pull the reigns back? Where do we need to be more cautious and considerate as we consider the future? Will tact and discernment, be truly able to replace base emotions and reactionarianism? I know that much of what Outreach Israel and TNN Online have researched, written, and directed in the 2000s have helped provide a base for the long term future of much of our Messianic faith community—particuarly those who are able to see the big picture, and can truly consider the great potential we collectively possess.

In December 2012, my own family relocated back to the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, after two years of trying to leave Central Florida . We actually have returned to where we got our start in the Messianic movement! It is too premature, after five months now in May 2013, to make any determinations on whether we are going to make a sizeable impact in an area which is a definite hub of North American Messianic activity. What is not too premature to know, however, is that a teacher such as myself is going to be absolutely overloaded with things to do for a good long while!

As the chief coordinator for TNN Press, as soon as a wider array of publications is released on a Torah obedient lifestyle for all Messianic Believers—which should have actually been finished yesterday—we have a distinct impression that issues of Christology (the doctrine of the Messiah) and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) are going to hit our movement hard. The array of issues needing to be addressed on the Messianic lifestyle is a heavy volume for the next few years[9]; and the other issues will require a significant amount of reflection, contemplation, and reasoning—and headaches.[10] And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Wednesday Night Bible Study podcast—which I have posted since August 2005—is what has been used to produce the volumes of our Practical Messianic commentary series.[11] This is something which I know cannot stop, because I am unaware of any other ministry which is dedicated to steadily producing Bible commentaries from a Messianic perspective, which are both semi-technical and are spiritually challenging to Believers’ growth in the Lord. At the very least, it is my goal over the next two decades or so, to see a complete set of Messianic commentaries released on the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament.[12]

Beyond the various issues of a Torah obedient lifestyle for today’s Messianic people, and issues pertaining to the nature of the Messiah and our salvation in Him—we cannot also avoid knowing that there will be a huge array of issues hitting, which wider society will force upon us as people of faith. How prepared are today’s Messianic Believers to consider criticisms against the Bible, its relativity, and its reliability? We know that these things are going to increase. During the week of this past Passover 2013, there was a huge debate here in the United States over the legality of gay marriage, which is something of a sort-of theological hot potato as it concerns the validity and relevance of the Law of Moses in various Christian circles.[13] We should also know that a simplistic and disengaged approach toward such things will not suffice. The scariest end-time sign of them all, to be certain, is the prophesied apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:9). As we anticipate the end-time restoration of the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), and the redeemed from the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Torah (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4), and joining with the Jewish people (Zechariah 8:23)—there will also be many, many people denying the truth of God’s Word, and indeed, the very existence of a Supreme Being.[14]

What is going to come as we go through the present season of a retaking of our Messianic spiritual inventory? People from all sides of the broad Messianic movement will need to make various concessions that they might not be willing to make.[15] We will all have to pray that the Lord grants us a significant degree of both calmness and coolness, and that we will listen to reason a bit more frequently than to our base emotions. Above all, we must be willing to be crafted into a fine-tuned and well-polished machine, knowing that whatever we may have to give up—or more likely tighten and shore up—is ultimately minor in terms of the larger impetus of seeing an inclusive, welcoming Messianic movement emerge, which employs and honors all of the gifts, talents, and skills of today’s Jewish and non-Jewish men and women![16]

 



Notes


[1]
A biographical sketch of Kim McKee is available as part of the K. Kimball McKee Memorial Fund <outreachisrael.net/kkm-fund.html>, with donations accepted by Outreach Israel Ministries, specifically established so that his Christian friends and associates can help to see his ministry work continue via his surviving family.

[2] More of our family’s “Messianic story” is seen sprinkled throughout various publications by TNN Press. These notably include Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study, the TorahScope reflective commentaries by Mark Huey, and the editor’s publication To Be Absent From the Body.

[3] This would most notably include my maternal great-grandfather Bishop Marvin A. Franklin (1894-1972), who served as a minister and bishop of the Methodist Church, throughout his ministry serving churches in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi . Bishop Franklin was President of the Council of Bishops from 1959-1960. It would also include my maternal grandfather William W. Jeffries (1914-1989), who served as a professor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland from 1942-1989, notably as the museum director and founder of what is now the William W. Jeffries Memorial Archives in the Nimitz Library.

[4] One issue that Asbury Theological Seminary is well known for in the evangelical Christian world, is taking a strong stance against the homosexual lifestyle. Written during one of my two Romans exegesis classes, is the FAQ entry on the TNN website, “Romans 1:26-27.”

[5] In my own estimation, the worst of these antics was the claim of one teacher in 2005 that the Epistle to the Hebrews was riddled with reliability issues, and could neither be trusted nor regarded as Holy Scripture.

For a further discussion, consult the editor’s commentary Hebrews for the Practical Messianic.

[6] Review the editor’s YouTube video podcast from 20 March, 2013, “A Theology of Refutation,” accessible via <youtube.com/tnnonline>.

[7] Consult the editor’s article “The Faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah,” appearing in his book The New Testament Validates Torah.

[8] Be sure to consult the editor’s previous thoughts in his article “Is God’s Purpose Bigger?,” appearing in the October 2009 issue of Outreach Israel News.

[9] While specific dates and the order are subject to change, between 2013 and 2014, expect to see publications such as the Messianic Torah Helper, the Messianic Sabbath Helper (paperback), the Messianic Kosher Helper, and Torah In the Balance, Volume II be released.

[10] The planned TNN Press volumes Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity and Salvation in View: The Doctrine of Salvation and Today’s Messianic Community, for the 2010s, will mainly classify and examine the Scriptural passages of importance as they pertain to Christology and soteriology.

[11] To date (2013), as a part of the for the Practical Messianic commentary series produced by TNN Press, the editor has completed volumes on (listed in order of release) on: James, Hebrews, Philippians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, Acts 15, the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus, and 1&2 Thessalonians. Also released have been survey workbooks on the Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures.

[12] In the interim, following the completion of the Spring 2013 James study, will begin a planned series of long studies through the Pauline letters of Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians, which are anticipated to take between three to four years.

[13] Cf. J.K. McKee, The New Testament Validates Torah: Does the New Testament Really Do Away With the Law? (Kissimmee, FL: TNN Press, 2012), pp 6-8.

[14] Be sure to consult the editor’s commentary 1&2 Thessalonians for the Practical Messianic, as well as his article “The Great Apostasy,” appearing in When Will the Messiah Return?

[15] Cf. J.K. McKee, Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel ? ( Richardson, TX : TNN Press, 2013), pp 227-228 fn#295.

[16] Cf. J.K. McKee, “What Could an Egalitarian Messianic Movement Achieve?” in The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic ( Kissimmee, FL : TNN Press, 2012), pp 89-95.

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