Chapter One - Why Torah?

When I consider all the things that I’m not – I’m not religious; I’m not Jewish; I’ve never been a big fan of Scripture and I’ve definitely never been the “missionary-type”, I can only marvel at the path my life has taken to where I find myself today.  I’m sure that as many people that were surprised by my sudden departure from the U.S. for the mission fields of Thailand in 1997 would be equally surprised by a revelation of how my life has been redefined and shaped by the Torah given to Moses on Mount Sinai by YHVH a few thousand years ago. 

I started out in life with a not very religious family and a basic Sunday school introduction to the Bible.  I can’t say at all the point where I received salvation or made any kind of spiritual commitment.  I can say that as far back as I can remember I believed that God was real.  My parents saw to that as God was often given credit for getting us through the crises of life though their theology was mixed with all sorts of strange folklore such as common statements like “God helps those that help themselves”, a quote often wrongly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  The Bible teaches the opposite, that God helps the helpless, but in our household the Bible wasn’t really studied though it was readily available.  I have no memory of ever questioning His existence and I conversed with Him regularly in my own childish way.  He has reminded me throughout the latter part of my life of various things that I shared with Him early on and shown me how He has brought them to pass throughout the later years of my life.

One such reminder came on a warm evening in Thailand.  The night air was just the right temperature neither too hot, nor too cold and it seemed to gently caress my skin with a light breeze.  I was simply enjoying the moment when He reminded me of a question that I had asked aloud while enjoying a similar moment as a child.  On a long ago, warm, summer evening, I'd pondered the question, "What would it be like to live in perpetual summer?" He quietly reminded me of my question and gave me His answer:  "Now you know."  And so I did and I also learned in that moment that time is not really a part of our relationship with HIM.  While we demand quick answers to our prayers and questions, He is not driven by our demands or our impatience.  

In my Sunday school training on the Bible, the beginning (Old Testament) was given to us as some kind of history and the second part (New Testament) outlined the basis for being a “Christian”.  I dutifully memorized Scriptures from my King James Bible in an effort to earn stickers and the praises of the Sunday school teacher.  It’s one of the miracles of Scripture how those early memory exercises stayed with me throughout my life.  I can still find verses quicker using King James though I’ve long since tossed it aside in favor of the Amplified version.  It’s also very clear to me that my knowledge of the first two-thirds of the Scripture was limited to the children’s stories of Noah and his ark, David and his defeat of Goliath and a brief glimpse of Moses and the miracles associated with the Exodus.  I was well-versed in the freedom from “law” that came through the cross and ignorant of the truth of the “Law”, a misnomer given to God’s Torah. 

As I reached junior high school, my questions overreached any religious commitment to Sunday school and I eventually walked away with my own formulated theology.  I had come to believe that although my belief in the God of the Bible was unshaken, He was not interested in me and I was basically on my own to get through life as best as I could doing whatever seemed “right in my own eyes”   "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs and tries the hearts."  (Proverbs 21:2 ) and so I did.  This didn’t form the foundation for a very stable life plan and that’s hardly surprising in the hands of a teenager.

I survived my high school years and got married and had a son and eventually, a daughter.  The beginning of my family reawakened the desire to have something of God in my life and I made a brief foray into Mormonism.  I was attracted to the “family values” and hoped to find a way to establish a family tradition of faith, church and all that I saw as the foundations of belief.  Fortunately, I had enough of His Holy Spirit in me to know at the moment of my baptism into the “church” that I was in the WRONG place.  I got out of there immediately.  That pretty much ended any thoughts of pursuing that direction for me and I left church and religion out of the next 19 years of my life. 

In 1996, my American-dream life came crashing down as many such lives do without a true foundation and I found myself alone.  I had friends that were facing similar crises in their lives.  Our problems and our solutions were as diverse as the life events that had brought us together.  I was torn between friends that had embarked on paths that led to sure destruction and a singular path in pursuit of God.  I spent the next year stumbling between the two options until the point where I reached a crossroads and had to make a choice.

Fortunately, or more accurately, providentially, God had put someone into place to come into my life at that point to get my feet pointed in the right direction.  One day early in 1996, I met Holly.  We had worked in the same office area for a number of years without crossing paths, but at His timing one day that all changed.  I didn’t understand Holly well, but I knew without a doubt that she had something that I not only wanted it was something I desperately needed in my own life.  She had a real, viable relationship with the God of Creation.  I could sense it and even to a point experience it through her and I coveted it – a LOT! 

I spent the next year pursuing Holly in order to spend every possible moment that I could with her much to the annoyance of her new husband Edgar.  I’m sure there were times when she dreaded my appearance at her cubicle and my over-zealous pursuit.  She gave me books and internet links and spent hours with me teaching me how to pray and hear His voice and even more hours praying for my deliverance and healing from all that had gone before.  At the end of it all, the fruit of her labor was my departure for Thailand, but her work didn’t stop there. 

Holly remained my “touchstone” and “go-to-gal” for the next eleven years as she prayed and enlisted her friends and other prayer warriors in support of my missionary life.  During those years, she shared my life vicariously through our tenuous internet access and a very few letters that made it to the mailbox.  Her faithfulness stood as a beacon even as all the others that I thought of as “friends” quickly fell away. 

Holly and my mother might have stood alone as my supporters except for the commitment of one little girl and her family that also chose to remain as a constant in my life.  This little girl, Lily and her mother, Rose somehow caught the “vision” of being faithful to lift me up in prayer and become a force of encouragement in my life.  This family took their support even further with financial gifts that blessed me throughout the years as I knew that each gift represented a true sacrifice to building His Kingdom and I was humbled by their faithfulness.  I know that their reward will be great in eternity.  I also know that without these few people that remained as constants behind the scenes of my missionary life, that my life would have been very dark indeed, perhaps even impossible for me to endure. 

One of the first tasks that God faced in my early missionary years was to un-teach me all the nonsense of “you should’s” that I had learned in Sunday school.  He had given me some very basic instruction about how to be a missionary and little else.  My instructions were to pray in the Spirit (my understanding: in tongues) and to let Him work through me (with the clear overture that I was to stay out of His way!).  I watched Him do miracles and change lives and more importantly to establish within me a foundation for what He had planned for my life since even before time began.  

"Then the King will say to those at His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father [you[a]favored of God and appointed to eternal salvation], inherit (receive as your own) the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  (Matthew 25:34 )  

I began my missionary life with no idea where He was leading me and at the end of my time in Thailand, I was amazed at the journey that He had initiated and compelled me through which will have to be the subject of another book someday.  I spent eleven years in Thailand during which I basically unlearned all that I thought that I knew about God and came into a relationship with YHVH Elohim as a child of Abraham.  

In 2008, I found myself with a one-way ticket back to the States once again heading into the unknown with only His leading to point out my way.  My relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was now personal and firmly established and I no longer considered myself a Christian.  To my friends and my family, I was a stranger.  To the country of my birth, I was an alien with a deep desire to see the return of my King and the establishment of His Kingdom in Israel.  To myself, I was a Hebrew trying to live and walk out the ways of my Spiritual father, Abraham. 

"And if you belong to Christ [are in Him Who is Abraham’s Seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and [spiritual] heirs according to promise."  (Galatians 3:16 ).  

To YHVH, I am a bondservant... 

"But if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go free, then his master shall bring him to God [the judges as His agents]; he shall bring him to the door or doorpost and shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life."  (Exodus 21:5-6 ) 

...choosing through my love for Him to remain in His household and to live according to His ways.  I had come a long way and through many changes on that 11-year journey. 

My God has many Names but the Name I use the most when speaking about Him is YHVH.  He has a Son.  His Name above all names is Yeshua.  This is the Name that His mother called Him and this is the Name that means salvation and He alone is my hope and my salvation.  YHVH is a kind and merciful Father to those that love Him and seek to have relationship with Him.  He gave His people, His chosen ones, instructions on how to know Him, how to walk in His ways and how to live together as one people, one family.  This is called the Torah.  This is how we can know Him and more importantly, how we can know His will for our lives. 

The Torah was given to Moses during the Exodus from Egypt at the mountain so that the people that had come out of Egypt into the wilderness could first learn to live together and function as a community under the leadership of YHVH and secondly how to live with Him in His household (Kingdom).  The Scriptures known of as Torah are the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These books are commonly believed to have been written by Moses and the knowledge of those that had come before Moses came to him through the art of “storytelling” a practice common to many ancient cultures. 

Judaism added to the commandments, teachings and precepts of Torah creating a burdensome religion of works.  Christianity has taken away from the commandments, teachings and precepts of Torah creating a religion of “greasy grace” and “sloppy agape”.

"You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."  (Deuteronomy 4:2)  

Woe to those that follow such religions blindly hoping for a place in eternity.   These are, of course, my opinions and the story of my experiences as He led me through the process of stripping away all that had been birthed in me through religious teaching and cultural programming and I don’t expect that others will fully agree with me, if at all.  I only tell this story in the hope that for those out there in the world that also seek to know Him and to have relationship with Him, they will be encouraged for I truly know that this is the desire of His heart. 

At the beginning, I asked the question, “Why Torah?”  The answer is simple.  Torah is His way of letting us know Him and become like Him.  It is the only way.

"Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it.But the gate is narrow (contracted [a]by pressure) and the way is straitened andcompressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it."  (Matthew 7:13-14).  

It is a process, a lifelong process and it involves small successes, giant stumbling blocks and glaring failures, but throughout it is an adventure as timeless as the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and even Moses.  Torah teaches us how to be His people through the foibles and the failures of the very human Patriarchs of our Faith.  In His wisdom and His mercy, He made a way for us to be a part of His family and He calls us His special treasure:  For the Lord has chosen [the descendants of] Jacob for Himself, Israel for His peculiar possession and treasure."  (Psalm 135:4), His peculiar people:  "For you are a holy people [set apart] to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a peculiar people to Himself, above all the nations on the earth." (Deuteronomy 14:2) and yes, we are a peculiar lot.  He wouldn’t have it any other way!  

"For you are a holy and set-apart people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people to Himself out of all the peoples on the face of the earth."  (Deuteronomy 7:6)                                                          

This is above all my story.  It doesn’t have a clear beginning for the Author knew the end from the beginning and had His own plans and purposes from the outset and my perspective is very poor in comparison to His.  The end is eternity, thus it has no end.  In many ways, I still feel like a beginner and as I’ve told many new to the study and pursuit of Torah-based lives, every day is a new chance to get something right for the first time.  This story has taken place over a number of years and the timeline is muddled by the overlapping changes that I went through on this journey.  It is my hope that in telling this story others will be encouraged.  I know that I am encouraged simply by telling it.  May YHVH bless you!