I just returned from the most amazing, inspiring UMJC conference I have yet to attend in my 15 year history of participating in this event. Each year the national meeting of our Messianic Jewish organizations and followers is a gem. But this year it was even more special.
I have to admit that since it conflicted with Sid’s annual 20 mile open ocean kayak race, the Blackburn Challenge, which I attend, I had planned to not go to the conference this year. But HaShem had other ideas. My soul sis Cheryl called me on the last day of registration to decide if she should go given all that is on her plate. While she talked with me about her going, I didn’t even consider my attending since I already had plans I thought were immutable. After we concluded she was not going, we thought the decision had been made.
Until in the quiet of the next morning when I awoke and a strong thought was just planted right there in my brain that I should go to the conference!! And it was so strong that all the “what ifs” and “buts” had no chance. Without taking the time here, suffice it to say HaShem made every step of the registration and travel details fall into perfect place, so we both ended up going to this blessed event.
Not only was it a much needed break from an unusually stressful time for both of us, not only did it recharge our batteries and reignite our passions to fight for the Kingdom, it introduced us to an unlikely person who, too, is doing so in a very special way.
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, author of The Misunderstood Jew and Short Stories by Jesus, among others, as well as co-editor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament was one of the keynote speakers. She is an Orthodox, not Messianic, Jew and as such presented fascinating teachings on Yeshua. As a mainstream Jew, she stops short of calling Him divine personally, and yet, defends His teachings academically. As an incredible scholar, she argues for everything He said and did and does so keeping Him and His disciples clearly in Jewish space. She argues the schism around His views is clearly in-house, Jew-to-Jew, not Christian-to-Jew. The historical misinterpretations by the Church are just that. And she educates as a professor of Jewish Studies and New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University. How a nice Jewish girl ended up in a place like that intellectually and academically is a story for another day, but one that clearly shows our Abba at work in her life.
After the presentation I had a chance to chat with her and shared my admiration for her courage to stand among our Jewish people and profess these truths about Yeshua. I shared with her that she could address a room of our Jewish brothers and sisters to dispel the top ten misconceptions about Yeshua and although it could be uncomfortable for the listener, he or she would most likely still listen with interest. To the contrary, I explained to her that if I did so as a Messianic Jew, my words would not be as convincing since I already drank the Kool-Aid, as it were, since I believe Yeshua as divine, as part of our understanding of HaShem. Perhaps it is for this reason that she has not (yet) climbed that slippery slope to believe in Him, for clearly she is doing blessed work as a mainstream Jew reaching/teaching Jews, and Christians too, on this important subject.
Her words not only are for Jews, but her message of the importance of keeping Yeshua identified with His Jewish people is equally as important for Christians. When she speaks to that group, her deep knowledge of Yeshua’s Jewishness and desire to reform, not replace, His religion is another subject needing clarification. Although in that group she speaks as an outsider, her vast brilliance as an academic immediately quiets any pushback as she expounds on this issue.
At the end of her talk, she emphasized her goal to be a bridge between Jews and Christians on the subject of Yeshua. She acknowledged that we as Messianic Jews have a foot in both worlds and serve as that bridge as well. And so she concluded with “Bless you.”
If you are reading this Shabbat encouragement, you are in the dialogue of better understanding Yeshua. You don’t have to be a famous scholar to know, and share, the truth of Yeshua. How blessed we are to live in these times when more and more are coming to know Him, each on a spiritual journey as orchestrated by HaShem, each of us participating as directed in this holy revelation.