I struggle with writing a page about who I am as I don't want to boast in or bring glory to myself, but rather have everything on my webpage simply glorify HaShem and our Mashiach Yeshua. I also decided to make this webpage as something just for fun; a means to sort of gather my thoughts and have an online resource for any friends who are interested in them. Everyone has something to say, and this is simply my place to say it. But since this will be read by others who do not know me, I also don't want to be the type that simply hides behind a computer. So for those who have found this webpage not knowing who I am, if you take what I've written seriously I know you might think it's important to know a little bit about who is writing these things down. After all, being theologically smart is not as important as living a life pleasing to HaShem and truly walking in His ways. It's important to know if what you're reading is coming from honest men of faith, even on a very small scale website like this that's not selling anything, or asking for donations, or trying to make a name for itself (in fact, I would not classify this website as a ministry, although you could constitute parts of it as such, and I am involved in ministry outside of the internet). So, let me take some time to explain a little bit about myself.
I'm nobody special... but at the same time, I am very special, for I am a child of G-d, and He has dealt with me much over the course of my life. I was born in 1986 and grew up in a Christian home. As I got older my god became athletic training and I ended up turning completely away from HaShem as a teenager. I got very involved in the martial arts and eastern philosophy. Because of this, according to society I was a very humble and moral character. But the humility I had from martial arts was somewhat of a false humility because your confidence comes from your own physical strengths and abilities. And no matter what moral standard I tried to come up with from reading all of the great philosophers out there, it always fell short in some regard. As an intellectually prideful "truth seeker", I didn't want to admit that though. But soon after graduating high school in 2004 I had to come to grips with the reality of the real world. It was then in the midst of a smelly old factory making roofing felt and roofing tiles that I had my "Damascus Road" encounter. My life flashed before my eyes in the sense of seeing how truly meaningless life could really be. The plain reality of what a life without G-d is suddenly became a very real and very depressing image in my mind (although I didn't realize at the time that a lack of His presence was the cause of such a hopeless feeling). I had shut HaShem out of my life for several years, but this was the first time I thought about allowing Him back in. At the same time I wanted to go back to school and work in an industry I actually enjoyed, and I knew exactly where to go. But it would be almost another year before I could be in that place, and upon making the decision to do teshuvah, I had a very testing year.
This year of testing I experienced basically made me have to decide if I was going to be serious about pursuing G-d or not. If I was, I had to come to grips with a reality that psychology calls "learned helplessness". My inability to comprehend G-d forced me to go out on faith, and I remember distinctly coming to a decision to switch my perspective. That is, instead of having all of my questions answered and then believing in G-d, I was going to believe in Him first and then trust that all my questions were going to be answered. It felt incredible to get rid of the burden of pride I had before that moment, and it was from this point on that everything changed. As you can imagine, all of my questions were indeed answered. Creation, evolution, salvation, archeology, the Scriptures, they all systematically became alive and came together in such a beautiful harmony over the next several years. But the process of course was not without it's bumps.
After surviving that year of testing, I was able to experience HaShem's manifold blessings when I went back to school in the fall of 2005. He filled my heart with such an abundance of His love that I didn't know what to do with it. I became a happy, cheerful, don't-ever-feed-me-caffeine kind of guy. I couldn't contain the love of HaShem and my entire first year was a time of complete and total healing for me. My years as a martial artist away from G-d did a number on my mental state and my ability to love. I tried to harden every part of my body, my heart included, but HaShem ever so gently softened me up. In fact, I was brought to such a joyful place that at the end of my first year of college I prayed the following prayer,
"Father, thank you so much for everything you have blessed me with. Whatever you have in store for me Father, I'm ready for it. Give me all you got, because I feel like I can handle anything now!"
I had no idea what I just prayed, but I think you all can see that I just sentenced myself to the refiners fire. Completely unaware of this, I recall saying that it was as if a train came out of nowhere and smacked me upside the head. Truly, all of the blessings that I was given seemed to have been ripped away from me, and I was experiencing challenges that I was now completely helpless to tackle on my own. My own physical strength or history of martial arts training could do nothing to help me. My refinement brought me face to face with the pain of sin and the fallen world. Here I was, a young Believer with the love of G-d in me, and the rest of the world was off steeped in drunkenness and sexual immorality. A very sharp contrast that brought my heart much pain and despair. So that's when I finally looked over at that old Bible my parents had got me when I was 13, and decided "maybe I should start reading you". Believe it or not, I had not cracked open the Scriptures up until this point, which is a testament to the joy of the Ruach haKodesh which changed my heart so powerfully without exposure to the Word. But now I had no choice but to turn to His Word, I just was at a loss of where to start. Here is where the faith comes in though: figuring that if HaShem is real and that this was truly His word, then in a situation like this I should be able to just flip it open, point to a random verse, and it should tell me exactly what I need to hear, right? So, I do exactly that, and the following passage awaited me in my moment of peril,
"Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2)
Considering the trials I was going through, this literally blew me off my feet as I realized that this was not a normal book! I continued to do this and was brought to Mashiaych's sermon on the mount which then began to teach me all of the moral lessons I needed to deal with my situation. During this time I also learned about the importance of spending time in prayer to depend on Him for strength, wisdom and guidance. Often when I was feeling weak I would go up to the arena where it was isolated from the rest of the school and simply pray. I also began to spend more time in the Word and decided that I should start going back to church as well. I grew up in a Lutheran church, and when I went back there, I found that everyone was either 10 years younger than me or 20 years older, and nobody was zealous for the Scripture in the way that I was beginning to see it. So I began to simply study on my own through prayer and the Word, and if I needed to, I would take an entire weekend to simply spend with Him. During those weekends I often watched the three hour movie "the Gospel of John", which was done really well and inspired me to want to go back to the first century and see what it was like being directly with Yeshua Himself. It seemed as if so much had changed in the faith since that point, and being where I am now, you can see what sort of seed that planted.
I went to school for fitness and finished with honors in two years. After I finished I was able to spend the majority of my free time in the Word and took every opportunity I had to learn and grow. In the beginning of my studies I was very weary of being led astray, so instead of continuing to use the study bible I had (a Concordia NIV), I tried to find a good text only edition. I didn't even want cross references! I eventually got an ESV and simply read Scripture while staying in prayer. I slowly began to be convicted and sanctified by the Word, and as this was happening, I found my circle of friends shrinking. Sanctification can really lead you away from your old lifestyle before HaShem begins to build up your new one, and this is essential when you are convicted in areas such as sexual purity which really requires you to distance yourself from much of the common behviours and attitudes of society. And so, everything began to change as I no longer watched, listened to, or read the same things. My speech changed, my behaviors... everything! It had already began to change as I turned back to G-d two years prior, but this was now a much more thorough change or cleanse as I diligently stayed in the Word.
A particularly eventful moment was when, through a sequence of strange events, I found myself wandering around an old mall waiting for a package to show up at UPS. I find this old used bookstore and decide to browse around. I pick up a copy of this book on the Ten Commandments written in the 1930's where a pastor simply went through and explained the value of each commandment. This book had such a profound impact on me in that I finally realized that the only gold standard of morality that existed was that which was given by G-d. His Law was perfect! My commitment, devotion and servitude to Him increased greatly when that sunk in. I couldn't come up with that perfect standard on my own, but HaShem had already lovingly given it to us! Although I didn't understand at that point that much more of the Torah than simply the Ten Commandments was applicable to us, I was set more than ever on serving Him with my whole heart!
Soon after, I discovered that different versions of the Bible could say different, sometimes completely opposite things! I was shocked! I began my futile attempt at finding the perfect translation which led me also to the study of textual criticism. I eventually found out that I would have to simply do my best to scrutinize and understand each passage individually, taking into account both the chapters context as well as the cultural context surrounding everything. It also became very apparent that that would take not only a very long time, but it would also require me to learn the original languages of the Scripture. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit though, isn't it? Despite all of this though, my first year after college was truly a pivotal moment in my faith where HaShem gave me so many answers and put my heart at rest with so many issues. When I wasn't doing this textual or translational study, I was learning from great teachers about many critical aspects of our faith; things that had fascinated me for so long but that I had never really learnt growing up in Sunday school. My faith was built up very strongly during this season.
Now, it's about this time that the young love of following Mashiach begins to fade and the things of the flesh creep back upon you. I should have gotten involved in another church that had people my age so I could have both encouragement and accountability, but when I wasn't in the Word, I was preoccupied with building my career in the fitness industry (very one track minded). This eventually led me to getting into an unequally yoked relationship. Unlike everyone I met in college, I fell for a girl who seemed like the perfect Christian! She didn't drink, party, sleep around, or be involved in any of those worldly things that I had to come to grips with in college. The only issue was, she was agnostic and had no interest in G-d. Thankfully, it was a long distance relationship, and with fitness being our common interest, HaShem merely had to take that away to get my focus back on Him. So after an eight month grace period He humbled me through a knee injury. It was at this point that I turned back to Him, and with my idol of training now out of the way, I immediately became convicted of my unequally yoked relationship. I was torn inside so strongly because I felt committed and didn't want to hurt her, but at the same time, I knew I couldn't continue where I was. So I tried to witness to her in a more direct manner and it quickly led to the ending of our relationship. As sad as that was for me, I knew it was for the best and that HaShem was merely answering many of my prayers from before.
Fired up, ready to serve HaShem unhindered again, I decided I needed a fresh translation and thought about getting one with the Divine Name. Within days I was exposed to the Hebrew Roots movement and Torah Observance, and it was at this same time that Andrew Gabriel Roth's "Aramaic English New Testament" was released. This well timed resource showed me that others also had the inspiration to go back to the first century and practice the faith as it was then, and I now had an entire new world of theology to explore. It was very exhausting and spiritually challenging, and not having found fellowship yet, I began to back slide from discouragement. It was only a few months later that the painful conviction of a life without G-d reminded me that I had to keep persevering and move outside of my comfort zone into HaShem's blessings. So I grabbed my AENT and continued to read, being convicted of following ALL of His instructions in righteousness. I also began to see that if I wanted the fullness of all that HaShem had for me, the Netzari/Messianic movement was certainly where I had to be. "Great" I said to myself though, "if I thought it was difficult to find zealous believers my age now, this is going to make it that much harder! And how many girls my age are serious about their faith, let alone about Torah?!"
Not even a week later, an old friend of mine from college messaged me and invited me to a young adults Bible study. It was the perfectly timed invitation and I knew I had to go. From that point on, nothing was the same. The encouragement of being around other believers my age who actually studied the Scripture was so powerful! I couldn't believe I never took the initiative to find fellowship sooner! Although not Messianic, this was exactly what I needed. It provided all the inspiration required to get out of my space bubble of solitude and into the congregation that HaShem wanted me. That's why soon after this I found my Kehillat, and I was simply amazed at what I found. Everyone was zealous for the Scripture, there was a heavy emphasis on not only study, but practicing what you read, the worship was Spirit-filled, and I literally felt like I had gone to heaven. This atmosphere, coupled with my young adults study, matured me in more ways than I could tell you on this page. I remember the first time I went out for coffee with the Head Elder and he later told me later that he was surprised how biblically grounded I was despite having no spiritual covering of any sort (all glory, honor and praise to the Ruach of HaShem for that). He also saw my passion for the Word and my heart for teaching.
The next year and a half was spent working out my understanding of Torah and the Messianic Movement, and much of this I owe not only to my Rav, but to the Baptist girl I began courting. She forced me to examine my beliefs critically and everything that came with our relationship taught me so much about sharing Torah with other Christians and learning how to minister in a very practical sense. One time I actually did a two hour power point presentation on Torah at her Baptist church, and in the crowd was both her parents as well as my own. I tried very hard during this season, but I had so much to learn, and although I intended to learn it quickly, I still made many mistakes. My Shul was priceless in helping me grow during this stage, being a very safe atmosphere for exploring the Torah Observant movement where we had constant Yeshiva, prayer, accountability, and so on. I also finally began to learn Biblical Hebrew, so I was blessed with even more than I needed from a solid community of faith. I marvel at how I ever survived without a community (all glory to HaShem!) I also spent a lot of time on the internet learning everything I could about every facet of the Messianic movement and it's theology. This, I would later find out, would be pivotal in protecting the flock from all manner of divisive theology that would try to enter into the house.
Now, my courtship eventually ended as we became stumbling blocks to one another and HaShem was calling us in separate directions. This was by far one of the single most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life. It wasn't that we didn't like one another or weren't attracted to one another, we simply had to come to grips with the fact that together we were not in His will, and HaShem gave me more than enough assurance that this was what had to happen. So we broke up ending in prayer, and I cried for over two hours. Giving myself to Him completely like that left me feeling so broken and vulnerable, but I knew He had much to do with me yet and that in my vulnerability He would be able to build me up. My best friend then got a prophetic word of what I was to do the next year following this - remain single and work on several things with my faith and theology. It was now time to get serious and stop dabbling in pseudo-scholarship and worthless theological arguments. Rather, I was to focus on the true fruit and Spirit of our G-d. It was also hinted at that someone would be provided, too. So I worked on everything HaShem had told me, and the opportunities that came up were both surprising and humbling. I began to teach the beginners Hebrew class, prepare and lead Torah studies on Erev Shabbat, was brought on to the congregational leadership as a ministry apprentice (serving as a Shamasha / Deacon), and I was also given the opportunity to minister the Word from the pulpit while our Head Elder / Overseer was away. Personally, I worked out many of the theological issues and baggage that I was carrying around (this is when I stopped following Sacred Name theology), and this has allowed HaShem to use me so much more powerfully. The true fruit of Torah began to show up everywhere in my life, allowing me to witness to everyone I meet on a daily basis simply by how I live my life. Our Shul's ministry has also grown so much! Besides what is happening in house, we also began ministry over seas in Africa where we have become a spiritual covering for Torah Observant congregations. We were approached by some leadership over there who had become convicted of Torah and who want to see Africa not just confess Mashiach, but walk in the same way that He walked. In approaching us for help we then began to minister to them in many ways in order to see them flourish and grow in both a practical sense as well as spiritually. Their vision aligns with ours and they are now our international kehillot and bringing many to a saving knowledge of Messiah. Along the same lines, down in Nigeria, Rabbi Yehuda ben Shomeyr is training up Torah Observant believers as well, so the Torah revival is really sprouting over on that continent. Both Nigeria and Kenya are home to descendants of the Israelite tribe of Gad, making this an especially important "end-times project". Many are coming to messiah through these efforts, including not just the secular, but the Mormons and even Muslims are being converted to the true Mashiach of Israel, Yeshua! But these projects are not easy either; they require not only much prayer, but we are also aiding in the care of 150 orphans, including housing, food and education, and doing all we can to help minister to the essential needs of life over there. This is very similar to the Believers in the first century where they gave of themselves to insure that no one lacked their essential needs. It is very humbling when in the west we live with such luxury. If you wish to support this particular ministry, please click here.
Now, to summarize, let me say first and foremost that HaShem is so good! He has set me free from the bondage of sin and death, allowing me by the power of His Spirit to over come the things that held me back from His presence and His fullness for my life, and He has done this all according to His abundant grace, mercy and patience. He has provided me with work, transportation, a house, food, clothing, fellowship, ministry opportunities, and Believing friends my age. And, as was hinted at prophetically, a Spirit-filled, Israel loving, Torah Observant girl who is so amazing and so dedicated to serving HaShem that I would literally do anything and go anywhere with her (see this midrash). If it be His will, we shall serve Him together for the rest of our lives! But while that's being sorted out, I am continuing to serve as a Shamasha, both preaching and ministering to the body in other ways according to my spiritual giftings (which are continually being developed) and I hope to perhaps become an Elder in the future if I can continue to humble myself and learn according to the guidance of HaShem. He is putting so many things on my heart and preparing me to do many things for Him. And I've learned that this is something you can't plan for or theologically analyze; it is totally dependent upon faith! But I do hope to equip myself as best as I can. As a ministry apprentice I am learning the ropes of ministering to others in a congregational setting, and I am also under sound theological teaching (thanks to my Rav and the Ruach haKodesh) which has done wonders in refining me from the baggage of the internet. But I still hope to further my education through study at the Torah Resource Institute, one of the most biblically grounded schools out there for the Messianic movement and whose President regularely comes out and does Yeshiva at our Shul. Whatever is in store, I know that if I stay in His will, He will keep me protected. So, from a dark factory with a hardened heart to the little orphans in Africa, may the All Merciful One, blessed be He, take me where ever He desires. Amen.