I was invited to speak at Southwestern Baptist University, a school with about 1,200 active, on-campus students. At the morning chapels I have been talking to a throng of well over 1,000 students (who need a certain number of chapel credits). In the evenings I have been speaking to a much smaller group, but one very interested in details and questions.
We’ve been going out to eat after the evening chapels and a handful of students come with me to ask more questions. I have to say that the academics at SBU, especially in Biblical studies and philosophy are quite good. These twenty year olds have read a lot of great material and they really keep me on my feet. I leave after chapel this morning and I have a great appreciation for SBU now, a hidden treasure in the Ozarks, a place where young men and women are exposed to the finest in Biblical and philosophical education (you should hear the students raving about the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and philosophy professors).
I had mentioned to Boaz Michael of First Fruits of Zion that I would be in Bolivar. I am a geographical innocent, generally with no idea where I am when I travel and no concept of how far various places may be away from me. Boaz said to me on the phone, “You know, you’re only a little over an hour from our headquarters.”
I was elated because I had always wanted to see the FFOZ HQ. Imagine, getting to walk in that famous Beit Midrash they have assembled! (More on that later).
Boaz, Toby Janicki, and I met for lunch in Springfield in between Bolivar and their headquarters in Marshfield. We talked about a lot of things, including the joys and the strains of the change in vision at FFOZ (they are still formulating a new vision that will be clear and compelling). We talked about the vision of MJTI (“teaching and living a vision of Jewish life renewed in Yeshua”) which is so clear and is further delineated in our fuller vision statement (mjti.com or rememberjerusalem.org).
We drove out together to Marshfield as Boaz and Toby explained why their headquarters are in such a rural place. The families who work for FFOZ and Vine of David have an affordable place to live with lots of land and it is a beautiful place.
As we pulled up to the headquarters, I saw a broad piece of land with an attractive steel building. They have a lot of room in their building and room to expand on their tract of land as well.
I met a lot of the staff and saw offices and the distribution center and the Beit Midrash.
There were a few highlights of my time there.
First, I saw a program FFOZ is working on for their HaYesod program. It is a 22 minute video with which HaYesod leaders can host an Israel night. In those 22 minutes, a narrator (Nate Long, with a deep, God-like voice) takes viewers through a 4,000 year sweep of history from Abraham to the present state of Israel. The video geniuses at FFOZ have made a program that reminds me of the movie shown in the City of David in Jerusalem.
Second, I saw the distribution center for Vine of David and FFOZ materials. What can be exciting about a distribution center? Well, I was excited to see how organized, professional, and efficient their operation is. They can handle a lot of order and move media and print in high quantities. I talked about partnering with them on the audiobook of my upcoming Yeshua in Context.
Third, I saw the Beit Midrash of my dreams. Imagine the best library furniture you’ve ever seen. Imagine rows and rows of books, expensive books. Imagine a beautiful Ark and a room dedicated to study and prayer.
I wish I’d had a few days and not just an hour to be there. I saw rare manuscripts, such as Levertoff’s works in English and German. I saw a book called A Zaddik Christ, with drawings by an Atlanta area Jewish artist, depicting the life of Yeshua as if he were a modern Hasidic Jew. Of course I saw sets of Bible commentaries, Talmud, every major set by Artscroll and similar publishers, Hebrew, English, and more.
We talked about the materials which are forthcoming for the Messianic Jewish movement. Vine of David has been working for some time on a Siddur for Messianic Jewish congregations. I can’t say too much now, but there will be involvement on the Siddur beyond Vine of David so that it will be one the whole community can use. In the fall they should be ready to release a New Testament in Hebrew (the Delitzsch version) and a fresh English translation. They will release Lichtenstein’s Matthew commentary in Hebrew and English.
My heart was warmed. FFOZ perhaps is in a time of clarifying vision, its work with the churches through FFOZ and with Messianic Jewish materials through Vine of David, but in the meantime, it seems to me they are in their best period yet.
When has Messianic Judaism been so on the verge of such progress. I believe MJTI and Hashivenu are bringing Messianic Judaism to a place of future readiness. And Vine of David is in the same place, producing the materials from which a great Judaism is built, a Judaism dedicated to the life, teaching, and authority of Yeshua, our great and soon returning Lord.