I have been asked from time to time about my journey into the Torah way of life. As you will see, the journey has been more of a slow progression rather than a drastic, overnight change. Perhaps this was YHWH’s will for us all along, or perhaps it is more a reflection upon me as someone slow to trust. Either way, may this be a testimony to YHWH’s goodness in opening eyes that were once blinded to these things.
I grew up in the Christian traditions of the Baptist variety, and I’m thankful for the way I was raised, with a heart-felt faith taught and lived out in our home. In my teenage years, a church split led our family into a more charismatic fellowship, and later still I met a lovely young woman who began attending the fellowship. I decided she would make a pretty decent wife and I haven’t been disappointed! We had the first of eight children at the end of 1999.
We were committed to living for our God, but we believe our eyes began to be opened to something different when we attended a weekend conference at the start of 2003. The speaker was an American man named Jonathan Lindvall, and he spoke of the relevance that so much of the Old Testament law should truly have in a Christian’s life. We slowly began to look outside the box of mainstream, popular Christianity. Although we had already decided that we would homeschool our children, we became fully committed to the idea during this time. Other ideas such as family size and our general faith and trust in truly following God’s ways were impressed upon us. We were also later led to the decision to stop buying pork and bacon for our home cooking. These were just little steps in our awakening.
Sometime after this, a video tape was circulated by someone within our fellowship that presented many questionable aspects of Christmas. Along with some other families, we found this to be very challenging. Our children were still young (with a number yet to be born), and we began to consider if Christmas was really the type of tradition that we wanted them growing up with and sentimentally remembering in later years. These were scary thoughts – I mean we didn’t want to be too different! However, we were led to tone down our Christmas focus and decided to introduce something that was clearly Scriptural so that our children could grow up with a family tradition that could be fondly remembered, yet focusing more on God. After some thought and prayer, we decided that Passover seemed like the most obvious answer to our “new idea”. Little did we know where this was truly going to lead!
With the decision to “do” Passover, the next step was to work out exactly what this was going to look like for us. It meant a lot of thought and study, and it all came at a very interesting time. We happened to be going through the worst drought on the farm in living memory, so there was lots of work to do and a greater degree of testing and trusting needed. There were also many issues brewing in our church fellowship, impacting many of our closest friends and making us question many of the teachings. All of these things were not coincidental, but helped to lead us deeper into the Scriptures and rely on YHWH more than ever.
As I studied the Passover, YHWH led me to the theme of the Lamb (which also led to the “Place of The Lamb” website name) and helped me to develop a simple Passover “service” that we have continued to do each year. None of this process involved any thoughts of being “Torah observant” and, as we have no Jewish heritage, I never looked at a Jewish Seder service either. We decided to observe our Passover on Good Friday in memory of Yeshua’s death, and to remove all the usual Easter traditions from our weekend.
In early 2007 – the middle of our [Australian] summer – a very unusual and unexpected rain event occurred, which made a huge [positive] difference to the farm situation. It was an amazing blessing that truly filled me with joy and excitement as I witnessed YHWH’s provision in the physical world that we were relying on. In April, about three months later, we had our first Passover with our oldest four children. It was a little daunting leading the family in something that was so different to us, yet the excitement of the three children old enough to know what we were doing was very encouraging, and my wife and I had a real sense of peace that this was the right thing to do. We truly believed that YHWH was leading us in this decision. His guidance came again two months later as He clearly directed us to leave our church fellowship. The following Sunday, we decided to join in with a couple other families who had also recently left the fellowship (some ordered to do so). This was very much outside of the comfort zone for us all, but was truly another life-changing chapter, as we were compelled to study and test the Word for ourselves and see what YHWH said, rather than just accepting what we had been taught.
My studies into Passover raised numerous questions for me. One particular thing that fascinated me was the discovery of the historic Quartodeciman Controversy that occurred way back at the end of the second century. This showed that the early Christians observed Passover on the 14th day of the Hebrew month, Nisan/Abib, but there was increasing pressure from the “church” leaders to stamp out this practice in favour of an Easter Sunday timing. It showed me three things in particular – early believers actually observed Passover, that there is a specific day for Passover that is independent of the Easter celebration, and for some reason the “church” was openly and strongly opposed to something that was clearly Scriptural! The other obvious thing that my Passover studies revealed was that it was actually part of a seven day observance called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Next year, we added this on!
Over the next couple of years, my eyes were slowly being opened to new understandings of Scripture and we were progressively being challenged to make various changes in our lives. It’s worth noting that the internet was still relatively simple compared to what we are now accustomed to, and there was almost nothing about “Christians” seeking the Torah or feasts. There were a few articles I discovered from the Worldwide Church of God concerning the feast days that made a lot of sense, but that was pretty much it. I also spent hours in studies examining the calendar of Scripture, and changing the methods we used for our feast dates a few times over those early years in particular.
Due to the discovery that the “church” had made at least some changes to what the early New Testament believers practiced and believed, I had started reading some of the Puritan writings. It was usually heavy reading, but certainly seemed to be founded in Scripture more than the direction in which popular Christianity was heading. In 2009, one book in particular really began to change my thinking towards the truth that the Torah was still a valid way of life for true believers. It was a book written in 1816 by a Scottish Minister, John Colquhoun, titled “A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel”. The writer was not advocating Torah observance as such, but his discussions on the Biblical law as a way of life for believers really challenged me, yet the line he drew at the moral law vs the civil law seemed rather contrived. In his book, John said “The love of God to man is the sum of the gospel; the love of man to God is the sum of the law” (p93), and he talked about the law (Torah) being a covenant of works to unregenerate sinners, but a rule of life to believers. He also wrote, “They who live to Him … study to keep all His holy commandments. They not only account it their duty, but their privilege and their pleasure to yield spiritual obedience to His holy law.” (p236). The book was full of Scripture and thoughts that spoke very strongly to me and supported other things I was considering in relation to Torah. To this day, it is the book with the most marked pages and underlined paragraphs that I own.
We attended our final family Christmas gathering in 2010. We had phased out celebrations down to the degree of having no presents at all that year which, as you can imagine, made things a little awkward. But for us, we had reached the point where Christmas celebrations were going against our conscience, and a new path was being presented to us. Also during this time, we had been eating only clean foods during the feast days that we were now observing – and this then progressed to the decision to make “kosher” (clean) eating a full time way of life.
At some stage during this time, our small fellowship began to study the Sabbath and its relationship to modern believers. We had some great discussions and our eyes were opened to many things, but we never actually made the decision to change from Sunday to Sabbath. However, in early 2013, my wife and I started to be really challenged to make the change to observe the Sabbath. There were things we had to work through if we were going to make this change, though. It was going to be something we took seriously and would obviously mean work days were going to be different, my sport viewing would be affected, plus we were going to stand out even more to our family and friends! We certainly didn’t want to give up fellowship with our friends each week, so we made plans to tell them of our decision one particular Sunday and try to change our meeting time each Sunday to allow me to work a few hours before we met together. YHWH had other plans that Sunday! We met at our house that week, and I’d decided to watch a video together from First Fruits of Zion called “The Gospel in Exile”. I found it very challenging when I had recently seen it, and watching it again that day in relation to our Sabbath decision, made me quite emotional. It seems I was not the only one it spoke to – at the end of the video there was some silence in the room as I suppressed my emotions before speaking. Before I began, one friend said loudly, “You rotter!”. I wasn’t the only one taken aback by the outburst, but he went on to explain how much the message had meant to him that day also. We discussed things further and when the Sabbath issue was raised it was unanimously decided that six days later, we would begin meeting on the Sabbath day! So, in April 2013 the next major step in our Torah walk began.
By now, learning about the ways of Torah and constant Biblical study seemed so thrilling. We spent hours watching videos from 119 Ministries when we discovered them, along with anything else we could read or watch. Our knowledge was growing and our understanding of various NT books was changing to fit in so amazingly with the rest of Scripture. There were difficult discussions with family at times, but generally most of the changes were just ignored. With all of this going on, however, I still had doubts about where all this was going. I constantly prayed for wisdom in all these matters because I did not want to lead my whole family into false beliefs and end up ruining their lives! Every time I felt like giving up on all these changes and returning to the standard Christian viewpoint, I looked again at the things that YHWH had shown me through His Word and realised that I could never go back. I would not be able to stop seeing what He had opened my eyes to, and so a return would actually be denying Him and rebelling against what He had shown me. I could never do that after all He had done in our lives!
The thoughts of uncertainty became less regular, but still overwhelmed me at times – until one particular day in 2016. We traveled three hours to attend an event where Rico Cortes was speaking (in Melbourne). Rico spoke with such passion and so clearly showed me in my spirit that the Torah was intrinsically linked to the covenant with our Creator, Saviour and King. I finally made the heart commitment to accept this way of life 100%, after being so close for a long time! It was another emotional day for me, but I was so excited to finally have this confirmation that I didn’t even realise I needed. Along with this came another change for our family. I had not wanted to wear tzitzits until I was certain the Torah life was truly for us. I knew it was going to be an obvious change to anyone who saw us, and didn’t want to have to ever backtrack on the decision. As Rico spoke that day, though, I decided that now was the time! So, we made our tzitzits and prepared for the day we would start wearing them. On our 10th family Passover celebration in 2016, we wore our tzitzits for the first time. We were nervous wearing them in public, but at least our allegiance to YHWH and His Torah was now public.
We have continued to grow and learn ever since. There have been issues that are difficult to fully understand, but we haven’t wavered in our desire to follow YHWH with our heart, soul and strength. Unfortunately we fail so often, but that is exactly why we continue to rely upon the work of Yeshua for our salvation. We don’t attempt to live by the Torah in order to gain any credits, but our goal is to follow His commandments as an act of love and thankfulness for all the goodness He has showered upon us. May He truly be glorified through our lives. Amein.