David Brickner. San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1996. 159 pages. $6.95, paper.
“Who am I?” “What am I?” “Where do I go from here?” These are questions common to new Christians who are seeking to understand the implications of their life of faith. For Jewish followers of Jesus, the questions are asked from a unique perspective.
In 1983, I was a Jewish person who had just come to believe in Jesus, or to use his Hebrew name, Yeshua. I found myself confronted with many problems. My family did not understand my new faith. I had been raised in a religious Jewish home, but now I began to question my relationship to the Law of Moses. I also wondered, “Where am I supposed to turn in order to grow spiritually?” David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, answers these questions and more in his new book, Mishpochah Matters: Speaking Frankly to God’s Family. This anthology of essays, authored by Brickner over the past five years, will be valuable both to Jews who have come to faith in Yeshua and also to the Church at large.
With practical insight and lively anecdotes, Brickner tackles the hard questions that arise in the life of the Jewish follower of Jesus. He divides the book into three sections: “Walking with God,” “Walking with God’s Family,” and “Walking through Tough Issues.” In each section he addresses questions typically asked by Jewish Christians such as “How do I know God’s will?” “How do I fit into the local Body of Messiah?” “Should I marry a Jewish person or not?” and “Should Jewish things still be important to me now that I am a believer?” Brickner also talks about the aging process, death, miracles, and the Messiah, all from the perspective of a Jewish believer.
Two major emphases permeate the entire book. First, Brickner emphasizes the lordship of Jesus. He continually reminds us that the reason why we do what we do is to be more like Jesus in attitude and action. Second, he focuses on the importance of the local body of believers, whether that body is a Messianic congregation or a mainstream church. He does a superb job of upholding the importance for the Jewish Christian of Jewish identity and culture while at the same time making it clear that what is most important is “Jesusness,” not “Jewishness”. Virtually every chapter ends with words of hope and encouragement which exhort the reader to keep his or her eyes fixed on the One who brought them to faith and holds them in that faith.
Brickner honestly examines the differences within the Messianic community yet holds fast to the fact that Jewish believers have more things in common than they have that separate us. At the end of his chapter, “Distinct or Divided,” Brickner says on page 73, “Together we are enjoying a feast of righteousness at a table that was laid for us in the finished work of Yeshua. So when we hear a knock at the door, let’s refuse to get up and move to another table. Instead, why not pull up a few more chairs? There truly is plenty of room for everyone.”
The subtitle of the book, “Speaking Frankly to God’s Family” indicates to the reader that several very tough issues are going to be addressed in a challenging and forthright manner. Though some people rely mostly on feelings when trying to figure out God’s will, Brickner challenges the reader to look at his or her own life and circumstances. It is a book which truly encourages believers to think beyond simple, pat answers and to engage some of the more difficult issues facing the Jewish believer and Body of Messiah as a whole.
Mishpochah Matters will be an aid to those Jewish believers who find themselves struggling through a wide variety of issues. Both the person new in their faith as well as those who have walked with the Lord for many years will benefit from reading it. If you have any Jewish friends who have recently come to know the Lord, give them a copy of Mishpochah Matters.
It should be made clear that Mishpochah Matters has application and insight for non-Jewish believers as well. The Gentile Christian who has a love for the Jewish people or has Jewish friends to whom he or she would like to witness, will benefit greatly through following the discussion of the problems and prospects of the Messianic Jewish community. Non-Jewish Christians will learn much from hearing of the sorrows and joys that Jewish believers face.
Much in these chapters has application to the Church at large. Many congregations and worshipping communities, for instance, struggle with problems of divisiveness. In the chapter “Distinct or Divided,” Brickner makes the statement on page 70, “It is fine for various Jewish missions or Messianic congregations to express their distinctiveness. But can’t we do so without making negative insinuations or implications about the commitment and distinctiveness of others? We can if we are confident of our own identity and careful not to be drawn into someone else’s agenda. None of us should presume to be a spokesperson for another except in those matters where we know that we are in agreement!” This statement is as relevant to those in any denomination or Christian organization as it is to those in the Messianic Jewish community.
Prior to becoming Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, David Brickner served for over five years as the organization’s Minister-at-Large. His extensive experience with Jewish believers around the world gives credibility to his timely insights. Given the disunity that too often marks many churches and congregations, Brickner’s desire for unity in the body is refreshing, challenging, and boldly presented. Mishpochah Matters is well documented, theologically on target, and biblically sound. When the author weaves his wife, congregation, and pastor into some of the essays, it also becomes a very personal statement.
I can’t think of a better way to get to know the new Executive Director of Jews for Jesus than to read Mishpochah Matters! I highly recommend this volume for your library, your pastor, or a friend who is a Jewish believer in Jesus.
Murray Tilles is Director of Light of Messiah Ministries.