Obstacles in religious growth

Hi there!

I know this will seem a ridiculous question, and I feel ridiculous asking.

I was raised Pentecostal Christian.  I did drugs and was very lost. I was married at 18, and had my first child, then divorced after 1 year due to drug abuse and violence.  I then shacked up with my current husband and had six more kids before finally getting married to him.  He’s a good husband and father.  We’ve been attending a Baptist church for a few years now.

I am trying to figure out how to honor God, and not just assume that I can dismiss everything I am, or do wrong, as excused by grace.

I am no scholar, I have only just recently started reading the bible, and I don’t feel like I’m even doing that correctly… On top of that, my husband is totally disinterested in what I’m trying to do.  He thinks I’m trying to “be a Jew,” which isn’t true, I just want to honor, and obey God. 

What research I have done recently, has felt discouraging, people in the forums argue, and are all sure they know the real truth, but there can only be one real truth.

Last week, I convinced my family to do Sabbath with me.  Even though I tried, I still failed and didn’t have everything prepped.  My husband works odd hours, so we’re used to eating dinner fairly late.  So I was working serving dinner, when the sun had gone down.  I did succeed at taking everyone’s phones away, and keeping the tv off.  We didn’t even play music.  The next morning, Saturday, we slept in.  We ate toast and eggs, again I failed to prepare food for the day. Went hiking into our woods, started a fire, and hung out until it was almost dark.  Everyone said it was a good day, but in my heart I felt lacking.

I know you can’t hear my voice, or feel the depth of what I’m trying to say.  But I often weep over my inadequacies.  I feel incredibly overwhelmed, floating between the Law, and the Grace.  I’m a Christian, so I believe in Jesus, but He said that He came to fulfill the Law.  I don’t even really know the Law. 

I’m afraid that my children will suffer because of me.  Perhaps I am suffering because of my parents, and they from theirs…the blame can go all the way back to Adam and Eve.  What should I do?

I don’t want to insult the Lord with my pitiful attempts, but at the same time, I love the Lord.

Thank you for your time, and all you do.



I love your podcasts.

Dear Jessica,

You sound like you have traveled far in your personal and emotional growth. Women, in particular, sometimes have a tendency not to give themselves credit for things they do and instead fixate on their flaws and what they must yet accomplish. Before we discuss your question we’d like you to take a moment to recognize the huge steps you’ve made. You got off drugs, left a violent marriage, and stayed with and married a man who, like you, is committed to the children you are raising. You are connected to a church and working hard to be the best wife, mother and Christian you can be. Whew! You have accomplished a lot.

What is more, we want you to know that if one had to choose between a life that started well but then went off the tracks and ended horribly or, one like yours that started with painful turbulence but ends in harmony and happiness, this is by far the preferred path.  It’s a big thing you’ve done in changing your trajectory and you are fortunate enough to have a “good husband and father” as a partner. Be grateful. 

At this point, you are a spiritual striver and trying best to understand God’s directions for your life. As Jews trying to follow ancient Jewish wisdom, we can explain that God assigns different roles, challenges and tasks to different people. These include  men and women; mothers and fathers, children and siblings, doctors and plumbers, those living in the land of Israel and those outside the land; those descended from Aaron the High Priest or the tribe of Levi and those descended from the other tribes. It is all about which religious responsibilities, restrictions, rules and regulations we adopt, not about being better or worse. In this scenario,  Jews are supposed to shoulder more responsibilities, restrictions and obligations than everyone else. 

While we know that there is much value for all people in many of the commandments with which the Jewish people are obligated, such as the Sabbath or Passover observance, God does not require those who are not Jewish to  keep the details of these observances. The idea of having one day each week, a Sabbath, different from all the others and devoted to family, friends and God is one that everyone can benefit from and, indeed, was taken for granted until relatively recently in most Christian-founded countries. Jews have an added level that details what should, can and cannot be done by them on that day.

While we know some Christians who are trying to recover the connection to Judaism that they feel was  lost over the years, we urge you not to make that your  overriding path. Why do we say so? For the same reason, when a Jewish person who has been ignorant of the Torah approaches us wanting  to learn and connect more with God’s word, we make sure that he does so in a slow and limited way that does not turn his marriage and family world upside down. Your movement towards a closer relationship with God and Scripture should bring joy and peace to everyone in your family and circle, not just you. Certainly, there will be difficulties and bumps along the way, but the overall feeling should be one of gaining what in Hebrew is called ‘shleimut’ – completion as all the different and separate  parts of one’s life blend together under the Scriptural umbrella. (‘Shleimut’ comes from the same root word as ‘shalom,’ one of the 29 words we analyze in depth in our book Buried Treasure.)

You, as a wife and mother, should not act only as an individual. That’s not how our Boss in Heaven sees you and you shouldn’t see yourself that way either. You cannot be upset at your husband or children for not being in exactly the same place you are.  That path wasn’t laid out to your husband when you married and your children were not provided with this road map during their formative years.  Any spiritual or behavioral changes you make for yourself and certainly any you impose on your family, should be very slow and deliberate.  Each change should allow ample time for everyone to understand, adapt and come on board. If there is resistance, that is a sure sign that you are asking too much or going too fast.

Please stop trying to force your family into your own spiritual vision of what you think they ought to be doing. We understand that you are trying your hardest to distance yourself from earlier mistakes but you are already doing that by being the best wife and mother you can be.

Jessica, we urge you to relax and enjoy your husband, children and church. We are humans and we all make some good decisions and we hope not too many bad ones. Obsessing about trying to act perfectly is not healthy or productive.

One thing we want to clarify is that although, of course, your children benefit from those good decisions and actions you and your husband take, and yes, they do suffer from what we hope are only a few bad ones, it is never a case of blame or recrimination.   You are not the conduit of a curse from Adam down to your children. They, like you, are human with all that entails and they, like you, will need to take responsibility for their own choices. There is no cloud of doom over you or them.

You’ve just started to read the Bible? Great!  Read your way through it all without feeling that you are called to act in accordance with whatever you read. That would lead to huge misunderstanding.  Does that make sense? After all, we wouldn’t want you to start building an Ark or killing some Amalekites. Just reading it all for now will bring you deep understanding and spiritual tranquility. You will reach a point where you realize that there are very, very few ridiculous questions and that you should be proud of yourself for asking deep and meaningful ones.

Allow yourself to enjoy your voyage through life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

75 thoughts on “Obstacles in religious growth”

  1. Jessica here! I read this reply to my question when it was first posted, and am very thankful! It was encouraging, because I supposed I feel like I need to be very hard on myself so that the Lord won’t have to. Beating Him to the punch I suppose. Grovelling seems to fit if I don’t think I can accomplish obedience.
    I hadn’t even thought of coming back to see what others would say about my question and the response. I am overwhelmed reading all the comments. I feel like each one has something new and encouraging for me. It’s even a little embarrassing to have so many people take the time to respond, truly humbling. I am not the kind of person who makes many comments, but I wanted to let you know how thankful I am too have the podcasts, and these threads.

  2. Lacey Hochleutner

    Thank you for sharing this question Jessica, and Rabbi and Susan Lapin for your precious answer!

    To Jessica: be encouraged that Gods always got more for you and He is full of love for you! I have familiarity with overcoming a shameful and unsavory past too, It’s by God’s grace that I am alive today! I have heard a little saying that “God’s goodness and greater than your badness,” (I don’t necessarily like the word “bad” either, but I take this to mean that God is greater than any downfall, or mistake in our lives) and that has helped my perspective from time to time. Trust your Father God, spend time with Him just being in His presence. Perhaps start with a guided Bible study. In my experience a guided Bible study is like training wheels to help with understanding reading the bible better. Bite off little pieces of the word and digest what you can, God sees our heart and can work amazing things with the little bits that we give Him of ourselves. When I was coming out of drugs and a partying lifestyle, I had to cut off a lot of unhealthy relationships, was very alone, and was not sure where to turn, but I knew I needed God. Part of what kept me from drawing closer to the Lord for many years was from some weird “religious” examples in my life as a child. So early on, when I started seeking God more, one of my prayers was that the Lord would guide me to truthful teachings and truthful ministers of the word. Since then (about 15+ years ago now) I believe God has continued to answer that prayer for me. God guides us by peace (Colossians 3:15) and His Holy Spirit, and the more time we spend seeking God’s presence we are building our relationship with Him. At times when I was uncertain, or uneasy about a certain thing, I learned to seek God. God’s Spirit, is The Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is like a fire that purifies all, if something we are not sure about is false, it will not stand in the flames of the Holy Spirit. As you continue seeking God and learning the Bible, you will see changes in yourself, and those changes will eventually, naturally come out and reverberate throughout your family too. God loves you and He cares about the things you care about too. As a fellow sister in Christ, navigating spiritual growth, I don’t have children yet, but Iv learned the more respect and room we give to others, our husbands, family, and friends, the more God can work in their lives. One way He does that is by speaking to others through examples of our lives. For the fact alone you are reading the bible is a stellar example for your children and husband and God can speak to them through that example as well. Be encouraged Jessica, know that nothing can separate you from the love of God. Find good teachings, books, and recorded messages like from Rabbi and Susan Lapin! Investing in your spiritual growth is never a bad investment! And if it’s okay with you Id suggests Beth Moore’s bible studies to start with too (she has many to choose from). Also, remember that we are all just human (even our teachers), and sometimes we can “miss” God on our journeys, BUT know that God loves you way too much to let you get too far off track and as long as our hearts are open to Him, He will make sure you get rerouted in the right direction. 🙂

  3. Elizabeth Gelfand

    Dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,

    I am writing now to let you know that I, a Jew who is slowly adopting a more Torah centered life, would also be interested in future teachings on Shabbat. I’m especially curious about practical tips you might offer to beginners, who prefer to wade into Shabbat observance, rather than jump right into the deep end.


  4. Jessica,

    Might I say that starting anything new can be hard, whether it is riding a bike, learning to read, or starting Shabbat in the home. Every time you try, you will get better and learn more. Don’t give up.

    May you have lots of joy and laughter during this time of change.

    Warm wishes,

  5. Jessica’s questions and struggles brought tears to my eyes. What a precious woman struggling as she grows to be a woman of God and Godly-mother and Godly-wife. Your response was so gracious. Jessica’s growth is a life time walk and today’s world is a microwave environment. Thank you for encouraging her to let go of past burdens. Reminds me of Pilgram’s Progess by John Bunyan, God gave people his wisdom in the 1600’s as he has given it today.

    1. What a lovely way to put it, Renee. I love the sentence, “Jessica’s growth is a life time walk and today’s world is a microwave environment.”

  6. Dear Jesca, just rem the gospel of John. It says “for GOD so loved the world that he gave his only begotten child that whoever believes in him will not perish”. I just want to remind you that your wholeness and rightiousness is in Christ Jesus, and , he is your attorney before the FATHER.
    God Bless you Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin.
    I Love you all.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      So good to hear from you David,
      We hope all is well with you in Jerusalem

  7. Daniel and Susan,
    Great choice of story today. I can see it touched base with so many of us. Great response as usual.
    I to have gone down this same road in a similar way as most of us.
    I understand the need and urgency and drive Jessica has for more of God.
    Like Jessica’s, the rest of my family is not ready for, how far I want to go and I do not let it get in my way even though its hard not to share what I have learn with them which actually pushes them away. They are not ready for that kind of commitment.
    Now on the Sabbath. I firmly believe all Christians should do and commit to doing the Sabbath.
    We do a Sabbath at my home every Friday. Even though my family does not want to do all I do they do agree to do the Sabbath with me. Its something and to me it is important. Now it does not Intel all the things that a real Jewish Sabbath does like the meal. But we go through the Mitzvah of Tezedakah, lighting of the candels including one for my unmarried daughter, washing of the hands, Kiddush the drinking of the wine, the Challah the Breaking of the bread, the blessing over the Wife, and even though it is not necessary a blessing over the Father or Husband, the blessing over the children. This is a simple version that we all should do if possible. And my family is ok with it.
    And yes Daniel and Susan please do put together a simple version that is kosher for us all to use.
    I got mind from Larry Huch which is my minister.
    Love and Blessing To All

  8. I feel for Jessica and the countless others like her, thankfully she has made a turnaround. I have always respected Rabbi Lapin & Susan, but they have went up even further by the way they answered Jessica. Bless you all!

  9. Dear Lapins,
    Your answer to Jessica is so tender and loving and wise that it made tears come to my eyes as I read it.
    Very best regards to you both.

  10. Dear Jessica. Christianity stands on the base of the law and the prophets and foretold that Jesus the Christ would atone for our sins. Trust or Faith in Christ is the basis of your relationship of love with Him. Read Romans 5:8, 10:9-13, 8:1-3 and the book of Galatians to understand and enjoy your freedom

  11. Mark D'Almeida

    Amazing answer, Rabbi. Outstanding! I learned a lot, mainly from your explanation about we Christians trying to recover the connection to Judaism.

  12. What loving and kind words of encouragement from you and many others. Jessica’s life story speaks for many people. Please be encouraged walking slowly is a beautiful journey, as I went through it I did a personal prayer journal. I wrote down the things HE spoke into my heart when I worked in the garden, cooked a meal for my family, cleaned our home…
    The Lord provided a group of women to come together once a week and pray for each of our families.
    I began seeing the changes in our home, my husband, children and in me. My husband who did not attend a church in years did, study the Torah, and lead a men’s group. We celebrate and study the Feast and Festivals. Still much to learn through Abba’s eyes, so the ongoing journey.
    By sharing your story, you now have others praying on behalf of your family here.

    1. I hate that writing doesn’t easily convey the weight of sincerity. Thank you for taking the time to share with me.

  13. Jessica continue to fight the good fight. The enemy would like nothing more than to tell you to give up and go back to your old life style. Stay the course sister. The Sabbath observance is wonderful and you will discover G-d’s true festivals has you grow in the Lord. Read the Lord’s book from the beginning (Genesis) you’ll be blessed when you read our true history.May the G-d of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob bless you.

    1. We’re so delighted to see how much support Jessica is getting here. We have the best readers!

  14. Such a blessing from the Lord your heavenly Father to have you know, follow, and write Rabbi Lapin. He is such a wise one to follow. Always such wisdom flows through him and Mrs. Lapin in their answers.
    He is exactly right. You have come so far with the grace of God. You are blessed with a good husband and children.

    My husband is on a slower path than I and sometimes I would be a bit irritated that he didn’t read his bible, pray enough etc. But I always tried to rarely suggest he do so. This past Sunday when I walked into the living room before church guess what he was reading? My heart lept with joy.
    The Lord knows your heart and forgives every sin. Jesus came to fulfill the law which means it HAS been fulfilled. We are forgiven as far as the East is from the west.
    Also the bible is written to 3 people: the Jew, the Gentile, and the Believer so scripture needs to be interpreted with that context.
    What you say or write to your hubby, children, friends or acquaintances can mean different things such as I love you. Not necessarily the best example.
    Continue to walk with Him on your personal journey & He will give you His blessings even when You are not perfect because He is.
    NO condemnation in Christ Jesus. Glory to God.
    Blessings to you and your family.

    1. Thank you, I know you’re right. I need constant reminding that Jesus wouldn’t have had to pay such a ransom for me, if I had the power to pay it myself. After all, isn’t that why I love Him so much? Because he loves me so much, and I know me, and I’m not very loveable. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but I believe. ♥️

  15. Jessica, I too was very moved by your story, and it has similarities to my own, except I am Jewish. I was on drugs and was very angry when my first marriage ended. My subsequent search for God eventually led me to Orthodox Judaism. As I researched my mother’s conversion — which was supposed to make me Jewish by birth — I thought for a few weeks that I might not be Jewish after all. The thought of maybe not having to do all the requirements of Judaism excited me, and I started looking around for a friendly church to join. Turns out my mom had a “good” conversion, and I was Jewish. The only thing I would say differently than the Lapins — whom I love devotedly — is this: JUMP into religion with both feet, right away. Accept the struggle; a good life is always a struggle, and should be; it is what makes us human and better. Make mistakes and pick up and struggle some more. Your accomplishments will be all the more profound. Sorry for being contradictory and so long-winded.

    1. Glad your story has a happy ending, Lynne. Hearing different perspectives is always valuable.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      My dear Lynne–
      I know you wouldn’t want our fondness for you to obscure the truth and substitute for it nothing but a warm butter massage so we’ll honor you with a candid response to your kind letter to Jessica. When you advise her to, “JUMP into religion with both feet, right away…” you are doing her no favor because you are mistaking her for a single woman disconnected from all and experiencing her own private spiritual odyssey. Even then, I am not at all sure I’d recommend that anyone JUMP in with both feet right away. Faith and a God-connection is not like playing tennis or basket weaving. It’s profound, powerful and life changing. It should always be done thoughtfully and deliberately. But this is ever so much more important when the person is part of a family. And it isn’t a family with a long life time of stable history. If you carefully reread Jessica’s letter, you’ll see that they’ve been through a storm or two. And anything that Jessica jumps into with two feet right away could possibly cause parts of the family to become unglued. Jumping into religion isn’t like jumping into a new series of romance novels. It’s not just a mental decision. It does have real life implications that might be disrupting to the family. I ask you, how would you feel if your wonderful husband came home tonight and announced that he would now be embracing Hassidic Judaism and presented you with a list of demands such as how he expects you to dress, what he expects you to read (and not read) and many other requirements of Hassidic living. I don’t think you’d say to him, “I’m so happy you jumped in with both feet right away my darling!” I think we need to look at this situation organically. Jessica has a husband and children, they deserve some consideration just as you would if your husband chose a dramatically different lifestyle. God doesn’t want to disrupt peace and harmony in the family for the sake of what one member of the family might personally suppose was His wishes.
      That said, I am so happy that your search led you back to your Jewish roots.

      1. You are so absolutely correct Rabbi. I’m on the opposite side. My spouse converted to an alternate faith from the one we had shared since we met (38 +\- years ago) without a thought as to how it would effect our relationship or our family. He JUMPED in with both feet placing expectations and changes in our home. It has not been a smooth or appreciated transition. I think your advice to Jessica is spot on! Thank you.

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Sorry to hear this Brea–
          As a congregational rabbi, I saw a number of these circumstances. Married people must learn that they are married. That means saying “our house” not “my house” and “our children” not “my children”. It also means responding to an invitation “Let me check with my husband/wife and I’ll get back to you” not “yes, sure” or “no thanks”. If you are lucky enough to be married, try and remember it.

    3. Ultimately, I just want to be close to God. I want Him to be pleased with me, and my family. I think the hardest part is seeing the very convincing perspectives of many, yet they contradicted enough to confuse. I definitely am going to continue pursuing truth. I really can’t stand the thought of being stagnant. Regardless of anything, I know I’m not meant to just float through life hoping for the best. I very much appreciate your advice!

  16. I love your diplomatic, supportive, answer to a Christian seeking counsel. You lifted the burden of keeping the law from her shoulders, while encouraging her to pursue the search of the riches of Christianity’s Jewish roots. I know this search has brought great illumination to Jesus’ teachings and an abiding joy to me. I pray her quest of faith will lead to the Lord’s path of righteousness and shalom for her family.

    1. I think that all these loving responses will greatly help Jessica, Pastor Sharon.

  17. As a practicing Catholic who has not missed a single Thought Tools in 10 years and learned so much from them, (thank you!) I discovered a radio station two years ago that has made a huge difference in my daily life. It is called Family Life Radio and if it’s not available in her area, it is available on the internet. I cannot tell you how many times it has lifted my spirits to listen to songs praising God during my day. They also have a verse of the day and other spiritual programs to listen to. It is a non-profit station run completely on donations from listeners.
    As a practicing Catholic that God yoked to a non practicing Jew, I am always trying to grow our faith.
    Thanks for all you do to help us understand what it means to be Jewish.

  18. What an amazing woman, seeker ant beautiful heart!
    What an amazingly wise counselor and understanding of our human journey and how to approach life and God!

  19. Good question and good answer (see 2 Kings 5:19).

    “Your movement towards a closer relationship with God and Scripture should bring joy and peace to everyone in your family and circle, not just you.”

    This is so wise and true but oftentimes overlooked by believers eager to earn G-d’s goodwill and striving to get into heaven.

    1. Sebastian, this happens in areas other than religion too. A mother decides that overnight her family will eat only healthy food, for example. Many of us move too quickly to make major changes. Sometimes, we do need to go ‘cold turkey’ but most of the time slow and steady is healthier.

      1. Even as I do things, try to make changes, knowing that slow and steady wins the race, I get panicked because I see time skipping through my fingers, and frustration takes over.
        I have so much respect for you and your husband, because the fruit of your life is evident. It sounds silly, and maybe even weak minded, but I really need sometimes to get permission from someone else to stop panicking. I do really see the value in it as well, because trying to make everyone go in a direction I myself am not confident in, is a sure way to push them away.
        I know I keep thanking you guys in these comments, but I really can’t say it enough.

  20. Dear Jessica:
    I, too, was raised Pentecostal. I often use the book: “Cross and The Switchblade” as a reference and definition of my denomination and the theological roots from which I came. David Wilkerson was a stellar Christian and example of every good thing I know about being Pentecostal.
    I am taking the time to make this distinction because Pentecostal denominations have been invaded by spiritually inept preachers and teachers, in the last forty years, and have upended what was once a solid Bible based denomination to one based more on hyper spiritual experiences: using feelings and emotions as indicators of one’s relationship with God—the results have been disastrous. Your comment of living between the law and grace proves the point.
    Let me be brief:
    As a Christian our relationship with God The Father, through Jesus Christ is based completely on GRACE: the unmerited favor of God. Grace has been bestowed on us (you) because He loves us (you). Grace is a gift—it CANNOT be earned. You must learn to live in the freedom of this truth.
    Pentecostal denominations are often known for their legalism: a list of do this and don’t do that; with the clear indication that one is more “Holy”—acceptable to God— if at the end of the day this invisible tally sheet is perfectly balanced. Nonsense!! Mental, emotional and spiritual bondage/anguish can be the only outcome, of a life lived out this way! It has nothing to do with the daily life of freedom Christ promises His children.
    Jesus does tell us to “obey His commandments” (start with loving your neighbor as yourself) but He also says He will give us the strength, fortitude and perseverance to do so.
    “You can’t He can”! Learn to lean into His resources through prayer and Bible reading. (Thanks, Rabbi Lapin)
    Keep your relationship with the Lord simple: we must all maintain the heart of a loving, humble child.
    Since you are Baptist, I wholeheartedly recommend, Charles Stanley, as a spiritual mentor in every sense of the word; his solid but easily understood Bible Studies are recognized and endorsed by reputable theologians of all Protestant denominations. Dr. Stanley’s Study Bible with footnotes is an excellent tool and starting point—used by my children with marvelous results.
    Lastly, as for your Family—offer them up to The Lord in daily prayer; quit carrying the burden of what coulda, woulda, shoulda! You are forgiven! “Behold ALL things are new…!” Believe Him! Live out that truth one day at a time. Our Lord will not fail you…. God Bless!

    (P.S. Kudos to you for writing Rabbi Lapin for advice!! With that innate spiritual discernment, you are well on your way!)

    1. Thanks for adding this perspective, Cheryl. As always, we only present a Jewish view.

      1. I too come from a Pentecostal up bringing.Much of what Cheryl related in her encouragement to Jessica, rings true to me . I’m very grateful to the Rabbi and Susan for allowing us of different perspectives to come together under the Rabbi’s covering, to lift up one another in our relationship with the Most High God , there is indeed none like Him!
        As Cheryl encouraged ,Jessica in her walk of faith as a Baptist. Dr Charles Stanley is a sound Biblical teacher , I would second the recommendation regarding Dr. Stanley.
        This in no way takes away from the sound teaching of Rabbi Lapin!!!
        I would encourage you, Jessica not to be burdened by other tell you about “do’s and don’ts” . What the dear Lapin’s have done is so Biblical they’ve encouraged you in the light which you have and given sound principles for you to proceed in your walk .
        This indeed is a safe harbor , for those seeking , needing rest and needing refreshing !
        Thank you Rabbi and Susan Lapin , May you receive blessings which you cannot contain !

        1. Thank you so much! I really love my Pentecostal upbringing, I also grew up on the cross and the switchblade. Our church was very outreach, and missions oriented. My dad was the pastor and an evangelist, and I have the upmost respect for him. He served all over the world, but as his kid, I got very little attention, or biblical education. I just gleaned from church sermons, but was never taught to study. In short, while my father was serving the world, his kids were running amuck! I am so grateful because I did witness total sincerity.
          My parents were saved in the hippy Jesus movement, and the power of salvation was so real in them and their friends. But I’ve seen the areas of weakness, and failure. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine, right?
          I really do appreciate your advice. I don’t consider myself a Baptist, it’s just the church my husband chose, and I’m just happy he wants to go in general. I don’t really get much from the Baptist Church, simply because the sermons are very surface, almost like children’s church. I do listen to a lot online. I get so much from Lapin, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, Tim Mackie, etc…
          I just struggle with ignorance and insecurity. I don’t trust myself, and really I have a hard time trusting the complete doctrine of anyone, simply because I know we’re all flawed. I wish He Himself would be the clear voice in my head, and guide me the easy way. I guess that’s where faith comes into play. I have to seek Him, and trust that He really will guide me.
          Praise God my kids are actually really good, they’ve never been in trouble. My oldest is almost 20 and getting married to her 2nd boyfriend who is also a believer. They are such good kids, both saved themselves.
          My oldest son is almost 18, has never dated, takes himself to Bible study, and study’s on his own. He’s very concerned with his relationship with the Lord, and works hard in construction with his dad.
          My other five kids are 13, 12, 10, 8, and 6. They are all really good kids, and it’s only by the grace of God, because us parents have not been the greatest examples.
          I am really focusing on the sound advice I’ve gotten here. I don’t really have much choice, because I know that if I try to be perfect, not even knowing what that looks like, I’ll spin my wheels, and be so discouraged.
          Thank you again.

  21. What an amazingly moving letter, and, as usual, a very wise, encouraging reply. It all brought tears to my eyes.

    1. We, too, were moved by Jessica’s letter, Mark. Her heart truly showed in her words.

  22. Brian Sullivan

    Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,

    I am very grateful for everything you guys put out about ancient Jewish wisdom. I love listening to your podcast, you have any got me a few times. I was so amazed to learn that Africa was going to send people to California to help them dig for fresh water, only to realize you were pulling my leg.

    The past year I have read some different books on the sabbath, and listened to some Christian sermons on the sabbath. But I always seemed to be too busy to take a sabbath, even though I know Gd was calling me to take one. And then coronavirus happened, and my sister asked me if I wanted to join her as she celebrates the sabbath, the first week we had restrictions put on us.

    I have really enjoyed it, and I truly look forward to it every week. I would truly love to purchase from you a step by step guide on how the Jews celebrate the sabbath, just like you did for the cedar meal during Passover.

    Keep on doing the great things you are doing.

    Praying for both of you guys,

    Brian Sullivan

    1. Coronavirus has forced so many people to take steps to slow down their lives, Brian, and that has been a blessing amid the pain. What an interesting idea for us to do a more detailed look at the Sabbath. We’d love to hear if others are interested in that idea.

      1. Shaun Alan Sullivan

        Yes definitely interested. Years ago I lived in Israel for a year on student exchange and was blessed to spend each sabbath with a family from Yemen and so experienced many Sephardic (sp) traditions and from time to time some Ashkenaz (sp) as well. I enjoyed it all immensely, oi vey the food!!!!!! LOL I have often told my pastor Gordon Banks, if I ever get the opportunity to go back to Israel I may never return to the US. (Said partly in jest and partly not). I am interested because it was after visiting the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv that I learned my family line on my mom’s side was from Odessa Russia and were Jewish, granted at the time I was 30 and Christian by choice. Looking forward to an announcement of a indepth study on the sabbath.

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Dear Shaun,
          Please convey my warmest regards to Pastor Gordon Banks. I am hoping that he might remember me.
          He’s a fine pastor and an inspiring leader. I have spoken in his church once or twice over the years.

      2. I so agree with Brian. I think that in this modern time, cultural habits, traditions, and just an overall connection to older generations has been mostly lost. We just kind of let life happen to us, and our habits and systems are either imposed by the busyness, or constant distractions. Our identity has become based on pop culture. I know for myself, I’m hungry for some structure that is meaningful.

  23. Joanne Chancey

    Jessica! I love you and I love your struggle. Our stories are very similar. I am a Christian and I also felt God’s call to understand the Jewish Jesus. My husband has not been on board, but by God’s grace, he has not interfered because I give him the option to join or not. I too started with the Sabbath and the feast days and felt inadequate at first. But God let me know that He doesn’t care if it’s perfect, but is pleased with my efforts to celebrate Him. I believe that the enemy tries to rob us of our efforts to draw closer to the Lord Messiah…just don’t let him! Keep seeking Jesus and He will reveal Himself to you. I will be praying for you!

    1. I love you too Joanne!
      Thank you for your encouragement, and prayer, I need them. I really don’t know why I struggle so much with being worried that I’m failing. I think I’m hyper aware of my sin nature. Lazyness, selfishness, lack of diligence, pride, they haunt me. That phrase, “if you love me, you’ll obey my commands”, eats at me. I feel condemned because if I really loved the Lord, I’d obey Him. If I really loved my family, I’d do better serving them. But I am trying to move forward without dwelling on the fact that I can’t attain perfection.
      Thanks again for your encouragement, and just for relating!

  24. Dr. Vickie Sanderson

    Jessica, you brave and wonderful and courageous daughter of the living God! Our Father has seen you as precious from your first heart beat, from your first breath; just as you have felt towards your own babies. More so, in fact, as our Father sees you without the strain of living this heavy and dark human life. You get up each day and do the best you can. That in itself makes you a warrior. You are loved and cherished by God, by Christ, and by your fellow brothers and sisters that I expect you will hear from. Thank you for your courageous words in this question.

    1. Thank you, Dr. Vickie, for making the point that God is on our side. He isn’t looking to “catch” us in failure, but cheering us on.

      1. Emmanuel Obidimma

        Me TOO. Thank you Jessica for your question. Thank Rabbi and Susan for this AWESOME reply!

    1. Thank You for answering this question. I can relate to having a lot of turbulence in my early years and Jessica’s question resonated with me on some level. I too have had to deal with some befuddlement from family members, they would ask if I was going to convert (No) as well as the occasional eye rolling in regards to my listening to your podcast or when I would watch Ancient Jewish Wisdom or any other Rabbinical teachings. It used to bother me but after some thought on the situation I came to realize my family was merely projecting their own issues with faith upon me, and I just stayed the course and followed my heart and now several years later I am the one they seek out when they need clarification or have a question about the Bible and I do my best to help them with a Torah a Bible and the internet to cross check. My children see this and that in itself is rewarding to me.


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