Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘cult’

I have not gotten into any good debates (i.e. arguments) for quite awhile.  I have grown tired of them and don’t feel a burden to dialogue with the firmly convinced about anything.  Aren’t we all convinced? 

But in the last few days I’ve had some interesting and unexpected exchanges.  Okay, I’ve opened my typewritten mouth in some places where I haven’t in a long time.  And I was reminded of an interesting phenomenon among people who believe themselves to be supremely “right”.  They don’t have room for anyone who isn’t.

I ran across an interesting post on Craig’s List in the middle of the night, trying to amuse my insomnia.  The ad claimed to be a seeker of truth, asking to discover what a real Christian is.  I had a pretty good idea this was bait, so I bit.  I was right.  In fact I was even right about what kind of bait it was – a person zealous for the old paths, a “Nazarene watchman” as he called himself.  This is a unique brand of Torah observance (if you ask, most HRM followers will claim they don’t believe like the rest of them), but the premise is the same as the rest of the crowd; the Law of Moses is the final Word, not Jesus, as Hebrews 1:1 explains.  He was not a seeker of truth but a seeker of pupils.  I did confront him on the manner of his search, to which he humbly and surprisingly responded that he wouldn’t misrepresent his intentions anymore.  I admire his sincerity and his zeal.  However, he made it clear that if I wasn’t interested in his message, he was going to move on.  Aw shucks.  I thought we were going to be great friends. lol.  But it brought home to me again one of the fruits of false religion; selective love for those who agree with me.  I have heard several stories of families  being torn apart because a follower of the law starts to see that only those on his (or her) own path are really a part of the spiritual kingdom they belong to.  Those who don’t agree, even under their own roof, become less and less important.  What they think and feel don’t matter anymore.  No need to be kind or patient.  They see even their own spouses as disobedient and rebellious.

Organized cults nearly always drive wedges between their followers and their friends and family who are not converted to the “truth”.   They are taught to see others as less enlightened and holy.  But often those who don’t belong to an organized group (and often claim Divine revelation) are found to have the same fruit operating in their lives, even in the absence of human spiritual leadership.  They may have even stronger defense mechanisms because they believe their directives come from God Himself and no human agent.  But regardless,  we can bear the fruit of genuine love ONLY in the Holy Spirit.  If we do not, we are of another spirit, no matter how right we believe ourselves to be.

How we respond to those who do not agree with us tells much of which spirit we follow, or at the least our maturity in the Lord.  I have many many times throughout my life responded in a haughty manner.  While I may be blunt (as is my manner often) I pray to not be puffed up and arrogant toward those who disagree, or to see them as having no more value as human being.  I long to love with God’s love, not be moved only for those whom I know are aligned with my beliefs and preferences.  

I have recently decided to branch out and associate with people outside the Christian ghetto and I find it challenging me on many levels.  I have new friends who most certainly would not agree with me on much, but I am happy to say that God has filled my heart with love for them and shown me how much they matter, to Him.

Read Full Post »

The word “cult” gets tossed around a lot, even by people who belong to them.  Many definitions abound, so it’s easy to pick one that might not include your own group, especially if you don’t meet all the criteria on a particular list.  Various degrees of denial make cult definitions a subjective pursuit.  This week my friends shared two helpful links about cults and abusive groups that are worth your time to check out.

Looking back on my life, I have quite a cult resume.

My husband and I would have never considered ourselves in a cult, or worse yet, the leaders of one, when we were in the Hebrew Roots Movement.  We did not follow any particular teacher, although we had friends who did.  We saw the movement as something God brought together because it wasn’t started or led by any one particular person.  People from many different Christian backgrounds came together under one common bond.  While every group had to muddle through many various points of contention, we had given our minds over to one idea which became the foundation of belief and the basis for our fellowship.  Nearly anything or anyone we recognized as having this same beginning premise, we trusted, and believed.

As this election season has heated up, I have watched this phenomenon in the political realm too, and see the human condition is so very prone to wanting a framework with neat, concise answers. We want talking points, dogmas, and simplified answers to our dissenters.  Go-to catch phrases head off any opponents arguments.  We become emotionally attached to our systems and ideas, take them on as part of our personal identities, and tie them on tightly with our fear and pride.

Seeing the political sides take shape, I realized that cults can gel around an ideology just as easily as a person.  Candidates are playing into the idea, trying to appear as if they are closely aligned with the values of the group they seek to represent.

Once the idea has become concrete, this is where the danger comes in.  Anytime we give up asking questions, listening, and investigating, we are in danger of cult-like thinking.  If we pledge our support for something, and emotionally invest in a “side”, we are much less likely to think objectively about our own camp, be it religious, political, or national.  It doesn’t matter how free of an atmosphere we have to ask questions, if we don’t.

Our religious “cult” was not formed or held together by Jesus, but a list of commands that pointed to Him.  We saw them as Him.  And He came to open the way for so much more than this in our relationship with Him.  What if I, as a wife, viewed my husband as only our marriage license.  I look at the paper every day, frame it so I can hang it on the wall, and make sure I tell everyone I meet about this agreement and what it entitles me to.  Yet, he is standing there wanting to love and be loved.

Cults of any kind are demanding, but Jesus is inviting.  The spiritual difference is life and death.  People who have not experienced the deep, healing love of Christ are trying to fill a need when they follow a cult of any kind, religious or otherwise.  We want belonging, and we want to be right.  It feels safe and warm in a way, yet we never quite “arrive”.  There is always one more bit of knowledge, or a higher degree of compliance to achieve.

If I could zap you through this screen and give you a sense of how much MORE Jesus has for you than the much less you are settling for, while believing you are in the elite crowd of the chosen few, I would.  But I can’t.  I pray the Holy Spirit does reveal this to you even though you probably found this blog looking for information that you agreed with, and this wasn’t it.  I say, just let Him love you.  He died so You could know the depth of His love, and you are running backward to the shadow.  You don’t have to earn His love, or fear a curse.  Just let Him love you.

Read Full Post »

I have often said that telling a story is more effective than arguing a point, and this film, Paradise Recovered, demonstrates this to be true.  It shows a young woman who believes in her church as the very voice of God.  She devoutly obeys every teaching, even looking for a part-time job so she can financially support “the work”, in addition to her position as a live-in nanny to her pastor’s family.  As the picture of perfection begins to crumble, she finds a new friendship at work that challenges her to the core.

The depiction of spiritually abusive religion in this movie represents an interesting composite of various cults as well as some mainstream Christian belief and practice.  As I have maintained here repeatedly, the cults do not have a monopoly on legalism. The injured lambs leaving the cults often find the same spiritual illnesses in evangelical churches.  How can doctrinal orthodoxy produce the same fruit as a heretical cult?  Rightly dissected doctrine by itself (whatever that is) doesn’t affect the heart.  It only creates a mind that knows it’s right.   And we all know where that leads.

Fruits of love come from abiding in the vine – a genuine spiritual experience in Jesus.  The only head-knowledge that produces the fruit of love is the mind of Christ.  Jesus didn’t write a list of doctrines, however useful we may find them.  He lived and died for love.  He spoke truth, but drew people to love God and one another as the highest aim.  Much of Christian religion attempts to wash the outside of the cup.

I found the most poignant scene at the beginning of this film.  Esther, the main character, tries to tell the pastor’s little girl a Bible story with the same felt characters I grew up with in Sabbath School.  She tells her the story of the Good Samaritan with the Law as the focus, not love.  (How we teach our children… topic for a different post).  The little girl squirms and says, “I don’t like this story.  I want to hear about baby Moses.”   How many adults have I known, and how long was I also of this opinion?  We would have never admitted it, but our lives and words professed this:  Jesus, we don’t want to hear you.  Let Moses speak to us instead.

Fear, control, performance-focused thinking,  Jesus-plus-something teaching – these all come naturally to us.  To truly believe and ingest the truth about what Jesus has done feels so unnatural.  He defies logic and we like justice that we have something to do with, not the kind that takes us out of the equation.   Freedom can be terrifying as well, as this young woman in the movie finds out.  I identified with her brief return to the confines and security of the church, even after the abusive treatment.  She said, “I miss God.”  She had not yet experienced Him apart from her church culture.  Just as an abused wife may repeatedly return to her husband because she “loves” him, she possibly has not yet known genuine love.

Someone recently commented to me that we should not worry ourselves over hypocrites in any belief system – no matter what it is.   But I find a problem deeper than hypocrisy.  In dysfunctional families, as well as churches, we find the ability to compartmentalize thinking so that opposing ideals do not touch one another and conflict.  To the greater degree we do this in our own lives, as well as in religious communities, we find various forms of insanity.  The goal of mental, spiritual, and emotional health is to integrate truth into every aspect of our hearts and minds.  That truth, is a Person.  He is Jesus.  Knowing Him, abiding in Him, and allowing Him to fill us up with Himself – isn’t the focus of legalistic Christian practice or teaching.  Instead, we become no different than the Pharisees that sought to promote themselves above the Man who would set the people free.

Some may find this movie uncomfortable in some ways, and challenging, but I hope it gives some the courage to be free, in Christ alone.

Read Full Post »

I am sure many are rejoicing with great glee at this news, but for those of us who have been down this path, it’s heartbreaking to hear.  The CEO of World Net Daily has come out as a stated follower of the Hebrew Roots Movement, calling one of its most prominent teachers his “pastor”, and selling the movement’s books in the online store.

As I listened to Joseph Farah begin the description of his journey in a recent interview, I heard him explain the very same quandary my husband and I were in nearly two decades ago.  We could not reconcile the the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments given to Israel with traditional Christianity.  We asked God some questions, and we proceeded forward on His answers.  Yes, Saturday is the Sabbath!  Then we discovered the other 603 commands.  What we didn’t do was ask the right questions.  He didn’t give us answers to questions we didn’t yet know how to ask, but allowed us to learn as we walked.  For many years we believed we were in the truth and those who had “just Jesus”, but not the right Law, were lesser Christians.  Many speculated that if you had the correct Jesus (who never went by that name incidentally) you would observe the Torah.  It gradually became a definition of a real Christian for us (but we didn’t claim to be Christians anymore either)… demanding different fruit than the Holy Spirit gives.  And the genuine fruit of the love of Christ in our lives, sadly lacking as well.

God finally and dramatically revealed to us what the Sabbath and the Law meant, and our relationship to it.  He had let us experience the alternative with full force, but when we were finally able to listen, we found humility, grief, and shock that we had missed what was so simply in front of our eyes.  But only He was able to show us.

The real root of the HRM is not about being like Jesus, but is rather a misunderstanding of the role of Law for those in Christ (we are dead to it, and alive to the Law of the Spirit in Jesus – a higher law… see Romans 6-8) and the misunderstanding of Gentile believers becoming part of Israel instead of “in Christ” as the One New Man, together with our Israelite brothers and sisters.  See this article about who we are really grafted into. The paradigm and premise drawn by the HRM is at complete odds with the true witness of Christ (when He is allowed to speak for Himself) and the entire New Testament.  This explains why so many take the logical step and just convert to Judaism.  As one Jewish believer in Jesus stated…

It is my observation that among those adapting Jewish customs Christians who leave Jesus far outnumber Jews who turn to Him.

He blessed us with an interview for the post End Time Judaizers and his story is also shared here (Jewish Believer’s Testimony) with a free download!

Farah sounds so sincerely convinced. I know he is because I’ve been there.  But I also know without a shadow of a doubt that he is knocking on a door with death on the other side.  It breaks my heart to see anyone falling into this, let alone someone who has influence over so many other sincere, God-loving people.

Friends, we must be like those on the mountain with Jesus when He revealed His glory. . Moses and Elijah disappear, and we see JESUS ONLY.  “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!”  This is the voice of the Father.  He does not point us to Moses, but to Christ.

I plead with the readers of World Net Daily to see our testimony, and the in-depth research of the others on my Resource Page above.  But most of all, I pray you see Jesus only, not the counterfeit that seeks to bring all people under an obsolete covenant that had a distinct beginning, and found its end in Jesus.  (Galatians means exactly what it sounds like it means!)  I am one voice, rescued from a ship destined to sink, begging you not to board.  If you do, I pray that it will only serve to later enable you to see Jesus like you have never seen Him before.  I am so thankful this was true for us.

Coming soon!
I will post the testimony of my 18 year old son who “grew up” in the Sabbatarian/Hebrew Roots atmosphere.  He has only recently begun to share with me the reality he lived in, and it grieved me greatly to learn what I put my kids through without realizing it.  I am so thankful for his love for Christ in spite of what we put him through.  God is merciful!!!  Stay tuned!

Read Full Post »

Just have to share  a blog post from a great friend and former SDA.  I could write a book contrasting the worldview of Adventism vs. The Gospel but it would not come close to the clarity these pictures demonstrate from the books that she and I both grew up with.

Please visit her most excellent blog:  Images of Judgment

Read Full Post »

This post presents yet another illustration of the subject matter addressed here.  I did not intend to post anything about the recent Doomsday prediction by Harold Camping and Family Radio even though it’s nearly identical to the failed prediction that spawned the Seventh-day Adventist organization in 1844.  That was.. until I saw a Sacramento Fox News station interview Doug Batchelor , a well-known Seventh-day Adventist media evangelist (see below).  I am still reeling from the irony of this station choosing a Seventh-day Adventist to comment on Harold Camping’s prediction, not that they are not more than qualified to understand his position, but this commonality they shared never came to the surface.  In fact the name of Batchelor’s denomination was never even mentioned, or included in the name of the church he pastors.  He was introduced as the pastor of the “Sacramento Central Church” but the ACTUAL name is the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Someone is hiding something in this broadcast on purpose.

I found it interesting to hear Batchelor decry a prediction which so closely mimics the very thing that Adventists continue to uphold as a move of God which brought end-time truth to the last-day “Remnant Church of Bible Prophecy”.  Batchelor claims he does not know any other group of pastors who would agree with Campings date calculations.  Interestingly, no other group of pastors outside Adventism agree that Jesus “began to finish” his work of atonement in 1844 either, or that this work is still taking place since that time.

The name of Doug Batchelor’s ministry association is “Amazing Facts” and I’m sure the listening audience would have found the real truth to be amazing facts indeed!  For an overview of the doctrine Adventists still proclaim as their explanation for their own Great Disappointment, read here or check out my Resource page for more links.

I post these things for informational purposes, for those researching.  But for Adventists and Family Radio members alike, I simply plead with you to read the Word alone in prayer, seeking the Truth, and stop relying on the interpretations of men who would profit from you.  Coming from someone that knows what it feels like to say, “I was wrong” and walk away – it’s NOT the end of the world.  Just the beginning.


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Read Full Post »

When I am visiting someone’s home for the first time, if their bookshelves are visible, I find myself irresistibly drawn to look over them… not just because I love books, but because what people read or collect tells me so much about their perspectives on everything.

This week I happened upon a collection of books from an estate.  Of course when I see bins of books, I can hardly wait to dig in and search for treasure, but this collection was different than I had hoped.  Every bin contained a monoculture of a specific genre of religious teaching, one that was unknown in Christianity until the last 30 or 40 years.  When I realized I would find only a handful of “old-fashioned”  mainstream material, I pondered the phenomenon of being totally given over to a specific teacher or religious movement.

Having been there myself at one time, I remembered what this was like, and how it affected my own library shelf for awhile.  I remember as a child  we did not have any books published by any authors outside of our denomination which claimed to have “special truth”.  I distrusted books from Christians outside our realm, and considered them inferior even if they did have some good points.  They didn’t have ALL the truth.  And not only did we have just one source for books, there were many of them.  Many.  Our publishing houses churned them out as quickly as people would buy them.

Here I saw these same characteristics with the singular type and quantity of books as I sifted through bin after bin… losing hope of finding treasure and becoming increasingly sick as I surveyed some downright astonishing book titles and author’s claims.  A few verses came to mind.

This verse speaks to the thirst for only one kind of teaching; something “new” or “restored” (if Jesus, Paul, and the other Apostles didn’t proclaim it, it doesn’t need to be restored),  and considering it superior to “that which we have received from the beginning… which was once and for all, delivered to the saints” (I John & Jude).

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3,4

I don’t know when I have ever seen a more clear example of this in a collection of books since I left home.  The sad, obvious fact:  the owner had no interest in anything unrelated to this new and exciting teaching.  Even books with subjects that seemed Biblical – such as “Forgiveness” – revealed chapter titles that brought this subject back around to the same falsehood.  Everything centered on the falsehood, not the truth.

As to the overkill in quantity, exactly how many books do you need that say essentially the same thing?  I’m sure the profits from book sales are intoxicating for these teachers.  Write the same thing, give it  a different title, repackage it 100 different ways, and people keep buying them!  Where can you find a better business model of repeat sales and residual income?  Rock stars maybe?

But the sad characteristic of feeding on spiritual falsehood is that you never have enough.  You never quite get to that place they promise, so you need one more book, one more DVD, one more reassurance that you have found the truth.   But this is not a new development.  We are told from long ago that the last days would be full of false teachers, and I find it interesting that this quality of a continuous stream of “learning” is described.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
2Timothy 3:1-7

False teaching is like junk food.  Once you start to take it in, you develop cravings and lose your taste for healthy food.  Broccoli and apples look boring and tasteless. (think…simple truth of the Gospel!)  The craving and addictions can become intense, but for all the quantity of food you consume, your body is not being nourished.  It seems the spiritual appetite can also be perverted in a similar way, with even worse outcomes.

In contrast, Jesus said..

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Rev 21:6  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 22:17  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Who are we thirsty and hungry for?
So much deception plays on our desires.  We are led away by them.  Someone dangles a carrot and we blindly follow an empty promise, because they are offering something we want.  This isn’t the whole picture, but most of it.  Eve began in this error, and most of us walk in it too before we find the Narrow Way.

If what we want most in this world is anything but Jesus, we are our own worst enemy, and the world offers us so many appealing alternatives.  This is why the FIRST commandment is to LOVE the LORD with all your being.

When we want HIM with our whole heart, it won’t matter what else we have or don’t have.  We WILL seek Him and find Him.  He has promised this.   These teachers love to quote the Bible, and their books are full of verses to prove out what they say.  But unless you are willing to prayerfully take the Word by itself, verse by verse, passage by passage, to see for yourself – any false thing can be made to sound “Biblical”.

My collection of spiritual books I will actually read is narrowing down, as I find the Word of God itself has more treasure than any human teacher can offer.  I do enjoy what the Spirit has taught through many great brothers and sisters through the ages, and it always resonates with what He has shown me through His Word.  But if all I had was the Word, it would be enough.  Jesus is enough.  His Word is enough – through the Book and His Spirit.

My hope is that the owner of the collection I saw this week also found that peace and Living Water in Jesus Christ alone.

Read Full Post »

My apologies to those who have already waded through the multiple chapter version of my story.  While I began this blog with the intent of showing how God delivered us from false religion posing as truth, the greatest part of my story is when Jesus saved me.  It’s not about how I got smart and chose God, but how He saved and worked change in my life before I even knew I needed Him.  This version of the testimony will soon be in a small booklet along with stories of other women saved and changed by God’s grace.

Found by Love

Many people, realize it or not, are looking for a kind of love they have never found.  We demand it from family and friends, and no one seems able to live up to our expectations.   Broken relationships litter our lives as we continue to want the warm fuzzy feeling that doesn’t fade with time.  In our failed search, we may try to numb the craving with work, chemical addictions, sex, shopping, food… the list is endless.  Just the fact that we desire this elusive love is evidence enough that it must exist somewhere.  So many promises, so much disappointment.

But even my search for love was selfish, seeking it for what it could do for me.  In spite of this, Love found me.

My life started fairly normally, born to a middle-class family which attained the standard two children and a house in the suburbs. Normal, except my father was a pastor in a Christian cult. I knew from a young age we were different and considered our way of life superior to those who went to other churches. We believed other Christians would eventually be required to accept our teachings to be saved.

My first memory of recognizing the deep love of Jesus came during a series of evangelistic meetings my father held. He showed a film series on the life of Christ which had come from a mainstream Christian source. Through the films I fell in love with Jesus and was very touched by his love, compassion, and suffering. The crucifixion affected me in particular. I wasn’t old enough to understand theology, but I could perceive a great love, and a purely good man who didn’t deserve the cruelty.

My parents enrolled me in our local denomination’s school, but after my first year, my father was moved to mountain community with a tiny struggling church. My mother home schooled my brother and I for the two years we lived there, on a forested three acres. Except for our church, we had no other interaction in the community. The mountain range we could see at the end of our long driveway became a comfort to me. When everything else began to disintegrate, the mountains never moved.

One winter night, after a mid-week prayer meeting, the destructive fire smoldering under the surface of my parents’ marriage ignited an explosion. They fought for hours. Everyone cried. I told them I loved them both, and I just wanted a whole, happy home. This blew over for a time, but I remember this first outward expression of their serious problems. My mother then began to confide in me often about her discontent and sadness. When she spoke of separation and divorce, I assured her we would be okay.

During this time I felt an urge to be baptized. I had been taught even as a small child that we should never claim to be “saved”. We spoke only of someone being “converted”. In our world this meant someone had studied our 27 church doctrines, agreed with them, and been baptized. I’m not sure what motivated my request for baptism, but I believe it was a desire to be good and do the right thing. I wanted to be acceptable to God, but did not understand there was no work I could do to earn His attention and love. Nor had my own incurable, selfish inclination to sin been revealed to me. I believed if I tried hard enough, I could succeed at being a good Christian as defined by my church. I didn’t see the symbol of death in the baptism which shows we can’t fix ourselves. We must agree to die with Christ, and be raised to His Life.

The final crucible came for my parent’s marriage, and it failed under the pressure. They could no longer maintain the facade, and my mother decided on divorce. I cried alone one day several months later when I sensed the void of a missing parent, but this was the only time I remember allowing myself to grieve. My job was clear – stay strong and be there for them.

As my parent’s relationship dissolved, a simultaneous upheaval was taking place in our denomination. My father was not able to stay in the ministry as a divorced man, but he was already in the process of questioning some of the foundational, distinctive doctrines of the church, as many pastors in the organization were doing at the time. Their founding prophet had come under scrutiny and found to be a fraud, and many people’s eyes were being opened to the truth-twisting teachings of the church.

Doubt about everyone and everything began to creep into my soul. I reacted with an attitude of anger and rebellion toward my church, which at the time meant I was also angry at God. Even though my mother had enrolled us in their church school where we attended for the next eight years, I did not accept the prophet or believe we were the end-time “remnant church” as they taught. But rather than seek God and the truth of His word, I turned to the world.

My senior year I went to live with my father and attended public school for the first time. Moving from a religious sub-culture in a big city to a small town where everyone had grown up together, I didn’t fit in, or even try to. But I soothed my loneliness with male companionship, as I had learned to do as early as the 2nd grade. Only now, boys wanted much more than to hold hands. I made good grades, worked more than one job, paid for all my car expenses and clothing, and appeared mature and responsible. But I was not able to completely hide the inner reality which eventually expressed itself in a lifestyle of promiscuity, alcohol, and drugs.

After one year in college, I landed in Texas, married to a man I had met at the end of my senior year. We partied a lot, but so did everyone else we knew. I never thought past the moment at hand. Being with someone who would love me and be there for me controlled every decision I made, although this is only seen in retrospect.

God blessed me that first year with a beautiful baby girl (the one bright spot in my early adult life), and shortly after she was born I began working in a fast-food restaurant to supplement our income because my husband rarely worked. We survived with public assistance and the help of his parents.

I began to attend a support group when I became aware my husband had moved from the young, immature party scene to that of alcoholism. Contrary to what he and his family claimed, he was most certainly an addict. I needed this confirmation, and knowing I wasn’t the only one struggling with this helped tremendously. They also explained how my reactions and attempts to control him were adding to the problem.

During the traumatic time of dealing with the monster of addiction, my husband and I were involved in a serious motorcycle accident which could have killed us both. This event marked a turning point for me. Not only did it give me plenty of time to evaluate the life I had nearly lost, but I also became aware of a loud inner hunger for a deeper meaning in life. Men had failed to fill my needs and I wanted answers to the purpose of my existence and help for life’s pain. But I still directed my spiritual search away from the Bible and Christianity.

One day I was in a health-food store searching for a supplement that would help my multiple-fractured leg heal faster. The recovery process dragged on much longer than expected, trapping me at a time when I wanted to be free to leave my husband, my dismal job, and the depressing, small Texas town. A sweet, grandmother-type behind the counter asked if I needed any help. She expressed genuine concern for me as she looked past my obvious physical injuries and perceived my inner pain. I found her so easy to talk to. She offered suggestions for my emotional well-being as well as physical health, and invited me to attend a weekly meeting of like-minded people, a New Age study group.

I became instantly attracted to their teachings and quickly dove into pursuing this new path to knowledge. Occasionally something would directly confront my previous understanding of God as the Creator, Christ, and sin – but I would dismiss it as my past primitive understandings. I began to meditate regularly and believed I could directly alter my life through positive thoughts and affirmations. Good and evil were explained has higher and lower frequencies of energy, and I desired communication with higher spiritual guides. I learned of channeling and other psychic phenomenon, experimenting with them myself.

But this enlightenment was not helping my marriage. In spite of my search for healing and wisdom, I still refused to seek the only One who could heal and love me as I craved. Even though my Alanon support group talked of a higher power, it remained an abstract idea. The pain of living with a man who continued to put drugs and alcohol before his family became too much for me, especially when I saw our alcohol-related accident had changed nothing in his life. As soon as he was physically able, he returned to the same friends doing exactly as he had always done. We divorced when our daughter was only about a year old.

My husband had been a huge disappointment, but my selfishness had hurt him as well. My love for him was motivated out of my emotional need which sought to control him for its own interests.  This counterfeit “love” became hostile instead of nurturing when the needs were left unmet. Our failure to love one another as God intends left our daughter with a broken beginning and no remembrance of a home with both of her parents. I hoped she would not be able to miss what she never had, but the divorce affected her deeply as she grew up.

After our divorce, I felt a need to ask him to forgive me as I realized more and more how much I had hurt him too.  We reconciled and remained friends for a time, until he re-married.

As was my custom, I quickly found myself in another relationship.  As an old friendship turned into romance,  I tied the knot again about a year later .  I know most believed this would be a short-lived, rebound marriage.  But in spite of myself and my hastiness, God gifted me with a loving, responsible man.  About a year after we married, He blessed me further with a precious baby boy.

When my son was just a few weeks old, overwhelming thankfulness kept welling up in me. I knew I couldn’t take credit for the blessings in my life and certainly had not “manifested” them with my mind or words. I had not turned to God before in my hard times because they were the obvious consequences of my bad choices. I couldn’t imagine a God who would have anything good to say, or give any help to someone like me. But when He did anyway, without my asking, my cold heart began to melt. I had a deep desire to worship and thank the Source of the blessings in my life, but how could I ever turn back to simple-minded Christians and go to a church?!

Not long after I began to experience this longing, we received an invitation to visit a church with a friend. I had many fears and objections, although I had started to pick up my Bible from time to time. One Sunday, at the end of the service, the pastor stopped to dwell for a moment on the simple gospel. I heard the truth about turning away from sin, and forgiveness through what Jesus had done by willingly laying down His life.  My mind was flooded with a picture of Jesus and my own guilt before God swallowed me up for a moment as I realized He was very real. I had turned my back on Him, playing the spiritual whore, and I could not think of any acceptable excuse for this. Deep down I realized I had always known the error of my chosen path. This was my unveiling, seeing myself in the light of the purity of Jesus – seeing the true nature of my sin. But He beckoned me with the same love that had drawn me there in the first place. He was not condemning but offering me Life. I came to Jesus that day, in tears and in thankfulness. The weight of guilt and shame lifted away and I was humbled by the truth that this forgiveness could never be earned or deserved.

This experience was so much deeper than the words someone preached, but the words moved with the Holy Spirit to open my eyes.  Just as Paul said in Romans, the gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation.

As of this writing, seventeen years have passed, and He has not failed my husband and I through any trial.  He has not failed to give correction as well as provision. He is the faithful Father all broken human children crave. I have made many, many mistakes, misunderstood many things, and continue to do so. Yet He is always there leading, guiding, blessing, pruning, and drawing me into a closer relationship with Him.

He has come to the broken places from the past, the lost child feeling forgotten and rejected, and become the Parent that never abandons or sees me as the object to fill his own empty needs, because He is wholeness.  He has healed the feelings of worthlessness and despair.  Not all in one day.. but as these places are reached in the journey.  And it continues.  (I am not blaming my parents, but all human parents fall short, including me!)

He has allowed pain and suffering because it provides opportunities for growth the blessings alone cannot give. In Spirit and Word He continues to come near, heal, and reveal. I am forever thankful for how He pursued me with His love and life in Him is new every day as I learn to love and know Him more.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1,2

Read Full Post »

A dear friend loaned me a book over the weekend, and inside was a pamphlet with this short but powerful work.  I have to share it and was thankful to find it online HERE

I’m not sure after this, there is anything left I need to post! 🙂

Looking to Jesus
by Theodore Monod

translated from the French by Helen Willis
“. . . looking unto Jesus . . .”
Hebrews 12:2

Only these three words,
but in these three words
is the whole secret of life.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
IN THE SCRIPTURES, to learn there what He is, what He has done, what He gives, what He desires; to find in His character our pattern, in His teachings our instruction, in His precepts our law, in His promises our support, in His person and in His work a full satisfaction provided for every need of our souls.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
CRUCIFIED, to find in His shed blood our ransom, our pardon, our peace.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
RISEN, to find in Him the righteousness which alone makes us righteous, and permits us, all unworthy as we are, to draw near with boldness, in His name, to Him who is His Father and our Father, His God and our God.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
GLORIFIED, to find in Him our Heavenly Advocate completing by His intercession the work inspired by His lovingkindness for our salvation (1John 2:1); Who even now is appearing for us before the face of God (Heb. 9:24), the kingly Priest, the spotless Victim, continually bearing the iniquity of our holy things (Ex. 28:38).

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
REVEALED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, to find in constant communion with Him the cleansing of our sin-stained hearts, the illumination of our darkened spirits, the transformation of our rebel wills; enabled by Him to triumph over all attacks of the world and of the evil one, resisting their violence by Jesus our Strength, and overcoming their subtlety by Jesus our Wisdom; upheld by the sympathy of Jesus, Who was spared no temptation . . . .Who yielded to none.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
WHO GIVES REPENTANCE as well as forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31), because He gives us the grace to recognize, to deplore, to confess, and to forsake our transgressions.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
TO RECEIVE FROM HIM the task and the cross for each day, with the grace which is sufficient to carry the cross and to accomplish the task; the grace that enables us to be patient with His patience, active with His activity, loving with His love; never asking “What am I able for?” but rather: “What is He not able for?” and waiting for His strength which is make perfect in our weakness (2Cor. 12:9).

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
TO GO FORTH FROM OURSELVES and to forget ourselves; so that our darkness may flee away before the brightness of His face; so that our joys may be holy, and our sorrow restrained; that He may

cast us down, and that He may raise us up; that He may afflict us, and that He may comfort us; that He may despoil us, and that He may enrich us; that He may teach us to pray, and that He may answer our prayers; that while leaving us in the world, He may separate us from it, our life being hidden with Him in God, and our behavior bearing witness to Him before men.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
WHO, HAVING RETURNED TO THE FATHER’S HOUSE, is engaged in preparing a place there for us; so that this joyful prospect may make us live in hope, and prepare us to die in peace, when the day shall come for us to meet this last enemy, whom He has overcome for us, whom we shall overcome through Him – so that what was once the king of terrors is today the harbinger of eternal happiness.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
WHOSE CERTAIN RETURN, at an uncertain time, is from age to age the expectation and the hope of the faithful Church, who is encouraged in her patience, watchfulness, and joy by the thought that the Savior is at hand (Phil. 4: 4-5; 1Thes. 5:23).

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
THE AUTHOR AND THE FINISHER OF OUR FAITH: that is to say, He Who is its pattern and its source, even as He is its object; and Who from the first step even to the last marches at the head of the believers; so that by Him our faith may be inspired, encouraged, sustained, and led on to its supreme consummation.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
AND AT NOTHING ELSE, as our text expresses it in one untranslatable word (aphoroontes), which at the same time directs us to fix our gaze upon Him, and to turn it away from everything else.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OURSELVES, our thoughts, our reasonings, our imaginings, our inclinations, our wishes, our plans;

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE WORLD, its customs, its example, its rules, its judgments;

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT SATAN, though he seek to terrify us by his fury, or to entice us by his flatteries. Oh! from how many useless questions we would save ourselves, from how many disturbing scruples, from how much loss of time, dangerous dallyings with evil, waste of energy, empty dreams, bitter disappointments, sorrowful struggles, and distressing falls, by looking steadily unto Jesus, and by following Him wherever He may lead us. Then we shall be too much occupied with not losing sight of the path which He marks out for us, to waste even a glance on those in which He does not think it suitable to lead us.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR CREEDS, no matter how evangelical they may be. The faith which saves, which sanctifies, and which comforts, is not giving assent to the doctrine of salvation; it is being united to the person of the Savior. “It is not enough,” said Adolphe Monod, “to know about Jesus Christ, it is necessary to have Jesus Christ.” To this one may add that no one truly knows Him, if he does not first possess Him. According to the profound saying of the beloved disciple, it is in the Life there is Light, and it is in Jesus there is Life (John 1:4).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR MEDITATIONS AND OUR PRAYERS, our pious conversations and our profitable reading, the holy meetings that we attend, nor even to our taking part in the supper of the Lord.

Let us faithfully use all these means of grace, but without confusing them with grace itself; and without turning our gaze away from Him Who alone makes them effectual, when, by their means, He reveals Himself to us.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO OUR POSITION IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, to the family to which we belong, to our baptism, to the education which we have received, to the doctrine which we profess, to the opinion which others have formed of our piety, or to the opinion which we have formed of it ourselves. Some of those who have prophesied in the Name of the Lord Jesus will one day hear Him say: “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22-23); but He will confess before His Father and before His angels even the most humble of those who have looked unto Him.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO OUR BRETHREN, not even to the best among them and the most beloved. In following a man we run the risk of losing our way; in following Jesus we are sure of never losing our way. Besides, in putting a man between Jesus and ourselves, it will come to pass that insensibly the man will increase and Jesus will decrease; soon we no longer know how to find Jesus when we cannot find the man, and if he fails us, all fails. On the contrary, if Jesus is kept between us and our closest friend, our attachment to the person will be at the same time less enthralling and more deep; less passionate and more tender; less necessary and more useful; an instrument of rich blessing in the hands of God when He is pleased to make use of him; and whose absence will be a further blessing, when it may please God to dispense with him, to draw us even nearer to the only Friend who can be separated from us by “neither death nor life” (Rom. 8:38-39).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT HIS ENEMIES OR AT OUR OWN. In place of

hating them and fearing them, we shall then know how to love them and to overcome them.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE OBSTACLES which meet us in our path. As soon as we stop to consider them, they amaze us, they confuse us, they overwhelm us, incapable as we are of understanding either the reason why they are permitted, or the means by which we may overcome them. The apostle began to sink as soon as he turned to look at the waves tossed by the storm; it was while he was looking at Jesus that he walked on the waters as on a rock. The more difficult our task, the more terrifying our temptation, the more essential it is that we look only at Jesus.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR TROUBLES, to count up their number, to reckon their weight, to find perhaps a certain strange satisfaction in tasting their bitterness. apart from Jesus trouble does not sanctify, it hardens or it crushes. It produces not patience, but rebellion; not sympathy, but selfishness; not hope (Rom. 5:3) but despair. It is only under the shadow of the cross that we can appreciate the true weight of our own cross, and accept it each day from His hand, to carry it with love, with gratitude, with joy; and find in it for ourselves and for others a source of blessings.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE DEAREST, THE MOST LEGITIMATE OF OUR EARTHLY JOYS, lest we be so engrossed in them that they deprive us of the sight of the very One Who gives them to us. If we are looking at Him first of all, then it is from Him we receive these good things, made a thousand times more precious because we possess them as gifts from His loving hand, which we entrust to His keeping, to enjoy them in communion with Him, and to use them for His glory.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE INSTRUMENTS, whatever they may be which He employs to form the path which He has appointed for us. Looking beyond man, beyond circumstances, beyond the thousand causes so rightly called secondary, let us ascend as far as the first cause – His will: let us ascend even to the source of this very will – His love. Then our gratitude, without being less lively towards those who do us good, will not stop at them; then in the testing day, under the most unexpected blow, the most inexplicable, the most overwhelming, we can say with the Psalmist: “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9). And in the silence of our dumb sorrow the heavenly voice will gently reply: “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE INTERESTS OF OUR CAUSE, Of OUR PARTY, OF OUR CHURCH – still less at our personal interests. The single object of our life is the glory of God; if we do not make it the supreme goal of our efforts, we must deprive ourselves of His help, for His grace is only at the service of His glory. If, on the contrary, it is His glory that we seek above all, we can always count on His grace.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE SINCERITY OF OUR INTENTIONS, AND AT THE STRENGTH OF OUR RESOLUTIONS. Alas! how often the most excellent intentions have only prepared the way for the most humiliating falls. Let us stay ourselves, not on our intentions, but on His love; not on our resolutions, but on His promise.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR STRENGTH. Our strength is good only to glorify ourselves; to glorify God one must have the strength of God.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR WEAKNESS. By lamenting our weakness have we ever become more strong? Let us look to Jesus, and His strength will communicate itself to our hearts, His praise will break forth from our lips.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR SINS, neither at the source from which they come (Matt. 15:19) nor the chastisement which they deserve. Let us look at ourselves, only to recognize how much need we have of looking to Him; and looking to Him, certainly not as if we were sinless; but on the contrary, because we are sinners, measuring the very greatness of the offense by the greatness of the sacrifice which has atoned for it, and of the grace which pardons it. “For one look that we turn on ourselves,” said an eminent servant of God (McCheyne) “let us turn ten upon Jesus.” “If it is very sure,” said Vinet, “that one will not lose sight of his wretched state by looking at Jesus Christ crucified – because this wretched state is, as it were, graven upon the cross – it is also very sure that in looking at one’s wretchedness one can lose sight of Jesus Christ; because the cross is not naturally graven upon the image of one’s wretchedness.” And he adds, “Look at yourselves, but only in the presence of the cross, only through Jesus Christ.” Looking at the sin only gives death; looking at Jesus gives life. That which healed the Israelite in the wilderness was not considering his wounds, but raising his eyes to the serpent of brass (Num. 21:9).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT – DO WE NEED TO SAY IT? – AT OUR PRETENSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Ill above all who are ill is he who believes himself in health; blind above the blind he who thinks that he sees (John 9:41). If it is dangerous to look long at our wretchedness which is, alas! too real; it is much more dangerous to rest complacently on imaginary merits.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE LAW. The law gives commands, and gives no strength to carry them out; the law always condemns, and never pardons. If we put ourselves back under the law, we take ourselves away from grace. In so far as we make our obedience the means of our salvation, we lose our peace, our joy, our strength; for we have forgotten that Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10:4). As soon as the law has constrained us to seek in Him our only Savior, then also to Him only belongs the right to command our obedience; an obedience which includes nothing less than our whole heart, and our most secret thoughts, but which has ceased from being an iron yoke, and an insupportable burden, to become an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:30). It is an obedience which He makes as delightful as it is binding, an obedience which He inspires, at the same time as He requires it, and which in very truth, is less a consequence of our salvation than it is a part of this very salvation – and, like all the rest, a free gift.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT WHAT WE ARE DOING FOR HIM. Too much occupied with our work, we can forget our Master – it is possible to have the hands full and the heart empty. When occupied with our Master, we cannot forget our work; if the heart is filled with His love, how can the hands fail to be active in His service?

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO THE APPARENT SUCCESS OF OUR EFFORTS. The apparent success is not the measure of the real success; and besides, God has not told us to succeed, but to work; it is of our work that He requires an account, and not of our success – why then concern ourselves with it? It is for us to scatter the seed, for God to gather the fruit; if not today, then it will be tomorrow; if He does not employ us to gather it, then He will employ others. Even when success is granted to us, it is always dangerous to fix our attention on it: on the one hand we are tempted to take some of the

credit of it to ourselves; on the other hand we thus accustom ourselves to abate our zeal when we cease to perceive its result, that is to say, at the very time when we should redouble our energy. To look at the success is to walk by sight; to look at Jesus, and to persevere in following Him and serving Him, inspite of all discouragements, is to walk by faith.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT TO THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS which we have already received, or which we are now receiving from Him. As to yesterday’s grace, it has passed with yesterday’s work; we can no longer make use of it, we should no longer linger over it. As to today’s grace given for today’s work, it is entrusted to us, not to be looked at, but to be used. We are not to gloat over it as a treasure, counting up our riches, but to spend it immediately, and remain poor, “Looking unto Jesus.”

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE AMOUNT OF SORROW that our sins make us experience, or the amount of humiliation which they produce in us. If only we are humiliated by them enough to make us no longer complacent with ourselves; if only we are troubled by them enough to make us look to Jesus, so that He may deliver us from them, that is all that He asks from us; and it is also this look which more than anything else will make our tears spring and our pride fall. And when it is given to us as to Peter to weep bitterly (Luke 22:62), oh! then may our tear-dimmed eyes remain more than ever directed unto Jesus; for even our repentance will become a snare to us, if we think to blot out in some measure by our tears those sins which nothing can blot out, except the blood of the Lamb of God.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE BRIGHTNESS OF OUR JOY, the strength of our assurance, or the warmth of our love. Otherwise, when for a little time this love seems to have grown cold, this assurance to have

vanished, this joy to have failed us – either as the result of our own faithlessness, or for the trial of our faith – immediately, having lost our feelings, we think that we have lost our strength, and we allow ourselves to fall into an abyss of sorrow, even into cowardly idleness, or perhaps sinful complaints. Ah! rather let us remember that if the feelings with their sweetness, are absent, the faith with its strength remains with us. To be able always to be “abounding in the work of the Lord” (1Cor. 15:58) let us look steadily, not at our ever changeful hearts, but at Jesus, who is always the same.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT THE HEIGHTS OF HOLINESS to which we attained. If no one may believe himself a child of God so long as he still finds stains in his heart, and stumblings in his life, who could taste the joy of salvation? But this joy is not bought with a price. Holiness is the fruit, not the root of our redemption. It is the work of Jesus Christ for us which reconciles us unto God; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us which renews us in His likeness. The shortcomings of a faith which is true, but not yet fully established, and bearing but little fruit, in no way lessens the fullness of the perfect work of the Savior, nor the certainty of His unchanging promise, guaranteeing life eternal unto whomsoever trusts in Him. And so to rest in the Redeemer is the true way to obey Him; and it is only when enjoying the peace of forgiveness that the soul is strong for the conflict.
If there are any who abuse this blessed truth by giving themselves over unscrupulously to spiritual idleness, imagining that they can let the faith which they think they have take the place of the holiness which they have not, they should remember this solemn warning of the Apostle Paul: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and the lusts” (Gal. 5:24); and that of the Apostle John: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1John 2:4); and that of the Lord Jesus Himself, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt. 7:19).

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR DEFEATS OR VICTORIES. If we look at our defeats we shall be cast down; if we look at our victories we shall be puffed up. And neither will help us to fight the good fight of faith (1Tim. 6:12). Like all our blessings, the victory, with the faith which wins it, it the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor. 15:57), and to Him is all the glory.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR DOUBTS. The more we look at them the larger they appear, until they can swallow up all our faith, our strength, and our joy. But if we look away from them to our Lord Jesus, Who is the Truth (John 14:6), the doubts will scatter in the light of His presence like clouds before the sun.

UNTO JESUS
AND NOT AT OUR FAITH. The last device of the adversary, when he cannot make us look elsewhere, is to turn our eyes from the Savior to our faith, and thus to discourage us if it is weak, to fill us with pride if it is strong: and either way to weaken us. For power does not come from the faith, but from the Savior by faith. It is not looking at our look, it is “looking unto Jesus,”

UNTO JESUS
AND IT IS FROM HIM AND IN HIM that we learn to know (not only without danger, but for the well-being of our souls) what it is good for us to know about the world and about ourselves, our sorrows and our dangers, our resources and our victories: seeing everything in its true light, because it is He Who shows them to us, and that only at the time and in the proportion in which this knowledge will produce in us the fruits of humility and wisdom, gratitude and courage, watchfulness and prayer. All that it is desirable for us to know, the Lord Jesus will teach us; all that we do not learn from Him, it is better for us not to know.

LOOKING UNTO JESUS
AS LONG AS WE REMAIN ON THE EARTH – unto Jesus from moment to moment, without allowing ourselves to be distracted by memories of a past which we should leave behind us, nor by occupation with a future of which we know nothing

UNTO JESUS NOW
IF WE HAVE NEVER LOOKED UNTO HIM —

UNTO JESUS AFRESH,
IF WE HAVE CEASED DOING SO —

UNTO JESUS ONLY,

UNTO JESUS STILL,

UNTO JESUS ALWAYS —
WITH A GAZE MORE AND MORE CONSTANT, more and more confident, “changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2Cor. 3:18). Thus we await the hour when He will call us to pass from earth to Heaven, and from time to eternity —
The promised hour,
the blessed hour
when at last “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1John 3:2).

Read Full Post »

By definition…
Judaize or Judaise
vb
1. to conform or bring into conformity with Judaism
2. ( tr ) to convert to Judaism
3. ( tr ) to imbue with Jewish principles

They have pure devotion to God as their banner and restoration of the Church back to Israel as their mission so the Jewish people may be saved.  Your pagan Jesus is getting in the way of Israel seeing the truth.  By keeping the law of Moses you will no longer offend them with your foreign Jesus and they will accept Him and you both.   Although it may have remained dormant for centuries, this “Moses is for everyone” mindset is nothing new, finding its birth in the unexpected event of a Gentile coming to Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the early church, “those of the circumcision” seemed to cause the most controversy.  Today the majority of people placing the yoke of the Law on believers are in fact Gentiles.  You may find it hard to believe after the great effort the Apostle Paul put forth trying to divert people away from this distraction, that 2000 years later, people are now falling for the same divisive teachings.  If the Galatians were bewitched, we are beyond blind.  So many are willingly choosing a theology that requires Paul’s letter to the Galatians be ignored, denied, or twisted beyond recognition – along with many other New Testament passages addressing these issues long ago.

The quest for the salvation of the Jewish people (a most worthy cause) works as an effective lure to many Christians, especially as some segments of the church become increasingly interested in prophecy and the restoration of Israel.  But the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Movement pulls in Christians from all branches of the church, for many reasons.   Many no longer refer to themselves as Christians at all.  They have traveled down a path towards a Yeshua/Yahshua/Yehoshua/Yahoshua repackaged by modern Judaism rather than the Jesus of the New Testament Scriptures.  Although they can’t quite agree on a name for their new Messiah, they view their Christian roots as entirely pagan and their Hebrew Roots as not only restored truth, but a spiritual identity that causes them to feign a Jewish ethnic identity as well in many cases.  Some even ditch their Gentile names for Hebrew ones.

When I relate the story of our journey out of this movement, many Christians give me a look of disbelief that anyone could fall for something so illogical.  I am happy to reveal our own foolishness and am always relieved when others see it for what it is.  But as crazy and ridiculous as it may seem to some onlookers, the fact remains that this quietly encroaching disease seems to be taking down people left and right.  Every time I find myself wanting to put this to rest and move on to things I would rather talk about, I am presented with a new example of someone who has given their mind over to this movement.  Its teachers have painted a big, red, bull’s-eye target on your church, because you are the only ones with enough knowledge to understand and desire their complicated messages.  The lost person on the street is of no interest to them.

Spiritual Snipe Hunting
After a few years in this persuasion, focusing on the first five books of the Bible, we deeply sensed the group we led needed to study the New Testament scriptures as well.  We referred to the New Testament (called many things, but never New) when it reinforced the Torah study we were in, but we never approached the New Testament with the same systematic, reverent study as we did the Law.  We followed the same study schedule as the Jewish synagogues.

After one failed attempt to add a mid-week study night, we subscribed to a New Testament study course offered from a “Hebraic” perspective.  Although expensive, we felt it might encourage participation and moved the study to an early Sabbath session, before our main Torah study.  The Torah study took priority and could not be rescheduled or set aside.

I believed at last, after nearly six years, I would finally get to see this Jewish Yeshua that I’d been seeking for all along – to understand and see Him in His fullness.  For me, this had been the original attraction.  I’d been led to believe my Christian Jesus was incomplete and there was some deep wisdom and fabric of life underlying those gospel passages I just could not see.  If someone could bring that out for me, I was convinced I would know Him like never before.

The Hunting Outfitters
We initially chose this particular publisher because they avoided the most divisive subjects in the movement, presenting a sleek, scholarly approach.  Even though we are not customers now, we still periodically receive catalogs and fundraising correspondence from them.  Looking at their offerings with new eyes, I have been wanting to share what I believe are some of the most revealing focus statements.  (The letter discussed here can be read below in its entirety.)  Evaluate the following quotes with the overall pattern and focus of the New Testament writings.

Their Mission Statement:

Proclaiming the Torah and it’s way of life, fully centered on Messiah, to today’s People of God.

Proclaiming what? (Torah)  To Whom? (The people of God).  This is their reason for existence.  Does this align with any ministry found in the New Testament?  Searching the word “proclaim” in the ESV New Testament (often translated “preach” in the KJV) produced 27 results.  They overwhelmingly refer to the gospel of the risen Christ, and related subjects. Not a single example supports the direction of this mission statement above.  No one can proclaim Torah as their first priority and still be “fully centered on Messiah”!  If you are fully centered on Him, you will proclaim Him.

Their Plea:
The first paragraph states this mission is financially suffering and needs your help, even though one of their complete volume studies cost nearly $300 (but you can pay as you go, so it’s fair).

…..over 2 billion people in the world identify themselves as Christians…Almost the entire 2 billion of them are unaware of the Jewish roots of their faith and the amazing, transforming teachings of the Torah.  Who is willing to take this message to them?”

Where does the Word of God ever teach that the Law is the source of transformation for those who are in Christ?  In contrast, we are told:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3,4

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

What could the Law not do?  Where does our transformation come from?  Who are they replacing with the Torah in these statements?

Some Christians use the Law of Moses as their tool to convict sinners and bring them to Christ, but this ministry is dedicating itself to teaching the entire Jewish system of Law to those who ALREADY trust Christ.  Paul asked the Galatians, “Having begun in the Spirit, will you be perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3)  Good question.

Their Claim:
The letter becomes increasingly bold as it explains why this is so vitally important, a point which is even underlined for emphasis,

Christian ignorance of Torah is the single-biggest obstacle to Jewish evangelism and the restoration of the body.

The Hebrew Roots solution to antisemitism is to teach Christians how to observe Torah.  Conversely, rejection of Torah, or suggesting Jesus did something new, is often viewed as antisemitic.  They go beyond calling this a reformation but a “restoration” … being entrusted with “the greatest revelation of biblical truth since the apostolic era.”  That is one of the most bold, arrogant claims I have seen. By “restoration of the body”, they mean the inclusion of followers of Yeshua into Israel, which requires their Torah observance.  In their present state, Christians are still defiled and “outside the camp” and the division in the body is our fault for offending our Jewish brothers with bacon and Sunday church attendance.

Jesus was indeed born of the tribe of Judah, keeping the Law, yet the Jewish people as a whole rejected Him then.  Why do these modern teachers think this will work now for the church?  The gospel of John reveals the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus because, “being a man, he claimed to be God.”  This is still a huge theological obstacle, and many Messianics have obliged by taking this out of the way as well, conceding that Jesus was just a man.

Impressing or Offending?
I asked a Jewish friend and follower of Christ, living in Israel, to share his perspective on effective Jewish evangelism.  Below is a short interview.  I so much appreciate his willingness to share his thoughts, and grateful to God for bringing our paths together.

8thday4life:  How likely is it that a large sector of Gentile “Christians” pretending to be Jewish (observing and adapting Jewish customs to their own liking) would be a catalyst to help the Jewish people accept their Messiah?

Jeremy:  From my observations most attempts by non-Jews to replicate the rituals of Judaism are clumsy. Therefore the effect is to basically defile those rituals. For example, I knew a (Gentile) pastor who draped a tallit over the podium in an attempt to “make Jews feel at home”. Most Jews are horrified to see their ritual objects used in a way for which they were not intended. It would be like taking the wine and wafer of the Catholic Mass and using it for snacks after the Service. (I have to use a Catholic Mass as an example because I can’t think of sacred objects in most Protestant ritual.)  In actual fact it is my observation that among those adapting Jewish customs Christians who leave Jesus far outnumber Jews who turn to Him. (emphasis mine)

8thday4life:  What do you believe is the single biggest obstacle to the Jewish people recognizing Jesus as their Messiah?

Jeremy:  The Veil. This is a prayer thing. I believe that Christians need to pray and God will speak. God speaking is absolutely the best witness. When Christians humble themselves (in imitation of Christ) rather than imitate a work of man, I believe that this speaks. Love speaks. Love speaks to you, doesn’t it (she?)?

One day during the time when people were witnessing to me I came down with a sore throat. My friends could have laid hands on me and prayed for me and God would have healed me (they prayed their roaches away, so I knew He heard their prayers). But they didn’t do that. They made me hot lemonade. Their love healed my throat.

8thday4life:  What would be the best way for the Church to reach out to them in your opinion?  (Realizing – the history of persecution – the Church has done the Messiah no favors with His people.)

Jeremy:  See above. Make more hot lemonade! But in a natural way, i.e. as God leads. Not in a forced way. Richard Wurmbrand was led to the Lord by a man who prayed all his life that God would let him lead a Jew to Jesus. God put it together. Like I said, I think it’s a Prayer thing. A phony can be spotted a mile off!

(You can read more of his testimony and perspective on the Messianic Movement HERE)

It appears that love, compassion, prayer, and being led by the Spirit may be more effective than parading around in a tallit, nailing a mezzuzah to our door, learning the Shema in Hebrew or abstaining from food on Yom Kippur while we argue about the solar and lunar calendars.  And Jeremy also confirms from his own testimony, and many others like him, the veil Paul spoke of is still the spiritual obstacle to Jewish people seeing their Messiah, which remains while they are reading the Law itself as described in 2 Corinthians 3.

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:14-17

Lifting up Jesus (and acting like Him), rather than proclaiming our own law-keeping and affinity for Jewishness, seems to be the Scriptural approach.

"Back to the Wilderness" by Ramone Romero

No Snipe for Dinner Tonight
In the end, as we studied this esteemed publisher’s course, I still did not see this elusive Yeshua who was so superior to Jesus.  The course consisted of tedious, dry information which relied heavily on the writings of Jewish Rabbis who had never believed in their Messiah.  While these writings are valuable in many ways to understand Judaism and provide interesting historical insight, they are not helpful in understanding the Person they did not acknowledge.  These same sages have in some cases cursed both Christ and His followers.  Judaism was opposed to Jesus as its Messiah 2000 year ago, and last I checked, has not changed this firm position.  I am reminded of what the disciples were asked when they were looking for Jesus at the tomb.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Even though we were studying the gospels, it seemed as if the life had been sucked off the pages and replaced with discussions about the Torah, once again.  Because, in this movement,  the law is a god made synonymous with the incarnated God, who is worth an obligatory mention only as He relates to the higher god of Torah.

I am so thankful that before we finished the gospels, I had delved into Matthew again on my own and seen Jesus like I had never seen Him before – standing alone, above the Law and the Prophets.  This revelation is second only in my life to receiving faith in Him as God and Savior many years earlier, but the grief of my repentance was close to the same, if not deeper, because this time the truth I saw was so simple, I could not find any plausible excuses for my ignorance and vain wanderings.

To its credit, this same study course had a lesson with a description of a rabbinic disciple in the time of Jesus, explaining how they would mimic their teacher in every aspect of their lives.  I realized, by definition, I was not a disciple of Jesus because I was not focusing my attention on His words and endeavoring to imitate Him, but Moses.  I was a disciple of Moses first.  In seeking Jesus, my veil was also lifted.

Don’t Be Led Astray

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:3, 14

The closing boast of this letter alarmed me most, and prompted me to write this post.

We are in churches, connected with the Church, and bringing truth to the Church with no concern for denominational lines.  Hundreds of pastors from all different denominations read and study FFOZ materials because…. a shared faith in Messiah and Jewish roots is something we all have in common. (emphasis theirs)

This is not about simply engendering understanding between Jews and Christians, but about drawing Christians into Judaism and away from the simplicity of Jesus Christ.  If the common bond you have with someone is defined as Messiah AND something… anything…. presented as “essential and equal truth” you have been taken in by a man-made agenda.  The Jewish people need to be reconciled to their Redeemer and to see in Him the blood of their Passover Lamb they can no longer even sacrifice.  Christianity does not need to be reconciled to Judaism, which is the end goal of this endeavor.  Genuine love will reconcile people to each other who have at one time been enemies, and this unity also comes only in Christ. (See a pattern here?)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Ephesians 2:13-19

The wall of hostility in Paul’s day between Jews and Gentiles was the law.  Jews looked down on Gentiles as a sub-species and history shows Christianity later developed a deep hatred for Jews.  Both of these sad developments of human pride are taken away in Christ.  We don’t need to glorify the Law of Moses, but agree with Paul, a pharisee of pharisees, that it has been taken out of the way for both parties, lifting up the Cross where we can stand united, fellow citizens.  Praise God He has done this, is doing this, and will continue to do this, until His Sovereign will has been carried out in this world!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: