(Washington, D.C.) — The international community’s feverish determination to cut a nuclear deal at all costs, a deal that would reduce economic sanctions and lessen global pressure on Iran — and in turn might inadvertently allow Tehran to soon build nuclear weapons after all — is dramatically reshuffling the geopolitical deck in the Middle East.
Most Arab and non-Shia Muslim states are deeply fearful of a nuclear-armed Persian state. They are also increasingly concerned that the U.S. is no longer a trustworthy ally to stop Iran. Thus, in a strange twist of events, they are privately reconsidering their long-held hostility towards Israel. Indeed, a growing number of Arab leaders and officials are viewing Israel as a potentially vital ally in their desire to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
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This is a portion of a timely message by Dr. John MacArthur. America has been abandoned by God, and we have been left to wallow in the sexual perversions of the depravity of the human heart.
Truth is the ONLY solution. Repent America, and take heed to the Word of God. A famine of hearing the Word of God will never produce revival. Ministers, take a stand for truth no matter what it may cost you!
I wasn’t exactly sure how to write this post. I know it will more than likely make some people mad. I hope not, but I know not everyone is going to see things as I do, and that’s fine. I’m happy with that because it means we are all individuals. I pray it is accepted in the manner by which it was written, as an effort to encourage and build up the body of Christ. I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you that right up front. I don’t know it all. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m glad I don’t, because that would make God no bigger than me, and His ways the same as mine. That would reduce God to, well, being puny like us. Who would want to serve a God that small?
The church I’m referring to in the title is not…
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“Christianity which is from the Holy Spirit will always have a very deep view of the sinfulness of sin. It will not merely regard sin as a blemish and misfortune, which makes men and women objects of pity, and compassion. It will see in sin the abominable thing which God hates, the thing which makes man guilty and lost in his Maker’s sight, the thing which deserves God’s wrath and condemnation. It will look on sin as the cause of all sorrow and unhappiness, of strife and wars, of quarrels and contentions, of sickness and death–the curse which cursed God’s beautiful creation, the cursed thing which makes the whole earth groan and struggle in pain. Above all, it will see in sin the thing which will ruin us eternally, unless we can…
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The premise of the Hebrew Roots movement is the belief that the Church has veered far from the true teachings and Hebrew concepts of the Bible. The movement maintains that Christianity has been indoctrinated with the culture and beliefs of Greek and Roman philosophy and that ultimately biblical Christianity, taught in churches today, has been corrupted with a pagan imitation of the New Testament gospels.
Those of the Hebrew Roots belief hold to the teaching that Christ’s death on the cross did not end the Mosaic Covenant, but instead renewed it, expanded its message, and wrote it on the hearts of His true followers. They teach that the understanding of the New Testament can only come from a Hebrew perspective and that the teachings of the Apostle Paul are not understood clearly or taught correctly by Christian pastors today. Many affirm the existence of an original Hebrew-language New Testament and, in some cases, denigrate the existing New Testament text written in Greek. This becomes a subtle attack on the reliability of the text of our Bible. If the Greek text is unreliable and has been corrupted, as is charged by some, the Church no longer has a standard of truth.
Although there are many different and diverse Hebrew Roots assemblies with variations in their teachings, they all adhere to a common emphasis on recovering the “original” Jewishness of Christianity. Their assumption is that the Church has lost its Jewish roots and is unaware that Jesus and His disciples were Jews living in obedience to the Torah. For the most part, those involved advocate the need for every believer to walk a Torah-observant life. This means that the ordinances of the Mosaic Covenant must be a central focus in the lifestyle of believers today as it was with the Old Testament Jews of Israel. Keeping the Torah includes keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Saturday), celebrating the Jewish feasts and festivals, keeping the dietary laws, avoiding the “paganism” of Christianity (Christmas, Easter, etc.), and learning to understand the Scriptures from a Hebrew mindset. They teach that Gentile Christians have been grafted into Israel, and this is one reason every born-again believer in Jesus the Messiah is to participate in these observances. It is expressed that doing this is not required out of legalistic bondage, but out of a heart of love and obedience. However, they teach that to live a life that pleases God, this Torah-observant walk must be part of that life.
The Hebrew Roots assemblies are often made up of a majority of Gentiles, including Gentile rabbis. Usually they prefer to be identified as “Messianic Christians.” Many have come to the conclusion that God has “called” them to be Jewish and have accepted the theological position that the Torah (Old Testament law) is equally binding on Gentiles and Jews alike. They often wear articles of traditional Jewish clothing, practice Davidic dancing, and incorporate Hebrew names and phrases into their writing and conversations. Most reject the use of the name “Jesus” in favor of Yeshua or YHWH, claiming that these are the “true” names that God desires for Himself. In most cases, they elevate the Torah as the foundational teaching for the Church, which brings about the demotion of the New Testament, causing it to become secondary in importance and only to be understood in light of the Old Testament. The idea that the New Testament is faulty and relevant only in light of the Old Testament has also brought the doctrine of the Trinity under attack by many advocates of the Hebrew Roots beliefs.
As opposed to what the Hebrew Roots movement claims, the New Testament teachings of the Apostle Paul are perfectly clear and self-explanatory. Colossians 2:16, 17 says, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Romans 14:5 states, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” Scripture clearly indicates that these issues are a matter of personal choice. These verses and many others give clear evidence that the Mosaic Covenant laws and ordinances have ended. Continuing to teach that the Old Covenant is still in effect in spite of what the New Testament teaches, or twisting the New Testament to agree with the Hebrew Roots beliefs, is false teaching.
There are aspects of the Hebrew Roots teachings that certainly can be beneficial. Seeking to explore the Jewish culture and perspective, within which most of the Bible was written, opens and enriches our understanding of the Scriptures, adding insight and depth to many of the passages, parables and idioms. There is nothing wrong with Gentiles and Jews joining together in celebrating the feasts and enjoying a Messianic style of worship. Taking part in these events and learning the way in which the Jews understood the teachings of our Lord can be a tool, giving us greater effectiveness in reaching the unbelieving Jew with the gospel. It is good for Gentiles, in the body of the Messiah, to identify in our fellowship with Israel. However, to identify with Israel is different from identifying “as” Israel.
Gentile believers are not grafted into the Judaism of the Mosaic Covenant; they are grafted into the seed and faith of Abraham, which preceded the Law and Jewish customs. They are fellow citizens with the saints (Ephesians 2:19), but they are not Jews. Paul explains this clearly when he tells those who were circumcised (the Jews) “not to seek to be uncircumcised” and those who were uncircumcised (the Gentiles) “not to become circumcised” (1 Corinthians 7:18). There is no need for either group to feel they must become what they are not. Instead, God has made Jews and Gentiles into “one new man” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:15). This “new man” is referring to the Church, the body of Christ, which is made up of neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:27–29). It’s important for Jews and Gentiles to remain authentic in their own identity. In this way a clear picture of the unity of the body of Christ can be seen as Jews and Gentiles are united by one Lord, one faith, one baptism. If Gentiles are grafted into Israel, becoming Jews, the purpose and picture of both Jew and Gentile, coming together as one new man, is lost. God never intended Gentiles to become one in Israel, but one in Christ.
The influence of this movement is working its way into our churches and seminaries. It’s dangerous in its implication that keeping the Old Covenant law is walking a “higher path” and is the only way to please God and receive His blessings. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs; in fact, the opposite is taught. Romans 7:6 says, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Christ, in keeping perfectly every ordinance of the Mosaic Law, completely fulfilled it. Just as making the final payment on a home fulfills that contract and ends one’s obligation to it, so also Christ has made the final payment and has fulfilled the law, bringing it to an end for us all.
It is God Himself who has created a world of people with different cultures, languages and traditions. God is glorified when we accept one another in love and come together in unity as “one” in Christ Jesus. It’s important to understand that there is no superiority in being born Jewish or Gentile. We who are followers of Christ, comprised of many different cultures and lifestyles, are all of value and greatly loved because we’ve entered into the family of God.
In order to understand Christian therapy or biblical counseling, it is important to know a bit about its history. Psychotherapy is usually associated with Sigmund Freud or Carl Rogers. However, Christians generally view the theories behind psychoanalysis as unbiblical and thus unhelpful in therapy. In the past 50 years, Christians from various professions have sought to bridge the gap between psychology and the Bible. The pioneers of Christian therapy wanted no association with man-made theories. Today, however, many Christian counselors have found some value in the science of research, therapeutic technique, and sociocultural studies. However, the useful parts of these theories are given different weights in a biblical worldview.
There are Christian counselors today with opposite approaches to counseling. There is nothing inherently sinful about psychological treatment methods, even if they were invented by those who disbelieve the Bible. Counselors who don’t believe that the Bible has much to say about the practice of therapy are not seeing the problem through God’s perspective. On the other hand, counselors who do not believe that psychology has a place in therapy are missing the value of studying the most complex being God made: the human. Most Christian counselors agree that the Bible is the foundation for understanding the mind because God made the mind. The Bible proclaims itself to be sufficient for everything we need, and counseling is no exception (2 Peter 1:2–4; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Does a Christian really need a “Christian” counselor, or can he just go to any counselor—much like he goes to a doctor for a broken leg? The difference between therapeutic counseling and treating a broken leg is that counseling is designed to minister to our souls. Yes, our outward lives and emotional pains are motivations to seek counsel, but ultimately it is our souls that are in peril. Therefore, we are best served by a Christian counselor because a believer will have the truth from God, which cannot be replaced by man-made philosophy.
Secular psychology is a band-aid solution to a terminal illness. Only the salvation of Christ can cure what ails the soul. A counselor who is led by Jesus can use the Bible alone, the Bible and psychological literature, or psychology alone to help a client. The key ingredient is Jesus. He is the healer. He is the medicine for all of life’s trials and troubles (Psalm 103:3).
Unfortunately, a counselor may have a desire to counsel biblically but not be equipped to counsel. It is important to examine credentials. Did he go to a university or get a certificate through an organization? What are his beliefs about God? It is helpful to ask the counselor about his education and how he intends to use Scripture in his practice. Another important trait of an effective and equipped counselor is the ability to listen and empathize. He can be knowledgeable of Scripture and therapeutic techniques, but if he doesn’t listen well, the client won’t feel helped. Lecturing a client is rarely therapeutic. The counselor must be interested in learning about the client in order to help repair what is broken or strengthen what is weak.
The goal of counseling should be assurance of salvation and feeding hungry believers with biblical truth to grow on (1 Peter 2:2). Thus, godly character is developed through good counseling. Secular therapy may pacify one’s feelings for a time, but there is little real change over time. Ideally, biblical counsel should bring peace and spur a desire to obey the Lord, because the counselor is discipling the client. There is no benefit to higher functioning or better coping skills if our souls are still dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1).
To choose a counselor, start with prayer and commit to follow where the Lord leads. Second, find a trusted pastor or a church that emphasizes discipling its members. Another possible source of help can be professional counselors who specialize in biblical (or nouthetic) or Christian counseling. Secular counseling can be helpful, also, if it is done in conjunction with (and not in lieu of) biblical discipling.
There is no perfect counselor. Counselors are human and are therefore sinners. To help choose Christian or biblical counselors, these questions are helpful: Do they listen well? Do they know how to empathize? Do they understand how the Bible applies to a situation? Do they give both positive and critical feedback? The counselee should feel the counselor is “for” him or her, in the sense of being an ally against a problem.
By helping a counselee understand Scripture, how it is applied, and how the human mind works, a Christian counselor can provide guidance for growth. Small support groups of positive, safe, biblically wise people are also helpful for growth; of course, participating in a support group requires honesty and vulnerability. A humble surrender to the Lord and time seeking Him is the central piece of the puzzle. Study the Word personally and pray, because only the Holy Spirit can produce spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22–23). On the road to recovery, keep your eyes on Jesus and keep moving toward the end of the race (2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1).
Revelation 2:1–7 is an account of Jesus’ message to the church in Ephesus, the first of seven exhortations to various churches in the Roman Empire. Ephesus had some unique challenges for a Christ-follower in that it was home to the Emperor’s cult and the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis (Acts 19:23–40). Because of these influences, the Ephesian believers had developed great discernment when it came to false teachers and heresy. Christ commended them for this discernment, but He faulted them for having lost their “first love.”
The first love which characterized the Ephesians was the zeal and ardor with which they embraced their salvation as they realized they loved Christ because He first loved them (1 John 4:19) and that it was in fact His love for them that had made them “alive together with Christ.” So overwhelmed were they by the joy that came from understanding their former state—dead in trespasses and sins—and their new life in Christ, that they exhibited the fruit of that joy (Ephesians 2:1–5). Because of God’s great love for the Ephesians, they were “made alive in Christ” and that new life was exhibited in the passion of gratitude. That passion for the Savior spilled over onto one another and out to those in the culture they inhabited, corrupt as it was.
Jesus commends the Ephesians for their many good works and hard work. They tested teachers to see whether their professions were real; they endured hardship and persevered without growing weary. But they had lost their warmth and zeal for Christ, and when that happens, they began to “go through the motions” of good works, motivated not by the love of and for Christ, but by the works themselves. What was once a love relationship cooled into mere religion. Their passion for Him became little more than cold orthodoxy.
Surrounded by paganism and false teachers, the Ephesian church would have had ample opportunity to correct false doctrine and confront heretical teachers. If they did so for any reason other than love for Christ and a passion for His truth, however, they would have lost their way. Instead of pursuing Christ with the devotion they once showed, much like a bride who follows her groom “through the desert” (Jeremiah 2:2), the Ephesians were in danger of falling away from Christ completely. This is why He warns those who have “ears to hear” to prove the reality of their salvation by returning to Him and rekindling the love that had begun to cool. No doubt there were among the Ephesians those whose profession was false and whose hearing had become dulled. He warns the rest not to follow them, but to repent and return to Him with the passion they once had for Him.
We face the same challenges in the twenty-first century. There are few churches that aren’t subject to, and in danger of, a certain amount of false teaching. But Jesus calls us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to not let the frustration of false teaching overpower the love of Christ in us (Ephesians 4:31–32). Our first love is the love Christ gives us for God and each other. We should be zealous for the truth, but that zeal should be tempered so that we are always “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).