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By posting this article I in no way endorse this part of the article: ” If Ron and John want to do the same thing, they should be able to go through the same process, and as long as they find a church that is willing to perform the ceremony and a state where the law allows them to do so, they can be married.”

The article is making a valid point about the true “church” needing to separate itself from a secular state.

The wedding band started out in Roman times as a way for Christians who  married to signify their devotion to each other in a Christian union, in contrast to the Roman secular notion of marriage. Its time the true church stopped being an agent for the state and while also attempting to remain true to it’s Biblical teachings.

The only way it can do that is to stop being a legal agent for a secular state.

from Dispatches from the Conservative Underground:

Lost among all of the Ebola related headlines are many other issues which should be addressed. One in particular is the current controversy in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho over two Christian pastors who have been threatened with fines and jail time for refusing to perform same-sex marriages. Of course, this attack on religious liberty is something many of us have seen coming for quite some time and I assure you more will soon follow. The fault here is lies not with proponents of same-sex marriage, but with churches who have allowed themselves to become government agencies with respect to marriage.

Christians define marriage as a union between one man and one woman in obedience to God, while government sees marriage as a union between to consenting adults to create a legal status. For generations churches have been conducting wedding ceremonies to create their definition of a marriage, and at the same time have acted as an agency of the government in creating the legal union. Until now that has not posed a problem because the definition of marriage had not been called into question, and it was a convenient way to kill two birds with one stone. The fact is however, this tradition blurred the line of separation between church and state that should never have been allowed to exist.

By allowing pastors to become “marriage officials”, churches have unwittingly turned control of their definition of marriage over to the government. Regardless of the religious beliefs of a particular church, by acting as a party to the legal definition of marriage they put themselves in a position to be sanctioned for discriminatory practices. Churches are allowed to hold positions against same-sex marriage, but in most states now governments are not. The only way to resolve this issue is to make a clean break between the religion based institution of marriage created by a church and the legal status of marriage established by the government.

If Larry and Mary want to be married and have their marriage blessed by their church in front of their family and friends, they should be able to do so as long as their church is willing to perform the ceremony. If the couple wishes to have their union blessed by the government in the form of a legal status, they need only stop by the local courthouse and file the necessary paperwork to demonstrate they can be legally married according to the laws of their state, and have a local government official such as the Justice of the Peace make it official. If Ron and John want to do the same thing, they should be able to go through the same process, and as long as they find a church that is willing to perform the ceremony and a state where the law allows them to do so, they can be married.

This process would work fine if pastors of Christian churches were not acting as a legal representative of the government, in effect creating a ‘marriage of convenience’ between church and state. As far as I can tell, the only purpose in this arrangement is to simplify the marriage process so that a couple only has to be married once in order to obtain the benefits of each definition of marriage. I am all about convenience and simplifying a process when possible, but this particular simplification seems to have complicated things a little more than people expected.

This marriage of convenience between church and state was good while it lasted, but the two parties have grown apart. Undoubtedly it is time for them to divorce because of irreconcilable differences.

from The Daily Telegraph:

A successful Christian school has been warned it is to be downgraded by inspectors and could even face closure after failing to invite a leader from another religion, such as an imam, to lead assemblies, it is claimed.

The small independent school in the Home Counties was told it is in breach of new rules intended to promote “British values” such as individual liberty and tolerance in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal, involving infiltration by hard-line Muslim groups in Birmingham.

Details of the case are disclosed in a letter to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, from the Christian Institute, which is providing legal support to the school.

The group warned that the new rules intended to combat extremism are already having “disturbing consequences” for religious schools and forcing Ofsted inspectors to act in a way which undermines their ethos.

It follows complaints from orthodox Jewish schools about recent inspections in which girls from strict traditional backgrounds were allegedly asked whether they were being taught enough about lesbianism, whether they had boyfriends and if they knew where babies came from.

In the latest case inspectors are understood to have warned the head that the school, which was previously rated as “good” that it would be downgraded to “adequate” for failing to meet standards requiring it to “actively promote” harmony between different faiths because it had failed to bring in representatives from other religions.

They warned that unless the school could demonstrate how it was going to meet the new requirements there would be a further full inspection which could ultimately lead to it being closed.

A Government consultation paper published in June, explaining the new rules, makes clear that even taking children on trips to different places of worship would not be enough to be judged compliant.

The Institute, which is already planning a legal challenge to the consultation, arguing that it was rushed through during the school holidays, fears that the new guidelines could be used to clamp down on the teaching of anything deemed politically incorrect on issues such as marriage.

“Worryingly, evidence is already emerging of how the new regulations are requiring Ofsted inspection teams to behave in ways which do not respect the religious ethos of faith schools,” Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, told Mrs Morgan.

“The new requirements are infringing the rights of children, parents, teachers and schools to hold and practise their religious beliefs.”

Listing recent cases involving criticism of Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish schools by Ofsted, he added: “The Christian Institute is currently working with an independent Christian School which has been marked down by Ofsted for not promoting other faiths.

“Astonishingly it was told it should invite representatives of other faith groups to lead assemblies and lessons, such as an Imam.

“The wording of the regulations inevitably results in these kind of outcomes.

“While we obviously support attempts to address the problem of radicalisation, the current regulations fail to do this.”

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said: “Under Ofsted’s revised guidance for the inspection of schools, inspectors now pay greater attention to ensuring that schools provide a broad and balanced education for their pupils, so that young people are well prepared for the next stage in their education, or for employment and for life in modern Britain.

“Inspectors will consider the effectiveness of the school’s provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and how the school’s leadership and management ensure that the curriculum actively promotes British values.

“This includes, among other factors, pupils’ acceptance and engagement of different faiths and beliefs, and their understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures within school and further afield.”

from Got Questions:

Gaining in popularity today is the teaching that a series of blood-red moons in the next two years will be a portent of Jesus’ second coming and a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Astronomical charts show four lunar eclipses will occur from 2014 to 2015. Because a full lunar eclipse often makes the moon look red or orange, it is sometimes referred to as a “blood moon” or “blood-red moon.” Some teachers of prophecy say that this tetrad of blood moons will fulfill end-times prophecies in Joel and Revelation.

What has interested prophecy teachers is not just the number of lunar eclipses in the next two years but the timing of the eclipses. In both 2014 and 2015, a full lunar eclipse will occur on the first day of Passover and the first day of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). In addition to the two lunar eclipses of 2015, two solar eclipses will also occur. Similar lunar eclipses in back-to-back years have happened seven times since the time of Christ. Some of those have occurred in years of significance for the Jewish people, such as 1948 (when Israel was granted statehood) and 1967 (when the Six-Day War was fought).

References to a moon like “blood” are found in two passages of the Bible. Joel 2:30–31 says, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” In Revelation 6:12, John describes one of the seal judgments of the Tribulation: “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” Other passages refer to the moon being “darkened” (Matthew 24:29; Joel 2:10).

A tetrad of lunar eclipses—and the timing of those eclipses in the Jewish calendar—is fairly unusual, but not unprecedented. So the fact of the eclipses, while interesting, is no proof that Jesus will return by 2015. Furthermore, John’s and Joel’s descriptions of the signs of the Day of the Lord could refer to solar and lunar eclipses, but there are other possible explanations for those phenomena, such as changes in the atmosphere (mentioned in Revelation 6:12).

The blood-red moon theory is just that—a theory. Even as a theory, it comes close to doing what the Bible warns against: setting dates for the coming of the Lord. “About that day or hour no one knows” (Mark 13:32).

from MSN News:

The pastor of one of the Pacific north-west’s most successful evangelical mega churches stepped down on Tuesday, amid allegations that he bullied dissenting members and plagiarized.

Mark Driscoll announced his resignation from the Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington, in a letter to church accountability advisers published by Religion News Service and later on the Mars Hill website.

“I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Driscoll. “Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit,” he said.

Described by some as an “evangelical bad boy,” Driscoll founded the now-14,000-member church in 1996. The pastor gives sermons the way some explain neurology in Ted Talks, and he’s credited with bringing evangelicalism into the digital age.

Last Easter, for example, the church’s 15 locations in five states packed in more than 21,000 attendees for its service, and another 50,000 people watched the downtown Seattle service online. Other online promotions, like Mars Hill GO, have the look and sound of an iPad app, but support the church’s missionising theology.

Despite the church’s sophisticated online presence, some of Driscoll’s theological views have been cited as opposing modern sensibilities. Complementarianism, one of the church’s teachings, reasons that men and women were created by God equal in dignity, but that the sexes have specific and distinct roles to play. Men, for instance, are expected to lead the household – and their wives.

After years of pressure, Driscoll took a six-week leave of absence from the church in mid-August, and tendered his resignation to the church’s board of advisers and accountability that investigated him.

“Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ,” Driscoll said.

Controversy began to coalesce around Driscoll in 2007, when he attempted to reduce the power of church elders through the congregation’s bylaws, according to the New York Times. Later, the nine church elders who asked Driscoll to step down resigned or were fired, Driscoll’s books were pulled from the 186 stores of the LifeWay Christian Resources retailer, and petitions called for an investigation into financial mismanagement.

Leaders told RNS that Driscoll was never charged with heresy or immorality, but that, “Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.”

Update: Houston’s Mayor Backtracks on Church Subpoenas, Tosses Her Own Lawyers Under the Bus

from Fox News:

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa.  The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley.  “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.

However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.

Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.

The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.

“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”

David Welch, pastor of Bear Creek Church and director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.

“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”

He accused the city of violating the law with the subpoenas and vowed to stand firm in the faith.

“We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights,” Welch told me. ‘This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.”

“This is a shot across the bow of the church,” he said.

This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.

Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.

Tony Perkins is absolutely right. Now is the time for pastors and people of faith to take a stand.  We must rise up and reject this despicable strong-arm attack on religious liberty. We cannot allow ministers to be intimidated by government thugs.

The pastors I spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

“This is the San Jacinto moment for traditional family,” Welch told me. “This is the place where we stop the LGBT assault on the freedom to practice our faith.”

We can no longer remain silent. We must stand together – because one day – the government might come for your pastor.

from The Berean Call:

The old hymn “I Would Be Like Jesus” has a chorus that has the hymn singers assert, “Be like Jesus, this my song, in the home and in the throng; Be like Jesus all day long! I would be like Jesus.”

Many Christians don’t realize that there is a battle being waged between Jewish externals and rituals as a means of spirituality and sanctification and truly biblical means that are internal heart issues. None would argue that being more like Jesus is a very commendable goal. After all, we are to constantly look to Him (Hebrews:12:2) and see Him as our ultimate example (1 Peter:2:21). But with every journey in life we must decide how we are going to get there. The larger issue of being like Jesus is: What does it really mean? What does it look like? and Just how is it accomplished?

The late Jewish scholar and researcher of first century life in Israel, David Flusser, said rightly; “Jesus was a Jew in every way” ( Jewish Sources in Early Christianity , Adama Books, New York, 1987, p.7). There is absolutely no denying that Jesus was born a Jew and lived an observant Jewish life. He did this to fulfill completely every demand of the law, He did it for us (Romans:8:1-4), and He continues to do it in us if we are true believers.

So if we want to be like Jesus, does that mean that we must become observant Jews, as some allege? Is that what being like Jesus really means? Should Gentile believers try to be Messianic Jews? Can they? Should Gentiles don a yarmulke, worship in a synagogue, blow a shofar, wear a prayer shawl, call Jesus Yeshua or Yeshu, keep the Old Testament feasts and dietary laws, and give their pastors the title of Rabbi, even though Matthew:23:8 says otherwise? Are Jewish ceremonies and practices efficacious?

Do we need to restore first century or later Jewish practices to really be good Christians? The Pharisees practiced all the ceremonies, but theirs is a cautionary tale since Jesus told them that they did these things in vain (Matthew:15:7-9, See also Matthew 23).

So, is Jewishness next to godliness? One very modern movement would answer the question with a loud—“yes, more or less!” This growing movement is called the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM). Unfortunately, it lacks a shared, coherent, consistent theology, an internal mechanism of doctrinal control, and it is filled with mavericks who seem to be making it up as they go along in terms of attachment to Jewish accoutrements.

Some in the HRM are way over the edge in their denial of the Trinity and seem to know Jesus only in the flesh. As we will see, this movement is an idea, a view, an attitude, or a philosophy; a shared concept that Jewish traditions and Judaism are far superior for the church, a sure fire way to a deeper sanctification and with some, possibly even salvation.

It’s hard to define the HRM because it is so diverse and made up of so many disparate groups and individuals. It’s a moving target. It’s a vast smorgasbord of everything from scholarship, as in the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, to so-called Third Questers, to individuals practicing subjective pop (make-it-up-as-you-go) Judaism. It can even include the medieval mystical Kabbalah, with its esoteric numerology. More often than not there are no distinctions made between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant or between the Bible and the Talmud. This movement can impose legalism with a vengeance or in some instances may simply suggest Jewish practices that they say will give us deeper insight and understanding as well as make us more “authentic” believers.

Here, then, is a loose definition of the Hebrew Roots Movement. It is a very modern movement that insists that we must resurrect first-century Judaism (our Jewish Roots) and the milieu and lifestyle of first-century Jews and impose them on both Jewish and non-Jewish believers. This is not just an academic study to better understand Scripture and its setting but is rather a movement of restoration that claims that the church has moved off its Jewish foundation and must return to a more Jewish way of life to be authentic.

Although there is great benefit in studying the archaeology, geography, sociology, religion, and customs of the ancient biblical world, it does not follow that we must reinstitute and copy those times, replete with language, customs, and even dress.

It is obvious in much of the HRM that it’s not just the study of the first century for interpretation, information, and illumination that carries the day but keeping the traditions and practices of the Jewish Talmud, which was completed long after Jesus in the years 400-500 ( The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion , Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1965, p. 374). Actually, there are two Talmuds, namely the Babylonian Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud. The Talmuds vary in many of their customs, traditions, and practices.

Jewish believer Stephen Katz expresses his concerns when he says, “Much of the Jewish Roots Movement is actually based on later Jewish/rabbinic tradition. More importantly, the question of whether Gentiles need to add Jewish lifestyle and return to Jewish roots was settled by the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15. The remarkable news of the Gospel is that, in Y’shua, Jews and Gentiles have direct access to God” (“The Jewish Roots Movement: Flowers and Thorns,” March 1, 2001).

In practice, many promoters of the HRM draw their content more from Talmudic Judaism than from Old or New Testament Judaism. Acts 15 addresses head-on the relationship of Gentile believers to Judaism. The Apostle James told the Jewish believers that they should not disturb Gentile believers. In verse 19, James strongly commanded, “I judge that we [Jews] should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Then an official letter went out to the Gentiles reaffirming the decision: “Since we heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘you must be circumcised and keep the law’—to whom we gave not such commandment” (v. 24). In other words, “Back off trying to make Gentiles into Jews!”

Messianic Jewish believer Stan Telchin sees the imposition of Jewish law and practice on Gentiles as one of the more troubling aspects of the Messianic Jewish Movement: “I know that the overwhelming majority of Jewish believers do not attend Messianic synagogues. It has been suggested that less than five percent of the Jewish believers in the United States attend them….Many Jewish people who I have brought to such synagogues have told me they felt as though they were looking at a caricature—an imitation and not the real thing” ( Messianic Judaism Is Not Christianity , Chosen Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004, p. 83).

If Telchin’s statistics are even close, it means that up to 95 percent of the attendees at Messianic synagogues are Gentiles and only 5 percent are Jews. This tells us that Gentiles are being “converted” to forms of Judaism that even many Jews reject. That turns Acts 15 on its head. The really big question that Hebrew Roots teachers must answer is, “Why are there far more Gentile believers than Jews in Messianic synagogues and Messianic fellowships?”

This imposition of Jewish practice on non-Jewish believers really does constitute a serious issue that promotes elitism, unnecessary division, wide confusion, and unbiblical practices. We can almost understand Jews who convert to Christ who still try to keep some of the cultural aspects and celebrations of their familial heritage. If their intentions and motives are not legalistic, and if these things are not done for salvation or out of religious elitism, there may be some minor benefit. Yet to impose them on Gentiles (as is the case, more often than not) is a direct violation of Paul’s words to the Colossians: “So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (2:16-17). So Paul tells the Gentiles at Colossi that they are not to let anyone force Judaism on them. Didn’t Paul tell the Ephesians that saved Jews and Gentiles were now one new body and one new man—the church (Ephesians:3:1-8)?

We have already mentioned the very confusing practice of superimposing the later Talmud and Talmudic traditions on New Testament believers (Jew or Gentile). Isn’t this as serious as any of the extrabiblical books imposed on cult followers? Some of the Talmud has nothing to do with the New Testament and only reflects later Judaism without a land, a temple, a priesthood, or a sacrifice.

The Hebrew Roots Movement is cavalier and does nothing as far as the above cautions. The use of later rabbinical material must be done with much care, that is, sparingly and judiciously. We must be sure that it can be verified and corroborated by earlier or contemporary sources. It is our only safety. If we are unsure of a later source, would it not be dangerous to add it to the Bible (Revelation:22:18-19)?

One very important and urgent issue that the Hebrew Roots Movement never addresses is—which Judaism? This is the elephant in the room.

It would be more correct to speak of Judaisms. There were different streams of Judaism in the first century. Is it to be the religious Pharisees? And, if so, is it the school of Shammai or Hillel? Or is it the religion of the Sadducees? Why not the Judaism of the Zealots or the Herodians? Is it to be the Judaism of John the Baptist? Better yet, the purists—the separatists called the Essenes. As has been mentioned, any first-century Judaism of any stripe cannot be fully practiced since there is no temple, no priesthood, and no animal sacrifices. Some in the Hebrew Roots Movement seem to be enamored with modern Orthodox Jews. But the large and unanswered question is: which Orthodox group?

In the complex world of Jewish Orthodoxy, there are a myriad of competing groups with different dress and different traditions, all claiming to have their corner on the truth. A few of the somewhat cloistered groups in Jerusalem are the Ger Hassidic Dynasty, the Belz Hassidic Dynasty, the Karlin Stolin Hassidic sect, the Breslav Hassidic Dynasty, the Samar Hassidic Dynasty, the Chabad Hassidic sect, and the Neturi Karta. (For details, differences, and dynamics of these groups, see  The Mysteries of Jerusalem , Adam Ackerman, Multipress, Jerusalem, 2007, pp. 61-77). Which one is right?

There is an almost total ignoring by the Hebrew Roots Movement teachers of two-thirds of the New Testament, namely the Epistles of Paul (as well as the other Epistles). There is some tipping of the hat to selective pieces of Romans that in their view speak of Abraham and also of being grafted into Judaism, or Jewish Roots. It is clear that being grafted into Israel has to do with Abrahamic and Messianic blessings—not cloning or trying to act like Jews. These spiritual privileges are real spiritual and eternal blessings. They do not mean dressing up and pretending to be of some other nationality or religion.

Gentile believers have received the Word of God, the Messiah, and His salvation. Being grafted into Abraham’s blessings is as beautiful and as simple as Gib Martin and Larry Richards explain: “The olive tree…is a familiar and beautiful part of the landscape of Israel. It is a symbol of both strength and blessing. David penned in Psalm:52:8: ‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever’….Paul uses the branch of an olive tree to picture what God has done in grafting in the gentiles, the ‘wild olive tree’ (Romans:11:17) into the cultivated olive tree, Israel. In Paul’s metaphor, some of the olive tree’s branches were broken off and wild shoots were grafted into the tree. God was turning the Gentiles into fruit-bearing people….Paul is pointing them to the very source of their lives: God. God is the Keeper of the vineyard, the ultimate Gardener” ( The Book of Romans , Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, 2007, p. 168).

Ignoring the Epistles is one way to avoid a deluge of material about New Testament church life, church structure, church officers, church practices, and beliefs. It’s no wonder that those in Hebrew Roots have a truncated and skewed message. I say this with sadness.

What we are dealing with is both foundational and fundamental. Is it to be synagogue or church? The Jews had a practice that if anyone professed Christ they were to be thrown out of the synagogue (John:9:22). Yet those in the HRM would try to pretend that synagogues are good places to be—or at least to emulate or push their way back in. Can we merge church and synagogue? Should we? We need to remember that Jesus said clearly, “On this rock I will build my church.” He did not say, “I will build my synagogue.”

Is it to be law or grace? The Book of Galatians deals with that in great detail. However, as I said, the Epistles are neglected and ignored, and Galatians is skipped over. It is interesting to note that Paul told the Galatians that a trip back to Judaism indicated that they had become both “foolish” and “bewitched” (Galatians:3:1). The word “bewitched” is the Greek root  baskano , and it means to be allured and drawn into false doctrine.

Is it Old Covenant or New Covenant? If it was anything but New Covenant, Jesus would have never said at His last supper, “For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew:26:28). This is repeated in Mark:14:24 andLuke:22:20. The repetition must be there for a good reason. Jesus must have known that some would ignore much of the New Covenant or get the two covenants confused.

Is it the Passover or the Lord’s Supper? Paul reminded the Corinthians what the Passover stood for and what was really central: “For indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians:5:7). It’s clear that all the Old Testament ceremonies, symbols, and feasts were types and shadows pointing to Jesus (Colossians:2:16-23, Hebrews:10:1-10).

Is it Saturday or Sunday? Saturday (the seventh day) was clearly attached to the finishing of the Old Creation (Genesis:2:1-3). Sunday, the first day of the new week celebrates the Resurrection and the new creation in Christ. Christians are a new creation (2 Corinthians:5:17).

Is it Jewish externals and superficial ritual purity or internal cleansing and heart purity? Psalm 51 answers that question clearly: “Sacrifice you did not desire or I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (vv. 16-17).

This brief article is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of the Hebrew Roots Movement. For now we are just asking questions. There are detailed larger articles and a book in production to examine in depth and detail the entire movement. We hope to offer corrections to many aberrant practices and deal more fully with some of the issues raised in this piece. Stay tuned.

 

from The Daily Telegraph:

Laws banning incest between brothers and sisters in Germany could be scrapped after a government ethics committee said the they were an unacceptable intrusion into the right to sexual self-determination.

“Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo,” the German Ethics Council said in a statement. “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”

Their intervention follows a notorious case in which a brother and sister living as partners in Saxony had four children together. The couple had been raised separately and only met when the brother, identified only as Patrick S, was an adult, and his sister Susan K was 16.

Patrick S was sentenced to more than three years in prison for incest and the couple have since failed in their bid to have the guilty verdict overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.

The family was forced to live apart after the courts ruled that there was a duty to protect their children from the consequences of their relationship.

Two of the couple’s children are disabled, and it is believed that incest carries a higher risk of resulting in children with genetic abnormalities.

But the Ethics Council dismissed that argument, on the basis that other genetically affected couples are not banned from having children.

The Council said it based its recommendation on extensive research, in which it found many incestuous couples are forced to live in secret.

In one case, it found a woman was being blackmailed by her father and ex-husband, who threatened to depive her of access to her children unless she ended a new relationship with her half-brother.

Incest remains illegal in the UK and most European countries, although France abolished its incest laws under Napoleon I and there has been growing debate over the taboo in Germany.

Around two to four per cent of Germans have had “incestuous experiences”, according to an estimate by the Max Planck Institute.

But a spokeswoman for Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats indicated the government was unlikely to adopt the Ethics Council’s recommendations.

“The abolition of the offense of incest between siblings would be the wrong signal,” said Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, legal policy spokeswoman for the party’s group in parliament.

“Eliminating the threat of punishment against incestuous acts within families would run counter to the protection of undisturbed development for children.”

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