• What JGIG Is:

    Joyfully Growing In Grace engages in an examination of beliefs found in the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related sects.

    The term “Messianic” is generally understood to describe Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua/Jesus as their Messiah. Jews who are believers in Jesus/Yeshua typically call themselves Jewish/Hebrew Christians or simply, Christians.

    Many Christians meet folks who say they are ‘Messianic’ and assume that those folks are Jewish Christians. Most aren’t Jewish at all, but are Gentile Christians who have chosen to pursue Torah observance and have adopted the Messianic term, calling themselves Messianic Christians, adherents to Messianic Judaism, or simply, Messianics. Some will even try to avoid that label and say that they are followers of "The Way".

    These Gentiles (and to be fair, some Messianic Jews) preach Torah observance/pursuance for Christians, persuading many believers that the Christianity of the Bible is a false religion and that we must return to the faith of the first century sect of Judaism that they say Yeshua (Jesus Christ) embraced. According to them, once you become aware that you should be 'keeping' the edicts and regulations of Mosaic Covenant Law, if you do not, you are then in willful disobedience to God.

    It has been my observation that Christians who adopt the label of Messianic identify more with the tenets of Judaism than they do with the tenets of Christianity. Many reject the label of Christian altogether and some eventually even convert to Judaism.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil."

    Joyfully Growing in Grace examines the methods, claims, and fruits of the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related, law-keeping sects.

    To borrow from a Forrest Gump quote, “Law ‘keepers’ are like a box of chocolates - ya never know what you’re gonna get!” The goal of JGIG is to be a resource to help those affected by the Torah pursuant movements to try and sort out what they’re dealing with. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

    Be sure to click on the many embedded links within the posts here - there's lots of additional and related information for you to access that way, as well.

    Welcome, and may God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.

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    Do you find it frustrating when you're directed to a link that does not exist? Me too! My apologies for any broken links you may find here.

    JGIG occasionally links to to sites that sometimes move or remove content, forums that periodically cull threads, sites/posters that appear to 'scrub' content from their sites (or YouTube posts, pdf files, etc.) when that content receives negative attention, and others that over time simply cease to exist.

    Please let me know via the 'Contact JGIG' drop-down menu item under the 'About' tab at the top of this page if you come across a link that is broken so that I can try to repair or remove it. Please include the name of the post/article where you found the broken link as well as the link itself. You may be able to find content specified by doing a search and viewing a relocated or cached page/post/video.

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Easter and the Spring Feasts – Crumbs in Your Peanut Butter

It’s that time of year, believers.  Concerned family members are telling you to not celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Easter and are preparing their homes and themselves to observe the Spring Feasts of Israel.

I read the following on the Faith, Grace, and Torah Facebook page last night:

” . . . I am now again suited up, ready to fight, without fear of man, and I will be active again, especially leading into Passover. Judases will arise the closer we get to Passover, as that spirit does every year, and Amalek will arise and is rising again, and I will not make the mistake of leaving one single Amalekite alive, and I will continue to persue and hunt every one of them down and slay them with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of the ONLY living Elohim/God.”

Let me encourage you that as you interact with the Law-keepers in your life to love them well and to keep pointing them to Christ, His Work, and who they are in Him.

Our walk in Christ is not meant to be a series of battles in a grand war with many enemies.

Christ taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, not to ‘slay them with the Sword of the Spirit’.

NO.

We are to be ambassadors of LIFE by sharing the Truths of the Gospel:

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (from 2 Cor. 5)

And LIFE is what the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ is all about – not only HIS indestructible life, but the New Life imparted to US in Christ.

These are realities in Christ which are indeed worth celebrating \o/ !!!

So to repeat:  As you interact with the Law-keepers in your life,

—> Love them well
—> Keep pointing them to Christ, His Work, and who they are in Him.

Here is a link to an article (can also be found on the Articles Page here at JGIG) that addresses the common arguments regarding the early church and the establishment of the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, commonly known as Easter.  There are four areas addressed by the article:

Below is a repeat of a post from a couple of years ago regarding the Spring Feasts and our relationship to them in the New Covenant.

Grace and peace to you all who are on the ‘front lines’ with those who choose to ‘do battle’ with you.
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The Spring Feasts of God – Crumbs in Your Peanut Butter

Last year around this time I read a comment on a Law-keeping forum about preparing for the Spring Feasts. Regarding getting the leaven out opeanut-butterf their homes, it seems that in addition to removing obvious leaven from the home (yeast, baking powder, baking soda, all fermenting/leavening agents along with all leavened breads and any food products containing leaven including frozen and canned products, condiments, etc.), it’s also important to get rid of any peanut butter and jelly, as crumbs from leavened bread can get transferred into the containers by one’s knife. Another person posted how they should probably get rid of their mayo, too, ‘just in case’.

One does have to wonder, in case WHAT?!

What great calamity will happen to the one in Christ if there are crumbs in their mayonnaise jar during the Spring Feasts? Leaven is a symbol of sin, not sin itself. Even then, after the work of Christ, this is what God has to say:

2 Corinthians 5:17-19
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.

In Christ, this is how we are to celebrate, understanding that >> we << can never get every speck of leaven (representing sin) out of our lives:

1 Corinthians 5:6-8
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeastas you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Folks, this season of remembrance is not about >> US << getting sin (leaven) out of our lives and going through the object lesson that Israel did every year, it’s about
>>> JESUS <<< and how HE has already CLEANSED those in Christ from our sins and about remembering, in the bread and the wine, HIM and what HE has already DONE.

We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! (2 Cor. 5:21) We are not to dwell on sin, we are to dwell on the Gift of Righteousness we have in Christ:

Romans 5:17
17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

righteous11

If you want to do the object lessons of the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits to learn how God designed His Law and its shadows to perfectly point to Christ, that’s fine. But to attempt to observe the Old Covenant, as those without Christ did – year after year – after Christ has already fulfilled those shadows and commanded us to remember HIS Body – broken for us – and HIS Blood – shed for us – in the bread and the wine . . .

Let me put it this way:

God does not care about the crumbs in your peanut butter, jelly or mayo jars. He just doesn’t. He cares about the condition of your heart and whether or not you are in Christ:

1 John 3:23-24
23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

The Law ‘keeper’ is constantly working to get the leaven (sin) out, by observing this day or avoiding that food or wearing fringes on their clothes, when Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6, reiterated in 1 John 3 above) and then went on to state how HE is the Bread from heaven, and HE is the Living Water. Jesus then goes about systematically replacing elements found in the Old Testament and the Law with HIMSELF. Many left Him after that (John 6:66).

We are to partake in HIM. Remember HIM. We are not to strive as those without Christ did by observing ritual and regulation in Feast observances, but to remember what Christ HAS ALREADY DONE! “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me . . . This cup is the New Covenant in My Blood, poured out for you.” (From Luke 22)

Romans 7:4-6
4So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6But 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.

2 Corinthians 3:4-6
4Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

calvin-hobbes-spirit-of-the-law

I’ve heard it said that as soon as a law is given, mankind starts looking for loopholes. In Christ, we don’t have to look for loopholes, because we are not under law. We can walk in the newness of the life that we have in Christ (Romans 6:4), led by the Spirit He gave us (Ephesians 1, Galatians 5), walking not in Law and bearing its fruit (sin, death, fruit unto death Romans 7:5, 7-8, 9-11), but walking in His Spirit, bearing His Fruit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control Galatians 5).

We often hear from those in Law-keeping camps, “Choose ye this day Whom you will serve!” and “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (YHWH)!” (Joshua 24:15)

In the New Covenant, walking in His Spirit is the way to serve God. Those in Christ are led by His Spirit; we are no longer under Law. In a very practical sense, that means that we can spend more time actively loving others and sharing the Grace of God in the Gospel with them instead of spending time inspecting our peanut butter jars.

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Other articles of interest:

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If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the other testimonies on the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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Christ’s Birth – Why It’s Okay to Celebrate

I first posted this back in December of 2008, and it continues to be one of the most-read posts here at JGIG.  Be sure to check out the related links below as well as other informative and thought-provoking Christmas articles on the Articles Page.  Grace and Peace to you in this Christmas season of celebrating the Birth of Christ and in the new year ahead!
-JGIG

Christ’s Birth – Why It’s Okay to Celebrate

Okay.  Before all you holiday purists start hurling comments based on the title alone, hear me out.

I know all about the pagan influences and the date-setting and the sun worship and . . . well, all that stuff  that takes what for me is the simple celebration of the birth of my Saviour and turns it into something ugly and evil.  Some of you will maintain that “Christmas” IS ugly and evil!  And I get where you’re coming from, really I do.  And in the spirit of Romans 14, I’m okay with that.  I would never dream to try to convince you that you should celebrate something that you don’t believe you should.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit this past year, and I just want to share with you where I am in that thought process.

The short answer for me is this:

God made a pretty big deal

out of the birth of His Son.

Angel visitations to Mary and Joseph, to the shepherds, the summoning of kings from far away (with a special “star” hung in the sky, no less) . . . the divine protection of the baby and child Jesus from the evil King Herod.

shepherd_angel1
Let’s take the shepherd’s experience:  They’re there, tending their sheep, maybe dozing off once in a while, but being good shepherds, waking at any little noise, they wake up to angels!  And they’re singing, “Glory to God in the highest!” . . .

What am I celebrating?
I’m celebrating the willingness of God to come in the flesh to walk among us, love us, teach us, and then do the work of the Cross for us.  And how did He choose to come in human form?  As an obviously powerful King?  Did he ride down majestically on the clouds, announcing His kingdom was at hand?  No . . . He came in the most vulnerable human form, actually taking on humanity through the seed of Mary while maintaining His Godhood through the Seed of the Holy Spirit.

I’m celebrating the birth and gift of Hope and Life to the world.

Having given birth seven times myself, I reflect on Mary’s obedience and courage as a young woman.  Having had relatively easy births with my children, I wonder what Mary’s “birth story” is (a favorite topic among moms of many).  Before I had children of my own, I thought how sad it was that Mary had to go through the birth thing the way she did, the traveling, the no Inn thing, the giving birth with the animals around thing.

But now, having had easy births with all but one of my children (the other one was wonderful, just really, really hard!), I like to think that God must have blessed Mary with a wonderful birth experience.  Understand that I understand that my thoughts are total conjecture in this area, but given the circumstances, I think they’re in line with the character of God to have abundant grace and mercy on Mary in birthing Jesus.  After all, she was giving birth to His Son.  And she had been willing and obedient under difficult circumstances . . . I just think He may have blessed her with a wonderful birth!

There is something quite amazing about birthing a baby.  It’s hard work, and there is pain, but for some the pain is brief, and labor can actually be enjoyable!  The progressive work of the intensifying contractions, the  process of knowing new life is soon coming into the world, getting to meet the one you’ve carried for so long face to face . . . and that you get to be a part of it!  It can be such a profound experience!

nativityscene
And then when that little baby is birthed!  Oh my!  The wonder!  The joy!  The amazement of what God has done!  And that’s just what I’ve felt at the birth of my own children.  I can hardly imagine the glory that must have been in the place where Jesus was born!  And the feelings of wonder and joy that Mary must have felt as the baby King Jesus was placed in her arms and nursed at her breasts.  All mixed in with the gravity of being charged with the care of this child who would in adulthood save us from our sins and give us new life . . . Oh my . . .

And who did God announce the birth of His Son to first?  The local mayor?  Thejesus_nativity governing authorities of the broader area?  No, He told the local shepherds.  And told them to go and see the newborn King . . .  They were the first on the scene besides Mary and Joseph to take in the wonder of the advent of the Saviour of the world.  Just regular folks.  God didn’t leave out the king-types . . . they just came much later.  He came for everyone, from shepherds to kings . . . He came for us all.  What an amazing event – the coming of God in the flesh to dwell among those He created and to eventually provide for their redemption.  To celebrate those things – that’s what I think it’s okay to do.

Do we hang lights?  Make special food?  Sing and listen to special songs? Put up a Nativity scene?   Have a *gasp* tree?  Yes, we do.  NONE of those things signify anything pagan for us.  They are not a part of worship.  They are part of celebrating.  I don’t know where the tradition of baking a birthday cake or putting up decorations to celebrate birthdays came from, but for us, it’s simply a celebration.  A time to be glad.  To take joy in the immense gift from God as He came to us in the flesh.  A time to commemorate the real event that happened so long ago, that has such an impact on us as believers today.

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Luke 2:1-33 

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

journey_to_bethlehem_brickey

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

nort_cuypb
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
swindle_she-shall-bring-forth-a-son

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law.

jesus02Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

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Other Holiday-related Posts:

There are also links to articles from other sources regarding holidays on the Articles Page here at JGIG.

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If you’re someone in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect or just a believer questioning what you believe and why, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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Other articles available at JGIG:

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Gateways into the Hebrew Roots Movement – An Examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and Related Teachings of Jim Staley

One popular and widely shared teaching from Jim Staley is ‘Identity Crisis’, considered to be one of the ’gateway’ videos that gets folks more interested in the Hebraic Roots of their faith.  This page will address that teaching specifically as well as some other related teachings from Jim Staley.

Since I receive so many emails and private messages asking about the Hebrew Roots Movement teacher Jim Staley and Passion For Truth Ministries, I’ve put this page together so that folks can send out a link to an examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and other related Staley teachings.  A link to this page will also appear on the Articles Page here at JGIG.

There are a lot of teachings produced by Passion For Truths’ Jim Staley and there is no way logistically to evaluate them all.  A more practical approach is to take a few key teachings and find out how they fare when placed alongside the simple Truths of the Gospel as portrayed in the whole of the Scriptures:

  • Who Jesus is
  • What He came to do
  • What that actually accomplished, and
  • Who those who believe in Christ are in Him.

Another gateway teaching by Jim Staley that draws believers into the Hebrew Roots Movement, ‘Truth or Tradition’, will not be addressed here, since there are other resources which well address the issues raised in that video.

Two such excellent resources are Exit and Support Network and Ralph Woodrow’s ‘The Babylon Connection?‘, both of which do a good job sorting out truth from fiction regarding holidays. The Articles Page here at JGIG also has holiday-related articles listed under the letters “C” and “E” (which also has Two House/Ephraimite Doctrine articles).  As you navigate through that page (for which there is also a tab with a direct link at the top of this page) the articles are clearly titled.

Another reason I’ll not be dealing with the holiday issue here is that it really is a secondary disputable issue; I have no desire to convince folks to observe or not observe seasons or days, but am content, in the spirit of Romans 14, to leave their practices in such matters to their consciences.  The resources above are offered to help believers sort out the issues.Identity Crisis in Christ

Jim Staley’s ‘Identity Crisis’ teaching, however, is not a teaching regarding secondary disputable matters, but goes to the very core of the Gospel and is a teaching that twists the Truths of who believers are in Christ.

A relative sent me Jim Staley’s ‘Identity Crisis’ video link on YouTube many months ago, saying that the Lord woke them one night and felt that the Lord was prompting them to send it to me.  They had no idea that I’d ever heard of Jim Staley or that I was very familiar with his teachings.  Following is a detailed response to the teaching as well as some of some of Staley’s related teachings, edited and expanded for this venue.

Public Evaluation of Public Teachings

One more thing I’ll address here: Many who follow Jim Staley and Passion For Truth Ministries will take issue with this page.  They will write to me or on their own sites or on their Facebook pages about how I ‘should have gone to Jim personally if I have a problem with him’.

Folks, this is not an issue where I feel that Jim Staley has personally sinned against me.  He is a preacher/teacher out there claiming very publicly that he has Truth.  Jim Staley aggressively markets his brand of Law-keeping world-wide, and there are thousands of PFT DVDs and CDs that get passed around in the Body as well as PFT having a strong presence on YouTube and other online audio/video outlets.  Passion For Truth Ministries also has a strong presence on Facebook.

The search terms ‘Jim Staley Cult’, ‘Jim Staley false teacher’, ‘Jim Staley heresy’ and similar phrases are the most used search terms after this site’s name that bring people to JGIG, sending them to the Identifying False Teaching article, where a commenter asks about Jim Staley specifically.  As much as I hate to put the spotlight on any one teacher, it has become evident to me that the time has long since come for a few of Staley’s core teachings to be examined here at JGIG.

The comments function on this page has been turned off.  This page is for educational purposes and is published on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  For those of you who think that’s unfair, note that Passion For Truth has not allowed comments on their videos for, as of this writing, about a year.  You will, however, find a contact form at the bottom of this page where you can give feedback that will be sent to my email.

This page has information that anyone can check out for themselves.  I provide links to each of the teachings in question as well as many time stamps and transcriptions for specific issues raised.  I encourage folks to watch the teachings referenced in total to get a feel for context and tone.  I have no interest in it seeming like I’m trying to railroad someone by taking their words out of context.

Note that in the past, once he becomes aware of scrutiny regarding his teaching materials, Jim Staley has been known to have his staff edit out clips that have been addressed, take down and repost videos under different URLs so that original links will no longer work, or mark certain videos as ‘private’.

Other folks concerned about the teachings of Jim Staley have taken to YouTube, using clips of Staley’s teachings and evaluating them in video form.  Staley has had many of those videos successfully removed claiming copyright infringement.  Videos that remain are those that post ‘fair use’ laws in their introductions.

All that to say this:  Jim Staley seems to not like being challenged.  I note these things here so that if you as readers click on a link that does not work or go to a time stamp that does not say what’s transcribed in the article below, consider the possibility that the URL/content may have been altered by PFT.

Let me be clear:  I have no beef with Jim Staley personally.  This page is about examining his teachings and theology, seeing how they measure up when placed alongside contextual Scripture and proper interpretive practices and the simple Truths of the Gospel.

For those of you who are aware of other issues with Jim Staley and are wondering if those issues will be addressed here:  No, they will not.  This page is only about examining Jim Staley’s teachings.  At the end of the page there are some ‘More Concerns’ regarding the origins of PFT Ministries and his leadership style.

May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you read the following:

Click here to read the entire page.

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Related, off-site articles:

These off-site resources are offered with the understanding that the value of these resources outweigh any disagreements I may have with those sources.  Lots of good information below; as always, read/listen with discernment.

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If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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Other related articles available at JGIG:

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My Public Testimony by J. Rumani

Path-to-the-Woods 3It is with a grateful heart that I’ve received another testimony.  This one comes from an individual who wrote me a while back as they began their journey out of the Hebrew Roots Movement.  It’s been such a blessing to see how God has been progressively growing this dear person in His Grace.  Many thanks to J. for the following. 

This testimony will also appear on the Testimonies Page here at JGIG.

If you have a testimony you’d like to share about coming out of the Hebrew Roots Movement (or a variation of the HRM), please email me at joyfullygrowingingrace at gmail dot com.  From talking to those who have come out of Law-keeping sects, I understand that it can be a difficult thing to write about the experience.  Many thanks to those who have taken the time and effort to contribute here.

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MY PUBLIC TESTIMONY
by J. Rumani
I was first introduced to the Hebrew Roots Movement through a stranger who soon became so much more to me.  I had been raised in an evangelical church environment and had never experienced anything else, so hearing theology from the Hebraic mindset was a completely new idea to me and I ended up falling for it – hook, line, and sinker.

At first, I thought the ideas were zany, but soon the arguments towards Torah Observance sounded convincing and logical.  After all, if God said don’t eat pork, maybe nobody should ever eat it?  Maybe since we are grafted in, we should be following the Torah?  And from there, I buried my ‘roots’ so to speak, deeper into the doctrines of the HRM.

I thought to myself, maybe I had been missing something important in traditional church and what if what I had believed growing up was wrong?  After all, I had never questioned any of it before but instead of studying the Scriptures for myself and carefully weighing everything, I swung the other way and embraced the HRM perspective and teachings because it seemed there was an answer to everything.

Soon our small family must have appeared Jewish to anyone who would enter our home or observe our way of life. From the wearing tzitzit and head coverings to the way we observed Shabbat to the removal of crosses and the replacement with the mezuzah and menorah and the refusing of all things labeled ‘pagan’ by most in the HRM – the way I understood ‘pleasing God’ changed greatly both on the inside and maybe more so on the outside.

Fellowship with other Christians typically included arguments advocating Torah observance and denouncing ‘paganism’ in ‘churchianity’. Holidays were a misery because I was still very much attached to them and I wanted to celebrate Christ with other Christians in those as well, but from the HRM perspective anything to do with Easter or December 25 is to be completely avoided and hence I was yet another apologist for the HRM protesting those days as the seasons arrived, though part of me was not fully convinced of the matter.

I began to learn that there is much variance within the HRM on various doctrines from soul sleep, to Kabbalah and scripture interpretation, to how Shabbat is carried out and even which laws are still valid and applicable.  There is no real ‘What we believe’ statement per se, although the two main features of the Hebrew Roots Movement were

  1. Torah Observance, and
  2. Avoidance of all things ‘pagan’ including traditional Christian holidays, the cross, the name Jesus and on and on.

It turned out that I also saw many disputes among congregations where they would not associate with each other even if there were a whole bunch of congregations in the same general city/outskirts.  These many variances would become one of the factors in my questioning of the whole movement and my beliefs.

In regards to fellowship, I attended 1-2 messianic congregations a handful of times, but it wasn’t my cup of tea for some reason.  I found the services to be too legalistic for my liking (oh the irony!) and felt more comfortable with the type of church I was raised in.  The whole Torah Observance/traditional holiday-avoiding lifestyle made me feel isolated in many ways.  But at the same time, I thought I was better than all these churchianity Christians who didn’t fall for the HRM arguments that my household presented.

Why on earth couldn’t they see ‘the truth’?  But I figured I would give them a little grace since the whole of Christendom had been steeped in paganism for thousands of years.

Still, I found myself turning into a righteous snob without realizing it.  I had dropped out of nearly all fellowship and found that I had no best friend I could confide in about spiritual matters, even within the HRM.  And as far as my own family of origin, I loved them dearly.  But huge influence from an HRM member made me feel isolated from my own family and torn in many ways, especially around holidays, and throughout the whole year … and years.

But there was still something that didn’t make sense to me; I observed Christians who lived full of love and joy, and I hadn’t known true joy in a long time.

The fruit in my own life had gone downhill tremendously.  It’s like Jesus said, those who strain a gnat and swallow a camel or those who look at the speck in someone’s eye but forget the plank in their own; while I was worried about everyone else accepting the Torah truth, my own life didn’t reflect anything that anyone could desire.

Besides judgmentalism, I was losing hope, complaining a lot more, becoming skeptical, starting to become confused about what I believed, and I even swore like a sailor which was new to me.  I wasted my time doing useless projects and even a few times got drunk on purpose.  My faith was becoming ship-wrecked and I knew I was soon coming to a complete faith crisis.  For a while I tried to put it off, figuring with just a little extra sleep and prayer, I’d be fine.  But inside I knew that wasn’t the case.

Something drastic had to change; I had to come to the end of myself.

One thing I found interesting that happened during my time in the HRM is that I had lost hunger for the Word of God, and near the end, as I found myself escalating towards a faith crisis, I understood that I was becoming so confused and doubtful that I didn’t even want to crack open a Bible because I didn’t know what to believe.

Thankfully I did finally come to the end of myself.  One evening, I opened my Bible to read as though it were the first time ever.  I poured over the epistles with a voracious fervor like I was completely starved.  Those first few weeks I took time to read Galatians, again and again and again, along with Romans and practically all the epistles and multiple commentary notes.

So many varying degrees of thoughts went through my mind while reading – from extreme hope, to extreme confusion, to HRM arguments, to finally coming to the question that I wasn’t sure if I could ask:  could it just maybe really be this simple to be a Christ-follower?  All I had to do is trust in Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to produce fruit and love in my life?

It’s been a while now since what I excitedly call my “grace-walk” began, and while I was hoping my life would change dramatically and that I’d have it all together in a neat scheduled time-frame, I know God doesn’t work in our timing or expectations.

But that’s part of the grace journey – learning to accept that God’s grace and timing is enough.  As the saying goes “I’m not where I want to be yet, but thank God I’m not where I was!”

I have also learned that it is perfectly okay if I do not have all the answers to my questions yet.  I simply don’t know it all, but I’ve experienced freedom and an appreciation for grace as never before.  I regret my strong involvement in HRM, but I know God can use all things for His glory if we let Him.

People who have never been in captivity may not be able to understand freedom or may not fight for it, but those who have been in bondage appreciate and fight for their freedom all the more.  And I have that freedom in Christ.  I’m learning what grace looks like practically both for my own life, in raising my children, and in dealing with other believers.

I have no idea what my future will look like or God’s purposes in my life.  But I keep trusting that “He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).

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Again, many thanks to J. for your testimony.  My prayer for you is this:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (From Ephesians 3)

If you’re someone in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the other testimonies on the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

-JGIG

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Other articles of interest:

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Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ!

It is with a grateful heart that I’ve received yet another testimony.  This one like so many others, came via an email, and is a great blessing to me and to others who contend for the Gospel in the arena with those who pursue Torah.  Many thanks to Mark Smith for the following.  Mark’s story is about coming out of the Worldwide Church of God, from which the Hebrew Roots Movement draws much of its doctrine. 

This testimony will also appear on the Testimonies Page here at JGIG.

If you have a testimony you’d like to share about coming out of the Hebrew Roots Movement (or a variation of the HRM), please email me at joyfullygrowingingrace at gmail dot com.  From talking to those who have come out of Law-keeping sects, I understand that it can be a difficult thing to write about the experience.  Many thanks to those who have been willing to take the time and effort to contribute here.

Keep ‘em coming!  Testimonies are a powerful witness to the Gospel of Christ!  Thank you!

Every blessing, -JGIG

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Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ!

by Mark Smith

The following is my testimonial of 18 long years in the Worldwide Church of God (HRM) Cult founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.  For more information on the founder and this cult, simply do some research on Google for more details and the history of the WCG cult.  [Exit and Support Network is a great resource. – jgig]

My father heard the founder’s convincing message in 1964 when I was 3 years old and converted wholeheartedly – my mother went along out of love for my father.  From the age of 3 years old to 21, I was indoctrinated in following and observing all of the old covenant teachings of the Torah/Mosaic law, the holy days and feast days, the Sabbath, plus extra biblical doctrine the founder imposed on us as further bondages and heavy burdens.  As children, we were not allowed to participate in the regular holiday celebrations at school, enjoy birthdays or participate in sports that typically scheduled games on the Sabbath.

While growing up, my father worked hard to support my brothers, sister and I with very little left over after paying income taxes and multiple tithes to the CULT.  For years, my mother would cook simple meals and shop at thrift stores, grow gardens and sew clothes for us to make it – and my father made good money – but gave much of it to support the cult’s “iron-fisted” control to OBEY and PAY!

There was 99 percent law mixed with their exclusive (we have the truth) spin within their doctrine claiming to being the ONLY one with the TRUTH while the rest of the world is lost.  The other 1 percent was teaching on the work of Jesus Christ and His suffering on the cross for our sins which was quickly diminished and perverted by the other 99 percent false doctrine.

Several magazines, books and correspondence courses were the means of being brainwashed and indoctrinated into their (“The”) way of spiritual growth, including fear based manipulation woven into the writings to compel followers into adhering to all the teachings of the founder.  There was the Plain Truth and Good News magazines to pitch to the followers and also to reach out to potential converts on a worldwide scale consisting of modern events, news, prophecy and God’s kingdom to come.

Problem was, there was NO emphasis about salvation in Jesus Christ.

Scripture they used to support the doctrines found in their publications were (TYPICAL OF A CULT) used out of context – and can be clearly discerned and recognized once you DO know the truth that reveals the errant false teachings!  Sin and scandals were common among members including leadership as well as the founder which demonstrated to me that their moral benchmark for godly living was skewed by legalism – NOT having the Holy Spirit moving through TRULY converted people demonstrating the power of the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ.

Their basis for conversion was the required reading of two NON biblical books written by the founder and then water baptism.  Keeping the Torah’s dietary laws and paying first, second and third tithes filled the cult’s vaults and fueled the propagation of their doctrine worldwide as well as funding a luxurious lifestyle for the founder.  The pastors, deacons and so-called evangelists, did NOT reach people with the “true love of God” but infused control and manipulation that came from the very top – the founder.

The works-based righteousness that I and others tried to walk-in produced the fruit of SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS and a pious, pride-filled life.  Looking back at the fruit of people’s lives, it was clear that the Spirit-filled life of love, joy, peace, patience – etc… was null or void of the fruit that IS evident in a converted person demonstrating the love for God and others.

Falling away or leaving the cult equaled a one-way ticket to the eternal lake of fire.  Powerful, manipulative preaching kept (me) the followers/members in fear and awe that their teaching was OF GOD and somehow anointed.  Once you were a member, you were ensured of salvation within the chosen group of God’s elect, or FACE THE LAKE OF FIRE!!

The real kicker is… their version of the Gospel was what they call the “Good News” – the kingdom of God during the 1000 year millennium to come and that we would all be small gods occupying our own planets – kind of like what the Mormons believe.  Yes, the kingdom of God will be an awesome time, but the cult’s primary focus and doctrine of the kingdom is front and center OVER and above the gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior first… AND His kingdom to come!

Truth is, I don’t remember hearing TRUE solid and sound evangelism about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that would be centered on His redemptive work and the gift of salvation and eternal life through Him!

I left the cult in 1983 after suffering serious emotional and mental anguish about whether I should continue to live under that cults heavy hand or leave since my heart was no longer in remaining as a member.  Fact is I WAS FED UP, and even though I felt that I was condemned at the same time for leaving, I left out of feeling a need to save and salvage my sanity!

Before leaving though, I asked for counseling with my (cult) pastor, who then proceeded to bash me loudly and harshly about being emotional and showed zero compassion and love.  That was all I needed to make my final beeline for the exit door out of that cult once and for all in 1983.

However, my mother went along with it all those years from 1964 until she was fed up and then divorced my father in 1988.  Six years later, in 1994, my father committed suicide due to a complete breakdown from guilt and failure of losing a marriage, and felt like he failed his children, including feeling he was a failure in that cult as a deacon.  His death was extremely heart-breaking to us all… however we felt compassion on our dear dad who was caught in the destructive teachings of a cult.

I don’t remember any of us (my siblings and myself) condemning our father for our childhood… that’s because we know our dad did the best that he thought he could.

My brothers and sister came out of it shortly after I did.  I guess you could say I paved the way to coming out of the cult after many lost years under mind control and manipulation.  My mother drank herself to death in 2009.  My younger sister is not a believer, my younger brother moves all around the country as a vagabond, and my other brother who was a year and half younger is now gone; he died in 2006 from cancer.

I pray for my two remaining siblings that the Lord would reveal to them His Gospel having mercy and grace on them as He did with me.

Several years later, the Lord brought the gospel to me through coworkers and others in the public (thank God for people not afraid to share Christ), yet I vowed never to listen to any man again, but wanted to hear from GOD and GOD only what the truth was.  In August of 1996, I was searching for something to listen to on the radio and heard a man preaching and can’t remember who it was since it was a Christian station with many different teachers and ministers.  I broke my vow to not listen to any man and knew that I just had to keep listening to a new message (the gospel) that spoke to my heart.

Little did I know it was the Holy Spirit drawing me to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, our salvation and the forgiveness of sins that weighed so heavy on me!

After strong conviction from the Holy Spirit regarding my past and present sins, I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and experienced the NEW BIRTH, and started reading the New Testament learning about OUR SAVIOR, about faith, mercy, grace, redemption, sanctification, justification, fruit of the Spirit, love fulfilling the law, Christian living, eternal life to come, Revelation and the Kingdom of God, the message of the Old Testament and the Messianic line along with prophecies of Jesus and so much more!

Now fast forward to the present at 51 years old…

I praise God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for His glorious love, mercy and grace upon those of us who receive Him and his Word by faith, revealing the wonderful promises to come – from everlasting to everlasting!

Unfortunately, there are several men online that have persevered [known as ‘splinter groups’ – info available at link provided above] and are pitching the teachings of the cult I grew up in.  THEY ARE MISSING the mark big time leading people into bondage.

As the days are growing more troublesome globally, the Lord has laid it on my heart to reach the lost with the (TRUE) message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I thank God for the TRUE warriors in the faith that are battling against and exposing the lies of false prophets and teachers that are everywhere.

Even though I would love to battle solely against cults and false teaching, I can do MORE damage against the evil one and false teaching by SOLELY focusing on preaching the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ which the evil one hates more than anything!

If you are reading this testimony about my life in a Hebrew Roots/Messianic-type cult and don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior… repent and turn to Him, calling out to Him in His name “LORD and Savior Jesus Christ” and believe that He died for our (your) sins, was buried and rose from the dead three days later.

If you’d like someone to pray with you about receiving Jesus Christ, contact the author of this site, or feel free to comment on this testimony.

After receiving Jesus Christ by faith, you will receive the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit and He will reveal to you the truth in His Holy Scriptures about the Godhead – who our Father in heaven is, who His Son Jesus Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is and MORE.  Read the New Testament books to learn about Jesus Christ… the gospel of John is a great place to start and read the other gospel books about Jesus.  Read the rest of the New Testament to understand the wonderful truths of Him and His Word.

I believe the Old Testament is best understood after you receive Christ as your Savior where you will become a new creation in Christ through the regeneration power of the Holy Spirit that will open up your spiritual eyes of understanding for His Word and the entire biblical message of God’s salvation plan for humanity.

Thank you Lord GOD of heaven and earth for this website and your glorious Truth and promises.

Love in Christ our Lord,

Mark Smith
markbsmith7@yahoo.com

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Other Testimonies at JGIG:

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Other articles of interest:

For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Being a Galatian

It is with a grateful heart that I’ve received the following testimony.    From talking to those who have come out of Law-keeping sects, I understand that it can be a difficult thing to write about the experience.  Many thanks to “GirlLuvs2Read” for the following.

This testimony will also appear on the Testimonies Page here at JGIG.

If you have a testimony you’d like to share about coming out of the Hebrew Roots Movement (or a variation of the HRM), please email me at joyfullygrowingingrace@gmail dot com.

Every blessing,
-JGIG

 

Being a Galatian

by “GirlLuvs2Read”

One of the frustrating things I have learned about life is that you can be sincere in your convictions, and still be wrong. I have also learned that God’s grace will not let us go, even after we’ve strayed. He is always willing to leave the 99 others, and come get us. When I entered the Hebrew Roots/Torah Observant (HR/TO) movement, I got to experience this first hand.

I had struggled for years with various sicknesses, searching books, articles, and the internet for home remedies and cures, after doctors had not been able to help me. One night I was up watching TV, and a talk show host had a woman on her show promoting the health benefits of the raw food diet. It’s not really a diet, but more of a lifestyle of only eating raw fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. Imagine a vegan diet, only all uncooked. It was extreme, but many people had supposedly been cured of various health problems as a result of choosing to only eat raw foods, so it was worth a try. I gave away all of my food that required cooking, and began eating basically only salads, fruit, and nuts.

Looking back, I know that this lasted only 3 weeks, but at the time, I was in the frame of mind that this would be my new lifestyle, and I was in it for the long haul. Naturally my friends and family were concerned, but more so my family. I’m already pretty skinny, and my family foresaw that my removing meat and grains from my diet would cause me to lose weight, and be unhealthy in general. They were right. When I have my convictions about something, I can be relentlessly stubborn, until my convictions on the matter genuinely change. I had books and experts who backed up my claims that the raw food diet was not only the healthiest, but also most biblical choice. After all, in the beginning, what did Adam and Eve eat?

A friend of mine from the young adults ministry at my church lovingly challenged me to consider that my viewpoint was on the extreme side, and reminded me of the wisdom in being balanced. She recommended that I consult scripture to see what God actually said about food. If eating cooked food was immoral and unhealthy, surely God would have had something to say about it. So I went through the bible with my concordance to see what it said about food, meat, cooking, and so on. Whatever the bible said, is what I would take as truth. What I found was that, yes, originally Adam and Eve ate only fruits and vegetables, but later God allowed them to eat meat and grains. And of course, they were cooked, as they were forbidden to eat blood. (It’s not that I didn’t know this beforehand, but it’s interesting how you can conveniently forget to consult the whole counsel of scripture when trying to prove your point.)

Later on, when Moses gave the law to Israel, God had much more to say about what could and could not be eaten. There is also a promise of good health and the removal of diseases to those that follow God’s law, and a promise of punishment and curse to those who do not. Perhaps this was the key that we had all overlooked. Maybe we were all suffering from various diseases because we weren’t following all of the law. As believers we do follow a good portion of the law, but we completely ignore God’s commands regarding food. Maybe we were wrong after all. Maybe this was something God cared about.

I sought to research the possibility that there was wisdom in following God’s law in its entirety, including the parts about food. I found myself on Amazon.com looking for books on biblical eating and the law, and discovered a whole genre of books on Torah observance. The two books I found especially helpful in my quest were “Holy Cow! Does God Care about What We Eat?” and “Restoration: Returning the Torah of God to the Disciples of Jesus” (which I eventually wrote a review of on Amazon). After reading them, I was thoroughly convinced that, even as new covenant believers, Christians did have a responsibility to observe the law, except for the commandments that were absolutely impossible or inappropriate for us to follow (ie, stoning someone for working on the Sabbath).

Along the way I also became a major fan of websites that were a one-stop-shop for all things Torah Observant, especially First Fruits of Zion. These ministries taught that while salvation is received solely by having faith in Jesus, that a lifestyle of righteousness can only be achieved through obeying the law. After all, Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Of course, their definition of “fulfillment” was that Jesus was the fullness or embodiment of the law. Therefore, how could we say we loved him, and disobey his commandments? He even said that if you loved him, you would obey his commands. So goes the logic of the Torah observant movement. In my experience, those who teach such things are precious and sincere believers who are simply trying to teach what they believe to be the true and honorable way of righteous living, even though they’re wrong. At the time, their resources were so dear to me, because I felt I was being reconnected with a part of my faith that I had been deceived out of embracing. And I consumed all of the books and website articles fueled by a desire to learn all that could about the law, so that I could put as much of it into practice as possible.

I began to learn that it was necessary for us to understand the Hebrew culture, idioms, and language, in order for us to truly understand scripture, which in turn made me doubt the accuracy of any mainstream Christian interpretations of scripture, and lose faith in our ability to even understand scripture without the aid of those who are experts on the ins and outs of the Hebrew culture and language. (HR/TO proponents argue that the Greek/Western mindset misinterprets scripture, as it doesn’t understand its context, which has resulted in most in Christendom turning its back on the Torah.) This led me to trust the teachings of those within the TO movement over others because they sought to interpret scripture from the information they received in their studies of Hebrew culture and language. Little did I know, therein laid the problem. Their sources for this information were unbelieving Jewish rabbis and their teachings.

With my beliefs changing so much, I made the decision to leave the church I had been a part of for almost 5 years, and set out on my own. Around the same time, the biblical holidays began to creep up on the calendar, and I found myself, for the first time in search of a place to celebrate Yom Kippur. Surfing around the internet I found a Christian congregation that met on Saturdays in a church in a nearby town, that was very much into celebrating the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith. So I decided to go and spend the holiday there. Much to my relief, although it was a small congregation, it was definitely multicultural, which I was sincerely thankful for. I was picturing myself, not only standing out as a visitor, but also as being the only black person in a crowd of Messianic Jews. Thankfully God saw fit to spare me from what could have been a very awkward situation. The congregation was made up of a small close-knit family of believers that danced together, sang Messianic songs together, and ate potluck lunch together after service.

I stayed with this congregation for about 2 months, until one Saturday during the after service brunch, I overheard, a family that had recently returned from a trip to Malaysia retelling some of the disappointing discoveries they had made regarding the Messianic congregations they had visited while on their trip. Unfortunately some of the congregations were actually embracing the Torah or Old Testament law, and were sincerely doing everything they could to follow its commandments, and were somehow blinded to the fact that the law of Moses was no longer applicable for believers today. Unfortunately the views of this church just weren’t getting it done for me. If I’m going to do something, especially if it involves seeking the Lord, I’m gonna do it all the way. Not half way. It’s either all or nothing. And somehow they were able to justify upholding half of the law, but not all of it. So I left, very distraught over having to break fellowship with friends I had just made, but knowing that it was the right thing to do. I hated the idea of being labeled a church hopper, but the gap in our beliefs would not allow me to sincerely fellowship with them without feeling this thick wall of awkwardness between us. Maybe eventually they would come around.

I left, and decided that while I was in between churches I would listen to sermons online. (Along the way I had discovered some Messianic congregations that were made up of Jews and non-Jews (I have always hated the word Gentiles….), that had websites and archives of their sermons. I have to admit that I truly enjoyed Saturdays by this point. It became a day for me to stop everything and spend a whole day reading the Bible if I wanted to and relaxing, which totally beat spending the day doing chores.

As I began to implement various aspects of the law in my life, my family became very concerned. My dad, who’s not a Christian, thought I was taking my religious beliefs way too far, and my mother, who is a Christian, thought I had wandered away from genuine Christianity. She often tried to talk “sense” into me or to get me to break the Sabbath on purpose, because she didn’t see the value in it. Both of my parents thought I was trying to be Jewish, and as a joke my dad wrapped my birthday presents in Hanukkah themed giftwrap that year (my birthday is in December, so Hanukkah themed paper was plenty available). I did find it a little funny, but I was also kind of hurt. I have great respect for Jewish people and their heritage, but I really wasn’t trying to be Jewish. I was just trying to be a biblical Christian. But no one in my social circle (with the exception of a few mainly non-Christian friends) seemed to really get that.

God eventually did allow some of my mother’s words to sink in to help bring me out of the deception I had wandered into, but it was not before I saw the unhealthy side of the TO/HR movement and its effects on Christians.

The Journey Out
Along the way there were certain aspects of the TO/HR movement that bothered me. Initially it seemed that its proponents taught that Christians had an obligation to follow the written law of the bible, just as Jews did, but that we had no responsibility whatsoever to follow them in observing the oral Torah of the Talmud. This was fine by me because I wanted to be free of the extra biblical traditions of men. But then I found that even the TO/HR proponents were evolving in their understanding of what it meant to be a biblical Christian. They began to see non-Messianic rabbis as “fathers” of the faith whose authority Christians were obligated to come under. They believed that aside from its exclusion of Jesus Christ as savior, that rabbinic Judaism, complete with praying 3 times a day facing Jerusalem, learning and obeying the Talmud, and even delving into mystical practices (Kabbalah) should be an integral part of the Christian’s faith. I actually was able to be deceived by their teachings on prayer. I remember owning a DVD series produced by First Fruits of Zion called Praying in the Spirit, that took the position that praying pre-written prayers from a prayer book 3 times a day facing Jerusalem was the way one prayed “in the spirit” and “without ceasing”. It bothers me now to think about how I used to take mini breaks at work to pray, and actually brought a tiny compass along with me to ensure that I was indeed facing Jerusalem when I did it.

While I was able to be deceived into thinking that praying set prayers according to Jewish tradition was a biblical commandment, I could never buy into the idea that unbelieving Jewish rabbis had a place of spiritual authority over me or other Christians. Wandering into the territory of mystical Judaism and obeying the teachings of the Talmud stood out as being clearly blasphemous to me. What was worse was to hear messages and read articles about how many Christians were beginning to abandon Jesus altogether for Orthodox Judaism, and how we needed to work to prevent this trend from spreading further into the TO Christian community. Somehow people who began studying the Torah and Hebrew idioms and culture out of a sincere love for Jesus, wound up growing farther and farther away from him. One day they were pursuing the “Jewishness of Jesus”, and the next they decided that Jewishness in and of itself was their savior, and that Jesus was merely a deceiver. Unexpected, but the reality none the less.

I found myself utterly disappointed with the HR/TO movement. Here I was thinking I had finally found rest within a movement that adhered to all of the true teachings of the bible, and instead I found people zealous for the vain and destructive teachings of men (men who didn’t even believe that Jesus was their Messiah). I wanted to distance myself from the movement, while holding on to what I felt was true.

While I was having my experience with the HR/TO movement, I was also dealing with another issue that was very frightening and perplexing. I won’t go into the details of what was happening, as that would be a book all on its own. I will suffice it to say that it required me to contact believers who worked in deliverance ministries for their assistance, as neither I nor anyone I knew was equipped to handle it.

The first deliverance minister I contacted, I had discovered through a Messianic (HR/TO) congregation’s website. They had an archive of online sermons you could listen to, and I had heard a few of this brother’s messages. While speaking with him about my issues, he explained to me, among other things, that he and his wife were no longer a part of the Messianic Congregation. He no longer believed the things he had been teaching, and thought the ideas of the HR/TO movement were really just false interpretations of Jewish rabbis.

I was completely shocked, and kind of felt like this man was a traitor. I had believed his messages, and now he no longer did. Not only that, but as I explained to him how I was practicing my faith, he kindly suggested that it was not good for me to be without the fellowship of other believers, listening to online sermons in my room. While no church was perfect, he strongly believed that I would be better off in a church, connected to other Christians, however flawed they may be, than I would be going it alone. I left the conversation feeling somewhat betrayed by this man’s departure from the HR/TO movement to return to mainstream Christianity, but his words left a mark on me.

The strange disturbances persisted, so I contacted another deliverance minister. This one was also a part of the HR/TO movement, but believed that the writings of Paul were evil and untrustworthy because he advised people not to follow the law of the old covenant. Though I actually began to consider this as a possibility, in the end, God was able to use this individual’s perspective to correct my thinking. Up until that time, I had bought into the HR notion that Western interpretations of scripture were unreliable due to their lack of understanding of the Hebrew culture and language. Anything written in the New Testament that seemed to indicate that we were no longer under the law was actually pro-Torah observance. We had just been interpreting those passages incorrectly. Works like The Complete Jewish Bible were able to translate those verses “correctly”, and restore the proper pro-Torah meaning. But this deliverance minister did not believe those arguments for a second. He thought the anti-law message was quite clear, and that there was no mistake about it. Paul preached an end to the law for Gentiles, and I was beginning to see it.

Because months later the problems continued, I contacted my last deliverance ministry. It was a couple in New Jersey, who prayed with me over the phone. They were just “regular” Christians, and before getting to the meat of our conversation they wanted to make sure I was a Christian too. They asked me some standard litmus test questions, one of them being “How do you know you have salvation?” I explained to them that I was confident that I had salvation because I believed that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins and because I obeyed his commandments. That seemed fair enough to them, and having satisfied them with my answer, we moved on. However, there was a major problem. When I said that I obeyed Jesus’ commandments, I wasn’t just talking about righteous living that comes from loving God and loving one another. I was referring to the law. When I heard these words come out of my mouth I realized that my theology was dangerously off course. I now believed I was saved because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and because I obeyed the Mosaic laws.

Then I realized that I no longer truly understood why I needed Jesus at all. If I had the law, and obeying it made me a righteous person, what was Jesus’ role? After speaking to this couple, I noticed that I felt very far away from Jesus. I can’t say I’ve ever felt his presence in a noticeable way, but I certainly felt that there was a distance between us now. How could I, in my desire to love Jesus and obey him, have ended up feeling like we were strangers? Unfortunately my good intentions had not been enough. I found myself, after having been raised in church my whole life, and saved since 6 or 7, now needing to relearn the basics of my faith all over again. Above all, I needed to understand why Jesus came to earth, and why I needed him.

I remember having seen Joseph Prince give messages on his show on Daystar (a Christian TV network). His ministry focused on the grace of God, saved by grace and grace alone, and fully embracing the new covenant. Originally I was against this pastor’s teachings because he rejected the importance of the law, but now his words were exactly what I needed to hear. I began watching his sermons, and purchased his book Destined to Reign. It sounds like the kind of book that focuses on being the best in life and constantly receiving blessings, so initially I wasn’t interested. But it was actually exactly what I needed. It explained the purpose and limitations of the old covenant, why Jesus died on the cross, what he accomplished in doing so, and how the righteous live in the new covenant. This book played an enormous role in correcting my thinking and restoring Jesus to his rightful place in my life, and for that I am extremely thankful.

During this period of relearning my faith I also reread Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and all of the sudden it made so much sense. Galatians was written to people just like me, Gentile Christians who had been deceived into believing they had to obey the law of Moses. When you have lived as a Galatian, Paul’s words really come alive, and speak so clearly to your situation. I thank God that he preserved his letter for us.

Now that my mindset was changed, my lifestyle began to change as well. I allowed myself to eat my favorite foods, even if they were considered unclean or weren’t kosher. I no longer felt the need to celebrate biblical holidays, and allowed myself to do whatever I wanted Friday night and all day Saturday (though I still firmly believe that the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, not Sunday, and that as human beings we do need rest for our physical bodies). I stopped trying to learn about the Jewish mindset on biblical issues, and regained trust in the scholarship behind mainstream bible translations. My Complete Jewish Bible and all those other HR/TO books and resources went in the trash, and I eventually started attending a regular church.

At the end of it all, I had learned many lessons:

  • I saw that when I strayed, God would leave the 99 other sheep, and come and get me, and bring me back to the truth.
  • You can either have the law or Jesus. You cannot mix the old and new covenant. It’s all or nothing.
  • No one alive today can keep the law in full. There is no temple, no Levitical priesthood, and most of us don’t live in Israel, so we cannot live by the law even if we wanted to.
  • Beware of the yeast of the Pharisses! The yeast is their teachings. Today’s unbelieving Jewish rabbis are the religious descendants of the Pharisees. They believe and teach what the Pharisees taught. Their teachings are hostile to the gospel, and will lead believers away from Jesus Christ, even if they have good intentions.
  • The heart of our faith is found in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and faith in him and his message. The gospel is meant to be easily accessible and understood by people of all cultures and languages. Jesus and his blood are the “roots” of the Christian faith, not his culture or the language he spoke. They may be the backdrop of the events of his life, but they can become a major distraction to God himself, if we let them.

The above is an excerpt from my life as a believer. The events took place during 2007 and 2008. Today I cling solely to the new covenant, and generally feel most comfortable fellowshipping in house church settings (though I believe those too have much room for growth).

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Thanks again to “GirlLuvs2Read” for the above contribution.

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Hark! Is That the Gospel I Hear?

‘Tis the season for those of you who have friends and family who are in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism/Netzarim movements or related sects to be hearing from them either why they won’t be celebrating the Birth of Christ and/or why you shouldn’t be. 

I’ve written a couple of posts here at JGIG about why we celebrate the Birth of Christ.  One is entitled, “Christ’s Birth – Why It’s Okay to Celebrate” , and the other, “Celebrating the Birth of Christ – The Reality is Christ . . . . (ya bone-heads) . . . . ”  .  That second one is a bit of a vent after receiving lots of comments that weren’t fit to post because they were so vitriolic.  (It was then that JGIG had to go to moderated comments.)  For a lighter take on a Christmas music classic, check out this post.   

Another wonderful post regarding the celebrating the Birth of Christ from one formerly in the Hebrew Roots Movement is, “A New Relationship With Christmas” , from 8thDay4Life’s blog.  I’ll also provide a list of articles regarding Christmas at the end of this post.

But all that is not why this post is here. 

The reason for this post is about how the Gospel is communicated through so much of the music we hear this time of year.  One of my daughters and I were driving home from a doctor’s appointment the other day, and “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing!” came on the radio.  We had just pulled in to a parking lot to grab a bite to eat on the way home, and I said to her, “Let’s just sit for a minute and listen to the rest of this.”

I knew the Gospel was in there, but, Oh My!  The particular arrangement that was playing was beautifully orchestrated and very well sung.  As I listened, there was no mistaking the Gospel there!  Not only was the Birth of our Saviour celebrated in song, but the Gospel was powerfully communicated there as well. 

There are many, many Christmas songs that also relay the wonder of what God has done through the Incarnation and the work of the Cross and the Resurrection.  Okay, there are some silly songs, too, like “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” and the cultural Santa Claus and Jingle Bells stuff, but I’m thinking that most of us can differentiate between the significance and reality of the two types of songs much as we can between songs like “The Purple People Eater” and Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  I’m just sayin’.

“Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing” was originally written by Charles Wesley (brother of John Wesley) and the work appeared as a poem in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739.  George Whitfield and others ‘punched it up’ a bit into the version we are more familiar with today.  In 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn’s secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.  Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his song  “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”, and in some hymnals, that melody is included along with the more popular version (source).

I found the version on YouTube that we heard the other day on the radio.  I hope you’re as blessed by it and other songs that lift high the Name of Jesus and preach the Gospel that permeate the airwaves now as at no other time of the year.  There are those who come to know Him and follow Him in part through songs such as this:

May you all have a blessed time as we celebrate the Birth of our Saviour, Lord and King, Jesus Christ!  Merry Christmas!

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For some good articles covering the issues of paganism, date setting, and traditions concerning Christmas, click on the following links:

“Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?”

“Are Christian Holidays Pagan in Origin?”

“Should We Have a Christmas Tree?”

“Was Jesus Born on December 25th?”

“Do Some Christmas Traditions Have Pagan Origins?”

“Is Christmas Pagan?”

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