18 Comments

Jews and the Christian Faith..


The quotes below are from a recent article posted at Charisma titled:

When Jews Assimilate Into the Christian Faith

In the early 1970s, a significant number of Jews committed their lives to Yeshua and came to the conviction that they should call themselves Messianic Jews rather than Christians.

There were several reasons for this. One was the history of institutional Christianity and its impact on the Jewish people. From a Jewish perspective, Christianity was a movement of semi-paganism, oppression and anti-Semitism.

In addition, we really wanted to promote the truth that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are still called to identify and live as part of the Jewish people. Romans 11:29 states that the Jewish people are the subjects of an irrevocable election and calling from God. Romans 11:1, 5 identifies Jewish believers in Yeshua as the saved remnant of Israel.

Planting Messianic Jewish congregations was considered a central part of the vision. We also saw Jewish believers in Yeshua living and identifying as Jews as a key to ushering in the last days and the catalyst toward all Israel being saved.

Some of us also understood how important it was at the same time to live out the truth that we are one with the body of believers as a whole. This was somewhat controversial since we were the only movement that professed oneness with the body of the Messiah that did not use the word Christian as our self-designation.

The history of the last 35 years has been one of great gains in the Messianic Jewish movement; hundreds of congregations have been planted in the United States, hundreds more in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine and about a hundred in Israel along with scattered congregations in South America, Africa, and Australia. All these grew from a mere handful of congregations before 1975.

The Present Situation

Today we still find that the great majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua are in Christian churches and identify themselves as Christians.

In addition, this great majority is not living a Jewish life and is often strongly resistant to the Messianic Jewish call. They and their children are assimilating into the Gentile world and do not strengthen the saved remnant of Israel. They are, instead, weakening the numbers of the Jewish people.

On one occasion I spoke to a Jewish missions leader who recommended church membership to Jewish Yeshua-believers. He was totally blind to the diminishing of Israel/Jewry that was taking place. Assimilation was not a problem for him. I pointed out to him that if it were not for assimilation, there would be hundreds of millions of Jews today.

Are we willing to lose what may amount to hundreds of thousands of Jews in churches who are assimilating? (There are of course exceptions, and there are some examples of Jews in churches committed to Jewish life.) Is there a mission to them, something that can be done to recover them and their children to be part of our people?

The message of the Jewish calling proclaimed by Messianic Jews is a threat to assimilating Jewish Christians who perceive it as a message that rejects their experience and commitment to the Christian churches.

Pastors are also threatened; they think that if their Jewish members accept this message, they will lose them. Many of these Jewish Christians have had a positive experience in the churches. They enjoy and appreciate the Christian heritage, much of which is worthy to be appreciated! In addition, many were won to Yeshua through the powerful witness of Christian friends. Modern Jews have many more contacts with Christians than with Messianic Jews. If these Christians display the reality of Yeshua in their lives, it is natural that these Jews follow them to their churches.

The Answer: A Mega-Shift in Church Leadership

I am convinced that the answer is a shift in the pastoral leadership of the churches. Church leaders must adopt a doctrinal foundation that insists that their Jewish members identify and live as Jews.

(Author Kendall) Soulen approvingly quotes Jewish Orthodox theologian Michael Wyschogrod, who argues that we will not see full repentance for anti-Semitism in churches until the pastors of the churches teach their baptized Jewish members that they are called to live Jewish lives based in the Torah.

I have recently been in contact with four Jewish pastors of large Christian churches who have come to the conviction that this is true. They have embraced their own Jewish identity and are now seeking to engage their Jewish Christian members to join them in creating space for Jewish identity, Jewish life patterns and celebrations while at the same time embracing the culture of Christianity for the majority of the members.

It is far too early to judge this, but what might happen if it became a trend? Let us dream! What if, from such an orientation, there were more and more Jews in churches who identified as Messianic Jews and who joined together in Messianic Jewish fellowship groups connected to the churches and also connected to the Messianic Jewish synagogues?

I for one am not willing to abandon the assimilating Jewish Christians in the churches and see them lost to the Jewish people..

Full article

I have some thoughts on this, but would like to hear from you…

Does the word of God address this?

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18 comments on “Jews and the Christian Faith..

  1. Quite a number of things come to mind when reading this article, but I’ll start with these two paragraphs which I immediately found to be disturbing:

    “Today we still find that the great majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua are in Christian churches and identify themselves as Christians.

    In addition, this great majority is not living a Jewish life and is often strongly resistant to the Messianic Jewish call. They and their children are assimilating into the Gentile world and do not strengthen the saved remnant of Israel. They are, instead, weakening the numbers of the Jewish people.”

    Where to begin? What does the author mean by the phrase “the Gentile world”? The Church? Does he honestly have a problem with believers who happen to be ethnically Jewish assimilating into the Church? His main concern seems to be the preservation of one race, the Jewish race.

    He says that assimilated believers are not strengthening “the saved remnant of Israel.” How can this be when “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” and “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8)?

    According to Scripture, any Jew or Gentile who believes would strengthen true Israel. At the risk of being misunderstood for what I’m about to say, I’m afraid that this author is only concerned with building false Israel and has little if any concern for true Israel (the body of Christ).

    There is no Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). There is one people of God, the body of Christ (I Peter 2:4-10, Ephesians 2:11-22), not ethnic Jews (Romans 9:6-8; Revelation 2:9, 3:9). Also, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

    Not only is this author creating such a distinction, but he is also trying hard to rebuild the wall of separation that Jesus broke down between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14-18). He makes a clear distinction between Christians and Messianic Jews, and says that the latter group is “called to live Jewish lives based in the Torah.” Very, very sad.

    The author asks, “Are we willing to lose what may amount to hundreds of thousands of Jews in churches who are assimilating?” How are believers of Jewish ethnicity lost in any sense if they belong to the one and only “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession” (I Peter 2:9)?

    • Well Adam, you brought up many of the same issues i had with the article.

      What it boils down to was what you said here:

      Not only is this author creating such a distinction, but he is also trying hard to rebuild the wall of separation that Jesus broke down between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14-18). He makes a clear distinction between Christians and Messianic Jews…..

      Exactly.

      Do you know if Messianic groups are predominantly dispensationalists? I keep thinking i read once that they are. If so, it would help to explain why they see themselves as needing to be separate from the Church.

    • “Do you know if Messianic groups are predominantly dispensationalists?” PJ, that’s a good question, but I don’t know the answer for sure. It would make sense if they were. One Messianic Jewish leader, Marshall Beeber, seems to make such an association:

      QUOTE: “In the nineteenth century a theological revolution called ‘Dispensationalism’ rightly outlined the ‘Biblical Historical Perspective’, thereby giving mankind a clearer picture of how God has provided and continues to provide salvation to man throughout history. By acknowledgement of this perspective, an accord between Hebrew Old Covenant and New Covenant prophecy was forged, sweeping away many of the contradictions that divided Christian and Orthodox Jewish prophetic viewpoints. Dispensationalists became God’s instrument of change in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, leading the way in promoting the support of the establishment of the state of Israel and bringing to light the prophetic signposts for the ‘End of this Age’.”

      The rest of this article seems to make a false distinction, though, between dispensationalists and Charismatics. Maybe the author only read John MacArthur’s material? (MacArthur, from what I understand, is both a dispensationalist and a cessationist.)

      Source: http://www.messianic-literary.com/charismatic.htm

      A different answer to your question can be found at this Messianic Jewish source, though:

      http://www.messianicjewish.net/aboutmj_christian.shtml#question6

      There the question is asked: “What theology do Messianic Jews follow–Covenant Theology or Dispensational Theology?” The answer is as follows:

      “Although some Messianic Jews follow one of these two theologies, many do not. Messianic Judaism has its own theology, of sorts, which extracts truths from both of these theologies.”

      Wikipedia says that some Messianic Jews hold to dispensationalism, and others hold to “Olive Tree Theology” (whatever that is).

      Do you think that Premillennialism has anything to do with the growing popularity of the Messianic Jewish movement (as set apart from “mainstream Christianity”)? Whenever I’ve heard the Premillennialist viewpoint articulated, I’m always given the impression that Jewish culture and practices will reign triumphant during a future Millennium period in which Christ will physically rule from the city of Jerusalem. So I’m wondering if the thinking goes something like this: Since Jewish culture will soon be held up as superior during the Millennium, which is just around the corner, we should start getting used to this now…

      Or does historic premillennialism say otherwise, and maybe I haven’t heard enough from that position? Just thinking aloud…

  2. There might be issues with Christian congregations “forcing” their Jewish-messianic members away from living under the law for God’s glory (which is addressed in the epistles: don’t), but this does not seem to be the concern of the author.

    The concern in that article seems to be mostly about the number of self-identifying Jews. While that might seem intimidating on potential future Messianic Jews (“they’re assimilating us if we follow Yeshua”), I’ve seen far too many such pleasing-people-into-the-church strategies fail to consider them.

    People – including Jews – should be free to choose the traditions they want to follow. That requires the presence of Messianic congregations, but how would coercion of people into one framework or the other help?

    We’re called to freedom, after all.

    • People – including Jews – should be free to choose the traditions they want to follow.

      PG, i believe we need to be careful about traditions, mainly because some of them are man made.

      Anyway, i didn’t get that from the article; it read to me like the author believes for Jewish believers to retain their ‘Jewish-ness’ they need to disengage themselves from the Church, and be separate.

      We don’t see this with any other ethnic group, in which they fear losing their ethnicity because they become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ.

  3. I do not see any big deal here.

    What is the issue? What is the main or major issue with Christ and Him building His Church from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue and they do not lose their ethnical outward identity?

    We read about ethnical identity in the book of the Revelation. We also see from the great Council of Jerusalem, Acts 15, the issue was not one’s ethnical “identity” being required to adhere to one ethnical culture or another but rather that the Gospel was adhered to and followed by all ethnicities.

    The Peterine sect, as I will call them, were the Jews scattered throughout the known world.

    The Pauline sect, as I will call them, were the other “ethnical” groups where we still find Jewish conclaves presently.

    Leave the Jews converting to Biblical Christianity alone. Leave the Ethnical Gentiles converting to Biblical Christianity alone.

    I refer to one verse:

    Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

    What and Who makes you “Christian” or Christ like? God, Our Heavenly Father through Christ by “One” Spirit.

    Remember that He, the Spirit of Grace and Truth, has been here from the beginning. Refer to Genesis 1:2.

    There is a phenomenon going on among Native Americans across the USA. A lot of them are coming back to the Reservations and assimulating back into “hard core” Indianess and reflecting personal Tribal outward identity.

    You can gather with Native Americans from around the country at one location and just by looking at their dress you can know from which Tribe they are. Are they anyless Americans?

    There is also another phenomenon I would point too that comes close to what Paul the Apostle, a Jew, who was sent to the Gentile nations, touches on in the Book of Romans.

    Around the central northern part of the state of California near Clear Lake in Lake County, you can see groves and groves of walnuts. What is interesting about these trees is from the stump down you have one species of walnut that is quite different than from that point up. What they do with the seedling tree is cut the top half off and graft the top have of another species of walnut to it and then plant it. In effect you have two species of tree grafted together to produce the walnuts. The one species has a much stronger root structure and can easily support the other walnut species which has a larger top end branch structure. The combine the two to make this one kind of tree that produces more fruit. The one without the other doesn’t produce nearly the fruit as when they are united together.

    Everyone must be “cut” off from their species or their original roots, i.e. the Adamic nature and then be grafted into the True Tree of Life to bear the fruit of Life in this life. So it is with Jews and Gentiles, alike, we must all be cut off from the root source of our personal human natures so that we can be grafted into that Divine Root Source, the Holy Spirit, by the Gospel of the Kingdom, Who is Jesus Christ to become the Sons and Daughters of the Heavenly Kingdom of Our Heavenly Father..

    One of the most brilliant verses for me that captures this sense are these:

    Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
    Rev 22:2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
    Rev 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
    Rev 22:4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
    Rev 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
    Rev 22:6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
    Rev 22:7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

    Jew and Gentile alike must be cut off from their personal natural life so as to be grafted into that Spiritual Life of Christ by One Spirit thus having access to the Father’s Heavenly Life.

    Once one is born again, as Peter teaches, one is now connected to that Living Hope while remaining in this life living for the Glory of God.

    Mat 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
    Mat 7:16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
    Mat 7:17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
    Mat 7:18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
    Mat 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
    Mat 7:20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
    Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    God doesn’t make “losing” your ethnical identity a major part of your Salvation in the world. He makes your death by baptism and then burial and then conjoining you to Christ in the Resurrection and the Life the major issue for your Salvation into Christianity in this world.

    It is that “internal” new creature in Christ that becomes the major identifier, not whether or not you adhere to your ethnic identity.

    If the root is Holy, so the fruit of the Tree will equally bear the same fruit of Holiness.

    Rev 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
    Rev 5:7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
    Rev 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
    Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
    Rev 5:10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

    Well, that’s my story and I am gunna stick to it! 🙂

    • What is the issue? What is the main or major issue with Christ and Him building His Church from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue and they do not lose their ethnical outward identity?

      If an issue is to be seen Michael, its not a matter of Christ building his body from every tongue, nation, and race; its that there are those, like the author, who feel that one ethnic group [the believing Jews] need to be separate from the Church to preserve or retain their Jewish-ness.

      Is this part of the new covenant?…is it biblical?

  4. I would take issue with the starting point which seems to be embodied in the sentence:

    “If we do not live as part of our people, we are not showing ourselves as the saved remnant that sanctifies the whole.”

    I don’t believe any group can “sanctify the whole”. Jewish believers are people – end of. We have all fallen short and we are in Jesus new creations.

    I delved a bit into the two other people he mentions:

    http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3085

    This idea seems to be reflected here aswell:

    “The covenant between God and Israel depicts a drawing together of God and Israel. In some sense it can also be said to involve a certain indwelling of God in the people of Israel whose status as a holy people may be said to derive from this indwelling. Understood in this sense the divinity of Jesus is not radically different – though perhaps more concentrated – than the holiness of the Jewish people.”

    It certainly seems as if he is advocating a division and one which is not an equal division but elevates Messianic believers above gentile believers. And to “insist” that pastors enforce that division is unbelievable really.

    Hope I’m making sense. No theologian but I found it interesting.

    • Yes, you’re making sense 🙂

      It certainly seems as if he is advocating a division and one which is not an equal division but elevates Messianic believers above gentile believers. And to “insist” that pastors enforce that division is unbelievable really.

      It does appear that way. [i read at the link also]

      This was why i asked Adam if he knew if most Messianic believers followed dispensationalism. It sounds like they do, if this article is any indication. The division (or staying separate) you pointed out, was [and is still] one of the beliefs held by ultra-dispensationalists and by the majority of Christian zioinists today.

  5. Just a very quick response from me.

    God made a covenant with Israel (ie the Jewish people) at Sinai. That covenant continues today – aspects of it are changed because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but nevertheless it still applies. That covenant is expressed by the Jewish way of life – for example keeping the sabbath (saturday) and celebrating the biblical feasts. To do this you have to be part of a Jewish community because it needs like minded people. It’s basically incompatible with following Jesus within a church context.

    (By the way, this has nothing to do with trying to earn salvation by keeping Torah (which is obviously wrong) – it’s about being obedient to your calling as a Jew by doing the things God has given you as signs of the covenant)

  6. Anastasis you are wrong.

    God has no covenant with anyone based solely on bloodline. The Jewish “way of life” does not keep one in covenant with God. Keeping a Saturday sabbath is an attempt to justify oneself by the law. Paul said if you seek justification by the law you are fallen from grace. Christ is the END OF THE LAW to all who believe

    True Jews are those who receive the promise of Christ by faith. There are no others.

    God has promised to save a remnant of those with Jewish blood but He is not going to bring them into the kingdom by going back to the old covenant. They must come through the cross the same way we gentiles come. The old covenant is obsolete – it is passed away

    For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God. Rom 2:28-29

  7. Wikipedia says that some Messianic Jews hold to dispensationalism, and others hold to “Olive Tree Theology” (whatever that is).

    If im correct its sort of similar to what many non-Jews practice, who are deeply involved in the hebrew roots movement:

    -See, The Hebrew Roots Movement (Yahweh, Sacred-Name, & Concision)

    (by the way, a group of folks in my church have recently become caught up into this, and it is tearing the church apart)

    from messiah yeshua blogspot:

    So what Theology do we adhere to? The Olive Tree Theology. This view is well stated in David Sterns Messianic Manifesto.

    http://messiahyeshua.blogspot.com/2008/02/olive-tree-theology-when-people-discuss.html

    David Stern, i know the name. In fact i own a copy of the ‘Jewish New Testament, Commentary’ written by Stern. A friend sent it to me a few years ago.

    This is probably where i got the idea that most Messianic believers are dispensationalists.

    Concerning Stern and his Olive Tree theology,

    This is also from Messianic Literary Corner:

    The greatest threat to the Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) Movement in the 21st Century is the de-spiritualization of it’s ranks by legalism in the form of mandatory Torah observance. I believe the reason why the “gospel of grace” was overtaken by “Torah observant legalism”, is due to a spirit of unbiblical compromise and conformation to a false spirit of religiosity among Messianic Jewish leaders. To make the situation worse, grace oriented Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) leaders have themselves been polarized by various secondary issues. To reverse the stemming tide of legalism before the entire movement is lost, we must put aside our differences and work together for the common goal of the gospel.

    To combat these false spirits, believers who know the true gospel of grace must pray continuously for the Spirit to shake off the complacency that has permitted this error to perpetuate itself. Believers opposing legalism must not only be doctrinally correct, but they must also be empowered by the Spirit to convince those in error to change. Let me take some time to explain why legalism in the form of strict Torah Observance has successfully overtaken the correct doctrine of Grace and how Grace oriented Messianic Judaism can regain the hearts and minds of believers.

    The Messianic Jewish Movement grew out of rebellion against Protestant Christian missionary programs which did not understand the needs of Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) believers. Doctrine was oriented towards grace, with oversight that would prevent believers from professing and teaching Torah observance. Such programs only perpetuated a “second class” Hebrew Christian citizenry within the Church, causing worshippers to mistrust their leadership. In the late 70s through the 80s the Messianic Jewish movement teaching in most congregations was still largely Grace oriented, accompanied with some Torah observance. This form of worship and daily practice still remained true to New Covenant standards and gave worshippers the freedom to express their Jewishness.

    In the mid-90’s David Stern’s revolutionary book , “The Messianic Jewish Manifesto” started turning belief towards strict Torah Observance.

    I believe that Stern’s intent was that of dismantling the “Pauline” teachings of Grace, to revert back to the Law.

    He and other supportive Messianic Jews resented the teachings of Grace having supremacy over Torah. He therefore intentionally rebelled against New Covenant doctrine believing that Jews would not accept any Gospel except one that was totally Torah observant. In doing this, he and other supportive teachers adopted a dangerously heretical course. more here

    The mention of rebelling against the new covenant teachings, is interesting..for this is what i see as an underlying factor in the author’s article at Charisma. This desire to be separate from the new covenant Church, so as to maintain “Jewish-ness” seems to me to be a desire to straddle the fence between the old and new covenant.

    (hope that made sense!)

    • I have Stern’s Messianic Jewish Manifesto, and it’s dated 1988, not “mid 1990s”. I don’t have his NT commentary but I’ve never read anything dispensationalist into his ideas.

      As far as I know, the vast majority of messianics are not dispensationalists. The exception is Arnold Fruchtenbaum and his followers, but they’re not a large group and they’re not influential within the messianic movement.

      I have never heard of Marshall Beeber, author of the main article you quoted, but again, he is not associated with the mainstream messianic jewish movement and his views aren’t representative.

      On the subject of Torah observance, recent messianic theology is coming to similar views as some theologians associated with the New Perspective on Paul. It’s increasingly felt that the law-grace conflict isn’t the right model, and the traditional view of Judaism as being a works-based religion may be a historical misunderstanding. Keeping the law (Torah) was seen not as a means to justification with God, but as visible signs (the term “identity badges” is sometimes used) of the covenent God made with Israel.

    • Yes, PJ, that made sense. Thanks for the additional and insightful information. It does seem that in the Messianic Jewish movement, there is a rebellion against (and a rejection of) the New Covenant. That’s serious business, and it’s very sad.

      The title “Messianic” then becomes a misnomer. For the Messiah’s very purpose in coming to earth was to inaugurate the New Covenant.

  8. I appreciate all the scripture given in this post. I would like to add the following:

    I am a member of a One New Man congregation where Jew and Gentile come together to worship Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. We honor and love wholeheartedly the God of Israel…the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and operate in the gifts of the Spirit by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit).

    Jesus did not come to “start” a new “religion” called Christianity…He came as a Jew. He came as the Savior of the world…where all could have access to the Father through Him by faith.

    The true Jew is one whose heart has been made right by God.

    Isn’t being called HIS CHILD enough?

  9. I was just thinking about the title of this piece, which makes certain assumptions. Did God ever intend for this thing called “Christianity” to be invented? Jesus came not to abolish, but to fulfil the law, and all the early disciples continued to live and worship as Jews. Yes, their faith was transformed by the knowledge that the messiah had come, but it was still the same faith. And when the gospel spread to non-Jews, they became gentile followers of the God of Israel.

    I am not at all convinced that the division we see today between Christianity and Judaism is part of God’s plan. And it has particular implications for Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus, which is why Juster argues as he does.

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