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Monday, September 5, 2011

Must a Christian be a Disciple?

Joseph Herrin (09-05-2011)

I believe the early apostles would be quite amazed to find that the teachings of Christ have been so altered in the centuries since the church was birthed that the terms Christian and disciple have been divorced from one another. A false mindset has been propagated throughout Christendom. People are told that Christ came to die for their sins and that they need to believe and confess their faith in His atoning work. Yet, any mention of committing to a new paradigm where Christ directs the course of one’s life is omitted, or left for a later time. If the call to discipleship is ever brought up, it is often presented as optional.

As the previous post declared, Christ only gave one invitation. He invited men and women to be His disciples by taking up THEIR cross and following Him. He presented no second option where a person could confess Him, but remain in a self-directed life. Indeed, Yahshua reproached people for acting hypocritically by calling Him “Lord” when they were not living to do His will and pleasure.

Luke 6:46
"Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?”

Yahshua did not actually repeat the word translated as “Lord” twice as it is recorded above. In the Greek language in which the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament exist, a word is repeated to denote emphasis. Repeating a word was the equivalent of putting an exclamation point after it, or putting it in bold type. Christ was saying, “Why do you call me ‘LORD!’ and do not do what I say?”

This question, posed by Christ, has at no time been more appropriately asked than at present. Multitudes of people have been introduced to Christian belief apart from any emphasis on the need to adopt Christ as the Head and Ruler of their life. These same ones accept Yahshua as Savior, eagerly embracing His atoning work on the cross of Calvary, but placing their lives wholly at Christ’s disposal to be lived as He would choose is omitted.

One of the plainest Biblical witnesses of Christ’s call to discipleship is found in His last words to His followers before He ascended into heaven. It is in that passage that is referred to as “The Great Commission.”

Matthew 28:18-20
And Yahshua came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

The Great Commission spoken by Yahshua was not to “go and make Christians,” nor to “make confessors.” The commission was to “make disciples.” We need not wrangle over what is implied in the use of the word “disciple,” for Christ clearly defined what He intended by the use of this word.

Matthew 10:24-25
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master.”

Yahshua reveals that the goal of a disciple is “that he become like his teacher.” He also links the relationship between a disciple and his teacher to that of a servant (or slave) with his master. There is a very defined authority structure. A slave must obey his master. A slave lives to do the will and pleasure of the one to whom he belongs. Even as slaves existed in the Roman Empire, and were bought and became the property of their masters, so too has Christ purchased all those who come to Him for salvation.

I Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price...

Acts 20:28
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

II Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denyingthe Master who bought them...

Revelation 5:9
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

This truth of men being “purchased” by Christ is proclaimed extensively throughout the New Testament. Christians are not merely people joining a club, nor are they acolytes who embrace a particular form of belief or teaching. The entrance into the Kingdom of God is only through the blood of Christ. All who enter through His blood become the property of Christ, being bought with an exceedingly high price.

I Peter 1:18-19
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

That all who receive salvation in Christ must become Yahshua’s servants is not unjust. Christ has taken men and women who were dead in their sins, and He has made them alive. This transfer from death unto life came at an exceptionally high price. Christ accepted death that He might give life to others. Is it not just that He would require all those who receive His life to surrender that life to be lived as He directs? After all, the life we have in Christ is not our own. Apart from receiving Christ’s life, we would be spiritually dead and separated from the kingdom of God. We would be lost and condemned in our trespasses and sin.

Consider how the church has cheapened this great gift that the Son of God has given to mankind. The church wants to be made alive in Christ, but they do not want to give their lives to Christ. They want salvation without sacrifice. The church wants the riches that are found only in Yahshua the Messiah, but they do not want to live the same life of devotion to the will and pleasure of the Father that He lived. The vast majority of Christians today wish to remain living the life of their own choosing, a self-focused pursuit of personal fulfillment and pleasure, while adding the benefits of Christ to their goody basket. Christ never offered salvation on these terms.

Matthew 16:25-26
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Yahweh has given us many ways to visualize the salvation that He offers to mankind. The grandest similitude found anywhere in Scripture is in the epic history of Yahweh delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt. In this event we see both the atoning work of Christ in the blood of the Passover lamb placed on the doors of the homes of those dwelling in Goshen, and we also see the IMMEDIATE call to FOLLOW wherever God would lead.

Exodus 12:11
“Now you shall eat [the Passover meal] in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste - it is Yahweh’s Passover.”

The events of this first Passover Feast serve as a type and shadow of those things to be fulfilled in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

I Corinthians 5:7
For Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed...

As the Israelites ate that first Passover meal 1,500 years prior to the birth of Christ, they were acting out in type the salvation that Yahweh would one day provide for all mankind. Yahweh would send forth His Son as the Passover Lamb to be sacrificed that man might be “passed over” by death. The Lamb of God was slain that mankind might live.

God instructed the Israelites to take a year old male lamb without spot or blemish, and to bring it into their homes. The lamb was to dwell with them for four days, and afterward it was to be slain and the blood put on the doorposts and lintel of the home. The death angel was to visit Egypt that same night. Wherever he saw the blood on the door he would pass over and no one inside would die. In every house where there was no blood, the firstborn males would die.

This aspect of salvation has been embraced by the church today. The church proclaims the death of Christ as a substitution for mankind. The Son of God died that men might live before God. Yet, this is not all that occurred on that first Passover. There was much more.

The Israelites were instructed to not only place the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorways, they were also commanded to eat the lamb and be ready to travel.

Exodus 12:8-11
“They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste - it is Yahweh’s Passover.”

What do these things symbolize? The unleavened bread and bitter herbs, along with the Passover Lamb, were all types and shadows of Christ. The unleavened bread represents Christ’s sinless life. The bitter herbs symbolize that the life of Christ was very bitter. He was “a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). In eating each of these things, the Israelites were acting out annually the coming salvation of God. Not only would Christ’s blood pay the penalty for the sin of mankind, but Christ would send forth His Spirit to produce life inside of every man, woman and child who became a partaker of His salvation. Eating the Passover meal is symbolic of receiving the life of Christ into our bodies.

A great error in the church today is in thinking that Christ suffered so that they will not have to suffer. That this is profound error is revealed repeatedly in Christ’s invitation to men and women to “take up YOUR CROSS and follow Me.” Christ had a cross to bear, and so too do all who would come to Him for salvation. As the Israelites ate the bitter herbs, they were giving testimony to this bitter aspect of our union with Christ. Even as we become partakers of Christ’s life, we also become partakers of His suffering.

II Corinthians 4:7-10
But we have this treasure [the life of Christ] in earthen vessels [our bodies], so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Yahshua, so that the life of Yahshua also may be manifested in our body.

Although Paul wrote these words in the context of the experience of those who are apostles, the Bible reveals elsewhere that this is the common experience of all who are members of the body of Christ.

I Peter 2:21
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps...

The church today is very willing to accept the life of Christ inside them as they are born a second time of the Spirit of God, but they do not want to embrace the sufferings of Christ. However, apart from sharing in Yahshua’s suffering, no man can be perfected. It is those experiences that afflict our natural life that are the instruments the Father uses to bring forth a spiritual creation within.

I Peter 5:10
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

We enter into these experiences of suffering in the same way that Yahshua did. We yield our lives to be directed by the Holy Spirit. This aspect of salvation is foreshadowed in Yahweh’s instructions to Moses to command the people to eat the Passover meal “with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.” Those who become partakers of the life of Christ, who are delivered from death into life, are to immediately be ready to depart their old life and yield themselves to go wherever the Spirit of Christ would lead them, and to do whatever Yahweh would ask of them.

Mark 8:34
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

There is a tremendous consistency throughout the entire testimony of the Bible. Both Old and New Testaments reveal the two-fold aspect of salvation. Salvation is established through both faith and obedience. Not only must the Christian believe in the Son of God as the “Savior,” he must also surrender to follow Him as “Lord.”

Luke 2:11
For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Although it is common among Christians today to speak of the Son of God as their “Lord,” there are few who actually have embraced Yahshua as the Lord of their life. On that day when we must all give an account, Yahweh will judge all men with impartiality. Those who have surrendered their lives to live to do His will and pleasure will be afforded entrance into His kingdom. Those who have lived life at the direction of their own soul, while paying lip service to the lordship of Christ will be denied entrance into the kingdom.

Matthew 7:21
"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘LORD!,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

This aspect of entering into our inheritance in Christ was also very plainly foreshadowed in the history and experiences of Israel. After partaking of the first Passover, the entire nation of Israel departed Egypt. At that time Yahweh did a remarkable thing. He gave them the pillar of fire and cloud to always dwell with them, and to serve as a guide in their travels. The pillar of fire and cloud stand as a type and shadow of the Holy Spirit whom Christ has sent forth as a guide for all those who have become partakers of His life.

Romans 8:14
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Galatians 5:25
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:18
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Immediately after Yahshua was baptized in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God descended upon Him and remained. At once, the Spirit began to lead and direct every action of the Son of God.

Mark 1:10-12
Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

This immediacy of being led of the Spirit is brought forth in Yahweh’s command for the children of Israel to eat the Passover meal fully girded and ready to travel. Tragically, this aspect of life in Christ is absent from the proclamation of the gospel today. If we were to re-write the history of Israel according to the experience of a large segment of the church today, we would have them lounging at ease in their homes, eating the Passover Lamb without the inclusion of bitter herbs. They would then remain in Goshen, continuing to eat from the fleshpots of Egypt and pursuing intercourse in the ways of a fallen world system. The tragic result is that Christians remain in bondage to sin and selfish living, rather than attaining conformity to the image of Christ.

The desire of God for all who are in Christ Jesus/Yahshua the Messiah is that, when they become partakers of His life, they at once yield all their remaining days to be lived at His direction and pleasure. We must depart from life in Egypt, which stands as a symbol of the world, and embrace a new paradigm where we accept suffering and reproaches that we might be transformed into the same image as the Savior of mankind.

Hebrews 13:12-13
Therefore Yahshua also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

Understand then, that the invitation of Christ has never been anything less that discipleship. His invitation is “Come. Take up your cross, and follow Me.”

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Labor Day 2011: What Are We Celebrating? The Lack Of Jobs In America?

If you still have a good job, you certainly have something to celebrate on Labor Day 2011.  So far you have survived the decline of the U.S. economy.  But your day may be coming soon.  This weekend, there will be millions of Americans that will not be doing any celebrating.  They are not enjoying a break from their jobs because they don't have any jobs.  In fact, it seems kind of heartless for the rest of us to be celebrating while so many of our countrymen are destitute.  What are we celebrating on Labor Day 2011?  The lack of jobs in America?  At this point, the U.S. economy closely resembles a gigantic game of musical chairs.  Every time the music stops, even more good jobs are pulled out of the game and even more workers are added.  Once upon a time, if you really wanted a job in America you could get one.  But now the competition for even the most basic jobs is absolutely brutal.  If you gathered together all of the unemployed people in the United States, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the world.  It would be a nation larger than Greece.  All of those unemployed people are not going to be taking trips with their families this holiday weekend.  Instead, most of them are going to be trying to figure out what to do with their shattered lives.
With the economy in such a mess, you would think that someone out there would be suggesting that Labor Day 2011 should really be a day of mourning.  This economic downturn has shredded the lives of millions of American families.
Is there any other crisis in recent years that has had more of an impact on a national level?
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that no new jobs were created during the month of August and that the official unemployment rate remained steady at 9.1 percent.
Wait, aren't we supposed to be in the middle of an economic recovery?
Actually, we need at least 125,000 new jobs or so each month just to keep up with the growth of the U.S. population.  So it seems odd that the economy would add zero jobs but the unemployment rate would not increase.
But that is what the government is saying.
In any event, things don't look good.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the civilian employment-population ratio was at 58.2 percent last month.  This is an incredibly low figure.
In a recent article, John Mauldin explained what would have to happen to return the employment-population ratio to where it was in the year 2000....
The US has roughly the same number of jobs today as it had in 2000, but the population is well over 30,000,000 larger. To get to a civilian employment-to-population ratio equal to that in 2000, we would have to gain some 18 MILLION jobs.
Does anyone have an extra 18 million jobs laying around somewhere?  The following is a chart showing what has happened to the employment-population ratio over the last several decades....
What makes this chart even more startling is that the number of women in the workforce was constantly rising for most of the time period reflected in this chart.  So when you take that into account our current situation is far worse.
For example, back in 1969 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  Pretty much any man in his prime working years that wanted a job could get a job.
In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.
But that is only part of the story.  Another significant trend has been how flat wages have been.  Average hourly earnings fell 0.1% in August.  Meanwhile, the prices in the stores continue to go up.
In this column, I write a lot about how the middle class is being destroyedin this country.  When you look at the ratio of employee compensation to GDP, it is now the lowest that is has been in about 50 years.  In other words, U.S. workers are taking home a smaller share of the pie than at any other time in modern U.S. history.
But at this point those that still actually do have jobs consider themselves to be the lucky ones.
Tonight, there will be millions of desperate unemployed Americans that will blankly stare at their televisions as they try to figure out how their dreams got flushed down the toilet.
Remember how I mentioned at the beginning of the article that unemployed Americans would constitute a country larger than Greece?  Well, 42 percent of all of those unemployed Americans have been out of a job for 27 weeks or longer.
What would you do if you lost your job and you were unemployed for half a year?
Would you be able to survive?
In America today, the longer that you are unemployed, the harder it is for you to get another job.  If you have been unemployed for at least one year, there is a91 percent chance that you will not find a new job within the next month.
Out of sheer desperation, many Americans have taken jobs that they never even dreamed that they would take.
Only 47 percent of the U.S. workforce is "fully employed" at this point.  Right now there are hordes of Americans that are waiting tables, flipping burgers or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart because that is all that they can find right now.
Sadly, this is all part of a long-term trend.
Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.
This middle class is being pummeled out of existence, and most Americans don't even understand what is happening.
It certainly does not help that both the Republicans and the Democrats have stood by as millions upon millions of our jobs have been shipped out of the country.
It also certainly does not help that both the Republicans and the Democrats have stood by as millions upon millions of illegal immigrants have taken jobs away from American citizens.
It also certainly does not help that both the Republicans and the Democrats have stood by as U.S. businesses have been absolutely crushed by mountains of nightmarish regulations and have been taxed into oblivion.
The decade that just ended was the worst decade for job growth in America since the Great Depression.  In fact, even though thirty million people were added to the U.S. population during the decade, there was essentially zero job growth.
Sadly, things look like they are going to continue to get even worse.  For example, the United States Postal Service is in such trouble that it is asking Congress to allow it to lay off 120,000 workers. Overall, the Postal Service wants to eliminate 220,000 positions by 2015.
So is this big speech that Obama is going to give on Thursday going to solve anything?
Of course not.
The reality is that if Obama or any of his advisors had any grand ideas for fixing our situation they would have implemented them by now.
And what is the big deal in making us wait until Thursday to hear these "new ideas"?  Why not just tell us now?
Sadly, the truth is that everything that our politicians do now is about setting themselves up for the 2012 election.
Most likely, Obama is just going to take a bunch of tired ideas that do not work and "spin" them into a grand new plan.
Millions of Americans will actually buy into it.
But it is not as if establishment Republican candidates have anything to offer either.
You know, if Obama wanted to do something substantial, one place to start would be to order the Federal Reserve to stop paying banks not to make loans to individual and small businesses.
But just like all of our other weak-minded recent presidents, Barack Obama is not going to confront the Federal Reserve.
In fact, everything that Obama actually does "for the economy" only seems to make things worse.
As I have outlined before, we know exactly why our economy is losing jobs and we know things that we could start doing right now to reverse the long-term trends that are absolutely killing us.
But Barack Obama is not talking about real solutions and neither are the establishment Republican candidates.
So things are going to continue to get worse.  The number of Americans on food stamps has increased 74% since 2007.  Every month we have been setting a new record.  The middle class is going to continue to disappear as the number of good jobs continues to decrease.
So, no, there are not too many reasons to celebrate on Labor Day 2011.  Our economy is dying and millions upon millions of our fellow citizens are deeply suffering.
Urgent action is required in order to prevent our situation from rapidly getting worse, but right now the vast majority of our politicians are asleep at the switch.
So instead of celebrating this Labor Day, why don't you say a prayer for America instead?
We really could use it.
Economic Collapse

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Postal Service Is Nearing Default as Losses Mount

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.

“Our situation is extremely serious,” the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. “If Congress doesn’t act, we will default.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Donahoe has been pushing a series of painful cost-cutting measures to erase the agency’s deficit, which will reach $9.2 billion this fiscal year. They include eliminating Saturday mail delivery, closing up to 3,700 postal locations and laying off 120,000 workers — nearly one-fifth of the agency’s work force — despite a no-layoffs clause in the unions’ contracts.

The post office’s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs.

At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the agency’s predicament on Tuesday. So far, feuding Democrats and Republicans in Congress, still smarting from the brawl over the federal debt ceiling, have failed to agree on any solutions. It doesn’t help that many of the options for saving the postal service are politically unpalatable.

“The situation is dire,” said Thomas R. Carper, the Delaware Democrat who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the postal service. “If we do nothing, if we don’t react in a smart, appropriate way, the postal service could literally close later this year. That’s not the kind of development we need to inject into a weak, uneven economic recovery.”

Missing the $5.5 billion payment due on Sept. 30, intended to finance retirees’ future health care, won’t cause immediate disaster. But sometime early next year, the agency will run out of money to pay its employees and gas up its trucks, officials warn, forcing it to stop delivering the roughly three billion pieces of mail it handles weekly.

The causes of the crisis are well known and immensely difficult to overcome.

Mail volume has plummeted with the rise of e-mail, electronic bill-paying and a Web that makes everything from fashion catalogs to news instantly available. The system will handle an estimated 167 billion pieces of mail this fiscal year, down 22 percent from five years ago.

It’s difficult to imagine that trend reversing, and pessimistic projections suggest that volume could plunge to 118 billion pieces by 2020. The law also prevents the post office from raising postage fees faster than inflation.

Meanwhile, the agency has had a tough time cutting its costs to match the revenue drop, with a history of labor contracts offering good health and pension benefits, underused post offices, and laws that restrict its ability to make basic business decisions, like reducing the frequency of deliveries.

Congress is considering numerous emergency proposals — most notably, allowing the post office to recover billions of dollars that management says it overpaid to its employees’ pension funds. That fix would help the agency get through the short-term crisis, but would delay the day of reckoning on bigger issues.

Postal service officials say one reason for their high costs is that they are legally required to provide universal service, making deliveries to 150 million addresses nationwide each week. They add that a major factor for the post office’s $20 billion in losses over the past four years is a 2006 law requiring the postal service to pay an average of $5.5 billion annually for 10 years to finance retiree health costs for the next 75 years.

But the agency’s leaders acknowledge that they must find a way to increase revenue, something that will prove far harder than simply slicing costs.
New York Times

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Last Ethiopian Jews Finally Make Exodus to Israel

GONDAR, ETHIOPIA — In the half-light of dawn, 16 families huddle on benches in the early morning chill, waiting patiently for their journey to a new and unimaginable life. They sit in a courtyard, hidden from the view of friends and relatives who have come to say farewell, behind the modest local offices of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in a walled and guarded lot.

The women, wearing headscarves, are wrapped in flowing gabis ­­— traditional Ethiopian throw blankets. Some men are dressed in Western clothing; others dress more traditionally and grasp their dulas, or walking sticks. Some of these 82 adults and children have crosses tattooed on their foreheads, emblematic of their Christian backgrounds — and of the status that has kept them and their compatriots waiting in Gondar for a decade or more to emigrate to Israel despite their validated claims of Jewish ancestry.

But the previous morning, the heads of these families were handed a small travel allowance by officials from the Jewish Agency for their long awaited journey. Each signed the acknowledgement of receipt with a thumbprint. As village people who used to farm with oxen and are now day laborers, it is clear that they will not fit into Israeli society easily.

Twenty years after the second of two mass airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, the seemingly endless trickle of other Ethiopian immigrants who claim Jewish ancestry is coming to a long-delayed conclusion. Known as Falash Mura, such Ethiopians lived as Christians for generations in order to escape persecution. But in recent decades, they asserted their Jewish ancestry and began to practice Judaism. Their relatives in Israel have petitioned the government to allow them to immigrate and join the estimated 130,000 Ethiopian Israelis already there, including roughly 35,000 other Falash Mura.

These 16 families in Gondar are among the early beneficiaries of Cabinet Decision No. 2434 of November 14, 2010, which committed Israel to ending the immigration of Ethiopians with the intake of some 8,700 more Falash Mura within two to three years.

Although there have been several claims in past years that the immigration from Ethiopia was finished, the major players all seem to agree that this time it feels genuine. “This is absolutely the end of the organized aliyah from Ethiopia,” says Shlomo Molla, the only Ethiopian member of Israel’s Knesset. “After the families approved in Gondar come in, immigration from Ethiopia will be on an individual basis like anywhere else.”

The Falash Mura are being brought in not under Israel’s Law of Return, which grants Jews an automatic right to enter and become citizens, but under the Law of Entry, for family reunifications. This enables the Ministry of the Interior to set its own guidelines. Those slated to enter via this final wave have consequently faced criteria and scrutiny that give new meaning to the phrase “the chosen people.”

Under the terms of the November 2010 Israeli Cabinet agreement, entry will be limited to Ethiopians who appear on an existing census of Falash Mura, those who can prove matrilineal Jewish ancestry going back two generations, and those whose relatives in Israel have petitioned the government to allow them to immigrate. Nearly all of the Falash Mura gathered in Gondar have been waiting there for more than a decade. But it is expected that some 10% to 20% will not meet the matrilineal criterion — the traditional religious qualification for being considered a Jew.

At the entry rate of 200 immigrants per month specified by the November 2010 decision, the wait for some families could be another three years. But in June – typical of what has been happening to the Falash Mura aliyah – the Finance Ministry, citing the budget for immigrant housing, recommended that the rate be cut from 200 to 110 immigrants per month. For some, this will prolong the wait to 2015.

Israelis became aware of the Falash Mura when thousands appeared in Addis Ababa, just before Operation Solomon, the 1991 airlift of more than 14,000 Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors never abandoned their Jewish practice). Then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir declined to take them in, believing they were Christians who were claiming Jewish identity to escape Ethiopia, which was in the midst of a civil war. Although many influential Israelis, including Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar and a former Supreme Court justice, have since concluded that the Falash Mura are “Jewish beyond a doubt,” many still adhere to Shamir’s point of view or versions of it.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/142154/#ixzz1Wo51GZKW

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Gold steady after bleak U.S. jobs data

One kilogram gold bars are seen in this picture illustration taken at the Korea Gold Exchange in Seoul August 9, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak
(Reuters) - Spot gold edged higher on Monday, retaining its gains from the previous session, when dismal U.S. job data triggered safe-haven buying to boost the precious metal more than 3 percent, and lingering worries about euro zone's debt crisis lent support.

Platinum could be a better bet than gold

Is platinum now a better bet for investors than gold? Many seem to think so.

Gold prices have soared by 32pc this year, as investors sought a safe haven from the global debt crisis. However, some argue that gold is in a bubble fuelled more by speculation than the fundamentals of supply and demand. In contrast, platinum prices have risen by just 5pc so far this year – and supply remains very tight indeed.

Last month gold prices charged ahead of platinum prices, creating what some analysts regard as a sign that gold is overvalued.

Nick Moore, a metals analyst at RBS, is clear that platinum currently looks a better investment bet. "Platinum is now very cheap relative to gold," Mr Moore says. "Over the past 10 years platinum has averaged $420/ounce higher than gold."

Spot gold is currently at $1,883 an ounce with platinum futures at $1,876 – a $7 premium. Indeed, last month gold managed to jump to a premium of about $50 an ounce. Standard Chartered also said last week that it thought platinum was likely to outperform gold over the next few weeks after investor demand for platinum picked up "sharply."

The market fundamentals of platinum are tight. According to Platinum 2011, released by Johnson Matthey earlier this year, the platinum market in 2010 showed a "very small" surplus of just 20,000 ounces.

Global supplies of platinum rose by just 35,000 ounces in 2010 to 6.06m ounces, while gross demand for platinum in autocatalysts, the main use of the metal, rose by 43pc to 3.13m ounces. Industrial demand for the metal jumped 48pc to 1.69m ounces.

"Continuing economic growth across the world is driving demand for platinum in industrial uses, particularly glass and chemical catalyst manufacture and in diesel autocatalysts; and for palladium in electronics manufacturing and in emissions control catalysts for gasoline vehicles, especially in China," Johnson Matthey said. "The growth of new consumer-driven technologies and applications such as LED backlit televisions is expected to result in acceleration of demand for the minor platinum group metals."

In the future, platinum could be in increasing demand for fuel cells and in "non-road" emissions control. Emission control from shipping could be a major driver of future demand.

However, latest data from the US regulators has shown that large investors have reduced their long positions in New York traded futures contracts. In the week to August 30, speculative long positions fell 6pc week-on-week, but still outnumbered short contracts by 26,576 contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Also, growth in vehicle sales in China is expected to slow to between 3pc and 5pc this year, according to Xu Changming, director of China's State Information Center. This follows a 32pc leap in sales during 2010. China overtook the US as the world's largest automobile manufacturer in 2009, after its sales jumped 46pc over the year.

At the end of last week, HSBC analysts in the US upped their price targets for platinum in 2012 and 2013 because of increased vehicle production and industrial demand was expected to increase at a faster rate than mine supply.

The analysts forecast that platinum prices would average $1,875 an ounce in 2012, up from its previous view of $1,750 an ounce. For 2013 it increased its 2013 platinum target to $1,825 an ounce from $1,650.

One thing that could support the price of the metal are rising costs. About 80pc of global reserves are in South Africa, where input and staffing costs are rising significantly. Miners in the country are also being hit by the relative strength of the rand against the dollar.

The case for platinum is clear. The metal is scarce, expensive to mine and is used in far more industrial applications than gold. Significantly, there are no large inventories of the metal held anywhere above ground – unlike gold.

However, the auto market is seeing a slowdown in China and India – and this could keep a cap on gains for now.

The Telegraph

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Mike Malone with Keiser

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IMF approves $2.11 billion of bailout funds to Ireland

Members of the Gardai patrol outside the Dawson Street offices where the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a joint news conference outlining Ireland's progress in meeting its targets as part of the EU/IMF bailout, in Dublin July 14, 2011. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

(Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Friday said it approved a $2.11 billion (1.30 billion pound) disbursement to help debt-stricken Ireland as part of a broader bailout package.

The lender said the Irish government has "maintained resolute implementation" of an austerity program aimed at getting its budget and banking crisis under control and urged it to continue to do so to avoid the risk of contagion.

So far, the IMF has disbursed $12.39 billion to Ireland under a bailout package also supported by the European Union through its European Financial Stability Facility and by bilateral loans from Britain, Sweden and Denmark.

The total bailout package for Ireland from all participants amounts to 85 billion euros or about $123 billion.

The Irish government has said it hopes to regain access to bond markets next year, so it can borrow money on its own and effectively regain its own sovereignty instead of relying on a bailout.

The IMF noted that the Irish government adopted a plan in March to reorganize and reduce debts of its domestic banks and said the strategy was "ahead of schedule in some areas."

While financial market conditions appeared to be improving, there still were risks from weaker growth in key trading partners' economies that mean Ireland must stick with a program of austerity to get its economy into better shape.

"Continued timely implementation of the program remains essential to support the ongoing recovery, limit contagion risks, and rebuild market confidence," the IMF said.

There were concerns in markets earlier this year that Ireland might have to extend its existing EU-IMF bailout or seek a second rescue if it couldn't successfully return to markets on its own.

On Thursday, however, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said that shouldn't be the case.

"Any country that is fulfilling its program, if it still needs funds and can't access the markets, will get credit lines from the fund so that the question of Ireland having to reenter a second program is off the table," Noonan told a parliamentary financial committee.

The country is on a strict austerity budget to try to get its finances back in order and Noonan cautioned that turmoil in the global economy had increased risks to recovery efforts and would likely force the government to cut its growth forecasts for next year.

Still, Noonan said he expects the economy to expand in 2011, breaking a three-year cycle of shrinking economic output, and to meet a target of cutting cut the deficit to 10 percent of total national economic output this year.

Noonan added that the government would update its growth forecasts in October and would likely have to cut its 2.5 percent growth forecast for 2012.

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IMF: global economy faces a 'threatening downward spiral

Christine Lagarde, the IMF's managing-director, said the outlook had darkened suddenly over the summer.

"There has been a clear crisis of confidence that has seriously aggravated the situation. Measures need to be taken to ensure that this vicious circle is broken," she said.

"The spectrum of policies available is narrower because a lot of ammunition was used in 2009. But if governments, institutions and central banks work together, we'll avoid recession," she told Der Spiegel.

The comments come at the start of a dramatic week for the eurozone as Italy prepares to roll over record sums of debt and Germany's constitutional court issues its long-awaited verdict on the legality of the EU's bail-out machinery.

Markets are already tense after the EU-IMF 'Troika' withdrew abruptly from Athens on Friday, accusing the Greek government of failing to comply with rescue terms.

The Italian treasury must redeem €14.6bn of debts this week and €62bn by the end of September, the most ever in a single month.

"We are experiencing very demanding times," Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank's president, said over the weekend. The ECB has stabilised Italy's debt over the last four weeks, capping yields on 10-year bond yields near 5pc through purchases on the secondary market.

It is unclear how much longer the ECB can keep doing this after a string of top officials in Germany described the bank's actions as illegal.

"The ECB cannot substitute for governments," said Mr Trichet. He was speaking at the Ambrosetti Workshop at Lake Como, where he held a closed-door meeting to discuss the euro crisis with Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King.

The ECB has bought an estimated €35bn of Italian debt under an implicit accord that Rome will deliver on austerity promises.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi has come close to breaching the terms by backsliding on a wealth tax and pension reform.

Emma Marcegaglia, head of Italy's Confindustria business lobby, said the austerity measures were "unjust, iniquitous, and inadequate", and undermine the credibility of the country.

Leading Italian economists have begun to question whether EMU itself is workable.

"It's clear that the euro has virtually failed over the last ten years, even if you are not supposed to say that. We pretended to be Germans, but it was an illusion," said Professor Giacomo Vaciago from Milan's Catholic University.

Mrs Lagarde said the US has scope to "abandon short-term austerity and introduce some measures to drive growth" provided the country lays out a credible debt strategy over the medium term.

She said Europe needs to take its foot off the fiscal brake and shift to "growth-intensive measures" until the danger has passed, insisting that Germany has leeway to "stimulate demand".

The comments are certain to cause fury in Berlin, where the IMF is viewed as an agent of Keynesians and French mischief. Mrs Lagarde was French finance minister until two months ago.

Separately, Germany's constitutional court is expected to rule on Wednesday that Berlin's participation in EU bail-outs is allowable so long as the Bundestag is given a veto over future payments. However, there is an outside risk that it will go further, concluding that the nexus of rescue policies subvert EU Treaty law and German fiscal sovereignty and must therefore be curbed. This would amount to a "sudden stop" for EMU debt markets.

The judges are aware of these risks, yet they ruled two years on the Lisbon Treaty that German democracy is "inviolable" and that Berlin is duty bound "to refuse further participation in the European Union" if the constitutional order is threatened.

German patience with Athens is already near exhaustion. Prince Hermann Otto zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, the Bundestag's deputy president, said Greece cannot bring its debts under control.

"We must consider whether it would not be better for the currency union and for Greece itself to go for debt restructuring and an exit from the euro," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine.


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Peter Schiff on investing in Gold

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