Santa and the Messiah

Santa Worshiping the Newborn King

Do you remember how it felt when you believed in Santa Claus? I certainly do, and actually had an encounter with THE Santa during a long-ago visit with our youngest daughter.

For a few years in the late 1990s, it was our habit to go see Santa on Christmas Eve at the mall. We had a favorite Santa (I won’t say which mall), and if you visited Santa after 2:00pm or so on Christmas Eve, there were plenty of parking spaces and almost no line to see The Man in Red. It didn’t hurt that the stores were emptying out, and so I could do a bit of last-minute shopping without all the crowds.

On one of those visits, our daughter—then about 6 or 7 years old—hopped onto Santa’s lap, and proceeded to tell him what she wanted for Christmas. I didn’t hear much of the conversation, but I do remember a few, “Yes, sirs” and “No, sirs”. After a minute or so, and the requisite picture taking, she hopped down and starting walking over to me.

While she was walking back, Santa called out to me, “Hey, Dan, come here for a second!” Wait, what did he say? “Hey, DAN…!” Whoa! I know that he’s my favorite Santa and all, but he’s really just one of Santa’s helpers, right? I mean, I KNOW who Santa really is. But, this Santa just called me by my first name!

My heart literally skipped a beat, and I felt that same thing that I did as a kid. As I walked over to Santa, he leaned over and said, “You have one of the most polite children I’ve seen this season. Good job and Merry Christmas.” Now THE Santa was telling me that I was a good parent too!

Then, my mind caught up with my hearing.

It must have been replaying that moment over and over, because as I was getting ready to say, “Thank, you,” it occurred to me that Santa had not actually called me by my first name. Instead, he had simply said, “Hey, ‘DAD,’ come here for a second!

That’s when the sweating started, and I laughed. Here I was in my 30’s, and I really thought—even if for just a moment—that this was the REAL Santa.

I’ve thought about this moment every year since that time, and I’ve realized something. We are all looking forward to some greater Truth, some greater existence. And for those of us who have accepted God’s Messiah, Jesus, as our Lord and Savior, we really are—deep down—looking forward to seeing Him face to face.

Perhaps not everyone identifies this longing through his/her connection with Santa Claus. But for me, this interaction with Santa has taught me something about the great longing Israel had for their Messiah to come. And the longing that I have to see His return.

A couple of thousand years have passed since He was born here in the land where we now live, which, ironically tends to strip Christmas completely of its American holiday ‘feelings’. Many of those around us are desperately seeking a messiah, and wonder when he will arrive. For us, we are longing to see Israel’s Messiah return, just as He promised, and at that time we’ll see Him face to face.

And I’m sure that my heart will skip a beat (or more) when I hear Him say, “Hey, Dan, come over here…

Until that time arrives, it’s every Christian’s responsibility to introduce others around us to Him. And for those who respond, to make disciples of the Messiah and King.

May you have a Merry Christmas, blessed with opportunities to spread true Christmas cheer. For it truly is “Christmas”—”the Messiah was sent”—and He is coming again soon! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Normalization

A Guillotine in Front of Jeff Bezos’ House

“…Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands…”- Revelation 20:4


In the future, historians will wonder how our modern society got to the point where beheading would be so commonplace, and I believe that they will be able to pinpoint the beginning of the “normalization” of this form of execution to the summer of 2020.


Here are a couple of pictures showing this “normalization”.


When I originally saw this article (and others like it), a cold chill went up my spine. No one cried foul, because the demonstrators were BLM/Antifa/related gangs. No one cried foul because the target was a rich “white” male. No one cried foul because the victim was not seen as a victim.


Americans have—rightly so in my opinion—shunned beheading as a normal form of capital punishment. We see it as barbaric, even if the person “deserved” the death penalty. We associate it with ISIS, Saudi Arabia and the French Revolution. Or, today’s “cancel culture.”


But God’s word tells us that beheading will be the lot of those who resist the beast, its image or the mark. Jesus told the disciples, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” True believers will be targeted for “cancellation.” Those days will make “Logan’s Run” look like a quaint children’s film in comparison.


Would you have believed anyone, if a year ago they would have told you that, “Next summer, the U.S. economy will have shrunk 32.9%, unemployment will be in double figures, world travel will have ground to a halt, schools would be mostly closed, large cities will have been given over to paid thugs, Beirut will have been flattened (and not by Israel), state and local governments will be trying to close or limit in-person church meetings, only 50% of attendees will have returned to those churches that have reopened…”? And that’s the short version. And it has all happened in six months.


Beloved, this pandemic is just one of God’s ways of getting our attention. Think of this as a practice session. Lawlessness might have increased, but we must not allow our love to grow cold. We must learn to endure through the power of the Holy Spirit, immersion in God’s word and the proclamation of the Gospel.


Are our lives in order for what is to come? “Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”


How is God pruning you?

https://nypost.com/2020/06/30/protesters-set-up-guillotine-in-front-of-jeff-bezos-dc-home/

Great Expectations

Triumphal Entry

Since this is the week leading up to both Easter and Passover (after all, Easter’s basis IS Passover, with an added tomb and resurrection), I thought that I would offer up some information that I don’t often hear discussed in Christian circles. It has to do with Passover and the coming of the Messiah.

It is common within evangelical Christian groups to talk about the return of Jesus as being in conjunction with the Feast of Trumpets, since both Jesus and Paul speak of trumpets being sounded upon the Lord’s return. Some are adamant that this will be the time when he arrives, and they actively look for this future event during the autumn timeframe.

But did you know that Israel did not expect the Messiah to arrive around Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets)? Instead, Israel expected the Messiah to return and deliver them during a Passover feast, just as God had delivered them from the Egyptians during the first Passover. Especially in light of the current day’s plagues of Covid-19, locusts and waters turning blood-red in various places, many religious Jews today—including some that Meg and I know personally—are in expectation that the Messiah will arrive this week.

We read about the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus on “Palm Sunday,” when the crowds cried “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We are taught that Jesus was welcomed in this way because of the number of miracles that he had performed, including the recent resurrection of Lazarus and the expectation that the Nazarene was the ONE. I’m certain that these signs played into the people’s thinking, but I don’t believe that it was the primary reason they treated Jesus like a king as he rode on a colt from the Mt of Olives (two items which the crowds would have immediately recognized from Zechariah’s messianic prophecies in chapters 9 & 14).

Instead, Israel had always expected that their future redemption would begin at Passover, just as it first happened nearly 1,500 years earlier. As far as the crowds were concerned, this Passover was going to be the one. But after the “Triumphal Entry” Jesus did not act like the “redeeming Messiah” the people were looking for. He didn’t save them from their enemies. He didn’t “restore the kingdom to Israel” at that time. We shouldn’t wonder why the crowds went from adoration to damnation. He was a fake, as far as they were concerned. He had over-promised and under-delivered.

But we know the rest of the story. We have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We know that Jesus’ plan was to allow the “rulers of this age” to crucify him. We know what the crowds, and even Jesus’ disciples, did not know. He was—for the joy set before him—ready to give his life of his own accord. He was in control of the situation, but it wasn’t what everyone expected of the coming messiah. No one—not his enemies, his closest family, friends or followers—expected him to rise again on the third day. No one.

So, will we Christians react in the same way if Jesus doesn’t return when we expect him? What if there’s no pre-tribulation rapture? What if the bride will be delivered up to “tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake,” just as many Christians throughout the world already suffer today? Will we still call Jesus our “King” or will we “fall away and betray one another and hate one another” because things didn’t go the way that we expected?

The current Covid-19 pandemic should teach us that tomorrow might just look very different from our expectations. But no matter what we think tomorrow will bring, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

The “Why” of Pestilence

With all of the news regarding the Covid-19 virus, the reports swirling about us have been regarding the “what” of the virus. However, I haven’t really heard anyone writing or talking about the “why.”

AngelLord-DavidCensus
Artist unknown

With all of the news regarding the Covid-19 virus, the reports swirling about us have been regarding the “what” of the virus. However, I haven’t really heard anyone writing or talking about the “why.”

Recently, our moshav/neighborhood of Neve Ativ gave me permission to post verses from the Hebrew Scriptures, what we commonly refer to as the Old Testament. As I have been reading, searching and studying, looking for appropriate scripture to post each day, I have come to a very uncomfortable conclusion. The release of pestilence is directly related to sin, especially the sins of a people or a nation.

As Christians, we all love to quote the following verses…

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

and

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

…where we naturally tend to focus on the blessings.

But did you know that both of these scriptures are accompanied by verses detailing pestilence as one of the punishments from which Israel can be delivered, if they repent?

And it’s not just these two verses. Every reference that I can find to pestilence in the Bible is related to its being a punishment for sin.

As a church body, we love to apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 to ourselves, as a “people called by” the Lord’s name. I personally believe that we can metaphorically apply ourselves in this way without replacing Israel, as long as we understand that the core meaning was, and still is, specifically referring to the nation of Israel. “Christians” truly are a people called by the name of the Lord Jesus. Since we have generally decided that it is appropriate to make this connection, we need to be willing to apply other aspects of the text to ourselves. While we readily accept the blessings in these verses, we rarely speak of the punishments on the other side of the same coin, or we only speak vaguely of the sins from which we should repent, both personally and corporately.

In keeping with just these two references, let me show you just a portion of the punishments—sent directly by the LORD himself—to which these verses of blessing are referring:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people…

2 Chronicles 7:13

Thus says the LORD of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten.

Jeremiah 29:17

These two passages also speak of other punishments such as drought, locusts, war and famine. As does nearly every other reference to pestilence in the Bible. Pestilence is but one of the judgments God uses to get the attention of the nations. Is He getting our nation’s attention? Is He getting your personal attention? He’s definitely getting my attention.

Not until we—as both a nation AND as “those who are called by His name”—start confessing and repenting of our sins, do I believe that the Lord will stay the hand of this pestilence(¹).

Let us begin repentance now, today. Individually. As families. As Christians. As a nation. Lives are at stake. Let us call upon the name of the LORD together, both in repentance AND in pleading with Almighty God to forgive our sin and heal our land.

“The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish.” – Deuteronomy 28:22

¹ David sinned by ordering a census of Israel to be conducted. David was given three options for punishment. He chose to be chastised under the hand of God. Here is the climax of the text: So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.”  – 2 Samuel 24:15-16a

Anatomy of an Israeli Air Strike

AnatomyOfAirstrike2020-02

On the evening of February 6, 2020, around 11:45pm local time, the Israeli Air Force executed an air strike against Iran. According to foreign reports (Note: Israel prohibits publication of Israeli military operations which aren’t approved by the military censors; however, news outlets are free to report on non-Israeli news publications reports), the missiles were either shot from Mt Hermon and/or from the Israeli Golan Heights, dependent upon which source you read. It’s possible that the eye witnesses were both correct. Friends of ours, who live in the Golan, heard the fighter jets above them. We hear so many jets and “booms” that we might have heard noise from the strike and not recognized it as something out of the ordinary.

Interestingly, Iran said recently that they will “strike US, Israel if they make the slightest error.” Of course, both Israel and the US will continue their operations, especially when Iran is sending additional weapons to Hezbollah via Syria. An Iranian 747 landed at the Damascus airport just a few days ago with just such a shipment.

As you can see on the map I marked up, we live 30 miles from where the air strikes were directed. This mission was relatively early compared to most missions like this, which usually happen around 3:00am.

The Russians claimed that Israeli fighter jets caused a Syrian passenger jet to reroute, but this isn’t the first time that they’ve made such an accusation. Russia said that Israel “put a civilian aircraft in serious danger and forced it to divert to Russia’s Khmeimim airbase.” But the Jerusalem Post wrote that, “the Cham Wings airline has not complained of being nearly hit and it’s not clear why it flew north to Latakia rather than land at another airport.” It turns out that Russia regularly shadows passenger jets to remain undetected, and then they split off to head toward their final destination to deliver unknown materiel.

Rumor has it that the United States and Israel have agreed to work with each other to keep Iran at bay in this part of the world. The United States is covering Iraq and Israel is covering Syria for this purpose.

That might explain why, a couple of days later, news outlets reported that among the dead from the Israeli missile strike were at least two high ranking Iranian officers.

So goes our neighborhood.

Sour Grapes

Make no mistake, all of history is racing toward a conclusion which will take place in Jerusalem. The deceiver has not yet even been cast down to earth from heaven (Revelation 12:7-17), but his intentions are made evident through his proxies.

An article in the Jerusalem Post (read full article here) tells us that the Palestinian Authority (PA, previously known as the PLO) is asserting the claim that the “Western Wall belongs only to Muslims and must be defended even to the death.”

Of course, we know that there have already been two temples which previously stood on the Temple Mount—Solomon’s temple and the Second Temple. The western retaining wall which stands today was part of the great expansion of the Second Temple by Herod the Great, which was only fully completed around the time that the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth, walked on earth the first time.

But the PA has never allowed historical facts to get in the way of its anti-Semitic narrative. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Christian believers who openly support the PA (of which I am not one, either openly or secretly) will let this obvious lie slide by without calling the PA into account.

As the world convulses toward the end of this current age, I wonder what the PA will say when construction of the next temple begins on top of the Temple Mount? I can only imagine the seething and cursing that will be directed at those who partake in the restarted sacrificial system. Of course, to be honest, I personally cannot imagine what seismic geopolitical events will have to occur in order for this situation to come about.

However, I am certain that these things will come to pass, using a plain sense reading of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Matthew 24:9-15 and Daniel 9:27 (to which both Jesus and Paul refer in these verses). For those who believe that these scriptures have been completely fulfilled, I respectfully disagree since each of these passages continue to describe either Jesus’ physical return to earth, or the desolator’s demise, or both. And obviously, neither of those things have yet to occur.

Now is the time—in the midst of the increasing chaos—to really become a “Berean” if you aren’t already. Search the scriptures to see if they match up to what you’ve been taught all you life. You might find that some adjustments will need to be made to your understanding—I’ve certainly had to make some changes myself. And this will cause you to make an even greater ongoing in-depth search.

The prophet Zechariah tells us that the LORD will gather all the nations against Jerusalem, and that will include the Palestinian Authority, in whatever form it will hold at that time. Unless it repents between now and then, the PA will be one of the recipients of Jesus wrath when he arrives from Edom in a blood-splattered robe (Isaiah 63:1-6 and also Isaiah 34:1-8 & Revelation 19:11-16).

And then the Palestinian Authority survivors (yes, there will be survivors) will be required to celebrate Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles/Booths) with the Jewish people, in Israel, in Jerusalem—year after year. If you don’t believe me, go read Zechariah 14:16-19.

I pray that there will be a change of heart between now and then, but to be honest, I don’t expect there to be any decrease in the eternal hatred (Ezekiel 35:4-6). For the Palestinian Authority, those grapes are going to be even more sour than the ones they are eating and trying to sell today.

Peace on Earth

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The Bible tells us that God has “put eternity into man’s heart,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) so it’s not surprising that people wonder and worry about the future, especially as chaos increases in our cities, our respective countries and the world in general. The world always seems to be looking for a “savior” of some sort to fix our problems because we can’t imagine our kids or grandkids living in our increasingly unstable societies.

Our churches generally don’t help much in dealing with the future, other than speaking about a weak and nebulous “…do these things…and you’ll go to heaven.” Spending a future in a nondescript “heaven” doesn’t really excite most Christians, nor does it seem to gain much traction with those of other faiths, since all faiths have a version of “heaven.” Because of this, we generally don’t think deeply about the future or eternity and therefore we are a people who are weakened “for lack of knowledge,” referring to the prophet Hosea.

However, there’s some good news!

When Jesus the Messiah spoke with his disciples, much of what he discussed was regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven—both phrases speaking of the same thing. In fact, after Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to the disciples “during forty days” and spoke to them “about the Kingdom of God.

This Kingdom is spoken of throughout the whole Bible, and the New Testament scriptures speak of a time when the risen Jesus of Nazareth, who referred to himself 78 times as the “Son of Man,” will reign on earth. Even a very basic understanding of scripture tells us that when he refers to himself in this manner, Jesus is speaking of Daniel 7:13-14. Here is that passage:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

This passage speaks of a future event when the Son of Man returns to receive a kingdom in which all peoples, nations and languages will serve him. The questions that most churches avoid asking are: “Who are these people and where will this kingdom exist?

The prophet Zechariah wrote that in the coming Day of the LORD, the LORD himself will fight against those nations who have come up against Jerusalem and Judah. The Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem will see the LORD arrive, and will recognize that He is the same One “whom they have pierced.” The mourning will be tremendous, and will be accompanied by repentance.

But, what about those against whom the LORD fights? Apparently, according to Zechariah, there will be survivors! Because in Zechariah 14:16-17 (and to the end of the chapter), we see that the survivors will be required to go up to Jerusalem, year after year, to celebrate Sukkot, i.e. the Feast of Tabernacles.

What does this have to do with anything? The Bible speaks clearly that those whose faith has been place in the Risen Savior Jesus will reign forever with Him. And the location of this kingdom isn’t in some ethereal “heaven,” but on earth. An earth that is eternal and cleaned from the corruption and violence that has been happening since nearly the beginning. An earth where a child shall lead both the calf and lion in peace. Those who are the survivors will not reign, but will be ruled over.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary about the child she would carry, he told her that, “the LORD God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” This kingdom does not only describe some spiritual entity, it speaks directly about a physical kingdom. And this physical kingdom will be located here on earth!

Last week I visited Herodion, one of Herod’s strongholds. This location overlooks Tekoa (see Amos 1:1) and the fields where shepherds would have encountered the heavenly host, who praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” While standing at the top of the stronghold, it was easy to imagine that encounter when the angel told the shepherds that the Savior, the Messiah, was born just a hill away in Bethlehem.

The time is coming when Jesus—the Savior, Messiah and LORD—will return to take the kingdom and rule over it for eternity from Mount Zion. Are you one with whom he is pleased, who will reign with Jesus? If you don’t know the Savior today, if you haven’t made the Son of Man—the Messiah Jesus—to be the Lord of your life, please repent and believe in him today. He came the first time as the lamb of God; but he is coming again as the Lion of Judah.

Don’t think that you will be one of the unlikely “survivors of the nations” when He returns, as much of humanity will have been killed in the last days. Jesus himself said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” His kingdom will never end, and I want to be one of those “with whom he is well pleased,” when he returns to “judge the living and the dead,” to bring in true peace on earth. Finally, the apostle Paul tells us that “if we endure, we will also reign with Him.

And that is an eternity to get excited about.

 

Forgotten

The bulk of the history of the world after the fall of mankind revolves around who, in fact, will rule over creation in the end.

forgotten.jpg

There is a common thread through much of Christendom that goes something like this: Israel committed the one sin which “broke the camel’s back” by not recognizing her Messiah, so God punished her by forgetting the many promises which he made to her regarding her future, and instead “replaced” her with a new assembly commonly called “the church.” Of course, this is not true, but that hasn’t stopped the propagation of the malignant supersessionist doctrine through the centuries. Even among the most “enlightened” evangelical denominations—or non-denominations (pick whichever applies best in your situation)—the vast majority of its pastors and teachers either actively teach replacement theology, or passively allow it to be believed.

Even Israel has thought at various times through history that God must have forgotten her. Isaiah, writing in ancient times says, “But Zion said, ‘Yahweh has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.'” Yet Yahweh himself refutes this in the very next verse, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (1)

Interestingly, Yahweh instructs the Gentile nations throughout the earth to declare, “…Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’ And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” (2)  This doesn’t refer to the limited return of Judah from Babylon. We’re talking about an as-yet future fulfillment. Unfortunately, the grafted-in-but-wild-olive-branch church (3) does not always understand its role in proclaiming this good news to its natural-olive-branch big sister. The “rulers…the authorities…the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (4) are more than happy to keep this situation as the status-quo. As a result, the grafted-in-church misses out on much of its purpose.

As long as the church body does not bother the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places with the things that are important to them, the rulers of this age are content to allow the church to exist without much interference. It is only when the church takes God at his word–and his purposes for her seriously–do the powers begin to quake with fear. We have seen how believers are persecuted when they threaten the powers’ authority over men. This is obvious in places like North Korea, China and areas where Islam has the most control.

But what does this have to do with “forgotten” Israel? Much.

Those who align themselves with the promises that God made to Israel will be punished in this world. The spirit of this age will make sure this happens. The time is coming when—in the name of “religion”—forces will arise and will try to, or will “kill us and claim that they are doing God a service.” (5)

What exactly is it that would cause the “rulers of this age” to take such violent measures? It’s actually very simple. There is a prophetic future history in which God declares that he is going to establish his theocracy over creation, ruling from Zion. Much of Christendom is sleep walking through time while the whole drama of history is being played out, and it is imperative that we understand that the bulk of the history of the world after the fall of mankind revolves around who, in fact, will rule over creation in the end.

Art Katz wrote, “When we come to talk about Israel, we will see that Israel is not just a subject or an issue in itself, but what makes Israel profoundly important is that it is the key to the establishment of the theocratic rule of God. Ruling and reigning is the principal struggle over creation and Israel is set right in the midst of it. Israel as a nation presently has no consciousness of these things, but the church must be conscious of it or it will not understand why God has got to be so ruthless in His dealings with that nation. He needs to prepare it {Israel} for its own place in the rule of God, because the theocratic rule {in the millennium} must take place with that nation and in its own land: For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3b). This is not poetry, but literal, and the powers of darkness know it better than the church. We need to be clear as to what God’s intention is, because it is over that that the principal issue of Israel is going to rage. The powers of darkness want to exterminate that nation whose survival and restoration to their God is the key to the bringing in of the theocratic rule of God. (6)

We do a great disservice to the disciples when they asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (7) I cannot overstate the number of times I’ve heard something like this, “Oh, the disciples were so hard headed that, even after 40 days of Jesus’ explaining things to them, they still couldn’t get things right!”

It was not a stupid question. It was, in fact, THE question. Of course, the disciples only understood it in a nationalistic sense, because they still did not recognize the greater significance of the coming Kingdom. Jesus did not chastise them; instead he told them that the timing for such things was up to the Father. And the new assembly of believers in Israel’s Messiah—most of whom would be Gentiles—would be God’s instrument in bringing Israel into that restored place, ultimately ushering in the government of the Kingdom of God on earth in the coming millennium, centered in Jerusalem. Why else, as clearly described in Zechariah 14, would the surviving non-Jewish non-Israelite Gentile nations be required to appear yearly in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with their Jewish brethren? (8) Because Yahweh the King will be sitting on the throne. We call him Jesus.

The bulk of Christendom states that national Israel has no future prophetic role to play in the affairs of men. It could not be more wrong. Some Christians agree that Israel has a significant future prophetic role, but want to limit the church’s involvement with the future hardship that Israel will endure. Although God’s church is not destined to experience his wrath, it will be persecuted by the rulers and authorities, not just for preaching about the coming kingdom of heaven and the gospel of the cross of Messiah Jesus, but also for remembering the many promises which God made to her seemingly forgotten big sister, Israel. One of those was that a descendant of king David would sit on his throne in Jerusalem—a real, physical throne.

Instead of the mutual animosity that the historical church has had with the cultivated-olive-tree, an awakened church must one day reach out in love to a stumbling and partially hardened Israel, causing her to be jealous for the loving relationship that the grafted-in-wild-olive-branch has with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Until then the church will not fulfill one of its primary roles which God has assigned, and the rulers of this age will do whatever they can to prevent this inevitable awakening. The question is, what will have to transpire so that we remember this forgotten task, and how painful will that reminder be?

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 49:14-16
  2. Isaiah 62:11-12
  3. Romans 11:11-31
  4. Ephesians 6:12
  5. John 16:2
  6. Katz, Art. Apostolic Realities: The Principalities and Powers
  7. Acts 1:6
  8. Zechariah 14:16-19

Rightly Dividing

For my fellow co-workers in Arab and Muslim contexts, we need to discuss this…

In the article below (see link), the author makes reference to how one of the early Islamic commentators quoted directly from the Gospels (of an Arabic Bible) yet never once contextualized any of the terminologies of the Bible to islamicize them (see his second paragraph in this article).

Precision and accuracy are required in biblical interpretation, beyond all other enterprises, because the interpreter (and the missionary) is handling God’s Word. If/when we use translations and stories that islamicize Biblical names, concepts and terminologies, are we not making the Word of God a dhimmi to the Quran, hadiths and Islam in general?

We believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” But are we “rightly handling the word of truth” if we intentionally use Islam-specific terminology to teach the Truth?

Allah (of the Quran) is not akbar/greater (الله من القرآن مش أكبر).

Jesus/YHWH is akbar/greater than all other gods (يسوع المسيح أكبر).

https://biblia-arabica.com/the-transmission-of-the-arabic-bible-in-islamic-contexts-vatican-bav-ms-copt-9-in-al-biqaʿis-tafsir/

Baby and the Bathwater

BabyBathwater

We have been in the States now for the first two months of our home service and have witnessed firsthand the same rejection of God here in our beloved homeland that we see among people in other countries where we have served. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are presently in the same country we left in 2010.

It has been said that new believers—in countries where they have given up everything to follow Christ—cannot believe that every American would not be a Christian. General prosperity, “democracy” and freedom of speech and religion tend to be seen as “Christian” qualities.

Certainly, our Judeo-Christian value system has allowed these positive attributes to thrive. But, as a nation, we no longer operate with the same set of moral values we once did. Christian leaders in the west are grasping at straws to figure out how to slow our collective downhill slide. But some seem to be overreacting in their efforts to make the Gospel message clear and more acceptable.

For instance, there is a popular American preacher/author who says that the church needs to discard the bulk of God’s word and just proclaim the words of Jesus and teach from the books of the New Testament. The author’s reasoning is that most people were drawn to Jesus because of his message of repentance and living a changed life by accepting him as Messiah and Savior; therefore we don’t need really need to get bogged down in teaching the “Old” Testament.

He must be reading from a different Bible than I read, because it seems to me that the Gospel writers point out that most people rejected Jesus—even after seeing all of the signs, wonders and miracles that proved that he was the Messiah, sent by Father God himself.

Getting rid of three-quarters of the bureaucrats in the UN might not do any real harm to that “august body,” but cutting out the same amount of God’s word causes violence to the Gospel message and the communication that God has given us to understand the world, our place in it, and His offer of redemption through the blood of Jesus.

This kind of thinking—instead of showing wisdom and ingenuity—shows a certain amount of apathy toward God Himself, since one cannot separate God’s words from his character. It is akin to telling engineering students that 9th grade algebra is all the math that they will ever need in their professional lives. No need to study calculus and upper level mathematics—why overtask oneself?

The author (and those who espouse these types of views) who preaches and teaches these things in his sermons and in his writing seems to be missing the point of the Bible as a whole: All of history revolves around the God who created the universe and all that is in it, including you and me. We don’t automatically get to cut out the tough parts of Scripture, which we are too lazy to study, in order to really understand what God is teaching us. What ever happened to, “Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”

The Bible—in its entirety—provides us with a wonderful metanarrative for those who are willing to explore it. God used approximately 40 different people over a period of 1,500 years to record what He wanted for the world to know in order to explain why we are here on this planet. It’s not just a book of facts, figures and difficult names to pronounce. Unfortunately, those of us who are teachers haven’t done a very good job in living this out or explaining it to our family members, friends and the rest of the world. As humans, we tend to make it all about “me.” But in fact, the reality is that everything is about our Creator.

Instead of throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, I will double down and say that we should be spending more time studying the difficult parts of Scripture which are challenging and troublesome to our 21st century minds and hearts.

It is there where God will meet us in unexpected and profound ways.

“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” — Ephesians 5:15-17