Our Walk in the Nation of Israel

At the end of Luke, it says that Christ “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45)

This great “Ah-ha!” moment for the apostles indicates a revealing of the secrets of scriptures. How Christ Himself was prevalent in all of church history.  Seeing real recorded history with not only so many prophecies fulfilled, but also so many parallels and perfectly recorded cross-references to our salvation journey is mind-boggling.

I have mentioned in several of  these articles, but today, we will highlight the Christian journey as it parallels the journey of the Israeli nation. You will see that this nation’s actual history reflects our lives in some very interesting ways, and that this journey therefore was no accident, but was painting a picture of the journey of each individual in the church.

Think about it. Conception, an ordained promise that God makes with Abraham, calling him out to grow a nation, conceiving it. These few parts of what will be the whole nation, move down into the protection of Egypt. Egypt, the safest place in world to grow, to be protected, just like a womb if you will, a civilization powerful enough to ensconce a budding nation and offer if the protections it needs to thrive. Remember, Abraham was respected by Egypt, as shown by how they honored him in death.

This nation grows from 75 people (a few cells) to approximately 2 million, a full nation, (full body) over a period of 430 years (pregnancy). Then birth, into their own country, but of course, as we follow the living metaphor, you cannot have birth without labor pains. Suddenly it seems even the pain of childbirth points to a profound and awesome plan.

Childbirth of course was the exodus, labor was slavery, pain-filled time, heartache, trouble, tumult. Fear as to whether or not they would survive, if things would be okay.

A quick aside, there are many verses about water in the bible. Part of creation of course, well of salvation, out of the side of Christ upon His death. But in our salvation story, there is also two births, being born, and as Christ says, you must also be born again. Birth into the world is accompanied by the water breaking. And our second birth, being born into God’s kingdom, accompanied by baptism.

Success in the birthing of a nation, a miracle (much like a birth today is a beautiful miracle), was as we know accompanied by water, the crossing of the Red Sea. Safely on the other side we have a new creature, a new nation. What God calls a stubborn, stiff-necked people, just like us, prone to complaining, idolatry, etc.

Then, next we have our 40 years in the wilderness. Consider, after you are born, there is a period of time you are not saved, learning, building faith, learning to trust God. You are not saved, you are convicted by laws, figuring out how to get to the promised land. 40 is part of biblical numerology, suggesting a time of trial, patience, storm.

Then, at long last, they are saved, as Joshua, a Christ-figure, leads them to the promises of God, and yet again, through a river, this time the Jordan, the baptism and second birth of the nation.

Like our own salvation and relationship with God, this is not paradise. There is war here in this promised land. There are enemies. But there is a relationship with God. This is our sanctification period. This does not remove you from the troubles of the world, as the prosperity gospel preachers would suggest. But the nation, the Christian is armed and is part of a nation, a family, a history, a body of Christ.

We have walked to the promises of God, to salvation, from birth, with Israel, and it is so like our own journey, an undeniable parallel, that the church’s salvation journey is literally prophesied and lived out by the nation of Israel for all to see in their history.

Such an amazing wonder, and testament to the plans of God.

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Islamic Extremism Part 2

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and over 8 million in the United States of America. To marginalize their numbers, or their hearts and beliefs, especially in a democratic republic that touts the civil liberty of freedom of religion, would be to fail in our mission to be the light of the world, a beacon on a hill. Prejudices, intolerance, hate, these are characteristics of fallen man, and are present throughout all of human history. This is why living in a republic can alleviate some of the failures of man, since governance is dictated by law, not by mob rule, public opinion, or dictatorial fiat.

Regardless of how well we have traditionally achieved following it, the law states that we do indeed have a freedom to practice religion, regardless of who agrees with it, as long as that religion is not infringing on the rights of others. It is this author’s opinion that the vast majority of Muslim Americans think this way, respect this approach, and the insinuation that all Muslims are prone to terrorism is a hurtful insult. In speaking with friends, or to the public, there is always tension between those who presume Muslims are all violent,  and those who may know some personally, fully realizing that the family or friends they know do not fit an extremist reputation. So do we… should we… have the uncomfortable conversation about where this reputation comes from?

The reputation comes from the same place that America’s reputation comes from when Europeans are asked about us. Known as silly, rude, debaucherous, self-entitled, America’s reputation comes from the loudest of us. Those that make the most noise, make the most ruckus, and in turn are highlighted most in the media and on-line. In a most similar fashion, the reputation of Muslim extremism comes from those acting out, in obviously horrible ways, according to their interpretation of Quran, their holy book they revere and follow. Only the events that spawn from these extremist individuals and groups are more than loud bravado. They are terrorist events.

Now, it is argued over how many of the 1.6 million Muslims could be considered extreme. If you listen to Hollywood, those who choose to terrorize wouldn’t fill a AAA baseball stadium. But latest intelligence reports suggest that between 15-25% of the Muslim community is extreme in its thinking. This means that between 240,000,000 and 400,000,000 people exist in the world that are dedicated in though and action towards the destruction of the Western World, i.e. those who are not Muslims, infidels, such as Christians, Jews, and others. In many cases, extremism is directed towards other Muslims who do not share the same brand of thinking, who do desire peace, but who are not spared.

400,000,000 people. I dare say this is more than can fit in a stadium. It is in fact more people than all of those who currently reside in the United States. So yes, I agree that this does not reflect the silent majority. But as always, we must look back through history and honestly discuss the reality of silent majorities. For example: Germany’s peaceful majority were not able to prevent the deaths of 60 million in WWII, 14 million of whom died in concentration camps (over 6 million Jews); Communist Russia’s peaceful majority were not able to stop Russia from killing 20 million of its own people; Communist China’s peaceful majority were not able to stop the killing of 70 million people; Japan prior to WWII had a peaceful majority that were not able to stop the slaughter across south eastern Asia of 12 million souls; Korea 3 million, Iraq 900,000, and Cuba, Syria, and so on, and so on…

But what criteria do I decide as an individual, or we as a country, that a certain mindset is “extremist” in nature. An excellent question. The answer if you are an atheist is, absolutely none! There is no logical means to determine an objective moral law in regards to anyone’s behavior if there is no standard. This is the true danger of moral relativism. Those who are in charge determine what is right and wrong. And depending on who is in charge, and how they feel about various issues, right and wrong can sway with the times, with mob rule, with the desires of the human heart, until even suggesting a society base its laws upon an objective morality would be an exercise in futility. Do you care for an example? In Turkey, this very week, a new bill proposed by the Turkish parliament will allow those who rape underage children to be pardoned for the crime as long as they marry the victim after the act.

Without a moral standard, who can clearly state that this is wrong? That this isn’t just how a certain pocket of people evolved, and within the borders of that sovereign nation, they have the freedom to conduct their society as they see fit? If this disturbs you, that means you have the sense of an objective moral law written on your heart. It is there, and according to the bible, it is written there by God. He has given us a standard, through His word.

This is the difference between freedom adjudicated via our God given rights,  versus freedoms granted to us by leaders, or by false teachings. We’d better be sure of whose morality we are approving. I would reiterate that the reputation of some does not give us the right to paint all with the same brush. But is it fair to ask tough questions? To point to obvious truths? To existing deviations from an objective moral standard? Some would declare this to be bigoted. Racist. But how long can the malignant growth of evil continue to not be challenged under the guise of kindness, before the voices of the suffering, and the dead will be heard? If your cry of tolerance keeps you from acknowledging evil, then your tolerance is simply disguised indifference.

In the next part, we will discuss, using an objective moral standard, what behaviors are extreme, and where they stem from.

For the Islamic Conflict Part 1,   click here. 

For Islamic Terror in Nice,  click here.

For “There is only One Race” is Racist, Click Here.

For God vs god (Biblical vs Quran), Click Here.

Islamic Extremism Part 1

This hot-button topic is an issue close to my heart for several reasons, and I feel should be studied by Christians, though it is difficult  for westerners to get their arms around. I am not a historian, I am a Biblicist, and a writer, so there isn’t any historical expertise that I can add to the already dense volumes of geopolitical commentary that exist. But today we will take a look at the strained relationship between Islam and Israel, and try to determine a Christian mindset in regards to the matter. Antisemitism seems rampant as of late, and springs up furiously, without warning far too often. The bible does say,

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs [along with Israelites] according to the promise.” – Galatians 3:26–29

and

” But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,  do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.” – Romans 11: 17-21

and of course, the well known

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:3

We as Christians are grafted into the root of Israel as believers. It is interesting to note that the olive tree does very well taking grafts and incorporating them into the original plant. In this way we are heirs of what was promised to Israel, to Abraham. Not only this, but in studying and revering God’s word, we would be remiss to not acknowledge that these scriptures we hold so dear, both Old and New Testament, were delivered to us from the Holy Spirit through His chosen people. Israel, its profits, and apostles are the very people God used to write the Bible and love the world. The reverence we should have for that alone is beyond measure, in my thinking.

Now, these articles are not political in nature, though often, political actions very much have theological implications. That being said, it is evident to anyone paying attention that the current administration of the West, along with the actions of the U.N. have as of late been extremely biased against Israel. There are 193 countries that belong to the United Nations, and time and time again, despite Israel’s democratic processes, free press, women’s rights,  food innovations, incorporation of other cultures besides Judaism (one fifth of Israel is Muslim), and a military that goes to lengths beyond any the world has known to prevent unnecessary deaths while acting in its defense, Israel is continually reported on as an offender of human freedom. Reported on 5 times more than Syria, 16 times more than Iran, and when compared to China, and their denying of basic freedoms to over 1 billion people, China has never been reported on once by the U.N.

The U.S.A. sends $440 million  to the Palestinian Authority Unity Government, which includes Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two state sponsored terrorist organizations, and who broadcast on television and radio how Allah wants the Jews to be killed, a typical broadcast in that area.

And in the midst of all this, we have bad people on both sides, as war tends to bring out aggression, the worst of people, and creates a basis for rationalizing violence. I don’t think anyone, even Israel herself, would deny that atrocities occur from there citizens too, and not just Palestinians.

So let us look at one. A Jewish extremist group kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian boy recently. It was in the papers. The reaction of the citizens of Israel was telling, as they were mortified that this injustice happened. No one is vying to name streets after this group. They are to be rounded up and prosecuted for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law. Some have already been arrested as the horrified Jewish citizens looked on.

As a reaction, a Palestinian group kidnapped and killed three Jewish boys. The reaction was telling. Hamas celebrated the heroes who committed the crime. They ran ads in their paper with pictures of the three boys, and called them rats that had been exterminated. The crowds cheered at the murders.

We fund them.

Not just in the Middle East, but in various places in the western world, college campuses, New York streets, on line, mentioning Israel as our democratic ally, supporting their defense, and loving them as brothers under the one true creator God, garners a caustic backlash of hate, a deep-seeded anger, and is often followed with shouts of ridicule such as “%&$@ Israel!”

But Israel does not practice convert-or-kill policies. They do not stand behind the mantra of “No Recognition, No negotiations, and No Peace” from the 1967 Sudanese meeting. The motto of Hamas is, “We love death as much as the Jews love life.” In Mosul, in July 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group gave Mosul’s Christians 48 hours to decide to flee or die. As a method of governance, Homosexuals are beheaded, hanged and stoned in modern Saudi Arabia and Iran, where Muhammad’s laws are applied most strictly.

I do not pretend that all Muslims are violent. In fact, I have a great love for the Muslim people, and wish greatly for their conversion to Christianity, and the one true savior, Jesus Christ. This is happening in great numbers, by the way, despite the constant threats of violence. But the world’s hate towards Israel, I will continue to not understand. It is so obviously misplaced, overreaching, and pervasive, I have to wonder if  this is not due to spiritual forces, rather than any intellectual argument. But as a Christian, I will continue to speak on their behalf, in love, and continue to stand with Israel and the Jewish nation, for whom I have a tremendous love and respect. If I am hated by my friends and acquaintances for this, then so be it.

___________

UPDATE: At the zero hour of his departure from the White House, it was discovered that Obama funneled an additional 221 million to Palestinian Authorities as he was leaving, furthering the support of known terrorist supporters. A global survey of Muslims by the Pew Research Center has found that Palestinian Arab Muslims polled the highest in favor of suicide bombings as a justifiable means “to defend Islam.” The poll also found that 89 percent of Palestinian Muslims favored sharia becoming “the official law of the land.”

While women in the U.S. lament his departure, praise his actions for civil rights, and march in the streets for the cause of women, he has chosen to further fund the oppression of Muslim women. Irony abounds.

Islamic Extremism Part 2

Islamic Extremism Part 3

Islamic Extremism Part 4

 

 

Be Still…

Many Christians look around at the social and political landscape with a deep anxiety towards what the future holds. Different issues cling to our psyche like pursuers we can’t gain distance from. Morality, liberty, church, money, the way in which we view these things is changing. What’s worse is we are often guilty of feeding that worry, of staying exposed to it, trapped in an echo chamber of our own making  until we believe the sky is falling. It does us good to step back and remember who is in charge.

You have to wonder how terrifying the world seemed to young Daniel when Babylon marched the Israelites across Shinar into Babylonian slavery.

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” – Dan 1: 1-2

Israel, after prophetic warnings, had finally passed into judgement for not obeying God. Jeremiah chapter 34 explains how Israel did not practice their Sabbath days or years, and were to spend between 606BC and  536 BC as slaves to the Babylonian and Persian empire. It was exactly 70 years before Daniel and his countrymen were allowed to start rebuilding Jerusalem, the bulk of his life in fact. Permission was given by the Persians to rebuild the temple, but never again, until May of 1948, were the Jewish people not ruled over by others. They had lost their independence.

But what came from this slavery, this providential lowering of protection for Israel. First consider the precision of judgement. God’s people had abandoned the Sabbath year for precisely 490 years before enslavement. Every seventh year being a Sabbath year, meant the Israelites were being judged for disobedience in regards to exactly 70 of those years (490 / 7 = 70). The exact amount of years they were under captivity! Much too perfect to be coincidence, true historical data such as this continues to make the word of God unique, and remarkable.  Precisely 70 years were paid back to God; and during those 70 years it was prophesied not only the empires to follow and continue to rule over the Israeli people, but also the 490 year prophecy pertaining to God’s plan for them. A precise starting point was given, and an exact time of the messiah was shared with Daniel, and in turn, with the world.

The bible was edified beyond comprehension through this tumult, proving to be prophetically accurate, highlighting God’s precise righteous judgement, and promising a time of grace and salvation, all within, and around, and in the midst of human debauchery. You see, it is within the framework of human behavior that this historical narrative plays out, and does so according to the sovereign will of God. What seems like abandonment, unfairness, tragedy, when examined from a historical perspective, falls in line perfectly with what God is doing. Make no mistake, grace and judgement are, and have always been, linked. We like to celebrate God’s love, but tend to deny deserving God’s judgement, and the sacrifice necessary to bestow undeserved grace. In Eden, sin was covered, and the animals shed blood to cover it; during the flood, Noah and his family were spared, the continuously evil world judged; at the exodus, Jews were shown grace, while Egypt was judged righteously; at the cross, the world was loved, while blood was shed. It has always been.

A true study of Daniel is mind-blowing, but the greatest lesson from its pages is the comfort of knowing who is in control, even when hardships fall. That trek across the Shinar valley, each step adding distance between each prisoner’s home and holy places, while the Babylonians defiled everything sacred, how could one be asked to trust in God. It must have seemed hopeless. But even then, we can look back at a perfect mosaic woven by God’s hand, and see a plan unfold that was implemented beyond our understanding, and outside of our time.

What does this mean for you? It means that God’s plan far exceeds your understanding,  even your life, and furthermore, He does not owe you explanation before accomplishing His will. What He demands instead is trust. The kind of trust Daniel personified, despite circumstance, despite slavery, despite even death if need be. But this trust does not go unrewarded. In return for your trust, you receive that precious grace you don’t deserve, and it is stamped with the same assurances as the prophecies given to Daniel, which unfolded with supernatural accuracy.

So when we view the landscape of our times, do so with the wisdom that comes with hanging hope on the promises of God. He has asked for your trust, and has bought you with His own blood. For consideration:

When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. – Psalms 75:3

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalms 46:10

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

(Jesus) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:27