Is God Always on Israel’s Side? (Part 2)


Earlier, Acts 13:32-39 was quoted, but not in its entirety. When the complete quote is included, we see that the early church Dreidel God Israel Christ Kingdom landproclaimed more than the fact that Christ is the fulfillment of Israel, He is the realization of the Son of God. As such, Christ is also the fulfillment of the kingdom. So, Acts 13:34 offers this prophecy from God about Jesus: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.”

Talk of David in the Bible is always significant because David represents the fulfillment of Old Testament Kingdom promises. David is the prototypical king of Israel. This prophecy fulfilled in Acts 13 is an acknowledgement that Jesus has come as the King of the Israel of God.  Thus, our contemporary over-emphasis on the national entity of Israel is a diminishing of the glory of the eternal kingdom which has already begun for God’s people in Jesus Christ.

The issue of emphasis in the New Testament is not national, nor ethnic, and it isn’t even about a parcel of land; the issue is Christ the king and His kingdom people who are “in him” by faith.  There is still a future fulfillment in Christ at the consummation of His kingdom, which brings about the new heavens, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem from above.  So, the Apostle Paul was able to speak of a new reality in Galatians 6:15-16,

“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

Clearly, the Apostle Paul makes Christ’s faithful out to be the true Israel of God. The reason is that those born again are “in Christ.” Those in Christ are in the true Israel of God. They are the fulfillment of the kingdom promises of the Old and New Testament.  Thus, the Apostle Peter would say of us who are in Christ,

1 Peter 2:9, But you are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation, A People for God’s own Possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God…

The people of God—God’s Holy nation—is not Israel, but us who belong to Christ. The kingdom belongs to Christ and to those to whom He gives it. Jesus died the “King of the Jews,” and when He rose again and ascended into heaven, he guaranteed a new future which inextricably sewed heaven and earth together into a new reality which He will complete on His return.

Star of David Israel Nation Christ KingdomNotice the significance of each point in 1 Peter 2:9. Christians now are the “chosen race,” first mentioned in Isaiah 43:20.  Christians are now the “royal priesthood and holy nation” of Exodus 19:6.  [Yes! Christians are the nation of God’s favor.] Christians are now the “people for God’s own possession,” mentioned first in Exodus 19:5. In short, Christians are the children of God, the chosen for His kingdom.  Thus, no one [including Jews living in the land of Israel]—no one can come to the Father except through His son, Jesus (John 14:6). Christians are those who have thus come to the Father.

The original covenant promise from God came to Abraham. It was through Abraham that Isaac (the child of promise) and Jacob (the father of the 12 tribes of Israel) came about. The faith of Abraham is completed in the coming of Jesus Christ. So, again, Paul the Jew would say, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7-8). “So, those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”

From the beginning, Abraham was to serve as a light to the nations, and, in Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. They were originally blessed through the light of Abraham’s offspring–Israel, which shone (in varying degrees of darkness) until the arrival of the true Israel of God: God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. Now that Christ has come, everything has changed into a glorious reality of his eternal kingdom.

If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s descendant, an heir according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).  If you are in Christ, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Hebrews 12:22).  In short, all the promises of God (including those in the Old Testament) are “yes and amen” in Christ Jesus.

To Be Continued Again? What about the future of national Israel? Stay tuned.

(In the meantime, you may want to read, “Is the Holy Land Really Holy?”)

Why Uncle Sam Shouldn’t Play Santa


As a child, I believed in Santa. As my age rose into the higher single digits, I began to realize that something wasn’t adding up with the Santa Claus story. I don’t remember my age, but it was definitely before age 10, when I realized that Santa had some parental help. Here is how it happened.

I got a super sweet Daisy pellet gun on Christmas morning. That gun may have been my best present ever. More than 3 decades later,

1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I still have it, and it still works. But on the package that Christmas morning, I noticed something which confirmed a suspicion I had long held: There was a West Brothers Dept. Store tag on the box, and it read $24.95. Either Santa Claus shopped at the same store as my parents, or my parents were really Santa.

I settled on the latter, simpler explanation and learned a lesson which has stuck with me to this day—a lesson which half the adults in America may not fully grasp: There are no free gifts. Somewhere behind the Santa charade someone has worked and earned the money needed for gifts to be given away. This is true under the Christmas tree, and it is true when monthly checks are distributed by the federal government.

Our system of government is currently corrupt and not very compassionate. It “feels” compassionate to double the welfare rolls and promise free medicine to all people, but it is not. True compassion comes from empowering people—not from enslaving them to a political voting block of government dependency.

Take, for example, the injunction of the Apostle Paul:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Paul was not some crass, big-wig Republican Wall Street type. He was a well-educated, but poor tentmaker because he gave away all his money and spent his time and energy working for the kingdom of God, working with his hands by day so he could preach by night and travel to the different churches he was planting.

In giving this injunction to force people to work, Paul was affirming a principle of freedom. God originally created human beings to exercise dominion over the earth, to cultivate the earth, to work the ground and receive the rewards of their labors. There is righteousness in working hard and reaping rewards. Equally, there is poverty and bondage if this natural order is not followed. Making people dependent on the government is the opposite of compassion: It is enslavement. It is bondage. And it is calculated to create a voting block—not to genuinely improve the human condition.

Consider the results of welfare programs in the black community: In the 1960’s, nearly 80% of black families in America were intact families, with both father and mother living at home. Today, 70% of black children in America are born into homes without a father. As a result, poverty has increased. Families have been broken and destroyed by the dependency culture that came about through the “War on Poverty,” which was a political scheme instituted by Lyndon Johnson to get blacks to vote Democrat. In that sense, LBJ’s scheme worked. Blacks do typically vote Democrat. But the results have been disastrous for the black community. (See Star Parker’s testimony below).

The truth is, freedom comes from expecting people to provide for their own families. Freedom comes from empowering people through opportunity to succeed. If someone is unwilling to work, that person should not be fed by the federal government. America was founded on this very principle, and our liberty has been dependent upon maintaining it.

This lesson was, in fact, one of the first lessons learned in the American experiment. In Jamestown, the early colonists had a communal system in which all people were given equal shares of food, irrespective of work performed. Captain John Smith was forced to enact the biblical principle mentioned above in order to increase the work ethic and, thus, provide the food and goods necessary to keep the people of Jamestown alive. Over time, William Bradford came along and instituted private property rights, which not only expected people to grow their own food but also taught them to enjoy the full reward of their labors by owning, improving, and increasing their property (and hence, their prosperity).  Smith and Bradford ended up succeeding because of instituting the real-world solution of work and its reward.

There is no such thing as free food. And gifts whether they are given by fat-cat politicians or by bearded men with big bellies—all the same—they cost someone his wages.  As it turns out, the Daisy pellet gun I got as a kid is worth far more to me now because I know how hard my parents worked to give it to me. It cost them money they didn’t have to throw away. It was a sacrifice of love and now is a greater gift to me than it was then.

But when the government “gives” money away to people who will not work, they are not giving sacrificially like my parents gave. They are giving to a voter who will, in turn, vote for them. In a word, they are buying votes by taking money from all working Americans to create a voting block of Americans who are getting the “free” benefits of other’s labors.

It is not a legitimate defense of this practice to claim that it represents the compassion of America. Compassion is the task of individuals, of churches, of non-profits. The government cannot legitimately take on the role of compassion because the government neither produces its own wealth nor receives it voluntarily.  The government takes wealth from others. It should be free to take wealth only to the extent that it needs funds for defense and infrastructure. When Uncle Sam becomes Santa, all Americans lose wealth, freedom, and prosperity. There is no compassion in government spending. None.

To summarize the point: My parents did show love and compassion when they worked hard, earned their own money, and spent it sacrificially to give a good gift to their son.  If my parents had strong-armed their neighbors, taken money from them, and agreed to pay the rent for their other neighbors in exchange for some service, then my parents would not have been compassionate. They would have been criminals. Vote-buying and dependency building is not compassion. It is criminal.

Tribulation Now for Nigerian Christians


 

Usually, I love debating theology and the finer points of Christian doctrine. I am a pastor and a professor; I am supposed to love such things. But there is one aspect of doctrine that tends to provoke my inner Mike Tyson.  I go nuts whenever I see or hear some modern day prophet spewing his end-time apocalyptic fire.

Typically, such “prophecies” warn Christians (ur, American Christians) about some latter day tribulation that will be intolerable (unless you believe in a pre-Trib rapture). I find such claptrap to be both uninspired and downright deplorable. Nigeria gives us just one reason why.

In Nigeria, between 25-30 Christian students have been murdered by Muslim terrorists.  The students were in their rooms studying for their college exams—just like your Christian persecution Nigeria tribulation kids and my kids are (supposed to be) doing week after week in their apartments and dorm rooms.  Suddenly, armed Muslim terrorists broke into their rooms, called them out by name, and killed them either by shooting them or by slitting their throats. Why were they murdered? Because they were Christian and not Muslim.

Imagine if this were your child. Imagine your son, your daughter, working hard to get entry into college and trying to study to improve his or her future, only to be robbed of that future by men who fashion themselves Allah’s executioners.  What right do these men have to decide that your child should die today? Can you imagine the agony of these mothers and fathers today, as they now must struggle to find a way to bury their children?

I dare say it would be cruel to speak to these parents and warn them (like a prophecy preacher would) of some horrible time in the future which might include intense persecution for the church. That future is now for Christians all over the world. Tribulation is now for Christians in Nigeria. In Nigeria, there has been violence against Christians every single day since November 2011.  It seems to me they are facing tribulation now on account of Christ. Persecution is their normal day.

Rather than prophesying to Christians about some future apocalyptic persecution, the Apostle Paul made a regular practice of encouraging Christians by telling them, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  Fear-mongering by futuristic prophecy preaching only works from the comfort of America, where examples of suffering might include sitting in uncomfortable pews or enduring painfully loud drums in the worship service.  In Nigeria, they are not afraid of the future prospect of persecution because their present reality is a call to survive, to endure, to persevere to the end of their tribulation and receive their white robes and new names in the presence of the one whose eyes are flaming fire and whose tongue is a two-edged sword, razor-sharp with truth and justice.  Undoubtedly, their thoughts are Christ-ward as their souls cry, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

 

Women Becoming Targets for Violence in Egypt


The Apostle Paul once lamented the fact that he was guilty of throwing women into prison (Acts 22:4).  Though it is politically incorrect to say, it is also patently obvious to see that women are, according to the Scriptures, the “weaker vessel.” As the typically more physically dominant of the two sexes, the man (again, according to the Scriptures) has an added responsibility to honor and respect the woman, ensuring her well-being. If he fails, then his relationship with God suffers, as his prayers will no longer be heard (according to 1 Peter 3:7).

I bring up this topic because not all religions and not all government authorities think the same way about Muslims Target Female Missionariesprotecting women. Even in the U.S., some are grossly offended at the notion of a man “protecting” his wife. Still, hidden within the most liberal critique of Christian instruction lies a biblical necessity of protecting the woman from harm. So, Susan B. Anthony—a champion of women’s rights—once stated:

Trust me that as I ignore all law to help the slave, so will I ignore it all to protect an enslaved woman.

Her comments came against a critique levied against her when she decided she had to help an abused wife run away from her abusive husband.  (Sadly, it is true that women need to be protected from men at times, when they should be protected by them). Biblically, the call is clear that women are to be honored and protected.

As controversial as the above statements may feel to some, they are completely benign in the global realities of this present world. The Christian view does not demean women; it protects them, honors them, and counts them as equals before God.  The Muslim view, well…

In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy has put out a notice for female missionaries to be on extra alert because, apparently, they are being targeted by violent Muslims.  According to the Embassy, there is “credible information suggesting terrorist interest in targeting U.S. female missionaries in Egypt.”

Do You Believe in Miracles (Part 3 of 3)


However, the much more positive perspective on the miracles of Jesus is that they often led to faith (as was their

design).  When the man born blind received his sight in John 9, he said, “I believe.”  And he worshiped at the feet of

Miracle lame man healed

Lame Man Healed

Jesus (John 9:38).  When the lame beggar outside the temple was healed, he went out walking and leaping and praising God (Acts 9:8).  Such is God’s design for his miracles.

Undoubtedly, the skeptics and unbelievers will persist in denying the presence of miracles.  Jesus had his skeptics, as did C. S. Lewis nearly two thousand years later.  No one will ever prove the existence of miracles to everyone’s satisfaction, but the believer will hold to their reality with the vehement certainty of a mother who knows her own child.  Why?

The believer owes his very own spiritual existence to a miracle.  The plainest evidence to the believer of the reality of miracles is his own spiritual awakening to Christ.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that this spiritual awakening is a new birth, wrought by God (John 3:3, 21).  The Apostle Paul says that faith comes as a gift to the believer who is made alive by God’s hand at work, not as a result of man’s efforts—so that no one may boast before God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Every believer is a walking testimony to the reality of a miracle of grace.

A monthly publication called The King’s Business (published by Biola from 1910 – 1970) once told the story of the atheist Joseph Parker.  Upon his visit to a mining town in the north of England, Parker proudly lectured the crowds repeatedly on why it was foolish to believe in God and to believe in miracles.  After satisfactorily completing his eloquent refutation of the Christian faith, Parker prepared to leave the crowd to ponder how well he had demolished belief in Christ.

conversion a miracle A poor, dirty man in grimy, mining clothes stood up and offered his own simple reply to Parker’s polished unbelief.  Reportedly, the man said, “Sir, I’m only a working man, and I don’t know what you mean by the word ‘myth.’  But can you explain me?  Three years ago I had a miserable home; I neglected my wife and children; I cursed and swore; I drank up all my wages. Then someone came along and showed me the love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. And now all is different. We have a happy home; I love my wife and children; I feel better in every way; and I have given up the drink. A new power has taken possession of me since Christ came into my life. Sir, can you explain me?”

Every Christian believer stands as an apt refutation to the skeptic’s denial of miracles.

Is Praying Now Bullying?


 

William Law once said, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as prayer for him.” Nothing is more natural or loving for the Christian than prayer.  Jesus, early in His ministry, taught His disciples how to pray (Matthew 6).  The Apostle Paul later taught Christians to “pray without ceasing,”  (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Those prayers are to be made on behalf of all people (1 Timothy 2:1).  From Jesus’s own ministry, we understand that prayer is to be made on behalf of the sick especially.

Far from being called loving, such prayers might now be considered bullying. In the UK (Nailsea, Somerset), a

Olive Jones prayer fired persecution

Picture: The Telegraph

teacher has been fired for offering to pray for a student. Olive Jones has been teaching for more than 20 years. She took a position at Oak Hill Short Stay School in order to teach students who were suffering from illness. She wanted to help.

On a visit to the home of one of her students, Ms. Jones offered to pray for the child. The response was sharp: “We are from a family that does not believe,” the child said.  So, Ms. Jones did not pray. Apparently, the offer to pray was offensive enough to the mother of the child. She complained. Ms. Jones was dismissed from her job as a teacher. And the matter was investigated as a possible incident of bullying.

Possibly, there is more to the story. Maybe Ms. Jones badgered the little girl and preached to her rather than spending their time together teaching math. That is possible, but the original story clearly indicates that the offer to pray caused trauma.  Is this a sign of things to come? Is prayer an act of love, as Law said, or is it a power play to oppress the sick and weak, as the school indicated by its termination of Ms. Jones?