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Have You Been Scammed by Your Own Heart?

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
Proverbs 16:2 NIV

כָּֽל־דַּרְכֵי־אִ֭ישׁ זַ֣ךְ בְּעֵינָ֑יו וְתֹכֵ֖ן רוּח֣וֹת יְהוָֽה׃

A study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism asked thousands of people what news was most important to them. International news beat out celebrity and “fun” news by a margin of two-to-one. Economic and political news finished even higher. But what happens when readers were asked not what’s important, but what they actually read?

Derek Thompson with The Atlantic claims most Americans lie about what they actually read. He explains: [On June 17, 2014], the most important story in the world, according to Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_gustavofrazao'>gustavofrazao / 123RF Stock Photo</a>every major American newspaper this morning, is the violent splintering of Iraq.

So what did we actually read on June 17, 2014? The top stories across the big media outlets focused on the World Cup, a YouTube game, gluten and postpartum depression, the Miss America Pageant, and the Video Music Awards. Thompson concludes, “Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.”

If we are truthful about ourselves, we discover we are rather dishonest. Consequently, we wouldn’t par too well if we were asked to submit to a spiritual fitness test based on a thorough self-examination of our inner truthfulness. We tend to overestimate our goodness and underestimate how much we need to repent and grow.

In Proverbs 16:2 Solomon beckons us to sign up for an investigation of our inner lives lest we be scammed by a dishonest heart. (more…)

Planning for the Future With or Without God

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD (Proverbs 16:1 ESV)

לְאָדָ֥ם מַֽעַרְכֵי־לֵ֑ב וּ֝מֵיְהוָ֗ה מַעֲנֵ֥ה לָשֽׁוֹן

One of today’s most popular sports cheers was first chanted in 1999 during the fourth quarter of an Army-Navy football game. The six-word cheer—I believe that we will win!—has been called the “epitome of classic American optimism.” Yet in real life, this overly confident attitude tends to backfire.

For instance, a 2002 study found overly optimistic grad students have a tougher time finding jobs. Students in their last year of grad school were asked to rate how likely they thought they were to land a good job shortly after leaving school.

Two years laterCopyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_ismagilov'>ismagilov / 123RF Stock Photo</a>, those who had admitted to frequent positive fantasies about life after grad school were less likely to succeed in their job search. The daydreamers sent out fewer résumés, and earned less than students who had a more realistic take on their post-university lives.

Positive thinking has its place, but we can mistake daydreaming about achieving our objectives for actually attaining those goals. To make things worse Christians will pull God into our daydreams and assume He’s dreaming the same dreams right along with us.

In Proverbs 16:1 Solomon helps us examine the way we reach decisions for the future. However, the usual interpretation of this proverb is “the Lord will show us what to do and what direction to take without much human effort.”  Why think or plan if God has already done the designing for us?

Christians who fail to grasp the teachings of Solomon in this proverb can spend their lives walking in circles. This is not because they “missed God’s will”, but as the result of failing to follow the directions found in Proverbs 16:1 on how to properly plan for the future. (more…)

Ordering Off God’s Menu of Life’s Choices

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV).

טוֹב־מְ֭עַט בְּיִרְאַ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה מֵאוֹצָ֥ר רָ֝֗ב וּמְה֥וּמָה בֽוֹ׃

ט֤וֹב אֲרֻחַ֣ת יָ֭רָק וְאַהֲבָה־שָׁ֑ם מִשּׁ֥וֹר אָ֝ב֗וּס וְשִׂנְאָה־בֽוֹ׃

Having lunch at Subway is an unusual experience.  I am in awe of how much time it takes to order a sandwich. My sandwiches are the same:  meat, lettuce, tomatoes and mustard . . . .  wrap it up.

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_radub85'>radub85 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Hungry people study the choices before them behind the glass case like they are on an archeological dig. We’ll take all the time we need to pick out exactly what we we want to make our gourmet Subway sandwich despite the growing line of impatient people behind us.

We enjoy having choices to make. I think God understands that part of human nature, which is why He lays out many selections regarding the way we can choose to l
ive. However, despite the variety of choices the Lord offers, this does not indicate all options are equal.

In Proverbs 15:16-17 Solomon spreads out two lifestyle  choices – wealth and simplicity – but one is better than the other.  In other words, not all choices have the same results.

Between the options of prosperity and a scaled down life, you would think a person needs to have his head examined to not choose plenty. Yet, we know life is not that simplistic.

Therefore, God sets up these two verses like several combination platters on a Chinese menu.  If you order one item, that option is accompanied by another food choice. Result?  What you assumed what was a blessing on the menu could be attended by a burden you never expected.

You are given an opportunity to pick which meal you want from each proverb.  But before you select, you need to ask the server, Solomon, what ingredients are used to make up these combination platters. (more…)

The Hunt for the White Whale of Anger

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18 NIV)

אִ֣ישׁ חֵ֭מָה יְגָרֶ֣ה מָד֑וֹן וְאֶ֥רֶך אַ֝פַּ֗יִם יַשְׁקִ֥יט רִֽיב׃

Recently I completed reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The novel tells a story of revenge and obsession. Captain Ahab, a whaler, loses a leg to a white sperm whale. A smoldering anger begins to grow in the one-legged captain.

Captain Ahab’s anger grows into a fixation on revenge against the sea monster. As his hatred grows, so does his lack of wisdom. On his final whale-hunting trip, the driving force in his soul begins to override good judgment, putting the man, the crew, and his ship into hazardous situations.

As the captain hurls Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_miro3d'>miro3d / 123RF Stock Photo</a>his ship, the Pequod, into the perilous seas of hate, his opportunity to take vengeance finally arrives. The white whale is within Ahab’s grasp.  His desire for revenge grows deeper, ignoring every danger. In the end, the ship is lost; the crew, is lost; and Ahab loses both his quest and his life. The white whale has won

In Proverbs 15:18 King Solomon once again acknowledges the power of unharnessed anger. In Proverbs 15:1 Solomon previously addressed the power of anger and response of the person on the receiving end,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath . . . ” (15:1).  However, in verse 18 his advice for removing the harpoon out of the hands of an angry person takes a different turn.

In response to my article on Proverbs 15:1, one reader commented the advice of Solomon is unworkable. A fair question. Face it, we all have tried to cool down a heated argument with a calm response,  but the flames rose higher regardless.  

Is there something we can do to convince an angry individual to drop his sharpened missile? (more…)

Deflate the Hot Air Balloon of Angry Words

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)

מַֽעֲנֶה־רַּ֭ךְ יָשִׁ֣יב חֵמָ֑ה וּדְבַר־עֶ֝֗צֶב יַעֲלֶה־אָֽף׃

For individuals reared in a home of discord, an environment of bickering and contention has become a family tradition.

A young rabbi faced a serious problem in his congregation. During erev Shabbat service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and the other half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting theirs was the true tradition.

Nothing the rabbi said or did helped solve the impasse. Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue’s 99-year-old founder. He met the old rabbi and poured out his heart. “So,” he pleaded, “was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?”

“No,” answered the old rabbi. “Then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers,”  responded the younger man. “No,” answered the old rabbi. “Well,” the young rabbi answered, “what we have now is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and scream.”

“Ah,” said the old rabbi, “that was the tradition.”

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_oussuchol'>oussuchol / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

In Proverbs 15:1 Solomon, king of the nation of Israel, demonstrates his awareness of angry conflicts that boil over into our homes. The solution offered by the wise king is not for us to ignore angry words. Rather, he tells us returning harsh words with harsher words is non-productive and can heat up our relationships like a hot air balloon.

As we look at Proverbs 15:1 we are given an “out of the box” way of reacting to potentially heated exchanges and defusing a situation to open a door for God to bring His peace. (more…)

Make America Good Again

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34 ESV)

צְדָקָ֥ה תְרֽוֹמֵֽם־גּ֑וֹי וְחֶ֖סֶד לְאֻמִּ֣ים חַטָּֽאת׃

In 2007, the I-35 bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed suddenly during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The investigation revealed the gusset plates, the thick sheets of steels that connect the girders together in the truss system were undersized, resulting in a structural flaw leading to its collapse. A year after the tragedy, The New York Times summarized what went wrong:

The bridge was designed in the 1960s and lasted 40 years. But like most other bridges, it gradually gained weight during that period, as workers installed concrete structures to separate eastbound and westbound lanes and made other changes, adding strain to the weak spot.

The city planners in Minneapolis ignored the design of the bridge and pushed the limitations of the span to hold a weight amount it was not designed to withstand.

Make America Good AgainLikewise, America was designed by our founders to function within certain parameters of morality and integrity. Our nation was not fashioned to tolerate an unbearable amount of immorality. The more sin we tolerate in our country, the greater the chance our vulnerabilities will collapse our precious  nation.

In Proverbs 14:34 Solomon equips us with the prescription to build a strong nation using a support system where righteousness holds all pieces together. This ancient text teaches that a nation’s greatness exists not only in its victory over terrorism, a robust economy, a vibrant foreign policy or lack of racism, but in its observance of justice and morality.  To ignore this principle is to dabble with the possibility our country can wind up a moral disgrace.

During this presidential election cycle, it is important we understand from Proverbs 14:34 what really makes our country tick . . . and what will make it great again. (more…)

How to Win Friends and Not Lose Self-Respect

The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. (Proverbs 14:20) ESV

גַּם־לְ֭רֵעֵהוּ יִשָּׂ֣נֵא רָ֑שׁ וְאֹהֲבֵ֖י עָשִׁ֣יר רַבִּֽים׃

Ever wonder how two soon-to-be newlyweds can spend a $1 billion on a wedding?  One couple in Moscow took the celebration of a lavish wedding ceremony to a whole new level.

The wedding was held at Safisa, a luxury banqueting venue the couple transformed into a fairy-tale setting with walls of freshly-cut flowers and furniture from Paris.

The 600 wedding guests were served sushi and feasted on a full European meal, which ended with the presentation of a cake taller than the couple. Elie Saab designed the bride’s 28-pound custom gown, which is estimated to cost $25,000.

For entertainment at the ceremony, the couple enlisted Sting and Enrique Iglesias to warm up the stage for none other than Jennifer Lopez.

An official price tag for the wedding isn’t available, but Harper’s Bazaar estimates it falls within the $1 billion range.

16673291 - happy laughing women drinking champagne, singing xmas songKnowing opportunists who are out to hobnob with the rich and famous, I doubt whether many invited guests declined to attend this unique affair.

As a former pastor I have officiated at countless weddings.  Some affairs were exquisitely done. Others were simple–a church fellowship hall with punch and wedding cake for refreshments.

What I remember most about these weddings is not the money spent, but the genuine support and friendship the guests had shown towards the couple.

The value of lasting friendships is the subject of  Proverbs 14:20. What is friendship? How can we tell when relationships are real or based on dubious motives?

In this no nonsense proverb, Solomon cautions us against using friendships to get close to people capable of providing something for our benefit.

The King of Israel questions whether we avoid friends going through financial hardships because they may expect us to rush to their aid. In contrast, we may gravitate more towards the well-to-do because of how they may benefit us. (more…)

Need a foolproof map to guide your life?

“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.”
Proverbs 14:15 NIV

פֶּ֭תִי יַאֲמִ֣ין לְכָל־דָּבָ֑ר וְ֝עָר֗וּם יָבִ֥ין לַאֲשֻׁרֹֽו׃

Picture a seasoned team of seamen with years of sailing experience making a blunder that practically shipwrecked their vessel. Remarkably, the 19th century polar expedition of the USS Jeannette, commandeered by Lieutenant George De Long ended in complete failure.

Captain De Long and his crew became thoroughly disoriented on their trek—not because of a faulty compass, but because of a mistaken map. De Long’s quest rested on a picture of the North Pole laid out in the maps of Dr. August Heinrich Petermann.

Petermann’s maps propCopyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_mcolleen'>mcolleen / 123RF Stock Photo</a>osed a “thermometric gateway” through the ice that opened onto a vast “polar sea” beyond the ice. As it turned out the ship was sailing to a world that didn’t exist.

Rather than an open polar sea, the crew observed the perilous ice surrounding the ship. Immediately, the  erroneous maps were scrapped and replaced with a comprehension of the way the Arctic truly is

Most readers conclude from this account Christians need a foolproof map from God to navigate His will.

Wrong!

I share this dramatic story to explain this is NOT how to identify God’s will.

The Lord does not have a hidden, faultless map to lead us to a treasure chest of priceless doubloons, aka His divine plan.

If there isn’t a GPS to steer us to the Lord’s will, what does Solomon in Proverbs 14:15 instruct us to do or not do to remove the mystery attached to “finding the will of God”. (more…)

Do You Know When To Keep Your Lips Zipped?

Proverbs 14:3

By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them. (ESV)

בְּֽפִי־א֭֭וִיל חֹ֣טֶר גַּאֲוָ֑ה וְשִׂפְתֵ֥י ח֝֝כָמִ֗ים תִּשְׁמוּרֵֽם׃


If all our words were put into print, the result would be: a single day’s words would fill a 50-page book, while in a year’s time the average person’s words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each! Among all those words there are bound to be some statements spoken in anger, carelessness, or haste. And someone is sure to get hurt.

Since often I write using14193593 - close up of man my laptop at a variety of Starbuck locations, I am exposed to a myriad of conversations. Loud, obnoxious cell phone calls. Stodgy business conferences.  Idle talk meetups.  Annoying boardgame banter. I hear it all.

One morning I overheard a young woman on her cell grilling the person on the other end of the line like an CIA operative. Eventually she droned on about her need to “lose fat,” fleshed out every gory details of her recent eye surgery and fished voraciously for every scandalous minutia about some mutual friends.  It was painful to witness her unmanaged tongue at work.

To deal with the need to manage our tongues, in Proverbs 14:3 Solomon focuses on the communication of the wise contrasted to the verbiage that pours out of the mouth of a fool.

Speech management is a theme threaded throughout the Book of Proverbs. Solomon continually warns his listeners one area where we demonstrate either wisdom or foolishness is the control of our tongue.  (more…)

Do You Think Before You Act or Just Act?

 

Proverbs 13:16

In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.

כָּל־ע֭֭רוּם יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה בְדָ֑עַת ו֝֝כְסִ֗יל יִפְרֹ֥שׂ אִוֶּֽלֶת׃


In a San Francisco Examiner (7/7/93) report the California State Automobile Association claims office received a package by Federal Express. The unknown contents were bundled in a Fruit Loops cereal box.

Workers quickly became suspicious. Security guards called the police, and about 400 office workers were evacuated from the building. The bomb squad soon arrived on the scene.

The Fruit Loops cereal box was “neutralized” with a small cannon, and its contents were blasted into the air. The bomb squad, however, found no explosives. Inside the suspicious package was $24,000 in cash. The box contained bundles of $20 bills, $1,000 of which were destroyed in the blast.

The response of the SF police was understandable.  A suspicious package arrived that had to be dealt with. Only after the cereal box was neutralized was the identity of the contents determined.

In our world it is necessary to use caution, but acting without more thorough investigation can destroy things more valuable than money.

In Proverbs 13:16 Solomon contrasts the wisdom of taking time to think before one takes action with the foolishness of taking active steps without thinking through one’s options. (more…)

Proverbs for Living Skillfully

Automaker Henry Ford hired electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators came grinding to a halt, and the technicians couldn’t find the problem.  Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life–but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz.  Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted car maker inquired why the bill was so high.

Steinmetz’s reply: For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill (Today in the Word, MBI, April 1990, p. 27.).

Today we place more value on our unproductive, frantic efforts than the wisdom involved in “knowing where to tinker.”  After all, “knowing where to tinker” is more than a mere indicator of knowledge, but a sign of wisdom.  Anyone can offer a reasonable guess regarding the nature of a problem we are facing. However, it takes wisdom to know how to apply that speculation and make a wise choice that leads to a resolve.

Nested in the midst of the books of Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes) is a goldmine of biblical counsel for learning how to live skillfully. King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs is a much neglected biblical work that contains timeless truths that show us “where to tinker” in the major issues we face everyday.51727466 - skill ability qualification performance talent concept

One of the areas where followers of Jesus are forever tinkering in trying to determine God’s will. Christians spend precious time in this endless and often fruitless pursuit. Good news!  The Book of Proverbs is God’s guidebook for finding His will. This is the major source in the Scriptures that reveals not merely the information about God’s will, but discloses “where to tinker.”

Once we have read and understood this work of wisdom, we will no longer need to speak of “discovering God’s will.”  His plan for our lives becomes more apparent the deeper we dig within Solomon’s volume of wisdom.

Besides being a manual that enables us to understand the ways of God, the Book of Proverbs describes the qualities of spiritual character. As we will discover in Solomon’s sayings, possessing spiritual character goes hand-in-hand with grasping the will of God. (more…)

Do We Need to Repent To Be Forgiven?

The question of forgiving one another has plagued me ever since I became a follower of Jesus.  I heard many pastors and Bible teachers comment on this subject, but I did not feel they were teaching the message of the biblical text.  Instead, what I was hearing was  helpful common sense advice and psychological healthy ways to look at the way we should forgive one another.

Recently a good friend of mine whom I deeply respect, challenged me on my beliefs regarding the need for repentance as a condition for forgiveness.

Where I agree on this issue with my friend is that we both are in harmony that for a person to be reconciled with God, there must be a display of contriteness or repentance to experience the eternal forgiveness of God.  This is designated “vertical forgiveness” because it takes place between man and God.

iStock_000003523715Medium

Forgive One Another

Where my friend and I disagree is whether or not repentance is necessary when we as humans forgive one another.  If I offend another person, do I need to go to that person or have that person come to me so that I can confess my sin, state my intention to repent and ask for that person’s forgiveness?

My friend’s viewpoint is that we can forgive the other person through the forgiveness Jesus obtained for us through His death on the cross. The grace of God shown in the sacrificial death of Yeshua on the cross should so overwhelm us, that the natural outflow of our awe towards God’s love is to forgive others because God has shown His merciful forgiveness to us through His Son.

There is not always the need for repentance when there is “vertical forgiveness.”  On the basis of the atonement we have in the Messiah, we forgive one another. with or without any display of repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:12, we read, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (NIV).  (more…)

The Disappearing Palestine Map

Normally, Scripture Solutions focuses on biblically related topics. But since Christian denominations like the Presbyterian Church of the USA has delved into the Israel bashing business, this website must respond to these Christian attacks on Israel’s legitimacy.

Zionism Unsettled

Zionism Unsettled Booklet Cover

In the booklet Zionism Unsettled published formerly available in the store on the PCUSA website, we find a map of Israel/Palestine that has been used by Israel’s critics to demonstrate how Israel has slowly taken over the territories allotted to the Palestinians. Consequently, the resulting map shows a disappearing Palestine from 1946 to the present. But this map is a distorted representation of the history of the land of Israel especially as it relates to Arab inhabitants within the land.

On page eight of Zionism Unsettled, the composers of this booklet, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC, includes the disappearing Israel map with a caption of which I will quote in part,

The inexorable expansion of Israel control over former Mandate Palestine is, by now virtually complete. Fully half the population within this land area is not Jewish. For Israelis committed to the principle of the Jewish state, the ovulation issues poses a demographic threat to the ethno-religious character of the state. Palestinians are faced with the prospect of, at best, second class status in a state that classifies them as outsiders, and, at worst, deprivation in isolated enclaves without autonomy or self-determination.

(more…)

Did Those Six Million Jews Die for You?

Auschwitz entrance

The Entrance to Auschwitz

By now the controversy surrounding the Jews for Jesus video “That Jew Died for You” has simmered down. Still the strong negative reaction by the Jewish community to the JFJ evangelistic effort remains a stain on Jewish-Christian relations.

At the release of the video prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Jews for Jesus press release, explained the video seeks “to help redefine the conversation and reshape views of Jesus and His relationship to the Holocaust.”

The intentions of JFJ in the production of this video were honorable and aimed to initiate conversation among Jewish people regarding Christianity’s relationship to the murder of six million Jews under the evil Nazi regime.

David Brickner, Executive Director of  JFJ offered his public commentary on the video, “The horrors of the Holocaust and the 6 million who died has gnawed at the consciousness of Jews for over 60 years. We want Jewish people to understand that the sufferings inflicted at the hands of the Nazi’s were in no way based on the teachings of Jesus (underlining mine). In fact, he suffered and died on our behalf to show us the love of God.”

Oddly, the majority of Jewish people do not think the teachings of Jesus are responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. Rather, the Jewish community is  more concerned with the antisemitic attitudes of  Eastern European Christians prior to and during World War II that helped fuel the racist ideology behind the  Holocaust. (more…)

Not All Israel Is Israel Part 3

The controversy over God’s continuation of Israel as a viable nation despite their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah looms large in the Christian church.

Most followers of Jesus are not even aware of the various Christian theologies regarding the Jewish nation.  Yet when uninformed evangelicals are exposed to such anti-Israel beliefs such as Replacement Theology (the view that Israel is no longer God’s elect people but replaced by the Church), these Christians are conflicted over what they are  hearing and what the Bible teaches.

As a representative of Replacement Theology (though he prefers the term “Fulfillment Theology”) Gary Burge, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, in his book Whose Land? Whose Promises?  the author states, “Abraham can become the father of many nations because when Gentiles share in Abraham’s faith, he becomes their father too (Romans 4:16).  Physical lineage, therefore, has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith (emphasis mine). The ‘land of Israel’ is likewise spirtualized now to include the entire world” (pg. 182).

geneology

The key concept to focus on from Burge’s theology is, “physical lineage  . . . has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith.”  Israel  is no longer a physical nation, according to the Wheaton professor, but has become a spiritual entity that one enters into by faith  in Christ not by physical heritage through Abraham. If the physical seed has been “spiritualized” then the “physical” is no longer relevant, hence the physical nation of Israel is moot to God’s spiritual program.

The glaring mistake Burge makes is twofold:  first, the physical lineage of a member of the nation of Israel never implied the individual within the nation  has a relationship with God, and second, within the physical nation of Israel there has always existed a spiritual remnant of Israelites who remained faithful to God.  These two truths do not redefined the nation of Israel, but describe the reality of a spiritual remnant within the physical Jewish nation.

In contrast to Gary Burge’s fulfillment theology which pushes aside God’s plan for the physical nation  the Apostle Paul  teaches that Israel still exists as a nation even after the first coming of the Messiah. In Romans 9:3-4a Paul pleads, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” To Paul, “those of his own race” are “the people of Israel” quite alive and not replaced by or fulfilled in the New Testament church.  (more…)

Not All Israel is Israel Part 2

To many students of the Bible Paul’s comment in Romans 9:6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (NIV) sounds very strange.  Is Paul saying the part of Israel that is “descended from Israel” is no longer part of the nation known as Israel?  Then that would mean the only people who are actually Israelites are Jewish people who believe in Yeshua as Messiah  and the “not all who are descended from Israel ” group are no longer members of the Jewish nation.  Yet if you follow that logic, any examples of the NT apostles addressing the segment of the Jewish nation who have not accepted Yeshua as Messiah as  still “Israel” makes no sense.

Check out these examples from the New Testament:

Acts 2:22: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this:

Acts 2:29:  “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”

Acts 2: 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 3:12: “When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you?”

Acts 3:17: “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.”

Acts 4:10:  “then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

No wonder Christians are befuddled by Paul’s reference to two Israel’s in Romans 9:6.

Twelve Tribes of Israel

Twelve Tribes of Israel

 

In light of Paul’s head-scratching use of the phrase, “”not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”, Christian theologians come up with explanations that confuse the issue even more.

My favorite explanation is the one that states unbelieving Israel has been replaced by the Church.  This is called “replacement theology.”   In this theological system,  “Israel” that accepted Yeshua is none other than the Church.  Rather than create clarity, Replacement Theology (aka disguised as Fulfillment Theology or Transformation Theology or Promise Theology) contributes more fuzzy thinking since the reader of the New Testament is forced to think “Church” when he reads the term “Israel”. Try to think “Church” in reading Romans 11:26,  “and in this way all Israel will be saved.”  Thanks, but no thanks.  (more…)

Christ at the Checkpoint Position Paper by Israeli Messianic Jews

 

 A Position Paper of the Messianic Jewish Community regarding the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CatC) 

 1. The Word of God: the Tanakh and the New Covenant Scriptures together, are the one true, infallible, and unalterable standard of truth and life for all believers. As Yeshua our Messiah declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) and “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Therefore we affirm that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’” and ‘Amen’ (not abrogated) in Yeshua (II Cor. 1:20), and that “the gifts and calling of God” for His chosen people, Israel, “are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28b-29 in context). “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew!” (Romans 11:2). Rather, “to them belong [present tense!] the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4).

2. The Messiah Yeshua’s calling for His Body — in the Land of Israel and throughout the world — is to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) by proclaiming “repentance for the forgiveness of sins…in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Every movement or activity which does not promote or which, on the contrary, distracts us from that central purpose and calling is not of God, no matter what biblical or spiritual language may be used to describe it. Yeshua never commanded, or even suggested, that His followers were to “bring in” the Kingdom of God on earth. Yeshua Himself promised to establish His Kingdom upon His return (Matthew 25:31, 34), and we, who are heirs of His Kingdom and proclaimers of it in the present age (James 2:5; Acts 28:23, 31), are instructed to pray for that day to quickly come (Matthew 6:10; cf. Philippians 3:20-21).

3. Christ at the Checkpoint is, therefore, a false messianic movement, arrogating to itself the role of Messiah in establishing the Kingdom while promoting a humanistic, political “liberation theology.” [All the “evangelical” CatC speakers reflect the same approach and goals, as is evident from the Kairos Document which Yohanna Katanacho, CatC Committee member, helped compose and Bethlehem Bible College endorsed]. Although cloaking its “mandate” in biblical language (“the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God”) and using seductively positive terms (“Peace, justice, and reconciliation”), this movement has one overriding purpose: to sway Evangelical believers worldwide away from belief in the eternal promises of God to Israel by slandering the Jewish people and delegitimizing the Jewish state; painting Israel as a wicked, oppressive, apartheid “entity”—especially in contrast to the supposedly ‘democratic, tolerant and peace-seeking’ Palestinian Authority and people. There is no Gospel here! (more…)

Not All Israel Is Israel Part 1

Is “replacement theology” becoming the newest fad among Christians?  Lately I run across more and more Christians who claim the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people.  The sad thing is that most of them don’t know why they believe what they claim. As I dig deeper speaking with these individuals, they all share the same defect – they are sadly deficient in their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures.

For those who teach Israel has been replaced by the Church, Romans 9:6 is an essential verse in their arsenal. On the surface, the verse can be confusing.  Rebirth of IsraelThe verse reads, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” It’s like saying, “Not all players wearing a LA Dodger uniform on the field at Dodger Stadium and sitting in the dugout are really Dodgers.”

The replacement theologian would say, “Not all Jewish people who are wearing the Jewish uniform and sitting in the Jewish dugout are really members of the team.  In fact, the real Jews consist of members of the Church who have placed their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah.”

Replacement theology can be very confusing.  If you follow their line of thinking, in some passages “Israel is the Church” and in other texts, “Israel is the Jewish nation.”  Israel keeps switching leagues.  Sometimes they are in the National League; then at other times they are in the American League.  I don’t know who to root for because I don’t know who is who.

(more…)

Why Israel Exists ‘for the Palestinians’—and the Rest of the World | Christianity Today

Why Israel Exists ‘for the Palestinians’—and the Rest of the World | Christianity Today.

I am including the final installment of the dialogue between Jew for Jesus head David Brickner and Pastor and author John Piper regarding Israel’s divine right to the land. This four-part article has been helpful to lay out the issues on the table even though many aspects of this discussion left much unsaid.  Today Piper attempts to maintain the exclusivity of God’s promise to the Jewish people and yet also hold to the position that the whole world will inherit Israel as well.  Though the Gentile world enjoys the blessings of the land of Israel during the messianic kingdom, the prophecies in Ezekiel make it clear that the land of Israel is divided among the twelve tribes of the elect nation.

Pastor John Piper

Pastor John Piper

Piper displays the confusion among Reformed theologians who try to affirm Israel as the object of God’s blessings and at the same time extend those blessings to the world while maintaing Israel as a unique chosen nation. Somewhere in the theological mix as explained by Reformed theologians, the elect status of Israel is lost in the universal blessings God promises to the world.  Brickner’s words still stand true, ” “You are taking away with one hand what you give with the other.”

This is the conclusion of a four-part discussion between Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper and Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner on the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel. See parts onetwo, and three. (more…)

God Doesn’t Keep Jews in a Pickle Jar | Christianity Today

Jews for Jesus Director David Brickner has an online conversation with John Piper, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and speaker at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference.  This online conversation centers on the Jewish people’s divine right to the land of Israel.  ScriptureSolutions highly recommends to its readers to check out these articles and read the Christian ZIonism side represented by Brickner and the anti-Christian Zionist side purported by John Piper.

God Doesn’t Keep Jews in a Pickle Jar | Christianity Today.

This is part three of a four-part discussion between Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper and Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner on the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel. See Brickner’s initial letter and Piper’s first response.

Pickle Jar

Dear John,

Thank you for your insightful comments on a number of the issues brought up in my first letter to you, many with which I happily agree. We both uphold the need and priority of Jewish evangelism as integral to world mission. We both affirm the ongoing election of Israel (the Jewish people) and God’s faithfulness to his covenant people and his promises. We both look forward to the second coming of Jesus and his glorious restoration of all things, including his people Israel. I do want to take issue with two of your comments before voicing my main concern.

(more…)

How to Treat a Rebellious Israel | Christianity Today

Jews for Jesus Director David Brickner has an online conversation with John Piper, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and speaker at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference.  This online conversation centers on the Jewish people’s divine right to the land of Israel.  ScriptureSolutions highly recommends to its readers to check out these articles and read the Christian ZIonism side represented by Brickner and the anti-Christian Zionist side explained by John Piper.

How to Treat a Rebellious Israel | Christianity Today.

Are American pastors dismissive of Arab Christians in Israel? Should Christians treat the Israeli-Palestinian dispute differently than other conflicts? As pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, John Piper has been addressing these contentious questions for years. After he began informally discussing them with David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, we invited them to share some of their discussion with our readers. We continue today with Piper’s response to Brickner’s question, “Do Jews have a divine right to the Promised Land?” and will continue tomorrow with Brickner’s response.

Pastor John Piper

Pastor John Piper

Dear David,

Thank you for taking this happy initiative. I am eager to discuss Israel and the Promised Land with you. I love Jews for Jesus. Your leadership, and Moishe Rosen’s before you, have been for me a cause for continual thanksgiving. “To the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16) has never ceased to carry weight with me. I pray we will never lose Paul’s passion in Romans 10:1: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

We both agree that the way God chose to bring all the nations under the sway of King Jesus is astonishing. After sketching it, Paul praised God, “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33). (more…)

The True Seed of Abraham: Jesus or Israel?

I was enjoying a friendly discussion with a Christian at a local coffee hangout.  This well-learned and articulate believer quickly let me know that she holds ot the Reformed position – another way of telling me she believes the Church has replaced Israel. We engaged in a friendly conversation for a brief period. One statement she shared has stuck with me when I asked, “What do you do with all the prophecies made concerning Israel in the millennial kingdom after the Second Coming?” and she replied, “All those prophecies are fulfilled in Christ.”

Galatians 3:16-17 is one of the major passages that is used by replacement theologians to support the idea Jesus has become the “greater Israel” and all those who follow Jesus are now the true Israel.  Some Christians might call themselves “spiritual Jews.” I usually cringe when I hear my fellow Gentile believers make this statement and beg them not to tell any Jewish people.

Imagine if God chose to work with Africa as His chosen nation and in the New Testament age, Africa was replaced by the Church.  Then we would experience Christians telling others, “We are the new Africa.  We are ‘spiritual blacks.'” That is how ridiculous it sounds when Christians make statements that have no roots in the Word of God but are based on misguided theology or by people who have not dealt in depth with the passages they use to broadcast their beliefs.

Galatians 3:16-17  says:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.

From  Galatians 3:16-17 we are to conclude, according to replacement theologians, that the Abrahamic promises were not spoken to the nation of Israel, but God’s commitment to Israel find their fulfillment in the one true seed of Abraham – the Messiah Jesus – rather than the nation.

Seed of Abraham

Since believers belong to Jesus, then Christians are the true seed of Abraham through the one true seed-Jesus of Nazareth.  If one reads this passage without asking questions or checking out the surrounding context of Galatians 3, I can understand this conclusion.  However, upon deeper investigation, the student of the Bible discovers Paul’s intention was not to teach that the Church has replaced Israel or that Jesus is the true Israel. (more…)

Just Published! Jesus or Yeshua: Exploring the Jewish Roots of Christianity

Today ScriptureSolutions  published a new booklet written by Louis Lapides. This brief  book can be found for Kindle at Amazon.

Jesus or Yeshua: Exploring the Jewish Roots of Christianity

Jesus or Yeshua: Exploring the Jewish Roots of Christianity by Louis Lapides

It came to no surprise to me that when I first became a Jewish follower of Yeshua, I was going to have a cultural crisis trying to fit into a Gentile Church.  I lasted a few months before I started asking inevitable questions, “I’m Jewish. Jesus is Jewish. His first followers were Jewish. The New Testament was written by Jews and a lot of the concepts they discussed have a powerful Hebraic background.  Then why is Christianity so “not-Jewish”?

Jesus or Yeshua: Exploring the Jewish Roots of Christianity provides the reader with some of the findings I came upon as searched for answers to my questions. For me a lot of the issues were resolved when I studied the origin of most of the terminology used by Christians when describing their beliefs and practices.  When I was growing up attending Hebrew school in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah I never expected that Rabbi Printz would tell me that the mass practiced by the Catholic Church across the street from our temple was actually based in the Jewish Passover.  Nor was I told that baptism has it’s origins in the Jewish practice of immersion or mikveh used when Gentiles would turn from their paganism and convert to Judaism.

Attending a church for me at age 23 was a shocker as I describe in my opening chapter.  Here is a sample section from that chapter that will give you an idea of what Jesus or Yeshua: Exploring the Jewish Roots of Christianity is all about.

Here’s a shocker . . . Jewish people don’t feel at ease in a Christian church. The first time I attended a Protestant congregation, a Southern Baptist one, I couldn’t avert my eyes from the 10-foot tall stained glass mosaic of Jesus looming behind the pastor. I imagined for a few moments the man from Galilee was about to step out of the window, float over to my pew and ask whether I noticed the “Jews Not Welcome” sign at the church’s front door. “Of course,” I would respond, “But Jesus, aren’t you . . . .?”

(more…)

The Seed of Abraham and the Middle East Part 3

Christians are confused about the place of Israel in the New Testament.  Some believers are not sure if  God has a plan for Israel as He did in the Jewish Scriptures. Others think the only plan God has for Jewish people is their salvation and nothing further.  Still some Christians do not think Israel is a legitimate entity, having been replaced by the Church aka replacement theology.

Fact it, Christians are confused because their pastors are confused and pastors are confused about Israel because their seminary professors are confused.

God’s Promises to Israel Are Not Cast Aside in the Face of Israel’s Unfaithfulness

The assumption of many anti-Christian Zionist advocates is that Christians who believe God has promised the Jewish people the land of Israel as their homeland also maintain the government of Israel can do no wrong. As one anti-Zionist advocate told me,  Israel seems to think since God gave them the Ten Commandments they can now make up any law they want  . . . . Most of this comes from fear which they need not have since American is their number one protector and God is also on their side, according to Christian Zionism (paraphrased).

It is the belief of anti-Christian Zionists since I believe God promised the Jewish people the land of Israel that no matter what they do, God will always back Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The nation is still accountable to God.

When the Bible student reads through the Jewish Scriptures, he discovers the Lord God of Israel never ignored the sins of Israel. Even in the face of the Lord’s  commitment to give the title deed of Israel to the Jewish people, He also removed the people of Israel from the land on many occasions due to their transgressions.  In spite of the Assyrian Captivity in 721 B.C.,  the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C. and the conquest of Jerusalem and Israel in 70 A.D. by the Romans, there is no place in the First nor the Second Covenants of the Bible where the God of Israel revokes His promise to the Hebrews to give them the land and to expand the nation as stated in the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

will be blessed through you. ” (more…)

Where is the Love in the Kairos Palestine Document?

In my previous blog I introduced the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD).  KPD,written by an ecumenical group of Palestinian Christians, was released publicly on December 11, 2009.  This manifesto was released by the PCUSA to let the world know what is taking place in Palestine, according to Palestinian Christians.

The KPD was previously mentioned on a CBS 60 Minutes segment called “Christians in the Holy Land” aired in March 2012. In the segment’s attempt to demonstrate that the Christian population in the Holy Land is shrinking due to Israeli policies, the KPD was mentioned as a “good faith” example of how Arab Christians are attempting to practice non-violence in the face of IDF pressure and duress.

As mentioned in a previous blog about the KPD, the document portrays Palestinian Christians as peaceful and steering away from any form of revenge of terrorism in dealing with Israel. Once again, here are the words introducing the KPD from the 60 Minutes transcript:

In 2009, this group of Christian activists did something unprecedented. They published a document called Kairos, criticizing Islamic extremism and advocating non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation which they called a sin against God. It was endorsed by the leaders of 13 Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican.  (more…)

The Truth about the Kairos Palestine Document

In the 60 Minutes report “Christians in the Holy Land” in March 2012, CBS correspondent Bob Simon attempted painted Palestinian Christian leaders with as non-violent brush towards Israel especially the Israel Defense Force (IDF).  Simon’s goal was to pin a “I support Martin Luther King” button on Palestinian Christians and  portray Israelis as evil ” segregationists” standing in the way of Palestinian civil rights. Nothing could be further from the truth once we delve outside the small box of  the 60 Minutes report.

Here are the words from the 60 Minutes transcript:

In 2009, this group of Christian activists did something unprecedented. They published a document called Kairos, criticizing Islamic extremism and advocating non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation which they called a sin against God. It was endorsed by the leaders of 13 Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican.

The CBS correspondent continued to explore the Kairos Palestine Document by interviewing Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Christian, the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem:

Mitri Raheb: They [the Israelis] are fearful of this document because they are afraid this might influence the Christian world

Reverend Raheb, who helped write the document, says it’s anything but anti-Semitic.

Mitri Raheb: This document is– doesn’t ask for violent. It doesn’t ask for revenge. The most powerful thing in this document actually is that asking for hope and love and faith.

But is this document merely asking for “hope and love and faith”? How much do we as Christians in the Western World know about the Kairos Palestine Document? (more…)

Arab Christians Rewrite the New Testament on 60 Minutes

From the 60 Minutes report “Christians of the Holy Land”  last Sunday night [April 22, 2012) moderated by CBS reporter Bob Simon, the viewer was fed the idea that Palestinians started Christianity and gave faith in Christ to the world.

Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem accurately claimed, “Christianity started here.”  Then Raheb adds, “The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity.”  Yet no where in the New Testament is name “Palestine” is ever used. The closest we come is in Matthew 15:22 where a Canaanite woman came to Jesus seeking healing for her daughter, “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

According to Wikipedia, “The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece.  Herodotus wrote of a ‘district of Syria, called Palaistinê” in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.”

In the Bible Palestine is never mentioned as another name for Israel or the original name of Israel prior to the Jewish exiles from Egypt entering the land under Joshua around 1400 B.C.  We read, “The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth)- usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible more than 250 times. The Greek word Palaistinē  is generally accepted to be a translation of the Semitic name for Philistia; however another term – Land of Philistieim  was used in the Septuagint, the second century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to refer to Philistia.  In the Torah / Pentateuch the term Philistia is used 10 times and its boundaries are undefined. The later Historical books include most of the biblical references, almost 200 of which are in the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel, where the term is used to denote the southern coastal region to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.”

Getting back to Mitri Raheb, he has the nerve to say, “Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, “Made in Palestine.”  Raheb could not be more mistaken.

Given the tenor of the entire article, it appears that Arab Christians are the original followers of Jesus in the Holy Land. I find it odd that Bob Simon did not interview the other Christians living in the Holy Land – Jewish people who have embraced Jesus as the Messiah aka messianic Jews. (more…)

60 Minutes’ Discrepancies about Christians of the Holy Land

Sunday night April 22, 2012 CBS aired a 60 Minutes report entitled “Christians of the Holy Land.” The report was piecemeal and failed to include anything but what CBS correspondent Bob Simon wanted to accomplish – to make Israel the perpetrator of all that ails Arab Christians in the Holy Land.

Simon started off his report admitting Christians in the Middle East today are not have an easy time.  Yet when the seasoned CBS correspondent lists examples of mistreatment of Christians in the Middle East, he fails to mention which group or groups are giving Arab Christians a hard time:

Christianity may have been born in the Middle East, but Arab Christians have never had it easy there, especially not today. In Iraq and Egypt, scores of churches have been attacked, hundreds murdered. In Syria, revolution seriously threatens Christian communities. The one place where Christians are not suffering from violence is the Holy Land: but Palestinian Christians have been leaving in large numbers for years.

Does anyone notice some missing words in this paragraph?  Who is persecuting Christians in Iraq and Egypt?  Dare I mention the word “Muslims”? Bob Simon refused to utter radical Muslims as the culprits attacking Arab Christians.

At the close of the 60 Minutes report Simon added an appendage to the original footage by including a brief discussion he had with Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. Prior to the airing of the show, Oren called head of CBS News, Jeff Fager, Simon’s boss, about his concerns regarding the story.  Simon claims Oren had information that “our story was quote ‘a hatchet job.'” (more…)

The Seed of Abraham and the Middle East Crisis

Why am I writing so much about the seed of Abraham? After all, there are so many other issues that seem to be much more important when it comes to examining the Middle East crisis.  Let me be bold enough to say that how a person understands the biblical teaching on the seed of Abraham, determines how much he will grasp the theological implications of the Middle East crisis.

Does the seed of Abraham only relate to Jewish people?  Does it include Arabs and Christians as well?  Can one support the idea that those who call themselves the seed of Abraham are no longer the “true seed of Abraham” if they refuse to accept Jesus? These are essential questions any student of the Bible must come to grips with.  Too many erroneous sermons have been preached in the church concerning the identity of Israel causing confusion among churchgoers.

Unfortunately, this was one of the main issues espoused by Wheaton College NT professor Gary Burge in his recent lecture at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, “The Theology of the Land According to the New Testament.” However, in his lecture Burge hardly referred to the land of Israel but instead set his scope on casting a dubious hue on the identity of  the Jewish people as the true seed of Abraham, and consequently no longer legitimate heirs of the Promised Land.

If a person can demonstrate that Jewish people today are not the true seed of Abraham, this teaching goes hand in hand with the belief God no longer has a present covenant with the Jewish people in which He has promised the Jewish people the Holy Land of Eretz Israel.

Burge, like many replacement theologians (the belief the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people), quotes a string of New Testament passages to support his view that DNA (aka Jewish ancestry) no longer matters, but faith is what matters most to God. Since Christians demonstrate true faith in the God of Israel by accepting the Jewish Messiah, then Christians must be the true seed of Abraham.

The next leap in Burge’s theology is to state even though the Jewish people are entitled to a homeland, there are no biblical covenants today that entitle them to this land.  Because of their failure to accept Christ, they have forfeited the divine land rights to Israel. What we are seeing today is a secular movement of the Jews returning to the land, but without the blessing of God or the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

The Christian Tradition of Adverus Judeos in Connection with John 8

One of the passages used throughout the history of Christian doctrine to prove Jewish people are not the true seed of Abraham is John 8.  In fact, John 8 has been used by medieval theologians to teach that the Jewish people have been spawned by the devil. In John 8:44 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders He is speaking to that their father is the devil.

The devils display anti-Semitic stereotypes all too common in late medieval and early Renaissance art.

While Burge has not gone so far as to connect Jewish origins with the devil, he does use this passage to teach the Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus have been replaced by Christians.

Burge’s misinterpretation of John 8 puts him in the camp of those guilty of  Adverus Judeos. Adverus Judeos is described in Wikipedia:

“Adversus Judaeos (Greek kata Ioudaious, “against the Jews” or “against the Judeans”) are a series of fourth century homilies by John Chrysostom (deemed a saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) that have been circulated by many groups to foster antisemitism.  Steven Katz cites Chrysostom’s homilies as “the decisive turn in the history of Christian anti-Judaism, a turn whose ultimate disfiguring consequence was enacted in the political antisemitism of Adolf Hitler”. James Parkes called the writing on Jews “the most horrible and violent denunciations of Judaism to be found in the writings of a Christian theologian”. His sermons against Jews gave further momentum to the idea that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.”

While Burge does not harp on the collective responsibility of the death of Jesus by the Jewish people, his denial of their covenant entitlement to the land of Israel and their replacement as the “seed of Abraham” by Christians is all part of the same tradition of Adverus Judeos. (more…)

The True Theology Taught at Christ at the Checkpoint 2012

Listening to the messages spoken at the Christ at the Checkpoint  March 2012 Conference one is quickly confronted with the  contradictory agenda of this event. In the CATC manifesto we read, “Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.” In contrast,  when one hears the messages posted on the CATC website, theology is anything but “secondary.”

Though three messianic Jews -Richard Harvey, Evan Thomas, and Wayne Hilsden -were invited speakers, the platform was heavily weighed in the direction of anti-Christian Zionist speakers. Therefore, it is hard to swallow the CATC’s manifesto’s claim that matters of theology are of “secondary nature.”

After listening to the message of  Wheaton College’s New Testament professor Gary Burge, it is safe to say the anti-Christian Zionism message, more commonly known as “replacement theology,” was the theology featured at the  Bethlehem get-together.

Furthermore, one of the conference’s goals as stated on the CATC website is to , “Create a platform for serious engagement with Christian Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum.” Once again, despite this stated goal, the speakers were focused on espousing replacement theology as the only theology rather than engaging in a two sided dialogue with Christian Zionism.

The Overarching Anti-Christian Zionism Theology at CATC

I find it curious that despite the claim of “serious engagement with Christian Zionism,” the CATC manifesto declares  that regardless of any “engagement” or discussion, CATC is committed to an anti-Christian Zionism message:

  • Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.
  • Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.

The first statement denies that the Jewish people are  beneficiaries of the blessings of the Abraham Covenant as found in Genesis 22:16-18:

“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,  I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

It becomes more clear from the messages of the CATC speakers that Jews must accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord to enjoy the privileges of covenant God made with Abraham.

The second statement strikes at the heart of Old Testament biblical theology in which the Hebrew prophets served as the voice of the Lord promising the people of Israel, the land of Israel. Despite the fact God removed the Jewish people from the land in Babylonian Captivity, the Lord brought them back to the Promised Land.  The prophets were very clear on the fact Israel’s removal from the land did not mean they lost the title deed to the land but were disciplined via a temporary exile from the Promised Land.

The Jewish people were in the Diaspora since the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Once again, God has brought the Jewish people back to the land in order to bless them with a homeland and to deal with nation to bring them in humility to faith in the Jewish Messiah Jesus.

Therefore, In the heart of the CATC manifesto, the framers of this document make it clear the CATC is anti-Christian Zionism in its theology. What other conclusion can one draw?  Regardless of the presence of three messianic Jews on the platform, the CATC manifesto reveals the true theological hand of its organizers. It’s too bad the CATC could not solely focus on the poor state of Palestinian Christians without also advocating a biblical rejectionist theology towards the State of Israel. (more…)

Who is the Seed of Abraham? CATC2012 Part Two

It was 1970 and I was twenty three. I had just entered Dallas Baptist University as a religion major. I had been following Jesus as my Messiah and Lord for about a year and was anxious to start Bible College and pursue a path to seminary for ministry training. I couldn’t wait to learn more of the Bible and gain a deeper knowledge of God’s dealings with and promises for the people of Israel.

Boy was I surprised!  I enrolled in one theology class and an additional seminar in biblical interpretation (aka hermeneutics). As I soon discovered my professors held to a theological system called “amillennialism.” They believed the messianic kingdom promised by the Hebrew prophets to Israel had arrived on earth and was here in its fullest form in the Church.  I couldn’t believe my ears.

I raised my hand in my hermeneutics class, “Professor, have you been to downtown Dallas lately?  The last time I was there I observed strip clubs and several ‘ladies of the night’ out on the streets selling their talents. And not only that, according to the Dallas Morning News, there are a rash of homicides in Dallas.  Isn’t it also true that this is the city in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? I am not buying your teaching that the kingdom of God is here on earth right now especially in Dallas.  Furthermore, several churches in downtown Dallas are still practicing racial segregation. Where is the kingdom of God?  Certainly not in the church and not here in Big ‘D’!”

My professor was shocked by my outspokenness. Perhaps he’s never met a Jewish person who was courageous enough to challenge his beliefs.

The professor continued to argue the kingdom of God is realized in its fullest in the church. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, “Do you mean to tell me that churches where racial segregation is still practiced here in Texas and where antisemitism still exists is a manifestation of God’s promised kingdom?  According to Revelation 20:2 the devil is supposed to be thrown into a pit and bound for a thousand years with the result that justice and righteousness will rule the earth under the rule of the Messiah. Either the thousand years are up and Satan is on the loose or he’s a Houdini and escaped his shackles. I still don’t get it. Maybe the kingdom of God is here, but God forgot to include Dallas.”

 

I was getting upset.  These Christians were living in a dream world if they thought we were living in the kingdom of God on earth as described in the fourth chapter of prophet Micah:

 

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

I boldly declared, “If we are in the kingdom of God right now, then where are the promised fulfilled to Israel? Only three years ago the Six Day War was fought in the holy land, and Israel is still surrounded by her enemies. Where are God’s promises to the Jewish people to have the Messiah ruling His kingdom from a throne in Jerusalem? Professor, you are ignoring the prophetic message that Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and all the Hebrew prophets uttered to the Jewish people throughout the centuries.”

With even more boldness [or chutzpah) my Bible teacher said, “The church is Israel, Louis. Christians are the true seed of Abraham. The church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. God is finished with Israel as a nation and only works with them on an individual basis regarding personal salvation. He will offer Israel a chance to accept Jesus when He returns. The Lord does not deal with Israel as a nation anymore.  We as Christians are the true Jews. We are spiritual Jews.”

I was ready to plotz.   I was not about to let my professor’s last statement go unanswered, “You’re telling me you’re Jewish. You’re about as Jewish as a ham sandwich on Wonder bread with mayonnaise.  With all due respect professor, but you’re making God out to be a liar. He promised Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 to make him a great nation, to give him the land of Israel and to bless the world through him as the father of many nations as described in Micah 4:1-4.  Now you’re telling me Jews are no longer Jews, but Christians are the true Jews.  God lied to Abraham and everyone else in the Bible. The word church or ekklesia is not even in the Jewish Bible.  Is this what Christianity teaches . . . that God pulled off a bait-and-switch regarding His promises to Israel? (more…)

Who is the Seed of Abraham? CATC 2012 Part 1

At the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, an array of pro-Palestinian Christian speakers shared their thoughts on the current status of the Palestinian Christian  Church, their opposing views to Christian Zionism and their own theological stance commonly known as replacement theology.  Munther Isaac, Instructor, Vice Academic Dean and Choir director at Bethlehem Bible College, delivered a message entitled, ” A Palestinian Christian Perspective” in which he referred to himself both as a person of Arab descent and since he is a follower of Jesus, claimed to be one of the “seed of Abraham.” Then in his message he took a theological leap to refer to himself as part of Israel, the true spiritual Israel.

The belief that Christians are members of the seed of Abraham is nothing new in Christendom.  While several verses are found in the New Testament referring to followers of Jesus as the “seed of Abraham,” most evangelicals commit a theological error by referring to themselves as the “true Israel.” 

It is my contention no verses exist in the New Testament can be found  where Paul or any other New Testament writer refers to Gentiles as anything other as “gentiles.”  Listen to Paul in Romans 1:5:  Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes fro faith for his name’s sake. Then again in Romans 11:11: 11 “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

In Romans 11:11 Paul makes a distinction between Gentiles who follow Jesus from Jewish people or members of the nation of Israel.  In Romans 11:13 Paul speaks to gentile converts to Christ and refers to them as “gentiles” and not spiritual Jews or members of spiritual Israel:  I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.

Once again Paul distinguishes Gentile followers from the Jewish people in Romans 15:27: They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.  (more…)

Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy

Today’s blog is a reposting of an article I wrote in 2008 regarding the alleged ossuary of Jesus as purported by famous director/producer James Cameron (Terminator, Avatar and Titanic). Since the bone box of James, the brother of Jesus as not been proven to be a fake by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, it is of no surprise that the creators of the Lost Tomb of Jesus  Discovery Channel documentary would attempt to bring back the Jesus Family Tomb controversy.  Here is a reposting of my blog composed four years ago.

In Spring ’07  the Discovery Channel aired a TV documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, made by Hollywood director James Cameron and Canadian investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici.

According to an article in Time magazine, the documentary “re-examines an archaeological find from 1980 in which a crypt [the Talpiot tomb] was found containing what were said to be the ossuaries of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the son of Joseph, Mariamne (possibly Mary Magdalene, say the film-makers) and Judah, son of Jesus.”

The controversy of whether or not the Talpiot tomb once contained the remains of Jesus and His family stayed on the media circuit for a few months in Spring ’07 prior to the airing of the documentary and for a few weeks afterwards. Soon after several TV appearances by the filmmakers and a flurry of Christian articles refuting the claims of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, the controversy fizzled.

In 2008 according to Time magazine the controversy was opened once again. “Still, even after the furor over the film faded, the questions it raised about the tomb unearthed in 1980 continued to make waves among archaeologists and Biblical scholars,” says the Time magazine piece.

Little did I know that when I wrote a 30 page booklet entitled Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy that The Lost Tomb of Jesus would make a re-appearance. At the time I composed the booklet, I felt the issues raised by Cameron and Jacobovici were so important that the errors and false conclusions made in the documentary had to be addressed. In fact, the Time magazine article admits the “debate over Jesus’ supposed tomb will probably rage for years to come.” (more…)

Love Wins Loses Out

In the last installment of my examination of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, the focus was on the character of God.  Bell continues his questioning of the person of God in the remainder of chapter seven, “What is God like?”

Throughout Love Wins Pastor Bell struggles with the idea of a God who is just and punishes sin and a God who demonstrates His love by sending His Son into the world to die for our sins.  A quote from a sermon by Pastor Alistair Begg best summarizes the interchange between God’s holy character and love – concepts Rob Bell cannot swallow:

If God in His love . . longs to forgive sinners . . . longs to enjoy friendship with sinners . . and if in His justice He cannot ignore our sins, how then He display His love and execute His justice?  The answer lies in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the cross Jesus is an emblem of the Father’s love and Jesus is the one who bears the Father’s wrath. If He [the Father] were to excuse sin, He would not be true to Himself in the perfection of His holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished. But because of the magnanimous, unbounded nature of His forgiving love, He execute His justice on His Son so that those who deserve that judgment may find in the Son forgiveness, love and eternal life.

The Mars Hill Church pastor feels this kind of statement from Alistair Begg communicates a gospel that “subtly teaches people that Jesus rescues us from God” (pg. 182). Rather Bell offers his Love Wins Gospel as an alternative, “We do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin and destruction.” It is that Rob Bell  ha a foggy notion of the biblical doctrine of salvation. On this point alone Love Wins loses out. 

From the Old Testament we learn an innocent animal had to die in exchange for the life of the guilty sinner who offered the animal to find forgiveness of sins. Yes, under the Jewish sacrificial system an innocent goat had to die so the guilty sinner can have his sins atoned for.

In addition, much to Bell’s chagrin,we cannot escape the fact our sin earns God’s wrath as explained in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” and Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He satisfied the wrath of God against sin.  The nature of God is not separate from the “death, sin and destruction” He pronounces against our sin. In fact, the consequences to our sin flow out of the holy character of God and not removed from His character as Bell implies. It is because God is just in dealing with sin that there sin death, sin and destruction. The wrath of God against our sin is due to God’s just character. It is this wrath that Jesus had to deal with on the cross for us to be forgiven. (more…)

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