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Hear Ye, O Israel!
Some friends have been asking me what I think about the international situation and the massive troubles brewing in the Middle East (not to mention our own neighborhoods). It should not be surprising that without the Love of God this is the kind of world we would have and seems as though we will have ‘wall to wall’. In an effort to try and keep from saying you need to pack up everything and head to a mountain top and live in a cave, let me just say a few things that come to mind. Something that’s tattooed my brain for many years now is how important it is to keep our eye on the country in the bull’s-eye of all the trouble, God’s chosen: Israel.
First of all let’s remember that they were chosen not because they were particularly religious people, not necessarily the most academic, not particularly God fearing, not uniquely profound or wonderful, simply chosen by the Wisdom of God for some undisclosed reason. They were actually represented, held together by the arms of one man, Abraham. He was a moon worshiper in Ur, who had no credentials as priest, not a perfect man, just a simple pagan at best, just a believer in something. God picked him out of all the people on the earth, cleaned him off, shined him up a bit and said, look you’re the only thing I have to work with, and I know you’re not, by any means, a finished product, but hey, I’ve got to start somewhere with this Adam problem, so I’ll just start with you. Abraham was the first foothold of the climb to Messiah. He alone was the beginning of ‘you will be my people and I will be your God.’ It simplifies things to look at the history of the Chosen by looking at Israel as simply the whole of Abraham’s work. They were chosen to reveal the Love of God to man, chosen through Abraham to be the blessing of the whole earth. Israel is the conduit through which Love would flow, the community where God would hammer out Messiah’s revealing until the coming of the full revealing in Jesus Christ. No matter how much they rebelled, no matter how sinful they became, Israel could not escape being in the pressure cooker of God’s plan. The Chosen, though undeserving, couldn’t shake the Love and Faithfulness of God. (Sound familiar?) They would misunderstand a lot of it, but God had made them His people and Him their God, period! Somehow in God’s plan, historically, each time He drew near, they rebelled even more. In the Wisdom of God, He was going to take that rebellion of Israel, their actual killing of the Son of God, and make something beautiful out of it. He would take their estrangement, and in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, reconcile the world. Imagine that! Only God could come up with such a plan. I’m sure we would have come up with different plan than a divine death, a death that demoralized Christ’s followers and encouraged His enemies, but a death that would bring an eternal Life.
Israel is simply, in itself, one prophesy given to Abraham: Messiah is coming and no matter how hard, how unlikely, no matter what His Chosen went through, Jesus is coming! After all, Jesus had been coming before the foundation of the world. God will see that Promise through in spite of Israel, through Israel, but not because of Israel. The Old Testament is not so much a story of individuals as much as it’s a larger story: a historical, gathering drama of the coming Christ.
Through the history of a people chosen by God, (a people rejecting that call for the most part), Israel became in every sense, His-story. In fact, seems that their whole history is about His-story, (Luke-24:44, And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.) and His story’s not done yet.
This revealing of a Messiah is also the beginning of the story of Someone that would eventually reveal God fully; Jesus who was Christ. This Christ was not only to reveal God’s nature and character, but astonishingly, He was also to reveal that He Himself was identical with the God He revealed! ‘I Am’ was being revealed by Jesus who simultaneously said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me. Someone that said if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father. Imagine! Not only that, but that Someone declared that the Father dwelled within Him and that He dwelled within the Father. Said that He was the actual Son of the Father, that He and the Father were One– One in essence and in action! Astonishingly, He declared that He was in us and we were in Him, saying He was to be the perfect Mediator between humanity and God. He was the One that takes away our sin and unites us with His Father. (Go figure, all that’s enough to take our breath away if we stop and think about it one word at a time, which we seldom do!)
In spite of them being unqualified, foolish, and unfaithful, Israel is who God chose to work with, and I believe He’s still working with them. I think if you want to know where we are in time and space, look at Israel. That’s a believer’s time-piece. Watching any other part of the world, keeping an eye on anything in the East, West, North or South is not the center of God’s plan. Israel’s little strip of land is ‘My people, I’m their God.’ No one else holds that place in His-story. Actually, the world’s quarrel is not with Israel, the argument is with the Love of God. Look at the recent rise in anti-Semitism. Whenever the movement of a culture is away from God there’s also a political movement against His Chosen. The world, like the Jews of His-story, does not like being in the same room with God, the intimacy of God (Emmanuel, God With Us) generates uncomfortable conditions for most, and actual rebellion by many.
That brings me back to my beginning; where are we? Well, it could obviously be the end, but I’ve lived through the so called ‘end’ before so I’m more comfortable just saying this: it could be over, may not be over. A couple of things I believe for sure. If this is the end then Israel is in for one ‘horrific’ fight, but a fight that necessarily requires the intervention of God. They will be the scourge of all the world, hated by all, abandoned, alienated, but a glorious end is in sight because His-story is tied to their story. Or, this may not be the end. Either way, Israel is in for a ‘horrific’ fight, but a fight again that necessarily brings in the ‘super-natural’ for the Chosen to stand. Whether we go on or if this is the end, a revealing will take place where there will be no mistaking the evident Hand of God. All the world will see once again: ‘I will walk among you, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ (Lev: 26-12) In either case, God will be revealed! The Chosen were scattered throughout the entire world, persecuted in very severe and inhumane ways, stripped of all possessions and identity, remarkably to be gathered together, surrounded by millions of enemies on all sides, placed in a land about the size of New Jersey, and they are surely in the bull’s-eye of the whole world of Anti-Christ. This people, Chosen, of all people, were placed in the pressure cooker of His plan to bring final reconciliation, Chosen to be in the ever so slow process of revealing His Son, and now Chosen again to be a witness to all the world of the Grace Covenant power of God. And, by that, Chosen to be the ridicule of the whole world. Now we will watch and see; we’ll be amazed, for this Chosen have a promise of not being allowed to go away, not permitted to leave the room occupied by them and God!
Thou Shall Not Steal. Ok, I’m coming clean. Everything I’m going to write about this month is stolen. Of course the responses weren’t, but the subjects highlighted, well, just appeared from somewhere else. I’ll explain a bit, but the bottom line is that each statement is one someone else said but I’ve lost track of who said them. I have ‘tons’ of notes lying around the house and most of them have references so that I can go back to re-read the books or articles again sometime in the future. The notes here were found in a stack of paperwork on my desk. As I read them, I realized I had no clue about who wrote them. I don’t even know if they were written by the same source.
That all being said, let me hold my hands out, cuff me and lead me away. But, before you do, read this letter and see if ‘stealing’ the material was worth ‘do the crime, pay the time’?
‘We are walking in a story that is not finished!’ I had to think about that a while. It so often feels like our present moment of life is the only life we live. Actually, we live two lives. First, we’re what we do in the secular world and we use that world system to measure how we are doing. In the other world, God’s world, we are changing and moving either in one direction to discover more of God or we are moving away and eventually discovering the nothingness of our secular pursuits. (I have a friend that says that we all have the same disease, a disease that might come in a thousand different ways, but this disease is common to all: death. We are born with it.) We mostly do two things, in our minds we’re always trying to discover how the world works and in our hearts we’re drawn to the question of God. We center on our physical ‘us’, which will come to an end some day when all this stuff simply dies; however, the Spiritual story we’re a part of never ends. I know we all want nice things, want justice, fairness, desire friends and such, but eventually we’ll step into the story that continues forever. There was a beginning to this story and it began when the Father, Son with the Spirit decided that the Lamb of God would be slain before the cosmos existed. From that moment on a story began that continues. The beginning was not just Genesis, but everything that happened from Their decision to be the solution forward to the birth of Jesus was the beginning. Everything that preceded that birth was the start of something, all purposed to His birth, death and resurrection. With that resurrection forward a new Life was available, this kind of Life for the very first time. Something that existed only in Heaven existed on earth. Now, (through His Life) having stepped into our fallen Adamic life, a new way to live came and continues in whosoever chooses to step into His: Christ, Spirit, Father Life. It is a story that occurs every time someone ‘sees’ Him for the first time. In fact, it goes on every time we take a breath. There is ‘no telling’ what is coming next with His powerful, changing Life.
‘The way God reveals Himself is through hearing not vision, perception not proof, through the personal not the universal. The Gospel is a Truth chain, one Truth leads to another.’ This Christian Life is a journey. We don’t step with one step into Truth, we are transformed daily, change over time. It’s built upon transforming our minds from Adamic thought to Christ Thought. Scripture states that Eternal Life is knowing God. Isaiah teaches that the essence of the Word is built ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’. (Isaiah 28:10,11) Everything we know about the Gospel is found, I believe, in one statement found in the teaching of Jesus, ‘If you have seen me you have seen Him’. If we could put our brain around that one, subject our hearts and minds to knowing that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, maybe we could understand it in the fullness of it being revealed. However, our hard-headedness and or hard-heartedness get in the way of that most the time. We’re left with discovering it a bit at a time, from chain length to chain length, and as we do that we become strong in the Lord. That discovery will come from hearing the Truth and a shocking Truth comes into our hearts. And, as stated above, proof is not to be found. What will have to happen is that our perception of God will have to change, a renewing our mind will need to happen, a new perception, not based on what Adam and Eve said about God, but one based upon what Jesus said about God. That comes from the personal relationship that develops from having discovered Him. The Gospel is to be started from inside each individual person. It’s not a union to which we belong, it’s a Church made up of individual believers, and each one related by Love to Father, Son by the Spirit. This revealing is Spirit, not nature. We continue to look to the natural, the flesh, to tell us how we are doing, when in reality we should look to Christ for our place, our Life, how we are doing having been placed in Him. Truly, what Jesus Christ has done gives us eyes to see the Father’s heart and understand our experience as the Father sees it. We must become pilgrims that turn our backs on the familiar and set off in the direction that Jesus taught: The Way.
‘If we are talking about someone and they walk into the room, we have to stop that talking and another talk has to begin. God has walked into the room in the form of Jesus Christ.’ I like this one a lot. Truly, Jesus Christ has changed all the conversation about God, about religion. This man claimed to be the Son of God, Savior of the world, claimed to be the only one to know God intimately with full access and full knowledge of His heart. And, to know Christ was to know the Father. Jesus claimed to be the chief Cornerstone, the center stone that held up the whole of something, in His case all of scripture. He claimed to not to be a block in the structure of all our faith, but The Block of stone on which everything True is built. Take him out of our equation of who God is and the whole thing falls apart. The incarnation of Jesus Christ has to change our conversation, must recognize Him as the Caption of our Faith, the Author and Finisher of our hearts. He alone sits at the Right Hand of God and will at some future date be handed all things pertaining to heaven and earth. I think in sports that makes Him #1. As scripture says, he is a man of (spiritual) authority without measure.
‘It’s less important to ask a Christian what they believe about the Bible than it is to ask them what they do with it.’ Make Christ the cornerstone. He was also the stone of stumbling, stone of rejection. Why? I think it’s because Truth is only possible through Jesus Christ. He is the Truth. This Christ was and is in perfect communication with the Father and Spirit. The reason He is the Way, the Truth and the Life is because there’s no other way to see who the Father really is except by Jesus Christ. All our reconciliation, salvation, redemption, wisdom, peace, joy, faith and love comes by knowing Jesus Christ and His revealing of God. Someone once said that Jesus is God’s language to man. I know we’re all believers. But I know me, and I’m a bit suspicious about you: We struggle with our believing sometimes. I don’t mean whether there’s a God; I mean that Jesus’ teachings, his revealing God to us, that it’s hard to stay in the center of that sometimes. He was born into alienation and had to ‘fight’ his way all along the way. Accused, beaten, abused, threatened, humiliated, he was tempted in all things and did not once fail. In the tensest moment possible, the Savior of the world was crucified. There, his final act was to place himself in the hands of His Father. In Jesus we see the only perfect, True Believer. Our problem is not does he exist; rather can we trust Him and what He said about and to us in our daily lives!