This Work Ethic Works For Me

There is nothing better for people than to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in their work. I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment comes from God (Ecc. 2:24 NET).

Even though Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) is not intended to describe the life of faith per se, or specifically teach what the responsibilities of faith in God are, it does teach that we’re accountable to God and that we should avoid self-indulgence. It helps us develop a God-centered worldview by recognizing the dangers of essentially living for ourselves which often leads to dissipation and the exploitation of others for selfish gain. And in relation to work, Shlomo’s (Solomon’s) enigmatic but Spirit inspired realism, gives us a theocentric big-picture perspective that actually encourages healthy vocational passion resulting in genuine contentment.

So, all of that to say, health permitting, and barring any sudden game-changing eschatological events, I figure I got about another 20 years to do something for the Lord. And so with more behind me than in front of me, here’s where I’m at: Because I AM that I AM made me who I am, I embrace who I am while serving the Passover Lamb. With regard to my sovereignly ordained God-given ethnic ancestry, over the course of 50 plus years, I’ve gone from embarrassment, to enlightenment, to embracement. And at the risk of being redundant, as I said in my previous post, the work He’s given me to do is aligned with my divine design. And so comfortable in my own skin, I’m actually kind of jazzed about trying to reach a portion of the promised believing remnant of God’s covenant people (cf. Rom. 11:4-5). And, right alongside of that, I’ll continue to get excited about preaching and teaching God’s inerrant Word until my last heart-beat opens the door to my forever home.  Here’s why:

1) The Gospel message is the power of salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16).

2) The Jewish people were entrusted with the very words of God and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah who is God over all (Rom. 3:2, 9:4-5).

3) Paul writes passionately that he wishes himself accursed and cut off from Messiah for the sake of his fellow Jewish people according to the flesh (Rom. 9:3).

4) The only instance of prayer for the salvation of a lost people group is Romans 10:1 and it’s for the Jewish people.

5) Paul states that Israel has not been rejected by God because His gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom.11:29).

6) Israel’s transgression (unbelief) has meant riches (spiritual blessing) for the Gentiles and opened the door to salvation in order that Gentiles might provoke Jewish people to spiritual jealousy and belief in Jesus (Rom.11:11).

7) In Romans 15:27, Paul tells us that since we share in the Jewish people’s spiritual blessing, we owe it to them to share with them in our material blessings.

8) If the Jewish people’s transgression (unbelief) means riches (spiritual blessing) for the world, just think how much greater riches (Messiah’s return) their fullness (salvation) will bring (Rom. 11:15)!

9) The Lord Himself came to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt.15:24), and Paul says He will come again to Zion, and on that momentous day, all Israel (physical survivors of the Tribulation period) will be saved (Rom. 11:26)!

10) The period of time between the complete uprooting and overthrowing of the present world order and the final eternal state will be an earthly one thousand year Jesus at the helm Messianic reign in direct, complete, and literal fulfillment of all the covenant/kingdom promises given to the Jewish people (cf. Rev. 20:1-6)!

Bottom Line: It’s nice to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. 🙂

Living In The Land Of What Is

There was a time when I thought it would be great to teach in a bible college or seminary someday. I seriously imagined myself doing that. I thought if I was able realize that dream and achieve that goal I would finally be playing in the big leagues. 24/7 I carried around this picture in my head about what I wanted my life to look like. And what on the surface appeared as an honorable desire, actually became something of an unhealthy obsession because I began to connect this idealized scenario to my sense of identity and self-esteem. My fixation with the future robbed me of enjoyment in the present.

Eventually my human ambition gave way to my divine design. I simply didn’t have the academic chops to get a doctorate in my field of study at the school of my choice. I survived my undergrad and grad programs with a GPA somewhere between C+ and B-. Some people graduate summa cum laude, when I was trying to get through school I said, “Laude cum summa!” When “the roll is called up yonder,” I’m glad my transcripts won’t be there. Part of the deal was I was almost 30 when I got serious and focused about studying, and eventually I reached a point where my educational mojo was running on fumes. The other thing was I overloaded myself with ministry while also trying to meet assignment deadlines. But it’s all good, because I’m now in a place of contentment not resentment. I’m comfortable in my own skin because I AM that I AM made me who I am. Like you, I’m a spiritual snowflake. In terms of God-given unique personhood there will never be another you. And in that same sense there will never be another me. And like you, if you know Messiah, the circumstances of my divinely ordained life script have not been ridiculously random, but providential and ultimately redemptive; and also preparatory for a specific individually customized ministry that God has designed and intends for only me to do.

During this season of the journey, in addition to doing Jewish related topics in churches, and Messianic pastoral ministry, I’m also pumped about assisting “lay” people and pastors with limited training opportunities, in acquiring the knowledge and skills required for evangelism, apologetics, inductive bible study, and spiritual mentoring. And if that’s as good as it gets, I’m okay with that. In fact I’m more than okay with that. I fully embrace being a “small time” guy serving a big-time God.

Perhaps you’re deeply disappointed over how some things never became true for you. If so, I encourage you to look at the big picture. Despite whatever dreams and goals were never realized, regardless of any holy passions that  were never fully expressed, you have processed enough life to significantly bless and even mentor someone else who has processed a little less. It seems to me that such an attitude helps us avoid the pit of what might have been, and live in the land of what is to the glory of God.

Family Business

What does it look like for a believing adult to honor their father and mother? Essentially, it’s an underlying attitude of respect toward the parent’s divinely ordained role of giving human life. This attitude of respect is given not because of any merit on the part of the parent, but rather it’s based on the parent’s position as the human agent of procreation. Honoring our parents with respect in this way honors God, because our parents are His instruments for giving us life. However, intrinsic respect for this parental position does not mean carte blanche approval of parental behavior! Through our dependence upon the Spirit, and through our cooperation with the Spirit, which enables Jesus-like honesty and civility, we can and should confront attitudes and actions that are clearly wrong. We can do that when it’s necessary, and we can do it when we’re prompted by the Spirit. And when we do this, we are in no way negating the attitude of respect toward our parents that God desires and commands.

Also along these lines, it seems to me, that if we’ve had a difficult relationship with our earthly father, and yet have been spiritually adopted into the family of God by virtue of our trust in the finished redemptive work of Messiah, we have basically two options for how we view and relate to the reality of God as Father:  A) consciously or unconsciously allow our negative family history to emotionally obscure the truth of God’s unconditional acceptance of us and unwavering commitment to His glory and our ultimate and eternal good  B) continually remind ourselves that the eternal joy of one day experiencing family life as it was intended to be is infinitely greater than the present temporary pain of dysfunctional and even destructive family dynamics caused by sin. Obviously, it’s only the second option that enables us to fully embrace and benefit from the life-changing truth that in the fullest sense God is indeed our Father!

Lastly, we’ve all heard the phrase, “blood is thicker than water.” That expression is often used to imply that family ties (blood) are always more important (thicker) than the ties you make among friends (water). But if your blood family isn’t “under the blood,” in the sense of being redeemed, and if your water friends are under the blood in that redemptive sense, then the reverse of that saying is actually true. Since you are now spiritually related to your redeemed water friends, they become the ones that really get you at the deepest most meaningful level.  And that relational dynamic somewhat eases the pain of comparatively only being superficially understood by members of your own physical family.

Incorrectly Correct

1) When agenda-driven ideological political correctness operating under a banner of culturally determined/continual state of flux notions of tolerance, diversity, and multi-culturalism, completely or partially conflict with unchanging divine truth preserved in written form containing principles with far-reaching societal and cultural implications, political correctness is wrong and should be rejected.

2) When political correctness facilitates a double standard allowing one group of people to say one thing but not allowing another group of people to say essentially the same thing, or to say something different than the culturally accepted right thing, that politically correct hypocrisy and restriction is wrong and should be rejected.

3) When political correctness is only about using terms that a particular group of people prefer being addressed as, then unless those preferred terms redefine evil as good or good as evil, political correctness should be considered as nothing more than morally neutral civility and cultural sensitivity.

Bottom Line:
Much of what happens all around us every day, undetected, is an invisible tug-of-war over the eternal destination of human souls (cf. Eph. 6:12). Using the suppression of expression associated with political correctness, the adversary tries to prevent people from hearing and responding to the gospel. And yet ironically, with skillful subtlety, that same adversary can also use an overly strident, “that’s not fair” response to the hypocrisy of political correctness to prevent people from wanting to hear the gospel from us! Therefore, it seems to me, that sometimes we might have to restrain ourselves and wisely pick our confrontational spots for the greater good of trying to influence people to seriously consider the Savior.

Terrorism – Epic Fail

A remarkable story that’s currently making the rounds on the internet is an interview with a terrorist who was complaining about the failure of Hamas to do huge damage inside Israel despite firing hundreds of rockets at the Jewish people. He had a unique explanation: “Their God changes the path of our rockets in mid-air!”

Certainly God can use anyone at anytime whether it be a rebellious prophet, a donkey, or even a jackass of the jihadist variety to speak His truth (cf. Numbers 22:21-39). And just as certain, Israel is not only defended by the courageous men and women of the IDF and the Iron Dome missile defense system, Israel is also defended by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Himself! And yet inexplicably, our prayerful intercession is somehow miraculously intertwined with THIS Operation Protective Shield. So we need hang in there and not become weary and thus negligent in our continuing to lift up Israel in this perilous hour as she is in desperate need of relative peace and stability, particularly since we’re exhorted to do this very thing in Psalm 122:6.

When I saw the interview with the above referenced perceptive, and hopefully soon to be Hamas defector and Messiah follower, I thought of the following verse from Isaiah: No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants– I will vindicate them,” says the LORD (Isa. 54:17 NET).

When does the fulfillment of this prophecy take place? Well, in the context of Isaiah, it happens after the Ultimate Servant fully redeems His people. And based on the additional information we have on this from the New Covenant Scriptures, it’s clear that this full redemption will take place when this Ultimate Servant/Resurrected King returns to earth.

Here’s the deal: Even though Messiah Yeshua died for our sins and defeated Satan during His first appearance, He has not yet destroyed the effects of sin in creation and humanity. Plus, He hasn’t punished Satan yet. He will do these things we He returns to establish His Messianic Kingdom and begin His Messianic reign. So, what Isaiah is talking about here in chapter 54 verse 17, is something that will literally and fully happen during the Millennium; and beyond that throughout the final eternal state as well.

So now, temporarily, rockets and other weapons of war will continue to fall from the sky and explode on the ground. Yet one day they will not only be completely ineffective against God’s invincible people, they will also be completely eliminated.  And that’s a failure that’s truly epic!

Modern State of Israel – Convergence of Human Hope and Divine Fulfillment

Even when the parade of human civilization is viewed through the skewed lens of secular postmodernity, Israel still stands out as the mystery of history. Never before has a nation been destroyed, its people scattered to the ends of the earth, and then, nearly two thousand years later, re-gathered to their homeland and re-established as a nation. And when Israel declared itself an independent state on May 14, 1948, the armies of seven Arab nations marched on the newborn State, boasting that they would “push the Jews into the sea.” Outnumbered 100 to 1, Israel not only repelled the invaders but acquired more of Palestine than was granted in the UN partition plan. Yigael Yadin, Israel’s commander of operations in that war, said concerning Israel’s victory, “It was a miracle!”

We live in strange days. Many are understandably and appropriately concerned about the threat of another 9/11 type attack on U.S. soil. And yet incredibly, many of these same people also seem afraid of offending terrorists! Our country is infected with a deadly PC virus that’s continually pushing the ideological envelope of redefined “tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism” in a way that reflects the changing mores of a rapidly declining culture and society. It’s a virus that morphs and mutates into beliefs and behaviors that are not compatible with a consistent biblical worldview. For example, increasingly within evangelicalism the term Zionism is associated with racism and extremism; the same labels with which Zionism is maligned and demonized by the unbelieving world at large; which is not surprising because often there’s a very fine line between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Yet the true meaning of Zionism is the collective longing of the Jewish people for their God-given homeland. A holy and righteous longing initially expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures themselves (cf. Psalm 137:5-6). And it’s also a longing that continues to be expressed within a very real context of dispersion, oppression, and persecution.

Now concerning how this genuine Zionism intersects with the Modern State of Israel, I want briefly unpack four biblical lines of evidence to make the case that this so-called “neighborhood bully” is actually where human hope and divine fulfillment converge. That it’s the centrality of prophetic reality. And in light of its glorious destiny, even though people dis the homeland of the Jews, we don’t have to sing the Zionist Blues.

First, the bible predicts that Jewish people initially return to their Land in a state of spiritual unbelief. In other words biblical prophecy indicates that the Jewish people will turn to God only after returning to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 36:24 (NASB) says, “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.” The next two verses (25–26) state, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Here’s the thing: Before the spiritual regeneration of Tribulation surviving corporate ethnic Israel can take place (cf. Zech. 13:8, Rom. 11:26), the national restoration of the Jewish people to their Land has to take place. And one of the reason’s that’s significant is because people often argue that the Modern State of Israel has no relationship to the Israel of the bible because the majority of Jewish people living in Israel today are secular and don’t recognize Jesus as Messiah. So even though Israel was reborn as a secular state by a secular Jews, that shouldn’t throw us for a loop, because that’s actually a necessary prerequisite to Israel being reborn a second time in the sense of a Messianic theocracy inhabited by redeemed Jews.

Second, the bible predicts that Jewish people will return to their Land in stages. Ezekiel 37 contains the vision of a valley of dry bones. The bones come to life in stages: first sinews, meaning the tendons on the bones, then flesh, then skin, and finally, the breath of life (37:6–10). Then God told Ezekiel that “these bones represent the whole house of Israel” (verse 11) and that their restoration is a picture of the way God will bring His covenant people “back to the land of Israel” (verse 12). The point here is that the return of the Jewish people to their Land doesn’t happen all at once, but rather it’s a process that eventually culminates in the nation receiving the breath of spiritual life by its faith embrace of grace in the Jewish Messiah. And historically speaking, this returning to the Land in stages is exactly what has played out. In the modern era, significant Jewish immigration to Israel began in 1881, and has continued to this day as seen in the recent wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Third, the bible predicts that Jewish people will return to their Land through persecution. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah concerning the people of Israel God says,” I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers” (16:15). In the next verse, God also says He will use “fishermen” and “hunters” to pursue His people back to their Land (verse 16). Those terms fisherman and hunters are metaphors for persecution. And, as with returning to the Land in stages, this has been literally fulfilled in Jewish history. Czarist pogroms, Polish economic discrimination, Nazi genocide, Arab hatred, and Soviet repression; have all been allowed by a sovereign and I will hold those nations accountable for their actions God, for the big-picture purpose of compelling His Jewish people to return to their Land.

Fourth, the bible predicts that Jewish people will return to their Land to set the stage for end-time events. Daniel 9:27 speaks of a covenant agreement between a future world dictator/false messiah and the Jewish people. And this will set in motion a seven year period during which time the final and unprecedented events leading up to the real Messiah’s return takes place. Now for all of this to happen you have to have a reborn state of Israel. There needs to be a restored Jewish state for this treaty/covenant to be signed, for a temple to be rebuilt in which the false messiah will do his abomination of desolation (cf. Matt. 24:15), for Jerusalem to be surrounded by the nations during the military campaign of Armageddon, and for Jesus to return to deliver the Jewish people from their enemies as the nation’s attack Jerusalem.

Bottom Line: Since the Jewish people have initially returned to their Land in a state of spiritual unbelief, in stages, and through persecution; the modern state of Israel fulfills the predictions of the ancient Hebrew prophets and sets the stage for end-time events. So no worries. It’s all good when Zionism and the Modern State of Israel are understood to be a convergence of human hope and Divine fulfillment.

Prolegomena to Any Future Anti-Semitism – Connecting the Dots of Hatred

Prolegomena, what’s up with that? No worries, just a fancy way of saying, “Before I can say what I want to say, I have to say this about what I want to say, because saying what I have to say about what I want to say, will help you understand what I really want to say.” Well now that we’ve cleared that up ;), “Prolegomena to Any Future…,” is an Immanuel Kant riff. Kant was a philosopher who literally changed the way people in the Western world think for the worst! In fact, because of the way he dealt with the issue of how do you know that you know that you know, he really planted the seeds for what eventually became postmodernism. And basically postmodernism is where truth is in the imagination of the beholder. In other words, no absolutes meaning no universal statements that correspond to reality; the way things actually are.

Anyway, with that “I don’t mean to didactic or pedantic” Woody Allen prolegomena out of the way, here’s what I really want to say: In the big prophetic picture of things what’s going on in our world today?  Where are we heading? In my view basically this:  As we get closer and closer to the time of Messiah’s return, we’re also correspondingly getting closer to the day when Israel stands alone against the nations; no allies, no support, no in front of her, and no one behind her. According to the bible that’s how it will be when multiple nations attack Israel during the future military campaigns of Gog/Magog and Armageddon. That’s what we’re moving towards.  And so from an eschatological standpoint, I’m convinced that’s why anti-Semitism is rapidly increasing today.

But what’s the underlying source of this anti-Semitism? Where does it come from? Well there’s coming a day when many will be shocked to learn that fundamentally anti-Semitism is anti-God! At its core, anti-Semitism is actually anti-God.

Romans 5:12 teaches that as a result of our corporate identification with Adam, humanity enters the world in a state of sinful rebellion against God. And part of the acting out of this sinful rebellion against God; is hatred, contempt, and disdain, for things associated with God! And for His own sovereign grace driven purposes, not because of any intrinsic merit of their own, God chose to use the Jewish people as His human means to bring His Word into the world and His Son into the world. And the Word declares Satan’s demise, and the Son executes Satan’s demise. And Satan is the ultimate sinful rebel against God. So what we’re saying is that Satan, the embodiment of evil and the enemy of our souls, is the foundational first-cause of all anti-Jewish persecution, why; because the Jewish people are intimately and inseparably connected to the two things that took Satan out; namely the Word of God and the Son of God.

Now ironically many Gentiles who are spiritually connected to the Jewish Messiah won’t make this anti-Semitism/anti-God connection until they stand before The Lord at the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ, when believers have their lives evaluated. And as a result, Gentile believers who currently have anti-Semitic attitudes, or think it’s cute and funny to dis Jewish people, will lose spiritual reward! And tragically those who die not spiritually connected to the Jewish Messiah, won’t fully make this anti-Semitism/anti-God connection until the Great White Throne Judgment, and by then it’s too late, because they’ll find themselves irreversibly, consciously, and eternally separated from God!

I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on non-Jewish believers. That’s immature. It only alienates people. It doesn’t serve any constructive purpose. So where I’m coming from is simply this: It is what it is! It is what it is. We’re all part of a fallen race in a fallen place. And so anti-Semitism is part of the world in which currently we live. And the demonic influence of Satan, the underlying spiritual evil that we presently contend with, is also part of the world in which we currently live.

Plus, here’s another thing we need to factor into the mix.  As part of the outworking of the blessing and cursing aspect of the Mosaic covenant (Lev. 26, Deut. 28), the Hebrew prophets repeatedly foretold that Israel would experience devastating consequences if they disobeyed the revealed will of God.  And tragically those sufferings have often been intensified by vicious expressions of anti-Semitism. But again here’s the thing, those Gentile nations guilty of these vicious expressions of anti-Semitism, went way too far, and continue to go way too far in their role of unknowingly serving as the human vehicle for Divine judgment. In other words their just acting out on their inherent Adamic depravity. And so God is angry at those nations. And he will hold them fully accountable for all their actions. Which also indicates that God only knows where what He directly causes to happen and what He consciously allows to happen exactly begins and ends; i.e. the relationship between Divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

In any event, like Bob Dylan sang in his song All Along the Watchtower, “Let’s us not talk falsely now – the hour is getting late!” Affirm what is true. Shame the Devil. He knows his time is short. The “Time of Jacob’s Trouble “is coming around the bend and its picking up steam.  And even though more Jewish people will die during that future seven year tribulation period than died during the Holocaust (cf. Zech. 13:8), those Jewish people who do survive will be the saved “all Israel” of Romans 11:26!  And this means that the believing remnant becomes a believing nation.  And at that point, instead of connecting the anti-Semitic dots of hatred to anti-God rebellion originating from the king of this world, will be basking in the pro-Semitic blessing originating from the King of the world to come.