Coming to a Community Near You

While touching base with the Facebook world this morning, I saw that a fellow Jewish believer and ministry colleague for whom I have much respect, posted an article I found both disturbing and compelling. The piece written by Jewish comedian Elon Gold was titled A Hate Incident.

This is the gist of his story:

“We were walking home in Los Angeles after a Friday night dinner at a friend’s house, dressed nicely for shabbat, easily identifiable as a Jewish family. We waited for a light to change on a corner of a major intersection when a black Mercedes SUV pulled up alongside us. Four middle eastern men in their 20’s were in the car. The one in the back rolled down his window and yelled, ‘Free Palestine!’

Then this Arab young man opened the car door, stepped onto the street and yelled at me, my wife and four young children: “I hope your children die! Just like you are killing children in Gaza!” We all stood silently in utter horror and fear.

Then he got back in the Mercedes and they drove off. We were in a state of complete shock. My ten year old daughter immediately started crying and couldn’t stop. She kept yelling, “I’m scared.” My 5 year old daughter asked me why they want her to die? My other kids were too rattled to say anything.”

On one level I found this story disturbing because it’s a in your face example of the anti-Israel/anti-Jewish hatred becoming increasingly common in America. My heart also ached for these four young children who in a very real sense had their innocence stripped from them by being exposed to this level of hatred in such a demonic full frontal fashion. Unless you’ve grown up as a target for haters who love to hate, you’re simply unable to fully fathom the mental/emotional number this does on a person.

On another level I also found this story compelling because I was born in Hollywood, and grew up in West LA and Santa Monica. I have many fond memories of that locale. Yet every time I go back to California, it’s clear that it’s not by a long shot the same place it was 30/40 years ago. It feels like a modern day version of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns. There’s almost a surreal sense of these words from Matthew 24:37-39 being played out before one’s eyes:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

I’ve often quipped, “It always seems like Jesus is returning sooner when I preach in Cali.” And so during this current season of life, I’m sincerely grateful to be living in Texas. With respect to what’s going on in the world today, particularly in relation to Israel and the Jewish people, in the circles I run in, more folks seem to get it in the Lone Star State. Yet even in Dallas, the so-called “Belt-Buckle of the Bible Belt;” as Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are A Changing.” That’s the song that comes to mind every time I pass by the local neighborhood mosque.

I don’t make that statement as an Islamophobe. I say that as one who has come to realize that so-called radical Islam is more accurately termed conservative Islam ; because those who espouse jihadist ideology and use it to justify terrorism in order to establish sharia law, are essentially applying the same literal grammatical historical hermeneutic to the Koran that I apply to the Bible. And basically these mislabeled Muslims are asking the same central interpretative question that I would ask of a biblical text; what was the author’s intended meaning to his original audience? And from there we would both proceed with an explanatory exposition and a contemporary application that seeks to be true to the intent of written communication that is believed to be of divine origin expressing God’s will for man.

Now obviously if one gives any rational credence to the inherent contradictory nature of radically conflicting truth claims; both the Koran and the Bible can’t come from the same source. And both narratives cannot be simultaneously true at the same time in the same way. Actually, in point of fact, given that the eternal destiny of human souls are at stake here; one comes from God and the other comes from the pit of Hell.

Now in the matter of discerning a true prophet from a false prophet, Israel’s Messiah said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:16). Fruit in this context speaks of the moral and ethical conduct of an individual. And based on that criteria, where to rank the relative merits of Muhammad and Jesus is the mother of all no brainers! And praise God that many, despite years of Islamic indoctrination, are supernaturally coming to that very realization.

Frankly, I wonder how people who don’t have an eschatologically informed biblical worldview stay sane. It would seem that to emotionally cope in today’s world you would have to be in big-time denial while living in the land of your own customized reality. And certainly such a mindset is to be expected from those who make no pretense of being spiritually connected to the Jewish Messiah. But as I travel and speak within the contemporary church at large, this way of doing life seems to be all too common among professing believers as well. But at the end of the day we can deal with that, because we keep fighting the good fight knowing that our labor for the Lord is not in vain (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58). Plus, even though the kind of hate incident that Elon Gold and his family were subjected to may be coming to a community near you, (if it hasn’t already), there is soon coming One who is coming to every community!  And His true disciples don’t say, “Believe or die!” They say, “Believe and live!”

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