“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3
We have seen these verses referenced many times. Often in the appeal that we need to support Israel. Who the “we” is that is supposed to support Israel is not always clarified.
But the implication would seem to be that it would include the United States, all other countries, the Church, and all individuals, especially Christians. So essentially, everybody and everything under the sun.
As to who is “Israel”, the implication if not outright specification is the modern day nation of Israel. Additionally, the implication frequently seems to include any person of Jewish ethnicity, especially those who are practicing the Jewish religion. Maybe even include those who aren’t ethnically Jewish but are practicing Jews. And let’s throw in Messianic Judaism just to complicate the subject even further.
But I don’t want to get caught up in those details. I do not subscribe to the notion that “we” have some sort of current biblical, spiritual, or moral requirement to support “Israel”. I am more inclined to believe that the heirs of the promises of blessing given to Abraham are those who have faith in God, specifically in Jesus Christ. And the heirs are not necessarily ethnic Jews. Several passages in the New Testament such as Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 3:6-14, and John 8:39-47 would seem to indicate this.
I do believe that God still has significant plans for Israel and Jewish people in the lead up to and fulfillment of His Second Coming. So I don’t see God being completely done with the Jewish people as some may. Perhaps this all leads some to believe that I’m just a confused theological jumble when it comes to Israel.
Now this is what I believe, but it is not a hill on which I’m going to die. I will let the heavyweights with much deeper theological and educational knowledge battle it out – clashes over the minutiae of the covenant(s) with Israel in the Old Testament and what was/is conditional or unconditional and what exactly has already been fulfilled or yet to come. I would not have the depth and breadth of expertise on these subjects to hold court.
One of my big concerns, however, is when those who believe we still need to support Israel apply it wholeheartedly and indiscriminately to the current modern day nation of Israel.
This is what I just don’t get. The modern manifestation of the nation of Israel is a secular state. It is not a theocracy. It is not being ruled by God nor following after Him. Even more, the large, large majority of the people who make up the nation of Israel reject God because they reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In the Old Testament, many times when the Jewish people disobeyed God they brought judgment upon themselves and lost their land and freedoms and blessings. And so, why would there be a requirement on us to support such a current state?
Now from a moral standpoint, I think we should support (or oppose) any country based on the justness or righteousness of their actions. Or in how unjustly they may get treated by others and are in need of backing or protection. With all the evil and chaos that engulfs the Middle East, although they are far from blameless, it would appear that supporting modern day Israel in various manners would be the proper thing to do.
Carrying this into a political perspective, it would seem to be an astute idea for the United States to keep Israel as an ally and support her as we can and as is appropriate. Both from a moral standpoint and for what is best for our country from a global political perspective.
What I just don’t get is those who preach that we must support this current state of Israel just because it is Israel. That we must support the nation 100% in all matters. That we will bring judgment upon our own nation (or church or individual) if we do not. And God forbid if we would ever consider a two state solution.
Again, I ask, why must we be unconditionally supportive of a secular state whose people largely reject God? Because when we do, we very well may be forsaking righteousness in other ways.
For instance, I earlier referred to Israel as being worthy of support in many manners, but still not blameless. What about those times when Israel is in the wrong. When they mistreat Palestinians or others, sometimes even Christians. Do we say they are right to do whatever they want and we will support them because they are Israel? What if we believe that some form of a two state solution could help bring a level of peace to the people and reduce unnecessary and immoral violence? What about “blessed are the peacemakers”? Do we reject out of hand any possible thought of a two state solution because, Israel?
What if the promise to support Israel is the tipping point for some to support an immoral political plan or politician? Is this right? What about when judgments are cast that some calamity happened because the victims of said calamity didn’t support Israel? What about when one seems to be more concerned with getting a Jewish person back to their “homeland” than they are with their salvation? And what about when, as I once observed, a co-worker verbally and emphatically attacks another co-worker with charges of blasphemy and heresy when the other co-worker (who is of a Egyptian Christian heritage) says he doesn’t think we need to support Israel? Is this moral and righteous behavior?
Again, I am sure there are many who could take me to task because I am a theological lightweight on the subject. I could not write a thorough and cogent dissertation on the covenants of God with Israel in the Old Testament, including how it all relates to today. But there are what I see as some disturbing unhealthy excesses on this subject. And I bring them up for our care and consideration. Maybe somebody can explain the rationale more comprehensibly as to why we need to be exceedingly supportive of this modern actualization of Israel.
Lord, help us to stay vigilant in our words and actions as we consider a subject such as this and work through our theological agreements and disagreements.
1. I watched part of the Harvest Crusade Friday night and won’t watch it again…at least for any sort of spiritual edification. The last couple of times I’ve watched Greg Laurie he has incorporated speaking very badly of his mother into his “testimony”.
He notes that she was married multiple times and had many boyfriends in between the weddings.
There is something quite unsettling about a man in his sixties basically calling his mother a whore in front of tens of thousands of people.
I wonder how many times she has heard this ‘testimony” and if the Gospel has a hollow ring when she does…
2. The whole “testimony” feature is a steaming crock of stuff in my opinion,and way out of date with the current culture. What people in their fifties and sixties considered bad behavior back in the day is considered much less so today. Thus, when old guys get up and talk about smoking weed and having sex it doesn’t have any shock value unless you’re preaching to people older than you. It also makes it seem as if the Gospel is only for really bad folks…which denies the reality of sin in “good” ones. In any case, it makes the Gospel about what you did, not what Jesus has done.
3.Pastors on Facebook talk about the next service like it’s the next episode of a reality tv show… it must be exhausting to come up with something new every week.
4.A friends daughter posted a picture from college of her and her new dorm mate. I immediately noted that said roommate was a guy wearing makeup. He’s ‘transitioning”. My generation will probably have to die off before this cultural “transition” will be complete. It’s going to take a massive work of social reengineering to train people to deny the obvious. Of course, once you do, reality becomes whatever a person chooses…or is told to choose. This is not a simple matter…nor is it cruel or bigoted to wrestle with it.
5.The Gospel contains no promise of a life of pleasant circumstances…
6.Your taste in music doesn’t reflect on your spirituality…unless you like rap, in which case you’re going to split hell wide open. 🙂
7.The imagery of the book of the Revelation giggles at the doctrine of perspicuity…
8.The culture no longer has a working definition or understanding of sin…which is why they are no longer compelled by the prospect of a Savior…
9.I have the same problem as noted in #4 with those who deny that there is an ideological arm of Islam that is as evil as anything the world has ever encountered. You have to identify a problem before you can fix it. I would not be the least bit offended if a group of rogue Calvinists were identified as evil if they were running about the globe removing peoples heads with copies of the Institutes…
10. There was much praise lifted heavenward here in the valley yesterday as a woman was found alive and well after being missing for a couple of days. I join in that praise while noting that our community didn’t just stay home and pray…it turned out en masse to join search parties and hunt until we found her. That’s how most miracles happen…
14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever.
Peter was married – there seems to be no admonition to stay single or chaste.
Now marriage and family may interfere with ministry – but there must be balance.
Some great missionaries we read about, revere and study and we try to hold up as examples as great men of the faith were terrible husbands and fathers.
15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.
God’s healing / restoration – so that you can resume your vocation – as did Peter’s Mother in Law.
A thought on y part as we watch Jesus day after day traveling and healing – I wonder if Jesus ever caught what they had? Did Jesus every wake up, call Peter into the room and say “Pete, I am too sick to get up and go to work today. You will need to lead the others in today’s ministry chores.”
Or did he just touch himself and tell the demon of flu to depart?
16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.
What do we think of oppressed or possessed of demons?
Do you know anyone? Have you taken them to the Church?
All of these healings and miracles are sermons!!
Preaching who? Preaching what?
Jesus is the;
) Suffering Servant
) Compassionate one
) One who descended for you
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
A key Matthew phrase – Matthew connects us back to Isaiah –
53:4-5 – the vicarious atonement
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Whatever power Jesus has he uses for others
Jesus is that servant who does the downward service
Christianity is about God who comes down / reaches down.
All other religions are reaching up to God – we need to keep that in mind.
Is There a Cost of Following Jesus?
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.
Is Jesus always trying to avoid the crowds?
19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
A note: it is always the bad guys / enemies who call Jesus teacher / rabbi
Opponents (12:38; 22:16,22,24) the rich man (19:16)
The guys collecting the 2 drachma tax – to the disciples they refer to Jesus as “your teacher” (17:24)
Follow? Because Jesus is packing up to go to the other side
Follow? Yes as long as there is something in it for me.
20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Son of Man – the title Jesus uses for himself.
What is in it for followers? Possible trouble – no guarantees.
21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Another disciple – does that make the scribe above a disciple?
Looking deeper into the grammar, it looks not that way.
But here we do have a disciple.
First = where is your priority?
A waiting / delay tactic
It’s not like dad is dead and the funeral is tomorrow – it’s really – I have family responsibilities – mom & dad are still alive, wait until they pass and I will follow.
How many times has a pastor heard “Pastor, I would come to church and I would worship Jesus – but… (fill in the blank)
We have a soccer game – It’s my only day to sleep in – my only day to do yard work etc.
22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
***This is the “Son of Man” – go back and read Daniel 7- the language of Daniel 7 has been picked up here and again in Revelation ***
This Jesus is the one given the eternal kingdom and the authority to reign over all earthly kingdoms.
He is not Son of Man for himself – but for you and for me. To give away this kingdom to you.
This is why we studied Daniel first and will study Revelation next – they are 3 gospel messages linked together. (My order for my class)
Introducing The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father Who Art in Heaven – Part 1
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
Jesus began His prayer with the invocation – Our Father who art in heaven – which announces the nature of our relationship with God. This invocation is pregnant with meaning and is a key for comprehending our relationship with God.
As we begin to apprehend all of what Jesus has compressed into this short invocation, we will better understand our relationship with God, which, in turn, will help us to pray.
An accurate portrayal of our relationship with God will not project onto God our subjective experiences with our human fathers or how we might imagine the ideal fatherly relationship. Instead, it is crucial that that we seek to understand our relationship with God as He has objectively revealed that relationship to us in the Scriptures.
In His invocation, Jesus linked together three aspects or angles by which to view and understand our relationship with God: (1) He is Father; (2) He is in Heaven; and (3) He is Ours. An objective, scripture-based portrayal of our relationship with God should incorporate all three of these aspects or angles.
In this Part 1, we will explore the name Father.
“But to all who did receive him who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
God reveals himself throughout the Scriptures by many descriptive names. The name Father is the most intimate of all God’s names and signifies a family relationship. Christians are not enemies, strangers or laborers in relation to God; we are adopted children born of God.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
God the Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into our broken world to lay down His life to save us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote something similar: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) These passages show us objectively the nature of God’s love for humanity. When we pray Father, we should remember that Jesus, the only begotten Son, reconciled God to us by the blood of His cross.
Pastor Timothy Keller has been quoted as saying that “in the word Father — that you are my Father — is the gospel in miniature.” Keller’s statement echoes Early Church Father, John Chrysostom:
“See how He straightway stirred up the hearer, and reminded him of all God’s bounty in the beginning. For he who calls God Father, by him both remission of sins, and taking away of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and inheritance, and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and the supply of the Spirit, are acknowledged in this single title. For one cannot call God Father, without having attained to all those blessings. Doubly, therefore, doth He awaken their spirit, both by the dignity of Him who is called on, and by the greatness of the benefits which they have enjoyed.” (John Chrysostom, 349-407 A.D.)
The name Father encourages us as His children to pray to Him with trust and confidence, not based on who we are or what we have done or left undone, but because of what the Triune God has done for us: God the Father our Creator who sent the Son; God the Son our Redeemer who gave himself for us; and God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier who dwells in each one of us and intercedes for us.
A Portrait of the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Perhaps the most vivid portrait of God as Father is found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the 15th Chapter of Luke’s Gospel. In this parable, Jesus corrects two common misconceptions about our relationship with God.
Do you struggle with feelings of unworthiness? The younger prodigal son had sinned very badly against his father (consider it total rebellion). When he later met up with his father, the younger son could not even imagine being forgiven and restored as his father’s son. In his mind, he was not worthy: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21) However, an astonishing action by his father shows us that the younger son was already forgiven even before he spoke a word: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20).
The lesson of the younger son is that the magnitude of our sin does not limit our Father’s compassion for us. God’s graciousness towards us is not dependent on our worthiness (of which we have none), but on the infinite worthiness of our Savior who gave himself for us. Forgiveness comes from outside us through the proclamation of the Gospel – “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3). Therefore, we must set aside any feelings of unworthiness and believe the Gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who clothes us with His infinite worthiness.
What about the older son? The older obedient son served his father dutifully all his life. When the younger son came home, the older son revealed his own misconception about his family relationship: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29-30)
The older son’s problem was not his obedience. His problem was that he thought his father owed him something for his obedience. The reality, however, is that the older son already had everything irrespective of his obedience: “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (Luke 15:31) The older son was blind to the blessings of sonship, because he was chasing a relationship based on working for his father’s favor.
The lesson of the older son is that being part of God’s family cannot be earned; it is a gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) Therefore, we must repent of any feelings of entitlement and rejoice in our Father’s grace received through faith in the Gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who clothes us with His perfect obedience. Amen.
Next week in Part 2, we will explore the words “who art in heaven.”
Okay, so some of you had to know this one was coming.
On August 19, 2015, the Philadelphia Phillies traded beloved second basemen, Chase Utley, to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Utley was nearing the end of his career and his performance was not nearly to the level that it had been several years earlier when he was one of the best players in baseball.
However, he still showed signs of having something left and could be useful to a team like the Dodgers who were competing to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Phillies had become the worst team in baseball and were badly in need of a rebuild with some younger blood for the future. So the Phillies, with Chase’s blessing, traded him to his hometown Dodgers for a couple young minor league prospects.
Last Tuesday, some 363 days later after the trade, Utley made his return to Philadelphia with the Dodgers for the first time. To say that it was a lovefest is an understatement. As his signature walk-up music rang out and the P.A. Announcer emphatically articulated his name, the crowd in Philadelphia rose to its feet to welcome back Chase Utley in his first at bat. A standing ovation, joined with applause from both the Phillies and Dodgers players and coaches, lasted for almost a minute and a half. Chase was compelled to twice step out of the batter’s box and acknowledge the crowd with waves and pats to the heart before he could start his at bat.
Chase was cheered as he was announced for each of his successive at bats. In his at bat in the 5th inning, Chase hit a home run and the outpouring of love continued as the crowd gave him another standing ovation and wouldn’t relent until he popped out of the dugout to acknowledge the curtain call. And then he did it again in the seventh inning, but this time was it not only a home run but a grand slam. Once again the crowd showered him with an ovation, louder than even the previous one, and continued on until Chase once again recognized the curtain call.
What other opposing player could ever receive not just one, but two curtain calls when hitting home runs against the hometown team in the feisty and hardscrabble town of Philadelphia?
Chase Utley played 13 seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies. In a stretch for about 5 of those seasons, Chase was one of the best players in all of baseball, and probably would have been longer if not for a pair of bad knees. He was part of the 2008 World Series champions. The Phillies have only won 2 World Series in their 134 years of existence. So winning the one in 2008 was a really big deal.
But beyond his great performance on the field and parallel success of the team, Utley became endeared to the fan base for other reasons. Chase approached every game, every at bat, every ground ball with a fierce intensity to compete and win. His hard-nosed style of play and all-out hustle were clearly evident in nearly everything he did on the field and in preparation to getting on the field.
But not only was it his physical play on the field, but his smarts, too. Chase was a very heady player who was seemingly often a step ahead of most others and always knew the right play to make. This was exemplified in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the clinching game for the Phillies, when Chase fielded a ground ball up the middle of the field and faked out the third base coach of the opposing Tampa Bay Rays who sent home the baserunner from third base. Subsequently, Chase was able to throw home to get the baserunner for the final out of the inning and prevent the Rays from scoring the go ahead run. This is not a play executed in the spur of the moment. It is something thought through ahead of time. This is how Utley approached the game of baseball. Seemingly always.
Philadelphia is a town that is notoriously tough on its sports teams and athletes. Yet, it can also really appreciate and adore them at the same time. If you want to win Philadelphia’s heart, you need to do 3 things: 1) Win, 2) Always Play Hard, and 3) Play Smart. Chase Utley embodied these 3 things to a greater overall degree than probably any other athlete in Philadelphia history.
So you probably get it by now that I and most others in Philadelphia love Chase Utley. 🙂
However, as much as I love Chase Utley, there are others who feel quite differently about him. Because the man has his faults, too. As much as he is loved by many in Philadelphia, there are those who he has irritated and offended because he almost always keeps everything close to the vest. He is often quite stoic and can come across as stand-offish and can frustrate interviewers and sometimes even fans by rarely saying anything of significance and speaking primarily in overused clichés.
Much bigger than this problem, however, Utley is sometimes hated by other teams and their fans. You see, in Chase’s intense drive to win he sometimes pushes the envelope with the rules of the game to try to gain every possible advantage he can. Sometimes that pushing of the envelope even places the safety of opposing players at risk. Just ask any New York Mets fan about Utley’s take-out slide in the playoffs last year.
And so, even though I dearly love Chase Utley, I recognize that he has his faults. And I need to realize that those faults can cause problems with other people who may have a distinctly different opinion of the man. These are only the faults I know about. While I wish it to be unlikely and would hope it never to be true, there could be some deep dark secrets about Utley that someday could expose him to be a terrible man. And if that were ever to happen, I would need to accept it, despite my reverence for the man.
We all have those we admire. Some that we really, really admire. And yet, every one of those individuals is fallen. Every one of them has their flaws and weaknesses. Some to a greater degree than others, but all have shortcomings, nonetheless.
This does not mean we should never admire anybody. But it is healthy to maintain perspective. Yes, it will hurt when those we admire fall, but we should allow for the possibility. We should not live in denial. Because when we live in denial, that is when we create the environment for even more harm to be done. How many times on this blog have we bemoaned pastors and other Christian leaders who have gotten away with far more harm than they should be able to because they haven’t been properly held to account? A good deal of that can be attributed to people who seemingly believe that their pastor or leader or friend can do no wrong. Even when presented with the evidence of wrongdoing, at least in public, they will refuse to see the wrongdoing or take any action on it.
Even for an admired one who generally is a good person and usually carries themselves in an honorable fashion, they can have moments or areas of weakness where they treat others wrong. So even if I and many others think that Mr. X is a great guy, there could be some others who have had bad experiences with Mr. X and we shouldn’t just discount their experiences because we think we know better.
I think Chase Utley is and has been a great ballplayer and his play on the field and approach to the game is to be admired. The Mets’ fan has a wholly different opinion. In the whole scheme of things, this difference of opinion on Chase Utley is probably not going to cause many problems of significance.
But when the circumstances shift to arenas where people have real power and influence over others, admiration, if wrongfully applied, can have dire consequences.
We all have those whom we hold in high regard. This can be a good thing. But we also all are susceptible of allowing that fondness to skew our judgment. There is only One who is worthy of unqualified admiration. For everyone else, let’s try to achieve a healthy balance.