May 28, 2011

Pray for Israel? - What about the Palestinians, the Sudanese or the Canadians?

I received a short email (below) asking that we pray for Israel. Rather innocuous enough, right?  Why not pray for the peace of a nation constantly embroiled in conflict, and opposed on all sides by the many who want to drive them into the sea?  Clearly, there's great value in praying for peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

However, as I began to contemplate the root of this simple prayer, I was plagued with the following question. Why is it that we are consistently encouraged to single out this particular nation, often at the exclusion of other strife-laden lands? All sorts of war-torn and/or poverty stricken nations come to mind that need God's peace and grace. So what about the modern day nation of Israel deserves this kind of special attention?  Does God still have a unique purpose for this tiny land now inhabited by a people whom many Christians still believe are living under a divine mandate? 

The horrors of Aushwitz
And I must say, in the minds of many, even posing this line of questioning about Israel’s special place in this world immediately conjures up visions of anti-Semitism.  So at the outset, let me be clear that I don’t have an anti-Semitic bone in my body. The Auschwitz death camps were a filthy stain on mankind’s sordid history and it disgusts me to hear some hate-filled souls try to deny that the savagery ever took place.

Having said that, I don't believe it's morally justified for those who have been so severely persecuted to vindicate themselves by committing atrocities on a similarly vulnerable people i.e. the indigenous Palestinians. The truth is that bigotry and ethnic cleansing should be abhored no matter who the perpetrator is.  I believe it's racist to favor one people group over others regardless of the group's composition. 

Let me be clear at this point. I love the Israelis. I visited Israel in 2000 and found the people to be quite industrious and engaging.  But to be quite frank, I also love the Arabs, the Brits and my postal carrier. Aren't Christians supposed to love ALL people without prejudice?  

So please, before you castigate me with racially-charged rhetoric and mischaracterize my probing, consider what "pray for Israel" implies. I have found the constant cry of anti-Semitism to be a faulty but rather effective defense mechanism shielding this necessary discussion from objective conversation while summarily insulating Israel from even the slightest bit of criticism. 

So, don't you think it's at least reasonable to ask if the New Covenant, in fact, sanctions the exaltation of one nation, Israel, above all other nations?  In other words, is God partial to those of one genetic predisposition over those of another fleshly lineage? Some might answer that question affirmatively, but I believe they would be ignoring the bulk of the New Testament writings. I'll deal with this matter Biblically in a moment.

As I further contemplated this whole notion, it dawned on me that I hadn't received similar prayer requests for the plight of other nations.  Darfur and Sudan immediately come to mind. So, since the majority of Israel’s citizenry blatantly rejects Jesus Christ, why specifically should we pray for this secular nation? Yes, of course I believe we should pray for the salvation and peaceful estate of everyone who resides within its borders, especially since unrest has become a way of life.  And surely we should abhor all violence and decry acts of barbarism. However, that's really not the intent of my question. I'm speaking strictly of the special treatment afforded one nation, Israel. 

So, if we're going to give Israel a special dispensation, I think it's apropos to at least ask who it is that lives within its borders. Are they God-fearing? Is this a nation patterned after Old Covenant Rabbinic Judaism? Is there a continuity of land ownership since the time of Christ and before? Does modern day Israel bear even the slightest resemblance to the people who inherited the Promised Land 1,500 years before Christ? Unfortunately the answer to each is a resounding NO. The vast majority of Israelites are secular but those who are devout hate Jesus Christ. In "Christians in Israel an Endangered Species" was written the following:
The Jewish Encyclopedia tells us He was a bastard—“for polemical purposes, it was necessary for the Jews to insist on the illegitimacy of Jesus, as against the Davidic descent claimed by the Christian church.” His mother, “…Mary…was known to be an adulteress.” 2 Concerning “Miriam,” or “Mary,” the Talmud in Sanhedrin 106b says: “… “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.’…’”

Israel is a completely secularized society with little interest in Yahweh and an outright aversion of Jesus Christ. So why do some expect God to bless those who bless Israel (Gen 12:3), if they reject and abhor "The Way, the Truth and the Life"? 

If Jesus was enamored with sacred bloodlines, why then did He tell Nicodemus, a devout Jew, that must be "born again"? (John 3:3) or he "cannot see the Kingdom of God." And why did John the Baptist tell the Jewish religious elite that God could manufacture children of Abraham out of stones? (Matt 3:9)  This passage doesn't speak about the restoration or regathering of the Jews according to the flesh. Quite the contrary. John foretells of the wrath that was "about to come" upon this wicked and adulterous generation. So in the New Covenant, if to God, ethnic origin is of no consequence, what therefore is the allure of favoring modern day Israel?

Talmudic Judaism is vehemently opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At this point it should be noted that the "Anti-Missionary" law conspicuously passed during Christmas week on December 27, 1977. Although it remains legal in Israel for a Christian to talk with an Israeli about Christ, it is a crime punishable by up to 5 years in prison to attempt to convert an Israeli to Christianity by use of any material inducement. If a Christian gives even a gospel leaflet to an Israeli, he violates this law. Also, if the Israeli converts to Christianity after receiving the leaflet he himself could face 3 years in prison. 

So the question remains. Should a nation which enacts such laws, be considered a brother in the New Covenant simply because they share thousands of years of pre-Christ heritage? 

Once again let me ask why should we not also specifically pray for nations other than Israel such as South Korea, which are experiencing major revival and are also sandwiched by evil on all sides? Has anyone ever suggested that we pray for South Korea?  I don't mean to sound obtuse, but why do we constantly sanctify the modern nation of Israel as though they are the apple of God's eye? 

The truth is that they are just like every other godless nation that needs Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, they no longer enjoy any privileged status nor do they maintain any divine right to the land in which they currently reside. And if you think they do, please watch the video below. Are you aware that there's not one New Testament verse that speaks of a Holy Land. Quite the contrary. Jesus, when he was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well made it clear that physical locale was being rendered totally insignificant. This is powerful and it must not be missed.
John 4:21-24 (NKJV) 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Did you catch that? Neither on Mount Gerizim or in JERUSALEM! Why? Because the worship of God was no longer going to be confined to temples made by human hands. 

On May 14, 1948, those who identified themselves as Jews were given the land by U.N. mandate. But, regarding that piece of real estate, there's a dirty little secret that no one seems to talk about. There were people living in the land at the time. And a whole lot of them. It wasn't just barren dessert as it has been portrayed. Yet, how many times have you heard it said, "A people without a land, and a land without a people"? The implication? The land was vacant. That's simply not true. Do you realize how important it is to recognize that fact? 

During the past 63 years, it's an understatement to say that those Arab and Christian inhabitants of the land of Palestine have been severely persecuted.  In the process of the "regathering", close to a million Palestinian refugees have been created. Many were killed. Villages were bulldozed to the ground. Land was confiscated, and illegal Jewish settlements have continued construction on land acquired through war. You simply cannot imagine the horror. 

All of this is detailed in one of the best books I have ever read, Elias Chacour's Blood Brothers. (You cannot read this book without it severely altering your paradigm). Please know that although Elias Chacour (a very young Palestinian Christian when his father's land was stolen in 1948) is not a bitter man. And he isn't seeking retribution nor is he motivated by revenge. He simply desires to foment peace. And interestingly enough, this man was voted Israeli man of the year in 2002. 

So is there any surprise that the indigenousness Palestinian people who resided in the land prior to the tanks rolling in, in 1948, might not appreciate the outright confiscation of their land.  Should there be any wonder why their constantly degrading socio-economic circumstances might cause some of them to lash out in barbaric ways? Does any reaction warrant suicide bombings or other forms of terrorism?  Of course not, but have you ever considered what might motivate a person to do such an evil thing?  If you put a boot on a man's throat and hold him down for a prolonged period of time, would it later surprise you if he reacted?

On the surface, "Pray for Israel" seems rather innocuous enough. Surely Christians ought to care about peace. But have you ever wondered what kind of a message this sends to the billion or so Arabs that surround them?  Were the Arabs born on the wrong side of the tracks?  Are they doomed simply because they have the wrong genetic predisposition? When was the last time someone said, "Pray for Iran" or "Pray for Syria"?  I believe the underlying and insidious message we're sending to the rest of the world (especially the Arab world) is one of favoritism based solely upon a what I believe is a misperceived birthright.  So let me ask again. Where we get this precedent of singling out Israel? 

Did you now that there is no Jewish race? In "Who Are the Modern Jews", Scott Stinson quotes none other than the Jewish Encyclopedia for that answer. It states, ""The question whether the Jews of today are in the main descended from the Jews of Bible times, and from them alone, is still undecided".  I found this to be a rather startling admission from a source that can hardly be accused of anti-Semitism. The Jewish Encyclopedia further explains. "Some anthropologist are inclined to associate the racial origins of the Jews, not with the Semites, whose language they adopted, but with the Armenians and Hittites of Mesopotamia, whose broad skulls and curved noses they appear to have inherited" (Jew. Enc. X (1905), 284).

Contrary to the opinions of many Christians, I believe these things have been clearly documented. Blasphemy, you say?  (Let it be said that this is NOT intended as an indictment to those who currently reside in modern day Israel. I am simply attempting to establish the fact that few Jews living in Israel are In Israel are of Abrahamic lineage. Not since the AD 70 Diaspora when 1.1 million Jews died in the wake of the Roman siege, was national Israel vital. And those who survived this first century holocaust (according to Jesus brought about by their rejection of HIM) were assimilated into the surrounding cultures/nations.  

Today, there are no priests. There is no temple and God will never allow it to be rebuilt since it would stand as an abomination to Jesus' once-for-all perfect sacrifice. (Heb 9:11-28) And there are no genealogical records documenting racial origin. For good reason, they were forever destroyed in the war. Everything was summarily destroyed by God as He avenged the murder of His Son (Matthew 23:36; Matthew 22:6-7). And from the cross forward, the only true children of Abraham are those born of faith in Jesus Christ. (Gal 3:6-9; Rom 9:6-8) It has nothing whatsoever to do with bloodline. 

The ax was at the root of Israel's tree in AD 27 (Matthew 3:7-12) and it was about to be cut down and thrown into the unquenchable fire, never to rise again. Jesus Christ is THE Israel of God.  He is THE seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16).  Only those born from above (John 1:12) are "In Christ" and therefore children of Abraham according to promise (Gal 3:29). The gates of the Kingdom have been opened wide for people of all cultures and nationalities. There is neither Jew nor Greek in the New Covenant (Gal 3:28). The dividing wall of separation has been forever demolished. 

Ephesians 2:14-17 (NASB) 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away , and peace to those who were near; 

I hate terrorism, and there should be no doubt in any Christian's mind that Islam is a religion that opposes Jesus Christ. But so does Talmudic Judaism! They, Israeli and Arab, both need Christ, so why pray specifically and single-mindedly for the peace of Israel (at the exclusion of the Arab population) when the Israelis are oppressing a people (the Palestinians) who live within their borders? Why are Christians not encouraged to pray for the peace and safety of the heavily persecuted Palestinian Christians? This is a sad mystery. 

In the end, this obsession with Israel has become very disconcerting.  Many people become so emotionally charged that reason is kicked to the curb. Why not pray for the peace of the whole world? Why not pray for a race-blind world where the Gospel is free to proliferate without ethnically imposed restrictions? Once we remove the racial barriers sequestering the Gospel from the entire Arab world, who knows what may happen. The way to defeat Islam is not to nuke their countries but to convert its adherents. But unfortunately, under the current climate, the Muslims won't hear the message of Christ because a Biblically sanctioned bigotry drones the Gospel's clarity. Although the only path to peace is through Jesus Christ, the only way to Christ is through an unobstructed message. 

I believe a pervading ignorance of that which took place pre-1948, fuels a misdirected blame for the current Middle East circumstances. I abhor all violence, but to ignore the atrocities committed against the indigenous Palestinian population, at least 10% of whom were Christians, is to fight a battle blind-folded.

I recently watched a video of a Jewish Rabbi who was filled with aspirations of peace. As he was decrying violence he made a rather poignant statement. Basically he asked, "How can we who know the severity of suffering (referring to the holocaust) if we don't recognize the suffering of others? We, above all, he said, ought to be the most cognizant of oppression and abuse. They cannot right the wrong of the Holocaust by doing the same to others. 

In closing, let me make it clear that I believe in Israel's right to self-determination and self defense regardless of the past.  However, not at the expense of innocent people. Because, in the process, the rage emanating from the innocent (63 years of oppression), foments the cycle of violence while radicalizing a whole new generation. And the beat goes on. I believe we must acknowledge the past before we can move forward. 

If you still feel compelled to pray for Israel, please also pray for Palestinian people. No, that doesn't mean we are under obligation to condone the actions of Hamas or Hezbollah or side with those who desire to drive Israel into the sea. It simply means that we are champions of those who cannot speak for themselves. It means that we are peacemakers and it means that we love Jesus Christ. 
Matthew 5:9 (NKJV) Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
The solutions to these very serious and vexing problems are solidly within our grasp. The Prince of Peace, through His redemptive blood, can and will one day tear down the walls that separate us. The answers are within the bounds of Scripture. In the New Covenant, race should NEVER be a motivating factor. The dividing wall of separation has been eternally torn down. So in the future, let's pray for the peace of ALL, knowing that ONLY the Gospel can bring both vertical (between God & us) and horizontal (between each of us) peace. 


Forwarded message:




As an addendum, if anyone would like to more fully understand the Palestinian / Israeli conflict from a Biblical perspective, I highly recommend the following books, DVD's and websites:

May 26, 2011

The World is Coming to an End, Again!

Commentary: Doomsday is Oct. 21, so get your finances in order By Brett Arends

BOSTON (MarketWatch) — The world is coming to an end. Again.

Harold E. Camping, the radio “Rapture” guy out in California, has told his followers that the world will end — or, at least, that all the Chosen Ones will get raised up to Heaven — on Oct. 21. (Camping gave this update after Saturday’s big letdown, his second.)

I know what you’re thinking: “What does this mean for my personal finances?” Well, here at MarketWatch we’ve always got your back. So if you’re getting ready for the Rapture, here are my 10 personal-finance tips....

(Continue HERE For the rest of the article and short video of Camping - it's kind of a playful "what if"...)
Apparently, according to Camping, he wasn't actually wrong. Surprised?  No, I wasn’t either. Who’d admit that kind of blunder when some of his followers spent their life’s saving on signs, tee-shirt, pamphlets and touring caravans? Camping says that It just didn't happen the way he expected. Hmm. :)  Maybe he's on to something. 

The truth is that although I don't know anyone who took Camping seriously, this "any moment rapture", popularized by Hal Lindsey and more recently, Tim LaHaye, has conditioned the soil for a whole crop of similar predictions. We all know Jesus said that "no man knows the day or the hour", but was that the extent of Camping's error?  Is that really what makes Camping's eschatological proclivities so egregious?  In terms of overall impact, what's the big difference between saying something been imminent for 2,000 years or picking an actual day?  At least Camping put his money where his mouth was. I believe the majority of Christendom’s “end is near” drone, has had a much more chilling effect on so many levels than this Camping fiasco.

I've been hearing this "any moment" rapture since the 1973 Middle East crisis (oil embargo) when I was a wild-eyed 19 year old kid. My roommates & I contemplated quitting college and heading for the hills because Pat Robertson had convinced us the end was near. After all, what good would a B.A. in Criminal Justice do in a heaven packed with a bunch of perfect people?  LoL  

In 1982, when Debbie was pregnant with Matthew, she & I were warned by a well-intentioned soul quoting the following passage, that this was NOT the best time to bring a child into a world that in the throws of its end. (Can you say, understatement :).  Matthew 24:19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! If I’d only understood and applied the concept of “audience relevance”, I would have known that Jesus was talking to Matthew the tax-collector, not Matthew, my soon to be slick-fielding son. LoL  And consider the irony. Christy, my second child who was yet to be born, now has her own child!  How long will it be before some other zealous person quotes the above Scripture to her?

On September 12, 1988, Debbie and I were tooling around the Gulf on the cruise ship Titanic…no actually it was the Veracruz but it felt like the Titanic, as one of the largest hurricanes (Gilbert) in history, was bearing down on our destination, Cozumel, while we were bopping around like a cork in 20 foot seas. You ask what’s the significance of that date?  It was the middle day of the three days Edgar Whisenant (88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988) predicted the rapture was guaranteed to happen. "Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town. "[I]f there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88." He came back in '89 (Edgar that is…not Jesus LoL) with the same brazen guarantees and then wasn’t heard from again. Well, not publicly, that is. Perhaps he staked his life on it...  :)

Then it was the year 2,000. That reminds me, I still have 50 gallons of water from that one.  I suppose it’s a mite stale. Then it was 2004.  Then May of 2011 and now October 2011.  The next great wave will be in 2012 culminating in the Mayan calendar’s terminal date. As certain as Edgar was, I am as well, that these and many more years of predictions will all come and go while more and more Christian become disillusioned with the Bible.

Well, Matthew is now almost 29, I'm 56 (ugh!) and I continue to hear the same ole warn-out refrain. “If the Lord tarries just a little longer I’ll do (fill in the blank)”.  It's always perpetually "soon". Nice redundancy, eh?  :)  And this, in my view, is the crux of the problem. It’s a broken record.  It’s Chicken Little. Every time there's a school shooting, a rash of tornadoes, an earthquake, a kidnapping, an economic collapse, an oil spill, unrest in the Middle East, or basically anything negative, what do people say? "It's a sign of the times."  To be quite frank, it’s a sign of EVERY time in recorded history. This stuff has been going on since the fall. It's as if people have no comprehension of history. As Yogi Berra would say, "It’s Deja vu all over again." :)  

The modern Church has become myopic and egocentric.  Every day I am simply amazed as I hear so many Christians say how bad things are. Hey, if someone’s out work or they have terminal cancer, things really are bad. But in the grand scheme are things really as bad as we say they are?  In the past 200 years, consider the following varied events to add perspective. And remember, the population in 1804 (1 billion) was 7 times less than it is now (7 billion):
  • 1775-1783 - The Revolutionary War (6,000 dead)
  • 1815 - Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora volcanic eruption (92,000 dead)
  • 1839 - India cyclone (300,000 dead)
  • 1850-1950 - The third Pandemic of the Black Plaugue (12,000,000 dead)
  • 1861-1865 - The Civil War (700,000 dead)
  • 1887 - Yellow River Flood (2,000,000 dead)
  • 1900-1980 – Smallpox (300,000,000 dead)
  • 1907 - Chinese Famine (24,000,000 dead)
  • 1918 - WW1 & the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 (65,000,000 dead)
  • 1920 - Haiyuan (China) earthquake (235,000 dead)
  • 1937-1945 – WW2 (72,000,000 dead)
  • 1941-1945 – Genocide (11,000,000 dead)
  • 1960 - Chilean 9.5 earthquake (1,655 dead)
The fulfillment of Bible prophecy is always about us, in our generation…or so people think. This egocentricity is really causing serious interpretative issues.  And I believe the blame falls on our flight from sound hermeneutics (science of interpretation) gleaned from the reformation. Once time relevance, audience relevance, context, and the analogy of faith (interpreting the unclear from the unclear) are discarded, interpreting the Bible becomes a free-for-all, and private interpretations abound. Case in point: In the first verse of the Revelation it says, “things which MUST SHORTLY take place.” So one person says, “shortly is a relative term" and off to the races they go.  So, 2,000 years later, the Revelation is supposedly still in our future. What about "MUST SHORTLY take place don't we understand? There’s no wonder confusion abounds. 

After the massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that devastated Japan, I was talking with two gentlemen at the place I work-out. One guy said, as the other was nodding his head, “This is just the beginning, so get ready. You ain't seen nothing yet."  No, maybe I haven't since most of the really horrific stuff happened well before I was born, but I've heard these dire warnings for my entire 38 year Christian life. And the truth is, the Bible doesn't say anything about an increase in seismic activity, school shootings, economic woes or anything regarding an up-tick in natural disasters. But sadly, that doesn’t really seem to matter because we believe we’re living in the last days of history and things have got to be getting really bad. Our expectations tell us such, and we use to newspaper to confirm it. It’s  the never-ending self-fulfilling story. But it’s not a true story and the facts simply don’t bear out these supposedly worsening times. It’s all relative when our myopathy restricts our view of the the past 40 years.

So, yeah, I agree, Camping's out of control, but so is this "any day now" rapture. It's eating our lunch and sapping our resolve.  Christians are becoming the butt of all the late night talk show jokes and overall, the Bible's credibility is being severely compromised. I know it won’t be popular and you might get run out of a Bible study for even asking the question, but don’t ya think it's high time we begin to look at the eschatological underpinnings that foster this kind of stuff? Something being imminent for 2,000 years is, well…the only words  that come to mind are condescending. :(

Where in the New Testament do we find an admonition to rebuild the Temple (what an abomination), a regathering of the Jews into the Holy Land or a prediction that Israel would once again become a nation? Actually, the only Temple mentioned was one that was to be destroyed (and it was in AD70 exactly 40 years [a generation] after it was predicted ); And the only prediction regarding fleshly Israel, was its impending demise for murdering their Messiah (and it happened as God brought the Roman-led multi-national army to destroy Jerusalem during the spring of AD 66 to the fall of AD 70 – times, time and half a time – 3 ½ years).

I sure hope we get back on track to a sound interpretation of Scripture. I don't know about you, but I’m tired of this 40 year wilderness wandering. Don’t get me wrong, manna’s okay with a dab of ketchup, but it ain’t no Outback cheese fries or succulent shrimp from the Bonefish Grill.  :)

May 21, 2011

Israeli - Palestinian Conflict

I believe there is a great deal of confusion regarding the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. Considering the president's most recent speech calling for a return to the 1967 borders, I think the following video, forwarded by 3 New Hampshire Governor and former White House Chief of Staff, John Sinunu, might introduce a degree of objectivity. If we can't get past our emotional reactions which may be based upon faulty preconceptions, peace will stand little chance of prevailing. 

Understandably, because of a shared 1st Testament, most Christians are in solidarity with Israel and assume that the majority of fault should be laid at the feet of radical organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the neighboring Arab countries. But, it may not be as cut and dry as most perceive. This is an incredibly complex issue with no tidy solutions.  As Christians, I think it is imperative that we do whatever we can to foment peace. From my vantage point, that is not happening. 

May 14, 2011

American Atheists Planning Rapture Party!

Do the atheists have a point when they refer to the "any day now" rapture as nonsense? Are you able to answer their claims?  I have found that most cannot. The American Atheist Association is planning rapture parties for "heathens and skeptics" in a broadside attempt to garner new converts while mocking Christianity.

Watch the following video to learn how to successfully rebut their claims. Inspired Scripture is hanging in the balance. We most definitely DO have an answer.    :)

(For full-screen click the 4 arrows in the toolbar - "esc" key to revert)

Consider attending American Vision's National Prophecy Conference, June 1-4, 2011 in Ridgecrest, NC, to learn how to effectively interpret Bible prophecy.

For a more in-depth look into these matters watch the following: