The ‘us and them’ mentality

I was raised to think the way that I believe most Christians are taught. It’s a sad reality and something that I’m not proud of. By raised, I simply mean that it was the message portrayed through various mediums, not necessarily my family. Everything around me seemed to reinforce that belief.

I’m talking about the separation we place between the church and Israel. A divide that was never meant to exist. A wall of separation, well over a thousand years in the making. A mentality that we inherited from our forefathers. And it runs deep!

I see it in the faces of many of my Christian brothers and sisters. I hear it on the radio, in certain podcasts, in books that have been talked about. History is littered with it too. I’ve even experienced the hostility myself, as a Christian, from other Christians. Six years ago I began a journey into the heart of the Lord’s Holy Feasts, talked about in Leviticus 23 and referenced through out the entire Bible. When some people heard I was doing this, they labeled me legalistic, and worse yet, questioned whether or not I was joining a cult. Neither of these could be further from the truth. I’ve also tried to be intentional about honoring the Sabbath, where I’ve been met with nearly equal criticism.

What is it about the Old Testament that is so threatening to modern western Christianity? Even in asking that question I shudder. I know people would never admit that their disposition towards the things of Israel and the Old Testament were hostile, but it sure seems prevalent. It’s as though the Christian Church has adopted a doctrine of ‘us and them’. Or even a position of ‘then and now’. What I mean is, it is taught that the destinies of Israel and the church are different. That God has replaced the nation of Israel with the church as His chosen people. That God no longer cares about the things of the Old Testament, only the new. Has that been your experience? How did we come to this? Here are some of my thoughts.

#1-Persecution

When the church was being born during the first few centuries AD, many Christians endured unthinkable evils at the hands of the Roman Empire. It was often due to local Jewish leaders causing a fuss and turning in Christians. It was a way of redirecting persecution off of them onto a controversial minority group. Over time, a divide was erected, even among believers who were once Jewish.

#2-Marriage with Paganism

In the forth century AD, the Christian Church got an influx of pagan rituals, most of which we can see in the idolatrous symbols in some churches, and in the celebrations of Christmas and Easter (both of which were pagan holidays long before any Christian celebrated them). Over time, the mingling of ideologies and practices drew followers of Christ further and further from their roots.

#3-Antisemitism

I highly doubt that any Bible-believing Christian today would admit to being anti-Semitic, but the disposition is as prevalent in the world today as it ever has been. Unfortunately, some in the church haven’t been immune to it. Sometimes it can be so subtle that someone may be completely unaware.

#4-Unfamiliarity

As the gap between Jew and Christian widened, people lost touch with practices and teachings that were thousands of years old. Today, most people are simply Bible illiterate, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. I think with that, comes a sense of fear.

#5-Changing Culture

We are so easily influenced and informed by the culture we grow up in. It’s true for everyone. Many of the Old Testament writings were from 3000-4000 years ago. Times have changed a lot in some ways. Not so much in others. And the Old Testament requires being culturally set apart as much as the New.

I don’t believe that any of these reasons, no matter how legitimate they seem, warrant where we are today. I mean think about it. How could we ever excuse shaming and ostracizing a believer who chooses to honor what the Bible teaches? But it’s like some people honestly think that if someone follows the Biblical dietary guidelines, keeps the Sabbath, celebrates God’s Holy Feasts, Studies Hebrew, etc…that they are somehow less Christian. That doesn’t make any sense.

When Jesus came, He did so to destroy the separation between Israel and the world. Israel was not fulfilling its role as the light of the world, to draw people to God. Instead, they had more times than not, merged with the world. The merger was supposed to happen the other way around. The nations of the world were supposed to see God’s glory and goodness through the nation of Israel and be drawn. Enter Jesus. He demonstrated the teachings of the Old Testament, and the character of God, the way Israel was meant to…the way humanity was supposed to. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brought down the wall of separation forever. He grafted (Romans 11) the nations into Israel and made us all one through faith in Him.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Ephesians‬ ‭2:11-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It is no longer us and them. It can’t be. Jesus is the bond of peoples. He isn’t the gate through the wall of separation, He’s the wrecking ball that leveled the wall to the ground. We’ve been the ones, on both sides I admit, that have been rebuilding it. We do our Savior a great disservice if we allow ourselves to fall prey to any of the aforementioned reasons for the division that exists. We cannot allow prejudices to dictate our thoughts. We are about loving God and loving others. The ‘us and them’ mentality can’t harbor love. It is not Israel and the church. It is the Children of God, through faith in Christ. And when God calls a people His, they are His forever.

I implore you, brothers and sisters, to do your part to take down the wall, one brick at a time. Don’t allow unfamiliarity, prejudices, the culture, or history to estrange you from your Hebrew roots. Be the instrument of peace and unity where you are. Together, we can turn back the tide of fear and misconceptions and walk in the path of love and humility. Along the way, maybe we’ll all be changed by the Holy Spirit.

Advertisements

Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah

jerusalem-old-city-view

The title of this post comes from Psalm 87:3 (NASB). It serves as a reminder of the importance of Jerusalem, then and now. A city that has been fought over for centuries yet who’s name means the City of Peace. It was a city created to honor and worship God. Not just any god. The God of the Bible. The only real God. And yet, the world believes it has dominion over this great city.

I am relieved that I live in a nation, for the time being, that is not following the antisemitic path that many nations are on around the world. At least I can say that under our current leadership. The eight years before…not so much.  I understand that there are many antisemitic people in the United States. But at least for now, we are restrengthening our ties with one of the freest and most democratic nations in the world. There are many things I don’t care for with our current Executive, but I am elated with his overwhelming support of perhaps our greatest ally.

The UN voted recently to reject America’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. On the positive side, 44 nations did not side with the UN’s resolution. On another positive side, UN resolutions mean little to nothing in most cases. It does however, reveal the anti-Israeli stance of many nations around the world. But that is no shocker.

While people are clamoring  over the decision by President Trump to recognize Israel’s capital as…well…Israel’s capital, there are many prominent voices speaking out in praise. I read several of these in an article today that I’d like to share with you because they brought me some encouragement.

– Douglas Feith, President George W. Bush’s undersecretary of defense: Writing in Foreign Policy, he said, “U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem might contribute to peace.” It teaches Palestinians, he wrote, “[t]here is a price to be paid for perpetuating the conflict: Life goes on, the Israelis create new realities, and the world in general adjusts to those new realities.”

– Amos Yadlin, head of the centrist Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, tweeted, “Trump was not intimidated by the threats from Ramallah, Amman, or Ankara,” referring to the Palestinian, Jordanian and Turkish capitals, respectively. “The refusal to bow to the threats or blackmail, together with the message that the Palestinians do not have veto power, [is] a very important precedent for the future of the peace process.”

– Shoshanna Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, wrote in The Daily Caller, “The intention is to disabuse the Palestinians of the notion that the U.S. is neutral between them and our democratic, pro-Western, tolerant, free-market ally Israel. American support for Palestinian’s aspirations is not withdrawn, but hinges on Palestinian behavior.”

jvmi

In the face of this landmark, and long overdue decision, the Palestinians and some of the surrounding Arab nations are showing their true colors by speaking out in outrage. To make matters worse, Hamas (An Islamist political organization and terrorist militant group that has waged war on Israel since the group’s 1987 founding, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks) has renewed its outward violence.

Despite what some say, this declaration did not bring violence and upheaval to the region. That was already there. Not because of Israel, but because of those who are precipitating it now. What the declaration did do, was to force the world to face up to reality. Israel is not going anywhere. Jerusalem belongs to Israel, not the UN. Unfortunately, this is a reality that not everyone can accept. Fortunately, God is in control of Israel, not the United Nations.

A vote against Israel is a vote in support of the radical agendas that seek to destroy her. Does Israel do everything right? Not at all. But they are light-years ahead of those who surround them. Please spread the word of peace. Side with democracy and freedom. Speak up for our ally. No matter how you feel about our President, join in this courageous move for truth. Make your voice heard because the same anti-Israeli sentiments that predicated the last 8 years, and have plagued other periods of our nation’s history, could easily rise again. Remember God’s promise that those who stand with Israel will be blessed. As for those who do not…I think you know the rest.

I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt…

Genesis 12:3 (HCSB)

As the debate is sure to rage on and on, lets not forget Who this city really belongs to and who He gave it to. The UN didn’t create Israel in 1947, they simply gave land back that was already theirs. Regardless of what bickering and protests continue to swell, this Jerusalem is only temporary, as is the rest of the world. What I can’t wait for is the new Jerusalem, adorned in glory. There, the nations of the world will be united, not under the banner of a UN, but in the presence of our God.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

In His Presence

11297

Sunday October 23rd was the conclusion to the Holy Feast Calendar based on the seven Holy Feasts laid out by God in the Old Testament. Several friends and family members of mine met to honor the feast known as Tabernacles. Other names include the Feast of In-gathering, Feast of Booths, or Sukkot. A lot of people don’t spend much time investigating and studying feasts like this because it sounds to unfamiliar. In fact, I think most Christians even may skip over these when reading the old testament or read them but miss the relevance and connection to us as followers of Christ. But…they are jam packed with so much details about God’s redemptive plan for humanity and all of them point to some character attribute of Jesus Christ and His past and future work here on earth. In one of my previous blogs I introduced a little on the feasts. This post is all about the Feast of Tabernacles.

I love the feasts and Tabernacles is one of my favorite. Some of the feasts are meant to be solemn but other are meant to be full of rejoicing. Now there are obvious reasons to be joyful and full of hope with all of the Holy Feasts and in Tabernacles we are actually commanded by God to celebrate and be full of joy and thanksgiving. How awesome is that? So here is a little taste of why this feast is so cool, most of all for Christians.

The theme of the feast is in the title. The tabernacle, or dwelling, is a common symbol used for God’s presence among His creation. In Exodus, God commands Moses to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. Why? Because God wanted to dwell among the nation of Israel. Later on Solomon would build the first temple which had a similar layout as the tabernacle and served the same purpose…God’s presence among His people. Fast forward to John chapter one and we see an even greater representation of God dwelling among us.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NIV)

The Word is obviously Jesus, who was the full embodiment of God in the flesh. Jesus is the tabernacle and the temple. The word “dwelling” in this verse is actually the same word used for “to tabernacle”. If that’s not enough to blow your mind and prove the significance of this feast for Christians, then lets keep going.

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

As believers in Christ we too are tabernacles/temples. God no longer just appears to us in temples and tents and churches, God’s Spirit is dwelling/tabernacling in us. Those who just look at this feast from it’s old testament meaning are missing more than just one piece of the puzzle. Yes, it originally pointed to God dwelling among Israel and them living in temporary homes known as booths while on their journey to the promised land, but all of that was a foreshadowing of greater meaning later on.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

Just as the Israelites wondered in the wilderness and dwelt in temporary homes before reaching the promised land, so too are we. The word “sojourner” means a traveler…someone passing through. You’ve seen the bumper stickers. “We are not of this world”. They come from the statement Jesus made when praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. We, as Christians, are passing through this world on our way to THE promised land, which is actually our home.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…

Philippians 3:20 (NASB)

So this Feast has a past significance (the tabernacle, the temple, and Jesus coming to live on earth), a present significance (God’s Holy Spirit living in us), and also a future significance.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Revelation 21:3 (ESV)

This is what we celebrate when we celebrate the feast. We honor God’s faithfulness in the past, present, and future. We praise Him for wanting to be among us and that He has allowed us to be in His presence. This is only a taste of what this feast means of humanity. I encourage anyone in search of knowing more about God’s character and His plan to research all of these feasts. Knowing these unlocks so much of the bible and gives us so much hope that He is control. That’s something we need in these difficult days.

Legacy of Hate

image

The above picture may seem like it is from a different and more barbarous age; from a time when evil covered Europe under the umbrella of the Nazi regime. Why would one guess that? Because how could such cruelty and hate still exist in today’s world?

One thing I’ve observed being a history teacher is that people forget. The main ingredient in the recipe for repeated disaster is for future generations to lose touch. You may have heard the motto ‘those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it.’ It’s not necessarily a matter of knowing facts about past events but the idea of learning is that it becomes real to us. We need to get it. We need to understand why it happened and the tragic effects it had on people’s lives, maybe even our own. We need to get it to the point where we don’t ever want it to happen again.

image

As the sting of the 1930s and 1940s wears off with each new generation, room is given for expressions of antisemitism to reemerge on an increasing scale. Each new year in the 21st century is outdoing the previous one. How about in the United States? You bet. There was a 21% increase of reported acts of hate towards Jews in 2014 compared to 2013. There were 912 recorded incidents including 513 harassments, 363 acts of vandalism, and 36 physical assaults across 38 states in the U.S. The worst states are New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This year, 2015, hasn’t been off to any better of a start. There were marches held protesting Israel in places like Milwaukee and rallies held outside of synagogues. Jewish communities and synagogues have been attacked through cyber hacking. Hate messages have been spray painted on Jewish shops and synagogues with messages like ‘Hitler was right’ and ‘Jews=killers’ as well as swastikas. Then there was the shooting in Overland Park, Kansas in the Jewish community. I’ll bet a lot of people don’t even remember that. Ever heard of Louis Farrakhan? He’s a minister of the Nation of Islam and he’s probably done more to rally people against Jews than anyone since Adolph Hitler. Some of his messages at organized million man marches are chillingly similar to those heard in Germany in the 1930s. Farrakhan has even spoken out in support of Hitler on occasion. He’s most recently been taking his anti-Semitic message to the music industry, rallying support of young and experienced rappers.

Graphic_AntiSemitism_033115_600px

If all of this is happening here in the United States, what could the rest of the world look like? After all, aren’t we the land of tolerance? I’ll address that in a future post but it’s obvious that we are not. Here’s a snapshot at a few select nations from Europe and the Americas:
-In Argentina messages like ‘death to Jews’ and swastikas have been plastered on Jewish community centers and a Jewish cemetery was vandalized.
-In Austria a man wearing a Star of David necklace was beaten as well as two other Jewish boys.
-In Copenhagen, Denmark a synagogue was shot up and shops were vandalized.
-France has seen probably the most violence towards Jews in Europe. There , a Jewish woman and her child were beaten while the thugs yelled, “Hitler didn’t finish the job.” Two 16 year old Jewish boys were beaten and 250 graves were overturned and swastikas painted on gravestones. Let’s not forget the attacks in Paris where a Jewish shop was shot up.
-In Brussels a Jewish museum was attacked.
-In Brazil posters were hung up in the capital city calling Jews killers, thugs, and criminals.
-How about our northern neighbors? In Montreal, Canada cars were painted with swastikas.
-More incidents have occurred in the nations of Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Venezuela. To learn more check out adl.org.

die-jews-die-berkeley-california-2015_380

Sidebar…am I the only one thinking of the insane level of irony here. These misanthropists who: vandalize, spew hate speech, beat women and children, rally millions in support of hating a people group, and hang posters are calling Jews criminals an thugs…? Who do they think they are? When is the last time you saw protests against the terrorist group Hamas who use children as weapons in their attempt to murder Jews? How about Palestinians who have been murdering Jews for decades? How about radical Islam that aims to murder Christian and Jewish (really non-Islamic and sometimes Islamic as well) people? I can’t think of ever seeing it. Ok sidebar over…

BN-GM955_edpGlo_P_20150119172307

When most think of people who hate Jews they think of the Arab nations that surround them, like Iran and Egypt. And while some figures have shown that upwards of 3/4 of the populations in those nations harbor antisemitic feelings, and while Iran has expressed its desire to wipe Israel and all Jewish people off the map, antisemitism is very much a serious problem around the world, and a growing one here. The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency released a study showing that 64% of European Jews don’t report incidents. I seriously doubt that number varies much in others places in the world. So that tells us that the problem is much worse than statistics show. Consider the thousands of antisemitic people who don’t act on their twisted view. All the world needs is for good people to sit back and ignore the problem while they build the courage to act.

We need to pass this on…to voice support for the Jewish people and speak out against injustice. One thing we can know for sure is those who bless the people of Israel will be blessed those who curse them will be cursed (Genesis 12:3). Not only should we take God at His word but it’s also the right thing to do. No people group should be demeaned like this. God will not abandon the Jewish people and neither should we. We know who wins in the end and it sure won’t be those who promoted and acted on hate.

God Bless!