Tag Archive | Romans

History and The 9th of Av

Israeli Flag 1

The 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz begins a special season for the Jewish faith (Israel) to which we, as believers in Christ, have been grafted in (Romans 11). The fast of the 17th of Tammuz, (Shivah Asar B’Tammuz), is the beginning of a three-week season of mourning that commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem and the First and Second Temples.

A 21-day period of teshuvah (repentance) is called Bein haMetzarim. This is translated “between the straits” (between the days of distress), or The Three Weeks. This twenty-one day period of mourning and fasting begins with the 17th of Tammuz and ends with the 9th of Av.

During this period, the Orthodox will limit celebrations and enter into a more solemn season of prayer.  This solemn rite is not without hope. Zechariah 8:19 prophesied an outbreak of joy and hope…

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

The fast of the fourth month,
The fast of the fifth,
The fast of the seventh,
And the fast of the tenth,
Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts
For the house of Judah.
Therefore love truth and peace.’

The Siege and Destrucion of Jerusalem. David Roberts, 1850This season is especially remembered because of the destruction of the First Jewish Temple (Solomon’s Temple) in 586 BC by the Babylonians, and the destruction of the Second Temple (built by Ezra and Nehemiah) by Titus and the Romans in 70 AD. Both events occurred on the 9th of Av, nearly 655 years apart. But the 9th of Av holds other significance in the life of the Jewish people. Other historic events of significance are associated with this day…

  • Rabbinic tradition says (Mishnah Taanit 4:6) that ten of the twelve spies sent into the Promised Land (all but Joshua and Caleb) brought back a negative report on the Promised Land (Numbers 13), and the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness ensued . The night the people cried out in unbelief marks the first 9th of Av becoming a day of mourning for all time.
  • Following the destruction of the Second Temple, the Romans subsequently crushed Bar Kokhba’s revolt, destroying the city of Betar and killing over half-a-million Jewish civilians (approximately 580,000). This took place on 9th of Av, 135 AD. Following the revolt, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, along with the surrounding area.
  • In 1096, at the decree of Pope Urban II, the First Crusade commenced, unleashing anti-Semitic fever across Europe resulting in 10,000 Jews killed the first month in France and the Rhineland.
  • Jews expelled from England… 1290.
  • Jews expelled from France… 1306.
  • Jews expelled from Spain… 1492.
  • HimmlerGermany entered World War I… 1914. Most historians also believe that the events surrounding the end of World War I led directly to World War II and the Holocaust, wiping out nearly 1/3 of the earth’s Jewish population.
  • Nazi SS Commander Heinrich Himmler received approval from Adolph Hitler for “The Final Solution” resulting in the Holocaust… 1941.
  • The deportation of Polish Jews by Hitler… 1942.

 … and I could go on.

Yet it was this season when they expected
the coming of Sar Shalom… the Prince of Peace!

I am praying in these days, as we move toward the 9th of Av (sunset July 31st through nightfall August 1st) that Jesus the Prince of Peace would protect Israel and His Church, and that soon He would come.

Across the Water

Justice or Judgment?

Silence in the face of extreme danger is cowardice and treason.

About two weeks ago, Iran successfully test-fired a ballistic missile that can reach all of our bases in the Middle East and Europe, as well as the nation of Israel. It is bad enough for Iran to do this since the Obama Administration-hailed nuclear agreement was enacted in January. However…

This is the third time.

MissilesThree times since January, Iran has thumbed its nose at the feckless world community, and openly continued testing its weapons of war. To add insult to injury, one of the missiles that was fired in March had the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on the side of it in Hebrew. The missile testing ban (in place since 2010) was lifted by the U.N Security Council as a part of the nuclear deal, being replaced by a resolution “calling on” Iran not to participate in missile testing. It would seem that the idea is, if we ask nicely, they’ll stop testing.

So how’s that working out for everyone?

D-DayOur active military forces have been diminished to their lowest point since prior to the end of World War 2. While our enemies mock us, terrorists attack us and our allies, and our economy continues to languish, President Obama and national leaders are busy wringing their hands over transgender bathrooms. It is no wonder that the American people — both Republican and Democrat — are choosing outsiders to overthrow establishment and career politicians. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan doesn’t know if he can support the Republican party’s nominee, political outsider and businessman Donald Trump. Speaker Ryan might want to take a page from history: In 2014, Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor ignored the will of the people and lost re-election to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat, in spite of a 30-point lead in the polls, and outspending Brat 40 times over.

The good will of the American people has reached a tipping point. People are fed up and disgusted with a Congress that has done little-to-nothing in the face of the disarming of America, ISIS terror, the lowest middle class income in 18 years, the worst conditions for minorities in 3 decades, $19 trillion in debt, the attack on the 2nd Amendment (gun rights), the erosion of religious liberty, and Islamic aggression.

Where is the hope and change we were promised?

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform of hope and change. So where is it? Why have we diminished ourselves in the name of progress? Why are we no longer respected by our friends, and feared by our enemies? Our nation is in grave danger and we need a turnover and turn-around in Washington DC.

We need reform now.

  • When Bible-believing American churches are rendered mute by political correctness and cowardice, and Biblical standards are waived for cultural compromise, we need a change.
  • When a political candidate is applauded for declaring that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” to accommodate abortion-on-demand, we need a change.
  • When the rights to privacy and safety of women and young girls is forced to take a back-seat to the “rights” of a man dressed up like a woman, we need a change.
  • When Christians are being slaughtered in other countries while America stands silently by and does little, we need change.

No amount of new community centers will help when daddies are not home, and the family unit is continually undermined. No amount of legislation can satisfy the corruption and degradation of the human heart. Political correctness and “common core” are not substitutes for the values of Judeo-Christian ethics and common sense. Liberalism, like any disease, will progress until it kills the body… there is no such thing as enough. Liberalism is slow-motion suicide for any nation.

Yet…

IMG_1304In spite of the dark clouds, I sense an uprising of Americans who are fed up and will pray, act, and bring our nation back from the brink. I see a movement that understands the beliefs that truly did make America great. I hear the voices that echo the call to freedom — physical and spiritual —  that can put us back on the rails of goodness, truth, justice, and sanity. Judgment is at the door. Our God is a God of love, compassion, and patience. However, He is also a God of truth, righteousness, and justice. In Romans 2, Paul warned the Christians in Rome…

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:  Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. ~ Romans 2:4-11

America cannot continue to follow the unrighteous path she is on without severe consequences. We say we are one nation under God,  but our actions don’t show it. In the face of so much disdain for His Word, God has given us time and again to repent and return to Him. This could be Americas last hope. Amos 5:15 says…

Hate evil, love good;
Establish justice in the gate.
It may be that the Lord God of hosts
Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

We His people must not be silent. We must declare His goodness and mercy to this generation. We must refuse to back down in the face of compromise. We must decide if we will establish justice at the gate, or face judgment at the gate.

It’s up to us.

There Was A Time When…

red ryderEvery Christmas season, Americans have countless opportunities to view the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. Who can forget the adventures of Ralphie, his family and friends, and his trusty “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle“. Many of Ralphie’s experiences ring true, for those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s (and even the 70’s). The sights and sounds, the camaraderie of friends relegated to playing in the great outdoors… who would be best friends one day, fighting the next, and back to “buddydom” the very next day. Many of us can relate to having friends like Flick or Schwartz…

And many can relate to having a Scut Farkus in our lives as well.

In Ralphie’s life, Scut Farkus (and his “little toadie” Grover Dill) were the community bullies, bullying Ralphie and his friends until one day Ralphie had had enough, and in a moment of pure rage, turns the tables on the bullying Farkus. From that point on, Scut and Dill never pick on Ralphie or his friends again, proving the belief that, for most bullies, all they need to back down is for someone to stand up to them.

While I don’t condone senseless violence, watching that movie reminds me that there was a time when friends stood up for friends, when right and wrong were simple choices, and the world (much like the television of the 60’s) was black-and-white.

I remember that there was a time when…

  • A person’s first reaction to seeing another person in distress was the lend a helping hand. It is maddening these days to see videos posted online and on the news of an individual being taunted, bullied, picked on, or beaten down with no one coming to that person’s aid, but to look and see a dozen people standing by — all with cell phones — videotaping the altercation. Romans 14:7 reminds us that “none of us lives to himself“. In his classic, My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote…

If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer.

And friend, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our culture is suffering.

  • Freedom of speech, good or bad, was a basic right. Freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. The same right that allows a Christian to unashamedly share the love of Jesus also allows people to espouse some pretty offensive things — words of hate, negativity, profanity, etc. It is a simple right, guaranteed by our Constitution. Yet recently, the story came out that a university police department is encouraging students to turn people in for “hateful and/or hurtful speech”. One problem (of many) with such a rule is this: Who defines what constitutes “hateful or hurtful” speech? To a non-believer, the idea that they face an eternity in Hell, devoid of the presence of God might be considered “hurtful speech”. Sometimes the truth — regarding things of faith or not — hurts. The Bible says that, to someone who lives a life of spiritual disobedience, Jesus is considered “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (see 1 Peter 2:1-8). Does a person’s right — under any circumstances — to not having their feelings hurt trump another person’s right to free speech, guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution? Whether we like it or not, starting down that path is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.
  • Police officers were respected in our communities, and supported by our leaders. Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in violence against police as a result of misleading stories and irresponsible reporting in the media, and lack of support of leadership in government. When criminals are afforded the assumption of “innocent until proven guilty” but police are not, we are on a dangerous path to societal rebellion and anarchy. When police have to go into hiding simply because they either did their job or protected themselves (or both), we are in danger of becoming a completely lawless society. In Romans 13:2-3, Paul writes…

Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

  • IMG_1905Men were men, women were women, and society knew the difference. The LGBT agenda has
    permeated every facet of our society. From local gyms where “transgender” individuals are allowed in opposite-sex dressing rooms (and those who object have their memberships revoked), to school systems where “transgender” students are (considered) being allowed into opposite-sex locker rooms… the lines of decency and propriety are rapidly disappearing…When a young girl is subjected to awkwardness and embarrassment in a locker room because a boy is in there who claims to “identify” as a female;

    When a national magazine selects a man who dresses up like a woman to be their “Woman of the Year”;

    When a group of black-robed justices defy the God-ordained institution of marriage —

    Such things bring to mind the warning of the prophet Isaiah…

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

  • The world knew we were Christians by our love. While it is vitally important to stand for what is right, we as Christians have become known more for what we are against than what we are for. Oftentimes, instead of focusing on the Great Commission, we brow-beat a secular world over things that amount to no more than a diversion they don’t understand. We are inconsistent in our priorities, which sends a confusing signal to a culture watching us through a “microscope lens”. Consistency in the message of Christ matters, otherwise we seem disingenuous at best. For instance, IF I am going to boycott a secular organization, it should probably be less over the color of their “holiday” cups and more over their support of abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

CoffeeWith all of the mayhem that is going on in the world, we are seeing an unprecedented assault on Christians in our lifetime. Things may never return to “the good old days”, but there is definitely room and opportunity for improvement. Regardless of how we are accepted in today’s society, one thing is certain: We won’t change the minds of people in our culture until God changes their hearts, and what God will use to change their hearts is a Body of Christ that operates in righteousness, walks in unity, and talks in truth and love.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. ~ 1 Peter 3:15

Love is the language that all people understand, because love is the language of God. He IS love, and as creatures created in His image, love is our native language. For some, it may be deep and buried, but it is there…

And it is our responsibility and opportunity to try to find it.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

The more I watch the news, read stories on the internet, or talk to people, the crazier I see our society becoming. Here are just a few questions that I have been pondering of late…

  • Emanuel AME2We see stories nearly every week of some atheist or anti-religion group up in arms because someone prayed at a school function, sporting event, or city council meeting. We have seen anti-God groups go after every Christian symbol, holiday, and even our own national history with a vengeance, trying to eradicate the Christian “religion” and our Judeo-Christian roots from every corner of public life.

So where is the outcry from these same individuals when it comes to the tax-payer funded indoctrination of our school children and college students to Islam? If “separation of church and state” is so important, why do we need governmental-appointed positions such as Sharia Czar and Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference? Where is the indignation from anti- religion groups when it comes to the misrepresentation and acceptance of Islam by those in the corridors of power in Washington D.C.?

You can’t have it both ways.

  • For decades, the argument (among others) from pro-abortion groups has been that it is fetal matter — a blob of tissue — not a baby. A baby does not become a real person until it is actually born. Until birth, a fetus does not have a “meaningful life”.

If this is the case, then why is one of the nation’s top abortion providers, Planned Parenthood, currently embroiled in controversy surrounding the harvesting and selling of fetal tissue from aborted babies? If it’s not a person, why harvest these meaningless “blobs of tissue”? At what point, and who, decides that a person’s life has no meaning? What about people who are tragically injured and in a persistent vegetative state… are they no longer worthy of life?

You can’t have it both ways.

  • IMG_1905With the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states, the LGBT community, which has spoken out for decades about discrimination and mistreatment, have finally been granted the “right” to marry the person of their choosing. After years of being denied the right to live their lives however they choose, believe what they want to believe, and love who they want to love, homosexuals and transgender individuals have been granted the ability to do so with the blessing of the United States Supreme Court.

So why is it ok now to vilify and persecute Christians who still oppose same-sex marriage? How is it that people who for years screamed “discrimination” are now discriminating against those who simply (and peacefully) disagree with their lifestyle based on personal religious values? How does a homosexual’s “right” to marriage trump a Christian’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech?

You can’t have it both ways.

For a society that prides itself on intelligence and logic, we have crossed just about every line of logic and reason in our attempt to be “fair, tolerant, and inclusive.” Science, biology, natural law, and intelligence take a back seat to the ability to “identify” with a person or group. Laws are ignored by those entrusted with upholding the law because those individuals disagree with a certain statute or regulation. Those tasked with protecting and serving the public are forced to operate at a handicap because the very people they are trying to protect are advocating their destruction. We have been told that global warming (“climate change”) is the most pressing issue of our time. Yet recently, arctic ice increased by 1 million square miles in one year (2012 to 2013).

In Romans 1, Paul had this to say about those who choose to ignore and/or disregard the truth…

   The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — Who is forever praised. Amen.
    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:18-32

Creation itself testifies of the glory of God, and His handiwork. A society may attempt to dissuade its members from belief in a Holy God. It may try to marginalize God, lumping Him in with fable, folklore, myth, and legend. Yet, the fingerprint of God on Creation is unmistakable and undeniable. In Psalm 19, David declared…

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Werner Heisenberg, considered to be one of the fathers of Quantum Physics, had this to say about the relationship of science and religion…

“Where no guiding ideals are left to point the way, the scale of values disappears and with it the meaning of our deeds and sufferings, and at the end can lie only negation and despair. Religion is therefore the foundation of ethics, and ethics the presupposition of life.”

CoffeeCreation is not subject to the whims of world leaders, political correctness, or public outcry. Nature cares not a wit about feelings, fairness, or whether or not it offends anyone. The natural laws, written into the DNA of every cell in Creation, are as unchangeable as Jehovah God. Mankind may attempt to suppress all evidence of the goodness of God from society, but the stones, seas, and stars will not cease to cry out. And if nature declares the glory of God, and God is who He says He is, then His Word is true. And if His Word is true, then we cannot help but conclude that He means what He says, and that we must all come to Him in repentance and humility, to find grace and forgiveness. Truly coming to Him in repentance means to turn from our sin, and accept His finished work of salvation through His sacrifice. We cannot come to Him while holding on, in stubborn unrepentance, to the very things He died to redeem us from. You can’t have it both ways.

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
~ Werner Heisenberg

In Search of… The Blessing

bat-creekAs believers in Jesus, and joint-heirs with Him, we have the rights of sons and daughters of the King. The same blessings that applied to the nation of Israel in Scripture apply to us as believers as well…

I was almost a year old when David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Almost a year to the day later, the UN voted by majority vote to admit Israel as a member. Here are some interesting facts about Israel that you may not know:

  • For all of the terrorist attacks we hear about, Israel has one of the highest life-expectancy rates in the world. At #4, it is far ahead of our own United States (a distant #33).
  • The only three U.S. states geographically smaller than Israel are Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut. However, in 2012, Israel had the 43rd largest economy in the world (based on gross domestic product).
  • Israel has the highest standard of living of any country in the Middle East, and has the third highest in all of Asia.

So how can this be? Consider the words of Mark Twain. In 1898, Mr. Twain was living in Austria, where he witnessed vicious anti-Semitic attacks, and subsequently penned an article entitled “Stirring Times In Austria” (Harper’s Magazine, March 1898). One of the responses he received was from an American Jewish lawyer who asked, “Will you kindly tell me why, in your judgment, the Jews have thus ever been, and are even now, in these days of supposed intelligence, the butt of baseless, vicious animosities?” Twain’s response was in the form of an essay titled “Concerning the Jews”. He stated:

“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, and has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallest of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.
He has made a marvelous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

Right now in our world, the Middle East is as unsettled as it has been in decades. Between uncertainty in Egypt and Libya, violence and revolution in Syria, protracted war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and incessant saber-rattling in Iran, the survival of Israel seems to be nothing short of a miracle.

“So, what does this have to do with me?” you may ask.

The mystery of Israel’s survival is not just that they have survived, but that their survival is a living picture that, in Christ, you will live and not die. Your life is meaningful and full of purpose. God made you, chose you, and loved you from the foundation of the world, and no amount of persecution, tribulation, or trial will snatch you from His hand. In Christ, you are a child of the King— princes and princesses, royal priests, and heirs to all that God has to give you.