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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

In the last few weeks we have seen the bloodiest conflict yet between Israel and Gaza.  The last news story I saw reported that Israel was appearing to scale back its operation, but there is no way to know what tomorrow holds, and the situation at the moment is terribly bleak.  The last figures I saw reported over 1800 killed and 8000 injured in an area about half the size of Orlando.  That would be a huge crisis even if your still had all your medical facilities and your power plant, which they don’t.

Yesterday I received an email update from a Palestinian pastor who has contacts in Gaza, and had been involved in ministering to believers there before this began.  With his permission I’m sharing it here to ask you to join me in prayer for them, and for those who are able, to send aid.   Please take just five minutes to hear his phone conversation with a pastor inside Gaza, and his description of the situation there.  He estimates there are 2000 believers there.

(video removed)

 

Now I want to bring up something this pastor never mentions.  In the times I have heard him speak, or in the few brief conversations I’ve had with him, he has never complained or spoken negatively about the lack of interest the American evangelical church shows toward their suffering brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank.  But I personally  know there is often shock when people are even asked to consider that Palestinian Christian exist at all!  In our fervor to support Israel, we tend to see the Palestinians as one big block of terror – all dark and sinister.  But there is still a light in Gaza, and it’s suffering.

I want to share a few words with you from a book written 12 years ago.  Many have lost their lives since then in numerous conflicts.  But the situation spoken of here is just as true today as it was then.  Please put yourselves in their shoes and try to see through their eyes for a moment:

“For many years, I have been hurt so much, more by my brothers in the West than by Israel.  And this is common throughout the evangelical churches in Palestine.  We do not ask the churches in America to give us money.  We just want them to identify with us and allow us to identify with them.  And if not identify, at least feel with us.  Say you understand us.  On the contrary, many of the brothers from outside come to us with judgment.  They even come with rebuke.  We feel cut off, alone, away from the church.  We want to be part of the church worldwide.” – Jack, Palestinian Believer

“We wake up in the morning and have breakfast like Christians in the U.S…. We go through difficult times like they do.  We love the Lord as much as they do.  And we need them to be with us, not against us.  I don’t have a problem with any Christians supporting Israel with money and prayers.  I don’t mind that.  I just encourage them to look at the other side and to recognize that there are Palestinian believers too.

“But the only emails I receive from Christians in America say that Palestinians are terrorists and need to be killed.  A Christian church in America donated money for a tank.  Imagine how we felt as we watched the news and saw a tank crossing over on shipboard to Israel with a big sign on it reading, “Donated by the Christians of the United States.” – Waleed, Palestinian Believer

These quotes, along with many inspirational stories of faith are found in the book, Between Two Fires by Jack Kincaid.

Do you know anyone praying for Gaza?  Do you know any churches or groups weeping for them, praying, and mobilizing resources to help in their time of need?  I would love to hear about it!  Please leave a comment.  That’s why I’m writing this.  Please share it with your friends.  You can be the spark!

The suffering of every person should deeply touch us, Jew, Muslim, and Christian.  But if we do not even know what those in our own family are suffering, how can we show compassion to the rest?

I also want to share with you a picture and message that has come through a brother, who hasn’t as far as I know, read the book I just quoted.  But Jesus impresses his heart with images and words that express His pleadings for us to turn our hearts to Him and what He loves.

The Palestinian Bride

“Many of My people love Israel
and they pray for her often—
for her safety, peace, and prosperity.

They are proud to ‘stand for Israel’:
they preach it in their gatherings,
participate in conferences about it,
and assemble to protest and rally for it.

They support Israel’s politics;
they pray for Israel’s army,
for her military objectives,
and for her to be victorious.

They are attentive not only to the past
and present sufferings of Israel,
but also to potential sufferings that Jews
could experience under speculative scenarios.

But they cannot see the great sufferings
of their Christian brothers and sisters
in neighboring Gaza and the West Bank.

My Palestinian bride suffers,
but they do not mourn with her,
comfort her, encourage her or support her.
They do not ‘stand with’ her.

My bride in Palestine is an inconvenience
to the great devotion of many to Israel;
hearing of her suffering only interrupts
their unceasing prayers for Israel.

Many of My people in their hearts have sold
their suffering Palestinian brothers and sisters,
trading them for the hope of being rewarded
for unconditionally ‘standing with Israel.’

Although many in the church abroad
have forsaken My Palestinian bride,
yet I have not abandoned her,
and I have raised up a remnant of My people
to pray for her and support her.

Though she has not been loved
by many of her family—My people—
she shall be honored and called ‘My beloved’.”

*****

Art: “Forsaken By Family”

Ramone Romero

Weeping Jeremiahs

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For many months when I have tried to begin to write these things I have been at a loss to know where to start, or claimed I do not have the time.  But when the heaviness gets to be too much, it just has to be written, with full knowledge that my words are offensive to people I love.  I have held back for literally years from speaking my heart in honesty, for fear of what people may think.  I can now no longer look at myself in the mirror as the fearful person I have been, but speak as I have been burdened to speak.

Early this morning I had a dream I was driving an old, junky car (with a passenger, but don’t know who it was) and came to an intersection in a small town business district that looked as any in America might look, with old brick buildings and cars parked along the street.  As I pulled up, a jihad-style army marched toward us from the opposite direction.  They wore all  black and carried banners with symbols on them.  Their machine guns pointed straight at us.  They stopped at the intersection as well,  keeping their weapons held up, ready to fire.  I felt terrified at first, and unable to move.  But then suddenly the fear disappeared and I decided to turn the car around and go the other direction, whatever the outcome may be.  I realized they might shoot, but it seemed better than sitting there waiting and wondering.  As I turned the car around, behind me was a procession coming from the other way – almost like a parade.  Women were in the front dressed in beautiful Arab clothing as if for a wedding or some special occasion.  Suddenly we heard people shouting at us from all directions to get out of the way, but I was blocked in and couldn’t get out.  I realized at that moment we had driven onto a movie set and ruined an entire scene someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to create.

I don’t claim to understand or interpret dreams, and I’m sure there is a great deal here that I have missed, and possibly just a dream reflecting how I deeply feel.  But it occurred to me when I woke up that all these world events are like a stage – and people have been appointed their parts to play.  Anyone who would interject that this isn’t our true reality, and decide not to be ruled by fear, will be seen as an extreme nuisance for botching the “picture” everyone has dedicated themselves to playing out.

In this world you can find an opinion in every direction from any source.  You can find  someone who has converted to any religion from any other religion – with convincing testimonies.  My husband recently ran across a zealous evangelist for Islam who was raised a fundamental Baptist.  Every human being seeks a group to express and define identity, whether that ideology is religious, political, or simply a lifestyle.

Doris Lessing in her book, Prisons we Choose to Live Inside, astutely observes,

“The fact is that we all live our lives in groups – the family, work groups, social, religious and political groups.  Very few people indeed are happy as solitaries, and they tend to be seen by their neighbours as peculiar or selfish or worse.  Most people cannot stand being alone for long.  They are always seeking groups to belong to, and if one group dissolves, they look for another.  We are group animals still, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But what is dangerous is not the belongings to a group, or groups, but not understanding the social laws that govern groups and govern us.

When we are in a group, we tend to think as that group does:  we may even have joined the group to find “like-minded” people.  But we also find our thinking changing because we belong to a group.  It is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion, as a member of a group.” – p. 47, 48

We see “freethinking” movements today as many in our culture seek to reject the norms, yet this group will have its own dogmas and expectations and restrict free thought into areas it seeks to reject.

In my lifetime, I have been carried away in currents of more groups than I care to remember.  I have discovered that to align my life with the pattern that Jesus taught does not seem to be congruent with many groups I am aware of, chiefly because so many of the groups that claim to follow Him have allied themselves with other influential groups that imprint another belief structure on top of His, most of which I feel drown out and alter His true message.

Many world religions seem to have a violent faction and an arm of peace, which I find interesting.  Christians have a tiny slice of their group who reject active participation in violence, most of which exist on the outside fringe of what evangelicals accept as orthodox.

The Church in America denounces the violent past of the Crusades and Inquisition, explaining this was not “real” Christianity, yet the religion as a whole here supports without question the flag of a country, and its military, that have been one of the most and aggressive and meddling since World War II.  Although, when we are finished with a country, the Christians living in those areas are running for their lives, offered no protection from this great military might we Christians here support without question.

Evangelicals also widely support Zionism.  Along with the Hebrew Roots Movement to which I subscribed, these groups set up Israel as the modern fulfillment of Bible prophecy, therefore cannot be in error in any of their methods or goals.  These groups believe Israel must not be questioned  on any grounds for any reason, and refuse to believe any report that may suggest that the Jewish people may in fact be supporting a very oppressive, systematic breaking down of millions of people.  Many I know would in fact not even care.  They believe in the Jewish right to this real estate at any cost.  “Turn the Arab world into a glass parking lot…” – that’s what I hear.  This loyalty is based in religious belief, which ironically is not at all shared by the most devout followers of Judaism.

In the Hebrew Roots Movement we enamored ourselves with the teachings and way of life of the most faithful in Judaism while at the same time, never getting clued into the actual stance of many of them toward the political state of Israel itself.  This group does not believe in serving in the military (but are being forced to) and contend that the fulfillment of prophecy will come through the Messiah without violence and oppression.  Interesting viewpoint!

Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews both agree that the prophecies of Israel’s restoration will take place, but have very different views about the methods.

All religion aside (if that’s possible in this case), a brave voice in Israel wrote an article recently that explained most clearly and simply the situation as I had come to observe it as well.

The single most overwhelming item of evidence of Israel’s rejection of peace is, of course, the settlements project. From the dawn of its existence, there has never been a more reliable or more precise litmus test for Israel’s true intentions than this particular enterprise. In plain words: The builders of settlements want to consolidate the occupation, and those who want to consolidate the occupation do not want peace. That’s the whole story in a nutshell.Gideon Levy

This Palestinian hatred does not emerge in a vacuum.  Even the war hero, Moshe Dayan, honestly  acknowledged this fact, while still holding to the line that Israel must march forward no matter the reprisals or dangers.  But at least he didn’t glaze over the root cause of the conflict.

 “Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate,” 

(April 1956)

http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/doomed-to-fight-1.360698

 

When this injustice of continued land-grabbing ceases to take place, and Palestinians are not treated as sub-human on a daily basis in their encounters with the IDF checkpoints, and their basic human rights are acknowledged (speaking of the overall strategy here, not the wonderful exceptions to the pattern), then the claims of persecution and threat   may be taken more seriously in the world community.  I applaud that warning shots are sent to a house before it’s destroyed.  It’s great to be courteous when taking over a land.  I am not sure my own country is as thoughtful.  But attempts to minimize civilian casualties does not a moral army make if the directives are wrong in the first place.

I implore you to take less than 10 minutes to hear this alternative voice:

I understand Israel has a deep-seated fear, and a genuine danger from her neighbors, which she herself feels  obligated to escalate and perpetuate.  These nations are on track to bring about destruction of the entire region.  Palestinians are not that immediate threat to Israel’s destruction, although they do manage to cause pain and suffering.  Their rockets shut down the economic activity but harm little else.  They are pawns – used by opposing sides – to justify activities that profit a few.

Jesus says to live by the sword is to die by the sword.  If Moshe Dayan was correct in his assessment that to have a nation state of Israel in this region is to commit to a life of the sword for survival, then what does it mean to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?  What would be the prayer for Jerusalem now that Jesus would pray?  Would it be similar to the one He prayed in tears when He walked the Earth?

If my survival, and even more commonly – my prosperity, depends on bloodshed, the damage to my soul is greater than I have done to the body of my enemy.  I speak this of my own country even more so than Israel.

Can we form spiritual and political alliances or are they mutually exclusive for a Christ follower?  Are there people being called in all areas of the world who see that this path as one of self-extinction, not of peace?  For those who believe this theology of spreading the gospel to save the world, is it more effective behind the sights of an assault rifle or not?  Does the person on the other side of the rifle barrel or in the drone target zone understand the difference between your soldiers and missionaries?  And why you support both?

I close with one last quote from Doris Lessing.  She was a humanist, but echos my observations of the polarization of mankind into extremes.  I however have to differ with her on the point of reason and sanity.  The Narrow Way doesn’t usually follow into those categories.  But while there is great evil increasing, I also see rays of light coming out from unlikely sources.  Come quickly Lord Jesus – if not in the clouds today – at the least in our hearts.

 “This is a time when it is frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures.  Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that – a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check.  But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice – or if we notice, belittle – equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity and civilization.” p. 3,4  Prisons We Choose to Live Inside

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Israel_Palestine_FlagMy heart is broken today over the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine.  I ache for all the suffering on both sides.  

As an American citizen, I have no ground to confront the violence of any other nation.  We romanticize our “wars” no matter how pointless, and worship our military.  I love and respect everyone who serves, but I find it sad that reverence for selfless service is used as a barrier to discourage open discussion about what they are asked to do and how.  As the whole world knows, we love our guns too.  It’s hard to find an American, Christian or not, who doesn’t believe violence is an admirable way to solve a conflict.  

Not only do we support violence, but Christians here have some strange beliefs about who God loves and doesn’t love, and therefore some people are of more value than others.  As I try to see humans through God’s eyes, not political and religious bias, and realize none of us are without fault or deserving of more of God’s favor, it becomes increasingly painful for me to remember the lock-step allegiances I used to ascribe to, and the people I used to degrade in my speech.

Father forgive us for these blind hatreds and loyalties both.  We are all in need of mercy.

Violence begets more violence, unless you achieve complete extermination or brokenness of an entire people group.  Once again, my country was successful on this front too with the continent’s First Nations.  While their total populations dwindled to only 250,000 at one point, and many believed they would vanish forever, there are now millions trying to reclaim their identity, and heal from centuries of genocidal practices toward every part of their lives for generations.  Yet we are still proud for having put them under our feet and taken everything from them we could.  I believe we have convinced ourselves they deserved it.  The “settler” and the “pioneer” are some of the most revered icons of our history books, and indeed my own great-grandparents were among them.

Why do people with no power or hope of winning continue to fight and bring these battles of final wrath upon themselves?  (Explore “The Great Indian Wars”)  Because they see what little they have left continue to be taken from them, right down to their dignity and their ability to provide for their own families.  Food is cut off, travel restricted, the space they are allowed to live becomes smaller and smaller as more settlers move in.  They see lands their families worked and lived on for generations taken over so that houses can be built for those who hate and abuse them, with military protection.

To this day, few people ever stop to ask, “What right did we have?”.  

I am living in peace on a land that 180 years ago was a war zone between the invaders and the people that had lived here for thousands of years.  My people won, and are still proud of it.  But when I go back and read the history, the broken promises, and learn of the devastated people, all I want to do is cry.  Nothing then, nor now, will stand in the way of our prosperity.  

This blog was not started to be political, and this discussion is much more about what the heart of Jesus sees when he looks at the world, not all the lies we tell ourselves about who is better or worse.  As Christians, many of whom proudly “Stand with Israel”,  I plead with you to not stand for violence toward any human beings.  Endless discussions abound over what people have a right to do in order to defend themselves.  Jesus had a right, but He set the example that it was more powerful to not exercise that right.  The bigger question is, what is the revenge cycle going to solve, and when?  

Genocide is a high price to exact in order to gain security.  Yet it appears there are elements on both sides here who have made a pact to follow this track to the end.  I know it is not the desire of all the people on either side.  Which side has the ability to actually carry it out, and will it in the end be justified or later listed with all the other unfortunate events in history?  

Where would Jesus stand?  I would personally love to see Him standing somewhere on this earth anytime now.  But my grasp on eschatology and prophecies wane a little hazy.  All I know is that whether it’s next year or 500 years, my call is to stand in Love, not on either side of a battle line.

I am encouraged that many voices are speaking out, from Israel as well, and I feel less compelled to do so.  But my husband and I both have discussed how our own past support of political sides that blinded us to the humanity of those we deemed as “enemies” leaves us with a burden to speak out for love, truth, and honesty.  I am not on anyone’s side, or against anyone.  I am for Love.  And for those who choose to walk in it as the highest road.  

If you are wanting people to believe the Jesus you speak of, you must put down the gun – both literal and figurative.  My faith has been sorely tested more by those who profess to be of this religion than by any other challenge.  “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”  Good question, Jesus.

 

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I want to share a dream a very close friend of mine had a few weeks ago. I believe that as we settle down from the holiday food, fireworks, and parades – the message of this dream is so relevant to believers in the United States – or any country that has a strong sense of nationalism, and consequently the mindsets that develop as we endeavor to protect our way of life from foreign and domestic threats.

We are deeply divided against each other and view many other people groups as a whole, as evil. People have been easily herded into passionate crusades of one kind or another since civilization has existed. There is always someone screaming for your undivided loyalty.

The message of this dream conveys so beautifully the truths I have come to understand in the last few years.

I dreamed our family lived in a hotel. But it wasn’t unusual, because the whole world, or at least our country, lived in this hotel. Our government, the Church – everything was in this hotel. And it seemed that everything was in chaos. Terrible chaos. Terrorists everywhere. Government officials were urgently walking into and out of meeting rooms, giving speeches, suggesting one thing after another.

community-300x201But permeating the chaos and terror, and with supernatural power, was a group of young people on whom the Spirit of the Living God rested for just such a time as this. They had no weapons at all, but they were a choir. A choir with the sweetest music imaginable. Music that I couldn’t describe as I told Wes about the dream the next day. Music that made the things of life fade into the background and God into clear focus. They were singing, “Jesus Saves” but it was nothing like the song we know. Infinitely more beautiful.

And these young people were being killed by the dozens. But not retaliating, just ministering the Spirit to all. Gladly giving their lives that others might see and live.

I woke up with such a clear view of the Kingdom of Heaven being around us and in us.

I don’t want to muddy the water here with many of my words, but a few things stood out to me as significant.  The hotel setting shows we are in a temporary situation here.  We invest so much energy into the crises of these times in worry, fear, and anger.  We set up idols of ideologies, and look to human constructs for peace and safety.

But those who recognize the Supernatural walk in the opposite realm of love and living sacrifice.  They realize that retaliation and revenge perpetuate the darkness.  They would rather suffer their own demise as a witness to love than to hate and kill in return.

The song “Jesus Saves” is more beautiful than anything heard before because it’s the music of heaven being played out in their lives – not just a song on their lips.  The message Jesus Saves has been abused and misused for centuries in horror and violence, against Jews, Muslims, Native cultures worldwide, and even between Christian sects.  This was not His way.  This new song sings and walks in the truth.

I see many people caught up and carried away in the currents of world events and choosing sides.  But I also see many, often a younger generation, who are willing to walk the Jesus Road.  Big changes are coming.  Of which Kingdom do we belong?

See also a more urgent plea: Babylon is in Your Hearts

 

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I suppose it happens often, that we learn more about people at their death than we ever knew during their lives.  In fact, living under the sub-culture of a strict religious sect as a child, the first time I ever heard of Elvis was the day he died.  I was out taking my banana-seat bike off some sweet jumps we built, when a neighbor kid stopped me and squealed, “Did you know Elvis died??!!!”.  I had not yet learned it wise to conceal ignorance of matters that seem common knowledge so I asked, “Who’s Elvis?”  I don’t know if my friend was more shocked at the death or at the fact that I had never heard of him.

But one man who passed this week I knew a little of.  In 1986, Amnesty International held a benefit concert in my city.  I went, not because I knew much about their work, but because of the amazing line up of musicians coming. I still remember this as the best concert I’ve ever attended.  Five hours of some of the greatest music the 80’s had to offer.  The topic of the night was Nelson Mandela, still in prison.  We recoiled at the thought a developed society could, in our modern times, be so deeply and oppressively divided over race.

I later heard all the excuses surrounding the “it’s just the way things are” philosophies, as well as all the derogatory opinions of Mandela himself.  A co-worker from Africa of British descent, whose family fled Rhodesia during the transition to Zimbabwe, flatly stated that black Africans cannot govern themselves.  He astutely observed that all attempts at their own independence ended in bloody chaos, without taking into consideration what might be creating the challenges.  A client listening in to this conversation, a white, British citizen himself, had some choice remarks about their average intelligence and other things which I really prefer to forget.  This was right about the time when Mandela was being released from prison, soon to do the opposite of what white people expected.  Forgive.

Yes, Mandela had a different political ideology than most Americans embrace, and yes he did resort to violence in his past, as so many often do when they feel it is the only way to overcome their oppressors.  That’s not a foreign concept in America is it?  I think that’s what those canon shot fireworks on 4th of July are meant to commemorate?  Who is a terrorist and who is a liberator?  Just depends which side you are born on doesn’t it?  Violence is violence.  Either it’s a solution, or it’s not.  A worthy cause doesn’t make it prettier.  I understand why people believe it’s necessary.  I am sad when people (anywhere) see it as the first solution.

Often anger and hate boil over and create an endless cycle of killing and revenge.  But when Mandela walked out of the prison, he chose to leave the anger and hate behind and be truly free.  He led his countrymen in this path, and prevented what everyone expected – more killing than ever before.  I have read some of the most encouraging things in the last few days of his life and work.  They give me hope that peace and reconciliation can come, and hate can be put away in other places of the world where it seems to have consumed the minds and hearts of people.

There is no good side in a hate-filled land.  There is no bad side when Christ loves all the people involved with his own pierced hands and heart.  One side may be stronger than the other, but it is to the strong and those who have the power, to choose the path.  What if our enemies overcame us tomorrow?  What philosophy would we wish them to carry?  The one we now hold?  Or the one that Jesus taught, and Nelson Mandela learned to live and teach?  What if those First Nations that European civilization oppressed in America from the time the first ship landed, had a chance to rule over the kingdom built on their blood and land?  What would they choose and what would we deserve?

There are so many issues in this world we only seem to hear one voice from.  Often we may think there are only two sides when there are many.  We don’t seek to understand why, or walk in the shoes of another’s life to see through their eyes.  We want to be right, stronger, superior, victorious.

I discussed with my oldest son recently the phenomenon of super heroes in our pop culture.  Our society, in my experience, is overwhelmingly aspiritual, while at the same time very religious in some places.  But we still have our icons to worship – be they actual human celebrities, sports teams and players, or cartoons.  The heroes are strong, overcoming, witty, invincible avengers.  Yes, that’s the name of the movie even!  They are the opposite of Jesus, my superhero.  Are we a part of this culture that admires these values above all and not even realize how deeply drawn away we are from the heart of Christ?  We are so attracted to the patriotic Captain America, the strength of Hulk, and the self-centered humor and blind pride of Iron Man.  Mankind has always needed something bigger and  more powerful than themselves to worship.  The nature and heart of what we choose in this regard reveals our own desires.  I believe it takes the stronger man and woman to choose peace.  I am not sure I am that strong.  It’s hard to choose it even under my own roof sometimes.

My heart breaks for so many suffering people in this world – for the atrocities of the past, and the present.  This time of year, we think and speak of peace.  I shared a picture recently on facebook that said, “Dear God, let me worry less about putting Christ in Christmas, and more about getting Christ back in “Christian.”  It was shared more times than anything I have ever posted in my several years there, which shocked me.  I believe we deeply sense a problem in this country within the Body of Christ, but it’s easy to point the finger at all those “fake Christians” out there, when we need to look at our own lives – held up to the Light of Christ and His LOVE.  Let that Christ in the Christian begin with me.  Most of the time I feel like a paper-thin, invisible Christian.  I want the light to shine out, and for people to realize it’s HIM and not me.

Mandela’s heart was also tied with those who still waited for freedom.  I don’t want to argue about what that means, or what people deserve.  I just long for that with him, for all people.  When enemies collide in love – it’s the most beautiful thing on earth.  It began in the Cross, and may it continue to spread, one changed life at a time.

May we love all the people God put on this Earth, and consider ourselves in an honest manner.  

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Ever since leaving the Hebrew Roots Movement, I have become very sensitive to the existence of idolatry in my own life, and believe this thorn is the single most destructive element in American Christianity today.  It’s a theme I keep coming back to over and over.. and God does not relent to impress this on my mind.

As one reads through the Old Testament, this recurring sin gets so redundant as to seem ridiculous.  You would think after several hundred years, and all the history Israel remembered as part of their identity, seeking other gods would have finally died out.  Instead, in spite of periodic revivals, idol worship strengthened.   As men turn their hearts away from their Creator to gods that gratify their selfishness and greed, cruelty and injustice prevail.  If God hates the root, He hates the fruit even more.  Finally, both the northern and southern kingdoms were destroyed from their Land.  I keep asking myself, “What is so irresistible to us about idols?”  I am not sure I know the answer, but there is no doubt that humans have trouble with their attention span when it comes to following God.

When Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the King of the northern tribes, in fear of his own reign being weakened by his subjects traveling to Jerusalem to worship, instituted his own version of how to worship Yahweh.  He set up two golden calves, and changed the festival dates from those God had commanded for His people.   One day a prophet from Judah came to him as he was worshiping at the altar of his own creation and prophesied to the altar itself saying, “A son will be born to the house of David, named Josiah, and he will sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who are burning incense on you.  Human bones will be burned on you.”  This prophecy came with a sign from heaven that ripped the false altar apart, and the King’s hand shriveled up when he pointed for the prophet to be arrested.  Even though he begged the prophet to pray for his healing, and it came, he still made no attempt to change his direction.  The sin remained.

A few generations later, God called a man named Jehu to become king.  He was told to destroy the house of Ahab and the queen Jezebel who had brought innocent bloodshed and witchcraft to the land through Baal worship.  Jehu fulfilled the prophecies of Elijah concerning this family down to the letter.  Not only that, he called all the prophets of Baal in the whole land to come for a festival and worship at their temple, pretending that he was going to worship Baal with more fervor than even Ahab had done.  He did this to gather them for a destruction he did not fail to carry out.  Yet even in all his zeal for Yahweh, the only true God, at the end of the story it says he did not do away with the sins of Jeroboam.  And God waited for what He had already ordained.  He had promised it would fail, but for now, he commended Jehu for what he had obeyed in.

About 300 years after the prophecy made to Jeroboam, first King of northern Israel, a king from Judah by the name of Josiah did come and fulfill the Word of the prophet to Jeroboam… a prophet whom they had built a monument for at his tomb!   His message had not been forgotten and the people told Josiah, “…he proclaimed these things you have done to the altar at Bethel”.  Yet they had not turned away.  Their illegitimate altar was destroyed.  God’s time to judge the sin had come.  But no one could argue they had not received fair warning or plenty of time to repent.

What does all this mean for us?

What sacred cows do we have that are man-made and actually contradict that which Jesus has commanded us?  What do we hold on to, claiming we are worshiping the Lord, when in fact we are walking in disobedience?  Can we even detect these contradictions because we have held them for so long, they have become our own definition of “Christian”?  What traditions have been instituted over the centuries that were designed to keep people in submission to insecure leaders in the name of Jesus rather than to inspire love and devotion to Him and His ways?  If someone were to speak out against these things today, how would they be received?  Wasn’t this problem still in place when Jesus came?  Israel finally had no golden images, but they had plenty of stumbling blocks which prevented their belief in Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

Many sincere people in the Hebrew Roots Movement have sensed this problem in the church, and desire a pure worship.  At the time of our involvement, we defined this restoration based on Moses, not Christ, and then our pride took over anyway.  We traded one set of idols for different ones.  However I still maintain there is a need for restoration and repentance.  Often God will raise up champions within the system, but it does not mean He approves of the system.  God still desires we seek and follow His Son above all things, and in spite of anything that we have justified and condoned as being “religious.”

The tragedy of all this… is that while we worship the golden calf in the name of Jesus, we miss Him.  We have not really known HIM.  We have known what someone told us He is.. and followed what they said we must do.  Friends, not just cults have this problem.  We must see Jesus.

There are many fascinating things to study in the Word, many rabbit trails to chase, and theological points to argue or discuss.  The church is embroiled in many distractions and self-promotion, but we do not see Jesus.  Mostly, we do not follow Him but an empty form with His name attached.  A huge percentage of us don’t even know what He said, or what He meant by what He said.  How can we follow someone we don’t know?

I pray Jesus, that You strip away our idols, as painful as that is.  Help us see You only – that You may be glorified in this world in the eyes of those who need to trust You.  May Your Church become a beautiful bride in Your love that is eager for your purifying Presence.

"Thorns for the crown" by Indagate

Help us see that to follow You is to immerse ourselves in Your love for us to the end that we will follow you at all costs.  Let us realize that a genuine love for You will create a sacrificial love for each other, our brothers and sisters adopted and redeemed.  May we spend our lives yearning to follow you in these two things even if we never understand the scholar’s systems or their definitions of who You are… not that we don’t love to try to describe You.  We just can’t fully do this.  Help us to not get lost in the words and fall broken on the Word made Flesh.

(These and many other amazing stories are found in I & II Kings.)

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