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Posts Tagged ‘narrow way’

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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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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Third time is a charm.  A real, relevant post to end the day!  Thank you for your patience. 😉  This is what I intended to post here today.

I began writing this a couple weeks ago.  As things were heating up toward another armed conflict between my country and the Middle East, with possible ramifications for Israel, I decided to hold off on publishing.  I deeply desire peace for Syria, and Israel, and all nations.  With so much war and unrest in so many places it’s hard to read the news.  While in hope of a diplomatic solution of some kind, I submit this subject:

For the Love of Israel
Tonight I am sitting in a vacant house that my husband and I own. We have spent two weeks getting it ready to put on the market, but we lived here enough years to have two children and enjoy many times sharing hospitality with good friends. It is hard to let this house go thinking of all the memories. Today I was also remembering when our Hebrew Roots congregation went out in the front yard at night to blow shofars at the new moon. Okay, so we had some weird times too. But all the crazy fun times began for us, with a love for Israel.

How I Fell in Love
I was not raised in the type of church that believed Israel still had Chosen People status because we believed we did.  I never gave the modern state of Israel much thought and could never figure out what the big deal was about everyone wanting to go to the “Holy Land.” For us a pilgrimage of worth might be the house our prophet was born in, or the very first church building used by our denomination.

One day, years after leaving the late 1800’s variety of American-inspired “Chosen People” for good, I felt a desire to read the book of Ezekiel. Then I read other Old Testament prophets, majors and minors. I became very excited at the discovery of many things I had never seen before regarding the Jewish people and promises of their restoration. I began to wonder if the modern state of Israel was the beginning of these prophecies being fulfilled. Wouldn’t you know, many other people had exactly the same speculations!

I immersed myself in the study of the history of the Jewish people, and then of the history of the modern state. I had always felt a solidarity with the Holocaust victims from childhood because we also kept the Jewish Sabbath in our church, and were taught we would suffer a similar fate for it one day. I had read more World War II books than I could count. But now I wanted to know all about them as a people, past and present.

My husband, not so much interested in Israel, but in the Torah itself as a way of life, was also being drawn to identify with Jewishness as a path of life and worship. As our testimony here shares in far too much tedious detail, we did.

We began to see the Hebrew way as given to a tribal nation thousands of years ago, as the only way. We believed God ordained this forever and for always, and that any who would be obedient to follow Him in this were also Jewish. Judaism itself does teach this. Upon conversion you are as much a part of the nation as one natural born. This is the way the Old Testament teaches, to be circumcised and joined in obedience to Yahweh as explained by Moses, is to become a Hebrew.

Many people in the movement talked of moving to Israel. I studied about kibbutz life and nothing sounded more idyllic to me. I looked into ways to immigrate, and found full conversion to Judaism, proof of ethnic lineage, or joining the IDF were the options, all of which seemed problematic. But my now “Jewish” heart, longed to be in the Land. As many Christians believe, we thought by blessing Israel, we would be blessed and also have front-row privileges to end time events and insider information on current world affairs. That’s pretty intoxicating stuff.

Meeting a Real Jewish Zionist
An Israeli man came to speak to our little tiny group. I’m sure he had bigger fish to fry with much larger pockets, but he was kind to come and speak for us. The way we prepared for his arrival you would have thought the Queen of England was coming to town.  He was running a publicity campaign for the Temple Mount and the WHOLE land of Israel as described to Abraham, to be occupied by Jews. Any concession at all to give up an inch of land was condemned as evil and against the will of God. Any Israeli or American leader willing to make compromises for peace was in danger of a curse we believed, and he fueled our zealous convictions. We did not care to speak to him of his Messiah, but he did make many diplomatic patronizing remarks toward the idea of the Messiah – as he was accustomed to speaking in Christian circles. He also had amazing war stories that filled us with admiration and a sense of being on “God’s side”. Maybe the miracles were true. One thing I’ve learned about miracles – they mean God loves us. They don’t always mean we are necessarily right. He was a sweet, charismatic man and I have no reason to doubt the depth of his convictions.

Those Obstructing God’s Will
As far as Palestinians were concerned, we had our talking points. We saw them as one big mob of hate-filled terrorists, not people. Not an ounce of concern or compassion for them found a place in our hearts, nor did we ever hear any of them speak about their situation. They didn’t matter to us. They didn’t belong there, and the sooner they were dealt with the better, although most of us had the realization that we would have to wait for the 2nd coming to see this problem solved. Seriously. I wonder what Jesus we were expecting?

Now, several years later with a new heart, open ears and eyes, I feel compelled to address this issue which is so closely linked not just to the Hebrew Roots Movement, but much of evangelical Christianity as well. I have questioned myself hundreds of times, “Why I should write these things?” They are hard. But it comes down to love. Love for Israel. All of it.

Honesty is Loving
Before I begin to share the hard things, there are several guaranteed reactions to anyone who would dare to look at this situation from any alternate angles. I know, because I used to have the same violent knee jerks so that I nearly bruised my own chin. Calmly place both feet on the floor, and hear my words.

*I LOVE JEWISH PEOPLE no matter where they live.
*I don’t wish to see Israel wiped off the map.
*I am deeply moved by the fear they live in and am well aware of the threats surrounding them daily, and the great suffering they have experienced past and present.
* I could care less about the accusations of conspiracies and evil empires, because I have to include my own country in that discussion. This isn’t about blame.

Now that we have that clearly stated, I desire to speak with honesty. If at any point you feel your feet rising from the floor, please refer again to the list above.

Christians and Israel
I speak now to those who call themselves by the term Christian. This would imply that you believe not only IN Jesus, but that you believe Him. I have been amazed at how easy I have in the past skimmed over very clear, direct teaching as “does not apply” to me. As He has gradually worked on my heart, I am constantly shocked at things I thought were okay that are completely out of line with how He is describing His Kingdom and how it works. This is an ongoing process for all of us who seek to follow Him. This isn’t just a matter of reading words on a page and managing to integrate my thinking from hypocrisy to honesty, but deep heart changes that are incredibly painful, yet freeing at the same time.

Many Christians, especially in the United States, feel a deep affinity for Israel and Jewish people. This isn’t wrong in any way, except when it creates the situation where we only love one side, and God loves both. When we cross over from loyalty to Jesus to blind, unbending loyalty to any earthly, fallen thing, no matter how good we perceive it, we create for ourselves a conflict of interest. This can happen with countless “good” things. The Biblical term for this is idolatry.

Just as we tend to see all Palestinians as terrorists, I think Christians also want to see Jewish people in a stereotype as well. We see them through the lens of the stories of David and Moses, and enjoy the common ground that we both accept the first edition of the Holy Book.   Stereotypes generally lead us astray from seeing the diversity in a people.  Israel is extremely diverse, maybe even more so than the United States in some ways.  I saw recently that the Ultra-orthodox were in a conflict with the government over the mandatory military service.  The article stated that they had large families and lived mostly on the welfare system as they believed their duty was to study the Torah and spend their time in the yeshiva.  They were exempt from military service because they did not believe in the use of force, but rather trusted in God.  I found great irony that this is the opposite perspective of most conservative Christian Zionist, on all issues.

Putting any and all end-time prophecy interpretations aside, because I honestly don’t know or care who is right or wrong about those things – it doesn’t change the foundational Way of the Jesus we follow – and that is to love. We love Him, each other, and our enemies. This “insanity” is the only real proof we have in this hate-filled world, and in my opinion, just as powerful as any miracle working you can manage to conjure up. Maybe more so. Pretty hard to fake loving your enemy. Funny thing happened as I began to listen to these people I had written off. God filled my heart with so much love for them too, just like He gave me for the Jewish people years before. I can’t even explain this love. It’s just there.

The Bottom side of the Security Fence
Imagine for a moment that the Palestinians don’t understand God wanted the Jews to have all the land back at this point in time. You can understand the confusion. (There are those on both sides who want ALL the land, and those who want peace.) Imagine yourself in their shoes. We’d be finding some resistance fighters in our own ranks don’t you think? What’s all this I hear in the last few years about “Don’t tread on me?” Humans of any race or religion don’t take well to being pushed off their land, losing their livelihoods, having travel restricted, or living in fear that any moment you could be arrested or your house taken over for use by an army at their whim. Or shot in random gunfire. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for peace to me. For many on both sides, peace isn’t the goal. Only total victory will satisfy.  But there are some on both sides as well who believe in non-violent solutions.

The situation in Israel is complicated, dangerous, and without any clear solutions. Many in Israel do not believe that meeting any Palestinian demands will bring peace. Palestinians do not believe Israel wants peace as long as  they continue to build settlements in their territory, which creates the need for more buffer zones, and more confiscated land and difficulty with travel because of checkpoints and security fences.

I realize there is a very real threat of violence that Israel lives under daily. But their military response has been a heavy boot that is hard to imagine and is never talked about in my social circles. I truly believed in the past that any negative story at all about Israel was a lie and propaganda from the other side. The truth is, both sides have plenty of that to go around in any conflict.

Because I don’t live there, I am obviously not qualified in the least to speak of this one way or the other, but I am thankful to have found honesty and truth, from Israelis themselves. Not all Israel’s citizens are comfortable with the way things are. Many are now speaking out about the human rights abuses the IDF routinely displays toward the Palestinian people.

I admire these truth-tellers, because truth is always risky and it takes a lot of courage to speak against what everyone accepts as normal. My country is very severe to anyone who would dare speak out about the abuses of military and government, as we have seen so vividly in the last few years. Please understand I’m not on a witch hunt here. I am sickened by what has been done under the banner of my own flag as well, and what continues to happen. I have been writing about that in other places as this is not a political blog. As I heard one saying recently, “There is no flag big enough to cover the killing of innocent people”. Especially not my flag.

Breaking the Silence
I don’t remember how or where I ran across this group, but their facebook page left me feeling ill and in tears.  I have gleaned information from different sources, but this one by far has been the most inspiring.  They are a group of former IDF members who have chosen to not remain silent about what they have seen, heard, and done. They also share current news stories of related items of interest. One of the founding members, Noam Chayut, wrote a book called, The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust – A Memoir. I identified with it deeply because the author is telling his story of “waking up”. Anyone who has been through that will recognize the process of gradually seeing things as they are, and the pivotal moments when your cotton candy structures dissolve and you are left ideologically homeless in a world of ideas.

One thing I can also relate to as an American is the contradiction between the good-guy persona, in this author’s case, “the most moral army in the world”, and the reality of human rights abuses as an accepted practice. Most of these actions are not taken as a direct intervention to any threat, but rather as a way to break a people psychologically and keep them in a state of fear and submission. He details the strategy to destroy the terror infrastructure as follows:

  1. Exposure (razing – uprooting trees and flattening buildings)

  2. Targeted Prevention (extrajudicial execution)

  3. Show of Presence (humiliation, intimidation, vandalism)

  4. Neighbor Procedure (using a random unarmed bystander as a human shield in order to enter a Palestinian house)

  5. Passer-by Procedure (same thing, after “neighbor procedure” was ruled illegal by Israel’s High Court of Justice)

  6. Searches (entering homes and damaging their contents)

  7. Deterrent Fire (opening fire indiscriminately in all directions)

  8. Making them pay the price (revenge, letting off steam and collective punishment)

  9. Mapping (invading the last vestige of privacy in the refugee camps: entering every home, drawing the layout of the rooms, listing the names of the inhabitants, scanning their mobile phones, checking out family relations…)

And so “the Palestinian population is to learn that terrorism doesn’t pay.” p. 97

He begins the story with his childhood and growing up with the Holocaust deeply embedded in the psyche with the mantra, “Never forget, never forgive.” He traveled to Europe and was deeply moved by the museums and remnants of that horrific nightmare. Yearly celebrations kept it all fresh in everyone’s minds. In spite of his excelling in music, he chose to join the IDF as a combatant because of his admiration for the war heroes who had preceded his generation.

In one eventful moment as an IDF soldier, looking into the eyes of a young Palestinian girl who saw nothing redeeming in his smile toward her, an awakening happened that took years to fully acknowledge. Here is how he describes it:

“She took from me the belief that I was avenging my people’s destruction by absolute evil, that I was fighting absolute evil. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil… And ever since, I have been without my Holocaust. Ever since, everything in my life has taken on new meaning: the sense of belonging is blurred, pride has gone missing, belief has weakened, regret has grown strong, forgiveness has been born.”

Forgiveness. That is the way out isn’t it? What we refuse to forgive, we tend to repeat. As with fathers and sons, so with nations. This book is hard to read but yet hard to put down. I am sparing you the graphic details. Only that the author states from the time he went to his first post as a soldier in Gaza, to the publishing of this memoir in English, 3088 Palestinians had been killed who took no part in any combat action.

As with most truth-telling, one of the first objections raised is that the atrocities described are exceptional incidents and in no way characterize a regular pattern of behavior. While of course there are many good things to praise, the good things do not take away from the necessity to evaluate other patterns at work. As Chayut began collecting testimonies for Breaking the Silence he relates this discovery:

I gathered testimonies, and listened to others gathered by my friends. In the first months, I was stunned by the dimensions of violence and humiliation they revealed. The excuse of “rotten apples” within the “moral occupation” cart disappeared  In its stead, a whole system of organized evil was revealed….These were the stories of frightened boys who commanded checkpoints, enforced curfews, and patrolled streets and markets. These were the stories of the indifference and numbness they developed there, which swallowed up their own personalities.”

This is when the aggressor becomes the victim of his own war. So many in our military have suffered the same emotional damage and our veterans are committing suicide in record numbers. Fighting terror with terror solves nothing and hurts everyone it touches in some way.  American Christians need to come to terms with this in their own country as much as seeing the reality of it anywhere else.  Conservative Christians have historically been quick to join the war band-wagons, unless of course it is suggested by an unpopular president.  This comes from a deep-seated patriotism that preaches “God and Country.”  Not many seem to ask the question, “What does God THINK about my country right now and its actions towards our perceived enemies?”  As a Christian, these questions should be thought out in light of the words of Jesus, not our nationalism or patriotism.

But this is not about politics or who decides policies. This is about love being the higher way. I recently saw a video of an Israeli man (on TED Talks) who has taken it on himself via the internet to send love messages to the people of Iran, saying he did not want a war with them, and many others joined in. Then there came many messages back from Iran to Israel with the same desires. What if love was stronger than fear?

I will end this portion with a few videos of Israeli IDF voices from Breaking the Silence. And I strongly recommend getting Noam Chayut’s book. In the next post I will talk about the Palestinian side of the equation (another book and movie review), and what a genuine loving Christian support for the region might look like, no matter what your end-time scenario includes.

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies/database/838448

 

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Today I read a passionate argument against some “hyper-grace” teaching that has become popular.  Living under my rock, I am not in a position to comment on teachings I have not heard for myself, but this has never stopped me before.  🙂  I will concede that maybe the message of Grace in Christ could be presented badly.  But I find it hard to believe that it could ever be too much.

I’m not sure if the reaction is toward something that may actually be heretical or if maybe much of the Church has never understood that law and grace were never meant to be in balance.  Grace replaces law because it does what the law could never do; creates a new life, draws with love rather than fear of punishment, transforms desires which in turn guides a life toward Christ instead of self.  Maybe those teaching “hyper-grace” don’t know this either, but I have never heard anyone teach that Jesus has no affect on a life.  He just saves you and that’s all there is to it?  Nothing changes except you go to heaven instead of hell?  Are people really teaching this?  Or are some people afraid to let go and let Him be the Lord of the road people are on while seeking Him.  I would speculate it’s possible that neither side of this debate really know Grace.

I have wanted to write about this so many times, and never could quite seem to figure out how to approach it – because it’s kind of the depth and scope of everything about living in Christ. It’s like, if you don’t get it – I can’t give it to you.  But I see so many Christians , churches, and creeds missing the awesome power of Grace.

Real Grace (which is even beyond my ability to accurately define) is such a transforming power that squabbling over what you think you are allowed to do or not allowed to do becomes pointless.   Those debates are for those who don’t have enough grace, not too much.  Grace fills you with love for God that keeps Him in mind in all your actions, words, and even your thoughts.  Grace fills you with love for other people so that you lay down your prejudices, hates, grudges, and feelings of superiority.  Your heart lives with those who are last, not first, and you learn to lay down your life and take up your cross.  You even find yourself loving those who hate you.  Grace isn’t always easy, but it’s glorious.  It’s Jesus on a cross loving you and His executioners, saving us who were against Him.  You can’t have too much of Him.  Loving Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul does not lead to licentiousness.  Quite the opposite.  People think that when Christians begin to get comfy with sin (which is also sadly defined only by moral behavioral lines while the sins against love are ignored), they need more law.  I disagree. They need to see more Jesus, and we so seldom speak of Him.  We love to dwell on agendas and abstract ideas.  Even New Covenant recovering theology junkies like me are in danger of this.  Life is not a good idea we can talk about at a distance.  It’s a Person who is your Life and has an active participation in it.  We often turn His Spirit into a dead doctrine  or a band-wagon, either one.   Both of these forget that He is standing there as our Bridegroom, waiting for us to realize the intimacy and power of His Love.  Imagine an unpublished final chapter of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennett,  in spite of her hard-won love and admiration of Mr. Darcy, turns to a life of crime because he wasn’t stern enough to keep her in line.  That’s not how love stories go, and I don’t believe it’s what Jesus intended for those who fall in love with Him.

It makes me sad when people believe Jesus isn’t enough and we need to step back to Moses to get a good dose of morality to stay on the straight and narrow, or to even find conviction for sin.  This isn’t what He taught.  The inheritance He gives us, His Spirit, His Life.. is so much more, so much greater.  And it’s continuing to open my eyes to areas that I had not surrendered to Him before.  Grace loves me enough to not leave me to wallow in my own ways.  In the last year, I’ve seen things that were so out of line with Him, that I used to believe were true (similar to the awakening which inspired the start of this blog).   The areas of my life being pruned would never have been brought into the light with the Law.  His Spirit goes deep into the heart and tests things against the Law of Love.  So much in my heart has failed this test.   This did not come about because someone came and said, “you need to repent of x,y, and z”.  Rather, it’s the fruit of walking with Him, and hearing His heart.  And I have much further to walk.  Maybe we need to move past God as a doctrine and realize that living in communion with him (as a husband and wife, father and child, etc… whatever family or friend relationship you relate to) doesn’t operate on this score and control system when it’s healthy.  What friend of Jesus did He ever have to force Himself upon?  Was there ever a more attractive Person?

I may have never encountered this actual problem of hyper-grace, and I may misunderstand the arguments against it, but I do appreciate the chance to say, Jesus is enough. 🙂  Always.

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When I am visiting someone’s home for the first time, if their bookshelves are visible, I find myself irresistibly drawn to look over them… not just because I love books, but because what people read or collect tells me so much about their perspectives on everything.

This week I happened upon a collection of books from an estate.  Of course when I see bins of books, I can hardly wait to dig in and search for treasure, but this collection was different than I had hoped.  Every bin contained a monoculture of a specific genre of religious teaching, one that was unknown in Christianity until the last 30 or 40 years.  When I realized I would find only a handful of “old-fashioned”  mainstream material, I pondered the phenomenon of being totally given over to a specific teacher or religious movement.

Having been there myself at one time, I remembered what this was like, and how it affected my own library shelf for awhile.  I remember as a child  we did not have any books published by any authors outside of our denomination which claimed to have “special truth”.  I distrusted books from Christians outside our realm, and considered them inferior even if they did have some good points.  They didn’t have ALL the truth.  And not only did we have just one source for books, there were many of them.  Many.  Our publishing houses churned them out as quickly as people would buy them.

Here I saw these same characteristics with the singular type and quantity of books as I sifted through bin after bin… losing hope of finding treasure and becoming increasingly sick as I surveyed some downright astonishing book titles and author’s claims.  A few verses came to mind.

This verse speaks to the thirst for only one kind of teaching; something “new” or “restored” (if Jesus, Paul, and the other Apostles didn’t proclaim it, it doesn’t need to be restored),  and considering it superior to “that which we have received from the beginning… which was once and for all, delivered to the saints” (I John & Jude).

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3,4

I don’t know when I have ever seen a more clear example of this in a collection of books since I left home.  The sad, obvious fact:  the owner had no interest in anything unrelated to this new and exciting teaching.  Even books with subjects that seemed Biblical – such as “Forgiveness” – revealed chapter titles that brought this subject back around to the same falsehood.  Everything centered on the falsehood, not the truth.

As to the overkill in quantity, exactly how many books do you need that say essentially the same thing?  I’m sure the profits from book sales are intoxicating for these teachers.  Write the same thing, give it  a different title, repackage it 100 different ways, and people keep buying them!  Where can you find a better business model of repeat sales and residual income?  Rock stars maybe?

But the sad characteristic of feeding on spiritual falsehood is that you never have enough.  You never quite get to that place they promise, so you need one more book, one more DVD, one more reassurance that you have found the truth.   But this is not a new development.  We are told from long ago that the last days would be full of false teachers, and I find it interesting that this quality of a continuous stream of “learning” is described.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
2Timothy 3:1-7

False teaching is like junk food.  Once you start to take it in, you develop cravings and lose your taste for healthy food.  Broccoli and apples look boring and tasteless. (think…simple truth of the Gospel!)  The craving and addictions can become intense, but for all the quantity of food you consume, your body is not being nourished.  It seems the spiritual appetite can also be perverted in a similar way, with even worse outcomes.

In contrast, Jesus said..

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Rev 21:6  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 22:17  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Who are we thirsty and hungry for?
So much deception plays on our desires.  We are led away by them.  Someone dangles a carrot and we blindly follow an empty promise, because they are offering something we want.  This isn’t the whole picture, but most of it.  Eve began in this error, and most of us walk in it too before we find the Narrow Way.

If what we want most in this world is anything but Jesus, we are our own worst enemy, and the world offers us so many appealing alternatives.  This is why the FIRST commandment is to LOVE the LORD with all your being.

When we want HIM with our whole heart, it won’t matter what else we have or don’t have.  We WILL seek Him and find Him.  He has promised this.   These teachers love to quote the Bible, and their books are full of verses to prove out what they say.  But unless you are willing to prayerfully take the Word by itself, verse by verse, passage by passage, to see for yourself – any false thing can be made to sound “Biblical”.

My collection of spiritual books I will actually read is narrowing down, as I find the Word of God itself has more treasure than any human teacher can offer.  I do enjoy what the Spirit has taught through many great brothers and sisters through the ages, and it always resonates with what He has shown me through His Word.  But if all I had was the Word, it would be enough.  Jesus is enough.  His Word is enough – through the Book and His Spirit.

My hope is that the owner of the collection I saw this week also found that peace and Living Water in Jesus Christ alone.

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I am increasingly concerned that adapting Jesus culture to business culture transforms faith into following a fad.  I am fully aware this didn’t just start yesterday, nor does it describe the whole of Christianity in America, but it’s becoming endemic.  Here are some of my personal observations, which may or may not be worth a plug nickel.

1 – Business culture seeks most of all to succeed on terms which are incompatible with  how God defines success.

Worldly success values that which has a wide appeal, fulfills a demand, generates a profit, and can be multiplied or duplicated through packaged franchise methods.  Do I need to explain how this is counterproductive to the foundational principles of faith Jesus taught?

2 – Innovation drives business and technology but destroys doctrinal foundations.

We are a culture driven to find something new and our gadgets are obsolete before we even get them home from the store.  Marketing companies are always looking for ways to reinvent the same product to appeal to the bored consumer.  The nature of the human separated from God is seeking to fill up a void with something.  Nothing but God can satisfy that longing, so the search for a new thing goes on endlessly.  This same obsession is described in Acts.

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.  Act 17:21

The “old time religion” isn’t good enough for us either.  It has become archaic, boring, and too simple-minded.  We have to reinvent the gospel, deny the authority of scripture, turn Christianity into a motivational self-esteem campaign, and seek to make it compatible with other World Religions.  Many things can and should change – but never the Gospel.

3- Hero/leader worship of pop culture (a tool of business culture) lends itself to creating widely accepted icons…

…with mega churches and best-selling books.  A sign that says billions and billions served must prove the product is great!  Or does it?  The documentary “Super Size Me”  seems to indicate that the food billions have consumed is actually lethal, yet it’s the single most successful restaurant in the history of the world.  In Christianity, if these icons stray from the truth – few will dare question them because of their popularity.  Truth can never be determined by popular vote.  There are some really great pastors with huge churches, don’t get me wrong.  But often success in numbers will over-rule the need to discern.

4 – Marketing success of one product generates a merchandising frenzy of many others.

Even if the initial offering had some value, the ensuing effort to capitalize on the success wave is often banal and funnels valuable financial resources away from areas where they could have eternal impact.  You can tell this is a problem when authors drivel on about nothing to get a book-length manuscript when they could sum up their point in ten pages.  Sequel books are often as disappointing as sequels to movies.  But then so much would be missed in the way of journaling editions, study guides, simulcast events, t-shirts, bobble heads, and children’s products with the same name, etc.. etc… etc….

5 – Relying on business marketing methods (mass mailings with pithy slogans inviting people to gimmicks, limited-time promotions in shopping-mall like churches)  demotes the gospel and our Savior from Life itself to a competing product in a world of possibly equally valid ideas.

Some people justify all this based on the success alone.  They say the goal is to maximize the profit.. (er…impact, sorry) and it’s only right to seek the most effective ways to draw people through the doors of a church.  This last Easter the efforts of churches to outdo one another in my small town for the largest Easter attendance reminded me of the retailer frenzy the day after Thanksgiving.  From a 15,000 eggs at one Easter egg hunt to a free Barbecue dinner, it seemed strange to me that Jesus overcoming sin and death for us – having been raised from the dead – isn’t a big enough draw?!  Makes me wonder how much we believe it or think about it.  Instead, we have to bait people in with something more appealing.

6 – People attracted to Christianity via these methods will demand a steady supply of such to remain interested and pumped up.

This will probably not be easy for people to swallow – but I was sickened when I investigated the Women of Faith website recently.  I’ve never seen such shameless marketing, even to the point of offering a Women of Faith VISA card!  I lost interest about a nanosecond later.   Evidently this traveling mega convention isn’t enough to really satisfy because yesterday I got a flier in  the mail for a “Women of Joy” conference!  I think I’ll hold out for “Women of Peace” when it comes along.  That’s probably what I need the most.  (obviously! ha.)

Each woman spends hundreds of dollars to attend these conventions.  I’m sure they have fun.  I’m sure women are touched.  But I wonder why the demand and success of such events when we have churches on every corner?  Don’t we have enough ministry in this country to keep women encouraged?  I guess I just don’t get it, so I apologize to those who do.  I am greatly edified by the 3 women I meet with for Bible study once a week, my Godly husband, my church fellowship, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.  I would rather send my money to the native missionaries in India who are walking barefoot from village to village to tell people about Jesus who have never heard of Him.  K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia is very vocal about how American Christianity spends 99% of its ministry income on itself rather than to reach the lost and hurting.

7 – Vendors of Commercial Christianity will be tempted to not speak the whole truth if it means they will lose fans or revenue.

Jesus said you can’t serve God and money at the same time.  The problem there is pretty obvious.  My son is disgusted with “Christian” bands who do not use their influence and platform to share the gospel.  What are their priorities? (i.e. gods?)

So how is it working?

Are the lost being saved and lives changed?  People picking up their own cross and following in the footsteps of their Savior?  Are we really expanding the Kingdom of God with all this?

In spite of generating churches with memberships equal to some city populations, rumor has it Christianity in America is not growing, but shuffling.  Church growth has been found to come from church transfers, not from evangelism of the lost.

Christian divorce rate is equal to the general population according to this study.   I have been tempted to blog on this topic all by itself.  How can we follow what Jesus said to love one another as He loved us, if we can’t even sacrificially love our spouses?  This one is HUGE to me.  I have seen so many Christian marriages dissolve just from pure worship of self.  There was no biblical right to divorce.  Before coming to Christ, I too chose divorce and the consequences of a broken family on your children have to be lived with.  My husband and I both come from divorced families.  Many of our grandparents were married multiple times.  The Word says God hates divorce, and so do I.  It has caused me so much pain, and no one is untouched by it anymore.  If the Body of Christ looks the same as the world in this area, we have a deadly problem.

Only 1 in 5 of those who say they are  Evangelical actually hold to the foundational beliefs which define Evangelical Christianity.  Truth isn’t sought after because now even Christians have adopted relativism.

The seeker friendly movement at Willow Creek which generated a revolutionary church-growth strategy admitted openly a few years ago, that according to their research, all their programs were not affecting lasting transformation in people’s lives.  They drew people but failed to make disciples.  Their solution?  Do some more research and start over with a clean piece of paper.  Hmmm..

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth… Bob Burney … See Full Article

Mass marketing seems to generate a great income, but it looks like a steady diet of  this type of religion is leaving the church in the state of spiritual emergency, not emerging health.  It’s not that I am against great programs and ministry conventions – just people trusting in them to do the work only the Holy  Spirit can do.  The biggest problem with Laodicea is she thinks she can manage just fine on her own.

With God even a rich man can get through the eye of  a needle and a Laodicean church can repent and buy gold tried in the fire.  We won’t be changed however until we see ourselves as we are, or all our man-made devices are taken away from us in God’s mercy.  When Christ applies the eye salve (Rev. 3), we will be compelled to pray, repent, seek God and His ways instead of the world and its way, because we will finally realize there is no alternative.  Well, there is one other option actually – something about being “spewed out.”  I trust this is not God’s will for Laodicea.  He knows what it will take.   It’s not something an outward reformation in form or method can fix.  The root problem is a body severed from its Head, and a heart drawn after idols.

If you see clearly – please pray with me that others will too, and pray with each other.  We so desperately need to pray.

(Picked up a book recently by Michael Horton called “Christless Christianity – The Alternative Gospel of the American church.” I am only in Chapter 1 so far, but standing and cheering …  other people far more qualified to speak out are seeing it too!!)

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