Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shocking News! There Is No Longer a Chosen People!

Are all God's promises still valid for us today? Or have some of them expired? Or have some of them been rendered invalid? When it comes to Israel, the debate over God's promises becomes a testy one, often resulting in heated arguments.

At a recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops at the Special Assembly for the Middle East, the Greek-Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros of Newton, MA, said "the concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians." He further stated that "sacred Scripture should not be used to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestine." The archbishop further stated that "There is no longer a chosen people."

Did you read that correctly - NO LONGER A CHOSEN PEOPLE? Wait a minute! Has someone told God about this? Has someone shared with Him that He no longer has a chosen people? Has someone explained to Him that, because of the current situation in the Middle East, He no longer can have a chosen people? Have you ever heard of anything more blasphemous than that statement - "There is no longer a chosen people?"

Have we forgotten the promises that God made to Abraham concerning descendants (which would be greater than the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky) and a certain piece of property that bordered the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea linking three continents of the world? Furthermore God stated that these were "forever" promises. Now, does "forever" have an ending? Can we safely state that "forever" will run out in the year.......? Of course not! "Forever" is just that - forever. And this "forever" promise was reiterated to Isaac and to Jacob and to the people of Israel through Moses and Joshua. It was affirmed through the centuries by judges and prophets.

Somehow today we have become smarter than God, or at least we think we have. So now we can declare, "There is no longer a chosen people!" Nonsense. I think it would be easier to change a leopard's spots than to nullify one of God's promises. Furthermore, if His promise concerning Israel being His chosen people is no longer valid, then how can we accurately state that His promises concerning our salvation are still valid? Perhaps those have been nullified as well.

The problem is that Israel is settling on land they justifiably took during the 1967 Six-Day War and then successfully defended during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. I find it very strange that the world community does not demand that North Viet nam give up its claim to South Viet nam. Seems to me that the same principle applies - the North Vietnamese won the war. Israel has willingly given control over certain portions of their land to the Palestinians. What have they received from these peace-offerings? A continual state of terror and threat of war. Yet the present Israeli government is willing to negotiate.

So, is there no longer a chosen people? God forbid! as the Apostle Paul would say. I doubt if we will ever understand why God chose the Hebrews to bear His name before the world, but we cannot deny that He made that choice. It is not for us to debate their validity, but to accept it. And they will continue to be His chosen people long after the Archbishop from Newton, MA has disappeared from the world's stage.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Of Bees, Pop, Grandsons, and Biblical Truth

Our daughter, Beth, and her two boys were with us for a few days a couple of weeks ago. They live in Dallas, TX and had come up for my Mother's 85th birthday celebration. One day we drove to a nearby orchard to select some pumpkins and to enjoy all that an orchard in the fall offers. As Ethan - he is 8 years old - and I sat on a picnic table, we noticed a yellow-jacket trying to get into a nearby partially empty soda can. We watched him first fly and land on the top of the can, then fly away. Soon he would return and the routine would start all over again.

Ethan said, "Grandpa, what is that bee trying to do?" I responded, "Ethan, he wants to get into the can because he wants the sweet pop that is left inside." "Well, what will happen if he gets inside?" Ethan replied. I said, "He will die!" Then Ethan asked the most important question, "Grandpa, if he will die, then why does he want to get inside?"

How would you respond at that moment with an 8-year old grandson? I knew God had given me an unique moment to share a biblical truth with him. I said, "Ethan, the pop inside that can is like sin. And that bee is like you and me. Sin always looks like something we want. And we say to ourselves, 'If only we can have it.' But, when we finally get inside the can, we find the effect of the sin to only be death." Then I reminded Ethan of that verse, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:23).

I hope my grandson will remember that illustration always. Sin is attractive. When was the last time you saw a television ad for beer showing broken families or broken bodies lying on the highway? Of course those ads don't exist; they show people having a great time laughing and having fun. Sin is always wrapped up in shiny ribbon, just as that pop was contained in a shiny can. But, once the wrappings are removed, we see the deadliness of what is inside. Yes, sin is death!

But praise God there is an answer that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. His death provided the antidote for sin, and it is 100% effective. And this gift is free to anyone who would call upon Him.

Don't be like that bee finally succumbing to the temptations of the pop inside the can. He would never be freed from it alive. But, rather accept the free gift God has given you in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. He will help you to see through the wrappings to the dangers of the sin inside.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Thoughts on Middle East Peace

Have you been paying attention to what is happening in the Middle East in recent days? From a biblical perspective these are exciting days. Let me share why.

For what has seemed like decades the Israelis and the Palestinians have been negotiating about a two-state solution. At times there have been more bullets in the air than words around a table, but that is sort of the mentality of Middle East negotiations. In early September the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas met in Washington DC to begin face-to-face negotiations. Two weeks later the two met in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt to continue the dialogue, with more negotiations later that same week in Jerusalem. But since that time, the dialogue has ceased with the rhetoric becoming increasingly more intense.

To further compound a delicate situation, on September 26 the Israeli government lifted the self-imposed 10 month construction freeze on settlements within Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Of course this aroused the ire of the Palestinians who had only decided to come to the negotiating table after nine-months of the freeze had expired. They have stipulated that they will not continue any face-to-face dialogue unless the freeze is extended. Interestingly, this past weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu offered a two-month extension of the freeze; the only condition being that the Palestinians recognize Israel as being a Jewish State.

What do you think has been the response of PA Chairman Abbas? Of course it is a resounding "no!" Once the Arabs recognizes Israel as being a Jewish State they have lost all their leverage on the issue of "right to return," one of the critical components of any peace deal for the Arabs. They are demanding that the descendants of those Arabs who left their homes during the 1948-49 War of Independence be allowed back to their ancestral homes. This numbers several millions of Arabs. But, if Israel is recognized as being a state for Jews...well, you get the picture.

Chairman Abbas has threatened to resign as head of the Palestinian Authority, which, if he does, will throw the West Bank into chaos. Elections will undoubtedly be held and the great fear is that Hamas will be the great victor. You remember what happened when they took over the Gaza Strip back in 2007.

If Israel sees her existence being threatened not only from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah along the northern border, but from Hamas along a long front in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), Israel will go to war. It will almost be forced to do so for survival. Now, does this sound familiarly similar to what the ancient choir director Asaph recorded in Psalm 83? Of course it does.

Now, just to make things really interesting, today (October 13) the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is traveling for a state-visit to Lebanon. (You might remember from other blogs that Hezbollah is being financed by Iran). Tomorrow he has asked for permission to travel to the border between Israel and Lebanon. He wants to throw some stones across the border. I guess he needs to get rid of his anti-Semitic aggression. One person, jokingly said to me, "I hope someone shoots him." My response, "You had better hope that not happen! That would be the prelude to World War III." For it was just something like this that ignited World War I.

Friends, if you would wake up tomorrow morning and hear on the Today Show that war had broken out in the Middle East, please don't be surprised. All the elements are in place for such a war. The only thing that is missing is the match that will light the fuse. Yet, we must not be distressed because God is still in control. His plan is being accomplished. His will is being done. Israel's victorious war over her enemies would be just another step toward the establishment of the King upon His Throne.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Of Worms, Computers, Peace-Talks and War

It has been especially quiet on the Iranian nuclear front in recent weeks. There was much build up to the mid-August fueling of the Bushehr nuclear plant by the Russians. Yet, now we read that that plant will probably not be in operation for another two months at least. The reason: a worm called Stuxnet. Yes, I know you have not heard of that worm before, and neither had I. It is not a worm that lies in the soil, but finds its living quarters within the hard drives of computers. Yes, the great computers operating the nuclear machinery of Bushehr fell victim to this worm. And the interesting thing about this worm is that the more a person, or in this case a nation, worked to correct the worm, the more damage the worm caused. How did this computer worm get into Iran? That is the unanswered question; but we know that it came via the route of China, India, and Indonesia. Many believe that it was a collaborative effort between the United States and Israel. This might possibly be true. Computers within nuclear facilities in Iran may be protected from "bunker-busting" bombs, but not worms.

Some have asked where the Middle East peace talks stand. Right now they are on an indefinite hold. Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Abbas was meeting in Cairo today with the leaders of the Arab League. He is strongly urging them to back his leaving the peace table because Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu lifted the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria and in East Jerusalem. I was so grateful that the Israeli PM honored the pledge he had made to the Israeli people last winter when he announced the freeze. It is time that someone call the Palestinian bluff. Do the Palestinians really want peace? Let's see: yesterday rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into the surrounding Israeli farmlands. Fortunately there were no injuries or serious damage. Is that a sign of peace? Riots occurred over the weekend in East Jerusalem with cars being burned and rocks being thrown. Is that a sign of peace? Sadly, even Jews on the far-left are joining in those who wish to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Is that a sign of peace? King Abdullah of Jordan stated last week that, unless the peace talks resumed and the building freeze was reinstated, the region could be engulfed in war before the end of the year. Is that a sign of peace?

I believe that we are continuing to see the build up toward what is known as the Psalm 83 War. (For those of you who live in the Des Moines, IA area, I will be speaking at Westchester Evangelical Free Church on Friday evening, November 5, on this very topic. You can contact the church for times and directions. I will also be speaking that evening on the War of Gog and Magog - Ezekiel 38-39; on Saturday morning the topics will be "How the End Will Come" and "A Timeline for the End Times"). Who knows perhaps we will be in the midst of another Middle War by then. Seriously, the Palestinians do not want a Jewish state on what they consider to be their land. They will only be satisfied when Israel is driven into the sea. All this peace-talk is merely posturing so that the ultimate destruction of the nation of Israel might be realized.

Keep looking up. Keep listening for the trumpet. I believe it will soon sound. Are you ready to meet Jesus?