Tag Archives: jews

How do you like my family?

I remember when our son Joe brought Carmen to meet Marion and me. Although they had only been dating for a few weeks, Joe and Carmen had begun to contemplate the possibility of a future together. Wisely, he decided that it would be a good idea to introduce her to his parents. Marion and I were eager to meet Carmen, and we found her to be a delightful person. A few months later, when Joe and Carmen married, it was my privilege to welcome her into our family.

This is more than just an empty formality. It’s been said that when you marry someone, for better or for worse, you marry that person’s family as well. In God’s design such relationships are intended to be a blessing to all concerned. Because of the broken condition of fallen humanity, it doesn’t always work out that way, but I think we can all recognize that it is a very good thing when the marriage partners are genuinely able to honour, appreciate and embrace the family heritage of the person that they are marrying.

So far, so good.

Now, let’s apply this nice little life lesson to our relationship with Jesus.

Over the past two or three decades, millions of Christians worldwide have come into a fresh appreciation of what is sometimes called the Bridal Paradigm of the Kingdom. I’m referring to the Biblical depiction of Jesus as our coming Bridegroom King, who loves his Bride with a passionate love. To be a Christian is to be betrothed to Jesus, looking forward to the wedding feast that will commence when He returns to reign.

At our church, we frequently sing passionate love songs to Jesus. We tell Him that He is our one desire. We tell Him that we love Him with all our hearts, that we want to follow Him wherever He goes, and that we are eager for the day when His reign is fully acknowledged on the earth.

I wonder how many of us stop to consider that we are singing these love songs to a Jewish man?

We are betrothed (engaged) to a man whom the Bible calls the King of Israel. He has several other Jewish titles as well – Lamb of God, High Priest, Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, Lion of the Tribe of Judah. All of these titles have huge prophetic significance in the writings of the Hebrew prophets. The Jesus to whom we sing our love songs – the Jesus who is coming to reign – was, and is, a Jewish king.

So what about his family? If Jesus were to ask us Gentile Christians “How do you like my Jewish family”, what would we say? Are we embarrassed about Jesus’ bloodline, his lineage, his heritage? Have we even thought about it?

Here are just a few of the lies that the Gentile church – or large segments of it – have believed about the Jewish people over the years. Many of these lies are based on a twisted understanding of snippets of Scripture taken out of context – always a dangerous way to read the Bible.  So, where applicable, I will first acknowledge the seed of truth that gave rise to the lie, and then put it in context.

Lie #1

The Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and had him crucified. Therefore, they are worthy of our contempt.

The truth

The gospel writers make it very clear that the chief priests and leaders of Israel rejected Jesus and sought to have him crucified. But at the same time, many of the common people accepted him wholeheartedly. The initial 12 apostles were all Jews. The 120 who were praying in the Upper Room were all Jews. The 3000 who accepted the gospel on the day of Pentecost were all Jews. Many of these people sacrificed their lives so that the good news of Messiah could go to all the nations. They were fulfilling the promise to Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed.

As for Jews being worthy of our contempt, the Jewish apostle Paul warned Gentile Christians not to be arrogant over those Israelites that had rejected Messiah. Instead, he instructed us to be humbly grateful that we are supported by a Jewish root.

Lie #2

God has permanently rejected Israel because of their rejection of Jesus.

The truth

This one is easy. God has not rejected his people, whom He foreknew. For more details, read the rest of Romans 11.

Lie #3

God has chosen the Gentiles in preference to the Jews.

The truth

God did send Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles, but he also sent Peter as an apostle to the Jews. Both Jews and Gentiles have a place in God’s plan of salvation.

I could go on to talk about the respective roles of Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, but that’s a topic for another day. What I really wanted to highlight in this post is the heartbeat of Jesus towards his own people. When Jesus warned Jerusalem of the trouble that lay ahead because of her leaders’ rejection of Him, he spoke more in sorrow than in anger. He also promised to return in her hour of greatest need, when her leaders finally cry out to him. That day is still to come, but I know His heart towards His people has not changed.

I want to appeal in the strongest possible terms to my fellow Gentile believers. If we say we love Jesus, we are saying we love a Jewish king. When you give your life to loving someone, you learn to love the things that they love. Yes, Jesus loves the people of every nation. Yes, He gave His life for us Gentiles, and wants to see us come into our destiny. But considering our own history of repeated failures, His mercy towards the Gentile church is quite amazing, and our arrogant superiority towards Israel for her failures is quite unwarranted. By that amazing mercy, we Gentiles have been grafted into the vine, included in the plan of salvation. But it was a Jewish Lamb who was slain to make the way for us to come to God without fear, and that Jewish Lamb is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who still loves His own people Israel, and longs for her to come into her inheritance. If we say we love that Jewish Lamb/Lion, then we had better learn to love the people that gave Him birth, the people He loves, the people into whom we have been grafted, the people that are still on His heart.

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Messing with your head

This post has the potential to mess with your head. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In this post I want to focus on something you may not have thought about in concrete terms before. I want to talk about the return of the Lord Jesus to earth to rule as king.

Yes, you may have heard that Jesus is coming back. But if you’re anything like I used to be, you have only a very foggy idea what this means. I used to picture Jesus meeting risen believers in the air and being king in the sky somewhere. But the Bible not only says he is coming back, it says he will reign openly as king on the earth.

This isn’t just something I made up. Isaiah 11 clearly describes an earthly reign of the Messiah on an earthly throne. This is one of many prophecies in the Old Testament which point forward to the end of the age.

In case you need to be convinced, the expectation that Jesus will reign in Jerusalem on an earthly throne is not just an Old Testament idea. Don’t just take it from me. Take it from Jesus himself. He should know. According to His own words, at the end of the age he will return to Jerusalem by invitation of her leaders to be their king. “You (Jerusalem) will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’ ” (Matthew 23:39).

I realize that at this point some of you may think I’ve really lost it. For years, even after I gave my life to Jesus, I was reluctant to talk in detail about the end times. There are many reasons for this but probably the most honest one is that I did not want to be thought a fool. There’s a word for that. It’s called pride. Well, now I am repenting of my pride and coming out of the closet, so to speak. Yes, I am one of those people. Yes, I take the Bible at face value when it talks about the end times. Yes, I believe Jesus, John, Paul and the others actually meant what they said about these things.

I used to think people who focussed on the end times were weird. It’s true enough that much of what has been taught over the years on the end times is overly complicated and sort of flaky. The pre-tribulation rapture theory that was popularized by the Left Behind series is an example of a complex, contrived theory that consists of Scriptures stitched together into a sort of patchwork quilt that doesn’t hold together if you examine it carefully. People like Harold Camping who predict the return of the Lord on a specific date are likewise not very helpful because they indulge in baseless speculation and violate the clear word of Jesus that no-one can know the exact day or hour of his return. People get disillusioned by this sort of stuff and conclude that anyone who takes end-times teachings seriously is a bit of a nut case. But if you just take the Bible at face value, it’s not that hard to understand, especially with a little help from scholars and teachers who follow some basic principles of straightforward interpretation. The first time I ever heard someone teach on God’s prophetic time clock I only listened to him because he was my friend, but I have to admit he was pretty convincing. It helps if you combine Bible study with a discerning look at the signs of the times as Jesus advised (Matthew 16:2-3).

Here’s a very brief overview of what I have come to believe about the end times. All of this is quite clear and straightforward in Scripture though it is not always taught this way. Although in a sense you could say the last days began when Jesus rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, the New Testament writers were unanimous that a final crisis was coming, and that this would bring about the end of the present age and the beginning of a new age when God’s Kingdom would come to earth visibly. The Bible plainly teaches that at the end of the age, there will be three and a half years of peace followed by three and a half years of intense tribulation and struggle culminating in a final attack of the nations on Jerusalem. Israel will turn to the Lord (Romans 11:15,25-26), Satan will be cast into the pit, those who have died in faith during the great tribulation will be raised up, Jesus will reign as king in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and his reign will be glorious (Revelation 20:1-6). This will be followed by the final rebellion of Satan, ushering in the last great battle, the Great White Throne judgement, and the coming of the new heaven and new earth.

This helps to explain why Satan hates Israel so much. He hates the plan of God, because it means his doom, and he knows the Jewish people are crucial to that plan. If he succeeds in killing all the Jews, there will be no nation of Israel to welcome Jesus back to Jerusalem, and Satan won’t have to go into the pit. Of course that’s not going to happen, because God is going to have the victory, but He wants our participation. It is so crucial for the people of God to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), especially as the final crisis draws near. Those who love Jesus need to ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of Orthodox and secular Jews and turn their hearts to their Messiah, to bless and protect the rapidly-growing Messianic remnant (Jews who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah), to give wisdom to Israel’s leaders, and to prepare our hearts and wills to stand with Israel when the storm of her final desolation comes, as it surely will. I believe that it will be in the midst of the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), when Spirit-empowed Christians are offering sanctuary to Jewish refugees and praying for Israel in power with signs and wonders during a time of great hardship, that Israel will finally be provoked to jealousy in large numbers, and will at last recognize her Messiah and be saved as prophesied by Paul in Romans 11:25-26.

So why do I have to be difficult and address such a controversial issue? So many of my Christian brothers and sisters think that Israel has no further significance in the plan of God. Couldn’t I have written a nice blog post on some non-controversial topic?

Let me ask you a different question. Why is it that Islamic leaders around the globe – when speaking in Arabic, to their own people – call for the destruction of Israel, call the Jews apes and pigs, blame all sorts of evil on them, and speak openly of their intent to capture Jerusalem, kill all the Jews and make Jerusalem the centre of a new Islamic Caliphate? Doesn’t that send chills up and down your spine? If it doesn’t, it should, because these Islamic leaders are deadly serious. This hatred for Jews is not a feature of some extremist version of Islam. This is mainstream Islam, preached openly in mosques around the world, coming straight from the Qur’an.

People who say they love Jesus need to love the nation from which he came. Gentile Christianity has a very spotty history in this regard. There have been some – like the ten Boom family in the Netherlands in the 1940s, featured in the book and film The Hiding Place – who stood with the Jews of Europe in their hour of need. Sadly, a much greater number down through the ages have participated gladly in the persecution of Jews, labelling them Christ-killers, forcing them to convert to Christianity (though how a forced conversion can have any value is beyond me), and stereotyping them as sinister schemers who were responsible for all manner of evil.

It is true that Israel is not innocent. Her rejection of the Messiah, added to a history of other sins, has left her subject to the wrath of God. If we take Scripture at face value, it is clear that God has both prophesied and enacted judgments against Israel because of her rebellion, and those judgments are not yet complete. Yet when God warns his people of impending judgement, it is because he loves them and wants to see them return to Him so that judgement can be turned aside. All the more reason to pray for Israel and stand with her in her hour of coming trouble, that all who love Jesus may see Israel come through to glory, and share in that glory with her as the one people of God.

Well, this has been longer than I intended, and there’s a lot I didn’t say. Feel free to challenge, or contact me with questions or feedback. Israel is not all that matters to Jesus. He calls those who belong to him in every nation to share the good news of Jesus in word and deed with our neighbours. But salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), and as a Gentile believer in Jesus, I am so grateful that I have been grafted into the vine of Israel and made a partaker in the covenant promises. I’m also very grateful that Jesus is coming back to reign as King from Jerusalem. I want to be among those who greet him with joy when he appears on the clouds of heaven. My choice to love and pray for Israel is one of the choices (not the only one) that I can make now, so that when he appears I will be able to greet him with joy, with no need to be ashamed (1 John 2:28).

God bless you.

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What my Jewish brother taught me

Some of my best friends are Jewish.

To start with, there’s Jesus. You know, the one they crucified so that you and I could be born anew into resurrection life.  He’s my friend. He’s Jewish.

Oh, and then there’s Paul. You know, the one who told Gentiles (non-Jews) about Jesus, and wrote all those letters explaining what Jesus had done that was so important, and what it means to belong to Him.  I’ve never met Paul, but I have read what he wrote about Jesus — quite a few times in fact — and I’ve learned a lot from him. His writings are one of the reasons I believe in Jesus. I think that makes Paul my friend, even if not in the usual way. By the way, he’s Jewish too.

But Jesus and Paul aren’t my only Jewish friends. Let me tell you about Jean-Claude, who has been a friend and mentor to me for over two decades.

When I first met Jean-Claude, I didn’t know he was Jewish. Neither did he. I thought of him as a gentle French-Canadian pastor with a gift for building bridges between people of different languages and cultures, and an uncanny ability to see into people’s souls – well, mine anyway. I often found myself telling him things that I probably wouldn’t have said to anyone else, and he always seemed to understand.

A few years ago, Jean-Claude learned through genealogical research that several of his ancestors on both his father’s and his mother’s side were Jewish. They had hidden their Jewish identity to avoid being persecuted by the Gentile church. History shows that this was not an unfounded fear. So, they lived as Jews at home, observing Shabbat in secret every week, hiding their Jewish identity behind a Catholic exterior as they attended Mass every Sunday.

I was in high school (where I had several Jewish friends) when Fiddler on the Roof  had its first run on Broadway. Although the story is fictional, it is based on events that were repeated many times over, throughout many centuries, in “Christian” Europe. When I first saw the film version, I remember being deeply ashamed of the hateful actions of the Tsarist soldiers towards the Jews of their village – actions they justified by labelling the Jews as Christ-killers.

When Jean-Claude first told me of his Jewish roots, he seemed unsure what response to expect from me. I didn’t call him a Christ-killer. I gave him a hug and told him how delighted I was to discover that I had a Jewish brother.

It is true that the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus, and conspired to have him killed. But that does not make me – a Gentile – innocent of his death. I am as guilty as they, and like them I am declared innocent through His sacrifice, not because of my own righteousness. As a Gentile believer, I live only because He shed his blood and rose again for me, as does every believing Jew. And I cannot overlook the fact that while a majority of the Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah, there were also many in Israel who received his message with joy. Most of the first generation of apostles were Jewish. They took the gospel to many Gentile nations, often at great cost. Without their testimony, none of us who believe in Jesus today would ever had heard his name.

True, Jesus prophesied great wrath and distress against Jerusalem because of her rejection of her Messiah.  But he spoke these words more in sorrow than in anger, weeping over this city which he so dearly loved. And even in his warnings of wrath and desolation, there was also a promise that one day Jerusalem would again welcome him and bless his name.

And what about Paul, the Jewish apostle whose main ministry was to the Gentiles? What did he have to say about his own people, Israel? On the one hand, he called his people enemies of the gospel because of their rejection of Jesus. On the other hand, he yearned for their salvation, called them beloved by God and affirmed that they had not been rejected by him. And he looked for a time – a time for which my Messianic Jewish friends still yearn, and for which they labour – when all Israel would be saved.

There are many issues regarding Israel that are beyond the scope of this post. My only goal here is to stir up love and prayer in the hearts of Gentile believers towards the people of Israel, from whom our Messiah, the Son of David, was born. Christians may legitimately differ on many things, but when it comes to love, we are not given any option.

It is true that Israel is not innocent. Nor is any people group on the face of the earth. But it’s not up to me to judge Israel. I am deeply grateful for the people of Israel, through whom the blessing of the gospel has come to all nations of the earth. As a Gentile believer in Jesus, I am instructed by Paul, my Jewish brother, not to be arrogant over Israel’s failure, but to walk in humility and love towards this suffering, hardened, blinded people until that glorious and long-awaited day comes when their eyes are opened and they receive the mercy of God.

It is my belief that this day is fast approaching, though it will not come without turmoil and suffering. So I will continue to pray for my Jewish brothers and sisters who love Jesus as I do, and believe with them for the day when the rest of their long-suffering people receive their Messiah.

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