Running with the Marines
Long-distance running has been one of my favorite activities. I am not too old to try a marathon one day, but so far I must remain content with completing several half marathons. My favorite race is the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It truly is a community event. The race starts at the exposition center high up on the ridge west of Fredericksburg, and for about eight miles runs gently downhill through the historic city and past Mary Washington University until it reaches the Rappahannock River. All along the way there are bands playing, choirs singing, school and church groups handing out water, a children’s drum chorus from a local school, and of course Marines everywhere. They mark the course, direct the runners, provide first aid when necessary, and cheer on everyone just by their presence. There is something very special about a Marine, and even in a long race like a half marathon the sight of that uniform brings encouragement and confidence. And the runners do need it, particularly as the miles add up. Once the course reaches Sophia St. next to the river, it runs level for about two and a half miles, and the cheering crowds begin to thin out. About the time the runners pass the VFW post, the only people there to offer encouragement are a couple of representatives from the Rappahannock Nation, beating drums to remind everyone that long ago all the land was theirs.
Would it make any difference in how we live our lives if we are about to go through the end of the world? Some people would call the end of the world the Great Tribulation. In truth, the Tribulation is not really the “end of the world”, but it is the end of this particular time period. The Bible explains that the world continues after that, but with Yeshua ruling it directly from Jerusalem. (If you would like to know a little more about that, check out the post, “Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell”.)
This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.
Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue. Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it. Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.
My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries. The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This journey is beset with many openings for offense. Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended. I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.
Notice I said “end of this age”, not “end of the world”. The world really will end one day (II Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1-5), but we’re not there yet. Before that happens King Yeshua has to come back and rule the earth from Jerusalem for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6). As far as I can tell that hasn’t happened yet. Therefore what we expecting is the end of this age: the transition between the time in which we now live and the return of Yeshua.
The Truth About Heavenly Rewards
Hopefully by now you understand that our eternal reward for trusting Jesus is not sitting around in heavenly comfort, but doing something useful for His Kingdom. But there’s more. Do you realize there is a merit system in the Kingdom of Heaven? That might sound wrong to us Americans who think salvation by grace through faith is the whole story. You mean God saves us, but doesn’t guarantee where we stand in the Kingdom? That’s exactly what I mean. Jesus speaks more than once about those who are greatest and least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:17, 11:11, 18:1-4, 20:20-28, 23:1-12; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 16:9-12, 22:24-30). The work you do in this life doesn’t just put food on the table or good education in your head. It determines where you stand in eternity. And why is that? Because God tests every one of us to see whether we are worthy of His trust (Luke 9:46-48). That’s the whole point of Jesus’ parable about the talents. I encourage you to read that over again. It’s in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27. Let me summarize it. Please click here to continue reading
This is the third in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
The Commonwealth and the Symbol of Godly Marriage.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua says that in the Kingdom of Heaven He will declare that those who practice lawlessness, or Torahlessness, must depart from Him. That is a sobering message, but consider it from another perspective. God went through every conceivable obstacle to win his people back to Himself, even when we were not willing to acknowledge him. The clearest picture we have of this is in marriage. Here is what God said regarding marriage and divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading
This is the second in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
Common Ground and Uncomfortable Differences
In defining the Commonwealth of Israel, let me begin be reviewing the things Christians and Jews have in common:
- We all believe in the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- We all believe that God has given His Holy Word to us so that we may know Him and have instructions on how to live.
- We all believe that God will send his Messiah (Christ as the title appears in Greek) to teach us about himself and show the way to connect with God just as our ancestors Adam and Eve connected with him in the days before our unhindered relationship with God was broken.
- We all believe that something has separated us from God, or at least prevents us from achieving our full created potential. Christians call this original sin. It is hard to generalize the various Jewish positions on this question. Sin, when it factors into Jewish belief (Orthodox, Reformed, or Conservative), is defined much the same way that Christians define it as disobedience to God, or even as rebellion against God. The result is the same: separation from the Creator and inability to achieve his intent for humanity.