Does Israel Have a Distinct Place in the Age to Come? – Dan Juster

The multitude of people who have influenced my spiritual views (and worldview in general) include many who would not appreciate being in the same company with one another. Some of them are pictured here. Top row (L-R): Dr. Edgar Arendall (Southern Baptist); Pastor Mark Biltz (Non-Jewish Messianic); Rabbi David Fohrman (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Dan Juster (Messianic Jewish). Second Row (L-R); Monte Judah (Hebrew Roots/Two House); C.S. Lewis (Anglican); J.K. McKee (Non-Jewish Messianic); D.L. Moody (Evangelical Christian). Third Row (L-R): Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Francis Schaeffer (Evangelical Christian); Dr. R.C. Sproul (Presbyterian); J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic).
The multitude of people who have influenced my spiritual views (and worldview in general) include many who would not appreciate being in the same company with one another. Some of them are pictured here. Top row (L-R): Dr. Edgar Arendall (Southern Baptist); Pastor Mark Biltz (Non-Jewish Messianic); Rabbi David Fohrman (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Dan Juster (Messianic Jewish). Second Row (L-R); Monte Judah (Hebrew Roots/Two House); C.S. Lewis (Anglican); J.K. McKee (Non-Jewish Messianic); D.L. Moody (Evangelical Christian). Third Row (L-R): Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Francis Schaeffer (Evangelical Christian); Dr. R.C. Sproul (Presbyterian); J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic).

A continuous source of amazement for me is the fact that many of the men and women who have contributed substantially to my spiritual growth most likely would not be comfortable sitting in the same room with one another.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise.  Inspiration for my life has come from Baptist Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Anglican Christians, Catholic Christians, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, Messianic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Reformed Jews, and Hebrew Roots Torah teachers of many different streams.  It is amazing what these people have in common.  It is more amazing what divides them, and how senseless that division is in the long run.

What fellowship, for example, does D.L. Moody have with R.C. Sproul?  That is a question most readers could not answer, not having a clue who either of those esteemed gentlemen are.  Had they been contemporaries, however, the simple tenets of Moody’s evangelism (“Ruined by the Fall, Redeemed by the Blood, and Regenerated by the Spirit”) would clash with Sproul’s elaborate Reformed reasoning. 

We might say similar things of many, many others – even of the two authors who have had the greatest influence on my life.  It just so happens that they were contemporaries, serving as professors in related fields at prestigious English universities.  It is no secret that J.R.R. Tolkien was instrumental in bringing C.S. Lewis out of atheism and into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah).  Yet Tolkien was disappointed that he could get Lewis no closer to what he considered true Christianity (Roman Catholicism) than the Anglican Church.  And yet the two remained friends and colleagues, greatly influencing each others’ literary and other works.

This begs the question:  If Tolkien and Lewis could get along, why is it that Hebrew Roots believers have trouble getting along with one another?  Or why is it that traditional Christians and Messianic believers of all stripes find it easier to condemn one another rather than support and pray for one another?  Or why do Christians and Jews have such difficulty accepting one another as part of the same covenant people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  It seems that our divisions are doing more work for the enemy of our souls than the good we hope we are doing for the Kingdom of our God.

In the interest of helping to correct this tendency, I am pleased to share an article recently published by Messianic Jewish leader Daniel C. Juster.  Much of my understanding of the Hebrew Roots (or Jewish Roots, as he would say) comes from Dan Juster.  I have been blessed to sit under his teaching and to be discipled by this writings.

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Israel 2016: A Quantum Leap Toward the One New Man

bfb161022-take-two-tabletsThere is an old joke about Moses standing on Mount Sinai waiting the hear from YHVH.  The hand of the Almighty appears with the Ten Commandments written on stone, and a great Voice says, “Take these two tablets and call me in the morning”.

It is funny because it is not a joke.  We know what happened:  Moses took the tablets with the Ten Commandments back to the people of Israel, but when he found them celebrating in idolatrous revelry (oddly enough, in worship of YHVH by pagan means), he threw down those tablets written by the Finger of God and shattered them.

Parents should have special insight about YHVH’s reaction to all of this.  First, He punished everyone – both the instigators who provoked the people to disobedience, as well as the willfully ignorant who allowed themselves to be led astray.  Even those who stood by and let it happen did not escape His notice.  Do we not act similarly when our children embark on a path of foolishness that wrecks the house?

That was the negative reaction.  What came next was His solution to the problem:  He directed Moses to clean up the mess.  Consider these words:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.  So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.  (Exodus 34:1-2 NKJV)

In other words, “Bring two tablets and call me in the morning.”

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Connecting the Tribulation Dots: A Review of The Cooper Chronicles, by Daniel Holdings

BFB160530 Daniel HoldingsWhat happens when an author combines the mega-conspiracy theories of Thomas Horn, the spiritual warfare depictions of Frank Peretti, and the science fiction apocalyptic vision of Larry Niven?  The result is The Cooper Chronicles, Daniel Holdings’ End of Days trilogy recounting the adventures of physicist and inter-dimensional globetrotter Dr. Bryce Cooper. 

Apocalyptic literature is fascinating to say the least, but such works are not necessarily encouraging or fun.  If done with the appropriate touch of realism – as, for instance, Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear war drama On the Beach – the work is depressing and scary.  The subject, after all, is the complete eradication of human life on planet earth.  On the other hand, a Terra-über-Alles yarn like Footfall (co-authored by Niven and Jerry Pournelle) makes the human cost merely the backdrop of an adventure story featuring mankind’s technological prowess and luck in overcoming an invasion by a fantastic foe from deep space.  The loss of all of India, for example, registers little to a reader certain that somehow the story will have a happy ending. 

The challenge of balancing realism with readability takes on an added dimension in spiritual subjects.  A writer of Christian fiction must remain true to the Bible, or at least to his or her interpretation thereof.  The result can be dismally flat, contrived, and divorced from real life – which is why it takes a special gift to write such a work.  C.S. Lewis comes to mind as the pioneer and first master of modern Christian apocalyptic fiction, a genre which Peretti further develops.  Yet when it comes to End Times novels which try to tell the tale of the Great Tribulation from a realistic viewpoint, no one has done quite so well as Daniel Holdings.

It helps that Holdings approaches his subject with the understanding that no one is exempt from the trials and devastations prophesied to come upon the earth according to the Bible.  This gives him an advantage over Christian authors who write from the belief that there is a “pre-Tribulation rapture” which will remove Christians to some heavenly safe haven.  To such authors, the real prize is not being on earth when bad things happen, which means their interest is not really in figuring out how the bad things are going to happen. 

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Finding Israelite Identity in the New Covenant

©Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Used by permission.
ReverendFun.com.  © Harper Collins Christian Publishing.  Used by permission.

Language is a perilous thing.  It can unite us, but quite often it does the opposite.  That, by the way, was God’s intent.  We know that from the story of how He created the different languages of the earth as presented in Genesis 11:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.  It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.”  And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.  They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.  The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.  And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.  (Genesis 11:1-9 NASB, emphasis added)

Ever since then that curse of language has been with us.  And, by the way, so has the curse of nations.

Curse of nations?  Yes, it does seem to be a curse.  It would seem that the Lord did not intend for humanity to be scattered and separated across the face of the planet in competing factions.  Nevertheless, nations were His idea.  The story of the Tower of Babel explains why.  You’ll notice that mankind also had an idea of uniting themselves as one people, but their idea was not the same as the Almighty’s.  They wanted to be a single, unified power that could challenge YHVH for sovereignty over this planet.  Since these people lived in the generations immediately after the Great Flood, we can suppose that some of them harbored a little resentment at God’s destruction of the pre-Flood civilization.  Maybe they thought they could do things better than their ancestors, perhaps by building a strong defense that could ward off any further Divine intervention in human affairs.  Now since our God does not change (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), and since the eternal governing principles of the universe which He established do not change (Psalm 119:44; II Kings 17:37; Matthew 5:18, 24:34-35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33), He had to do something about this blatant rebellion.  There can only be one God, after all. 

The problem with sin is that it seeks to create many gods – in fact, as many as there are human beings on the earth.  That is at the heart of Satan’s insidious deception spoken to our mother Eve:  “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:5 NASB)  Tragically, the way our Creator dealt with the deception before the Flood was to destroy humanity.  I would surmise He had little choice in the matter since all of humanity apparently was united as a single people, most likely under satanic leadership (not unlike the world we are anticipating at the end of this age when Messiah returns).  To make sure He did not have to make a complete end of the human race this time around, the Lord God created nations and then scattered them across the earth.  If they were divided in language, they would soon be divided in every other imaginable way, and the resultant wars and rumors of wars would ensure that a united human empire would not arise to defy the Living God until the end of days.  In the meantime the Living God could go about the process of cultivating His redemptive work in human hearts while they remained in the nations.

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Fox Byte 5775 #36: Beha’alotcha (In Your Going Up)

בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by  Danacea on Flickr.com via via Wikimedia Commons)
Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by Danacea on Flickr.com via Wikimedia Commons)

In a response to a reader’s question about his works, author Stephen R. Donaldson provided this enlightening comment about the motivation behind his writing:

I’m a storyteller, not a polemicist.  As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.  (Stephen R. Donaldson Official Website, February 23, 2004)

Donaldson’s best known writings might be categorized as postmodern American science fiction and fantasy literature.  The worlds he creates are not the pristine, archetypical fantasy worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but darker realms that mirror our present ambiguous reality.  Donaldson explores human nature in a secular, relativistic world detached from the moral underpinnings of Christian civilization.  Good and evil manifest in the worlds he creates, but they are often uncomfortably intertwined so as to be nearly indistinguishable.  Such is the case with his most famous protagonist, the anti-hero Thomas Covenant.  In ten novels published over the span of 36 years, Donaldson follows Covenant through three epic quests in The Land, the world of his creation where magic and Earthpower shape the lives of mortals.  Covenant is one of the most unlikely heroes in the history of literature:  a leper living in present-day America who is magically transported to The Land to save it from destruction by Lord Foul the Despiser.  He wears a wedding band of white gold, the source of Wild Magic, which is the greatest power ever known in The Land.  He does not know how to wield this power, nor does he desire to do so, yet the dire circumstances of The Land compel him to find a way.  Each victory comes at a cost.  Ultimately it is Covenant himself who pays the greatest price, and thus he earns not only sympathy, but redemption.

We learn much about power in White Gold Wielder, the last novel of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  The Elohim, supernatural beings who keep watch over the Earth, “silence” Covenant, placing him in a catatonic state so he will not use his ring unwisely and risk destruction of the world.  After Covenant is revived by his companion Linden Avery, Findail of the Elohim explains their actions to her:

The ring-wielder we silenced, not to harm him, but to spare the Earth the ill of power without sight . . . Thus the choice would have fallen to you in the end.  His ring you might have taken unto yourself, thereby healing the breach between sight and power.  Or perhaps you might have ceded the ring to me, empowering the Elohim to save the Earth after their fashion.  Then would we have had no need to fear ourselves, for a power given is altogether different than one wrested away.

Findail’s declaration, “a power given is altogether different than one wrested away,” is a restatement of something taught long ago by One Who understood power:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

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