July 2014 Posts

Remember & Never Forget: Reflections on My Wanderings Through the Land of Israel – Part 2

Remember-Part2

In 1948 a baby boy was born with great distress. He was a month overdue, and born at 10.5 pounds to a very small mother. He was blue from not getting enough oxygen in his lungs and had a heart murmur. Doctors said he should never have been conceived. I was that baby boy.

Also in 1948 a baby nation was born with great distress. It was ravaged and maligned from all corners of the earth. It was born amidst prejudice, hatred and mass murder. It was made up of people from all over the world but not having a land of its own, speaking many different languages but not having a language of its own. Many world leaders said it should never have been conceived. Israel was that baby nation.

In the years leading up to World War 2, some interesting things were happening thought-wise in Europe. The ideas of evolution had gained popularity and had begun to burgeon into other areas. For instance, Dr. Richard Wagner, a university professor in Switzerland, had popularized the idea that not only was humanity at the top of the evolutionary food chain, but that the pure Arian race of Germany was at the very top. They were the superior people of the human race and Jewish people were the bottom.

According to the principle of the survival of the fittest, a teaching within evolution, the Jews needed to be eliminated from the human race to make room for the superior races to grow fuller and stronger still.

Adolf Hitler grew up to dislike Jews in Germany, where he lived, and later used Wagner’s teaching to help support the eradication of all Jewish people. During his war to create Arian dominance in the world as the superior race of people, he strove to exterminate over 6,000,000 Jewish men, women, boys and girls from all over Europe.

All of the Jews who could be identified were arrested and sent to special ghetto communities throughout the conquered countries of Europe, where they were confined and later sent to camps where they would work and/or be exterminated en masse.

At the end of the war, the Jewish people left alive throughout Europe were homeless and penniless. They had been displaced from their homes in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, Romania, parts of Russia…all over. All their possessions had been seized and stolen. And to make matters worse, much of the populace in Europe and around the world still had a burning distaste and resentment of the Jewish race.

A movement began among the Jewish people of the world to go “home,” back to the land that had been the home of their ancient ancestors, back to the land God had promised them.

At the end of the WW2, in 1947, after Israel had not existed as a nation for almost 1900 years, a large contingent of Jews from all over the world moved back to the land of promise, and they sought nation status from the United Nations. There was much debate and question if they were entitled to this land.

Then one day three shepherd boys were grazing their sheep in the rocky, hot, arid region of the northern Dead Sea, on the eastern slopes of the Judean Mountains. The youngest of these brothers was apparently a little bored and did what boys do: threw rocks. In the slopes of the Qumran Mountains beside him, he slung rocks trying to hit some of the tens of thousands of caves in that region.

With one perfectly thrown rock, he hit the mouth of a cave and was instantly terrified because he heard the shattering of pottery. It was there that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, proving the book of Isaiah had to have been written before the time of Christ even though many had argued that couldn’t be the case because the descriptions were too specific, and they did not want to rely on anything supernatural.

To Christians, the Dead Sea Scrolls represent God’s stamp of approval on the Old Testament Scriptures and their accuracy. (All but two books of the Old Testament were found in the caves of Qumran.) But what about to the Jewish people who were seeking nation status for their land?

For them, discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls was the equivalent of God reaching down and handing the fledgling Israelis a title deed to this land. These scrolls predated the religion of the occupants of the land by the better part of a thousand years.

These scrolls showed that this had been the home of the Jewish people, and the only reason they were no longer there was because another nation, or empire, had destroyed them, chased them off, and in many cases exterminated them. The UN quickly recognized them as a nation in their land.

God was keeping His promise to the Jewish people. He gave this land to them as a perpetual gift. In giving this land back to Israel, God was once again telling them to remember, and never forget!

What are the future promises regarding the land?

 

To be continued…

Remember & Never Forget: Reflections on My Wanderings Through the Land of Israel

Remember-Part1

One of the first things apparent to anyone visiting Israel is that they are committed to their land. The State of Israel owns around 90% of the physical land. Virtually all homeowners lease the land their home is built on from the State of Israel. The same is true of businesses, schools and so forth.

I’ve walked their present land from Dan in the North (and even further to the Lebanese and Syrian borders) down to Beersheba and Arad in the South, in the Negev wilderness, from the western cities of Tel Aviv and Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea on the eastern border with the nation of Jordan. And at first glance it is hard to see why Israelis would make such a fuss over this small, mostly rock-infested piece of land.

Much of the land, except for the northern Galilee area and the coastal plains, is rocky terrain – hard to walk on and challenging to build on. Oh, but it’s in the Middle East, so there must be oil. Yet the land of Israel is the only major Middle Eastern country without oil. They have limited plant-able land, limited water supply and limited natural resources.

So why is this land so important to them?

Look back at the Scriptures, going back to the time of Abraham in Genesis 12 and following, and it all begins to make sense. Notice what God calls Abram to and what He promises:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1–3 (NASB, emphasis added)

The promise made to Abraham (also known as Abram,) in Genesis 12, and repeated several times after, was that God promised Abraham and his descendants three things:

  1. He promised to make them a great nation through the loins of Abraham and Sarah.
  2. He promised to bless them and bless those that bless them
  3. He promised to give them a land. Not just any land, but specific real estate that would be their permanent home as a blessed nation of people.

Read on in Genesis 12, noticing what Abram did when he arrived in the land:

Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev. – Genesis 12:5–9 (NASB)

He came into the land of present day Israel from the North and proceeded South through Shechem, then down to Bethel and finally to the Negev. He walked the land, the land God had promised to him and his descendants:

  • Genesis 12:1-3 (the original promise of a land)
  • Genesis 13:14-17 (God tells Abraham to walk this promised land)
  • Genesis 15:7, 17-21 (God makes this an unconditional promise to Abraham)
  • Genesis 17:8 (God declares that this shall be an everlasting promised land)
  • Genesis 26:3-4 (God reiterates the same promise to Isaac, Abraham’s son)
  • Genesis 35:12 (God reiterates the same promise to Jacob, Isaac’s son)
  • Genesis 50:24 (Joseph’s last words were regarding the promised land)

The land was important to God. Why shouldn’t it have been important to the people in those days, as well as now? The land was and is an unconditional, everlasting, promised, specific gift to the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This is one promise we should remember, and never forget.

What does this have to do with today?

 

To be continued…

Children Come With a Job Description – Part 4

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As I said in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series, I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: “To figure out how God designed life to work.” And He puts them into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.

Consider this passage:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are two imperatives in this single verse. The first is “do not provoke.” The second is “bring them up.” There are three key words and phrases in this command statement. The first is the imperative, or command, to “bring them up.” The second is “the discipline…of the Lord.” The third is the “instruction of the Lord.”

The Greek words used here for discipline and instruction both speak of education and teaching, but by different means.

The Instruction of the Lord

The Greek word used here for instruction is the idea of educating, teaching or instructing – with information. This is the idea of giving children the information, truth and verbal guidelines they need to live life by God’s design.

Going all the way back, deep into the Old Testament, we see this emphasized as well. Moses told the nation of Israel:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart (so you can show them with your life). You shall teach them (give them information) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”[1]

Our children need to know a lot of information, and the more from us as Christian parents, the better. Judy and I wanted our children to hear about sex from us before, and rather than, hearing it from their friends. We wanted our children to hear about a philosophy of life from us rather from the world around them. We wanted them to hear about God and His design for life from us rather than from others.

When Bryan and Eric were seven and eight. I told them I would be in a certain small room in our house at 6:30 in the morning for a half hour. If they wanted to be part of the boys’ club, there was a special knock on the door, a special handshake and special rules. The rules were that they had to bring their Bible, read their Bible for the first 15 minutes of our time, and then we would talk about anything they wanted during the last 15 minutes.

Sometime we talked about what they read in their Bibles as they came across questions. Sometimes we discussed what I read from the Bible during that time. And sometimes the conversation was about very different things. It was during this time that the boys asked about the birds and bees for the first time. “Where do babies come from? How does that happen?” Fun morning!

We as parents can’t and won’t give children all the information they will get to live life by God’s design. There is just too much information and too many sources providing it. But as parents, we are the ones God is holding accountable to make sure they get what they need and to help them process that.

During high school our children were in a very intense educational situation, but some of what they were learning was being taught by people with very different values and beliefs than ours. They were all in different classes with different teachers, and there was a lot of debriefing that needed to take place, mainly around the dinner table.

We would ask them what they were learning at school, and when we heard something a little off from what we believed to be God’s design, we would ask, “What do you think about that?” They would tell us what they thought, and if we were still concerned, we would ask things like, “So if that is true, then how does that fit with…?” We asked many similar questions, trying to help them critically think through what they were hearing.

It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we worked hard to bring them up in the instruction of the Lord and learn how to be adults in a world they had to maneuver through on their own.

 

[1] Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NASB95), content in parentheses added