One Olive Tree, One Flock, One Family

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Let’s pick it up where we left off yesterday.  We’ve established, based on Galatians 3:7, 29, that those who are in Christ are descendants of Abraham.  God invites us (Gentiles) into a special family, and we will dive deeper into that today.

Let’s think of Israel in two ways: natural Israel and spiritual Israel.  Natural Israel is the nation itself, to whom God gave a destiny.  Natural Israel is the custodian of God’s Word, as it was written by Jews, primarily for the Jews (though we certainly benefit from it!), and it was preserved in Israel!

Spiritual Israel, on the other hand, is the true family of God.  It is those circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit and “born again.”  Spiritual Israel is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who trust in Jesus the Messiah.

Paul describes spiritual Israel in Romans 11:17-23.  It’s a familiar passage if you’ve hung out at our virtual study table, but I encourage you to read it in the New Living Translation.  Here, Paul uses the spiritual symbol of Israel, the olive tree, to describe spiritual Israel!  Notice:

  • Only believers in Jesus (Jew or Gentile) are part of the olive tree.
  • Jews and Gentiles alike must believe in the Messiah in order to be grafted into the olive tree.
  • Unbelieving Israel is cut from the tree…though they may be grafted back in.
  • Christians are those grafted into the Jewish heritage spiritually (but not naturally).
  • Those grafted in have no room for arrogance or boastfulness, as they do not support the root, but the root supports them!

There you have it!  God made a way for Gentiles to be “grafted into” His family tree!  We gain the spiritual benefits as adopted children.  But let’s be clear: this DOES NOT mean Gentiles become Jews ethnically, nor does it mean all God’s promises now belong to us Gentiles.  That is part of the teaching of Replacement Theology and it is not true.  God’s promises to the the Jewish people still belong to them, and the church has in NO WAY replaced Israel.

Before we call it a day, let’s see how the apostle John describes the relationship.  Read John 10:14-16.  Here, John refers to “other sheep, which are not of this fold.”  That reference is to unbelieving Israel.  But His intent is to bring them into the fold, so we become “one flock with one shepherd.”

Again, God’s view is a worldwide view.  He desires that none perish, but all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Those who do are “one flock with one Shepherd”…Jesus Himself!

The Old Testament prophets looked forward in history and saw the shadow of the cross.  By forward-looking faith, they were saved.  In New Testament times, substance replaced shadow.  Jesus Christ lived, died, was buried and rose again to free us from sin.  The faith we have is backward-looking, to the cross, and we are saved.

We are one family in Christ Jesus, and Abraham is our father.  This is spiritual Israel…this is the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

Amazing how God creates His family, isn’t it!  By His grace alone, we Gentiles have been granted access to the family tree of His chosen.

But what about natural Israel?  God still has a plan for them, and we’ll touch on that tomorrow!  See you then.

History in the Making!

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Welcome back to Why Israel Matters.  If you have found your way here, but have no idea what to make of it, just know that we have just begun a summary of a live Bible study conducted at CalvaryPHX in Phoenix AZ.  (If you are in the area, join us live each Sunday morning at 11:00 in Room 209, Central campus.)  Yesterday I launched the first post, and you can catch it here.

There is no doubt we live in historic times as we view today’s events through the lens of Scripture.  It is a time of prophetic fulfillment, and should lead each of us as Christians to understand that Jesus could return for us at any time!  Thus, we must be ready, as a bride readies herself for the groom.

History was made when President Trump (in December) recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Not that Jerusalem wasn’t already the capital…just that no one was willing to say so officially.  That was followed by the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.  Along with that, Israel now has the backing of the world’s #1 superpower, and has unprecedented support in the UN from US Ambassador Nikki Haley.  Collectively, those things have never been true in all of history, yet the Bible says Jerusalem MUST be established in order for God’s plan of the end to take place.

Such things must be understood in the context of why Israel matters.  Sadly, many churches today are teaching a different theology: Replacement Theology, which in essence says, “Because the Jewish people rejected Jesus, God has rejected the Jews.  All promises to the Jews are now promises to the church.  Thus, the church is the ‘new Israel.'”

Absolutely not!

Other churches are just not teaching about Israel at all.  Some say it is too “political.”  They want nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Iranian’s stated goal of “wiping Israel off the map.”

But the real issue is Jerusalem.  If you talk about Israel, you eventually have to tackle the issue of Jerusalem.  The Bible says Jerusalem will be a heavy stone in the end.  All who try to move her will be injured!  (Zechariah 12:2-3)  Therefore, it is just easier to avoid the issue of Jerusalem altogether.

But is Jerusalem really “political?”  Jerusalem is mentioned over 600 times in the Bible.  Jesus left from there and will return there.  Does that sound political or spiritual?  Furthermore, the Jewish people will ultimately look upon their Messiah there, and Romans 11:26 says ALL Israel will be saved!  Nothing political about that!  It’s a spiritual battle, not a political one!

God chose Israel for a specific REASON and a specific SEASON!  God revealed Himself to Gentiles through Israel!  In fact, Israel is the vehicle of world redemption!  That’s the REASON.  It is through Israel we have:

  • Faith in One God – the Jews gave up worshiping other gods when they went into exile!
  • Word of God – the Bible was written by Jews, in Jewish settings.
  • Son of God – news flash: Jesus was a Jew!

We live in a unique window of time.  This is the SEASON.  God made Himself known through the Jewish people, and He is about to make Himself known TO the Jewish people!

And we ask….why is Israel important!?!  You’ve got your first taste of where we’re going in this study, but we’re not through for this week!  Stay tuned for more!

PS: Have you prayed for Israel today?  Do so…then check back tomorrow as we join the worldwide prayer initiative to pray together for Israel!

Israel and the Millennial Generation

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One of the major emphases during the ICEJ/ACLI Conference in Washington DC was the “Israel divide” in the millennial generation.  Those born between 1980-2000 are into young adulthood now and are statistically less supportive of Israel than previous generations.  According to polls, less than 45% of Millennials are supportive of Israel, while 27% sympathize more with the Palestinians.  That is problematic as tomorrow’s leaders emerge from that generation.

Dr Jeremy Roberts explained why, and what must be done to remedy the divide.  The whys:

  1. Theological error.  To significant degree, Millennials have fallen prey to false teaching such as Reformed Theology (a bent toward Calvinistic belief) leading to Replacement Theology (a belief that the church has replaced Israel), which in turn, leads to distorted eschatology (a disregard for end times, given less emphasis on a literal Israel).
  2. Political move toward moderate. Politically, moderates and liberals are less supportive of Israel, and Millennials are becoming more and more moderate/liberal.
  3. Technological dependence.  Millennials are addicted to their devices, and social media developers are exploiting that addiction.  Today’s social media platforms are literally designed to be addictive, and Millennials spend an average of 6 hours a day on their smartphones and other devices, becoming brainwashed by the liberal agendas of the media giants.  (Need evidence, check out the growth statistics of Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and Instagram, all developed by liberal thinkers who have designed their products to favor liberal agendas.)

These elements (and perhaps others) have created the “Israel divide.”  So, what can be done to remedy the divide?

  • Live out your theology.  If you have children or young adults, your influence is especially critical.  Young people look to preceding generations, particularly family members and respected teachers, coaches and others who invest in them.  Thus, your example must lead them to the right theology.  Do that by praying faithfully, supporting Israel tangibly and teaching of the love of God for the Jews and for us who believe.
  • Be politically active.  Take the time to find out what electoral candidates believe, then align those beliefs with your own Biblical convictions, then VOTE your values.  As you model that diligence to Millennials, they will sense the importance of “vetting before voting.”  Don’t vote based simply on what the campaign ads tell you!
  • Leverage technology. Depending upon your generation, you may or may not be highly comfortable and skilled in technology, particularly social media.  But to whatever level you are comfortable using the tools, do so in a bold, firm way, but with kindness and love.  Whatever you write or share, do so with intent and purpose, and use your platform to talk about Israel.  Use your influence to spread the truth.

When it comes to standing for Israel, overcome those who desire to oppose you, overcome procrastination, overcome age (whether young or more mature) and overcome the enemy whose mission is to silence you!

Check back in this afternoon, as I plan to share some additional information and thoughts regarding the up and coming generations.

(For an outline of Dr Roberts teaching at the conference, click here.)

“Sooooo Loving of Israel!”

I wish all of you could have experienced what I experienced Saturday night at the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem Reunion/Refresher!  In a gathering of graduates from the Christian Leadership Conferences at Yad Vashem (2010-2017), we were so grateful to have several African nations represented among us.  We heard from them on Saturday night, and trust me when I say, “The Lord is alive and well, and moving powerfully through men and women committed to the Lord to love Israel!”

We heard from Bishop Joshua Mulinge, not only one of Africa’s most prominent pastors, but also one of the key people responsible for arranging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visits to Africa, and the Africa-Israel Initiative that is joining the continent of Africa together in partnership with Israel.  Africa is poised to move to the forefront of world affairs in a very positive way!  (Though we know Sudan [Cush] and Libya [Put] will refuse to follow!  Check out Ezekiel 38 to see why!)

Bishop Mulinge told us story-after-story of that adventure, but you must understand one thing.  Seven years ago, Pastor Mulinge was a staunch Replacement Theology teacher.  His message to his church and around Africa was that God was finished with Israel and the church was the “new Israel.”  Thus, all God’s promises to Israel are now promises to the church.

He told an amazing story of how the Lord revealed that position as false teaching, then how, after Pastor Mulinge’s repentance, the Lord used a Muslim man to bless the church!  He went on to share account after account of God’s blessings as he and his congregation took Genesis 12:3 to heart:

I will bless those who bless you [Israel],
And the one who curses you I [God] will curse.

You have to hear Bishop Mulinge tell his story, so I’m including it here.  The heading for today’s post will make no sense until you hear his story!  (For clarification, in the audio, what sounds like “judge” is “church,” and what sounds like “parrot” is “parent.”)  I hope you are blessed by this brother’s testimony!