Thoughts on the Great Comission

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ". (Matthew 28:18–19, NKJV)

 

As we get closer to our time in California, which will include taping some of my teachings and some street witnessing  on Venice Beach (and maybe a few other beaches), I cannot help but reflect on the Great Commission and how it is typically understood by the church. First, it must be noted that this commission was given to an entirely Jewish audience. This means that Jewish evangelism was assumed by the receivers of the commission. This is usually not understood by the church today. Rarely does the church consider Jewish evangelism a given in their missions program - in that sense, they are ignoring the background of the Great Commission. Let me be clear that there are many churches who are Jewish-hearted and involved in Jewish evangelism - but overall, can we say that the church considers Jewish missions a starting point in their missions program? I think the answer would certainly be no.

Second, the Greek word for “nations” in our Scripture reference is ethnos, which does not mean countries at all, but rather people groups. As it is given here, the Great Commission implies that we need to reach not only distinct people groups in other countries, but also the ethnic groups living among us. What this means for the American church is that to fulfill the Great Commission, it needs to include, for example, Muslim outreach in the United States. Since Jewish evangelism was a given when Jesus laid the commission upon the disciples, we can only assume that Jewish evangelism must be a given for us also if the Great Commission is to be completely followed. Some fellowships of churches have caught on to this idea, among them the Southern Baptists, but too many have not.

Third, although the single word “go”  in English carries the force of the command, the original language uses what is called a participial phrase, which includes words that modify the subject, to put it simply. A more literal translation of the Greek word is “as you go.” Of course, the going is assumed in this rendering and carries the force of the command also, but the point is that the disciples were to move around and encounter the people in the areas where God led them, and by so doing reach all the ethnic groups.

Fourth, and  I know this may step on some toes, but the command is to “make disciples,” not necessarily to plant churches. Planting churches is a result of making disciples, but making disciples perfunctorily does not always lead to planting churches. This is a major error that the modern church makes, thinking that if you make the disciples, the church will follow, or that if you plant the church, the disciples will follow. If you try to plant the churches without the emphasis on making disciples, you get neither the disciples nor the churches. So, churches often end up fighting over individuals to draw to their church instead of focusing on preaching the Word to all within earshot and proclaiming the Gospel.

Fifth, while there are individuals called to give their full time to this effort, no person sitting in the pews is exempt from playing a part in the Great Commission. Part of that responsibility is supporting those who are called to give full time to the effort, but this is only part of a greater responsibility. Messianic congregations are notorious for not supporting Jewish missions or workers in Jewish missions, much less getting out of their own comfort so and interacting with unsaved people. Kudos to those exceptions I see out there that are doing their best in these areas (I can think of some individuals and some congregations). The evangelical church does have a heart for this sort of thing - but often its people are very uncomfortable with interacting with others who are very different than themselves. While that may work well for the smooth functioning of a local church, it works horribly for the big picture of the Great Commission.

In conclusion, many ideas about the Great Commission simply reduce it to church planting or overseas missions. While these are important parts of the greater picture, local ethnic ministries must be considered a part of the mix, and the evangelistic teaching and preaching of the Word apart from church planting must be considered a legitimate kingdom activity. These are my thoughts, as I prepare to go to California to do what seems to me to be very much kingdom work.

Confessions of an Introverted Thinker

This is probably one of the most personal blogs that I will ever write. Without going into details, my family and I are going through many  life changes right now. Some of the spiritual lessons I learned at the beginning of my walk with the Lord are being revisited now in a deeper way. I am, by nature, a sociable introverted thinker. I tend to be highly analytical, methodical, and generally enjoy a certain amount of order and routine to my life - but that orderliness is just not happening right now. This has got me thinking about temperaments. Some folks out there may object to this (particularly pastors of certain doctrinal stances) and will argue that temperaments do not really exist. They will say that temperament tests are a tool of the devil. Well, let me address the first part of this objection. Any man who has ever gone shopping with a woman has experienced that the male and female temperaments have distinct differences, some of which have even been stressed and popularized in some recent books.

Beyond such temperamental differences between the genders, differences in personal temperaments also have a long history of documentation. The Bible does not have one particular word related to the idea of temperament, but it does give us the idea that we as personal image-bearers have individual personalities, as seen in this verse: "You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways (Psalm 139:3, NKJV)." Surely the psalmist does not believe that all other people's perspectives and basic methods of doing things are the same as mine. It is also commonly acknowledged that some individuals are prone to certain sins, while others are prone to distinctly different ones. People are not equally drawn to the same kinds of sin.

In the same way, to argue that all people are equally outgoing in nature would be absurd. Equally absurd would be to argue that all people make decisions more from logical thought rather than feelings, or even the other way around.  In short, individuals have individual strengths and weaknesses as part of a general temperament. It logically follows that if people have certain types of temperaments, i.e. certain sets of strengths and weaknesses, these patterns of strengths and weaknesses may be seen to exist in such a way that we can also say there are certain types of people. For this blog’s purpose, there are two: all unsaved people, who remain sinners until they accept Christ, and all regenerated people, who stay regenerate.

This distinction makes a huge difference for the regenerate because, in the hands of our Redeemer, struggles with weaknesses in our temperament are not always about sin. Sin is not so much having weaknesses, any more than it is exercising one's strengths. In fact, every virtue or strength has a correlating weakness or vice. One could easily argue biblically that this is the very reason why we need the sanctifying influence of the Spirit - to help us in our weaknesses and to help us keep our strengths in balance, so they do not become vices.

So, where does that put the individual who is given to analysis and reflection, and in love with the world of ideas (a.k.a. the introverted thinker)? Well, a gift for analysis is an incredible strength and very useful in Bible teaching, as well as in apologetics. The struggle is that the misuse of specific abilities tends to create a problem with doubt and lack of faith. Therein lies my own struggle. In my fifties, this introverted thinker is finding it necessary to refocus on God's character and the issue of faith. To this end, I am grateful that God has raised up other thinkers in the faith -  individuals such as J.P. Moreland and CS Lewis, to name a few. You see, if God had not raised up thinkers of the faith, then faith could be regarded as only for the unthinking. By raising up individuals who are thinkers, God is indicating that faith is something that needs to be exercised by all in Jesus Christ. For the individual who is more of a feeler, the difficulty may be in objectively thinking through one's faith and not simply leaving truth behind. However, for the thinker, the challenge may be feeling and experiencing the faith which one knows intellectually.

In conclusion, one can see how the strengths an individual possesses can become their greatest challenges. All need Christ, for the thinker must believe and experience Him, and the feeler must know Him objectively through the truth of His word.

Is Race An Issue

Recent events have made a real issue of race and race relations, from campaigns such as “Black Lives Matter” to the issue of racial profiling in law enforcement. While this topic falls a little outside the area of Jewish missions, it is not outside the area of a Messianic or Judeo-Christian worldview. In this blog, I will not deal with the intricacies of the present problems between people groups and cultural groups within this country, but I will briefly touch upon a Scriptural worldview of the idea of race.

 

It must be acknowledged that there are certain distinctions and divisions which God does recognize within humankind, and these should be discussed. First, God obviously acknowledges the difference between genders. In the very first book of the Scriptures God states very clearly, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).” In other words, man and woman are created differently and are distinct from each other (a point quickly being lost on society today). This represents the first historical distinction that existed within humankind.

 

For the next distinction God allows within humankind, we need to go to the Tower of Babel and the table of nations. Chapter 10 of Genesis gives a genealogical breakdown of the nations while chapter 11, with its record of the incident of the Tower of Babel, explains the mechanism by which those nations came into existence, and the origin of the distinct languages of humankind. In chapter 10, a phrase is used in terms of the descendants of the three sons of Noah: “according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.” From this we know that the divisions that occur between peoples are according to their families (lineage), according to their languages, and according to their lands and nations (geographically and culturally).

 

For the last of God’s distinctions, we will look at the end of the big story as all of humanity is brought under the rule of God. We read, “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9, NKJV).” Distinctions within humankind are being mentioned here in a way that is similar to Genesis 10. Again we see tribe, which is lineage; we see tongue, which is language; and we see people and nation - these are culture and location. There is one category of distinction which is missing from any of these divine perspectives: that is, the distinction called race. This gives us a clear clue that race is not a Biblical concept, or even a distinction worthy of consideration from God’s perspective.

 

I have always hated the section on various tests and questionnaires that asks me whether I am Caucasian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or Other. I probably missed some categories in the list, but they would be as equally irrelevant as the categories I did remember (it is interesting to note that new “races” have been added over time to the two that were at one time the most recognizable, black and white). The answer to that question is not clear-cut for many people; it follows the fact that race does not exist from the perspective of the divine author of the universe. Differences in gender, culture, and lineage are notable by Him, but race is distinctly missing.

 

The answer to the present problem of race relations is to realize that race is not a thing - it is a measure of distinction between the appearance of two people groups. I saw a picture of a young lady with blonde hair, blue eyes, and lighter skin. She was born in South Africa, so in essence she is an African. She migrated and became a citizen in America, therefore she is an African-American, although she does not have dark skin. Where does she she fall within the supposed racial categories? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the concept of different races, as opposed to one human race, was introduced through an evolutionary model of thinking and introduced with anti-black bias. I have a picture of the original title of Darwin’s book The Origin of Species. The original title was The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life - or what he really meant: “the superiority of the white race.”

 

In conclusion, problems of race relation are really about the challenges between people groups of different culture, lineage, and location. The best way to deal with race relations is to scrap non-Biblical designators of humankind and see the issues for what they really are. Yes, due to prejudice by those of fairer skin, who belong to the exact same human race as their darker skinned brothers and sisters, there have been injustices. But these are not a function of race - these are a function of sin. Let me close with the words that Paul gave the Athenian philosophers by the working of the Holy Spirit: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings (Acts 17:26, NKJV).”

It’s My Body And I’ll Pry If I Want To…

One should note that the title of this blog is taken from an old rock song in which a young girl is crying over a boy she is mad at. The song by Lesley Gore was originally entitled, “It’s My Party.” The nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice has prompted no small amount of protest from the Left. While not surprising in and of itself, it has resurrected discussions about the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973. One of the more ridiculous comments that has been repeated in my hearing several times is, “I do not want nine men deciding what I do with my body.” This response, designed to create a knee-jerk reaction, is ridiculous on several levels. I think a brief discussion on the ludicrousness of this comment, and why it is being used, is worthy of consideration.

First, a disclaimer. There are those horrible instances in which a woman finds herself bringing forth a child through an act of violence. I am being deliberately discrete here. Such an instance would not in any way entail the normal relations between a man and woman. I want to make it clear that such sad cases, which are part of the mosaic of our fallen world, are to be treated with the utmost compassion and gravity. Therefore, they are not included in this particular discussion, but rather represent a grievous exception to the dialogue about abortion in general. Let us call these, “the exceptions that need to be looked at on a unique, case-by-case basis.” Of course, there is another situation which needs to be looked at in such a way: those cases in which a choice must be made between the life of the mother and the life of the child (again, such a heartbreaking situation is a result of the fallen world in which we live). It is important to remember that since children could be born at an earlier and earlier gestational age, these cases are becoming less frequent. Nonetheless, these situations must be treated as important exceptions and we should not glibly dismiss them.

The comment directed at the Supreme Court as a group of nine men making decisions about women’s bodies, however, is not about these exceptions, but something far deeper. Let us grant the premise that it is a legitimate argument, just for the sake of examination. If a woman should not be told what she can do with her body, it logically follows that a man cannot be told what he can do with his body. If that is the case, then what is the basis for objecting to a man committing rape, since he is simply doing what he wants with his body? Any sane person would make the distinction that a woman is being abused by his actions - they don’t just affect his body, but they affect hers as well. And that is just the point - in the case of abortion, not just the woman’s body but also another body and another person is being affected. If it is logical that a man is restricted from doing what he wants with his body because it will harm another person, then it is logical that a woman is restricted in what she does with her body because it will harm another person. Let us take this line of thinking a step further: should a woman have the right to tell other women what can be done with their bodies? The woman affirming abortion would obviously say no. But doesn’t a mother who aborted her unborn daughter become a woman who is telling another female what will happen to her body?

 Beyond this, what is ignored is the importance of the rule of moral law. Every day when I am not allowed to speed, steal, or murder other people I am being told what I can and cannot do with my body. We are society of laws and principles and people are expected to submit, or restrict what they can do with their bodies, to follow those laws. The rights of an individual never supersede the obligations of moral law in a just and free society! Let us get down to something far more fundamental: the issue of moral obligation. Our society, informed by a Judeo-Christian ethic, has always held that individuals have a moral obligation to do that which is right and to avoid doing that which is wrong. In other words, people should do what is right because it is right, and avoid wrong because it is wrong - not just because the law tells us to do or not do something. Any mother who has told her child to share her toys with another child exercising this very moral principle.

 So, when a woman says, “I do not want nine men telling me what to do with my body,” she is really saying that even if those nine men (or women) rightly posit and enshrine in law a moral obligation, she does not want to be held to that obligation. Therein is the problem: individuals want to be able to act autonomously apart from moral obligations. What the woman is ignoring is the fact that, as a woman (who has a unique role in the miracle of birth), at the point of conception her body is no longer just hers, but both hers and the child’s - for the time being. Now, I know this creates some impositions on the woman - and one can argue whether these impositions, which are an intrinsic component of her gender, are fair or unfair. But, what one should not argue with is that there exists a moral obligation to that child at the point of conception. There is a moral obligation for a woman to control her body to the extent that she is capable of. By the way, the same obligation exists for men, who are not to take advantage of women to get what they desire. A man has certain moral obligations also (what is good for the goose is good for the gander). I do not let my gender off the hook. But the principle of moral obligation must be upheld. It is not a matter of which Supreme Court Justice is sitting on the high court; it is a matter of a moral obligation that needs to be remembered. You may do with your body only what does no unnecessary harm to another - this is true whether you’re a man or a woman and has nothing to do with the makeup of the Supreme Court. The relative merits of Roe v. Wade can be debated till the cows come home, but the principle remains the same: I do not have the right to do whatever I want with my body, whether I am a male or female, because moral obligation and moral law constrain me.

As a final word or two in passing, we created this problem in a sense by giving people the idea that ethics in their sexual behavior do not exist. Organizations like Unplanned Parenthood (which should be the actual name of Planned Parenthood), have told our youth for too long that they have no responsibility for that area of life towards which their awakening drives begin to lead them. Lastly, from this particular blog, one can see that I will in no way, ever, come close to being considered for a Supreme Court post. While realistically the reason would be my lack of legal education, even if I had the proper credentials and education, it would most certainly be due to my views on moral obligation (which, ironically, are not shared by many of the Justices).

Two Types of Liberty?

I think it is proper and right on this Fourth of July week to reflect on freedom. The apostle Paul, writing during the period of the Roman Empire, states, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17, NKJV).” It is good to ask what type of liberty Paul is referring to here: internal or external freedom? During the period of the Roman Empire, it is a historical certainty that, while Paul as a Roman citizen enjoyed greater external liberties than others within the Roman Empire, they were considerably less than the liberties that we enjoy in America today. 

Given the difference between the times, political structures, and guaranteed rights which exist between us and Paul, and considering the context of 2 Corinthians itself, it is reasonable to assume that Paul is discussing internal freedom. This internal freedom would include freedom of conscience and spiritual freedom from the dictates of the sin nature. In other words, it is a freedom of heart that Paul is discussing in his statement in 2 Corinthians 3:17. In the vein of this distinction we should  ponder the following two-part question.

First, can a man who is externally free be internally enslaved? Let me give you an example. Recently my sleep cycles were extremely disturbed and disordered, and I was not getting restful sleep. My mind churned and would not turn off at night. Experiencing some relief from this condition has been a tremendous joy, and also has provided an interesting illustration. By the law of the land I was perfectly free to sleep. However, by my internal state I was not free to sleep. In this way I was free, yet not free. My external freedom gave me limited benefit because my internal freedom was not present, at least in sleeping. (As an important side note, this is wonderful proof that our brain is not the same as our mind. My brain was completely willing to sleep, but my mind would not let it.)

Second, is it possible for man to be externally limited in his freedom and internally free? I know that this is difficult for us to imagine, especially on a day like the Fourth of July, as the fireworks are bursting and we soak in the ethos of freedom. Yet, Paul was imprisoned during his time as an apostle, and yet felt incredibly free in Christ. What freedom, then, did Paul enjoy? He enjoyed internal freedom - being free in conscience and free from the dictates of what his sin nature might do, especially in the situation of imprisonment. Paul was not free, yet he was free.

Like Paul, many dear followers of Christ around the world do not enjoy external freedom, but enjoy internal freedom. I am greatly blessed for the external freedom I enjoy in this country, and am not anxious to trade places with those beloved brothers and sisters of like faith. I also realize that as a free citizen in the United States, I can be enslaved by any number of things and end up being not free, though I am free.

In short, the great freedoms that we enjoy in the United States are not the only kind of freedom, nor are they the ultimate kind of freedom. These external freedoms are a tremendous gift from God, who gives all freedom and, in whose name, only do we have any claim to the inalienable rights we enjoy. Yes, our internal freedom can be enjoyed and expressed through our external freedom, and this is indeed the way the founding fathers intended it. Let me close with this very idea which they wrote in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”

Who is Jesus

It may seem strange, since the name seems to be known by almost everyone, but given the various religions and cults out there, “Who is Jesus?” is one of the most contested questions; it is also one of the most important questions that a person can ask. First of all, we must realize that since Jesus is central to the New Testament Scriptures by direct reference, and to the Hebrew Scriptures in terms of his Messiahship (although this Messiahship is contested by Rabbinical Judaism), this is not strictly a secular historical question. It must be noted that I say “secular historical question” slightly tongue-in-cheek, since I believe all history to be grounded in God. But we do acknowledge that there is biblical history recorded in the Scriptures as well as history that is not directly recorded in the Scriptures. Therefore, any attempt to answer who Jesus is cannot be confined to merely extra-Biblical historical sources, and here we will examine a passage of Scripture to answer our question of who Jesus is.

The foundational thing we must know is that Jesus is not merely human, but also deity, or God, the Eternal God. To believe that God is not eternal would be difficult to maintain under any doctrinal conception of God held by the monotheistic religions. Moreover, if God were not eternal, He could not be the first cause of all things or the creator, since something would have preceded His existence; so, it is logical that God would be eternal if He was indeed the creator. You can see how the eternal nature of Messiah contained in Micah 5:2 thus points to Jesus being deity:

 

Phrase  in Hebrew

Translation in English

וְאַתָּ֞ה בֵּֽית־לֶ֣חֶם אֶפְרָ֗תָה צָעִיר֙ לִֽהְיוֹת֙ בְּאַלְפֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה מִמְּךָ֙ לִ֣י יֵצֵ֔א לִֽהְי֥וֹת מוֹשֵׁ֖ל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּמוֹצָאֹתָ֥יו מִקֶּ֖דֶם מִימֵ֥י עוֹלָֽם׃” 

Micah 5:1, BHS/WIVU

““But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”” (Micah 5:2, NKJV)

 

I have taken the liberty of including Micah 5:2, or rather, Micah 5:1 in the Masoretic text in both Hebrew and English. It states that Messiah’s goings forth were “from everlasting.” I will not take the time here to demonstrate that the Hebrew word עוֹלָֽם carries the connotation of eternal-ness. For that you can go to the website and see a message that deals with this very topic. While there are many ways to demonstrate that the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is God, Micah 5:2 succinctly points out this truth. Let us look at the argument more clearly:

•      God is eternal, and this is an essential characteristic of His nature;

•      Messiah is Eternal;

•      It follows that Messiah is God.

Groups such as the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement (I have written in more detail on this cult in other blog posts) may have some division on this issue, but the Scriptures certainly do not. Modern Rabbinical Judaism also denies the deity of Messiah, but it must be noted that the Judaism of the Second Temple Era would have had far less trouble with this concept. There are clearly verses pointing to Messiah having a nature that is not merely human, and acknowledgments of verses which point to His deity. Likewise, Islam denies the deity of Messiah quite clearly: “And say: (All) praise is due to Allah, Who has not taken a son and Who has not a partner in the kingdom, and Who has not a helper to save Him from disgrace; and proclaim His greatness magnifying (Him).”[1]

Any depiction of Jesus which does not take into account His deity paints a false view of Jesus, and thus falls short of the truth. This fact provides a strike against the Black Hebrew Israelites. Additionally, it shows that Islam, while it honors Him, denies the truth of Jesus. Finally, this truth highlights the failure of Rabbinical Judaism to acknowledge the Messiah for which it waits.

 

[1] M. H. Shakir, ed., The Quran (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.). Surah 17:111.

The Theology of power

This week we have been terribly busy trying to raise up our support team to keep this ministry going. In the midst, it has been interesting to see how the Lord orchestrates different events during my week, such as an event this week and one last week which were knit together in such a way as to demonstrate the need for discussing the politics and theology of power. Last week, as I was preparing to work out, I heard a snippet from Fox News pointing out how it appears those in Washington are less respectful of the rule of law. Then, while preparing my Monday night broadcast this week, I dealt with a cult called the Black Hebrew Israelites (which practices a form of racism by believing that the black people will come to power and force the subjugation of white people, including Jewish people, many of whom are lighter skinned). These two instances lead to the question: for what purpose does God give authority to individuals and groups? Having a well-articulated understanding of the Judeo-Christian* worldview is important in getting to the right answer.

Two points need to be made and upheld. First, authority over others must be exercised with love and respect. In the Gospels, Jesus is terribly clear on this: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39, NKJV).’” We see this same basic principle in God’s choosing of Israel: “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:1–3, NKJV).’” Clearly, He is stating that “in you [Israel],” all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Therefore, the purpose for which God chose Israel was to be a channel of blessings to others -  never was Israel chosen for itself. Plainly, God giving Israel a special status was for the benefit of others. Likewise, when any authority over others is given, it is meant for the benefit of the subjects.

Second, the exercise of authority for the sake of raw power is unholy. The exercise of authority within a Judeo-Christian worldview must be in line with God’s two great Commandments which are loving God and loving our neighbor, or in the spirit of Torah (which is love, according to Christ in His Gospels, as previously stated). Indeed, we must be clear to define love: love is seeking the ultimate good for the one loved. It is not seeking their temporary happiness. Unfortunately, our culture has begun to worship happiness as opposed to good. Moreover, the command to love one’s neighbor is subordinate to the command to love God, which must be the case, as only in loving according to God’s commands is the ultimate good of an individual realized. While humans made in God’s image have the capacity to love, that capacity is tainted by their own natures. Though some who are unsaved have moral knowledge by general revelation and the image of God within them, they are apt to err and make mistakes about the ultimate good if not properly guided. Therefore, the saying is true, that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Power is to be exercised for the ultimate good of others, as defined by God, and not for raw power.

Let us apply these principles to the two situations. First, Washington (that is, the United States government) was never created to tyrannically reign over US citizens in the name of making them do good or, more accurately, what appears to be right according to a faulty worldview and agenda. Let me unpack this idea a little: the US government was never designed to be a nanny dictating to US citizens political correctness (which, by the way, is not genuine love). The founding fathers designed the rule of law to rein in the government since they understood that because of man’s fallen nature, power corrupts. Washington’s submission to the rule of law would be loving to US citizens. Ignoring the rule of law and proper conduct is an abuse of authority, and thus unloving to US citizens.

Now to the cult, the Black Hebrew Israelites. Their philosophy is based on past victimization and racism. Having suffered evil never gives anybody the right to tyrannically rule over another. Since the purpose of authority is to exercise love, groups that claim an oppressed status have no more right to authority than groups that do not claim an oppressed status. The BHI cult reflects a politic of victimization, which is contrary to a proper theology of power. God gives the right to rule as He chooses, for the good of all. Serving in love is the way to gain power in its proper sense and respect. Jesus said it when He stated, “And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35, NKJV).’”


 

*For those who would object to the word ‘Judeo-Christian,’ it must be pointed out that Jesus and His disciples were practicing Jews, and that ethical monotheism came to the world through the Jewish people.

Unhitching the Horse From the Cart Does Not Get You Where You Want to Go

Does the Old Testament really hinder the Gospel? Discussion has swirled about a recent sermon delivered by Andy Stanley and its relationship to the value of the New Testament. Admittedly, I have not had the chance to listen to the sermon, but what concerns me is that a mindset may be growing which influenced some of the remarks in the sermon. In the minds of many, the Old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures, are problematic in view of modern thinking. I would like to briefly examine two things: are the Hebrew Scriptures a hindrance to proclaiming the Gospel, and does it matter if the Hebrew Scriptures may be unsuited to modern thinking?

Andy Stanley may have had noble intentions by pointing out that the central message of Scripture is Messiah Jesus. His desire to see Jesus proclaimed is a right and good desire, and those of us who value the Hebrew Scriptures would concur with this noble aim. However, in the mind of Stanley, the Hebrew Scriptures are a hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel - or at least, that is the impression that may be given. This sort of argumentation would fall into a category of fallacy called ‘a false dilemma.’ First, let us look at just one passage of Scripture. John 1:29 states, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” What does this phrase, “Lamb of God,” even mean if we remove it from the context of the Jewish Scriptures? Clearly, this title refers to both the Passover and the binding of Isaac, or the Akediah. Without the background of the Hebrew Scriptures (which John’s audience clearly would have had), this reference would have made no sense, and would have told them little to nothing. John clearly did not believe the Hebrew Scriptures were a detriment to the Gospel, but rather that they were the correct way of presenting the Gospel.

If Jesus is the center for the believer, and the One he or she is to proclaim, perhaps we should look at Jesus’ own attitude towards the Hebrew Scriptures and their relationship to the Gospel. The very context of the famous John 3: 16, which someone like Andy Stanley would use to proclaim the Gospel, contains clear reference to the Hebrew Scriptures. We read in John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In the mind of Jesus there was no John 3:16 without the Hebrew Scriptures contained in Numbers 21. Jesus makes clear use of the Old Testament to share the Gospel, even in this verse which is used in evangelism more than any other. Clearly, Jesus does not agree with Andy Stanley’s analysis of the problematic nature of the Old Testament. Jesus does not believe that the Hebrew Scriptures hinder the proclamation of the Gospel at all!

But what about the problem that the Hebrew Scriptures are inconsistent with modern thinking? Given the nature of modern thinking, which tends towards materialistic or postmodern explanations of the world, the Gospel itself and the New Testament are both inconsistent with modern thinking. To argue that the Old Testament should be untethered from the church to accommodate modern thinking is tantamount to arguing that the Gospel should be changed in its essential truths to make it more palatable to the mainstream worldview of our culture. Many of the doctrines which are central to our faith, such as blood atonement, are archaic to modern society. I doubt the folks from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (P.E.T.A.) find the sacrificial system of the Hebrew Scriptures acceptable - yet they are key to the doctrine of blood atonement in understanding the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

The fact that the modern mindset does not understand the thinking of the Scripture’s original audience does not mean that the Scriptures need to be changed, but rather that they need to be explained.  It is always a bad idea to mistake pragmatism for wisdom. When we deal with the essentials of the faith, I am not saying that other doctrines are not important, but on those things which are clear and repeatedly displayed under the Perspicuity of Scripture¹, we must stand firm.

One of the driving forces and part of my passion that the mission of Zionsbanner is to uphold the idea that the Scriptures, which include the Hebrew Scriptures as a vital part, are one story testifying to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Ministries like Zionsbanner, which I am so excited to be creating, serve the vital purpose of connecting the big story - which is integral to the Hebrew Scriptures - with the presenting of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.

 

 

1 The Perspicuity of the Scriptures refers to the doctrine that the Scriptures in their central message are clear and that, while there are sections of Scripture which may be hard to understand, the central things of the word of God can be understood clearly and are made plain.

Continuing to Learn, and the Importance of Presuppositions

I had an incredible time ministering at First Fridays in Phoenix Arizona. This time even included the opportunity to street preach, which is something that I have not been able to do for a long time. I also had a run-in with one of the toughest atheists on the street. I must admit that I was not prepared as much as I would have liked to have been for that specific level of battle. His tactic was simple, and I should have spotted the very clever trick he was using - his approach made use of making assertions in an indirect or implicit way. This tactic made it appear as if he was not making assertions, and masked his original premise (assumption) in such a way that I did not see what was happening. He would ask questions that were in themselves assertions, while claiming to make no assertion, to place the burden of proof on me continuously. A clear assertion I would have easily spotted, but these specific, embedded assertions were trickier to spot.

So, perhaps it is time to tell the story, “Frogs with No Legs Cannot Hear.” Once upon a time, there was a Polish scientist who decided to see how far frogs with no legs could jump. He started with a baseline and told the frog to jump forward. It jumped 12 feet. He then cut one leg off the frog and said, “Jump.” The frog only jumped 10 feet. He continued by cutting off another leg and saying, “Jump” to the frog. This time the frog only jumped 8 feet. He then cut off another leg and said, “Jump,” and the frog only jumped 3 feet. He cut off the final leg of the frog and said jump. However, the frog did not move at all. He repeated the commands to the frog and said, “Jump.” Again, the frog did not move at all. He concluded scientifically that frogs with no legs cannot hear. If you begin with a wrong premise, you always logically arrive at the wrong conclusion. The gentleman who accosted me believed two false things: first, that Godhead could be provable according to his criteria. The second faulty piece of reasoning was that God had to demonstrate Himself to this gentleman in order to exist. I pointed out to him that God had no interest in forcing him to believe or choose to worship. I put it this way: forced love is rape and God is not a divine rapist. C.S. Lewis put it a better way when he stated that God was too much of a gentleman to force himself upon anybody. Yes, there are sound reasons to believe, and practicing apologetics is to create a winsome case for our worldview, but belief must remain a choice at some level, and faith by nature cannot be imposed and still remain faith.

A glorious night at First Fridays

Last night was a full evening of ministry at first Fridays. Beyond having the usual Isaiah 53 table I got to do some street preaching. It was my pleasure to be joined by Rachel Zaferatos who has a music ministry and is an incredible young woman. She not only sings about Jesus but proclaims him.For more info about her you can visit http://rachelzaferatosevangelisticmusic.com/

Thanos and The Problem of Evil (comments on the movie Infinity Wars)

I had the recent opportunity of going to see the movie Infinity War, the newest release by Marvel Studios. I must admit that, as a young Jewish kid on the bookish side, and not that athletic, I collected Marvel comics. Stan Lee and his career has not been unknown to me. Seeing some of the comic book heroes that I read as young boy coming to the film screen, and having my children come to know them, has been quite the experience. The purpose of this blog is not to comment on the entire movie, but rather to deal with a curious question that is brought out in the film.

 Infinity War raises the problem of pain and suffering, or as theologians, apologists, and philosophers would name it - “the problem of evil.” The main antagonist carries as his name the Greek word for death: Thanos. He seeks to implement a certain solution to pain and suffering in the universe - to kill half the population throughout the universe so that more resources may be available to the survivors. This, in his mind, will provide a better level of living, and diminish pain and suffering. He states very clearly that it is a simple issue of mathematics. Thanos originally proposed this idea for his home planet, but was rejected. Let’s briefly examine the nature of Thanos’ solution, the distinction between God’s character and that of Thanos in consideration of his solution, and the inherent wrong in the solution proposed by this antagonist.

This particular villain’s solution is based on Darwinistic and naturalistic premises - not in the sense of “survival of the fittest,” but in the assumption of a closed material universe being all that is available. Thanos assumes that there are a limited number of resource. Thus, decreasing the surplus population (one way of phrasing it) is the only viable solution for a higher standard of living. He does not consider a benevolent creator who can intervene or provide other solutions. In fact, the movie gives the back-story of the Infinity Stones (which Thanos needs in order to implement his solution) in terms of a naturalistic, Big Bang model of how the universe began. If it were true that the universe was finite, with limited resources and no means by which the present, or even a growing population could enjoy a life without pain and suffering, it does follow that the villain’s assumption almost makes sense. However, Hollywood has not reckoned on the fact that we have a Creator God who intervenes in His universe and, either through showing us better ways to handle resources or through direct intervention, can change the situation. In other words, if one buys into the false assumptions of a materialistic, Darwinistic universe, one could very well get to the solution at which Thanos arrives.

Is his solution at all representative of the fact that God allows pain and suffering in the universe for a higher end? Someone might argue that, if I say that God allows pain and suffering for the greater good, it is the exact same things that Thanos does. Such a comparison is a faulty comparison and must be debunked. First, Thanos is not permitting destruction and death - he is directly creating it. Additionally, he is visiting it upon individuals who do not demonstrate an immediate warrant for judgment. In other words, he is visiting death upon innocent individuals, not simply permitting death to occur. God is never the author of evil. When He does indeed permit evil to happen, the deed is carried out by agents other than Himself. Second, when God permits evil, He is permitting that which is contrary to His desire and will. He is not Himself instigating the evil for a higher good - He is simply permitting evil, which would already occur in a fallen universe, to work towards a positive end.

More importantly, there is something deeply neglected in any analogy between the behavior of Thanos and the behavior of God, which is two-fold. Let me introduce the first part with the following idea: do not break that which you cannot make. Thanos is taking lives that he did not create. Therefore it is not a matter of him sovereignly controlling that which is rightly his, but of him taking the life from beings whom he has no right to at all. The second part to the reason that no analogy can be drawn between the behavior of Thanos and that of God is that,  as rightly pointed out and wrongly disputed in the film, Thanos loves nobody. He does not personally suffer in any way to bring about the solution for the pain and suffering that he sees. God, on the other hand, came and died to deal with the pain and suffering of our world. He is deeply touched by our pain and infirmities, to the point that He took personal action to deal with them,a costly action which required great sacrifice. Thus we have a contrast between Thanos and God: Thanos takes a life and sacrifices nothing; God allows pain and suffering in the universe and sacrificed everything.

Thanos’ solution is wrong on many levels. It assumes a closed universe, which is not the case, and if it were, his solution would offer no hope ultimately in avoiding the problem of pain. It ignores the fact that pain is the result of rebellion on the part of creatures who been given the beautiful gift of freedom and have misused it, which hypothetically would include Thanos himself. Thanos is part of the reason that there is pain and suffering in the universe, even as he is enacting his solution to remove it. This is a clear contradiction. Finally, it offers no redemption, only extermination. What we find in a Biblical worldview is a God who deeply feels our pain, suffers along with us, and made us. The naturalistic worldview which Hollywood offers provides no lasting solutions because in a universe that is closed, in which no rescue is possible, no solution is possible.

 

When Errors Collide

Anyone who has been doing outreach in Arizona sooner or later figures out that you never know who you are going to meet. In fact, while seeking to target one group, you may be surprised at the other individuals with whom you end up speaking. Such was the case of the weekend of April 21st and 22nd. I was doing outreach from roughly two in the afternoon to six in the evening at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, Arizona, which had provided the venue for a very large event, the annual Arab American Festival. You would be amazed at how diverse types of people from Phoenix go to the event.

One of the strangest encounters that I had over the weekend was a group of young Arab boys who were enthralled with evolution, which they were being taught in school. One of the boys, who is of high school age, has not told his parents that he considers himself an agnostic. You must understand that in an observant Muslim family, such a position is unacceptable. Certainly, not believing in God, or rather Allah, is contrary to the Shahadah. This Shahadah reads, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” In fact, one might say that the Shahadah is to the Muslim what the Shema is to the Jew - and this is not just true of the observant rabbinical Jew. My children heard the Shema from the cradle. Hence, you could understand my shock to hear this statement from a Muslim boy. I thought about how our secular school system had caused these boys to exchange one error for another. Although they were not following the dictates of Islam closely, they were no closer to the truth. In fact, since those who come to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), they had in a sense put themselves into a worse position, for instead of having the wrong God they now were not seeking any God.

Does God’s self-sufficiency eliminate the possibility of Jesus’ deity?

An argument often used against the deity of Jesus is that God does not have any lack within Himself. Therefore, it follows that if Jesus had needs which He addressed to God, He could not be God. This line of reasoning is found in both Muslim and rabbinical Jewish arguments against Jesus.

On the side of Jewish argumentation, the following objection has been put forth in relation to Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If Jesus was really willing to meet such a fate, what cause was there for complaint and affliction? And why did he pray in the manner related in [Matthew 26:39]? On the other hand, if it is assumed that the crucifixion was against his will, how then can he be regarded as God…?”1

This argument also appears in Islamic polemics against Christianity. Some years back in a famous debate with William Lane Craig, a Muslim apologist used this sort of tactic. Although phrased in a separate way, a Muslim apologist would likewise point out that if Jesus indeed prayed to the Father for help, and God is totally sufficient within Himself (having everything that He needs and being self-sufficient), then clearly Jesus could not be God.

The first problem with this argument is that it does not address the effects of the incarnation. If God took on the form of a man, to have the attributes of a man He, logically, would then allow Himself the limitations of a man while He maintained that form. It is an essential attribute of human beings that they are finite and limited; therefore, Jesus could not truly be “God in the flesh, as a man” while maintaining full use of His unlimited nature. This is what Paul is getting at in Philippians 2:6-7a when he says, “...who being in the very nature of God did not consider that something to be grasped but took on the form of a servant.”

Second, the argument fails to consider that God’s self-sufficiency and aseity (existing in, of, and from itself) do not mean that He cannot limit himself - it means that in His being He is not limited nor dependent on any other thing. God voluntarily limits Himself to dwell between the cherubim in the tabernacle, but this in no way affects His aseity. God’s self-sufficiency and non-concurrence (non-reliance on anything else to maintain His nature and existence) are part of His nature - that nature is not changed if He voluntarily chooses to limit Himself.

Such arguments used in Jewish and Islamic polemics  against Jesus’ deity, and against the messianic faith, which are based on God’s self-sufficiency or nonconcurrence, fail -  both in view of God limiting Himself in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and in view of the incarnation. For arguments related to the incarnation, one can go to our website at www.Zionsbanner.org.


1Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906), 265–266.

Putting First Things First

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

Zion’s Banner exists to make much of Messiah through God’s big story, but how this works in individual situations may indeed vary. A recent encounter at a First Friday Event showed just how important the ability to be versatile in presenting is. During our “Isaiah 53” outreach near the end of the evening, a Muslim man approached me to ask my opinion of the situation related to Palestine. Clearly, I have a strong belief in a future for the Jewish people given that Israel is certainly integral to God’s big story. However, if I were to focus on that part of my mission statement and ignore the first part, the vital conversation which followed never would have happened. I explained to him that, yes, I indeed do have a personal position on Palestine, but I believe that when Jesus the Messiah returns he will settle all these issues. I was then able to turn the discussion to the issues of atonement and Jesus’ virgin birth. Beyond changing the conversation, we made a connection - the gentleman took my personal information and promised to get back to me to further our discussion.

 Making much of being Messianic without making much of Jesus is neither honoring Jesus nor being very Messianic. Our primary commitments, whether as Jewish or Gentile believers, must be to our Lord and King Jesus. I think there is a danger sometimes in letting secondary loyalties cloud our primary loyalty to Him. No, I would never separate the gospel from the kingdom. However, sometimes it is the gospel and the greatness of the person of Jesus which must precede other details related to the teaching of the kingdom of God as a future physical kingdom upon this earth. Often in the Messianic movement, there is a terrible temptation to place our Jewish identities above our Lord and Savior Jesus/Yeshua. We become so anxious to prove our Jewishness that we can place our messianic faith on a much lower priority that is not God-honoring. Our primary commitment must always be making much of Yeshua/Jesus; in doing so we further His kingdom and honor His name. After all, what could be more Jewish than honoring the true King and Messiah of Israel?

“A Beachhead Is Not a Finish Line: Do Jesus’ instructions about the proclamation of His message contradict?”

Handling Islamic Objection to the Gospels

1. The argument that forms the objection

The objection sets forth that because there is a clear contradiction in the accounts of Matthew and Mark concerning Jesus' directions as to the proclamation of his message, there is clearly an error in the Gospels. In Matthew 10:5-6, we read that Jesus told his apostles to go only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus also says in Matthew 15:24 that He “was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” However, Mark 16:15 seems to contradict those verses as Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature."

2. What is a contradiction?

It is vital that we define a contradiction: a contradiction is when two statements assert things to be true in the same way and at the same time, though they are in opposition to each other. For example, it would be a contradiction to state that today is Monday while also stating that today is Friday if both statements are refering to the exact same moment in time. If a pertinent reason or rationale can be given which demonstrates that the statements are not saying opposing things at the same time or in the same way, then no contradiction exists. A statement may add to or modify another statement if there is a legitimate rationale.

3.A legitimate answer

An excerpt from The True Guidance gives a brief demonstration of such legitimate rationales: “The reason the apostles begin with the house of Israel is that they were sent first on a training mission. It was appropriate they should first be sent to those who spoke the same language and had the same customs and Scriptures (3:76-77).”1 The reason is a good one, but it does not cover the ultimate rationale behind the two sets of instructions in Matthew and Mark related to the proclamation of Jesus's message. We will get a clearer picture by looking at the Old Testament.

 1The True Guidance. 3rd ed., Villach, Austria, Light of Life, 1992.

4.Israel had a function

“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you…Therefore you are My witnesses,’ says the LORD, ‘that I am God’ (Isaiah 43:1,12).” Israel’s function was to reveal God as the one true God to the nations; this included receiving the revelation of God to give to the nations. This function required that an initial presentation of the Gospel be made to them (as had also been done with the Law). Paul had this in mind when he wrote Romans 11:12: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”

5. The Qur’an does not dispute this function

It is important to note that the Qur’an does not dispute Israel’s role to the nations but affirms it in the following two Suras: “So when he withdrew from them and what they worshipped besides Allah, We gave to him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and each one of them We made a prophet. And We granted to them of Our mercy, and We left (behind them) a truthful mention of eminence for them (19:49-50).”  “And We granted him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and caused the prophethood and the book to remain in his seed, and We gave him his reward in this world, and in the hereafter he will most surely be among the good (29:27).”2

 2The Quran. M. H. Shakir Edition, Medford, MA, Perseus Digital Library, n.d.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, Israel had a distinct function to be a witness for the one true God. Paul indicates that Israel’s rejection of Messiah was riches for the world since it allowed the Gospel to go out into the world directly. This function of Israel to be God’s witness provides a rationale on God’s part for Jesus’s first set of instructions, given that Israel was to have the message first proclaimed to them. Jesus gives another set of directions as an expansion of the first set, given Israel’s rejection of the message. An expansion of these directions means that the second set of instructions is not in direct conflict with the first set at the same way, nor at the same time. Different conditions exist for the two sets of instructions based on God’s purposes. Therefore, the claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels due to the difference in the directions Jesus gave is a faulty argument.

When Christians do superficial apologetics, comments on a recent article in answers magazine

While we enjoyed recently visiting the Ark Experience, a part of the Answers in Genesis ministry of Ken Ham, I was disappointed by the recent article in their Answers magazine March-April 2018 page 51. It is not so much I disagree with the conclusion of the article but rather with the uninformed and “soundbite” quality of it. The article at least provided me an opportunity to discuss what happens when Christians do superficial apologetics. The article appeared under the title “Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God. The author Todd Friel was correct in pointing out some distinctions between Allah and the God of Abraham. However, the author incorrectly makes the statement that Jesus slammed door on the question of whether Jews Christians and Muslims worship the same God from John 8:19.

 First, John 8:19 is being misused here. Mr. Friel uses this verse out of its context. If one examines the verse carefully it is not difficult to see, nowhere is Jesus in that verse accusing the Pharisees of worshiping an entirely different deity rather he is stating that they are not honoring the deity that they are seeking to worship. Scripturally as far as the Pharisees are concerned, The God of their forefathers is the one true God. Let us examine whether the New Testament indicates that the Pharisees do indeed worship the same God that Christians worship Paul clearly states in Acts 23:6, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” The Greek phrase “I am a Pharisee” ἐγὼ Φαρισαῖός εἰμι uses the present indicative form of the verb, this clearly indicates that Paul continues to regard himself a Pharisee even after he was saved. If the author of the article in the Answers magazine truly believes that the Pharisees worship a different God and Paul calls himself a Pharisee after believing we must then assume that Paul indeed worshiped a different deity after his conversion when Acts is being written. Paul is very clear in Romans 10:2 when he states that the Jews have a zeal for God yet without knowledge. Therefore, he indicates, that the Jews and Judaism do indeed acknowledge the same God. It is clear in the verse, Paul is not stating that they are worshiping a different deity. To the author's credit, he does point out, “things get a bit trickier with Judaism because the Old Testament God is “the Father” of the Christian Trinity… (The author adds the statement that Jesus made it clear Jews who worship one-third of the Trinity) do not rightly worship the true living God. It is interesting the author calls it the “Christian Trinity”, so seemingly Trinity belongs to the Christians, not to the Scriptures. This statement leads to all sorts of problems Abraham was not a Christian and he worships the God of the Old Testament. He clearly was not a classical Trinitarian. While he may have known there was some mysterious plurality in the Godhead he did not know the number of persons or the relationship between them, this is acknowledged by sound theologians and indicated by the principle of progressive revelation. Must we therefore conclude he worship the different deity? One can see how the authors lack of knowledge and inability to make certain distinctions and definitions clear in his article lead to a host of problems. Furthermore, as an important part of the historical background of the Scriptures, a true apologist would be more likely to understand that there were different Judaism’s and that the rabbinical Judaism of today is not the Judaism of Abraham’s day or even the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

I am not sure whether Ken Ham will ever see this blog even though we do share a mutual acquaintance in Dr. John C Whitcomb. But I would encourage my brother to make use of budding apologists and allow them to exercise their gifts and calling. This will produce better articles while avoiding unnecessary and harmful theological errors and questions.

Moving forward in 2018 or what is a nice Jewish boy doing speaking on Muslim apologetics

2017 was a wild and woolly year for us as far as the ministry. But interestingly enough as many challenges were thrown our way the Lord opened unique doors. One of the big questions on our mind's was, "What do we do now Lord?". This raises two issues discerning God's will and dealing with disappointment. Both of these issues have represented struggles for the follower of Messiah and led to the writing of many books. I thought I would weigh in with a basic model by which to examine the will of God in the basic decisions of daily life. Determining God's will in the details of life is a complicated process and probably best looked at as a grid as opposed to a simple question corresponding answer format. After doing this I like to apply this to some of what we have been through and hopefully it will edify you as you face issues pertaining to the will of God in 2018 for your life.  I will probably end with a little shameless advertisement for what God does have us doing given the way he is leading .

"Being in the way he led me" is a phrase that occurs as Eliezer's being led by God to what is to be Isaac's wife and it represents a principle of the way God leads his people. It is found in Genesis 24:27. One of the principles of God's guidance is that he opens doors and creates opportunities in directions that he wants us to go. We need to be willing and ready to respond to these opportunities. In fact when the Lord sets up such opportunities they often are opportunities that we could not have imagined ourselves. One might call this the principle of providence in God's leading. For me he opened up doors into addressing apologetics issues, that meant a lot to me as a teacher and apologist to the Jewish people, in the area of apologetics to Muslims. As I began to follow through on these open doors the Lord demonstrated to me that some of the same objections Jewish people have to the gospel are found also among Muslims. In fact is I heard a polemicist for Islam argue against faith in Jesus  borrowed arguments that I had heard when I was on the street in Brooklyn and inferred previously from Jewish people. God created new doors and new opportunities to develop wonderful apologetics material even introducing me to individuals who might never have been in my circle. However providence alone is not sufficient since it is often difficult to tell which things are directly divine providence.
So one question which must be asked.Is this biblical, does it correspond to the purposes that God has for his world and the development of Christ in you. It seems to be that our journeys with God are as much about the people we take along and what he makes us as they are about the individual tasks that we end up doing. Now before you think I have become somewhat brilliant this point is something that has began to really penetrate my heart as a complete. I am incredibly task oriented and rarely think about the importance of the process as it relates to my personal life. However, it seems that God is not simply interested in getting something done but actually creating something from the way he created us and even structured our lives.
So let us just take these together and summarize them if it is biblical and furthers the kingdom of God both in his world and in your life and God is providentially opening up doors in ways that you could not imagine your strong reason to consider the possibility of his leading. Is it possible to fool oneself, yes.
This brings me to another principles seek the counsel of those who have your best interest at heart. These are individuals that want to see you succeed regardless of their own personal or organizational success. These individuals are hard to find but when you find one or more these are the ones you should consult. To rule out individuals that might always as true friends you only need to ask yourself if you seen a consistent pattern of them acting on your behalf when he gained them nothing. Those who act on your behalf only to gain something they want are those with an agenda. Their advice may be useful in the secondary sense but they are not the ones to share your heart.

Does Providence seems to indicate that this is a good path to follow through unique open doors, this is biblical in terms of God's character and purposes, and you have the Council of true friends bearing witness than the third principle comes into play.

When you start moving in this direction does God seem to blessed. By that are other individuals being blessed and is God showing effective results from the enterprise. Beware the blessing may not always come in a tangible form for you but you will see it being effective in the lives of others in some way.

Well there you have some basic principles. And now it is time to see how they have applied in our crazy and woolly 2017. Now we do not know how everything's going to sugar off and are trusting God as we move forward in light of these principles. First, I was able to find the Council of true friends who encouraged me on the present path. I saw Scripture that indicated that the venture that we are on is in line with his word and workings in my life. And God has seemed to bless with effectiveness and opening unique doors the venture in which we are now involved.

No we do not have all the answers but at least we have some direction as the year moves forward. We have been able to broadcast to both radio and television and revamp the website. We have seen God open doors to be able to actually broadcast into the Mideast on radio and TV into the Mideast. I have had the opportunity to do conferences that I never thought I would be able to do. So we find ourselves walking along in this interesting yet frightening venture. May you find your own God sized adventures as you enter 2018

 

 

 

Incredible ministry around the Word and defending its truth

While some of the objections which Jewish people have to the gospel are the same as Muslims some are not. However, the objections related to the incarnation in Trinity are the same for both Jewish people who do not follow Jesus and Muslims. The Lord provided an incredible platform for me to speak on satellite television and a program which is both Bible teaching and in the field of apologetics. This particular satellite program is being throughout the Mideast and allowed me to fulfill the Second of the purposes of my ministry calling. That purpose is stated below.

Second, To demonstrate and defend:

  • The Trinity, the deity of Christ and other critical doctrines using the Old Testament as well as the New Testament for proofs

  • This can be accomplished by teaching Believer sound arguments for defending these doctrines through training them in apologetics and the use of hermeneutics that takes into account the Jewishness of the Scriptures and the Jewishness of Messiah arguing against contrary positions among believers.

 

Day two

Today was an awesome day of training at the evening session, I was able to present my message on contextualization demonstrating that contextualization itself is biblical from Acts chapter 17 verses 16 through 31. I learned a great deal also in terms of sharpening my ability in areas related to outreach in apologetics. I learned some of the same issues and approaches related to Jews are also extremely important in reaching Muslims. I was so excited to see that the type of outreach which I have often done making use of the Akediah, the Passover are perfectly useful in more than just Jewish outreach. This was terribly exciting to me. Beyond this I was terribly excited to learn that the issue of blood atonement which is so much an issue for Jewish people in terms of the gospel is also an issue for Muslims. How interesting to see connections to the gospel in these two areas converging.

Speaking at Muslim outreach

I thought it would be good to give you a brief look at one of the outlines of the power points that I will be doing at the upcoming Muslim outreach. It must be noted that this particular presentation is set up to deal with Islam. However, the points about metanarrative, and fulfilled prophecy have broader applications then just to a Muslim audience. Showing the connections between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament can act as a powerful apologetic in showing the Jewishness of the New Testament.

The Evidence for the Scriptures Can we trust the Bible

The Testimony of Jesus

Jesus verifies the Tanakh(Old Testament)

Jesus verifies the O.T

Jesus knew of the Translations of O.T namely LXX

Jesus is considered a prophet by Islam, and therefore would know is the text was preserved, even in its translations

Jesus verifieds The O.T by various statement

 major Translation

LXX is completed in 250 B.Csome 250 years before Jesus’ birth

Jesus lived in Galilee of the Gentiles

He would have been aware of the LXX

Jesus considered a prophet by Islam

Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. Surah 57:27

Muhammad M. Pickthall, ed., The Quran (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.).

Therefore he would have known if there were any textural corruptions to the Scripture which made them less than the perfect word of God

Jesus verifies the OT

““Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17–18, NKJV)

“that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:35, NKJV)

The division of the Scripture in Jesus The Law, Prophets, and The Writings.

Abel (Genesis The Law)

Zechariah   (The last book of the Writings 2 Chronicles 24:20-21)

Cross verification

Peter verifies Paul’s writings as Scriptures

“and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15–16, NKJV)

 

Fulfilled Prophecy

Cross verification between the Testaments

Birth of Messiah

Predicted

Of a Virgin  Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV)

 

Fulfilled

Of a Virgin

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:” (Matthew 1:20–22, NKJV)

 

Death of Messiah

Predicted

Crucifixion

“For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:16–18, NKJV)

 

 

Fulfilled

Crucifixion

“Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”” (Matthew 27:35, NKJV)

 

 

 

The Big Story

The Metanarrative

Transformed Lives