Sunday, April 3, 2011

NT Israel...figurative or literal?

in this post i am doing something a little different...i am requesting responses with opinions. i realize that due to my long periods of blogging inactivity, it is highly likely that no one follows my blog anymore. BUT in the off chance that i do still have readers, i'm interested in what you think!

last weekend i went with my bff to a service with a group that i think would identify themselves as christian zionists. these are people who are gentile christians and are very focused on the land, nation, and people of israel. they want very badly for jewish people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the hebrew scriptures (which is awesome), but they also place enormous significance on the jewish race as God's chosen people (both in the old testament and today). they also place a great deal of emphasis on the geographic location of israel, and they believe that jewish people returning to jerusalem are vital for the second coming of Jesus. they also believe that the land of israel (jerusalem specifically) is the destiny of all believers in Christ. (please note - this is my simplistic interpretation of the beliefs of the specific group of people i observed and not necessarily a good definition of christian zionism as a whole).

i have been thinking about this a lot over the past week. it is clear that in the OT God called the jewish people out, set them apart, and established Himself as their God and them as His people. but my question is this - in light of Jesus' death and resurrection, and His clearly calling people of ALL nations, races, and peoples unto Himself, what status does the jewish race have now? OF COURSE God loves them and wants them to repent and to accept Jesus - but does God hold the jews in a place "more near and dear to His heart"? i was reading tonight in 1 peter, which is a book believed to have been written largely to gentile christians. peter writes to "those who are elect exiles of the dispersion." my study notes (in the esv study Bible) state: "Believers are not only exiles, but God's 'elect exiles.' They are his chosen people, just as Israel is designated as God's chosen people in the OT..Since the recipients of his letter were primarily Gentiles, Peter explicitly teaches that the church of Jesus Christ is the new Israel - God's new chosen people." (however, the notes also point out another view, that "these verses show that the church is like Israel but that the ultimate fulfillment of these OT prophecies pertains mainly to the future ethnic Israel rather than to the church...").

so what do you think? i definitely lean toward the view that God used the jewish race in the OT as a vessel to bring about redemption for people of all nations, but i am definitely unsure as to what i believe about the current call/role of israel today and what God has in store for jewish people in the future. are they still "chosen" moreso than gentiles, or does God's choosing "post-Jesus" have nothing to do with race and everything to do with the heart? and as a gentile believer, what should i do regarding jewish people who sadly have missed the Messiah they've been waiting and hoping for?

Monday, March 21, 2011

epiphany vs simplicity

i finally finished reading through the book of john. i've really enjoyed the journey. i think one thing i've enjoyed is the simplicity of the Gospel...and just reading the narrative stories of Jesus. when i am choosing a book to study, i often go for the more deeply "theological" books (hence romans being my favorite book of the Bible). but it has been nice to just relax with the greatest Book ever written and to read the stories of my Savior. of course there is theology in john, but i think it's been good for me to dwell on the simplicity and beauty of the book instead of craving for a "theological epiphany" at every turn. sometimes the example of the life of Christ is the simple epiphany i need...thank you Jesus for revealing theological intricacies AND life-altering simplicity in Your Living Word.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Holy Spirit advantage

i was reading in john chapter 16 last night, and i just want to share my musings about verse 7. in this verse Jesus states that it is good for Him to leave, because then the Holy Spirit (or "Helper") can come. Jesus says the "Helper" is an advantage. i was thinking about what Jesus meant here - how could the Holy Spirit be more of an advantage than having Jesus? i think the answer is simple (or at least it seems simple to me). i believe i know on an intellectual level what a privilege the Holy Spirit is...i mean, i can't imagine what it would have been like "pre-Jesus" to only experience God as a pillar of smoke or fire, a burning bush, an occasional audible voice, an occasional vision, or a second-hand prophet's message (all old testament references). or even in the new testament to have the physical presence of Jesus, but to only be able to see him occasionally when he passed through town, and even then likely only at the back of a packed-out crowd. sometimes i think about how awesome and life-changing it would be to actually, physically meet Jesus...but my heart forgets that i already have the "advantage" of having the Holy Spirit LIVING in me. Jesus is not greater than the Spirit. perhaps it's the connotation of "spirit" that makes me feel like meeting Jesus would be more personal, but i am SO wrong to think this way. perhaps i become so used to having the prompting of the Spirit, that i think of His voice as common and sometimes even learn to tune Him out. but i don't want to begin to think about a life devoid of the Holy Spirit living in me. how awesome is it that Jesus ended his bodily life on earth - a life in which he subjected himself to space-time restraints and could only be in one place at a time - and sent the Holy Spirit who can live and breathe and guide EVERY CHRISTIAN personally, throughout the world, at one time? what an advantage the Holy Spirit truly is! Lord, forgive me for all of the times I overlook the Spirit and downplay the amazing advantage you have given to Your children following Jesus' resurrection. PRAISE BE TO THE FATHER, AND THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT...THREE IN ONE!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

back explosion

so it's been over a year since i last blogged...unacceptable, i know. i suppose at some point in the wedding planning process and then the months following the wedding, blogging just fell by the wayside. since i have never been an extremely faithful blogger i cannot promise that this time around will be much different, but i have been feeling an itch to write, so here goes.

as many people are now aware, back in december i ruptured a disc in my back. i had been experiencing back pain for over a month, and i was diagnosed with a bulging disc, but on december 13 as i was getting out of bed the disc actually "exploded" (a.k.a. ruptured). i fell back into bed unable to move at all without intense pain. i called my best friend who has a key to the house, and she came and eventually convinced me that we should call an ambulance. so the ambulance came and picked me up. what i thought might be several hours in the e.r. turned into nearly a week in the hospital. there were several times throughout my stay where i was told "if you can get up, you can leave." each time i tried to muster all of my will power and pain tolerance, but i could not get up. (really, who was i kidding - i couldn't even make it to the bathroom without benjamin halfway carrying me there...i'm not sure how i thought i was gonna get up and walk out).

after several days of trying numerous drugs and other things, the doctor on the floor suggested that it was time to consider surgery. at that point, i was just thinking "do whatever you want to me, just make the pain stop." because i continued to be in so much pain, and because i was so ready for the doctors to try anything they thought would help, i didn't really consider the seriousness of the surgery at the time. we were referred by friend to a very gifted neurosurgeon, and when he said he had done this specific surgery numerous times, i wasn't really worried at all. it wasn't until a week or so after the surgery that it really hit me how bad off i was, how intricate the surgery was, and what a miracle it is that i made it through back surgery and was healed.

it really hit me when i was reading in john 5 about the paralytic man beside the pool at bethesda. a man was there who had been an invalid for 38 years. he was hoping to be healed by the pool's waters, but had no one to help him into the pool when the waters were stirred. he couldn't even move a few inches to get into the pool. i realized that i could easily have been that man. had it been another time and had i lived in another place, i could have been lying, waiting, hurting for years and years. i could not even put any weight on my left side, and i'm sure many of the limited movements i did have were because i was on so many pain killers the most intense pains were at least somewhat diminished. Jesus miraculously healed the man at bethesda. but was the outcome of my surgery any less miraculous? from what i can understand, the neurosurgeon cut about a one-inch incision in my lower back. he cut some small pieces out of the bone in my spine in order to be able to get to the ruptured disc. he cleaned out all of ruptured disc material, which was what was pushing into my nerve column and causing the intense pain and numbness in my back, leg, and foot. after cleaning out the ruptured material he somehow closed up the disc, and then closed the incision in my back. several hours after the surgery i was walking around the hospital floor, able to put weight on my left leg without much pain. i mean, is this not a miracle? the fact that God has given people the ability to understand the nerves in my back and to make an invalid walk in a few hours is baffling. were it not for the miracle of modern medicine and a gifted surgeon, i might be figuratively hanging out by the pool at bethesda right now, hoping and praying and begging for relief from my pain and my virtual paralysis.

sometimes it is so easy to miss the miraculous in a day and age and culture where miracles have become commonplace. just because my surgery was "routine" in the world of spinal neurosurgery does not mean that a miracle does not occur every time a procedure like mine is successful. God has given some the gift of healing - and whether or not my neurosurgeon recognized it, God used him to perform a miracle in my life on december 17. in a way i feel like the man at bethesda, or the man who was lowered through the roof to Jesus...all i know is that i couldn't walk, and then a miracle happened in an operating room, and now i can walk again.

praise GOD from whom ALL blessings [and miracles] flow!

This blog is a testimony to the work that God is perpetually acting in my life. I am learning that when I think I've given enough of myself, I've barely begun. My prayer is that as God continues to grab hold of my life, not only will He become greater and I become less, but He will become ultimately supreme and I will vanish. This Holy Disappearance will be a lifelong journey in which, by the grace of God, I will become so wrapped up in Him that all of me will disappear and all of Him will SHINE