This week was the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem Day, the day people remember the restitution of Jerusalem to its rightful owners. I know this is a touchy subject as even to this day some people, even within our present administration, consider Jerusalem occupied territory. I certainly respect their views, but being a generous man, I also welcome everyone to my own opinion.
Whether one believes in God, the Bible, or in the rightful ownership of Jerusalem by the Israelis or not, it is undeniable that this event from the 6-day War in 1967 was one of the cataclysmic events of the 20th century. It is one of those events which changed the geographical, political, and religious landscape of the world. Never in the history of the world has an ethnic group returned to its own land, revived its own language, and re-established its own capital after 2,000 years of exile. This has been the major eschatological event of the age and many who believed that the Jewish nation was a thing of the past had to go back to the drawing board of Biblical understanding.
CBN produced a docu-movie on the 6-Day War called, ‘In our Hands, the Battle for Jerusalem’. There were showings only on one day this week, the day before Jerusalem Day. The movie captured the events which led the Israeli soldiers to the Temple Mount and eventually to the Western Wall. Many of the people who participated in that battle are still alive today and gave testimony.
In that war, as usual, Israel was defending itself against an attack by three surrounding major nations who had sworn to throw them back into the sea. No food could come to Jerusalem. The people were starving. The situation was hopeless so the army came to help. The capture of the Temple Mount was an afterthought. It was not in the original plans. It is as they arrived that it dawned on them of where they were. It is almost like they responded to a long forgotten homing-beacon that called them back to where they belonged. Pondering the situation during dinner with a local family, an old lady who had been living in Jerusalem realises what was happening. She gets up and gives an old Israeli flag to one of the officers charging him to hang it on the Temple Mount as they get there. From then on history and destiny took over. The Temple Mount,called in Hebrew ‘Har HaBayit’, or ‘The Mountain of the House of the Lord’, was captured alongside with the Wall. Yielding to political pressure, Israel had to renege authority over the Temple Mount but still kept the Wailing Wall. The full return is for another day. Presently, anyone is allowed to pray on the temple Mount, except Jews.
The soldier who led the way to the Western Wall gave testimony. He said that everybody says how great it was to recapture the Temple Mount and Wall but he confessed that at that moment he was just following orders. He was told to fight that battle and to win it so as a good soldier he did. This shows that history and destiny are not static; a great force moves them with a purpose. It also shows that great things get done when we just follow orders and just faithfully do what we are supposed to do, just do our job.
Somebody asked me a question during class the other day. He mentioned some of his friends who just can’t seem to catch a break in life. One has a son who got into drugs, and the other a 4-year-old daughter with Leukemia. He can understand the societal problems with today’s youth, but the 4-year-old girl …? The dilemma is that these are people who try to live decent lives and raise their children responsibly. My friend’s logic is that because they live their lives in the ways of God, they should become the recipients of His love in the form of at least basic protection and care.
The truth is that while the Bible contains many promises directed towards those who serve God, reality on the ground seems to speak to the contrary and be closer to King Solomon’s honest observation, There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. (Ecc 8:14 ESV)
I returned the classic question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” to my friend. I told him that the question itself was based on the erroneous assumptions that those who follow God are entitled to a basic life insurance against the evils of this world. We try to hold God to something He never promised us and then hate Him for not fulfilling it. The problem is with the question, not with God. While many appropriate the promises in the Bible to themselves for their own situations in their own time many, if not most of them were given to certain people, for a certain situations, at certain times. There are also some general promises that do not pertain to our time but to a future messianic reality.
I do not like to think of God as a promoter, a businessman, or a politician who tries to engage members to join His club, buy his product, or join his party by piling on the incentives. I tend to think of Him as a visionary who tells his people, “Look; together we can usher in an awesome world of abundance, peace, and beauty--something beyond your imagination, but it's going to cost you everything and more to bring it in. There are no promises, no benefits, only sacrifices, but it will be worth it all! . Are you in?” Jesus reaffirmed to his disciples before his death and resurrection, “In the world you will have tribulation." (Joh 16:33)
As a reminder of what God has or has not promised, my wife and I often sing a song on the words of this famous poem.
WHAT GOD HATH PROMISED
God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love
Author: Annie Johnson Flint
There was an article last night the local news about Chris Register. Chris, a cyclist, who has been touring the States on his bike calls himself a ‘recovering lawyer.’ His primary goal is to rediscover himself, his country, and who we are as Americans. He says that he never spends a day without having entered a deep conversation with someone and that has changed his perspective about life and about people in general. He said, “Once you know someone as a human being first, when you find out their political views are different, it’s OK!”
My wife and I were listening when she said, ‘This is a simple but heavy statement!’, and it is. Both the religious and the political conversation seem hostile these days. Could it be that we don’t know each other as ‘human beings’ first?
Every week I have a conversation with a Pastor in a nearby town. He is a Quaker pastoring a Baptist Church. He and I could be considered on opposite spectrums as far as theology is concerned, but here we are every week having deep conversations on some of the most taboo subjects in the religious world. It’s not easy for people on opposite sides of an issue to be able to meet in the middle and talk about it. The danger comes as soon as we polarize.
I heard it said one time that the true test of objectivity and unbiasedness was the ability to positively and effectively argue an opponent’s side. It seems that we can only do that when we have learned to know and respect each other as people first, because before we are pegged or pigeon-holed into any political or religious entity, we all are independant people looking for the same things; people looking for truth, people looking for happiness, people looking for peace.
We did a little exercise at the police and fire chaplain academy. We were asked to write the 5 following words, 'spouse’, ‘ministry’, ‘children’, ‘God’, and ‘career’, and put them in order of priority. The order may differ with each person but in a room full of chaplains, many of whom were also clergy, the answer for number 1 was obvious: ‘God.’ I had to think about that answer though.
God is invisible, intangible, and inaudible, and as a result, many feel free to interpret the commands God gives for the ordering of our lives in the way they want to. This creates for us a god in our own image; a God who is a far cry from that respect demanding Divine Authority who from His own vantage point teaches us what is right, demands that we shun what is wrong, and holds us accountable for our actions. It is very easy to loudly proclaim such a self-made God as having ultimate priority in our lives. Doing so, we become the master, the foreman, and the servant of our lives.
Whether you are a single person, married, divorced, working, retired, handicapped, poor, rich, what would you put as first in your life? Each of us can only answer for themselves but I will share my thoughts and my reasoning with you.
As a result of placing God in preferential list, I have seen people excusing themselves from their domestic responsibilities because of their spiritual responsibilities. I personally consider that God is not an outside element of our lives separate from our everyday reality. I do not consider that His service comes in conflict with our domestic responsibilities. God is the element of our lives and attention to His service should not be solely understood within the realm of spiritual activities. Rather, service for God should primarily be acted through our faithfulness to our daily domestic activities, such as caring for our families. As such, I put my wife in first place. If she is well cared-for and happy, the children are also well-taken care of and happy, which in turn gives me more time for ministry. Whereas my ministry/career is important to me, it does not trump my first responsibility to my family which is my God service. So in my book, God comes first, but not in preferential order. I tend to His service through the care of all the others, including that of my community.
WHAT IS THE ORDER OF YOUR LIFE?
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