Random Blog Clay Feet: 2007
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Monday, December 31, 2007

Our Jewish Roots - Who will be Saved?

...for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)

I have noticed over time that whenever it becomes clear that something I am reading has a spin put on it by religious people that is incorrect, then I am at a place, an opportunity to listen to what God wants to reveal as to what it really does mean. For many years I was trained in a culture that often remained stuck in a defensive posture about many texts but failed to move on to explore the deeper truth lying beneath the surface. That is what fear-bonded thinking usually does; it remains fixated on proving someone else wrong but is not nearly as interested in seeing what real truth could be applied to our own heart.

That is one reason God is so repeatedly insistent all throughout the Bible that we should not live in fear. Fear blinds our minds to so many things and keeps us stymied from maturing very much. Fear is antagonistic to joy and freedom and experimenting and exploration. Fear is enslaving and keeps one under tight restrictions and ever-increasing rules to prevent something wrong from entering in. Fear inhibits thriving. Fear is at the heart of all false religion and is the power of the false gospels. Fear is the primary motivation of legalism and turns our attention to externals and away from the true condition of our heart. Increasing fear moves us from the front part of our brain where our logic, reason and creativity originate (utilizing both halves of the brain) to the mid or back part of the brain where our baser emotions lacking moral restrictions churn and tend to overwhelm us.

Well, I didn't intend to get off on that topic. What I want to explore is the idea of looking deeper into thoughts in Scripture that on the surface do not seem to fit with other more clear revelations about God. The opening text here from Romans strikes me as one of those opportunities. Most of my life this text has been only addressed from a defensive position with explanations about why it is not teaching that all Jews will end up being saved somehow as some Christians often try to claim. From my own study I agree with that conclusion, not because I was taught to believe it but because from the context it is becoming clear to me independent of external teachings. All Jews is not synonymous with all Israel.

But I want to move beyond just defending a position in resistance to what others may be propounding and explore what this passage may be really saying. I want to have a spirit of anticipation free of fear so that I can think outside of any box put around this by someone else and see what the text has to reveal on its own with the guidance of the original Author. That is the nature of inductive study which I am finding to be so rewarding and nourishing.

I can see that it is clear in the passage context that Paul is referring to biological Jews in this verse; the previous verse makes it reasonably clear that the group he refers to are enemies when it comes to the gospel. Most of the Jews in Paul's day and ever since then have generally been enemies of the gospel. Unfortunately, after Paul's time the gospel has become so distorted and misunderstood by those promoting it that the Jews often have good reason for being repulsed by its presentation. I have heard sad stories of professed Christians working to convert Jews to “Christianity” insisting that Jews profane key elements of their beliefs like eating pork and rejecting the true Sabbath as proof that they are now “true Christians”.

With false ideas of the gospel like that circulating around among Jews it is no wonder that they remain intensely hostile toward all Christians. Most versions of the “gospel” being espoused today have little resemblance to the real “good news” about God that is the real essence of the true gospel. For the truth about God does not negate the truth that God entrusted to the Jewish people throughout all of history. Real Christianity is not a separate and new religion from Judaism, and I think that is made clear here in Romans. True Christianity is an extension, an outgrowth, a metamorphosis of the true religion founded upon the fundamental truths established for centuries in the Jewish faith.

While it is true that some of the symbols and ceremonies came to fulfillment and therefore concluded at the death of Jesus, much of what God entrusted to the Jewish nation is still valid and unchanging. Christianity in general has made a tragic mistake in assuming that anything Jewish must be wrong and that God started all over again with the early Christian believers. That is not the view taught by the apostles and is not supported in the Bible. Their understanding and teachings assumed that the Christian church was simply the true continuation of the body of believers originating and founded on all those from the Jews were willing to accept the unveiling of expanded truth beyond their present perceptions.

Paul always approached the Jews first whenever he traveled to new places with the gospel. He did not do this to draw away from Judaism as many as he could but he did it because he understood that Judaism was still the group of people who had the gifts and calling of God and were the foundation for the truth of the gospel. A true understanding of real Israel entails seeing an unbroken line of truth throughout all of history from Adam to the end of time. Israel had been entrusted with most of the prophecies about Jesus as well as prophecies about events all the way to the end of the millenium and the wrap up of the whole Great War going on in the universe.

While it is clear from Paul that God did not reject His people, it is also true that as a nation they rejected Him and forced a divorce to take place in their relationship with Him. But even that did not neutralize the reality of the truths that Judaism still contains. They may as a people (nation) be enemies of the gospel because of lies about God entrenched in their hearts, but that does not change the love and passion of God for His chosen people. We are just beginning to realize that the deep mindset and traditions and culture found in Judaism is much closer to a true understanding of reality than any other culture on earth. And just because it is poisoned with prejudice and hardness of heart does not change that fact.

What I noticed in this verse this morning was the fact that what Paul says is irrevocable is not the salvation of all Jews but the gifts and the calling that they had. I think it is rather clear throughout history how gifted the Jews are as a people. They are so gifted that they have often become the object of intense jealousy and hatred by those who accuse them of being even diabolical. Antisemitism is all too accepted among many who claim to be Christians. But I believe that it is driven by a Satanic jealousy of the natural gifts that exists in the gene-pool of the Jewish race.

Of course these are not the only gifts that Paul was referring to here. The Jews were blessed above all nations on the earth as a means of revealing the kind of God who is trying to attract the attention of all people on the earth. God made it very clear in the Old Testament that His blessings on this nation were not due to anything they deserved or earned but wholly to the goodness of God. (see Deuteronomy 8 and 9) It is absurd to think that God suddenly decided to throw out all the truth revealed through His dealings with His chosen people to start over again with a new group under a “new Christian dispensation”. It seems even more bizarre to me how many Christians attempt to force Old Testament prophecies into strange contortions to prove that at the end of time God will have yet another “dispensation” in which the literal nation of Israel will again be reinstated so that God can fulfill through them all the conditional prophecies that they failed to inherit due to their unbelief and rejection of Him and His Son. As a nation they invoked a divorce from their unique relationship with God. But God's promises will still be fulfilled through a people identified as Israel but this time made up of all those from every nation who unite in faith as the bride of Christ.

Insisting on another round with a literal, political nation of Israel is a classic case of coming up with ideas and then forcing everything in the Word to fit and support those ideas. That is always a very dangerous way to read the Word of God and always leads to disaster in the end. We must allow the Word to speak for itself and not force our preconceived ideas to shape and distort the truths that are laid out in it. It is always very helpful to keep in mind the bigger picture of the universal War going on for the context from which to view things here on earth. Truth is not established by stringing convincing chains of texts together to prove a theory. Truth is only discovered by first having an honest, open heart and a humble, teachable spirit willing to listen to the Spirit of Truth and then immersing itself in the Word to seek the face and truth about God.

I believe that it is highly possible that in the last massive shake-up about to take place on this planet that many Jews will indeed accept the truth about Jesus when presented with more honest revelations about God that most Christians will not even accept. Whether every last one of them will do so or not I think is beyond what we can yet reasonably know. But this movement will actually create more jealousy than joy among most so-called Christians because they will insist that these believers in the real truth about salvation are being misled by a small group of non-mainstream Christians that are scorned by most of the world. But I still do not see in this passage justification for the idea that the Jews “as a nation” will be once again used by God as they were in Old Testament times. Paul makes it explicitly clear earlier in Romans that true Israel is composed of all those who enter into a faith intimacy with Jesus and are connected to the body of Christ, which body is really an extension that expanded from the true parts of Judaism that never changed.

There is a growing movement today among many Christians to research and take a closer look at our roots in Judaism. I believe that much of this is God-inspired though I also believe that it has false elements that have a wrong emphasis. But God is skillful in using all things and circumstances to work together for the good of those who love and serve Him and He will do the same with this. I believe this movement will awaken the attention of many people to the rejected truths in Judaism that many Christians have ignored for centuries. I am already seeing this happen in a number of people I have talked with recently and it is very exciting.

God is drawing the hearts of honest people to Himself through every means possible. But sooner or later they will all come together under the same convictions of the truthfulness of God's laws and a correct picture of the character of God. They will for the first time be overwhelmed with amazement at the perfect unity between the law and the gospel as they see the unbroken line of truth extending down to us through the “tree trunk” of authentic Judaism. As the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit begins to fill all the grafted limbs and the alluring fruit naturally begins to mature on the branches, we will be very close to the time when Jesus will return to claim all those who are connected to Him in their hearts.

(next in series)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Diverted Conviction

I noticed something about a lying spirit inside of my head this morning that has pestered me for a long time. It shows up particularly when I am learning something very important that has the potential for deep, life-changing concepts and principles that need to be applied to the heart and mind. Very often when the importance of these things is sinking in my mind, immediately and strongly I begin to think about another person (usually one in particular who is often a source of annoyance to me) who really, really needs to hear and learn this thing. It is so obvious to me how it applies to their life, even much more clearly than to my situation and I begin to think about how much I wish I could get them to be open enough to listen to it. If they would just listen enough to realize how much this could help them they would have wonderful breakthroughs in their growth and relationship problems.

Of course, when put this way it sounds all too suspicious. My rational mind kicks in along with conviction from the Holy Spirit and I remember that every time I experience this line of reasoning that, based on the principle of reflection, most likely what I am seeing in that other person must somehow be resonating with something very similar inside my own heart, even if I cannot see it presently. In the popular phrase used in AA, “If you spot it, you got it”.

“But, but...” my mind insists. “That person obviously has this problem much deeper than I do and if only they could grasp this lesson their life would be so much better!” And of course, secretly I am hoping that they could learn it quite soon so that they would not irritate me so much with their abrasive treatment of our relationship. Yes, the unending ability of my mind to rationalize and avoid and excuse and justify...

What came to my mind when I again experienced this annoying habit of mine while reading My Utmost this morning and wanting yet again to apply it to this person was the realization that this kind of thinking is really a secret desire of my flesh to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of that other person. In actuality I think God is working too slow in their life for my liking and I think I can see better what they need to learn and want to apply it as soon as I can. That is pretty heady arrogance when exposed in those words, but really that is the nature of that lying spirit still lurking in my flesh wearing pious excuses to cloak its real identity. It is one of the roots of the terrible curse of criticism that has blighted my relationships for most of my life and has been passed on generationally both behind and ahead of me. It is the main curse that I need to be delivered from that infects nearly everything I think, say and do in some way or another.

God is certainly at work to heal me of this, and for that I am grateful, even though many times it is also painful. The reason that God allows me to see problems in others that could benefit from the new insights I am gaining is the same reason I look in a mirror to see what needs fixing on my own face. It never works to apply the needed applications to the mirror in an effort to fix the problems I see. And in the same way, it will never work for me to think that something I see in the Word or receive from the Spirit must be applied to someone else who obviously needs what I am hearing. God has not appointed me as His channel of conviction to that person; that job has been exclusively reserved for the Holy Spirit who is far more loving and patient than I and who has perfect timing and gentleness in His persuasiveness. He is the only effective way that will accomplish God's desire to draw them to His heart.

In my own life, when I allow my mind to run down the path of wanting to apply a conviction to another person it is very much like chasing down a false alley in a maze that always leads to a dead end. The sad part about that is that when I carry a hot coal from the presence of God down a dead-end alley and leave it there I fail to receive the benefit for myself that it was intended to bring to my own heart. Unfortunately there are probably a lot of cold ashes at dead-end corners in my brain from too many such forays. But I am also learning to be alert to this symptom and reign in my urges to apply conviction to someone else and instead realize that I must search my own heart for where this conviction was designed to fit.

If God cared enough about me to give me this conviction and even allowed me to see the reflection of it in another person's life, then the intensity of resonance that it produces in my feelings betrays the existence of something very similar hiding somewhere in my own soul. If I am willing to be honest and have the integrity to ask God to reveal the fault in my own mind where this conviction needs to do a work, He is faithful to help me see where I have a blind spot and how to accept the help He is offering me. For conviction from God is never designed to lay a guilt trip on me and leave me feeling hopeless. That is Satan's counterfeit of conviction. God only presses conviction on me when He also has abundant grace ready to provide healing and new life whenever I am willing to allow Him to perform the painful surgery needed to remove a pocket of death hiding in my heart.

I am also realizing that if I am willing to submit to the process of salvation (healing) that God wants to accomplish in this particular area in my own life that at some point He may use the evidences of my healing to attract that other person to want the same thing for their life. But that work has to be completely orchestrated and timed by the Holy Spirit and is not my responsibility. I have more than enough garbage and baggage to deal with in my own heart and do not need to waste God's valuable time trying to apply medicine intended for me to someone else's problems. Whenever I do that it always turns out to be toxic instead of healing. He is more than capable of bringing them into conviction and giving them their needed medicine and healing at the right time and does not need me meddling and messing up His skillful ongoing work in their heart.

This all sounds good on the external level, but applying it at the emotional heart level is a whole different story. But it is a start to confess openly what I see going on internally and maybe it also creates a certain amount of accountability (maybe more than I want).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Balancing the Brain

Sometimes I may give the impression that I think the left brain is nearly useless except for getting in the way of true spirituality. While it is true that it is in the way much of the time it is also true that it has a very important part to play in living a life in close connection with God.

As I observe, learn and try to put into practice the continually new things I am learning in this area, I try to understand and evaluate what is going on inside of my own head. I try to see what improves my relationships, not only with God but with others and what is a detriment to those relationships. That very process of analysis is a function of my left brain trying to understand my right brain better or learn what I should try to avoid.

As I ponder whether this is helpful in my experience or a hindrance I am coming to believe that my left brain needs updating just as much as my right brain needs healing so that they can both work together in perfect harmony and in support of each other. I believe this is God's goal in the plan of salvation, to restore us to a healthy state of balance and cooperation, not only within our own heads but by extension within the body of fellowship with others and with our Creator.

I think that one of the important roles of the left brain is to provide permissions so that other things are allowed to take place in the mind. When the left brain attempts to dominate and control everything that goes on in our life and does not allow the heart to be free to function as it is supposed to, then the heart and mind are in continual conflict and tension and we experience pain, turmoil and increasing levels of stress. The same can be true if the emotions are allowed to run rampant without any restrictions and there is no respect for the intellectual structures and mental understandings of the left brain. It is often seen as a severe swinging from one extreme to the other like a pendulum between very strict control of the life by rigid rules and fanatical conservatism followed by periods of wild abandon to anything that makes one feel good no matter what the consequences. I see this played out in more or less intensity in the lives of many people and realize that it is a problem of immaturity and failure of the left and right brain to come into mutual respect and cooperation under the guidance of the Spirit of God.

Some conclude from these observations that the answer is to suppress the heart and emotions altogether so that they will not mar the life and reputation. But that is one of Satan's logical-sounding lies that is easily snapped up by people who are afraid of suffering more pain and just want to hide and bury the pain they already carry. They harden their heart with an ever-thickening wall around it and end up trusting their wall to protect them instead of trusting Christ to heal them. Their heart becomes harder and harder in what they believe is firmness of resolution and determination to stand for right though the heavens fall. But hardness of heart is Satan's counterfeit for living under the shadow of the Almighty and resting in His love and learning to live from the heart of flesh that God wants to give us. (Eze. 36:26, 27)

What I am starting to realize in regards to the proper function of my left brain is that I need to continually update the beliefs held in that part of my mind as I observe and respect the things that both my own heart is trying to tell me and that I am learning from others and from God about the proper role of the heart in my life. But while the left brain needs constant updating and revision, it also has to resist using that information to seize the control of my life that properly needs to originate in the heart. Most of the problems in my relationships with others is caused by trying to figure out logically what to do without allowing a healed heart guided by the spirit to do what it can do so much better naturally.

Living from the head is very exhausting work and leaves me feeling very empty in the end. It also leaves my heart feeling very dissatisfied with the results but the left brain usually just ends up rationalizing and justifying itself as to why it should always remain in control. But this only betrays the addiction to power and control that is a legacy of sin in my life. It is the sinful flesh inside of me that is always offering a very plausible left-brain solution to every situation to fix every problem. But those solutions always end up being wrong, even if only slightly so. And that makes the deception all the more powerful, because then my left brain and flesh believe that with just a little more practice I can finally get the right answer in place and be able to figure out the right formulas to live successfully. This is the quicksand of the flesh that entraps us. We need to look to a power outside and beyond ourselves that will grasp us by the heart to lift us out of this desperate condition before we are consumed by the pride and independence the permeates every cell of our brains.

The problem that I am seeing is that if the left brain does not believe that the right brain, the heart, can be trusted in any given situation, it will usually wrest the controls away from it and try to live life from an independent, intellectual approach without regard to the suggestions or needs of the heart. For the heart to really function and thrive as God intended for it to do, the left brain has to relinquish its stranglehold on the control of the life and give conscious permission for the heart to experiment, make mistakes and begin to grow and mature. This is very frightening for most of us and as a result we often label it as heresy or any number of other labels designed to keep all control in the left brain.

But we are designed to live a balanced life where the left brain respects and submits to the proper role of the right brain by giving permission and freedom for it to fulfill its place while the right brain respects and utilizes the knowledge and resources of the left brain and respects its warnings when our emotions overwhelm our maturity level and capacity to remember who we really are.

As our heart receives more and more healing it can begin to mature and strengthen and flourish as the part of us where we can experience and enjoy the dynamic, enriching presence of God and the fellowship with others that we were designed to enjoy. And as our mind continually submits to new revelations of truth both from outside and from realities accepted from our own spirit, it will better work in tandem with the heart very much like an exciting, dynamic couple in a closely bonded love relationship.

James says that a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways. When our heart and left brain are constantly fighting for control of our life the results are always instability and inner pain. There is often a great deal of guilt felt in the life whether it is obvious or is repressed to subconsciousness. For guilt is simply a description of the tension naturally felt when the left and right brain are not in agreement and respectful cooperation with each other.

I am beginning to believe that the repeated injunctions given to us both in Ephesians and in 1 Peter to submit to each other in love is a direct parallel or maybe even a synonym for this idea of giving permission. Submission involves trusting and respecting another's abilities and intentions and relinquishing control in some way and giving them access to vulnerable areas of our heart. This is a crucial lesson that has to be learned at all levels of our existence, from the two halves of our brain learning to cooperate through our marriage relationships to our dealings with others in the body of Christ as well as our relationship with God.

God wants to heal us from all our dysfunction and bring us back into the perfect balance of the children of God. This involves the radical updating of our left-brain opinions and beliefs as well as the healing of our right-brain based lies embedded in many of our painful memories that cause us to have so many triggers for negative emotional reactions. God's work of salvation is the process of bringing both sides of our brain into submission and a state of humility so that they can begin to thrive and grow together into the proper functions for which they were originally designed to perform. And as we learn to experience more unity within our own minds we will likely begin to see a corresponding increase of unity in other relationships as well.

I am starting to experience hints of this in my own experience as I am going through various stages of healing and seeing some of my relationships improve correspondingly. It is encouraging though I wish it could speed up many times. But God is interested in doing a thorough work in me, not just a whitewash job, and so He takes all the time and trials necessary to finish the work He started in me to bring it to full maturity and completion. I'm glad He is the one in charge and I trust Him to keep me in His hands during the whole process.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Continue in His kindness or continue in unbelief. We will either do one or the other. (Romans 11:22, 23)

This is parallel to Romans 2:1-11 where there is a fuller expansion of the same thought. There I find a more detailed description of both of these options and the results of each. It is also more clear there that it is us who passes judgment on ourselves and God simply affirms our decision impartially.

This also clarifies what it is that belief is invested in – the kindness, tolerance and patience of God that leads us to repentance, which is simply changing our minds about God and what He is like. Unbelief, which is refusing to believe that God treats us this way, causes stubbornness and a hard, unrepentant heart which in turn stores up wrath inside of it that will be exposed fully in the day when God's passionate love reveals our wrath. In that day God will be found to be completely innocent and righteous, not because He forces everyone to accept His version of truth but because all the lies will be exposed for what they are by the revelation of God's kindness, tolerance and patience. Every being in the universe in complete freedom and exposed to all the evidence will realize that everything God has said and done has been fair, truthful and always done with kindness, tolerance and patience. Our punishment will not be carried out by a God who finally loses His patience and tortures us for rejecting Him, it will be the natural result of the sin inside of us still resisting His love and we become totally inflamed and consumed by our resistance

If we continue in God's kindness we will remain connected to God's tree of Life for us. The results will be glory and honor and peace. If we continue in unbelief that God is kind and tolerant and patient we become increasingly judgmental, selfish, self-ambitious, disobedient except to unrighteousness and filled with wrath and indignation. And on top of that we project our own feelings and emotions onto God insisting that it is He who is full of wrath and indignation. In reality we create in our minds the God that in the end consumes us. Having this mindset cuts us off from the trunk which is the only source of real life for us.

There is no partiality with God. We are free to choose to discontinue our unbelief in the goodness of God and have faith in His kindness so that we can be led to repentance. It says here that if we do not continue in unbelief that God is able to graft us in again. It is not God's fault or choice that determines our destiny and fate but it is our determined choice, what we continue in, as to which way we will perceive God. The options are clear and the consequences are dramatic and opposite for eternity.

God, open my heart to see Your kindness more clearly and willingly. Fill my imagination with the real truths about You that lure my heart into Your affectionate presence. Ravish my heart with Your love and grace and expose the lies about You still triggering my fears. Continue Your healing of my mind and help me to continue in Your kindness for Your reputation's sake.

(next in series)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Continue in His Kindness

Do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:18)

Arrogant toward the branches. Have not Christians for centuries been arrogant toward the “natural branches”, the Jews? The intense hostility toward Jews through centuries of persecution and extermination are nothing less than arrogance at its worst. And this has been done by Christians who believed that they themselves were more favored by God than were the Jews whom they disdained. This attitude is not something just in the past but is still very much alive and thriving yet today.

They were broken off for unbelief – in what? What is real belief or faith?

We must not be so glib as to think we know what faith and belief are just because we are not Jews who were broken off. It may be very likely that much of what is purported to be faith is actually, in God's eyes, conceit and unbelief and arrogance, not genuine faith. We may have been grafted in to God's tree at some point but that does not prevent anyone from being broken off again. If God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. This blows a major hole into the doctrine of once-saved-always-saved.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God. (Romans 11:22)

First of all, it is something we are instructed to behold, to focus and dwell on, to not ignore but to keep it in front of us to ponder and gain deeper understanding, to become more and more acquainted with it at a much deeper level than we are used to thinking about.

When God's kindness and severity are carefully observed it will begin to be seen that in reality they are one and the same thing. God does not change and does not feel differently in His love toward sinners than He does toward saints. This sounds like heresy to many people, believers and unbelievers alike, but it is true nonetheless. It is always the condition of the viewer, the perception and attitude and beliefs of the recipient that determines what they think they see when exposed to the presence of God's passionate love for them.

To those who refuse to believe in the reality of His unfailing, unconditional love they will only see severity in His countenance and will suffer more and more pain from the resistance that they cling to in their hearts and minds to the real truth about Him. But to those who believe the truth about His love, who confess with their mouth and submit to His Lordship and His rights over their life because they are His creation, they will find their hearts filling with real faith and responsive love. They will experience peace and joy that is beyond their ability to logically explain. They will live with an attitude of repentance and submission to the Sovereignty of God over their lives and increasingly enjoy the overwhelming power and joy and peace that comes from synchronization with the heart-beat of God Almighty.

Those who refuse to accept this truth about God's character are incorporating resistance into their heart that will create dangerous and eventually fatal reactions of heat when exposed to the presence of the One who loves them too intensely for their capacity or willingness to accept. To them the words of Paul in chapter 2 are so important to grasp. Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

The determination of whether we will be saved or lost is not up to God; He is not the one deciding that issue. His desire overwhelmingly is for everyone to be saved, to be completely healed and restored into the close intimacy with Him that His heart craves and bleeds for and that He gave His Son up to accomplish. It is not ever God's decision for anyone to be lost, He only respects their choice to cling to lies about Him that causes them to remain in a life-risking, soul-endangering condition. Right now He is protecting all of us from His glory so that we can stay alive during a time of probation until as many as possible will choose life instead of death, for that is the inevitable result from the embedded lies in our hearts when exposed to His unveiled glory. He offers all of us the means of salvation and offers to remove these dangerous lies at the heart level as well as in the mind so that we will be safe to receive greater exposure to His presence.

As every electrician knows all too well, power is not something to take lightly. For a person to ignore taking the right steps to be in right relationship to enormous amounts of electricity is a fatal choice whether made in ignorance or deliberately. What is very interesting in this analogy that is so close to the reality of God's power, is that the most dangerous and fatal choice a person can make when dealing with very high voltage lines is to allow oneself to remain connected in any way to earth ground. One has to completely disconnect or insulate themselves in every respect and be perfectly free from connection to anything that would ground them if they wish to survive connecting themselves with a high-tension power line. Otherwise, they had just better stay a good distance away from that source of power until they are prepared to separate from everything that would endanger their best good.

Behold the kindness of God to you, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you will be cut off.

I once watched a television airing that showed a man who inspects high power lines by sitting on them and moving along on them for inspection hundreds of feet up in the air over canyons and forests. He stated that he was afraid of heights and afraid of electricity and yet ended up with this job. They showed him sitting on the landing rail of a helicopter high in the air approaching the high-powered wires and reaching out with a metal rod to equalize the electrical difference between the helicopter and the wire. There was brilliant flashes of lightening arcing between the rod and the wire for a few seconds before he touched the wire and neutralized the craft with the cables. Then he placed a special rolling apparatus on the cable and climbed onto it to roll along great lengths of the cable to inspect it while the helicopter left him to his work.

If he had not known the dangers of electricity or had not respected the laws governing the workings of electrical power, then no matter how sincere or honest he was that electrical current would have fried him in an instant. He had to learn all the principles important to his safety and then carefully obey every one of them or he would have quickly become a piece of cooked meat. But when he did understand and comply with all the conditions he was able to accomplish things and live in the presence of enormous power without being hurt. The most important aspect of his safety was coming into perfect synchronization and harmony with the voltage that he wanted to live with. For him to live and thrive in the presence of such great power he had to disconnect from everything that was not in harmony with that power and commit himself totally in trust to the very thing that would otherwise destroy him.

This is a very close analogy to the problem God has in connecting with His people. God is the source of all power, but because of sin, which is desynchronization from His power, we are in a fatally dangerous relationship to Him at this point. God has removed most of His power from our presence for our protection for obvious reasons seen above. But His heart yearns to reconnect us with Him and he wants us to experience the exhilaration and joy of real life as it was meant to be lived. But for us to enter into eternal life we must become disconnected from everything that grounds us and endangers our safety.

God does not change the rules of the universe to protect us anymore than He changes the rules of electricity so we can touch high tension wires with impunity. He wants us to learn how to live in harmony with all the principles already in place in the universe so we can once again live in the life-giving presence of all power without danger of being hurt. But that requires not only instruction in how to live safely but requires that we be brought into proper alignment with those principles so that it will be safe for Him to release His glory and power into our lives without being grounded by lies in our hearts.

Given this context we can see that the kindness of God and the severity that we see in Him are really the passion of God and the inflexible principles of power that we must learn and respect. His passion is is pure, unfaltering love for every being He has created and His desire to be restored into full connection with them, especially at the heart level. But the apparent severity of God is the importance of remaining in proper relationship to this Source of dangerous power. That proper relationship requires the crucial ingredient of faith and the renouncement of unbelief in our hearts. The lies that we have about God are the root causes of unbelief that endanger our souls. The plan of salvation and the grace of God have been put in place to help us become free of these lies so that we can be safe to live in the presence of all Power. But it is completely in the realm of our personal choice as to whether we decide to be transformed by the renewing of our mind or we stay entrenched in unbelief and cling to our distorted, fearful views of a severe God who means to do us harm.

It is clear in these verses that arrogance, unbelief and conceit all participate to cause us to be disconnected from the only Source of life. It is also explicit here that if we do not continue in unbelief then it will be safe for God to reconnect us with our source of life. But there can be no compromise between the high-voltage power of God and any ground connection whatsoever to anything connected to any of Satan's lies about Him. We either choose to be all His or we endanger our very existence through violation of the principles that govern power.

The very same Power that can be so fatal to us is the same Power that shows us kindness, grace and causes us to thrive and become fully alive when we submit to His authority. This is the true meaning of the word “holy”. For holy simply means to be totally dedicated and committed to a single person or use. A dedicated telephone line for use only by a Fax machine is the illustration of what holy means. It is not to be used for any other use – it is holy unto the Fax machine. With that understanding it is easier to see why God insists that we be holy people. We must become totally committed to God and disconnected in our heart from all other sources from which we think we can get life. It is only those who are holy who will be able to survive the intense power inherent in the presence of God, only those who are totally committed unconditionally to glorifying Him and emulating His loveliness of character, only those who are filled with His Spirit and obsessed with His passion. Anything less than this is playing with electricity, and we all know what can happen when someone continues down that path.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)

I know that I have a great deal of lies still buried in my own heart that create great liabilities and resistance to the power of God. But I also believe in the faithfulness of God to continue to completion the work that He started in me. One of the most important parts of that work is learning to believe and trust in the kindness of God. I want to learn better how to live and continue in His kindness and thus be filled with more and more faith and love for Him. I want the lies about God to be exposed and eradicated by the truth about God in every area of my own heart. I want all resistance to melt away in the presence of His kindness and love for me and those around me. I want a much clearer picture of God in my heart so that I can behold more clearly His kindness and not view it as severity as I have for most of my life. Severity is what those in unbelief see when they look at God. (see Rev. 6:16, 17) So when I perceive Him as severe I know that it betrays the presence of yet more lies in my heart that need to be expelled by the real truth about Him

God, continue to deepen Your healing presence in my heart. Make me an experiment of Your healing grace that even the angels will be astonished at. You have a lot of work left to do, but I give You permission to do whatever You need to do to finish duplicating Yourself in my life. I look forward to enjoying the thrill of more power and refreshment as I come more fully into alignment with Your heart and into fellowship with Your children. Use me as an agent of healing and invitation to others who are hungry for healing as well and keep me from unduly damaging Your children as I am so prone to do. I need more grace, more healing, more truth and a clearer view of Your face so I can behold You in Your beauty and continue in Your kindness.

(next in series)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Who Supports Who?

Do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:18)

I find this text a bit curious and want to ponder it more to see what it might be trying to teach me. It reminds me a little of the verse that says, “be angry and sin not”. It is maybe one of those instructions that involve acknowledgment that we are going to have negative feelings but it is how we respond to them that is important more than the fact that we experience them.

When I look up the definition of the Greek word for arrogant here I find a description of an attitude of boasting or gloating over someone else's problems while believing myself to be better than they. It even goes as far as rejoicing against them which almost seems to be an oxymoron. But I think most people have a sense of what a boastful, arrogant person looks like and how others feel around them.

In light of this attitude which apparently is all to easy to indulge in, Paul has something to say as an antidote to neutralize the poison that this spirit contains that can infect our heart. The nature of the antidote gives interesting insight into the nature of the poison. He says to remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

First of all, it must be part of the problem that an arrogant person has forgotten something very important or they would not need to be reminded to remember it. It looks like that arrogance and the consciousness of what we need to remember might be mutually exclusive. If I begin to sense that maybe I am suffering from the delusions incurred by this problem of arrogance (and I suspect there is much more than I can see) then I need to take note of Paul's instruction and dwell on the shot of reality that he is offering to bring me closer to living in proper perspective. If I want to be cured of a boastful, arrogant heart then I need to get a right view of my relationships with others and with God.

So what is this antidote to heal me of the dangers of arrogance? Paul says that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. Now this may seem rather logical and a no-brainer when I first read it, but evidently there must be much more here than a simplistic, factual interpretation of these words. I suspect that if I have any spirit of arrogance (which includes fault-finding and negative thinking and criticism which is some of my greatest weaknesses) then a simple left-brain agreement with the facts that a root supports the branches and not vice-versa is not getting to the place inside me that it needs to be to have its intended effect. It is easily a situation where my reasoning mind can believe facts and logic while at the same time my deeper levels of the heart hold very different ideas and opinions that lay hidden far beneath the surface.

So in a way, even my attempt here to unpack this and understand more clearly its deeper meaning may have no effect in my life if the Spirit of God does not take this truth and carry it down into the deep recesses of my heart and memories where the real problems lie. But it may be helpful as a start to at least take the time to look carefully at this warning and allow it exposure time so that its impact can be more permanent. If I don't take to time to think and ponder these things and give the Spirit permission to apply them effectively to my heart, then I am almost guaranteed that they will not be able to have the needed effect on my life and I will have to learn them under more severe circumstances.

Evidently it must be part of my natural, twisted thinking at much deeper levels that somehow this formula is reversed. Otherwise Paul would not have to state the obvious in this case. It must be true that, contrary to logic, I somehow think that in some way or another I am supporting the root – what ever that means and implies. Of course it is always easier to see my problems in other peoples lives, and that may be helpful to the extent that I am willing to look back and discover the same problem in my own heart. So, looking at the analogy of the root-tree-branches that Paul is using here, what does it really mean in my own life that I somehow believe secretly that I support the root?

One thing that immediately comes to my mind is the conviction that keeps coming back to me each time I find myself critical of my church and the short-comings of its members and leaders. I discover to my chagrin that the Spirit convicts me that I am thinking I could do things better, that if given the chance I could make real improvements and be more effective and introduce better ideas that would encourage a more spiritual environment. When I become conscious that this is the nature of my feelings I am usually horrified and ask God to forgive and change me. But these thoughts and feelings are springing up from seeds far beneath the surface that have yet to be exposed and expunged and so they continue to foment these kinds of nonsense in my heart.

What these feelings betray is the basic idea, at the heart level, of what Paul is talking about here. When I feel that God could use me better than the people already in position in His church, then basically I am saying that I could support the trunk as a branch better than the root can. Now, while that sounds crazy and absurd (which it is) it is the very kind of notions that the selfish human heart produces, for the heart is not logical or governed by the formulas of reason that go on in the left brain.

Does that justify the penchant that we have for living life primarily from the left brain because the heart uses such “illogic” and cannot be trusted? No, that solution only produces more problems and does not deal with the real issue which is a need for healing at much deeper levels than just correct answers and formulas. Just because the notions exposed in my deceitful heart conflict with my logical explanations of truth does not mean that I should not live from my heart. It is simply part of the process of healing, of salvation, that God is taking me through. It is the phase of exposure that is necessary so that I can take the next step toward full healing.

And the next step is also found in this passage that I will explore next time.

(next in series)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Role of Jews Today

I am starting to see something that seems different than any viewpoint that I hear from any group about the status of the Jews. There are phrases here in Romans that are pointing me in the direction of something interesting that is not yet clear to me.

I cannot agree with the vast majority of Evangelicals that the Jewish nation as a political entity plays a significant role in end-time events. Besides seriously distorting many of the Old Testament prophecies for them to arrive at this conclusion, I also believe that the Bible is far more focused on symbols of spiritual realities than it is on political alignments that fascinate the imaginations of men. Yes it does use symbols to explain some of the major political powers through the ages, but mostly because those political empires also wielded massive spiritual influence and control over much of the world.

There is a great deal of confusion and disagreement over what end-time events will look like and who will be the prominent players. But most Christians seem more interested in external-oriented power focused on physical force and political struggles than on more hidden spiritual power alignments devoted to capturing and enslaving minds and souls internally by external force or intimidation. But this is the realm where God views things and where the bulk of prophecy is focused.

Of course this should be no surprise given the strong external orientation of religion itself today. If religious people are primarily concerned with appearances, outward performance and control and power over other people's lives, then they will also interpret prophecies to suit those desires. In this light, many Christians today believe that the political nation of Israel will somehow be restored to the physical land of Palestine and most of the end-time scenarios proposed today focus around physical battles for control of the earthly symbols of religion. This makes up the bulk of religious fervor over Israel today.

Because of this view, any references to the Jews in Paul's writings are assumed to support these scenarios and anything that contradicts that view is marginalized or rationalized away. But this is a dangerous precedent to follow. We must be very careful not to force the Word of God to fit our preconceived scenarios and cherished beliefs, unwilling to reexamine our assumptions in the light of important passages that disagree or spoil them.

Though I do not have this all clear in my mind yet, here are some of the texts that look to me like they have important things to say about this.

...Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED." That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (Romans 9:4-8)

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:22-24)


For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." (Romans 10:11-13)

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? (Romans 11:1-2)

In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened. (Romans 11:5-7)

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18)

And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS." From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:23-33)

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:1-5)

Here is what I am beginning to see from the highlighted portions.

Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons

Israel as a people and nation was certainly God's chosen means to reveal Himself to the world and to invite everyone into a close relationship with Himself. But Israel basically ruined that plan so thoroughly that it became unusable and so God had an alternative that surprised everyone while not invalidating the promises made to Israel as a nation.

they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants

it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants

These are some of the most pivotal texts to keep in mind while working through all the other passages. God never abandoned Israel or His promises to Israel; it was Israel that abandoned God and killed His only begotten Son. But God had a surprise up His sleeve.

not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles

There is still an Israel, but it is not composed solely of biological Jews, it is made up of anyone who enters into a relationship of faith with God. Israel takes on an expanded and revised definition.


While it is true that Israel was not rejected by God completely, it is also true that not all biological Israelites will be saved or else God would not say that only a remnant would be saved.

there is no distinction between Jew and Greek

If salvation was all about being a Jew then this statement would be absurd. In God's revised arrangement of identifying what a real Israelite is there is now no distinction between Jew and Greek.


God has not rejected His people

a remnant according to God's gracious choice

those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened

All of these statements simply reinforce what has been laid out thus far. Whoever chooses to enter into a saving faith relationship with God through submission to the Lordship of Christ in their heart are grated into the trunk called Israel along with the remaining original branches of biological Jews who followed God's leading.

grafted in among them and became partaker with them

a cultivated olive tree

This is where I find something very interesting. Instead of Christianity replacing Judaism as is usually assumed, it looks to me like Paul is saying that Christians are merely being grafted into the existing tree that was already in place and never went anywhere.

all Israel will be saved

If this text is taken in full context with surrounding passages, then it is much easier to see, from God's point of view (which is really the only one that is important) that yes, all Israel will be saved. Since God views everyone collectively who accepts the truth about Him and allows it to grow faith in their heart toward Him and makes Him Lord of their life as those who constitute real Israelites, then it is simple to see how all Israel will be saved. But God is not going to force Jews to be saved simply because He has to vindicate His promise. God never violates anyone's will.

they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

Since the expanded definition of Israel is based on the original Israel, not separated apart from it, then all of God's relationships with the early patriarchs and their descendants are continuous and extend to all who become real Israelites through the means of faith just like father Abraham.

God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all

we, who are many, are one body in Christ

This is the surprise that God revealed after the death and resurrection of Jesus securing our redemption for all mankind. By reclassifying everyone as disobedient sinners (in place of Jews or non-Jews) and revealing His grace and mercy to everyone instead of depending on wayward national Israel to accomplish this goal, He is able to re-form Israel into the very body that He originally intended Israel to be. The body of Christ based on the truthful elements and linked with the people of Judaism who follow God, is now viewed by God as the real Israel.

The root and the trunk of the Olive tree were never removed. It seems to me like the root is Christ and has been all along. The trunk is the body of people called God's chosen which, beforehand was the Jews until they rejected God's calling for them. But even though they permanently lost that role as a nation, they still remained the trunk to which all branches are attached or removed. At least that's what Paul seems to be saying in this passage.

Does that mean all the symbols and ceremonies and sacrificial system must still be observed? No. Paul makes very clear in his writings that all the ceremonies that pointed forward to Christ were fulfilled and no longer need to hold obligation for anyone. But I think Christians have been too quick to throw out the baby with the bath water and have cut themselves off from much truth in Judaism that God never intended for us to be separated from. I believe that the current renewed interest seen in the Messianic movements within Christianity today are born of a legitimate hunger for reconnecting with the trunk that we should have never left in the first place due to our centuries of anti-semitism.

I believe God is leading many true-hearted believers to have a fresh interest in returning to a closer connection with the “trunk” of the true Olive tree through which the living, nourishing juices of life flow up from the root of Jesus Christ. When we come to see the real truth about God's original plan for Judaism and the proper transition that should have been made on a national scale for the Jews after the death and resurrection of Christ, then we will begin to experience and enjoy enlightenment of both our minds and hearts as we enter into a much deeper level of spiritual capacity and joy.

And even more, as Christians begin to honestly embrace the truths that still reside in Judaism that they have scorned and spurned for so many centuries in their own prejudice or ignorance, they will find that the resistance and hardness typically seen in the minds of Jews today will begin to soften as they see the real truth about God in the lives of genuine Christians who are full of God's passion and also honor His laws that the Jews have known about for many centuries. As Christians bring their doctrines and lives into closer harmony with the eternal principles still embedded within true Judaism while keeping the advanced insights and relationship with God that the apostles taught, we will see amazing events take place that are not now even imaginable. For Jews, as Paul points out, fit even better when grafted into the tree that is called their own. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:24)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

(next in series)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Kindness and Severity

Behold then the kindness and severity of God. (Romans 11:22)

A zeal for God not in accordance with knowledge. (10:2)

Christ is the focus point of the law for everyone who believes. (10:4)

Not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own. (10:3)

Submits and trusts in God's righteousness, His goodness and work of redemption.

Did not subject themselves to God's righteousness. (10:3)

Righteousness based on faith – not far away in heaven or in death but “the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”, the word of faith.


The man who practices righteousness based on law shall live by (get his life from) that righteousness. (10:5)

If you confess with your mouth – Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart – God filled His death with life, you will be saved. (10:9)

His mouth betrays that he has another master who compels him to try harder. His heart is full of pain and death while trusting conformity to the law.

With the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses (agrees with God), resulting in salvation. (10:10)

This man attempts to establish (produce) his own righteousness based on law. He believes in himself and confesses his own achievements.

Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. (10:11)

He who believes in trying harder and impressing God enough to be saved will be disappointed.

No distinction or discrimination. All who call on Him will be saved and enjoy the abounding riches of their Lord. (10:12, 13)

Believes in segregation and discrimination. God only favors those who keep the law. One must believe and work harder to obey. Faith and self-generated works with help from God.

They hear good news from one who is sent, believe in Jesus and call on Him. (10:14, 15)

They did not heed the good news about God. (10:16)

Faith comes by hearing by the word of Christ. (10:17)

They have heard and know about the good news but did not believe it. (10:18, 19)

A people without special identity as God' chosen ones, who were not openly seeking God found God manifesting Himself to them even though they had not asked for Him. (10:19, 20)

They became jealous of those who were not religious like them, were not even openly looking for God but believed anyway. (10:19, 20)

Accepted God's gracious invitation by responding in faith and trust in His provision for them.

Ignoring God's stretched out hands in their disobedience and obstinance. (10:21)

God has a remnant, a small number of people who individually respond to His call (choice). (11:5)

God has not rejected His chosen people – it is they who have rejected Him. (11:1, 2)

The chosen are so by grace. (11:6)

The chosen are believed to be so on the basis of their works. Works precludes grace. (11:6)

Those who responded to God's choosing through faith in His grace obtained salvation and had their hearts softened. (11:7)

God's chosen people (historically) is seeking salvation but has not obtained it but instead were hardened in their hearts. (11:7)

God gave them a spirit of stupor, blind eyes and deaf ears. Their table (their group identity) became their prison and trap. Their identity as God's chosen ones became the very problem that caused them to stumble and their liability. (11:8-10)

The failure of the Jews to fulfill their role as God's representatives on earth to attract the world to God, He used that failure to create a new opportunity for the world to come to Him in a different way.

God did not trip them to make them fall. But He utilized their fall to create the opportunity for the rest of the world to become rich in His salvation. (11:11, 12)

They become jealous and realize that God is better and more gracious than they realized. They respond by individually joining others in accepting His grace and believing in salvation. Option one. (11:11-14)

They become jealous and harden their heart even more against God's grace – option two.

The transgression of the Jews against God's Son sent to them becomes riches for the world. Their failure to fulfill their invitation to be God's chosen representatives to the world result in riches for the rest of the people of the world (Gentiles). (11:11, 12)

The transgression and failure of the Jews as a nation caused them to lose the opportunity to represent God as a nation.

As individuals, Jews still have the same options as anyone has to see the truth about God and respond in faith, believing in His provision for salvation. When this happens, it results in even greater riches for everyone else. Their depth of understanding of God's ways empowers them to perceive spiritual things more easily than anyone else when linked with faith in God's salvation. (11:12, 15)

If Jews continue to cling to their identity based on law-keeping and depend on their lineage to the forefathers whom God brought into covenant relationship with Himself, looking to that as their source of salvation, they will be lost.

They found God in His manifestation of Himself to their heart. They obeyed by believing in His provision for them in the life and death of Jesus. They were grafted into the supporting “tree” of God's chosen body and became a partaker of rich root of the olive tree. (10:20 and 11:16, 17)

They stumbled, they transgressed, they failed and they rejected God's plan for them and were broken off as branches from the root of God. (11:12-16)

Holiness comes from connection with the original. The root supports the branch. (11:16-18)

Holiness is believed to come from keeping the law and being descendants of God's chosen people.

Stand by faith. Be afraid of conceit and unbelief. (11:20)

Becoming arrogant toward those who used to be God's chosen but failed to remain as such. Falling into the same conceit and unbelief that because they are now the chosen that they can do God's work. (11:18-21)

God's kindness will continue to you if you continue in His kindness. (11:22)

God's severity to those who rejected Him and fell in unbelief (in His kindness). If you too fail to believe in His kindness you too will be cut off. (11:22)

If Jews do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted back into the Olive tree of God. It is very easy and even more natural for them to do that. (11:23, 24)

Becoming wise in your own estimation (conceited and unbelieving in the kindness of God). (11:25)

Individually, Jews can be God's chosen ones just like anyone else can if they allow God's kindness to soften their hearts.

A partial hardening has happened to Israel. (11:25)

A Mystery – All Israel will be saved. (11:25-29, see 9:6-8)

All Jews will be saved because they are biological descendants of Abraham. (Remember, all the descendants of Ishmael and all the other later children of Abraham are his descendants also.)

From the standpoint of God's covenant relationship with the founder's of the Israelites, He still views them as beloved. He never changes His mind about His gifts and calling. (He never rejected them anyway, they rejected Him and His plan for them as a nation.) (11:28, 29)

From the standpoint of the gospel, the Jews are the enemies of everyone else who is being saved. (11:28)

You who were once disobedient to God have been shown mercy because of their disobedience (changing the makeup of what now constitutes Israel). Because of the mercy shown to you (creating a new way to become a chosen person by God) they also may now be shown mercy.(11:30, 31)

If Jews or non-Jews are disobedient to God by not believing in His kindness and allowing Him to soften their hearts, they cannot be included as God's chosen ones.

God has created a new definition for being an Israelite – it is all those who believe in His kindness and accept His mercy. They respond by confessing Him as Lord of their lives, believe with their heart in the life-giving power of God to heal and restore them, and live in a life-receiving relationship with Jesus. (11:32-36)

God is somehow in the end going to force all Jews to be saved, whether they willingly believe in His kindness and mercy or not, thus overriding their freedom of will. He will do this because He is trapped in His covenant promises to their forefathers. This is the view of much of the evangelical Christian world today.

(next in series)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Heart-healing Jealousy

Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. (Romans 11:13-14)

Just exactly how could one go about making a Jew jealous? What beliefs would be lodged in the heart of a Jew that would trigger feelings of jealousy? And what benefit does Paul think would be reaped by attempting to make them jealous? Why would he want to make them jealous anyway?

The Greek word which is translated “jealousy” is defined this way: to stimulate alongside, i.e. excite to rivalry: – provoke to emulation (jealousy). For me that is a little confusing compared to what I usually assume is involved in jealousy. The excite to rivalry part is plain enough but the emulation is a little confusing. Maybe I am not familiar with this word because it is used so seldom. So I looked it up online in the dictionary and found that it has to do not only with trying to be like someone else but with strong tendencies toward a spirit of rivalry, competition and wanting to be even better than the one being competed with.

So now I can see how jealousy would fit in here, at least to some extent. But it still remains to explore why the Jews would be jealous in the first place. If the Jews really believed that they were the only chosen people of God and the only ones who could be saved, then why would it bother them at all if someone else should come along and claim that Gentiles were being saved? It might run counter to what the Jews claimed, but so what? If it was really true that only Jews could be saved it seems like it should make no difference what anyone else might say.

But it did make a great deal of difference, and that betrays that there was something much deeper than factual truth going on in their minds. For the only reason that would cause them to become so stirred up when other people claimed to be enjoying salvation and the favor of God that the Jews claimed was their exclusive domain, is if they secretly believed it might be true even if they denied it vehemently. Another reason would be if they put great importance on external identity and what others thought about their profession of being God's only chosen people. In that case, they were more interested in what others believed about their claims than they were in resting in the reality of truth. For if it was really true that no one else could be saved but good, upright Jews, then why bother about anyone else claiming otherwise? No amount of claiming would change what is already an established fact of reality.

But it is very clear that indeed the Jews did become very jealous and as a result created a great deal of persecution for those who disagreed with their view of theology. But what is interesting here is that Paul says that he wanted to provoke them to jealousy in order that at least some of them might be saved along with the Gentiles who were being saved. That means that jealousy was not everything needed to motivate a Jew to accept the truth about salvation, but it might possibly be one motivation that would impel some of them in that direction. That also means that there had to be other factors involved as well that would determine whether a jealous Jew might decide to take a more serious look at this new view of God or would turn into a raging persecutor attempting to justify and defend tradition much like Paul himself had once done quite effectively.

That brings up another very interesting thought. I believe that Paul here may be harking back to what may have been going on in his own heart in the months and years before his own conversion. What were his real feelings at the heart level when he observed the joy and confidence and peace that Christians had in the face of intimidation, threats and personal violence that he himself had perpetrated on them? Some of these Christians were even praying for his conversion and showing him selfless love in the face of all his violence against them. Outwardly it turned him into an even greater fury of rage that seemed to motivate him to even more violence and wrath in defense of the Jewish system of belief. But it is a fact that increasing violence and anger are usually a cover-up for a deepening conviction and an intense heart-based pain that is being suppressed on the inside.

I believe that Paul was painfully aware of the motivating ability of jealousy to prod a person toward finally submitting to the love of God by his own personal experience. His conscience had been increasingly goading him and torturing him during the years he had been fiercely opposing Christianity. That is made very clear in the words of Jesus when he was confronted on the road to Damascus. Jesus said, “Why are you kicking against the goads?” Jesus was simply tapping into what was already going on in Paul's heart and exposing the pain and lies that were driving his insane obsession to violently stop the spread of Christianity. There was a gnawing suspicion growing inside his own heart that maybe his approach was not working, but he was trying to suppress this feeling by increasingly turning up the focus on the externals to mask the secret jealousy that he was feeling toward Christians.

In Saul's own heart (Paul's name before his conversion) he felt the intense craving and emptiness from his own need for the very peace and joy that he was observing in those he was attacking. He could not achieve those results from perfect performance of religion although he was better than everyone else in that arena. He had desperately tried every trick, formula and requirement that anyone could propose that would bring about peace with God and produce righteousness. He had jumped through all the hoops and had earned all the admiration that human knowledge and performance could produce outwardly in the realm of religion. He had kept all the rules and obeyed God to the best of human ability according to the religious system around him and yet his heart felt more empty than ever. Why didn't God reward his compliance and conformity with approbation and approval? Why didn't God keep His end of this bargain? Why did Saul seem so perfect on the outside and so excruciatingly empty on the inside? His jealousy of these despicable Christians was secretly unavoidable but embarrassing. He could never admit to anyone the secret cravings that his treasonist heart was producing inside of him. We was appalled that these feelings were even inside of him, much worse the growing intensity that they had. But he could not escape them even though he tried with all his might by focusing on his external activities of piety and resistance.

When Jesus came to see him on the road to Damascus, He was not introducing new things to Saul so much as He was simply affirming the culmination of the intense battle that had been raging between Saul's heart and his head. He had tried possibly harder than anyone had ever tried to achieve salvation through left-brain effort but could not shake off the contradictory emotions in his heart. His conscience and suppressed emotions and secret desires had been inflamed and repeatedly stirred up by the humility, peace and love that he saw in the lives of those he was daily crushing and violently abusing. Every day his heart tormented him more with his own guilt and all the religious performance in the world was having no effect at diminishing that pain. When Jesus showed up it was simply a matter of confirming to Saul what he already was painfully aware of but could not bring himself to admit. He needed peace and forgiveness and a heart-connection with a loving God far more than he needed the approval of men. But his left brain was so entrenched in logic and systematic theology that he was trapped in the prison of religion. He needed someone to unlock his heart and break the bars of left brain logic and conclusions so his heart could be released to begin to really live.

Jesus provided that opportunity by revealing Himself to Saul at the heart level and confirming the desperate feelings emanating from Saul's own heart. He simply affirmed that it was the suppressed messages swirling around in Saul's heart that clamored to be acknowledged that were more reliable for guiding him to connect with God than all the religious formulas, doctrines and intellectual truth that filled his left brain. This is why Saul knew instantly what Jesus was talking about when Jesus began speaking to him. It was resonating with what he had been hearing for years from his own heart but had desperately been trying to ignore and suppress and deny. Heart had been exposed by heart, and Saul stepped into the road of freedom, the freedom that comes by living from the heart instead of the head.

Because Paul was so intensely aware of the role of jealousy in his own conversion experience, he is here explaining that he tried to use it in hopes that others, like him, might also come to recognize the futility of their religious activities and belief systems to satisfy the emptiness of their hearts. If they could see more and more the peace and joy experienced by others, especially Gentiles who supposedly were impossible to save, then maybe they too, like Paul himself had done, might cross over from head-living to heart-living and through the motivation of jealousy enter into a vibrant, vital connection with the heart of the Father.

Does this have any application today? If anyone is aware at all of the desires of their own heart beneath all the denial and suppression, I believe they will recognize the pattern here. God is calling everyone into a heart-based spirituality that goes far deeper than any external-oriented, performance-based religion can ever touch. Words cannot describe effectively how this comes about, but the Spirit of God is waiting and eager to introduce each person to their own heart as well as the healing presence of the heart of God. I am trying to shift more and more into this mode of living and thinking to learn how to live from the heart Jesus gave me. I am not very proficient at it yet but I am in training. What would you like to do?

(next in series)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Two Great W's

As I was reading about the Second Coming of Jesus this morning, something grabbed my attention and I realized that one of the stark contrasts between the saved and the lost not only revolves around their perception of Jesus and the character of God, but that those opposing perceptions both start with W. This is spelled out clearly in the book of Revelation as well as all throughout the Bible.

The main result of sanctification, the transformational work in the heart that takes place in the people who accept the gift of salvation (restoration to their original function and design) is that they come to realize with all their heart, soul, spirit and mind the immense, immeasurable WORTH of the character and beauty of God as revealed through His Son Jesus our Savior. Repeatedly throughout Revelation we find song after song of praise by the people of God and the inhabitants of heaven praising the worth of the Lamb of God.

In complete contrast to this overwhelming sense of worth and adoration that has taken full possession of the minds and hearts of those who are saved is the reaction of those who have clung to the lies about God perpetrated by His enemies. It is seen most clearly in its absurdity, but with all the terrifying resultant effects on their psyche when they see the very same Lamb of God that is adored by angels and those who love Him appearing in person to embrace all who are willing to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the WRATH of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:16-17)

This, I believe, is the single most important indicator that can be used to discover which side we will be found on in that day. Albeit all of us are coming from a position of fear with so many lies embedded in our hearts about how God feels about us, but each one of us has a choice as to whether we will continue to harbor these lies or whether we will allow God to replace them with the glorious, genuine truth about Him, the reality that God is not someone to be afraid of but someone who wants very much to be our most intimate friend, companion and protector. He desires everyone to enter into a covenant relationship with Him so that He can transform them by the renewing of their mind as they choose to cooperate with Him.

So how do we know if we have the genuine truth? Do we check our church manual and see if all our doctrines can be proved from the Bible? Do we look to see if our church service is exciting and makes us feel close to God with all kinds of wonderful warm feelings? Do we rely on religious authorities or experts to figure out for us and relay to us what to believe about God? Are we willing to bank on these resources to be our surety and guarantee that we will live with God and the angels for all eternity?

I do believe that God has revealed His truth to humanity by means of His Word, the Holy Bible. And even though it has a lot of cloudiness and potential for confusion, it is a reliable resource for us to discover the real truth about God and how He really feels about us if we are willing to maintain an open mind and heart and are careful to ask God directly to guide our minds as we expose ourself to its pages. Much error is supported by stringing many texts together, but God is faithful to guide us into all truth if we will employ the gift He has promised all of us of the Holy Spirit who is fully committed to drawing us not just into all intellectual truth but more importantly into a heart relationship of experiential truth. It is what we believe at the heart level that ultimately determines our relationship with God much more than our intellectual knowledge, as important as that may be.

And I think the single, most easily identifiable indicator of authentic truth that we have experientially is our feelings about God's passion toward us. When we are confronted with the intensity and purity of God's face and character and His overwhelming passion to love us unconditionally, do we feel fear or do we feel a welling up of appreciation and gratitude? When confronted with the real truth about God's wrath not having the characteristics of our wrath but as a strange and somewhat unfamiliar intense love that is full of fire in its intensity, do we feel a resistance to be swallowed up in its heat? Do we feel a desire to argue with those who believe in God's nature of pure love without any recrimination or intent to destroy? Do we promote a mixture of fear (as in afraid) of God along with a “balancing” amount of love? Do we insist that someday God is going to run out of patience and will lash out against His enemies in anger and personally vent violence upon them in a fit of anger until His wrath is appeased?

If we insist on clinging to these false concepts of God in our hearts and minds, not only will we perceive that kind of God when we see wrath in that face of the real Lamb of God but our lives now will reflect the diabolical results of mixing truth and lies about God. We will exhibit the instability inherent in double-mindedness (James 1:8). The way we treat those who disagree with us, who are different than we are or who refuse to accept our views of God are reflective of how we believe God treats those who resist His will. This has been demonstrated all too often throughout history as can be clearly evidenced by the way religious authorities tortured and burned alive those who disagreed with them for hundreds of years during the Dark Ages.

To the very degree that we believe in the Wrath of God as perceived from a human understanding of wrath, we will fall short of being able to appreciate the Worth of God as demonstrated in the offering of His Son on Calvary. If we believe in a wrathful God, then when we look at Calvary we will be confused and believe that Jesus' death was a prime example of the violence and irrationality of God's wrath, though we will struggle to rationalize it into some form of intellectual sense. We will think that Jesus was somehow killed to appease the anger of an offended Deity and some will further believe that Jesus is still pleading our cases before the Father to placate Him enough to allow us to be saved while we work diligently to eliminate sin from our lives. All of this thinking fills our minds and hearts with the very concepts of God that cause those described in Revelation 6 to see the Lamb as full of wrath. It also precludes our hearts from seeing the real worth of the Lamb, for the real worth of the Lamb is not that of appeasement placating an angry God but is found in the intense passion reverberating from the very heart of God revealed through Jesus to love and redeem every sinner who is willing to believe in His mercy and the truth about His love.

As I look into my own heart I see a mixture of perceptions about God sort of like oil and water swirling around in my heart, a confusing mix of wrath and worth. As every human, I start out with a great deal of fear about God and misconceptions about His wrath that causes those misconceptions to be reflected in the attitudes of my own heart. Growing up with a great deal of anger that is not yet completely resolved, I cannot help but have a gnawing uneasiness about meeting the Son of God face to face in His glory. Fortunately Jesus has delayed His coming so that I can have time to be transformed from a slave of wrath to a son who has learned with my heart to value the real worth of His passion for me. It is a long, slow and frustrating process of transformation, but I am relying on His faithfulness to finish what He has started in me.

I want the power of the Holy Spirit to replace all of the wrath that still resides in me with a sense of the worth that Jesus feels when He looks at me and thinks about me. The more I sense my own worth in the eyes and heart of Jesus the less wrath I feel inside of me. And the more truth about God that I learn, especially the truth about His passion that has been misnamed “wrath”, the more I feel an upwelling of appreciation for His worth. The cesspool water of lies in my heart is slowly being displaced by the healing oil of the Holy Spirit, the oil of joy. The more worth that I see in the beauty of God the more eager I am to embrace the day of His appearing and welcome the Lamb of glory.

So I believe that the real choice that each of us has to make about God is to settle in our hearts and minds whether God is a God of wrath or is he a God of worth. I don't think there is a mixture of the two, despite all the protests of many religionists. There is growing evidence that makes it very clear to me that we have seriously maligned God's reputation for centuries by insisting that His passion is reflective of human wrath with all the implications of vengeance, arbitrary in nature and intimidating by design. God is not interested in service for Him motivated from fear but only from love. God never employs force in His kingdom but only operates in love. When we come to fully understand and appreciate these foundational truths, then we will swell with appreciation and give glory to God for the real worth and the superiority of love over force, of mercy over legalism, of everlasting lovingkindness over evil. As I am filled with appreciation of the real worth of the Lamb, my own life begins to reflect the same characteristics, for by beholding I become changed.

Father, I give you unlimited permission to continue the work you started in me to its full completion. Transform me from a hurting boy full of anger and wrath and fear to a loving son full of value and with a heart brimming over with appreciation of your real worth. Give me the eyes and heart of Jesus to see my own family members and the real worth that you see in them. Fill me with your grace and love and spirit of selfless service. Remove the lies about you that still poison my heart and cause me to be afraid of you and cause others to be afraid of me. Do a thorough heart-transplant in me and fill me with your Spirit so that I will resonate with the feelings of your heart. Open my eyes to see your real worth so that I can sing with full enthusiasm the songs Moses and the Lamb – "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."