Tag Archives: christian faith

Giving attention to … the Nation-State of Israel, Presbyterians, & The Voracious News Cycle!

Because truth matters, friends asked, and I lack sense to avoid paths where angels fear to tread (!) ~ I will consider current events pertaining to the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, United States of America) and Israel from the perspective of covenant theology. I will appreciate hearing your wisdom on this subject, and perhaps give our friend Rev. Stephen Atkinson (Christian Witness to Israel) a platform for deeper drilling on this. Pause: C.W.I., for 170 years, has been energetically reaching out to the Jewish people around the world with the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, from a Reformed and covenantal foundation. http://www.cwi.org.uk/http://www.cwina.org/. Our own denomination (RPCNA) on a smaller scale conducted a mission in Philadelphia.

Recent actions of the PCUSA (distancing themselves from the nation-state of Israel, mandating that church funds no longer be invested there, and considering changes to old hymns which refer with affection to Israel and Jerusalem) have nothing to do with covenantal/reformed theology. The PCUSA is a liberal Protestant denomination with all of the infamous regress on matters of twisted sexuality, a full generation ago falling in love with communist versions of social-justice in their missions and politics. Divesting from Israel, for the PCUSA, has everything to do with radical pacifism and getting sucked into the U.N.-driven agenda of shaming the strong, sympathizing with Islamists, and ignoring that there are offenses at every hand. Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in Lawrence (https://christcovenantchurchrpc.org/) is not part of the PCUSA; we have no formal or informal connection.

That said, we should separate (if only for the sake of strategy) the modern nation-state of Israel (reborn in 1948), the Israel that stands for 13-million-plus Jewish people in many nations, & the way Scripture refers to all of God’s people (Jewish and Gentile) as His Israel. We can love all three versions, specifically, giving what we owe to each one, under God ~ controlled by Spiritual wisdom. We can love Israel without endorsing every action and decision of the modern nation-state (which is officially secular, by the way). We can love our own nation too, and out of that love, rebuke our own leaders for their folly and sin.

There is an old kind of dispensationalism which I hope passes away soon. From my perch as a reformed-covenantal Christian, that dispensationalism held out to ethnic Jews another way of salvation other than through faith in Jesus alone. The impression was given that a Jew ~ faithful to Yahweh, to the law, and to the ceremonies ~ on the basis of the blood of Abraham coursing through his veins ~ is already in the eternal family of God, with an elder-brother status in that Kingdom compared to the many Gentiles who really do need Jesus’ blood. My evangelical friends, this theology is the one that hates Jews, refusing to point them to their and our only hope ~ Jesus-Messiah. The gospel is for the Jew first.

Erwin Lutzer (on his radio program last week) answered well an accusation about Martin Luther, anti-Semitism, and Hitler. A questioner was ready to throw out all of the accomplishments of Luther (and other reformers) due to admittedly hateful things some of them wrote against the Jews. There is a need for great nuance here, but wisdom calls us to mark ye the perfect man, practice bone-spitting, grasp that 99% of the Medieval Church was complicit in this, and understand that Hitler was not a faithful Lutheran, Catholic, or etc. The Gentile-dominant church of most eras must repent before God with respect to our sinful attitudes about and our mistreatment of the Jews. Lutzer gave a written response to a similar question in the past; of course, Erwin is responsible for his own words as I am for mine: http://www.moodymedia.org/ask-pastor-lutzer/archives/question-149/

This covenantalist avoids the term “Replacement Theology” because it suggests that Gentile bullies are shoving Jews out of the House of God. Paul the Jew has much to say in Romans against such pride. But the solution is not to suggest that there are TWO houses of God, separate forever, each with its own gospel terms and conditions. No, Jesus the Jew ~ for Jews and Gentiles ~ has knocked down in His own Person the dividing wall of controversy, making one new people in one enormous house, comprised of families and individuals from all of the ethnes (people-groups). It is no disrespect to ethnic Jews that I highly treasure my own inclusion in the ancient Jewish covenants … by adoption through the perfect life and atoning death and glorious resurrection and present reign of Jesus the Nazarene. My zeal? That our unnatural engrafting stirs holy and fruitful jealousy in the original covenanters. Amen? So may it be.

Giving attention to … the Good Stories God is Writing

I tell this story because I am jealous for our God to get more praise.  He has promised to build His church, to use us in the process, and to keep all the glory for Himself in the grand consummation of all things.  So when this happens before our very own eyes it is crucial that we praise Him aloud, and that we speak of this to one another so that we will be encouraged to play the roles God assigns.  Of all the characters in this tale, the least important one is the narrator!

Feiyan (true story, but names are changed) was born in China, raised in a thoroughly secular manner (in keeping with the new culture of this modern communist nation).  This means that his parents wanted for Feiyan a good education so that he would do well in the new technical economy.  Any time wasted on “religion” would be a return to the superstitious nonsense from which China is breaking free.  Long before Feiyan was a teenager, China could see that the United States of America would be a global power throughout his lifetime, so like many Chinese youth of his generation, Feiyan took 8 years of English instruction from Chinese teachers who were doing their best.  All of this with the hope that (someday) Feiyan could pursue a doctorate here.

Yet long before Feiyan could make any plans for himself, God was saving a Chinese gentleman who would eventually become Feiyan’s grandfather!  Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Feiyan’s grandfather was a Christian in an era when that was most unusual (and a major cross to bear).  But like every Christian grandfather, this man prayed for all his family.  8,000 miles away, God was stirring in the heart of an American youth named Andy a zeal for God’s glory in all the nations, and so Andy wanted to be a missionary, to spread this good news far and wide.  Oh, there are two more characters in our story:  A guy named Mitchel (who did not give very much attention to China or to Chinese in his first forty years) and a home-school mother in Lawrence.

Okay, places everyone?  Ready … and … ACTION!

The Chinese grandfather prays daily for his small family, even though it seemed to him that the entire generation after him grew up faithless, or just secular, through the Communists’ strong efforts to push aside God in every way.  Andy gets his taste of ministry in a foreign land, but God leads him back to a Midwestern university town to develop a cutting-edge ministry to international students in the middle of our nation.  His specialty is making it easy for shy Christians to have fruitful relationships with lonely internationals at their point of need ~ improving English conversation.  The home-school mother has a daughter who becomes best friend to a daughter of the guy named Mitchel.  By this time, Mitchel has developed much interest in China due to a well-timed “shoulder-tap” and a few teaching trips overseas, so that he is seeking opportunities to tutor Chinese scholars in English conversation through Andy’s conversation partnership ministry.  But by Session #2, Pastor Mitchel is taking advantage of “Western interest” to hammer away at the simple idea that the Christian faith makes a good difference in people and in the world.

Feiyan, Mitchel’s seventh international friend from China, isn’t buying it very much … but he does need to buy better furniture!  Through Craig’s List, Feiyan agrees to purchase a huge sofa-combo, but he needs a large trailer for hauling it home.  Mitchel’s wife (who travels everywhere) has such a trailer!  Well it just so happens that when they get to the door to purchase the furniture, it is that home-schooling mother of the best friend of Mitchel’s third daughter!  A tenuous connection?  True, but stay with me here!  A crazy charismatic prone to hearing from God, this woman says to Feiyan:  “This coincidence is too strange!  What I need (more than your money) is some extra room in my house, so if you will take away all of this furniture (including these things you did not come for), you can have it all ~ free of charge.  But I want you to know that Jesus Christ told me to do this.  So I bless you, in His name!

Well, one generous act moves the heart of the highly intellectual Feiyan (more than dozens of Mitchel’s best worldview lectures), and so within one month, Feiyan is identifying himself as a follower of Jesus Christ instead of a skeptic with too many questions.  The grandfather gets the phone call from eight thousand miles away, hearing his prayers of 30 years have been answered in the affirmative.  Andy’s humblyeffective ministry keeps on truckin’, the Chinese evangelical church in Lawrence keeps preaching Bible sermons to young believers, and one year later Feiyan is at the University of Alabama, looking for Christian fellowship on his first day in a new town.

Oh, Feiyan’s wife exhibits the joy of the Lord too, having seen the free and generous love of Jesus through the Christian women at a pregnancy care center which loves to help international students who are at a point of need ~ also in the name of Christ.

And this story will go on and on!