Christian Palestianism, Part 2

I am posting here a link to the second of three videos I did recently for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry on the topic of Christian Palestinianism.

Christian Palestinianism, Part 1

I am posting here a link to the first of three videos I did recently for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry on the topic of Christian Palestinianism.

THE TESTIMONY OF ONE EVANGELICAL ZIONIST

I was invited to write a guest column at the Zionists of America website and wanted to share it here and in other forums like Facebook and the website for the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  My family was on vacation visiting my grandparents in Virginia. The date was June 5, 1967. I was only 13 years old. The television news coverage spent quite a bit of time on the nation of Israel’s so-called preemptive attack upon Egypt in what would later be called the Six-Day War. I was mesmerized although I understood little of what was going on.  Why was I attracted so much to this event?  The answer may be surprising.  My parents had given me a Bible years before, a common cultural practice in the southern United States. I had started to read it off and on.  One thing that stood out was that the word Israel was mentioned hundreds of times.  I was not Jewish, but I had respect for Israel because it was in the Bible!  That is simplistic to some people, but it was a starting place for a young man who had made no final decisions about worldview.  One thing I knew – I did not hate Jewish people!

               Fast forward seven years.  As a senior in college I became an evangelical, born-again Christian believer.  The local church that I joined taught the Bible in great detail.  As part of the teaching, I was boldly told about God’s plan for Israel throughout history and that God had a plan for Israel’s future that was positive and wonderful.  Although I had studied about the pogroms and the Holocaust in college classes, I now began to look at these atrocities through the eyes of a biblical worldview.  How could anyone do such heinous things against other human beings? The issue became more than just academic to me.

               After graduation from college, I began a career as a computer analyst and engineer working on things like missile defense systems. A few years into my work, my heart was drawn to go into the ministry so I went to seminary where I studied, among other things, biblical Hebrew. As I progressed, I decided to move to Dallas, Texas (1981) to work toward a Ph.D. degree in theology at a Zionist seminary. However, I needed to work to pay for the school bill and provide for my new wife.  So I applied to work at General Dynamics in Fort Worth which at that time was making F-16 jet fighters. When I received the offer letter from the company, joy filled my heart since the letter noted that my first project would be working with the Israel Defense Force.  Israel at the time was procuring many F-16s which they still fly today.  I worked for about five years as an avionics engineer on one of the cockpit computers. For about four of those years, I rubbed shoulders with military men from the IDF.  For almost a year, I was a classroom teacher on software for them. We had a colonel and his wife eat dinner in our home. We were invited to celebrations of Israeli Independence Day.

               However, the highlight of those years working on F-16s for IDF was a free trip to Israel!  I spent the month of July 1982, during the First Lebanon War (Peace for Galilee), in Israel working with Israeli soldiers. I did not get to do much touring of the country, but I did get to know the people and their concerns at the time since it was a time of war. My love for the Jewish people in general, and in particular, for Israelis moved a notch up and became much more personal. Their cause, which was already mine due to theology, became mine experientially. Perhaps the most special time of this trip to Israel was a dinner in the home of the IDF colonel who was in charge of the project we were working on. As we sat around the table someone said that he was a hero from the Six-Day War.  He was asked to show us his medals, which he did, and we discussed what had happened and a little about that war.  Looking back at that precious moment, I think of the word Israel that I had encountered in the Bible as a young lad reading about it for the first time and that newscast on June 5, 1967 when I was thirteen years old. In 1967 I would never have dreamed that I would be sitting in Israel with a hero of that war during another time of war in 1982. Beyond that, I would never have thought that I would be doing work that would assist the Israeli nation in defending itself against its enemies. I literally felt like I was in a movie.

               My ministerial career began to develop in 1986 in serious ways, although I had been speaking at various venues before then. I spent the next three decades as a pastor of local churches where I promoted Zionism and as a seminary theology professor where I made sure to tell my students the word Israel was in the Bible. So many Christians act like the word Israel is not in the Bible or that it does not refer to the Jewish people at all in modern application. But due to my earlier experiences with Jewish people and Israelis, I could speak on such topics with confidence and meaningful illustrations to highlight the truth about Israel in the present time.

               In 2016, my ministry pursuits took a dramatic, but logical, shift. I had been on the Board for the Friends of Israel ministry headquartered in New Jersey in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The Executive Director asked me to consider becoming a full-time employee as the Director of International Ministry which is what I am doing now. This position allows me to write, teach, and administrate a world-wide program which includes advocacy for the nation of Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism wherever we find it. By God’s grace, that thirteen-year old boy from 1967 has come a long way.

               I can understand why some Jewish people would be skeptical of evangelicals like me who support Israel and the Jewish people.  The unsettling history of persecution shows why the barriers exist. But I share my story in the hopes that Jewish people might remember that a theological friend is one of the best friends they can have.  For me to abandon the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, I would have to turn my back on the testimony I have given here.  In fact, I would have to abandon my entire theological worldview.  I would have to forsake the Bible that I had been reading when I was thirteen years old.

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Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed

I have recently been reading the book by Philip Hallie entitled Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. My copy is from 1994. It looks like the original book came out in 1979. It is the story of the French village in southern France named Le Chambon (on the Lignon River), a small town of around 3000 souls who saved many Jewish people, mostly children, from the Nazis from 1940-1944. The village was primarily Protestant — from the Huguenot tradition. The local Protestant pastor, Andre Trocme was the driving force behind the effort. Much tragedy was encountered but in the words of the author, “goodness happened there” as well as the people in a nonviolent way stood against Hitler and the Nazi determination to destroy the Jewish people. Although I do not agree with all of the theology of that community and its pastor, I appreciate their courageous stand. I highly recommend the book.

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Sailors and the Handiwork of God

Recently, someone gave me a free copy of an old book on submarines.  The author was a leading United States Navy man in the War in the Atlantic starting in 1942 when the German submarines were at the height of their successes against British and American shipping.  I found  a tremendous little section that I was not expecting about the reason that most sailors believe in God.  I thought it was worth sharing here.

“Sailors are supposed to be notoriously superstitious and to believe in all sort of omens religiously. When you get down to brass tacks, these so-called superstitions are fundamentally religious in nature.  They are an admission that man doesn’t run this Universe to suit himself and that his plans are subject to veto by a Higher Power.  Sailors instinctively understand this and believe in God because they have a better chance than men who stay ashore to observe and think about the handiwork of God.

They see the daily miracles of sunrise and sunset and understand the Power that regulates them better than the scientists do.  The scientists can “explain” the whole thing in terms of Newton’s Laws and show you that there is no miracle to it at all, the sun can’t help rising and setting.  But sailors who know nothing about Newton’s Laws are wiser than the scholars who expound laws which sailors can’t understand.  They go beyond the mathematics of the sunrise and see in it the hand of the One Who created these laws of mathematics as well as everything else. Read the rest of this entry »

Sixth-Grade Football and Jimmy

Image may contain: shoesTomorrow will be the first physical birthday I have had when I can’t call my twin brother Jimmy. Today in heaven he is far better off than I am on earth. Bittersweet. Memories hit me strangely sometimes coming out of nowhere. This week it was a sixth grade memory. During recess the guys were playing touch football. Jimmy and I were smaller than the other guys and we were the “good students” so they did not give us much credence as athletes. But we played with them. For some strange reason they decided to let Jimmy be the quarterback of one team for awhile. I went out as a receiver. We were fast although the other guys didn’t know it. We had the ball around the 20-yard line. When the ball was hiked, I took off as fast as I could. Jimmy at QB launched it as far as he could. It was a perfect pass right to me. A young lad named Larry Brown, who would later play running back at our high school, caught me from behind just before I crossed the goal line. I think Jimmy and I changed some thoughts about us on that one play — the greatest passing play of all time, if you don’t mind me saying so!

Jimmy, Me, and Wasps

Jimmy and I were raised in the state of Alabama where I am convinced there are more wasps per square inch than anywhere on the planet. Somewhere along the way we picked up a phobia of wasps. The family always made fun of us about this particular phobia. But what I find intriguing is that Jimmy had the knack of being attacked by a wasp with me there while he was minding his own business and not bothering the wasp. I’ve never believed the story — “leave them alone and they will leave you alone.” No. They are all demon possessed! If there are any PETA people who think wasps are more important than people, you can stop reading now. Because in the stories below wasps are killed and I am not sad about it. Read the rest of this entry »

PRAYING FOR THE DEAD

It is a common practice in Roman Catholic tradition to pray for those who have departed from this life into the next. Of course, they have purgatory to contend with and attempt to shorten the experience of their loved ones in that place of purgatorial fire. But I do not pray for the dead. I do not pray for my twin brother Jimmy who recently passed away. Here is why:

1. The Bible does not teach praying for the dead. At this point we have to discuss which Bible — Catholic or Protestant. The only passage which teaches praying for the dead is from 2 Maccabees 12:45 in the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was added to the Catholic Bible in the 1540s at the Council of Trent as part of the Counter-Reformation. They wanted to prove that the Church had authority over the Bible instead of the Bible having authority over the Church as the Reformers were teaching. However, it is the teaching of Jesus which helps. The Apocryphal books which were added to the Catholic Bible were all written before the time of Jesus. These books were available when Jesus was on earth in his earthly ministry in his first coming. But Jesus gave his stamp of approval on the Jewish Scriptures which constitute the Old Testament of the Protestant Bible. In Luke 11:51 Jesus uses the phrase “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” Abel died in Genesis. Zechariah died in 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Old Testament in the Jewish order of the books. Jesus was saying the equivalent of our modern Christian “from Genesis to Revelation.” In this statement he affirms the Jewish Scriptures that he possessed WHICH DID NOT INCLUDE THE APOCRYPHA. He also affirmed the Jewish canon in other passages like Luke 24:27. In other words, Jesus put his stamp of approval on the Old Testament that is found in the Protestant Bible. So those who follow the teachings of the Apocrypha must answer the question why they have a different Old Testament than the one Jesus used. I want to have the same OT that Christ used. One of the consequences is that I have no biblical grounds for praying for the dead.

2. The Bible teaches that the eternal destiny of souls cannot be changed when one passes away. For a believer, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-9; Phil. 1:21-23). Once a person dies, his fate is sealed (Luke 16:19-31). There are several other passages that could be discussed but the conclusion is the same. There is no teaching allowing for or commanding prayer for the dead. Such praying is of no consequence.

Sometimes I find myself asking God to give Jimmy a hug for me and tell him that I love him. That is a kind of praying for the dead, I guess. It is a natural human response in light of losing a loved one. God knows how frail we are and might actually answer such a prayer in the affirmative. I don’t know. But his eternal destiny is settled and my prayers could not improve his lot in any way. He has new personal friends now: Paul, Peter, the other apostles, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, King David, and the rest of the Old Testament heroes of the faith. But most of all, Jimmy has been firmly embraced by God and Jesus. If I did pray for Jimmy, it would be but a thimble of water poured into the Pacific Ocean. Things are already settled. My brother Jimmy is in heaven awaiting the day when I cross over to meet him. Perhaps he is the one praying to God asking Him to watch over me.

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JIMMY’S 279

Jimmy and I loNo automatic alt text available.ved to go bowling. Mom and Dad bowled also.

Jimmy and I bowled for years in leagues from the 4th grade through college. In junior bowling Jimmy and I were on over 10 league championship teams. We also won the Alabama state doubles junior championship. We would not do well in team events or in singles. But when the doubles event came, Jimmy and I always seemed to come alive and do well.

One of my greatest bowling memories was of Jimmy’s greatest success in bowling. My highest game was 269. Jimmy bowled better — a 279. The highest score possible is 300 (12 strikes in a row for the whole game). Jimmy had the first 9 strikes in a row and was going for a perfect game. The crowds gathered around when he came up to bowl from about the 8th frame on. I was so nervous for him that I bowled a horrible 150 or so that game. For those who love bowling there is nothing like going for a 300. Jimmy got a 9-spare and strike in the 10th frame for his 279. I was so proud of him.

After coming to Christ, we bowled one year in a league. Then we quit league bowling. I go open bowling (not in a league) at lunch time every now and then at an alley near the Friends of Israel headquarters. But Jimmy and I went from very active (I bowled in three leagues at the same time in that last year) to stopping entirely. What changed? There is nothing wrong with bowling. It is a good sport and good for young people as sports go.

What changed was that Jimmy and I had become so involved in ministry at our local church after coming to faith in Christ. God began to move our hearts in a different direction. We did not have time to continue bowling as we had previously done. While I was proud of Jimmy’s 279, I was more thankful and proud for the man of God he became as he ministered the gospel to people’s hearts for the next four plus decades. God is good.

LITTLE LEAGUE TWINS

Jimmy and I played the usual three years of little league baseball through the YMCA in Huntsville when we were around 10 to 12 years old. We played at several different baseball fields, but the two most frequent (and my favorites) were the fenced in field by Jack’s hamburger place on Governors Drive — it was right across from the Winn Dixie grocery store where the two of us would eventually work — and the McCormick YM

CA field. Perhaps somewhat prophetic, the McCormick field was right across the street from West Huntsville Baptist Church where Jimmy and I would come to Christ a decade later. I used to look at the church during games and wonder what it was like to attend church in that building.

I have attached a faded photograph of our first little league team. I am second from the right on the front row wearing # 6 (the number of Jimmy and my favorite player Al Kaline, hall of fame right fielder for the Detroit Tigers). Jimmy is to my right without a hat and wearing his glove. There were highlights in our lives from all three years. My best year was year # 2 in my estimation. The first year, the coach found out I knew how to bunt which in the end I didn’t like. He put me as the lead off hitter in every game and he gave me the bunt signal every time I came up to bat the whole season–yes, the whole season!.. I wanted to hit singles, doubles, triples, and home runs! But the coach knew I could bunt and create havoc since most young boys did not yet field well. One time I bunted right through the second baseman’s legs out into short right field and ended up on third base after sliding into first, second, and third in a Bad News Bears kind of scene. I put it down in my record book as a triple when it was really safe on third because of two fielding errors.

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The third year of our little league careers was probably Jimmy’s best. We both made the all-star team and I became a pitcher. We most often played in the outfield or second-base/shortstop. This year was also highlighted by the fact that part way through the season, my Dad became the coach of the team.

But the real story I want to tell you comes from our second year, my best year hitting. We had a great fielding outfield — me in right, Jimmy in left, and Tim Robbins in center. Jimmy usually batted second while I batted third. In this one game in the field by Jack’s Hamburgers, I had three straight hits, the last one a foot from the top of the fence and off the wall — the closest to a home run I ever came. But we were behind in the last inning. The pitcher on the other team was angry because we started to come back so he became wild. He hit a couple of batters, one in the back of the neck. I was in the on deck circle while Jimmy was batting. I believe there was one out. Jimmy hit a double driving in some runs to make it 6 to 5. We were one run down. I was excited because I had three straight hits off of this guy. But as I walked up to the batter’s box, the coach called me back. I wondered what he was doing. Was he going to take me out after going 3 for 3 off of this pitcher? No, he just wanted to warn me — “this guy is wild and might hurt somebody, be careful!” All that did was make me passive. I took the first two pitches straight down the middle for strikes. The third pitch was also straight down the middle and I swung and missed weakly. The coach had talked me out of doing well. I left Jimmy standing on second base when I should have knocked him in to tie the game. The cleanup hitter on our team (John) hit a home run to win the game so all was not lost. Out of all our little league games this is the one I remember the most. Not exactly sure why. But it is another shared treasure I had with my dear brother Jimmy.