ROMANS 11 & THE 2 OLIVE TREES

ROMANS 11 & THE 2 OLIVE TREES

(Download PDF Print-friendly version) Those who understand Paul’s teachings in Romans 11, know he likened Gentile disciples of Christ to wild olive branches, who through Christ, are grafted into a cultivated tree, a symbol of ‘spiritual Israel’. In the Middle East and southern Europe where olive groves abound, it’s very noticeable how harshly cultivated trees are pruned in order to produce better fruit.  Cultivated olive groves have lines of well-ordered and pruned trees, whereas wild trees grow everywhere on the hillsides, straggly and wild, producing lesser fruits.  The harshness with which cultivated trees are pruned, even using chainsaws to cut off major branches is significant when considering Paul’s parable in Romans 11. Why, because Gentile branches should expect to be pruned and trained as the host tree is.   If Gentile believers are grafted into the cultivated tree, becoming spiritual citizens of the commonwealth of Israel, they too should expect to do as the Lord requires of Israel.    Otherwise we risk falling into the trap of wanting to have our proverbial cake and eat it.  We want the blessings that Israel receives without paying the full price of commitment and obedience. Jesus makes clear: love = obedience to His word, all of it!   This is not out of legalism (a trap into which Israel has fallen) but out of love for our Father in Heaven. God placed laws and commandments for the Israelites to follow with the counsel that great blessing or cursing would come too, depending on whether they obeyed or rebelled.   The Western church majors on the doctrine of grace, a doctrine which has been placed on such...
ISRAEL – A THORN IN THE ARAB SIDE

ISRAEL – A THORN IN THE ARAB SIDE

(Download PDF Print-friendly version) As tensions and violence continue in the Middle East with both Palestinians and Israelis hardening their hearts, disciples of Jesus Christ who understand Israel’s unique place in biblical prophecy, must align their thinking with God’s by taking every thought captive to Christ.[i] First and foremost we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven,[ii] so must see the conflict through God’s eyes, not ours. As ambassadors for this kingdom, in all matters pertaining to political-religious conflict, we must seek first the wisdom of our King. Attempting to make sense of the Arab-Israeli conflict through man’s eye is destined only to confuse, divide and cause trouble. To understand what’s happening in this aged dispute we must turn to God’s word. For it is an aged dispute, one that goes back over four thousand years to the first disputes about land, water and inheritance. “The Lord blessed Issac…the man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous.; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.” Genesis 26 12-14. When one reads the name ‘Philistine’ in the Bible one must think Palestine. ‘Filisteen’ is simply the Arabic pronunciation of our word Philistine, from which derives the modern pronunciation Palestine. The early ‘Filisteens’/Philistines/Palestinians envied the early Israelites much as they do today. Abimelech, the Philistine king, said to Isaac “go away from us, for you are much mightier than us” (Gen 26:16). Later in verse 20, we read how Isaac’s herdsmen clashed with the Philistine herdsmen over water (much as they do today). “The...
CONFLICT – AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH

CONFLICT – AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH

(Download PDF Print-friendly version) Jesus endured conflict during His time on earth, not least with the religious leaders, but also within His own community and family even: “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”[i] Therefore, as servants who are not greater than our Master, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see it in our own lives as a result of our faith and obedience to Him. Dictionary definitions for conflict include words such as battle, contention, strife, antagonism, disagreement and dissension, divided loyalties, contend, differ and struggle. If Jesus went through such, we should expect to: “Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household!” [ii] However, it is our response to conflict that counts, so choosing to respond appropriately is the road to Christian maturity. Sometimes as with Job, He allows conflict to test us in order we learn more about ourselves, therefore it’s not to be feared, but embraced as a valuable learning experience and an opportunity to grow.  Other times He will chastise us for our profit, to lead us to righteousness. Although such discipline doesn’t feel nice, when He chastises you rejoice, for He scourges those He receives as sons.[iii] Family & Church Conflict Family and church conflict is likely as the great sifting takes place in these last days. The Lord’s winnowing fork[iv] will separate those who...
PASSOVER AND THE EASTER TRADITIONS

PASSOVER AND THE EASTER TRADITIONS

(Download PDF Print-friendly version) The question of whether Christians should observe Passover, or continue with the well-established tradition of Easter, is one that provokes much reaction amongst believers. To answer this question we must always begin by examining the word of God.   For God’s ways are higher than man’s. Nowhere in the bible will you find the word Easter. The word Easter derives from Ishtar, the moon goddess from ancient Assyria, and is the root of the Germanic name Eostre, a pagan fertility goddess of the Saxon people of northern Europe. Eostre is also the root of the word estrogen, or oestrogen, the primary female sex hormone Ishtar/Eostre’s fertility symbols were eggs and rabbits. The ancient Assyrian new-year celebrations, called Akitu, culminated with the festival of Ishtar, which was the religious celebration of the fertility and pregnancy of the mother goddess as well as the resurrection of her son/husband, Tammuz, ‘the incarnated son of god’, who coincidentally was born on the 25th December! These pagan fertility symbols have become widely accepted in western culture, yet God makes it abundantly clear that we are not to do as the pagans do. Even the origins of the hot cross bun are found in a repeating form of worship, dating back to the days of Ishtar, who was known as the ‘queen of heaven,’ a name later given to Mary the mother of Jesus. Pagans would bake cakes to offer to ‘the queen of heaven’ (just as the idolatrous Israelites did – Jer 7:18) on the Friday before the Easter festival. Sound familiar? “Take heed to yourself you are not ensnared to...