Archives for posts with tag: Israel

promised land 2

What if the “Promised Land” is literally the territory that becomes Israel in the Bible…AND figuratively the blessings of God on the obedience of His people? What if our study of Old Testament history is meant to lead us to deeper understanding of both God’s will for all his people, and God’s will for us individually? I believe God set aside a geographic place, but I also believe God prepares a “promised land” that is unique for each of His children. It may be a geographic place. It may be a relationship or a ministry or a front row seat to see God at work…it was all those for the ancient Hebrews. There are some things that were true about the promised land God gave to his people back then that are also true for each of us as we seek God’s will for us right now.

 We have to separate themselves from what has been and allow God to do a new thing. God required that Abraham leave Ur and that the Hebrews leave Egypt in order to inhabit a different place. They could not have become the people God intended them to be if they had refused to obey God’s instructions. For us, that may not necessarily mean physical relocation, but it will mean that we have to let go of things that keep us bound to the past, or prevent us from seeing new things about ourselves and about God.

 Getting from where we are to the promised land God calls us to is not a magic miracle; it is a journey. There will be times in the wilderness. The journey to possess our promised lands may be fraught with tests and tribulations intended to make us strong enough to overcome the “giants” that already live there. Dwelling in our promised land will require that we trust God more than we fear those who oppose us, that we want what God chooses for us more than we want what we’ve chosen for ourselves.

 Promised lands are not a one-time gift; they have to be defended. Satan is threatened by those who obey God’s call on their lives and inhabit the promised lands God gives them. But when we stand firm in what we know is God’s call on our lives, God fights the battles for us, just as He fought for the ancient Hebrews as they moved forward into Canaan to possess their land.

 God led those ancient peoples each step of the way. They walked across the Red Sea on dry land as they left Egypt; they walked across the Jordan River on dry land as they arrived in their promised land. And in between, they saw some of the most magnificent miracles recorded in the Bible.

 God still leads those who will follow. May we let go of the things that prevent us from knowing the full measure of His blessing on our lives, and may that process let us see His glory and allow us to fully trust Him for our next step forward.

 

The Passion of a Story

He brought the stories and the history to life. He told me things I didn’t know and brought new meaning to details I knew, but hadn’t thought were significant. People and stories of the Bible that I only understood on the black and white pages of my Bible became real, 3-D, live action adventure stories. His great love for his country and his deep knowledge and understanding of its past and present led me to see what he sees and begin to love what he loves. I am only one face out of thousands of tourists that he introduced to his country, but for me, he is the face of Israel.

Ezra Eini was a soldier in the Six Day War. He and his wife raised their three boys (one of whom was killed by terrorists) in a nation constantly threatened by violence, and he has dedicated his life to teaching about the place and the people that God chose for himself. His passion for his country, his knowledge and his professionalism, mixed with humor and genuine compassion, make him the ideal ambassador to introduce people like me to his culture and country. I am forever changed by what I saw and learned, and I have encouraged everyone I know to go and experience what I experienced.

His calling is as a guide and teacher for tourists in the country of Israel. He stripped away the façade built by the American media and helped us see Israel as it actually is. But it occurs to me that every Christian has the same calling he does. Ecc 3:11 says that “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” God wants to be known and loved by his people, and our first priority is to be in relationship with him. But because he loves all of us, we are required to be guides and teachers for God to those who don’t yet know him. During the course of my life, I have learned things about God that others need to know. After years of study, I understand things about his word and the stories contained in scripture that have given me hope and understanding and peace. Those stories have given me the courage to trust God as they did, and now I have some stories of my own.

God recorded his word as our Bible, but he didn’t intend for us to just know its stories. He wants each of us to come to understand his love for us as demonstrated in those stories, and trust him enough to have our own stories with him. True change doesn’t occur by accumulating facts. I could have read a book on Israel and learned a lot. But experiencing it, learning about it through the heart of one who loves it, made it significant to me, helped me learn to love it as well. I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Go and make disciples.” (Matt 28:19) He didn’t say “Go give information”; making disciples involves relationship and change in perspective and expectation.

God calls each of us to be his ambassadors. We’re not all preachers or teachers, but once we have a story of how God has worked in our lives, he requires that we share it so others can see him, can know his power, and can learn to love what he loves. He has “set eternity in our hearts” because he wants us to find comfort and delight in what he has planned for us, regardless of the circumstances we face this day.

May your love for God and your story of his love for you be the means by which God introduces himself to someone you know. May your love for your Savior and Lord lead others to see him as he is, and may your passion and your story inspire others to trust and obey and more deeply love the God who loved them first.

Educated or Changed?

I can’t really call it a vacation. We walked many miles every day. We got up early and were held to a strict schedule. There were days we stood in the rain and slogged through puddles. Other days we were too cold or too hot. I’ve learned less in an entire semester college course than I learned last week. A wise, passionate man lectured, answered countless questions, and shared his passion for his country with people who wanted to learn. Last week I walked through the streets and stories of the Promised Land. The land God gave to Abraham, the place he brought the Hebrews back to from Egypt, the cities and villages and mountainsides where Jesus walked and taught and healed became mine. The history of their battles and miracles, their stories of victory and devastation came to life as I lost a part of my heart to the place God gave to his people.

I’ve been to places where I learned new things or gained better understanding of the history I knew before I got there. But this tiny country is different. I was educated by an incredibly patient teacher with a seemingly endless supply of facts who brought the stories of the Bible to life and gave me new insight into details that I didn’t know were significant.

I recently published a book “He Wants You to Know” about the metaphors God uses to describe himself in the Bible. But, while seeing the country of Israel, God showed me a new metaphor. Israel’s enemies are powerful and close in proximity to every part of the country. Some of the incredible sites of that country were built by evil kings, some by those seeking to honor God. Some of the ruins and archeological digs we saw were destroyed by battle or earthquake or were just abandoned and lost in time. These places are being unearthed by historians and archeologists who are painstakingly scraping away the layers of dirt and debris to find the truth about life in that place. Sometimes new cities were built on the foundations of old ones. Sometimes those ruins were buried and lost to history until recently. Sometimes the new construction was designed to honor God; sometimes it just served new purposes and ignored the past significance.

My life is a lot like that. I live in a fallen world where evil is powerful and a constant threat. My present is intrinsically intertwined with my past. The things and events that I have buried are still a part of who I have become. I face choices about what I will build on the ruins of my failures and whether or not my victories lead me to honor God or give me foolish confidence to trust my own plans for my future. God can bring new life and meaning to old events and stories that will change my old foundations into new construction. God doesn’t just rescue us from our sin; he redeems our past and uses its rubble to build something new and stronger.

An education is an incredible tool, but if it is limited to just accumulating information, it will not change us. God never intended for us to just be educated by the Bible. He wants us to be changed by it. This incredible love story between the God of the universe and the ever so unworthy people he chose as his own is not just about people in history; it is about you. I was incredibly privileged to see the places and learn new facts about the land God promised to his people. But I was permanently changed when God met me at the western wall of the Temple. The God who builds and rebuilds with the treasure and rubble of our lives reminded me that he is God and I am not. He overwhelmed me with a palpable sense of his presence, and a peace that his plans will not be thwarted by evil.

For a moment, the God of the universe met me in time and space. He has a habit of doing that with his people. Some in the Bible left that presence with a glow or a limp or a new name. I left with new peace and humility and hope. I got an incredible education during the ten days I was in Israel, but it didn’t just add information to my teaching arsenal; it changed me. He never called us to be smarter; he calls us to be holy. May what I do and say each day bring my good and his glory. And may my past and present lead me to an eternity with the God who continually finds ways to dwell with those who love him.

II Chron 7:15-16 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.