Thursday, June 28, 2012

41 Weeks

Confirmed Pregnancy Test October 2011

It's the night before my 7 a.m. induction.  I have had a day filled with the still presence of God.  There has been a shalom surrounding me like a thick mist.  I know it's from the amount of people praying for me.  So often we say, "I'll pray for you," as a means to make someone feel better.  People who don't even believe in the power of prayer say it, but I REALLY believe that prayer to Father God in the name of Jesus WORKS. Jesus said, "Anything you ask in my name is yours to have."  I believe this and I believe that many REALLY are praying for me.  They aren't just saying it.

This was my Facebook status this morning:
Tomorrow I will be at one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation, in a state of the art birthing center, with my favorite OB who happens to be a Christian and was the one who visited me when I was hospitalized for heart problems (I have six physicians in my OB practice). My darling husband, mom, and close friend will be by my side as I work through labor. Ella will join us later along with the rest of my family. My whole life is about to change...

55 people "liked" this status and there are 20 comments on it.  When I looked through the people that "liked" it, I was overcome with emotion.  I sat at my computer and cried.  Men and women from all over the world, from all walks of life, had "liked" the status.  These were people that I had crossed paths with over ten years of life lived throughout the world.  Now, they are all rejoicing with what the Lord has done.  They have offered love, support, encouragement, and I am strengthened.

There is Brett whom I met in Pittsburgh eight years ago.  We have walked through the fire together, played in the woods for hours together, drank mad amounts of coffee, and spent time getting to know the craziest of crazies in the South Side.  She is mom to a five month old and expecting.  She "liked" my status.

There is Maryellen whom I met at Lifestone Church two years ago.  From the time I met her, I felt a special appreciation and protectiveness for her.  She has a definite call on her life that is unique and special.  The first time I heard her speak at church, she had a confident air of expectancy about her.  I have the honor of being in her wedding next year.  She "liked" my status.

There is Courtney whom I was neighbors with in Florida three years ago.  She is a teenager that used to come over for sausage and yellow rice.  She, at one point, said that I introduced her to God.  Wow, what a privilege.  She "liked" my status.

There is Stacy whom I lived one crazy year in Los Angeles with in 2005-2006.  We traveled through the city and States out West with 25 young adults, spreading God's love through dance, human video, spoken Word and servant-hood.  She "liked" my status.

There is Diamond whom I met in Los Angeles in 2005 when she was graduating from a discipleship program.  She and I used to go to Skid Row and bring the homeless and hurting to church with us every Thursday night.  She is a mom now and has offered countless words of encouragement and advice to me.  She "liked" my status.

There is Tracey whom I went to Kenya, Africa with in 2006; Jamie whom led a bible study in Dormont that I attended for years.  She taught me a song that impacted me significantly, "I'm listening, Lord, speak to me,"; Katherine from Australia whom I saw get baptized in Israel in 2006, then we led an Israel young adult adventure tour together in 2009; Andrea with whom I'm a medical billing supervisor and has lent countless hours of support and advice to me; Eldon, my Father in Law; Jason with whom I spent Friday nights in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, handing out water to party goers and letting them know there is another way to live; Patrick, my youngest brother's best friend; and Brianna whom I've known since she was just a little kid, growing up at South Hills Assembly and is now a beautiful teenager.  They "liked" my status.

There was a time that I thought none of this would be possible.  None as in, no baby, no husband, no traveling, no friendships, and definitely no ministry.  There was a dark, dark time of my life in which God was not welcomed.  This season lasted several years until the God of the Universe reached down, plucked me out of the evil life I had created and said, "This one's mine."

Tomorrow, I celebrate restoration.  I celebrate my Jesus.  I celebrate the husband He gave me to enjoy life with.  I celebrate a daughter that cannot replace the 14 year old I should have, but brings full circle God's promises to restore when we surrender to Him.  I celebrate the joy that is surrounding me that lacked when I was 16.

Today I am reminded that, "My ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9

My darling daughter, tomorrow, I welcome you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Christians, do you feel indebted to the Jewish People?

God is moving in Israel today and Christians get to play an important role.  Make no mistake about it; understanding God’s biblical role for Christians regarding Israel is a healthy part of discipleship.  Why are so many Christians confused about it?  Why do so many church leaders neglect this important part of our heritage?  Unfortunately, it is partly due to a lack of biblical knowledge and sound teaching on this subject.  Even more unfortunately, it is partly due to haughtiness on the part of the Christian.  When you combine a lack of knowledge with pride, a dangerous situation is created.  This situation robs a Christian of learning about the very root of their faith and keeps them from growing in the things on the Lord.

When reading through Romans, we often dance down the “Roman’s Road” and neglect Romans 9, 10 and 11 where Paul is in anguish for his Jewish brothers.  He states in Romans 9:3, “For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood.”  When Paul is saying, “my brothers,” in context, he is referring to his fellow Jews.  No other people group was his own flesh and blood. When was the last time you desired to be cut off from Christ for the sake of someone that did not know him?  A harder question for you: “When was the last time you wished to be to be CURSED and CUT OFF from Christ for the sake of a Jewish person?”  Please let that question resonate with you for a moment before moving on. 

So that we know that Paul is speaking of all Jews and not just his siblings, he moves on to state in verses 4-5, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. All that we have inherited by being united with the Grace of Jesus is only ours because God gave it to the Jewish people first.  If you are not a Jew, then you are a Gentile.  Gentile also means, “nations.”  Before the mystery of Christ was revealed (that He came not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles), Gentiles were serving many gods, without hope, inflamed by all kinds of sinful passions.  You were probably this way before meeting Jesus.  The only people group in the world that followed one God was the Jewish people.  All that is of the One, True God that we rightfully claim as ours through Messiah belonged to the Jewish people first.  Since the character of God is one who is ever-faithful, even with many Jews rejecting Christ today, He has not removed His promises, glory, or covenants from them.  It is written regarding the Jewish people in Romans 3:3-4, “What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar.”

It was then revealed to Paul, a Jewish man, that we, as Gentiles have an inheritance in the JEWISH Messiah also.  Paul writes in Ephesians 3, “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, you have heard, haven’t you, about the administration of God’s grace that He gave to me for you?  The mystery was made known to me by revelation… my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  What a revelation!  The Jewish people were waiting for a Messiah, and all other cultures around them knew it.  When it was God’s appointed time, Jesus came to the Jewish people first, then after his ascension, revealed to the Apostles that Gentiles could be a part of their promises.

Let’s look at the exchange between the Caananite woman and Jesus in Matthew 15:23-28.  “Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon.” Yet He did not say a word to her. So His disciples approached Him and urged Him, “Send her away because she cries out after us.” He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, help me!” He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!” Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured.

Why did Jesus ignore this woman at first?  She was not a part of the Jewish people.  Wow.  That can sound harsh, but not when we look at the character of Jesus.  He came to do His Father’s will in humble submission, and respect for authority.  He only did what He heard His Father say and was submitting to the order that God had laid forth.  To Honor God, as a Jewish man, he submitted and was focused on His call to His own people.  While she begged for mercy, he refers to the Jews as, “His children,” and to the Gentiles as, “dogs.”  She persisted and responded in faith.  In that moment a slight glimpse into the mystery of Christ was revealed.  He set her daughter free with a Word.

Gentiles being a part of the mystery of Messiah was a revelation given to the Jewish people first, then brought to us.  How thankful we should be to them for including us in their heritage and running with the message when it was revealed.  How thankful we should be to God for calling out a people group thousands of years ago that would bear His name, His promises, and His covenants, even in the toughest of times and would usher in the Savior of the world!  But, instead of thankful, we Christians have been haughty.

Many of us, who believe in Christ and have received the Holy Spirit to live inside of us, act as though we cannot receive teaching from others, particularly Jews, because they do not believe in Christ.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The Jewish people are carrying our roots.  A tree without roots will be blown down by the wind.  A flower without roots will wither and die.  So it will be with our Christian faith if we do not drink of the richness of our roots.  Christianity does not exist apart from Judaism, but Judaism exists apart from Christianity.  Understanding where we came from and the love of God that welcomed us into His adoption with the Jewish people will only enrich our walks with Christ.  Christianity did not just appear in the sky.  We have a beginning in the Torah which is Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  This also first belonged to the Jewish people.

So as Christians, how are we to act towards the Jewish people?  It is written in Romans 11: 19-21, “You (referring to the Gentiles) will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”  One of the first attitudes we need to examine our hearts for is haughtiness.  The definition of haughtiness is, “disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant; supercilious.”  Do you have this attitude in your heart towards the Jewish people?  Be honest with yourself.  If you do, ask the Lord for forgiveness and to replace it with the fear of God.  Do not be haughty, but fear.  

There is more good news within Romans 11:25-26, though.  “So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.”  The Lord has allowed a hardening of heart on the parts of the Jewish people so that we Gentiles will come into His kingdom.  When the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, all Israel will be saved.  This is yet another exciting mystery of God that we will fully understand when it is fulfilled.  In the meantime, though, He tells us through Paul, “Do not be conceited.”  The definition of conceit is, “an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability and importance.”  Please take a moment to examine your heart again.  Are you conceited towards the Jewish people?  Again, please be honest with yourself.  If the answer is yes, ask the Lord to forgive you and replace conceit with humility.  Let’s begin a new chapter in our Christian walks of one of humble submission vertically and honor and respect horizontally towards the Jewish people who have given us so much.