Pastor’s Page: This past week the United States moved their embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Congress approved such a move in 1995, but the relocation had been postponed (in 6-month increments over a 23-year period) to avoid inflaming the Palestinian people. Israel has considered Jerusalem their capital for many years, but the USA (and others) had not recognized that, staying in Tel Aviv… Until this week, which also happened to be the 70th anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence (May 15, 1948). The USA was the first nation to recognize the Jewish state (by President Truman on May 14, 1948), so the move was timed with that celebration.
While Israel celebrated, there were many who did not. Many world governments have criticized the USA’s recognition of Jerusalem as a threat to peace (as did the Pope). Some consider Israel to be an occupying force in Palestinian territory, and a negative view of Israel is growing, even in our country. What’s a Christian to think? Is this a political issue, best left to the government, or is there more going on here? What about the promises to Israel in the Old Testament, and Jesus’ words in the New Testament?
America’s support for Israel comes from our Judeo-Christian worldview (which is rapidly waning!). The land was basically given to the Jewish people as a guilt offering for the Holocaust, but since then most American leaders have operated with the assumption that the land rightfully belongs to them. That under-standing has a biblical background, which was part of American culture for over 200 years (that is waning as well!). Those who reject the Bible as relevant in today’s world will most likely not support Israel; many Christians continue to support Israel, but not all.
Two thoughts: 1) Don’t forget that there are Palestinians who are Christians (most are Muslim), so some of those people are our brothers in Christ. I knew Arabic Christians in Cincinnati. 2) The growing enmity may be the fulfillment of prophecy: "Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples…On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves” (Zechariah 12:2-3). While modern Israel is very secular and opposes Christianity, we are told that someday the Lord will come to rescue them – and they will “look on me, on him whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). How will God do all this? That remains to be seen!! -Pastor Tim
What is an Evangelical? by Timothy C. Turley
Everywhere I turn I see the word “Evangelical” used as a political designation. It has become a favorite of the media, but is not being used correctly. We witnessed something similar in the 1980’s, when the term “evangelist” was maligned due to the misbehavior of several TV “evangelists.” Now the same thing is happening to the word “evangelical.”
What does “evangelical” mean? According to Merriam-Webster, the top three definitions are:
1) Being in agreement with the Christian gospel, especially as it is presented in the four gospels;
3) Emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching instead of ritual.
Historically, then, “evangelical” refers to an approach to Christianity evidenced by Protestant churches. Each person must believe in Jesus Christ, receiving forgiveness by faith. Guidance for Christian living is found in the Bible, which has greater authority than church tradition. The contrast is with those churches that do practice ritual and do not emphasize conversion (those that practice infant baptism). This is the way the term has been applied for many, many years.
Thus being an evangelical has nothing to do with American politics, but is an approach to the Christian gospel. Are there some political issues that evangelicals might have concerns about? Certainly, but we are in no way defined by the American political battles: liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat, Socialists versus Tea Party, etc., ad nauseum. We are defined by our allegiance to Jesus Christ!
On February 21 of this year, one of the greatest evangelists of all history passed away. Billy Graham spoke to people all over the world, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what evangelists do – share the gospel! Yet even today the connotation of “evangelist” for many is “charlatan,” based on the actions of some who claimed that title for themselves. Now the word “evangelical” is caught in the political maelstrom, and its true and positive meaning is also in danger. As Baptists we are true evangelicals: our trust is in Jesus Christ!
Nothing More Than Feelings
Feelings? We all have them. Some days we feel better than others. Certain activities may make us feel happy: being with our family, achieving success in work or school, going on a ride through the mountains. Of course, some things bring negative feelings: taxes, the flu, politics!
“Feelings” are the basis for much of our behavior: “The way I feel is…” “I feel this is best…!” Most of us operate through our feelings: “I decide what is true for me, and this is what my heart tells me. This is how I feel!” Always following our feelings assumes one very important thing: That our hearts know what is best and are a reliable basis for our feelings. While that is often assumed, it is unfortunately not true! In Jeremiah 17:9-10 we read:
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who
can understand it? 10 "I the Lord search the heart and test the
mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the
fruit of his deeds."
In God’s word we discover something eternally important: Our hearts are unreliable! Jeremiah said they are “deceitful and desperately sick,” so our feelings are not the best gauge for determining what’s best for us! Why? Despite our high view of human freedom, we have forgotten that we are fallen people with darkened hearts. Paul wrote:
18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (Ephesians 4:18-19)
The reality of sin greatly undermines the idea of going only by our feelings. Our hearts, apart from the Lord, are unreliable. What we feel is not the end of the matter, but only the beginning: We are to put our feelings through the blinding light of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to Christians to guide us (Ephesian 4:22-24):
…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and…be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
If we operate only through our feelings, we can end up far, far away from God’s will. We should always ask: Are my feelings reliable? Does this line up with God’s word and His plan for my life? Why do I feel this way? Is it from God’s Holy Spirit or from my own human desire?
In 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul speaks of Christians who once lived in the darkness of the world:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were
sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God.”
Jesus came to save us from our sins, reconcile us to God, and transform our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit! Once we know Him we are to rely on Him, letting Him guide us in “the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3). That’s something much better than just feelings!