Anti-Semitism and “Who killed Jesus?”

This is a rerun from 2006.  Long time readers: Try to look surprised.

cross3.jpgIn light of Mel Gibson’s alcohol-fueled anti-semitic comments as well as an article in the Houston Chronical religion section that referred to stupid things Christians sometimes say to Jewish people, I thought it would be worth posting this from my Christian FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page.

Q. What does the Bible teach about how Christians should act towards Jewish people? There has been so much hostility towards them over the centuries.

A. Many Christians are very kind to Jewish people and are Israel’s staunchest defenders. However, throughout history, some unthinking Christians (or at least people who have called themselves Christians) have blamed the Jewish people for killing Jesus. If anyone blames “the Jews” for killing Jesus or is unkind to Jewish people, they should consider the following:

  • Jesus was Jewish.
  • The apostles were Jewish.
  • Nearly every author of the Bible was Jewish.
  • The Israelites were chosen by God to be His people, and they received the first covenant. God still feels fondly towards them.
  • Only some Jewish people wanted Jesus killed. Blaming all Jewish people for Jesus’ death is as illogical as blaming all males, since only males (Jewish and Roman) are recorded as having been involved with his death.
  • The Apostle Paul cared so much for the Jews that he would have given up his own salvation if it meant that more Jews would follow Christ.
  • The New Testament clearly states that Jesus came first for the Jews, then for the gentiles.
  • Jesus was the Messiah predicted by over 100 prophecies in the Old Testament.
  • Jesus would not condone hurting others in His name.
  • Since Jesus died for our sins, we all killed Jesus as surely as we put the nails in His hands and feet. If we weren’t sinners, He wouldn’t have had to die in our place.
  • Would they like to be held accountable for any acts their ancestors committed?
  • Would they prefer that Jesus hadn’t died for their sins? Speaking for myself, I would be in big trouble if Jesus hadn’t taken my punishment and bridged the gap between God the Father and me.
  • Jesus forgave his killers, saying as He was dying, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  • Most importantly, Jesus let himself be killed. John 10:17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life, only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. “
  • If you can think of anything to add to the list, leave a comment.

    P.S. Things we can learn from Mel:

    1) Alcohol can cause serious problems.

    2) One stupid act can undo a lot of good work.

    3) Think first, then speak (or type).

    Daniel 3

    This reading is Daniel 3.

    Near the end of chapter two, King Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” We don’t know how much time elapsed between chapters two and three, but Nebuchadnezzar obviously had a change of heart somewhere in between. He apparently liked the statue concept and decided that his should be gold from head to toe.

    Shardrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow down before the statue and this enrages the king (We’re not sure where Daniel was . . . presumably out of town, as it is hard to imagine him bowing to the statue). They make a stunning witness to the king in verses 16-18:

    “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

    What faith! They could have come up with many excuses to worship the statue, but they held firm. Are we bold enough not to worship the world’s idols, especially when it costs us money, prestige or safety? Think of how our society worships gold in the metaphorical sense – money, possessions and status. I don’t think we can stand up to such pressures with our human wills, but we can pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for these challenges.

    Who was the fourth person in the furnace? It could have been an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ or perhaps and an angel.

    The next reading is Daniel 4.

    Getting added to “do not call” lists . . .

    I think I’m on the “do not call” list for a few cults/religions (mainly the types that come to your door). It isn’t because I’m not friendly to them. On the contrary, I figure if someone with a false religion comes to my door and wants to talk about God, then how much easier does evangelism get? I invite them in or make an appointment to visit with them at a more convenient time. I just sit back and listen and ask questions to clarify my understanding. Then I have the opportunity to point out what I see as flaws in their reasoning and to share the real Gospel. No one has dropped to their knees and converted, but I do think they were given something to think about. I pray that seeds are planted and that the Holy Spirit will guide them to the Truth.

    Perhaps I’m being paranoid, but it seems that we are skipped over when the groups make future treks through the neighborhood.

    If you travel, always take your Bible. I was going through LAX after a Far East trip once and must have looked exhausted. A Hare Krishna made a bee line for me with some books to read. I pulled out my Bible and told her she should read my book first. She laughed and said, “But your book is much bigger.” I figured she would convert or leave. She left.

    The Christian Research Institute has some good, brief outlines of major religions and cults that can be useful when talking to people of other faiths. It helps you understand where they are coming from and where they will try to mislead you. Their presentations often have the veneer of orthodox Christianity, but when you peel back the layers they are talking about a different God, a different Jesus and a different Bible.

    I’ll be doing a lesson on sharing the Gospel with people of different faiths for an upcoming CareNet Pregnancy Center volunteer in-service and also for my church’s youth group. I may do a series on this blog as well.

    Am I growing in my faith?

    Some penetrating questions from James MacDonald to help assess if your relationship with God is growing:

    • Does my life give evidence of a person truly redeemed by the Son of God?
    • Does my faith endure in hard times as well as good times?
    • Does my life reflect a growing pattern of righteousness?
    • Do I have an increasing hunger for God’s Word and a passion for His kingdom?
    • Is my love increasing for God and His people?

    Daniel 2

    This reading is Daniel 2.

    Nebuchadnezzar was onto something when he challenged the psychics to not only interpret his dream but to first tell him what his dream was! This should be a standard challenge to all of the world’s psychics.

    Daniel exhibited very strong faith in the face of the death threats from this obviously temperamental king. Daniel spoke to the commander of the king’s guard “with wisdom and with tact” and trusted that God would provide. Then he was quick to give credit to God for the visions he received. This is a beautiful passage:

    Daniel 2:19-23 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

    Each part of the statue in the dream had special meaning. Trivia fact: The message about the statue is where the saying “feet of clay” originated.

    • The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar.
    • The silver part represented the Medo-Persian empire that conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.
    • The bronze parts were Greece and Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who conquered the Medo-Persians around 334-330 B.C.
    • The iron part is the Roman Empire, which conquered the Greeks in 63 B.C.
    • The iron and clay represent the break up of the Roman Empire.

    Gotta love my Life Application Study Bible footnotes! They are invaluable for information like this. More prophecies on these empires will occur later in Daniel. It is stunning how the Bible writes history hundreds of years in advance.

    The next reading is Daniel 3.

    Embryonic Stem Cell Research

    There is a lot of smoke around the Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) issue. Here are some facts that are downplayed or overlooked altogether.

  • President Bush didn’t ban ESCR completely. He just vetoed the use of Federal Funds for it (read: your tax dollars). If you want to donate your money for ESCR, go ahead! Just send the check to me and I’ll ensure it gets to the right place.
  • Therapeutic uses of adult stem cells have been found and are in use. See the list here.
  • Therapeutic uses of embryonic stem cells have not been proven and are not in use. Currently, at least, they tend to cause tumors.
  • Yes, Nancy Reagan is for ESCR, but until now who really cared what she thought? Ronald Reagan was the great president, not her. And he was staunchly pro-life!
  • These are human embryos. A human being dies when you kill them. Check out the Snowflake Kids that President Bush had at the press conference. They were from adopted embryos.
  • There are serious ramifications to in vitro fertilization. It is costly and often unsuccessful, for starters. Then there is the moral dilemma of what to do with the extra embryos.
  • Note that even pro-abortion “parents” of embryos are not cavalier about destroying them. They get the fact that these are human beings.
  • Embryonic Stem Cell Research is just the beginning. What many scientists will want next is cloning, because they’ll need identical or near-identical stem cells at some point. They don’t have the guts to say “cloning,” so you have to read carefully.
  • Yes, there are over 400,000 frozen embryos out there – but there are plans to use most of them. And the reasoning behind the “they may get thrown out later so let’s kill them now” view is suspect.
  • I’m not thrilled with President Bush’s positions on illegal immigration and a couple other areas, but he has done a fantastic job for the pro-life cause.

    Quote of the day

    I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan (the first football game I ever watched was the 1972 “Immaculate Reception” game), but I liked this quote from Tom Landry, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys (and former arch-rivals of the Steelers).

    To live life to the fullest and truly enjoy it, we need to understand and abide by the rules God spells out in the Bible. God isn’t out to spoil our fun; He knows that life without limits results in anarchy and misery. It’s only when we have absolute limits that we can be truly free to enjoy the best life has to offer.

    Daniel 1

    This reading is Daniel 1.

    The book begins in roughly 605 B.C. when the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took over Jerusalem. God had warned Israel through his prophets that He would give them into the hands of their enemies if they did not repent, but they didn’t obey. When the Babylonians took over a country it was a common practice to take the best and brightest people back to Babylon. Daniel was roughly 16 at the time, and he was one of those chosen.

    Daniel 1:6-7 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

    Daniel’s character immediately shines through when in v. 8 he “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine . . .” He and his friends took a huge risk by doing this, but God provided for them and the King found them to be “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom.” God blessed their resolve throughout their time in Babylon. This reminds me of the story of Joseph in Genesis, where God helps take him from being a prisoner to eventually running the country of Egypt.

    Daniel 1:17-18 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.

    Daniel and his friends weren’t belligerent with the officials. They acclimated to the culture where it didn’t violate God’s laws.

    Thought for the day: The Bible teaches that Christians are aliens and strangers in this world. Do we stand out like Daniel and his friends, or do we completely blend into the foreign culture of this world?

    The next reading is Daniel 2.

    Before you give . . .

    Giving can be fun and rewarding, but we need to use wisdom in making giving decisions.

    2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    Ministry Watch is an organization that collects lots of information about hundreds of charities. They also have “Donor alerts” to warn people of problematic ministries, such as Benny Hinn’s (shocking!). Here are some of the areas they cover:

    • Mission
    • History
    • Leadership
    • Efficiency ratings
    • Comments that supporters and critics make
    • Financial statements

    They seem to be very careful, accurate and unbiased. This organization can help you be a good steward with all God has blessed you with.

    Disproportionate response?

    War is to be avoided, but not at all costs. As some have said, “Except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism and for providing religious and political freedom, war has never solved anything.”

    Some have labeled the Israeli response to Hizbollah attacks as a “disproportionate response.” But consider the following:

    1. Muslims leaders around the world have called for the eradication of Israel and all Jews. They have done this in writing and speeches. The leader of Iran said it publicly. They are quite serious about it. There does not appear to be any reasoning with them.
    2. Muslims outnumber Jews 100 to 1 in that region. These leaders would gladly sacrifice an equivalent number of their own to eliminate all Jews.

    If you were personally outnumbered 100 to 1 by a group working to wipe you off the planet, I think a disproportionate response would be in order.

    Why pray if God already knows everything?

    prayer2.jpg Yes, God is omniscient, so He knows everything. Everything. Some people use that as an reason not to pray. Yet it can also be an excellent reason to pray all the more. If He already knows everything you’ve done, said and thought yet has still forgiven you (assuming you are a Christian), then only good can come from sharing your deepest feelings with Him.

    When we confess our sins, we aren’t telling God anything He didn’t already know. But we are saying that we now view our sins from his point of view and that we are turning from them.

    Daniel overview

    This reading is Daniel.

    Just scan the headings in the Book of Daniel and read any bits that stick out to you.

    Daniel was written by . . . Daniel. There are twelve chapters. The first six cover Daniel’s life and the last six cover visions he was given and the prophecies (predictions) they contained. The last half is apocalyptic literature, which means an unveiling or a revelation. Some other books with apocalyptic literature include Revelation, Zechariah, and parts of Ezekiel.

    Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians when King Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem’s wisest men and most beautiful women back to Babylon. He was probably 16 or so at the time. Even though he was in a strange land with constant challenges to his faith, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to God.

    Daniel contains some stories you may have heard many times (Daniel in the Lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace). Chapter five contains the origin of the saying “the handwriting is on the wall.” It also contains many things you have never heard of if reading it for the first time.

    The most amazing thing about Daniel is the accuracy of the prophecies. Even most liberal scholars agree that Daniel accurately describes the reigns and activities of several empires covering several hundred years – they just think Daniel was written after the fact and is pretending to be prophecy. I think the evidence is on the side of the early writing and that all the critics issues have been well addressed. You can read more about the dating of Daniel here (Warning: it is a little dry).

    Jesus obviously viewed Daniel as the real author, as shown in Matthew 24:15-16 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel . . .” That is a pretty good trump card regarding the dating debate, assuming you are talking to a Christian. It is encouraging that God shows us through his Word that He knows everything that will happen. Psychics can’t predict what will happen next week, yet God predicted the specific course of many countries covering hundreds of years with 100% accuracy. This is one of the proofs showing the reliability of the Bible. No other Holy Book contains confirmed prophecies like this. There are also some very specific prophecies about Jesus.

    Hope you enjoy the study!

    The next reading is Daniel 1.

    More on parental notification

    From the Houston Chronicle:

    The Senate reopened the abortion debate Friday in advance of the midterm elections, this time over a bill that would make it a federal crime to take a teenager across state lines to end a pregnancy without a parent’s knowledge.

    Supporters of the bill say such incidents often occur when a girl, or the man involved, wants to evade state parental consent laws. Opponents say the bill would make criminals of well-meaning confidants, such as relatives and clergy members, who might help a pregnant teen whose parents are abusive.

    If the parents are abusive, report it to the authorities. But don’t take the girl across state lines to kill her unborn child. And any clergy who aids a minor in getting an abortion should be fired.

    Democrats are expected to offer amendments to add exceptions for such confidants as grandparents and clergy. Another exception would involve cases of rape or incest.

    If it was a case of rape, then go to the police! Why on earth wouldn’t the parents be notified if their child was raped? If the incest was by a father or step-father, then go to the police! In those cases incest is just a different way of saying rape.

    Click here to access a form to contact your Senator regarding this issue.

    More on parental notification laws for teen abortions here.