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The Burden of Habakkuk

Something I was led to ponder on this evening. (Commentary from James Burton Coffman’s Commentary on the Bible)

This chapter begins with Habakkuk’s plaintive summary of Judah’s wickedness (Habakkuk 1:2-4).

Habakkuk’s Complaint

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

What Christian has not experienced in his heart such questions as these? Rampant wickedness, blasphemy, atheism, rejection of sacred laws, and the arrogant confidence of evil men asserting themselves against truth and righteousness – one who is able to see such things in the light of the word of God may easily feel the frustration and latent doubt that nagged at the heart of Habakkuk. True followers of the Lord “are in danger of being unduly depressed and disheartened by the rising power of the mystery of iniquity.” “Violence, as used by the prophets refers to any kind of wrong done to one’s neighbor.” In this passage Habakkuk places himself as a spokesman for the people, some of whom are righteous, crying unto God upon their behalf.

Despite all of the terrible wickedness, God apparently did nothing about it; at least it seemed so to Habakkuk. Everywhere he looked, he continued to “behold iniquity and perverseness in the character and conduct of his (God’s) people.” The question in Habakkuk’s heart was, “How could God look on this condition without punishing it, thus bringing it to an end?

“The law is paralyzed …” “The commandments, in other words, are not kept.” This reference to God’s law indicates positively that the people who were supposed to keep that law were the ones addressed in these verses. “Justice never prevails.” A certain indication of the decadence of a society and its approaching ruin is always a breakdown of the system for administering justice.

“The wicked hem in the righteous …” Watts identified the persons meant by these words as “the guilty” and the “innocent,” basing his view upon the emergence here of opponents “in a legal contest.”

The purpose of Habakkuk 1:2-4 was that of citing the reason why God was sending punishment and doom upon them. That basis having been adequately stated, he announced the doom. Then comes the bold and courageous prophecy of the destruction of Judah by the Chaldeans (Habakkuk 1:4-11)….

The Lord’s Answer

5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[a]
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes[b] advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

A final verse:

“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”  – Hebrews 10:31

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National director of the Anti-Defamation League rebukes John Hagee

From Religion Dispatches

At the Zionist Organization of America’s gala Sunday night, Republican megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson bestowed an award on Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee. In his remarks, Hagee called President Barack Obama “the most anti-Semitic president ever.”

Chemi Shalev reports more details:

The other stars of the night were the ubiquitous Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, whose generous contributions to ZOA have helped lift the organization out of the doldrums and into the spotlight and the fast lane. [ZOA president Mort] Klein gave Adelson a gift mezuzah for his new Las Vegas home (in which “God himself would be happy to live if he could afford it”] then Miriam Adelson told the audience “how I fell in love” with Hagee “the most effective Christian Zionist in the world” and then Hagee described the Adelsons as “the greatest citizens of America.” And the crowd kvelled. – (Ted Cruz starred and Barack Obama was tarred in an evening of what used to called crazy talk but is increasingly mainstream in both Israel and the U.S.)

The extravagant accolades did not end there. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who also received an award, compared Klein, who has a speech impediment, to Moses. (But who’s most like Moses, really?) The next day, Cruz suggested a replacement for outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: former Senator Joe Lieberman, “a member of the President’s own party with deep experience and unshakable commitment to the security of the United States.” Like the Adelsons, Lieberman has had a strong affection for Hagee, having once likened him to Moses, calling him a “man of God” and a “leader of a mighty multitude.”

But the world’s most visible arbiter of anti-Semitism had another view of Hagee’s comment about Obama at the ZOA gala. Yesterday, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Hagee’s accusation that Obama is “the most anti-Semitic president ever” was “offensive and misplaced.”

In a statement, Foxman said,

“Anti-Semitic is a term that should never be used lightly, or applied to exact a political score or make a political point.” President Obama, Foxman added, “continues to be a staunch ally and friend of Israel and friend of the Jewish community. And while we and members of the Jewish community have not always seen eye-to-eye with this administration on certain issues involving the Jewish State, the fact remains that this administration has continued the strong and unwavering alliance with Israel.”

I reached out to CUFI’s spokesman for comment on Foxman’s statement late yesterday and will update this post with any response.

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Former Mossad Chief: The nation of Israel is galloping blindly toward Bar Kochba’s war on the Roman Empire

This is an interesting article appearing in Haaretz today, written by the former Mossad Chief,  Shabtai Shavit

From the comment section: “The right simply believes that it will bring the nation to this dangerous, unnecessary brink deliberately—simply to force the US’ hand and bring it into war with the enemies it has stirred up. In so doing, it will make the US the target of collateral damage; in confidence that terrified American citizens will then bring the US right to power in 2016. Which will then protect the Israeli settler right unquestioningly, to the point of fighting other Western countries over its future. And that, dear friends, is almost certainly the strategy. Destroy the viable future of both Israel and the USA in order to protect the settlers now—because once the US is pushed rightward this time, the Supreme Court and gerrymandering will keep it from ever turning left again”

The nation of Israel is galloping blindly toward Bar Kochba’s war on the Roman Empire. The result of that conflict was 2,000 years of exile.

From the beginning of Zionism in the late 19th century, the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel has been growing stronger in terms of demography and territory, despite the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. We have succeeded in doing so because we have acted with wisdom and stratagem rather than engaging in a foolish attempt to convince our foes that we were in the right.

Today, for the first time since I began forming my own opinions, I am truly concerned about the future of the Zionist project. I am concerned about the critical mass of the threats against us on the one hand, and the government’s blindness and political and strategic paralysis on the other. Although the State of Israel is dependent upon the United States, the relationship between the two countries has reached an unprecedented low point. Europe, our biggest market, has grown tired of us and is heading toward imposing sanctions on us. For China, Israel is an attractive high-tech project, and we are selling them our national assets for the sake of profit. Russia is gradually turning against us and supporting and assisting our enemies.

Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel have reached dimensions unknown since before World War II. Our public diplomacy and public relations have failed dismally, while those of the Palestinians have garnered many important accomplishments in the world. University campuses in the West, particularly in the U.S., are hothouses for the future leadership of their countries. We are losing the fight for support for Israel in the academic world. An increasing number of Jewish students are turning away from Israel. The global BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel, which works for Israel’s delegitimization, has grown, and quite a few Jews are members.

I am concerned that for the first time, I am seeing haughtiness and arrogance, together with more than a bit of the messianic thinking that rushes to turn the conflict into a holy war. If this has been, so far, a local political conflict that two small nations have been waging over a small and defined piece of territory, major forces in the religious Zionist movement are foolishly doing everything they can to turn it into the most horrific of wars, in which the entire Muslim world will stand against us.

I also see, to the same extent, detachment and lack of understanding of international processes and their significance for us. This right wing, in its blindness and stupidity, is pushing the nation of Israel into the dishonorable position of “the nation shall dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9).

I am concerned because I see history repeating itself. The nation of Israel is galloping blindly in a time tunnel to the age of Bar Kochba and his war on the Roman Empire. The result of that conflict was several centuries of national existence in the Land of Israel followed by 2,000 years of exile.

The religious Zionist movement, by comparison, believes the Jews are “God’s chosen.” This movement, which sanctifies territory beyond any other value, is prepared to sacrifice everything, even at the price of failure and danger to the Third Commonwealth. If destruction should take place, they will explain it in terms of faith, saying that we failed because “We sinned against God.” Therefore, they will say, it is not the end of the world. We will go into exile, preserve our Judaism and wait patiently for the next opportunity….

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Patrick Speaks (Beautiful clip)

Patrick Otema, 15 is deaf. In the remote area of Uganda where he lives there are no schools for deaf children, and he has never had a conversation. Raymond Okkelo, a sign language teacher, hopes to change all this and offer Patrick a way out of the fearful silence he has known his whole life.

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Cowardly

Spent a great deal of time pondering on Revelation 21:8 this week, especially the word Cowardly. This morning while reading a commentary on this verse, and the specific term cowardly, I believe I came upon a fitting definition.

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” – Revelation 21:8

The fearful (cowardly) … “Who are the fearful, if not all men? But it is not of natural fear and timidity that is spoken of; it is that cowardice which in the last resort chooses self and safety before Christ. It is not fear which is condemned. The highest courage is to be desperately afraid and in spite of that to do the right thing, even if it means having one’s reputation before men called into question”

I like that definition for it helps explain why it is listed: So in this sense, cowardly means unGodly.

Jesus said to his disciples, recorded in Matthew 16,

“If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?…”

The same could be said concerning one’s reputation, or how we wish to be perceived before men: If we are not willing to chance losing either reputation or “good name” before man, for the sake of Christ or (for) doing what we know is right and good, we have already lost both before God.

And frankly, I think we end up losing both before men anyway, for our very silence “screams” our cowardice.

Sorry for the second post on this topic, but it has been on my heart this week… 

 

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CHRIST AND OTHER SHEEP: READING THE GOSPEL IN IRAQ

*A must read…

GospelWorldView

FROM, ALICE SU

Most journalists I meet in the Middle East are disenchanted with religion. They are spiritually cynical, agnostic at best. Many are unusually humane, intently aware of our world’s wounds, yet invariably critical and distant from any organized faith.

I can see why. I’ve just spent 6 weeks reporting from Iraq, where faith seems saturated in hatred and blood. “Christians are not Arabs. Arabs cannot be Christians,” a displaced Chaldean from Mosul tells me. “We can never live with Muslims,” a widowed Yazidi cries. “Watch these Shi’a bastards,” a Kurd says as he sends me videos of elite militias abusing Sunni civilians. “You dog,” the soldiers in the videos laugh as they kick and beat a cowering man.

Religion starts to hurt. “In the name of God” becomes the sound of sectarianism, the anthem of a thousand gleaming daggers cutting lines and boundaries across the broken earth: I’m in, you’re out. I’m a believer, you’re not. I am good, you are bad. You dog. I could never live with you. You could never be like me. In the name of God, the merciful, the beneficent, you heretic! You infidel, in the name of God, go to hell. In the name of God, the merciful, burn.

As a reporter, I tread the lines between Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, Christians, Sunnis and Shias. I see giant crosses and green flags demarcating different neighborhoods of Beirut. I see Jewish stars graffiti-ed on the staircases of Amman with “Al-Mot, Death” scribbled underneath. I see overflowing refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, and I am seized with an urge to damn religion. To hell with this hell, I want to say. To hell with the institutions and social constructs that give men self-justified license to rip other human beings apart. To hell with the lines, the walls, the moral police and everyone judging everyone else as unrighteous. To hell with God, I almost think.

But LORD have mercy, I cannot pray this. I almost curse the name of God, but then I stop, I cannot, I don’t.

I read the Bible in Iraq out of desperation. I needed to know that God is good and understand how that could be true when our world is as poisoned as it is. I couldn’t understand how God could be loving and exclusive at the same time. “Christ is the only Way,” I thought, “But what does that mean for all those who don’t know Him? Shall I condemn them, as other religions will condemn me?” Deuteronomy reads like an instruction manual for ISIS, I thought[1]. I spent my days collecting testimonies of genocide and my nights fearing that God was pleased to see this happen. I reported on violent religious extremism and feared: what if God actually condones this?

This fear paralyzed me for a while. Then I picked up the Gospel and read.

It’s much easier to picture Christ now that I live in His neighborhood. I picture Him coming to a land under oppression and celebrating life. Jesus goes to a wedding and turns water into wine.[2] He walks around healing, casting out spirits, multiplying food and telling tantalizing parables. He shows Martha that being with God is better than doing anything for Him. He weeps with Mary when she tells Him, My brother has died, and if you were there, it wouldn’t have happened. But she still calls him Lord as she says this. Jesus weeps- and raises Lazarus from the dead.[3] The next day, Mary pours expensive perfume on Him, worshipping, and small-hearted Judas says, “What a waste.” Think of the food distributions, cash programming, and hygiene projects that money could have funded. But Judas is a thief who’s been helping himself to the disciples’ moneybag. He’s really thinking of himself, selfishness twisted with self-righteousness, and Jesus sees right through him.[4]

I picture Jesus coming to historic Palestine, where the Israelites are under Roman occupation. Surely our LORD will save, his disciples must have thought. Our people worship the One True God and now the Messiah will break these chains of oppression, they must have hoped. FREEDOM, I imagine them whispering to one another, the way my Syrian friends tell me they spoke in 2011 for the first, daring, dangerous time. The word tingled on your tongue, they say, then grew until it grabbed your whole being, flung you into the street and had you yelling, roaring, electrified in sudden exultation with brothers and sisters and countrymen: FREEDOM, we stand and claim our humanity. Freedom, we protest and demand.

Surely Jesus’ followers thought this way as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Hosanna, they cried, save us now.[5]
Surely they thought he would lead them to social and political release.

I imagine how the earth must have shattered beneath the disciples’ feet when they found their leader had no intent of rebellion. No uprising, no overthrow, no victory – rather, death. I see photos of ISIS crucifying people in Raqqa and I picture Christ, then I picture his dearly beloved wracked with heartbreak and fear. So injustice continues. The world wins. All things are broken and we thought you’d fix them, but you’re gone, we’re lost, LORD -[6]

What the hell is this Gospel? Why would the disciples believe it, as Jesus died and Roman rule continued? Why should I believe it, as I stand in front of a Yazidi woman whose daughter is enslaved, counting atrocities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and Sudan, feeling like the smallest person in the world, taking notes and knowing they’ll do nothing but elicit some fleeting public sympathy and exert a featherweight bit of pressure on military and political powers?

In Iraq, I consider this unlikely message: Jesus did not end suffering and injustice, but He will end them. He did not fight the way the world fights, with swords and guns and drones and jingoistic anthems. He did not win an ethno-nationalist victory for the Jews. He did not stop Lazarus from dying, nor did he heal every person or raise every Beloved from the dead.

Christ rejected Pharisees and went to the sinners, even to the Gentiles. He was like a Palestinian going to the Israelis, a Sunni going to the Shia, a Kurd going to an Arab, a Yazidi going to an ISIS fighter. He crossed all the lines.[7] He didn’t form a new club to supersede all the others. He said, being in a club won’t save you. Nothing you do will ever save you. Stop trying to be good. Seek God, repent and ask to be saved.

He washed feet.
Then He died.

There’s a trick of the devil that says, God hates the world because it’s sinful, so prove that you’re righteous and maybe you can be saved. Everyone else will burn.

The Liar whispers poison-thoughts of revenge, fear and self-pity in our heads. They bleed into systems of greed, power and money that rip the world apart. Then he stands at our ear and sneers, “The world is damned and you are damned with it. God hates you. Hate Him back.”

But the Gospel speaks the opposite. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” Jesus told Nicodemus.

I read headlines from Kobane, Jerusalem and Darfur, and turn this over in my mind. We are not condemned. The world is burning, but those who believe are not condemned. “The prince of this world stands condemned,” Jesus says in John 16 – then He goes to the cross. He dies, then rises again. The Liar is condemned, Christ said, so don’t despair or bow before him. He is the condemned one, not you, Beloved.

There’s a secret message in Christianity that doesn’t make sense unless you believe in Christ not just as a teacher and moral example, but really as God giving Himself for Man: life comes through death. Everyone thought Christ was losing, but He won through loving sacrifice. His shocking call is this: “Follow me,” not to kill unbelievers, but to die for them.[10]

Lay down your life, Christ said: love those who hate you, pray for those who hurt you, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, and speak Jesus’ name.[12] Follow Him, not toward comfort, privilege or resettlement to suburban America, but to wash feet and tell people that God loves the world. We may be killed in the process. But He is victorious. We are not condemned, darkness is. Nothing can separate us from our Father’s love.[13]

I don’t want to be religious anymore, I prayed in Iraq, recoiling from the vortex of exclusion, revenge and sanctimonious hate. At the same time, I feared the real cost of following Christ. I didn’t want to burn. I didn’t want to see any more of our world’s self-destruction. I’ll vomit, I cried. God, I’ll fall apart.

Religious people are like candles who don’t want to be lit. We’re adorned with gems and carvings, standing high and proud. We think our decorations make us good. Christ says, Forget your self-righteousness. The smallest scrap of paper that blazes from my Presence is more useful than a thousand pieces of regal unlit wax. I’m going to set you on fire and send you into the dark. You’ll melt, Beloved, but do not fear. You’re surrendering to a Light that will never go out.

The Gospel does not ask its followers to form a club and hate everyone else. The Gospel is a feast in a refugee camp, a banqueting table set before our enemies, an engagement party as the world breaks. It says: by the grace of God and faith in Jesus Christ, come to our Father’s table. Eat, drink and be filled. Don’t kill for the Gospel! Die for the Gospel. As you die, you live. Your Shepherd has loved the hell out of this earth.[14] Follow Him, and invite others to do the same. [15]

[1] Deuteronomy 20.
[2] John 2.
[3] John 11.
[4] John 12.
[5] John 12:12-19.
[6] “They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’” – John 20:13, Mary Magdalene at the tomb.
[7] John 4: Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman.
[9] Romans 3:23, John 3:16-21.
[10] Matthew 10:38-39.
[11] “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” – John 12:24-26.
[12] Matthew 5.
[13] Romans 8.
[14] “He tends his flocks like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” – Isaiah 40:11
[15] John 10

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Revelation 21:8

Was reading this tonight and wondered if someone may have an opinion about it:

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (link)

Obviously we know the meaning of the terms, “unbelieving, vile, murderers”, and what it means to practice sexually immorality, and the magic arts; also the definition of idolaters and liars….but this list includes the cowardly as well. In fact the cowardly leads the list.

What do you think that means…”the cowardly?”

I have an idea but am not sure….any thoughts?

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