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Messianic Jewish Believers Gentile & Jewish Unity in Christ Coach McCartney's Two Branches of Christianity Festival of Lights
Two Doctrines Brother Against Brother The War on Jewish Evangelism Jewish Holy Days The Importance Of A Pre-Millennial Theology
The Exodus
Christian Zionism
Awesome Jewish Evangelism Tool
What is Passover? Methodist Madness
Fall Holy Days Blood Stained Hands
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Leaven: The Most Fitting Biblical Symbol for Sin Israel Today Magazine
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Something interesting about the Messianic movement of the Holy Spirit, taken from Coach McCartney's book"Blind Spots"

"Early in 1997, Promise Keepers held a pre-Stand In the Gap summit for key participants and invited four Messianic Jewish leaders to participate.  They expressed great satisfaction that we had asked them to take a major role in the conferences, but they also gave us a stern warning.  "You're the first Christian organization that has ever invited us to be a part of its work," they said.  "But do you understand what you're doing when you invite us as a group?  You're inviting the highest order of spiritual warfare.  Prepare for the brunt of a spiritual attack." 

          The relationship between believing Jews and Gentiles carries such enormous biblical significance that Satan concentrates much of hell's firepower on trying to keep the two groups separate, apart, and alienated.  He knows that if he can keep us estranged, he will have a much easier job keeping all other groups divided. 

          Even beyond that, Satan has always stoked a special hatred for the Jews, the chosen people of God, for through them the Messiah came to "destroy" the devil (Heb. 2:14).  [emphasis mine]  Ever since the Lord announced that he would send a Savior into the world, Satan has tried to wipe out the people through whom that Savior would come.  It is not mere coincidence that wicked Queen Athaliah managed to wipe out all of David's male descendants, except for one (see 2 Kings 11:1-2).  Nor is it coincidence that vile Haman tried to exterminate all the Jews throughout Persia (see Esther 3:6) or that the evil King Herod tried to do the same thing to all the infant boys in Bethlehem after Jesus  was born there (see Matthew 2:16). 

          Even after Satan failed in his many attempts to annihilate the Jews (and with them, the Messiah), he continued to nurture a furious rage against God's chosen people.  He nurtures it still.

          The book of Revelation declares how the devil even today continues to hound and attack and try to snuff out the chosen people of God.  It pictures Israel as a woman who gave birth to Jesus Christ and says Satan "persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child" (Rev. 12:13, NKJV).  The devil knows that the Jews remain the chosen people of God and that the Lord will one day draw all his people to himself [read Zechariah chapters 12 through 14].  Satan especially despises all of God's chosen who commit themselves to faith in Jesus Christ, and so Revelation describes how the devil "was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ [could this actually be referring to Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, who both are Jewish-Christians, and Jewish by race? (we Gentile Christians have often equated this verse to ourselves-maybe Satan's real rage is for our Jewish-Christian brothers, and to a smaller degree to ourselves)]

          Wherever he can do so, Satan inspires intense hatred against God's chosen people.  On September 11, 2001, America found out how intense that hatred can burn.  On that day, terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York and part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., largely because of the support the United States has given to Israel through the years.  The devil makes war not only against "the rest of her [Israel's] offspring," but against any who dare to stand with them.  Our Messianic Jewish friends warned us about the consequences of standing with them for good reason!  When you get in touch with the purposes of God and work to unite believing Jews and Gentiles, you will experience the height of spiritual warfare.  But when you stick with it, victory is yours.

          We heard their warnings but went ahead with our invitation anyway.

          The week after our Stand In the Gap event, ABC newsman Ted Koppel invited me to appear on Nightline, his award-winning and highly acclaimed network program.  Shortly before I was to appear, I injured my back while getting some exercise at the hotel where the show was to be taped.  The pain grew so intense that I didn't see how I could go on the show (by the grace of God I did appear) without some relief.  The hotel doctor prescribed a strong painkiller, but his prescription produced a reaction in me very similar to an overdose, and I started to hallucinate.  For three or four days I struggled with incredible emotional turmoil and tangible physical agitation.  Satan was just waiting for such an opportunity, and I entered into what I have concluded was a period of intense spiritual warfare.  I had to fight to keep my mind, and I have never felt so dismayed in all my life, before or since.  It was horrifying.  There is no doubt in my mind that the onslaught was supernatural and evil.

          By the time I returned home, my wife had gone to visit family, and I found myself alone in the house.  That night I grew so fearful that I called a Christian brother and asked him to stay with me.  We also called many other Christian friends for prayer support.

          Shortly thereafter, Promise Keepers began a nosedive.  We had been filling stadiums; now we were struggling to stay alive.  Internal conflicts erupted throughout our organization.  When we felt God calling us to work in Israel, we spent a year doing some groundwork.  It went nowhere.

          I remember this season of my life as a bitterly hard time.  What had happened?  Had we provoked the highest order of spiritual warfare?  Had we been hit with the full force of a spiritual attack?  Only now am I beginning to piece together the puzzle.

          Our Messianic brothers had warned us that a close connection to them would result in the most intense spiritual warfare that we had ever experienced-and their words proved deadly accurate.  Yet they also predicted that if we stuck with God's leading and continued to encourage God's children to repair the growing divide in the church, we would receive a "double blessing."  We think we may be on the threshold of that blessing right now.

          Through these experiences, coupled with a close reading of Scripture, we believe that we have identified the key to repairing the growing divide in the church.  We're convinced that we will succeed in our efforts at reconciliation only when we focus our attention on the rift most highlighted in Scripture: the breach between believing Jews and Gentiles.  [emphasis mine]  All others are subordinate to this one.  Our mission is to rally the church and repair the divide.

 

A HISTORY OF DIVISION

For the first many years of the Christian era, believing Jews made up the vast majority of the church.  Not until the time of Acts 10, when God showed Peter that he intended to share the Good News of Christ with the Gentile world, did the church intentionally begin to reach out to non-Jews.

          We read in Acts 13 that the Holy Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  And by Acts 15, the church had to call a historic council meeting to decide whether Gentiles had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved.  The Jerusalem Council quickly endorsed Peter's words that both Jew and Gentile were saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 11), and the Gentiles were asked, not commanded (v. 28) to observe several essentials, later reduced to four: abstain from idolatry; fornication; bloodshed; and abstain from things strangled [taken from F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts]

          Within a few decades, the ethnic makeup of the church changed drastically.  Largely due to the powerful ministry of Paul, converted Gentiles began to outnumber, and then overwhelmingly outnumber, their believing Jewish brethren.  The trend continued for hundreds of years until the church was completely devoid of Messianic Jewish presence.  Indeed, the historic church officially rejected its Jewish roots and a Messianic Jewish influence, particularly expressed through the two Nicene church councils of the fourth and seventh centuries.

          Church history reveals that by the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, evangelism to the Jewish people had nearly died out.  In fact, prior to the Reformation the church had implemented a "forced" conversion policy toward Jewish people.  An anti-Jewish attitude in the church continued after the Reformation because Martin Luther and others expected many Jewish men and women to welcome the reformed message of the gospel.  When it did not get a warm reception, Luther wrote several anti-Semitic tracts, including "Against the Jews."  Throughout the following centuries, frequent pogroms (organized massacres) against Jews broke out in many European nations, often in the name of Christ.  Even in the twentieth century, Adolf Hitler quoted Martin Luther to justify his efforts to exterminate the Jews.  In this way, Christianity became repulsive to the vast majority of Jewish people.

          Approximately thirty years ago, some of this attitude began to change in the church and there was evidence of a growing receptivity of the gospel among Jewish people.  Through the efforts of groups such as Jews for Jesus, the gospel began once more to spread among the Jews.  Out of this revival developed an ever-growing force called the Messianic movement.  Prior to its emergence, Jews who became believers in Christ were expected to observe Christianity according to the patterns developed among Gentile believers.  All customs, traditions, and actions recognized as Jewish were considered heretical or at least biblically inappropriate, as the practices were [erroneously] thought to relate to law rather than grace.  For this reason, few Jews accepted Christ because they assumed such a choice meant giving up every tradition that marked them as Jews.

          Most Gentile believers know little about the Messianic movement, and some who are aware of it write it off as a cult or as an "oddball branch of Christianity" without the courtesy of investigation. The Messianic movement, however, offered the faith of Yeshua (Jesus) without requiring anyone to give up traditions and practices that Jesus himself observed (the feast of Hanukkah, for example, is mentioned in John 10:22 [and Christians often overlook that Yeshua kept the Sabbath and all of the Old Testament Holy Days, as did the 12 apostles on into and throughout the lifetime of the Jerusalem Church of God-the original Christian church and first Messianic congregation in history.]).  This growing movement [which started about 30 years ago] struggles greatly for acceptance by the Gentile majority of Christendom.  Most Gentile believers know little about the Messianic movement, and some who are aware write it off as a cult or as an "oddball branch of Christianity" without the courtesy of investigation.

          As a result of such direct and indirect rejection, the divide in the body of Christ, which has existed since early centuries, continues to be perpetuated between believing Jews and believing Gentiles.  This divide is both racial and spiritual.  And while Messianic Jews probably represent the smallest segment of the body of Christ in the United States, in my view they represent the biggest spiritual dynamic.  Let me tell you why.

          After seventeen centuries of the absence of Messianic Jews in the church, God is beginning to restore the Messianic Jewish community (the Church of the Circumcision) to the body of Christ.  This revival of the gospel among Jewish people is unprecedented apart from the book of Acts.  The Jewish revival is nothing short of a miracle and certainly represents the work of the Holy Spirit in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ.  [Coach McCartney saw the same thing I did and neither of us compared notes.  I saw this by becoming a member of a Messianic congregation and from internet contacts I had developed amongst Messianic believers in Israel where the movement is spreading in ways conventional Gentile Christianity never could.]  One of the major issues that faces the church today is its receptivity toward our Jewish brethren.  Our brothers, the Messianic Jews, have been rejected by their own community for their faith  in Jesus, the Messiah.  Rather than receiving this community of Jewish believers with enthusiasm and love, the church has viewed them with suspicion and reluctance.

          One way to illustrate this point is through the analogy of the olive tree used in Romans 11.  The Jewish branches that were cut off because of unbelief are now returning to their own olive tree.  The wild olives (Gentiles) that were grafted in to the Jewish tree because of their belief have occupied this tree for seventeen centuries without much thought of the natural branches.  They also have forgotten that they were grafted in[to the Jewish olive tree].  With the return of the natural branches [by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit], the grafted-in branches feel some discomfort and embarrassment and even unbelief.

          This can be compared to the owner of a home [the natural branches of the olive tree] welcoming strangers [the Gentiles] into his home just before leaving on a long journey.  When the original owner returns after such a long absence, it is very difficult for the original strangers, who have now come to accept this home as their sole possession, to accept that they need to make room for the original owner and even to give him the place of honor.  It is likewise difficult for the original owner to return and find that he must now conform to the strangers' ways.  It is only by God's grace that any of us occupy any part of God's house, but Scripture tells us to give "honor to whom honor is due" (Rom. 13:7, NRSV).  Personally, I rejoice in the return of my elder brothers of the Messianic Jewish community.

 

TEARING DOWN THE WALL

Do you like a good mystery?  The Bible does, although it uses the term mystery more to describe a long-hidden secret, now revealed.

          The apostle Paul uses the word mystery to refer to a divine secret that "in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:5, NKJV).  And what is this mystery?  Just this: "that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus" (v. 6).  [emphasis mine]

          Paul proclaimed that God had commissioned him as an apostle "to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God" (v.9).  And what was God's purpose in revealing this mystery?  What did he hope to accomplish?  Paul answers, "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (v. 10).

          God did not want to create two church bodies but one.  He had no intention of creating one church for Jews and a separate one for Gentiles.  He planned for both ethnic groups to come together as one, in a single body, and thereby show the powers of heaven the depth and breadth of his awesome wisdom.  We do not diminish today's intense struggles between Anglo, African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American believers; rather, we believe there is a core issue in The Great Divide. 

          Paul did not want his Gentile friends to forget what an astonishing thing God had done to pull off such a miracle.  The apostle reminded them what they were formerly:

 

You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the [sterns: "enmity of the"] law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Eph. 2:12-16)

 

          At Calvary, Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile in order to make both groups one, thus establishing peace.  The Bible therefore gives no warrant for the growing divide between these two groups of believers.

 

TOP BUTTON ON THE SHIRT OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

The apostle continues his thoughts on mysteries in Romans 10-11.  There he tells his friends that God has saved the Gentiles "to make Israel envious" (11:11).  He adds, "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved" (11:25-26).

          Paul does not want Gentile believers to look down on unbelieving Jews because they have so far missed the grace of God in Christ.  Instead, he encourages them to live in such a way that God's chosen people will see and receive the riches available in Jesus.  Paul himself says, "I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them" (11:13-14).

          This is God's declared plan for the church.  But how can we provoke Jewish men or women to envy if we have no relationship with them?  And how can we reach unbelieving Jews if we don't even have a relationship with believing Jews?  [Greco-Roman Christianity has been not only missing the boat on this one for 17 hundred years, they've been contributing to the pogroms and anti-Semitism that has raged over those past 17 hundred years.  And the rest of Christianity has been infected with this attitude without realizing it, an attitude that directly goes against what Paul has spoken about in Romans 11.]  I strongly believe that this is the core reconciliation issue facing the church today.

          The growing divide between believing Jews and Gentiles violates Scripture and is a huge spiritual problem.  Except where profound  theological differences separate believers, virtually all of the rest of the divisions in the body are relational, whether they involve Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, whites, denominational concerns, or other issues.  While Scripture speaks to all divisions, the relationship between believing Jews and Gentiles is specifically addressed.  The most critical divide, the one to be addressed first, is this growing rift.

          It's not a good idea to put on a shirt by fastening the middle buttons first.  When you do, the frequent result is misalignment.  If, however, you begin by fastening the top buttonhole, all the other buttons and holes line up perfectly.  I believe that the relationship between believing Jews and Gentiles is the top button on the shirt of Christian unity.

 

SOMETHING BROKE

Recent events have convinced me that the Lord has been preparing us all along to encourage and help the church to come together as one.  I have known for a long time that Promise Keepers is a peacekeeping ministry, and I am starting to see more clearly how God may want this ministry to help bring his sons together.

          Just a few days ago I returned home from a Messianic Jewish conference [Messiah Conference 2002] at which I gave a short message.  My Jewish friends introduced me like this: "No one has reached out to us in seventeen hundred years like Promise Keepers."

          Just before I delivered my message, I felt tremendous spiritual warfare raging all around-and then tremendous peace.  God used it to show me that this work of reconciliation is the most important thing we have ever done.  Something broke that day in the heavenlies.  What happens next is going to change the church.  I know it in my heart.

          This important focus on reconciliation between Messianic Jewish believers and Gentile believers is a new priority for all of us here at Promise Keepers.  I have prayed earnestly about its significance and asked God to show me the best way to approach it.  I'm still in the process of figuring out the best approach.

          In the meantime, we'll continue our ongoing work of reconciling different ethnic groups, emphasizing the divide between urban and suburban church.God is orchestrating marvelous things in our day.  And when he orchestrates them in advance, we get no credit-I learned that lesson years ago as a football coach.  I'm neither a prophet nor a son of a prophet, but I believe I can see something of what God plans to do among us.

          In Matthew 24, Jesus predicts that the influence of the evil one will vastly increase in the last days.  He says that the love of most Christians will grow cold because of an increase in lawlessness (v.12).  I believe that God is choosing this time to bring together believing Jews and Gentiles so that we may triumph in this dark day.  Together we have enough power and resources to advance God's kingdom-but not if we remain fragmented.

          Promise Keepers, we often say, "is dedicated to igniting and uniting men to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ."  Our mission is and always has been to ignite and unite; but while the first is happening, the second is not.  The first key to uniting, the second to becoming the formidable force God wants us to be, is linking up with the Messianic Jewish community.  And when that happens, says Paul, "through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 3:10).

          Meanwhile, we on earth will reap untold blessings." [pp. 23-33]

 

Coach also says this on page 129, paragraphs 2-5, "Messianic Jewish believers have felt shut out of the church for seventeen hundred years!  Why don't we know that they feel this way?  Because they are so effectively shut out that we are never near enough to them for long enough to hear them.  This kind of hurt doesn't get shared easily or quickly.  For friends to risk being this vulnerable with each other takes a lot of time, trust, and patience.

          When I spoke with one Anglo friend about this issue, he admitted, "Everything within me wants to defend myself.  You say that these guys are crying out for justice.  I've sat with every one of the guys you mention but one.  You've helped me to see that I've never cried with them."

          Do you know why my friend never cried with these men?  It's because he's never reached Level Four [a Level Four Relationship, described in this chapter of Coach's book] with any of them.Relationships are the only things that truly "work" in repairing the division in the church.  Events apart from relationships do not work; when the event is over, so are the relationships.  And so is the healing."  [p. 129]

 

[these excerpts taken from pp. 23-33, Blind Spots, by Bill McCartney, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois.  Blind Spots is available at http://www.Christianbooks.com or http://www.amazon.com for about $12.00.  These excerpts are what Coach Bill McCartney of Promise Keepers has to say about the Messianic movement of the Holy Spirit.  Messianic Jewish congregations were all over the eastern half of the Roman empire for the first three hundreds years of Christian history--now they're back, all over the United States, and spreading around the world, and back into Israel.

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