Category Archives: Tikkun Olam

“Where there’s hope, there’s life.”–Anne Frank

130124_tubishvat3I received a note this month from a dear donor who has been witnessing to a Jewish friend of hers, and was very thankful of the sayings and things in our newsletter that she has used over the years to connect with her friend.  She has walked with her friend through some tough things in their lives, and recently, she received a note from her friend sharing that she had planted a tree in Israel in her honor.

January brings the Jewish festival of Tu B’Shevat. It is the new year for trees, and is often the catalyst for Jewish people planting trees in Israel. Following the end of World War II and the liberation of the concentration camps, many Jews migrated to the then British mandate of Palestine. They found a land much bleaker than they expected. The “land of milk and honey” had become the land of sand and strife. So these settlers formed kibbutzim, small cooperative farms, to reclaim the land, and they began to plant trees. And following the U.N. vote to establish the State of Israel and the subsequent war, the new nation began reforestation projects that Jews around the world participated in as we planted trees in Israel to commemorate almost anything. Trees usually cost $18.00, the numerical equivalent of the word “Chai,” which means life, and the maxim, “Where there’s life, there’s hope” became associated with this reclamation project.

Of course, when we think of trees, it is hard not to remember the anecdotal saying of Luther, “If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today!”  Whether Luther said this or not, he certainly reflected this attitude of life and hope. So this is a great time to share your faith with your Jewish friends. You can still, believe it or not, plant a tree in Israel for $18.00! If you go to the website, you can plant a tree in someone’s name and send them a certificate. Include a note to your friend sharing the fact that you have planted a tree in their name for Tu B’Shevat (or any other occasion you can think of!), and end the note with “Where there’s hope, there’s life.” Then, if you’re led to, say “Y’shua is the way, the truth and the life!” (Yes, I did get it backwards for where our hope is is where life is.  Maybe your friend will notice the difference and call to ask why and then you can share this truth.)

By the way, Anne Frank got it backwards too.  She too said, “Where there’s hope, there’s life.”   Yes, while there is life, there is hope. But our greatest hope is that many would truly find life, and life eternal through faith in our Messiah, Y’shua. And I would love to hear your stories of hope!  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).


The tree of Abraham… the Way, the Truth and the Life!

Olive treeMembers of our congregation have attended the Sabbath services and Torah study at synagogues here in the St. Louis area.  I have tried to keep my hand in on occasion too, and my students all attend at least one Sabbath service at an orthodox synagogue close to the office here.  We attend to keep or make connections in the Jewish community, and to learn about what is going on in the area.  Also there is great blessing to observing orthodox services, the reverence that some still have for the Word.  But there is a sadness that overwhelms when you realize that this community sees God through a glass more darkly than even we (1 Cor. 13).  Other faith traditions are so far away from God that it is easier to talk to them, but our Jewish friends are so close, yet still so blind to the truth.

Many argue about truth.  Today some opine for truths that are relative to individuals as we’re all familiar now with the arguments of “post-moderns,” a phrase that is itself now “post.”  Our President, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast likened truth to faith as he urged us to not be “so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.”  And our Jewish friends are no stranger to this popular notion of truth.

This month in the St. Louis Jewish Light, it was reported that a couple from St. Louis were awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for the Advancement of Inter-Religious Understanding by the province of Manitoba.  The wife of the couple was quoted as remarking “Around our Pesach table, we had clergy of all faiths–yogis, gurus, Protestant ministers, Catholic priests, nuns.  Our kids just grew up that way.  We’ve always had an open door policy.”  And their kids have grown up.

Their son is the rabbi of a congregation that one of our members attends.  Once upon receiving a “Jewish New Testament” from our member, he remarked that he was willing to take this, but that this man was not to share anything about Jesus with the members of his congregation.  Even having grown up with this open door policy, he was still wary about someone else’s truth.

What makes Jesus so scary?  Because He is the truth.  And to truly come face-to-face with Him means that our notions of what is acceptable in our society must come into question.  And shouldn’t it?  January saw the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the massacre in France at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.  Atrocities are the way of our world.  Jesus is it’s only hope.  This month, for Tu B’Shvat (the new year for trees), plant a tree in Israel ( symbol of hope) for a Jewish friend, and plant the truth in their heart about Jesus, their only hope.

(For more on this illustration, see my blog entry for January 5, 2015.)

High Five!

IMG_3554My daughter and her husband just sent me this picture from their appointment with their obstetrician.  Rachel had the caption “High Five!” under the picture.  What an awesome picture that this is!  It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to abort their baby.  If they could just see these pictures…

This picture is of my third grandchild.  I don’t yet know if it is a boy or a girl, but what I do know is that this baby is 20 weeks and 3 days old.  She (let’s call her a she) is reaching out to explore whatever is going on outside of her little insulated world.  Maybe she’s just stretching, but maybe she’s responding to the poking and prodding that is going on.  I am so thankful to God for this wonderful moment when we get to experience the miracle of creation and life.  He is so awesome, and so is she, my little grand baby.  And I am so thankful that Rachel & Josh would never think of killing this child of God.

I was watching something on Hulu the other day and an advert for Planned Parenthood came on.  I was sickened as they advertised their services for “emergency contraception.”  They didn’t use the words abortion, baby, or any other word that would indicate that this is a life, created by God, and loved by someone.  Here in Missouri, a mother could look at this picture and then have an abortion.  Though we are a relatively conservative state, you can still legally have an abortion up to 22 weeks and 6 days.  Can you imagine?  And certainly, in other states that date could be even later.

This past Sunday was “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.”  Established in 1984 as the third Sunday in January by a Presidential proclamation from President Ronald Reagan, it is an opportunity to thank God for His creation.  Here’s what President Reagan said when he established this day…”I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.”

Yet today, so far, you can now have an abortion and have the government pay for it.  Fortunately, yesterday, the U.S. House passed a bill that will permanently ban funding for abortion costs, including tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.  Unfortunately, should it make it through the Senate, President Obama has vowed to veto it saying that such a ban “unnecessarily restricts women’s reproductive freedom and consumers’ private insurance options.”  Such language for the President to use around an issue of life or death!

And furthermore, since this is my blog and I get to rail on it, even were there to be statewide referendum banning abortion in 36 states, the federal courts and the Supreme Court would probably come along and overturn state’s rights and call banning abortion unconstitutional (regardless of the Constitutional Right to Life…and by the way, who is advocating for the baby’s life while we are worried about women’s reproductive freedom and consumers’ private insurance options?).  That is what is going on with the same-sex marriage issues, though a vast majority of this country is opposed to same-sex marriage, and has voted to not allow such “marriages.”  A vast majority of this country is opposed to abortion, but that doesn’t seem to sway the President or the courts.

There is a battle going on for our souls.  That battle has been won by Y’shua’s crucifixion, death and resurrection, yet Satan still fights to take many down with him.  It isn’t enough to petition government, argue legislation, or vote.  All these things are important, but clearly not enough.  We have to get people to turn to Him who has created us, male and female, and breathed life into our bodies at conception.  The theme for this year’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is Psalm 139:16:  “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  Those babies are precious, and those mothers are too.  We need to be a haven for both and share Christ’s love and forgiveness.

We cannot afford to let any government do our work for us.  Christ is the only hope for us, and the Church is the only hope for the world.  Share your faith, tell the story and may many be written into the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Tikkun Olam Again!?

1407987080000-Ferguson-gallery-10Last month I wrote about events in Israel, and now it is hard to ignore the events here in St. Louis.

I’m sure you have heard about the racial tensions, demonstrations and looting that have taken place here in Ferguson, MO.  I’ve heard from people everywhere, here in the states and overseas, about what they have termed the “race riots” here akin to those in Los Angeles several years ago.  Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have come to town, Huffington Post reporters have been detained.  The National Guard was sent to Ferguson to help.  Such mishegoss (crazyness)!

There is no question that the events leading up to the insanity were tragic.  But even more tragic is the response of people to tragedy.  Rather than allow the legal system to take its course, we would rather loot and destroy businesses in our own community, and while we’re at it, even loot a shoe store 15 miles away.  And the truly sad part is that people came to St. Louis from Detroit, Chicago and other places just to take place in the “demonstrations.”

It is further testimony to the theological truth of the depravity of man, and the folly of the Jewish philosophy of Tikkun Olam, or “repairing the world.”  One Jewish response to the events in Ferguson is called the “Weed Out Hate Initiative” where gardening becomes a metaphor for improving society by replacing weeds in public spaces in Ferguson with sunflowers.  The actual gardening that is supposed to take place is intended as a substitute physical activity to looting and rioting.  Now, while I am not opposed to sunflowers, and I’m sure they are more attractive than weeds, I’m not sure that looting and rioting is just an outlet for physical aggression that can be replaced by the constructive activity of gardening.  Again I say, there is only one way to repair the world, and that is to share the love of Jesus with people.

But the sad truth is that many of those same people who participated in violent demonstrations were in their church on Sunday.  The community in Ferguson is not ignorant to the truth of the Law.  And many in that community claim to be Christians.  Yet, some are  able to justify behavior like this.  There seems to be a disconnect.  It is the same disconnect that I run into in Christians who love the Jews, but don’t believe that they need to believe in Jesus.  It highlights the need to call those in the church to repentance and strengthen the faith of those who are believers.  It is too easy to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2), be it the violence of the mob psychology, or the political correctness of “all roads lead to God.”  Both are damaging.  I praise God for many in the Church that have been transformed by the renewing of their mind, discerning God’s will.  They are working for peace in Ferguson…they are sharing their faith.  Thank you!

Tikkun Olam

UnknownThe events in Israel over the past few weeks have given many an opportunity for pause. The Jewish Light, our St. Louis Jewish community newspaper, had a front-page article this week on the funeral in Israel for the three teenagers killed recently. Some of the coverage shared the world-wide grief of the Jewish community over their deaths, and highlighted the sense of family that there is in the Jewish community at large. A local rabbi was quoted as saying that their deaths are “a blow to all of us.” And while I doubt he knew these kids personally, he is reflecting the sentiment that what happens to Jews anywhere in the world affects the whole community.

This sense of community is an admirable thing, and one I think that is often lost when a Jewish person comes to faith in Jesus as their Messiah. The reality is that by their faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, they become a member of a community that is far greater than what we can see, and transcends time and place. But reality seems far from perception, as Jewish people who come to faith often find themselves to be part of a community that does not seem to want to live that way. The churches that we find ourselves a part of often do not reflect this sense of community that Jewish people are used to. That makes our transition into the Church very difficult sometimes, and Satan preys on that to keep hearts hard to the Gospel.

But these events in Israel also highlight a greater problem. Jews are generally humanists, they don’t believe in “Original Sin” and give great nod to the “moral imperative” that Jews are good people and can make themselves and the world a better place. The whole concept of Tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) is an expression of the Jewish sentiment that humanity has a shared responsibility to heal and transform the world, and while humanity may have that shared responsibility, Jews take this very seriously. And, altruistic as this might be, and it does make for generally good people who are philanthropic, who work to relieve suffering, and who care about people, it also is a failing proposition. So when, on the heels of the deaths of these three teenagers, there follows the arrest of six young Jewish men for the death of a Palestinian teenager, ostensibly as revenge for the first three deaths, the Jewish community is stunned and hopefully finally asking the right questions. I’ve had at least two conversations with Jewish people this week following the arrest of these six. “How can we do these things?” is asked, and suddenly, the Jewish moral imperative is in question. Our ability to transform the world is obviously not there. The only answer to the problem of sin is Jesus. We have great opportunity now to give Him nod and share the one who does heal and transform lives. He makes us brothers and sisters, so let us live that way!