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A Year of Crisis

Teaching Letter

The Bible: How New Testament Writers Understood and Used the Old Testament

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What value is there to understanding how New Testament writers understood, interpreted, and applied Old Testament (Tanach) texts? In many Christian circles, the Old Testament has been neglected or, worse, caused great harm and error to the Church and contributed to centuries of Christian anti-Semitism and Supersessionism (the teaching that the Church replaced Israel or the new covenant replaced God’s covenant with Israel). So, how were the apostles and New Testament writers shaped by the Old Testament, and how did they apply it to their writings? How does this impact our approach and response to the Scriptures?

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Attributes for Challenging Times

{image_1} In the book of Daniel there is a startling example of God communicating in a highly unusual way. Suddenly in the midst of a feast, a hand appears and begins writing on the wall. One morning as I was lying in bed, I had a similar experience. I can’t say if I had drifted back to sleep and was dreaming or if I had a mini-vision. I saw a hand writing on a whiteboard. Four words appeared: wisdom, courage, faithfulness, and love. Immediately, I sensed that it was a significant message for me and Bridges for Peace. Our board was meeting in Jerusalem that week, and as a board, we prayed into this message. We understood that we were going to need these attributes and prayed that God would strengthen us in these areas.

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Amalek

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The dictionary defines war as “a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.” Of the 192 United Nations member states, all have been involved in such a conflict at one time or another. The UN further estimates that there are currently somewhere between 39 and 45 armed confrontations raging worldwide at any given moment. Of all of those conflicts, however, none seems to attract as much attention as those thrust upon the nation of Israel.

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When I AM says I Will

 {image_1}Along with over a billion people worldwide, I watched the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.{image_2} It was wonderful to see the way God was a central part of their very Christian wedding. At the crucial moment in the ceremony, I clearly heard William and then Catherine say “I will,” and upon hearing those words of covenant, they were pronounced husband and wife. We pray for their happiness and that their commitment to one another will last a lifetime just as they pledged “till death do us part.” Happily about half of all marriages do last a lifetime. The other half sadly ends in divorce. It seems that many people today have a problem with commitment. Their “I wills” aren’t always forever.

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Living the Book of Ezekiel

{image_1}A couple of years ago, I was invited to address a class that was studying the book of Ezekiel. I opened my talk by telling them that they were studying the book of Ezekiel, but in Israel, I was “living” the book of Ezekiel. How true this is for all of us living in these days! We are experiencing the events that Ezekiel prophesied over 2,500 years ago!

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The Scriptural Basis for Supporting Israel

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Does God have some special relationship with the Land and people of Israel? Well, the word “Israel” is mentioned more than 2,300 times in the Bible. How does that compare to other topics on God’s heart? Sin is mentioned 380 times. Love is mentioned 280 times. Actually, the only words I’ve found to be used more than Israel are the various names for God Himself. Maybe there is a clue about the passion of God’s heart in this frequency. I would suggest that He talks most about Himself because His first priority is for us to know Him and understand His heart toward us. Perhaps His frequent references to Israel reveal that His second priority is for us to know and understand His heart toward the Land and people He has chosen as His own.

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Building in God’s Kingdom

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The Lord speaks to His children in many ways. How thankful I am that He reveals Himself to us. His written revelation in the Bible is a constant source of inspiration and direction. There, we find examples of times when God communicated with men in various other ways, some more unusual than others. Consider the donkey that spoke to Balaam. Once God caused writing to appear on a wall. Sometimes He sent angels to bring messages, and at other times, He gave dreams and visions. I have never had a donkey speak to me, or an angel visit me. Usually the Lord speaks to me through the Bible, often through the still small inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes He gives me dreams. When I have a dream that seems to be spiritual in nature, or that is very vivid and clear in my memory upon waking, I always pray and ask the Lord if it was from Him, and if so, what it means.

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Hebraic Roots—Heritage or Heresy?

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What exactly are these Hebraic roots that so many in the Church seem to be talking about today? A small interest group with comparatively few adherents that existed two decades ago is mushrooming into one of the significant movements of modern Christianity with millions of devotees across the globe. But what exactly do people mean when they say, “Hebraic roots” or “Jewish roots”? Google either term and you’ll find a myriad of sites, some with a very positive approach and educational resources to help get their point across. Others, however, are negative, calling the Hebraic roots movement a cult. Some Christians are expressing grave concern over the threat they believe it poses to Christianity and are working to expose what they call a dangerous heresy.

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Partakers of the Root

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When God had something to communicate to His people Israel, He often went to great lengths to make sure that He was being heard and understood. From the flash of lightning and crash of thunder to the mighty roaring of the wind to the whisper of the still small voice, He used whatever was necessary to get His points across. In His Word, He uses vivid images to help us truly understand, at a practical level, the instructions and concepts He is attempting to impart.

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Lessons from the Wilderness

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At a Bridges for Peace staff devotion, we were inspired by a dynamic God-Tube video about the 1992 British Olympic runner, Derek Redmond. Although Redmond had undergone eight surgeries prior to the games, he made the fastest time for the first round of the 400–meter race and also won the quarter–final. However, in the semi–final, his hamstring suddenly snapped, and he fell to the ground in excruciating pain. A stretcher was brought out to the track, and his father ran down from the stands to assist him. But instead of quitting, Redmond chose to finish the race and hobbled down the track holding on to his dad for support to the end. The entire stadium of 65,000 rose for a standing ovation. Though he didn’t win the prize he was after, he certainly taught thousands of people a lesson in endurance.

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