What Is ISRAEL?

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By Jeff Foerster

Israel is a state.

Its geographical size is quite small. If the nation of Israel were cut from a map and placed over the United States of America, it would require more than 473 “Israels” to completely cover the United States. Even in comparison to bordering Egypt, Israel is tiny, covering only about 2 percent of its neighbor’s geography. It is the only democratic state in the Middle East, having a prime minister (currently Benjamin Netanyahu) and a parliament.

Israel is a person.

“Israel,” which can be translated as “to struggle or wrestle with God,” was the name given to Jacob as recorded in the book of Genesis. Jacob was son to Isaac, the son of Abraham. Through Jacob, now Israel, Joseph was born, and many, many descendants after him. When we speak of the nation of “Israel,” we speak of a group of people, generations of family.

Israel is a promise.

More than four thousand years ago, God made a covenant with Abraham that He would give the land of Canaan to his descendants forever. Modern-day Israel exists in the former “land of Canaan.” Roughly 2,800 years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote prophecy that would take nearly as long to fulfill. He writes, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” (Isaiah 66:8). On May 14, 1948, just that happened. The Jews once again had a place to call home, a nation of their own. From out of the smoking ruin of World War II, and Hitler’s attempted annihilation of the Jewish people, arose the nation of Israel. Her existence today serves the world as a reminder of God’s faithfulness as core to His character. He has not forgotten the Jewish people (Romans 11).

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Supreme Court?

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By Jeff Foerster

The Supreme Court is the highest court in all the United Sates. Composed of nine justices, its rulings supersede those of any county, state, or federal court. Its decisions stand as final and serve as guidance for actualizing theory and implementing written law. Recognizing America’s status as the most powerful nation on the world’s stage, greater authority is exercised nowhere else. It has the last word, right?

A few days ago the Supreme Court of these United States declared biological gender irrelevant in regard to establishing marriage. This stands in stark contrast to the declared Word of God. “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)

So, what to think? I could take you on a ride through the land of reason and logic, down paths of historical textual reliability and walk with you beside streams of archeological evidence to make a case for Marriage as the Bible describes, but that is not our journey today. I will instead trust that you have come to a like-minded conclusion that God has authority to speak timeless truth and has done so in a way which we can plainly understand.

Through grace, we have been given the window of Marriage through which to peer at a mystery too great to contain with mere words of man. Our lives are intertwined in relationship, not simply by necessity, not only for practical purposes, but because God Himself is a Being existing in relationship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we, we are like Him. When God richly dwells in us, we reflect to others the love that He has so generously and sacrificially poured out upon us through Jesus Christ. At the pinnacle of all human relationships is Marriage.

When a man and a woman come together as one, independence is laid aside for a commitment to pursue sacrificial service for the good of their mate and the glory of God. When a man and woman come together they declare the goodness and provision of their Maker. When a man and a woman are joined together by God (Mark 10:9; Matthew 19:6) they begin to picture the relationship between Christ and His Church. This is a profound mystery indeed, but one that we are commanded to live out before a watching world.

So, what to do? The Bible and Supreme Court are at odds with one another. Are we to obey man rather than God (Acts 4:19)? May it never be! This may prompt you to take a stand for righteousness, and I urge you to do just that. Here’s what I suggest: Repent, Love One Another, Rejoice, Rinse, and Repeat. It requires no letter writing or stamps, no boycotts or fundraising. It is very simple and extremely difficult. “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus declares (John 13:35). By these actions you will be known and Christ will be exalted (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15).

To everyone I say:

Repent. Turn away from sins sexual and otherwise, not being stained by culture and its priorities. Live lives of purity and seek reconciliation and restoration of relationship where it has been damaged. Don’t be quick to attack, using Scripture or sharp tongues. Speak truth from a foundation of love, the same love that led Jesus to the cross, saving helpless, deluded sinners like us.

To the married:

Recognize God as of first priority in your life and the life of your husband or wife. Elevate your spouse to second place, beneath God and above yourself. Men, your wife is a rare jewel, one of beauty and wisdom. Listen to her. Women, your husband is a man of honor and courage. Tell him you value his leadership. Be purposeful as you pray for God to conform you both into the image of Christ. Reach out to other couples and singles that they may see the work God is performing in and through you. Rejoice that God is in the midst of your Marriage.

To those raising children:

Teach your children what is good, what is holy. Teach them about God, about His awesome, His unchanging character, His extravagant love and sacrifice. Then, show them. Be purposeful as you discipline, gently correcting as the Lord does for you. Use wisdom as you provide, as you counsel, as you are generous, as you teach them truth, as you love your husband or your wife sacrificially, as you take joy in one another, and as you pray in times of plenty and in your distress.

To those who are single:

Lead a life of purity. If Marriage is in your future, await your spouse. If you are not looking toward Marriage, take joy and comfort in the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly. Demonstrate to all that your sexuality does not define your identity, but the foundation of belonging to Jesus Christ directs your will and desires.

Rejoice! Give thanks to God that you live at such a time as this (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Know that God is working all things to the good of those who love Him. And you have been invited as His fellow worker to bring many in to celebrate at the family gathering of the Lord. No announcement, no declaration from any earthly authority can change the need that the hurting and the hungry have for Jesus. Each person in our community, our nation, our world is seeking relationship, identity, and significance. And these are all found in Jesus. Invite them to come and see where they can find rivers of water for their thirsty souls. Then, show them. Pour out the love that you have received and tell others why you are able to do this without draining yourself dry. Live such good lives that no one find fault, and God be glorified (1 Peter 2:12).

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Songbirds and Plastic Chairs

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By Jeff Foerster

Quickened by the rays of the morning sun. Ears dancing to interlacing melodies of songbirds. Belly being filled by breakfast. I sat enjoying the last morning at home in Oregon under ideal conditions, neither too warm, nor too cold. The sunlight upon me, but not shining in my eyes. The air was fresh and any traffic was but a minor lull, like distant breaking waves barely audible.

I had assembled some breakfast and took it to the front deck. The house was nearly empty of belongings and I was the last one to sleep over from the night before. I opened the door to sunlight and a welcomed breeze, slowly moving. The home belonged to my mother, having purchased it some 29 years ago. I had spent some of childhood there and nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other extended weekends, since. Likewise, summer included several trips back home to landscape, mow, trim, etc., and simply to visit and talk about what the Lord was doing, had done, and looking forward to what He has promised.

So here I was, taking in my last morning before the keys would be passed along. Though all was serene around me, something was wrong inside me. I wanted to savor that moment, to etch in a small memory I could later bring out and look at from time to time, like a worn photograph. Something was missing. Something felt hollow. Like the white plastic chair I sat upon, the pleasantness of the moment was but superficial and temporary. She who had made the house the home was not there. Though not 10 miles away at my sister’s house, at the moment my Mother was gone from my presence. This place was made special by her, not by its construction nor any natural accompaniments.

This makes me think of our home in Heaven. It is not a place constructed by human hands. No eye has seen and no mind has conceived of the splendor and greatness of our eternal home (1 Corinthians 2:9). Even so, I venture to say that even a place as perfect as Heaven would be only a place without the One who created it. Without our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even the majesty of Heaven would disappoint. Yet this is not our destiny; ours is one with fullness of relationship with our Maker, the One who knows us better than we ourselves and loves us with love greater than all.

Heaven is the perfect place. It is the place of perfect relationship, first with our Heavenly Father, then with others who have gone before us. It is a place made special by the One who dwells there in all His glory. And those loved ones await us, in perfect communion with the Father. So will we join them all in fellowship and joy forever!

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I Want to Waste My Time

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By Jeff Foerster

My work is focused, my attention is directed, and my clicks are precise. Each image and each caption is carefully read and logged in my short-term memory for comparative purposes. I can easily track my progress toward my endgame, as all are ranked in order of speed. So there I am, dedicated to the task of researching and compiling data crucial to, uh, something or other. There is just enough peripheral information to keep me interested and moving forward, onward toward that approaching goal of uncovering the one — the fastest aircraft in the world! I wade through differing builders and differing sponsoring countries. When a Russian variety makes the list I feel a small sense of competition building, until that plane is superseded by an American aircraft. Then, as this is revealed before my eyes, nationalism is renewed and patriotism stirs within me. I, as an American, am back on top — a victor once more. And all I had to do was click on a slideshow built for the selling of advertisements. Then, something unforeseen took place.

Just below the image of plane number 12, a banner appeared. In a rectangular box plain text spread from left to right across the screen. Unencumbered by decoration, the displayed message was clear: I WANT TO WASTE MY TIME. This is not good advertising. There was no flashy imaging or scrolling text to garner my attention. It didn’t make promises of fulfillment or happiness, however temporal. It didn’t intrigue my curiosity with intellectual ponderings. Nothing of the sort. In fact, the message comes close to being insulting.

Yet I was stunned by this most simple, monochromatic missive. The words before me became almost audible. You see, I had spoken to someone the night before this odd occurrence and revealed to them that I thought God was opening my eyes to how I spend the time He has given me. Lips slightly parted and brows raised, I sat there, staring, then reading and rereading the text to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. I felt exposed, like just becoming aware I had been watched for an indeterminable amount of time. I may have laughed or just shaken my head, though I don’t recall. This had to be one of the bluntest, timeliest messages I have ever received in all my years.

I am not about to delve into concepts of synchronicity or weigh in on the idea that “there are no coincidences.” I will not meander down rabbit trails or set the stage for doctrinal dissertation. What I will do is remind myself and declare to you that each day is precious because it is a gift that our God and Father gives us to unwrap as the day itself unfolds. Each day provides opportunity to take a stand and praise our Maker. How I choose to spend the time given to me declares my priorities, my values, and my loves.

What are you going to do with the time given to you? Who, or what, will it declare that you love?

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“May I See Your Driver’s License, Please?”

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By Jeff Foerster

Looking at my driver’s license, I notice a few things. Most obvious is a photographic image, slightly smaller than a thumb. One note here before moving on: there is just no way to take a poor picture of me — wow. Secondly, and just as importantly, is my name, listed beside the picture. Also documented is information such as current residence, date of birth, and physical details including height and weight. Your license undoubtedly appears similarly.

Perhaps the most useful parts of my license are the image and the name. Though bearing just three names and a face a mother could love, police officers, bank tellers, airport security personnel, et al, use these as a basis to substantiate my identity. Though useful, it is incomplete. I am more than can be represented on a 2×4-inch piece of plastic.

The photographic image on any license is “flat” or two-dimensional. It pales in comparison to the three-dimensional person it represents. Likewise, each of us bears an image of God (Genesis 1:26). Like the picture on a license, the image of God we bear lacks a dimension (or two). Even so, each follower of Jesus is a reflection of the Father to a darkened world. This is a statement of truth; a fact that is based not on the worthiness of the Christian, but the presence and work of the Holy Spirit within the believer.

Like many others, my name has meaning embedded within it. I was given three names by my mother and father at birth. My surname represents my family and a German heritage dating back several centuries. The middle name I hold was taken from my father’s first name, while the meaning of my first name carries with it the grand expectations of “God’s peace.” These names, however they might distinguish me from others, do not fully define me. Many years later I was given a new name: “Christian.” Born again, of the Spirit, this new name became rich in meaning and powerful in significance. Now bearing the name of Christ, it is this name that provides greater identity than any other

Each time you take out your license and see the image and name upon it, remember the image and the name we bear because of Jesus. The image recalls God’s initial creation (Genesis 1:26) and our transformation into a new creation — “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The name “Christian” tells us to whom we belong. This does not change when we fall short of the glory of God (sin). “ — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Remember this, Christian: your identity resides not in good works, but in God’s declaration of righteousness through forgiveness in Jesus Christ!

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Identifying Your Identity

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By Jeff Foerster

We tend to form our identity based on the outcomes of our lives. Our outcomes will push us, like so much toothpaste through a tube, onward down, or diverting away from, the pathway we are upon. Our “outcomes” are those positive and negative experiences we enjoy and endure. These are the benefits of well-planned decisions and the “natural consequences” of actions or indecisions.

There are many ways to play this out. Some opt for an achievement-driven lifestyle stuffed full of trophies and accolades. Others grow accustomed to playing “fireman” over a myriad of life’s burning issues. Still others arrive in retreat mode, recoiling from difficulty and seeking out a listening ear into which to pour troubles or locating a vice or diversion to numb the feeling of disillusionment at what life was “supposed” to be.

Whenever one of the above patterns (or another variety not mentioned here) takes hold in our lives we place too much emphasis on the importance of outcomes to guide what we believe about our identity. This forms a circle of belief, decision, action, consequence, belief, decision, action consequence … etc., rolling along until a cliff or boulder comes our way. It’s often the trauma of one or the other that brings us face-to-face with the unsustainability of living outside of our TRUE identity.

I cannot hope to provide a comprehensive remedy to this problem in one sitting. What I can do is secure you in the knowledge that, if you find the above familiar territory, you are in well-traveled country. You are in company among us journeying forward to understanding, embracing, and living in (and out of) our identity in Jesus Christ.

I leave you, for the moment, with a question: “Will you be defined by a temporal outcome you have recently experienced, or will you determine to embrace an eternal identity as described by God Himself?”

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