Friday, August 30, 2013

Monster Poem: The Bible for Girls -- 128 Lines Long!

I told a friend I was really excited about writing poems, since as long as I put pen to paper, great lines just seemed to roll off the ballpoint onto the page. So I asked her for a topic idea and she suggested I write something about sisters. So that's what I tried to do. It expanded into about young women in general, and after a point of empathizing as a single man, gained a thematic focus about what sort of insight into how to live our lives that single people, in particular girls, can gain from the Bible. Please do give me feedback, and share it with others if you think it's worth so doing.

The Bible for Girls

Part I

Something that is not explicit in the Bible book
Is where the little women in our lives should go to look
for passages that tell them how their gender ought to be
Most commands seem to be aimed at guys like you and me
All the him’s and he’s and man’s and men’s and sons and boys
seem to be describing that which frequently annoys:
A patriarchal custom which ignores the unwed girl
and gives no heed to womenkind throughout the whole wide world
Are they esteemed as less than men? Why should this ever be?
Is it their plight to be perceived by men as property?
The modern liberal-educated woman might perceive
that old religious books are merely man-made, and deceive
but this is merely one more modern way to find excuse
to disregard  the difficult and leave it to disuse.
The Bible isn’t hard to understand for those who try
The answers are revealed to those who seek them, by and by
So what then do we make of what appears to be a lack
of Biblical prescriptions for how ladies ought to act?
The ones that mention women all appear to be for wives
but what of those among us who are living single lives?
As a man both young and single, I can sympathize
For we unwed it seems that marriage does but tantalize
It seems a simple thing to use your energies to love
the person who’s right next to you, in praise of God above
but if there’s no one in your bed for whom you have ‘amor’
how can you live for God until the day you’re spoken for?
In fact, the Bible’s full of verses that describe for you
as single men or women, many things which you can do
to give God glory, whether you were born a boy or girl
The reason for the language used, I now wish to unfurl
In older languages, the masculine and plural mean
that both the genders are implied, thus “kings” can cover “queen”
Context will determine if the crowd is only male
Often, it’s generic, and this does affect the tale

Part II

If ev-ery address before the Israelites was done
so that the words applied themselves to each and every one
who heard the words the prophets spoke, directed “to a man”
including all the womenfolk and children in the land
then all the words that follow are for women hearers too!
In this way, almost everything that’s written is for you
The only parts that are exempt are those which specify
that they are rules for fathers, mothers, husbands, God, and wives
Those plurals do not cover all, unlike the prior list
I hope there’s no more things left to explain that I have missed
You should now see that nearly everywhere where God descends (intends?)
to give a law for all mankind, it isn’t just for men.

Part III

Yet, ladies, you are special, I acknowledge that it’s true
and there indeed are passages that only speak to you
But such exist for men as well, the reason being thus:
God acknowledges that He placed differences in us
and these account for why He’s given each of us a role
dependent on our destiny as written on our soul.
Men are made to model certain aspects of God’s heart
Women complement these roles and each sex plays a part
in working hand in hand, at modeling divinity
by leading and submitting, like the Holy Trinity.
God is God. The Father isn’t greater ‘cause He leads
And men aren’t ‘over women,’ no, each half of us still needs
to lean upon the other so we do not slip or fall
The way that we accomplish this’s by answering the call
to live our lives according to the framework handed down
and not reject our gender’s roles because we feel too proud
Some men are just as unwilling to lead a wife or child
as many women are to be submissive when they’re riled
But whether we agree with God is not the question here
It’s whether we’ll obey our Lord because we hold Him dear
And note, what I have said above now isn’t for us all
but only those who choose to marry, if that be their call
It’s true the gender differences in Christianity
are mainly just apparent for the ones who married be
The followers of Christ who haven’t yet to give their hand
to one another in a bond, identical still stand
In large part, I should say, at least. The Church, you see, remains
a further symbol of a bride God washes clean of stains
And so, the order isn’t gone, it’s just in different realms
In corporate worship you should see a pastor at the helm
And all the other members are the flock he’s got to lead
So you and I, as single folk, be careful where we feed!
Whom to marry’s most important, so is where to take
your soul to gain from sermons and its natural thirst to slake
So with good reason, Scripture does devote much time to teach
the way to be a godly spouse, and what a church should preach

Part IV

It might seem like you’re all left out, because you’re still unwed
but this just isn’t true, because He’ll sanctify you yet
What do you think the purpose of this season you are in
is all about if not to learn the best way to begin
the next phase that you’re yearning for, so that it all goes well
and you will love your chosen spouse more than you love yourself?
You’re not just killing time while single, you are learning how
to be a godly wife or husband in the here and now
Then, when the time is right for you to join yourself with them
you’ll have no fear because the Christ is with you to the end
And if you’d rather be a single witness for the Lord
you’re not alone! Paul thought that those like you could do much more
Because you’re not “tied down,” there are more risks that you can take
And missions you can shoulder which a married wife can’t make
A single girl or single guy can be a mighty force
when they are shining brightly so the world knows they’re the Lord’s
The path diverges at the point of marriage. What you choose
will only change the avenue through which you spread the News
A married spouse will teach their children and community
the truth of God by modeling to them the Trinity
A single man or woman can be fearless in the throng
which threatens them with life and limb and blames them for all wrong
Of course, there can be overlap, and martyrs may be wives
just as single people can live long and healthy lives
Whatever happens to you, you can rest assured of this:
what’s waiting on the other side is God and total bliss
The choice for you to make down here is how you wish to serve
Be married to a man, or God, for which[ever] you have the nerve
Neither choice is right or wrong, it all depends on whether
you step out in your human power or have Christ as your tether
The Bible’s rich in helpful words to guide you in your path
as you endeavor to exhort sinners to flee His wrath

Part V

You face a choice like I do also, hence my lengthy rhymes
Marriage is a journey I have thought o’er many times
And though I’ve tried to sculpt this letter for a single theme
my thoughts seem to return to this, no matter how I scheme
It’s just as well, because the answer to the question asked
was given way up in ‘Part II,’ and then I took the task
to flesh out all the loose ends that I brought up as I went
 And now, I think I’ve wrapped it up. I hope that what I meant
to say was understood by all who read it through the end
A final word: no matter what, the Lord will be your friend
whether you remain unwed or marry in this life
God will carry you through every single human strife
Just be sure to love Him more than any earthly man
and I assert that you’ll enjoy discovering His plan.

~ Rak Chazak

Poem: Who Can Find? Based on Proverbs 31

Who Can Find?
A wife of noble character,
who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies
or silver in the mine.
Her husband trusts her utterly,
she his wife,
who brings him good and never harm
all throughout his life.
Industrious, a careful planner,
getting up at dawn.
Ordering economy
to hither and to yon.
Working hard beside her man
she feeds her family.
She makes investments, buys and sells,
yes, independently.
Sound in body, sound in mind.
Her lamp stays on at night.
Her skillset is both deep and wide.
She aids the needy’s plight.
She isn’t worried when it snows,
her household is well clothed.
Her man takes part in civic life
and governs ‘mong the old.
Clothed with strength and dignity,
she laughs at days ahead.
She isn’t absent from her home.
She eats no idle bread.
She speaks with wise and faithful words.
Her children call her blessed.
Her husband tells her, in his eyes,
she ‘passes all the rest!
It matters not if she be fair
for beauty wastes away.
It matters if she fears the Lord—
for that, she shall be praised!
Deserving to be honored for
the deeds she did in patience,
then praise her well, and let her be
well-known throughout the nations.
The husband should do his part, too,
but that’s another rhyme.
Right now we’ve focused on the wife
who’s very hard to find.
Can men like me have any hope
to find a woman true?
The dearth of “Proverbs 31s”
can make a guy feel blue.
But don’t forget, a wife like that
was hand-designed by God,
and He can do an encore, too,
as often as He wants.

Proverbs 31's "The Good Wife", NKJV version, at Bible Gateway, at this link.

~ Rak Chazak

Poem: Preach Unto Death

Preach Unto Death
If life is Christ and death is gain
this brings perspective to the pain
What can this world do to me now?
I know it’s all been planned somehow
The light in me is from above
He changed my heart and taught me love
Now all I want to do is strive
to work hard while I’m still alive
and reach out with unwavering hands
to preach the Gospel in the land
to bear the jeers and scorn and strife
to urge them to take hold of Life
to speak against the Culture Kings,
exposing worthless worldly things.
They’ll hate me, and already do
As Sol’mon asks, “what else is new?”
If truth was authored by our lust
then Man’d be God, and God be dust
We go to them because they’re Lost
no matter what the earthly cost
And while I write this, we are free
to go and preach from sea to sea
So let us then, while there’s still time,
go do the task of the Divine
A gift and duty, both in one
We worship Father, Spirit, Son
by boldly praising His great name
to those who think us quite insane
We’ll gladly take their scorn and ire
Our passion for the Christ is higher
If you’re not standing for Him now,
when persecution comes, then how?
Now stand the mob inimical
for soon it may turn physical.
The faith which gives you comfort here
could soon result in shaking fear,
for those whose pride now clouds their brain
may be the reason you get slain.
Are you prepared to face the end
without a single earthly friend?
But if I die before my time,
I’ll praise the Lord, for He is mine!

Oh yes, there are more to come! The longest one yet is still ahead :)

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Poem: Seoul


Today I met a lovely girl.
There’s no one like her in the world.
Those may seem like strong words to speak,
but I simply mean that she’s unique.
Like me, she runs to exercise.
She lights the day up with her eyes
and smiled as wide as any sky
when she referred to God on High.
She said that she was single still,
and would defer to wed until
she’d met a guy who loved the Lord.
At that point, feelings in me warred,
some wanting to break free and shout,
“I am the guy you’re talking ‘bout!”
but quiet I remained, and said,
that “that’s encouraging,” instead.

We bonded over late-night runs.
I deemed our conversation fun,
and rather than have no more way
to get in touch after today,
I asked her if she’d like to come
and run at Relay with my mum.
That’s where I met her, first last year.
To think that I would find her here!
At Wal-Mart, where I came to get
my bike exchanged for a better set (of wheels).
The Bible says that though a man
may make a thorough-sounding plan,
the Lord directs his steps to go
to places and people that He knows
will have an impact on his soul
and guide him toward his heav’nly goal.

What greater purpose might this meeting
yet have, since it was so fleeting?
I can’t know, and I will not guess,
but I will pray the Lord to bless
this girl, with whom I passed the time,
and of whom I’ve composed this rhyme.
I don’t wish to imply that she
has fallen, or will fall for me.
But even if she never will,
I can’t deny, I felt a thrill—
--to think that somewhere near to me,
there could a single Christian be!
both close in age and beauteous.
I had thought there were few of us.
But now my heart has hope again—

--Yes, even if we’ll just be friends.

~ Rak Chazak

Poem: Dove to Serpent

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."  ~ Matthew 10:16

Dove --> Serpent
I never was the crafty type
who plots the ruin of my foes
It just isn’t my style to snipe
at people who I hardly know
Why should I try to bring them down?
The point is not, I think, to “win”
I have no interest in renown
and why, then, should I also sin?
But meekness comes at quite a cost
It paints a bullseye on your back
Around you, those whose souls are lost
will find you easy to attack
In time, I’ve learned to guard myself
and not expose myself too much
so that I won’t be harmed or felled
by gossips, tattlers, liars and such
It’s one thing to attack a person—
—quite another to defend
your image, lest attacks should worsen
as your critics seek your end
It isn’t wrong to use your wit
to thwart the schemes of sinful men
To forgive doesn’t mean forget
so keep a thorough record penned
Who knows in what capacity
your useful info shall arise?
Deny them their pugnacity
Let them look foolish in their eyes
Cowards are a lazy sort
and when they come against a wall
it does their prideful view distort
They cannot handle it at all
You’ll stop most in their tracks, but others
might return with hotter flames
so take this ad-vice from a Brother
and be prepared to play the game.
The juggling act of Christian heads
is knowing when to stand and fight
and when you should refrain, instead,
receiving darkness, ‘turning light
I’ll never be na├»ve again
—it’s something you don’t stay for long—
but when this story sees its end
I pray I didn’t do it wrong
That, in my efforts not to be
a victim of the schemes of man
I didn’t let the heart of me
return to end where it began.

~ Rak Chazak 

Insights from the 'Traveling Atheist' on PBS

The guy Robert Lawrence Kuhn who does the docu-show Closer to Truth on PBS-2 at 9:30 am weekdays was devoting this episode to asking the question, 'what does it feel like to be God?' I find the episodes where he asks philosophical questions of theologians to be by far the most interesting, because it actually gives the interviewees an opportunity to set the record straight. I like newscasts that choose to interview experts for their take on stories for the same reason -- they are free to give their unrestrained opinion and so you're much more likely to get the truth straight from them rather than the host of the show--if only for the reason that the host is trying not to be biased.

Here were the interesting points, (I took brief notes) and I'm sorry if I misspell any of these names:

Brian Leftowe was first, and made two points:

1. God is not temporal--he doesn't experience time like us, and He doesn't exist within His own time-continuum outside of ours. But logically, God does have something that is like temporality, in the sense that certain aspects of His knowledge are prior to/precede others. Leftowe referenced mathematical theorems as the example, where the axioms are logically precedent to the conclusions derived from those axioms. In this sense, some of God's thoughts must be "after" others in a sequence, but this continuum is not time, but possibly 'time-like.'

2. God does experience negative things -- the idea that a perfect being cannot experience grief, for example, is not necessary to believe -- just as He experiences positive things, but these don't cancel out. The negative is mitigated by His knowledge of its purpose in context--the end for which those negative (emotions, let's call them) are felt, by Him.

John Polkinghorne pointed out that the accessibility of Christianity lies in that we can -- uniquely among all faiths -- know what God is like in the person of Jesus Christ. I was pleased at this. Unfortunately, Mr. Polkinghorne accepts evolutionary history, but the point he made about trade-offs can still be applied to many questions of good versus evil. He said that the requirement for natural selection (he used the term evolution) to occur, mutations in germ line cells, necessitates mutational mechanisms, which as a consequence can cause errors in somatic (body) cells, which lead to cancer. Prior to this (explaining natural evil) he had mentioned the tried-and-true answer for the reason we have free will -- that moral evil is a necessary outcome when beings are free to choose what they will do. Freedom is necessary for love, and freedom guarantees the possibility that love will be rejected, and a refusal to love God is by its very definition sin. So freedom results in sin. In explaining why there is good and evil, the answer is that God decided that a world where people can love and in which there is evil is better than a world which does everything God tells it to, yet in which there is no such thing as, no capacity for love.

Gregory Ganza made a very interesting proposition, and that was to address the question of whether God, knowing everything, would get bored. I think, personally, this is probably the heart of the question when people have trouble fathoming an infinite mind that knows everything there is to know. It's the same problem I have with it--not a problem of belief but one of understanding. I have a hard time imagining what enjoyment I could get if I was incapable of learning because I had learned everything there was to learn, and the only thing left was to repeat what I had already done. But Ganza (Ganzell?) changed the direction of the answer--instead of talking about God's knowledge, he addressed the emotional enjoyment of God, something (that is, emotion) that is easy for me to overlook, being someone who tends toward using thought as my prior way of approaching things, rather than how I feel about them. But Ganza used marriage as a model: that he continually learns more about his wife, as a temporal person, BUT then there's an aspect in which he gets enjoyment from just dwelling on what he already knows about her, in just cherishing their relationship as it is. And for God, that enjoyment is infinite. So would He get bored? Not if you can imagine a man in love getting bored thinking about the woman he loves. And since God refers to Himself as a husband and His faithful followers as His bride, I think I can now gain a fuller appreciation, being a man, of how it may be for God to experience existence. Only that my piece of understanding is infinitesimally smaller than the whole sum of God's reality.

~ Rak Chazak


The state of being bored because of being too poor to do anything that costs money.

Just for fun, a daily life update

I just ended my third week working at a fast food location in my hometown. I can fly around the cash register ordering screen much more easily now, so the awkwardness of the first three days are history. Corporate does occasionally change the buttons around remotely, though, when a new item is being offered, which can get confusing when you're used to automatically finding something under a particular menu.

In the meantime, I've been trained a bit more broadly than when I last did a stint in the food service industry in 2009 and 2010. I know what I would need to do to manage the grill and make sure that there's enough meat, chicken and baked potatoes available for sandwiches and salads, and when and how to prepare more. I've gotten to the point where I can prepare most of the food except the sandwiches themselves--stuff like chili, staging fries for orders, and refilling the big ketchup containers in the dining room as well as the ice cream mix for the machine. All that's remaining is the prep-work for salads and bacon, I think, as well as getting some practice actually making sandwiches to go. You could say I'm 'skilled at many positions.' And of course I mean that in a totally clean way, which is what makes it a joke.

Transportation has been fun. I've needed to juggle getting rides or borrowing the car but a week or so ago, I got a bike from Wal*Mart for $94.94 to use to get to work. I would have to change in the bathroom, which is absolutely horrid to my senses, but survivable. The bike didn't last too long, however, because the handlebars slid out of the place where they were locked into the front wheel mechanism, and began wobbling up and down whenever I would stand on the pedals to bike faster. Because they were loose, the handlebars rotated backwards maybe 120 degrees, so the brake levers were leaning toward me, which was dangerous and very difficult to depress to stop the bike. Naturally I needed to get it exchanged.

The timing for when I went in to investigate if I could do an even exchange (I would still need to bike home, after all) was propitious. When I walked back to the bike section of the store, I ran into an old schoolmate (not classmate, because she was in a grade below me) who was looking at cards. I'd run into her only once since graduating, last year when my mom had taken me to Relay for Life because she didn't want me to be sitting around doing nothing at college on the weekend because I didn't have anywhere to go. I was scared to approach her because the last words I'd ever said to her were "I'm sorry," -- right after I had kicked her in the chin! The track team was doing a warmup lap and I got the dumb idea to jump on the high-jump mat which was right next to the track. I never talked to her again. I was mortified, terrified, thought she hated me. So when she caught me looking in her direction last fall and smiled and waved, a wave of relief washed over me. I'm forgiven! Or she forgot it happened. But either way, she isn't holding it against me. 

What we talked about in Wal*Mart actually became the subject of a short poem I wrote (I'm just really digging writing poems now, you know?) that night, and it'll be posted here later today. :)

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Open-Air Preaching 'Clicked' for Me


I was 11 when I started to take following God's commandments seriously. Not because I was wantonly disobedient before, but merely that the reason I was doing it changed. And to tell you the truth, I can't be completely sure I know the reason. I'm very hesitant to say that I wasn't saved before, lest I blaspheme and profess to say something about God that isn't true. But from a perspective of evaluating myself, I realized as I prayed last night, I don't think I can ever "know" that I was saved before, since the way to really know is to understand the theology of salvation, which I didn't have any incorrect ideas about, to my memory, but I certainly didn't have a complete understanding. So for the simplicity of language's sake, I think I can say that I know I've been saved, since somewhere between the beginning of 2011 and 2012, with confidence. That said,

Wake-up Call

It was even before I know that I was saved that I became "converted" to the belief that open-air preaching was not only useful, but important, and a necessity. I had lived most of my life having a basic understanding of God from whatever I'd gleaned from church and what I got from the books I'd read at my own leisure, which included Genesis, Exodus, Revelation and parts of Daniel. You know, the 'exciting stuff.' And though I had no shame in talking about God with others, as I can easily remember from my time in Boy Scouts, I never had the urge to evangelize--to go out and talk with people with the express intention of trying to explain Christianity to them, and if possible, convince them of its truth. This makes some degree of sense, considering that I didn't yet have the complete picture myself, whether it's the case that I had weak faith or vain faith. But I took for granted that Jesus was God and that the basic points of the Christian faith were totally understood by everyone in America, because of how widespread the influence of christianity is.

My wakeup call came in my second semester of college, when I passed by one of the street preachers. There was one guy who came regularly to my university, and another who traveled more widely and whom I know less about, and came less frequently. It was not the first time I'd seen a crowd gathered in a semi-circle around the speaker, but this time I wasn't in a rush and I took some time to listen. I can't remember to this day what exactly I heard, and I might be conflating several different moments into one, but I remember being utterly shocked at how ignorant the people challenging (heckling) the preacher were of basic Biblical facts. Further, my university had a very high minority population. There were substantial amounts of foreign nationals from Africa, the Middle East and the Orient, as well as students who descend from those regions and had been brought up in that culture in their home, but had grown up in America. One might expect a Saudi national at an American university on a royal scholarship to not be aware of Christian doctrine. But these were white, native-born American kids who couldn't tell right from left when it came to theology. And this was something I understood as soon as I saw it, even long before my 'awakening' in the spring of 2010. I was shocked. Shocked. 

That experience impressed upon me the belief that open-air preaching is an important service, getting the basic facts of the Gospel out there so that people can at least know what it is, in order to make an informed decision about it. Like the Bible says in Romans 10:14, "how can they hear without a preacher?" If it weren't for men like these, the message would be lost over time in the culture, because people simply don't look it up on their own. That is a lie. The only way they'll hear the truth is if someone annoys them with it when and where they don't want to hear it. 

The Preacher and the Preaching

After I began studying the Bible passionately a year later, I began to feel the effects of regeneration, I believe. A strong desire to share the amazing truth that I was learning took hold of me, and my feelings toward the street preacher went from affirmation to thankfulness and encouragement. I introduced myself to the preacher, who served the Mid-Atlantic region for the organization called "Open Air Campaigners." His name was Paul Adams, shown above, and would be very recognizable from a distance with his painting easel and the crowd that typically gathered in the middle of the day. I'm very happy to report that this preacher doesn't live up to his reputation among the students as the angry, loud, offensive bigot he supposedly is. It's funny, the cranks who make such comments confuse other students to the point where they're not sure they're talking about the same person! No, Paul's Gospel presentation is complete (not lacking anything essential), done in love, and just salty enough to not let people's consciences off scot-free. "If only" he didn't speak against people's favorite sins, they wouldn't be offended. But as 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 1 Peter 2:8 together say, "the Gospel is an offense to those who are perishing."

Another year later, after my initial immersion in studying Creation, Biblical Inerrancy, and then Islam, to cover all my theological bases, I had moved on to "meatier," more in-depth Christian theology. Throughout most of 2011, I eventually came to wrap my head around what is commonly called "Calvinism," but which is nothing more than the key parts of the Gospel, clearly emphasized in no uncertain terms. I also began to learn about pseudochristian sects and heresies, and came across the concept of false believers. This was early in the year and happens to coincide with the "P" part of TULIP (an acronym for the points of Calvinism): a video of Ray Comfort preaching on youtube called "true and false conversion." In it he asked  a young man if he "knew the Lord," when he was allegedly a believer. If he answers yes, he admits God exists, if he answers no, he admits he didn't know God. So any unbeliever who claims to have once been a believer, bottom line, never was. And that, I believe, is how I began to watch Way of the Master (Ray's ministry) videos and began watching their On the Box videos fairly regularly.

That was how I got to 'meet' the guys involved in their ministry, which at the time also included Tony Miano, who is now a freelancing preacher as well. I just wanted to bring this up to make the teensy-tiny observation that I think Tony and Paul are alike in a few ways. They:

* are sponsored by (and rooted in) the church they worship in to go out and preach
* have a similar testimony, in that they came to faith when they were a bit older. Paul was in the Marines(? if it was the Army, my mistake) and Tony was a Roman Catholic, but I'm not sure if they overlap here necessarily. But both were 'tough guys' whose regeneration produced highly noticeable changes in their character. 
* used to have a history of shouting and sounding angry, from which they've changed and now if you'd hear their typical open-air, they're some of the calmest, kindest, least-wrathful-sounding people there--the hecklers are the nasty ones.

I had a funny thought. That last bit made me think of Vulcans. From Star Trek--do you know that they had a reputation for always being highly in control of their emotions and never seemingly getting angry? But if I remember the backstory, Vulcans behaved that way because they were inherently VERY aggressive and angry people, and learned to 'stuff' their outbursts deep down over time and focus on logic over emotion. This isn't to imply that these guys are bursting with rage on the inside, haha! Just that from an observer's standpoint, they can take disrespect and aggressiveness from others with extreme calm and not return kind for kind. You can really see that particular fruit of the Spirit in each of them when they're in action.

It's from watching videos of Tony (and Ray Comfort and Todd Friel) online and from seeing Paul in person that I've come to believe from personal experience that open-air preaching, combined with tracting and the use of internet sites as tools to amplify your ability to reach people, is and is going to be the most effective way to evangelize the nation we live in. The mission field isn't in Africa. It's down the road from where you live, in America. It's time to hit the streets.

Some pictures of Paul preaching

 Heckler front and center

 A wide assortment of people turn out, gather around, and at the very least hear the Good News.

If you don't believe it works, then when you see the crowd it draws, and hear the questions that are asked, and the answers that are given, I almost guarantee you'll change your mind.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What About the Jews?

Should We or Should We Not Pray for God to Come Back Soon?

Poem: "What of the Jews?"

I recently wrote a poem exploring the conundrum I've had regarding whether it's best to ask for God to come back as soon as possible or whether it's best for Him to be as patient as possible, letting history drag out and waiting for more people to be saved before the final 7-year period of Earth history known as the Tribulation.

I think I explain the issue pretty well in the rhyme scheme itself. Without further ado, please enjoy the below poem, and feel free to read the footnotes for background information on the things I make reference to in the poem. It is my favorite poem I've written yet, because of how much complex thought I was able to fit into it without upsetting the scheme. 

Reading note: Lines will have the stress on the second syllable, a la "dut-duu," unless there is an asterisk -- * -- at the beginning of the line, in which case the stress will be on the first syllable, a la "duu." 

What Of the Jews?
A thought about the Rapture’s1 struck my mind in recent days
It came about as I was contemplating how to pray

Should I petition for the Lord to come to Earth with speed?

Or should I ask that individual Jewish souls be freed?

The Bible says that, in the end, “All Israel shall be saved.”2
But in the years before that, many more go to their graves3
* What, then, ought my focus be in praying for my friends?
* What will give them the best chance to make it in the end?

The way to life is death, as their whole hist’ry goes to show4
I yearn for them to sooner meet the Savior that I know
Before the Time of Jacob’s Trouble,5 many will refuse

A “partial hardening”6 has become the norm among the Jews

I wish it were not so, but it is hard to reach them now
As a nation, one could say, their heart is far too proud.7
Could this be reason, then, to hope for Tribulation8 come?
That hardship would ensure all live, instead of only some?

But if the Tribulation came today, what of my friends?

* Would they be unsaved if they should meet untimely ends?

The fear of asking carelessly is keeping me awake

And anxiously considering the lives which are at stake

* What’s a bigger roadblock to a Jew’s accepting Christ?

Is it prosperity or is it deadly human strife?9
* War can make a man more urgent, peace can make him slack.
* Should we then hope that the Jews come soon under attack?

* May it not be so! Let me suggest another way:

The many  Jewish tribesmen sealed descend from those today10
Implicit in that they believe is that they’ve heard it preached—
The Gospel cannot save the men to whom it hasn’t reached11
So whether they believe through trial, or escape before
The answer to my doubt, it seems, is: Preach the Gospel more!

We can’t assume the end will come so soon s’ as to be lazy

Few things in life are truer than [that] the future is quite hazy

* We don’t know when time runs out. We can’t afford to quit

So carry on, and do God’s will—yes, every little bit!

I love the Jews, and want them saved, from great to very small

But best of all for them ‘s to join us at the Trumpet call12
“Escaping all these things,”13 to spite their stubborn ancestry
Rejoicing at the Wedding Feast14 about God’s majesty

* Meanwhile, those we left behind will have another shot

To flee their sin, repent and put their faith and hope in God15
* Stubborn Israel took two thousand years to learn the truth:16
That God, in choosing men for heaven, cares not what we do
* We can only e’er do any good by His great grace

To try to work our way to Him is, in His eyes, disgrace

* My dear Jewish friends, I hope you’ll come to Faith today

But if you don’t, as we have seen, God still will have His way.

Baruch HaShem17

Footnotes for those curious:

1. The Rapture is a Biblical concept supported by the theological reasoning behind the purpose of the present Church Age and future Tribulation. Put shortly, in the final 7-year period of human history before the return of Jesus Christ, God punishes the pagan gentile nations and disciplines rebellious Israel. As the Church is neither pagan gentiles nor rebellious Jews, there is no reason for it to be present on earth during this time. Concurrently, the book of Revelation nowhere mentions the Church after the description of the end-times begins, although Israel is mentioned many times. The letter to the Thessalonians explains why the Church is not present by saying that all believers in Christ will be “caught up” (Grk. harpazo, Lat. rapturo, from which we get ‘rapture’) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 introduces this doctrine, and 1 Thessalonians 5:9 supports it by saying “we are not appointed to suffer wrath.” A subsection of the Tribulation period is known as The Wrath, where God releases His righteous anger on the world. See Revelation 6:16-17. Logically, 5:9 indicates that the Church won’t be on earth during that time period. For clarification, the Church is defined as the sum total of all those who are saved by faith in Christ. It does not refer to a building or religious institution. The Roman Catholic Church is not THE Church, and neither is any other church. There are unsaved people in every religious institution that calls itself “christian,” and there are probably at least some who are saved, in every such institution as well. Do not be mistaken: affiliation with a religion does not save you, only faith in Christ can save you.

2. Romans 11:26

3. This refers to two things: one is that for as long as the Church Age draws on, Jews will continue to live and die natural lives and most of them will remain in unbelief, dying in their sins, and this is a great tragedy. The other thing is that it is quite possible that even though many will come to faith in the Tribulation, many will also die, and it is presently unclear to me whether there is any guarantee in Scripture against the possibility that those who die before the Return of the King will be unsaved. If there is no such guarantee, then the Tribulation will result in the deaths of many unbelieving Jews, and thus for those who do not convert before the end of the 7-year period, and die, the calamity means nothing but damnation for them, and not salvation. Such a possibility urges me strongly against wanting to ask for the end to come soon, lest I inadvertently be praying damnation on someone.

4. The first part of this, “the way to life is death,” refers to Christ dying on the Cross for us. His death made possible our eternal lives, if we repent and receive His sacrifice as a substitute for the punishment we deserve because of our sin. Consequently, Romans 6:11 “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” To live, we must die. The second part of the line is just a clever artistic reference to the fact that it is the very history of the Jewish race that has brought us the message of life as delivered to them by God, through continual national calamities after calamities. Even today, the Jewish story is not yet over, because even though they are still killed throughout the world, and will yet be in the future, those who are alive at the end of the Tribulation will be alive in Christ even as the whole world has died – and those who live now have the opportunity to live by the power of God through dying to their Jewishness and accepting the Gospel of salvation through faith and not nationality.

5. The Time of Jacob’s Trouble is another name for the Tribulation, further lending support to the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church. Jacob is Israel. The primary reference for this is Jeremiah 30:7 “How awful will that day be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.”

6. Romans 11:25

7.  That the Jews have stumbled because of a general case of religious-nationalist pride (being the “Chosen Ones,” you know – it can make you arrogant, and it did) is a common theme in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament where the prophets preach continuously against their countrymen’s sins. Here is how Paul—the Jewish Pharisee—puts it in Romans 10:19-21 :

“Again I ask, Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding,” And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.””

8. The term Tribulation comes from Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24:21, where the word He uses to describe the future events He’s foretelling about has historically been translated ‘tribulation,’ meaning distress, trouble, etc.

9. Proverbs 30:7-9, the sayings of Agur:
“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

10. Simple logic. Revelation 7:4-8 describes 144,000 people of Jewish descent, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes, as being “sealed” by a mark on the forehead before the earth was subjected to the Trumpet and Bowl judgments, but after the Seals (read Revelation for more details. The three categories described are telescoping sequences of catastrophes unleashed on the earth during the Tribulation period). Those sealed were supernaturally protected from death and suffering throughout the course of the Tribulation, in the vision John saw. The hope that these could be Jews who turn to Christ very shortly after the Rapture and Seal judgments is a potential motivation to pray for God’s Second Coming to happen soon. Revelation here blatantly guarantees that 144,000 Jewish people who were NOT believers prior to the Rapture WILL be saved. This is very encouraging news. And so the logic that I lay out in the poem above is, if they come to faith, they must have had access to New Testaments and/or the preaching of Christians prior to the Tribulation, so that the events would have provoked them to faith in Christ. The reasoning for this is in the point below.

11. Romans 10:13-14 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved  (ref: Joel 2:32). How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  The following verses go on to say, “How can anyone preach unless they are sent?...Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” The conclusion, then, is to preach the Gospel so that the Jews may hear and believe.

12. The ‘trumpet call’ phrase is inspired by the line in the song “Days of Elijah” by Twilah Paris, that goes, “behold He comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, at the Trumpet call.” In comparing Matthew 24:30-31 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, these passages identify a trumpet of some sort with the Rapture, as well as informing that God Himself will make a “Second Appearing,” coming down but not touching down on earth, before the Tribulation, but not to be confused with the Second Coming.

13. Luke 21:36 (Luke 21 is the parallel passage to Matthew 24 in Luke’s Gospel).

14. Revelation 19:6-9. The Wedding Feast of the Lamb is a celebration that takes place in heaven during the Tribulation, where all those who belong to God participate in glorifying Him. It is called a Wedding because the Church is symbolically represented as a bride, such as in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her…”

15. Romans 9:31-32. “But the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”

16. I don’t mean anything concrete by this. It simply indicates that if the end of history is within the next century, then it took roughly 2,000 years after the Messiah came for the Jews to finally believe in Him, one and all. It doesn’t mean that no Jews ever have. Remember, it was a partial hardening. Romans 11:23 says, “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”

17. This is a common Hebrew phrase meaning "praise God," "thank God," or literally, "blessed be the name of the Lord."

Further reading about Israel: Romans 9-12.

Note: the verse quotations were taken from my NIV Bible. I have a KJV and NIV, so the way I phrase something may appear to look different from the actual quote I put up, but this is simply a matter of translation. For that matter, the verse pop-up feature uses the ESV version. Variety is the spice of life!

~ Rak Chazak