Jewish Lives Matter

A Letter to the Editor This Christmas 2018

I would like you to consider helping me get this inter-denominational Letter to the Editor of the Virginian-Pilot signed by Catholic priests in the Hampton Roads area. We have about 20 signatures from a wide variety of  protestant pastors so far. 
Here is an opportunity for protestant and catholic leaders to stand together on the right side of an issue: anti-semitism and the debt we Christians owe to Jewish people.
I have included a link to a form to help record the title and name of each signing leader: Click here to sign
Here is the proposed letter to the Editor of the Virginian-Pilot:
Jewish Lives Matter

This Christmas, Christians everywhere celebrate the birth of a Jewish man named Jesus born in Israel. Christians believe Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah, promised in the Old Testament.

While it is always appropriate to honor Jewish people for their many contributions to mankind,  it is even more important for Americans to honor them now, in the aftermath of the recent massacre at an American synagogue.

As Christian leaders in Hampton Roads, we wish to publicly express our gratitude, respect and love for our Jewish neighbors.  Christianity would not exist without the Jews.

The Old Testament—the Scriptures Jesus followed— was obviously written by Jews.   The New Testament was entirely written by Jews, with the possible exception of Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus was a Jew. All of his apostles were Jewish. Most of the early church were Jews.   Jesus said He came initially only to serve Jews.  Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews.”

This Christmas season we encourage the people of Hampton Roads to honor your Jewish neighbors. We encourage you to thank them for their courage, their incredible wisdom and for their generous forgiveness for all that non-Jews have done to them for over 2000 years.

Prologue to The 24th Angel

Book One of the Scion Series

It was just an ordinary day in heaven.

The sky today was a shimmering teal with millions of glistening gold filigree crosses around the entire horizon. Yesterday, the sky had been a pale yellow with a horizon framed in shades of peacock blue with raspberry red edges. Moving slowly across the center of heaven’s sky were multi-colored words in ever-changing languages, soaring and twirling to the rhythm of songs sung by the saints below them: “Jesus is Lord”, “God is Our Savior”, “The Lord of Hosts”, “Glory to God in the highest”. As usual, hardly anyone could read the bouncing words when they glided over the feverish musical beats of African worshipers beneath them.

But no one cared about blurry words in breath-taking skies. The very air seemed saturated with a palpable sense of love, joy and a peace never known on earth. The Presence of God radiated from the Throne room across the endless expanse of heaven in waves of glory that made redeemed humanity almost giddy with delight. No one was immune. King David himself loved to run up to the astonished new arrivals from earth and almost shout, “See, I told you so! In His Presence is fullness of Joy!” The cheers were always deafening–if that were possible in heaven.

Angels were everywhere. Billions of them. But it always wasn’t that way. God had originally created 18,000 angels to serve the Court of Heaven and to help and protect His people on earth. By the time Jesus went to earth, the Host of Heaven numbered only 12,000. Those 12,000 knew the story only too well.

6000 of their closest friends had been banished from heaven during the Great Rebellion eons before because they had allied themselves with the hideously wicked rebel leader, Lucifer. The Great Rebellion was immediately followed by the Great Grief. The love and unity those 18,000 had experienced for billions of earth years was deeper and stronger and purer than any human could ever know. That’s what made the depth of grief in heaven so terrible. 12,000 angels lost their best friends, their closest companions, their comrades in arms–never to return. Even God grieved deeply at the loss of 6000 sons.

This great grief seemed to suffocate the joy of heaven for a very long time. Some angel poets later wrote that the water that covered the earth during Noah’s time was just some of the tears God and the angels shed for the tragic loss of their loved ones. Most angels eventually got over their grief, but a few still struggled with it from time to time. There was one angel who was still tormented by his grief but the poor creature could not share it or resolve it…yet. So heaven plodded on despite the pain and trusted God to bring good from it all somehow.

But one day, all that changed when God activated His final solution to rescue humanity from sin and the devil: Jesus was about to come to earth! The angels were ecstatic and their thoughts of lost friends soon faded as God told them about the billions of souls that would soon come to heaven as His children through faith in Jesus. Heaven was about to explode with new sons and daughters of God. The party was on!

So, just as Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem, God began to create and train billions of new angels so that each follower of His Son could have a guardian angel to help them make it to heaven no matter what Satan and his forces did to them. He also began a revised school to train al the new angels, called Angel Academy.

About 5000 angels graduated in each class. If they failed to graduate, they could take the class again. If they failed the second time, they would never be given a coveted earth assignment and would be limited to strictly administrative duties, mostly dealing with earth life records for each human and the settlement of Christians arriving in heaven each day–a job that most angels found too routine. Angels were made for adventure!

Satan was also slowly in the process of expanding his forces to handle the increased demands that earth’s growing population required. The New Covenant changed all that. Now, for the first time, God was sending His people all over the world to help people make it to heaven. Every land Satan controlled was being invaded by the Host of heaven as they followed and guarded Christians in their global journeys. His 6000 dark angels and a few experimental demons were not enough. Demon spawning now became a massive operation in hell that produced billions of highly specialized demons that heaven had never seen.

To counter this greater enemy threat, the Lord created different types and sizes of angels for specialized tasks like covert reconnaissance. These angels were called called Mod2 angels. As each batch of Mod1 and Mod2 angels was created, they had to be trained for about six months in Basic Angel Duty Services at Angel Academy near Moses Park on the south side of heaven. New Mod1 angels all were six foot tall. As they grew in wisdom and skill, their height increased. By graduation, the Mod1’s were eight foot tall. Mod2’s varied from eight inches to five foot. Archangels who ruled large areas of earth were 10 foot tall. The Seraphim and Cherubim who only served the Throne Room were easily recognizable at 14 foot. Only Gabriel, Assistant to The Holy Spirit and Michael, General of the Armies of Heaven, were 30 feet tall.

As our story opens, we will meet a very large and powerful angel named Scion who was the Headmaster of Angel Academy ever since it reopened after the Rebellion. He was greatly respected but few got close to him. He was a stickler for rules and every student knew it. He was pleasant but he was all business. He never took time off to relax with other angels. He always seemed like he had a lot on his mind even though he had taught the same subjects for thousands of years. Scion was the only 12 foot angel in heaven–a relic of time gone by.

We join Scion now as he begins week three of Angel Academy with a fresh class of angels created just a month earlier. What begins as a normal school day changes rapidly as Scion faces tough questions and triggered emotions over events in heaven that still tormented him.

But just as Scion begins to open the main door to the academy, he hears a noise and looks over his left shoulder just in time to see three of his most unmotivated students goofing off by flying too low and frightening Femi and his parents. He waited at the door until the three pranksters arrived…late for class again.

Oregon’s Physician-Assisted Suicide Law

Joni Eareckson Tada’s Statement on Disability and Oregon’s Physician-Assisted Suicide Law

Ever since the 1990s when Oregon passed its Death with Dignity Act, I’ve been working to de-grease its slippery slope. Under the law, physicians may give lethal drugs to patients with terminal illnesses who want to end their lives. The law’s proponents have insisted it could only be offered to those who had 6 months or less to live, and was a safety valve when nothing else could be done to alleviate suffering. But not so anymore.

The Oregon Health Authority (which studies and keeps records on the Death with Dignity Act) now says, “the law is best seen as a permissive law… it does not compel patients to have exhausted all treatment options, or to continue current treatment.… If the patient decides they don’t want treatment, that is their choice.” In an eerie tone, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) said the law is “silent on whether the patient must exhaust all treatment options.”

This spells bad news for people with chronic conditions such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, ALS, or even diabetes. Many people with chronic conditions rely on medication or other supports to enable them to live for decades. But what if people with disabilities begin to despair of their condition? What if insurance runs out? Citing an example, the OHA said that if you are a diabetic in Oregon and decide to forgo insulin injections, you could qualify for a lethal prescription under the state’s physician-assisted suicide law.

It is true that no one with diabetes has yet taken advantage of this new interpretation of the law, but the door is now open, inviting any Oregonian despairing of his disabling condition to test the law’s new interpretation and request assisted suicide. Such cases are already successful in Canada and in Western Europe, showing how slick the slope is in Western industrialized nations.

This is one reason why I recently revised my book When Is It Right to Die? I wanted to give Christ-followers a keen understanding of the arguments surrounding physician-assisted suicide, as well as give them language for articulating a biblical worldview on life, no matter how disabled or elderly one’s life might be. People are not “better off dead than disabled,” and life is worth living until God decides it is time.

Christians can provide life-encouraging alternatives to assisted suicide by providing hands-on support to persons with disabilities who are despairing of their lives.

Christians can ascribe positive meaning to a person’s affliction, prevent social isolation, help them deal with depression, provide spiritual community, and, in short, be a friend. This is compassionate care; not the administration of lethal drugs.

In 1997 the US Supreme Court ruled that there was no inherent ‘right to die’ in the U.S. Constitution. But that did not stop states from creating legislation based on people’s perception of a “right” to die. Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide for mentally competent people with terminal illnesses. California, Colorado, Vermont and Washington also have enacted similar laws based on the Oregon model (Montana’s Supreme Court ruled that nothing in state law prevents physicians from helping terminally ill patients end their lives).

People who feel overwhelmed by their chronic medical conditions do not need assisted-suicide; they need treatment for depression, good pain management, social community, support, help, hope, and a purpose for living. Christians have the message that gives life meaning, and helps people grasp that life is worth living. I pray Christians will do all they can to expose the dangers behind this new and chilling interpretation of a terminal illness.

 

Taken from Joni’s Blog here.

Chapter 1: Angel Academy

“Look Papa–Moses!” A small family stood reading the inscription on the ten foot figure with his hands raised high in prayer. Like all the statuary in heaven, it was solid gold and yet translucent, shining from within with a soft yellow light that grew brighter when people prayed or worshipped nearby. “And the LORD repented of the evil which He thought to do unto his people.” (Exodus 32:14)

“Yes, Femi. He came from Egypt, like us, but he led God’s people to Israel so Jesus could be born there. He was a great man, Femi. I am proud to know he grew up in our Egypt.”

“But, Papa, why did God want to bring evil on His people?”

“Because they decided to abandon God and worship a statue of a cow. But God changed His mind!

“Papa, why would our Great God change His mind? He can do anything He wants, right?

“Because Moses pleaded with God to not judge Israel. He stood in the gap before God and saved Israel. God allows people like you and me to change His mind sometimes. He loves us that much!”

Without warning, three young angels appeared, diving right at the statue, shouting and laughing “Look out below”. The speeding trio swooped so close that seven-year-old Femi fell down as both parents desperately ducked to avoid a collision. “What is heaven’s name…”, the father fumed. “They almost hit us!” But the trio of angels had disappeared as fast as they had burst upon them.
_____________________

“Well, boys. Nice to see that you had time to come to class today.” But the look on the Headmaster’s face told the three knew that Scion was not at all pleased.

“you know what this means.” They all looked guilty as charged. “Yes, Master Scion,” they responded in unison. “You will all have to repeat the entire Academy. If you fail to graduate one more time, you will never be allowed to get an assignment to earth.” A pained look darkened each of their faces.

“But Master Scion…we were just having fun…”.

“I’m sorry boys. This is your second warning. You made your choices and I am compelled by Academy rules to dismiss you from the Academy. ” If you cannot keep the rules here in a school, what will you do when thousands of lives depend on your obedience on earth. Clean out your desks and report back to your base to await further instructions. And by the way, before you leave the area, go apologize to that family. They have suffered enough on earth.

As the three downcast angels trudged inside to retrieve their personal items, one angel named Nacham turned back. He ran to the the headmaster just as he was about to enter a classroom. skidding on his knees before Scion, he looked up with tears in his eyes, “I know I don’t deserve it, Mast Scion, but please forgive me. I will never do that again. I will never be late for class again. I will come early and stay late. I humbly repent for my disobedient behavior. Please allow me to finish with this class. I want to serve the saints on earth! In fact, I want to serve the saints in Egypt and protect them in every way!”

Scion’s frown slowly melted with each tearful appeal from the much smaller angel below him. “Nacham, you may be the first angel I have ever allowed to stay after two warnings–but stay you must! Anyone who can repent like that can become a great angel. I want to help you be that angel! Welcome back, Nacham!”

“O, thank you sir! Thank you, sir,” Nacham cried out as he hugged the huge legs of the grinning headmaster. “That will do, Nacham. Now get back to your classes,”Scion laughed as he picked him and sent him on his way.

___________________

“Good morning, Class. Please come to order. I am sorry to be late but some of your classmates needed some…let’s say, help. The class laughed. They heard it all.

As you were. Now, I am Master Scion, Headmaster of this academy and I am honored to instruct all of you new angels whom the Lord created last month. I hope you are enjoying your new life here in heaven and the other classes you have already taken here. My staff tells me that you are a very bright and promising class.

Let’s get right to work so that you can graduate on time for your earth assignment in five months. I know you are all eager to get to earth and get your first assignment. I just heard yesterday that many of the saints in Europe are falling into sin due to the terrible wars going on there. Those saints need you.

So, today, we will be discussing another of your Emergency Angel Tactics when the Christian begin to sin. See page 33 in your syllabus.

This is one of the most important tasks you will have on earth as you work with God the Holy Spirit to bring your assignment safely home to heaven one day.

As you know, sin is the most deadly enemy of humanity. Sin deceives, sin corrupts and, if not corrected, sin can kill forever. Your task as guardian angels is to enforce the promptings of the Spirit of God on each Christian so that they repentance for their sins as quickly as possible. Repentance can change the course of a person’s life…or even a nation’s life. God always honors repentance”

“Question, Master Scion!”, an eager angel asks. What exactly is repentance?”

“Good question, Angel Jonah.” In a word, repentance is changing your mind so that you agree with God’s mind. Read the scripture II Chronicles 7:14 at the top of page 34, Jonah.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

“See–the power of repentance! That’s what you have to lead your saints to do. People who love God usually want to repent but sometimes they wait too long and sin captures their hearts and many blessings are lost.”

“Question, Master Scion!”, a muscular looking angel stood up to ask. He looked around to make sure everyone was listening.

“I know that is true about humans, but what about angels? If they disobey God, can they repent and be forgiven like the scripture says?”

“Good Question, Angel Tomas. Actually, that never happens. Angels may make innocent mistakes but they do not deliberately disobey God because …”

Rising to his feet again, the same angel interrupted, “Uh,..Master Scion, with all due respect. You know that isn’t true! What about the Great Rebellion of angels. I heard about it from Samos, an older angelI I met last week. He said no one likes to talk of it but everyone knows about it sooner or later. He said it was terrible–a war in heaven led by some angel called Lucifer who is now headed for hell.

Looking around now at the stunned faces of the class, Tomas seemed to enjoy the attention he was getting with his new fact about angelic history.
“So, Master Scion–what happened when all hell broke loose in heaven?”, the angel asked with a smirk as the class laughed. ” Those angels did not repent. If repentance is so important, why did they not repent?”

The powerful, twelve-foot Headmaster froze. The question hit Scion like a sucker-punch to the gut. He always dreaded having to answer. Every class of new angels always seemed to bring it up even before the class on the history of heaven–a class he always avoided teaching himself.

“Well, Angel Tomas… you are right. Lucifer,did lead what we call The Great Rebellion and 6000 angels followed him. Those 6000 are what we call Dark Angels today–the principalities, powers, dominion’s and authorities that rule large swaths of earth’s lands. Now they are banished from heaven forever.

“Eternal exile, “Tomas snickered! ” Why can’t the 6000 just repent and come back to heaven? I thought you said God always honors repentance?”

“Tomas, God is quick to forgive when angels make small mistakes and the angel repents. But the Great Rebellion was a premeditated, full-scale rejection of God’s authority over them. No angel who has seen the very face of God can do that and ever return to heaven. Like you, I grieve deeply for the 6000 who were once like us. They and Lucifer are banned forever and will one day enter of place of eternal torment.”

The classroom was suddenly very quiet for a long moment. Then,Tomas broke the stunned silence.

“But how could Lucifer deceive that many angels at one time? He must have had help. Who helped him?”

Another sucker-punch–only bigger. Scion’s heart began to beat faster, his palms started to sweat and and old-facial twitch returned.

Brilliant observation, Tomas,” Scion grinned to hide the pain in his eyes. Mola, the class assistant saw it.

“Tomas, that is a great question,” Mola interjected with a broad smile, “but we really need to let Master Scion complete his lecture. There’s a lot more material to cover, especially since earth was created and angels were assigned to serve humans who were following the Lord.”

“It’s OK, Mola,” Scion responded with a wave of his hand. I appreciate your assistance but I think I need to answer the question.

Yes…actually, Lucifer did have help…there were… 24 angels in the first class of archangels. They were completely devoted to Lucifer, as any disciple should be–or more so. The 24 were a band of brothers unlike any other in heaven at that time. The Spirit had also designed the 24 with extraordinary powers far above their peers. More importantly, a unique bond formed among them, a deep brotherly love that gave all of them great courage, wisdom and extreme loyalty to each other. Everywhere they went in heaven, angels were in awe of them. It seemed like every angel in heaven wanted to be like them.

So, when 23 of them sided with Lucifer, the first Master of Archangel Academy in the Great Rebellion,a third of the angels also followed them over to Lucifer’s side.” Another heavy silence came across the class.

“And the 24th…where is he?, an astonished Tomas finally blurted out.

There was, uh, well…the 24th…” Scion throat began to choke up now. He mind was beginning to spin with fear. “There was one student in that first class who did not rebel with Lucifer. He was on assignment in a very remote area of the cosmos where there was little need for communication with heaven at the time. When “all hell broke out in heaven” as you so aptly put it, no one had time to contact him until after it was all over.

“Well, that was convenient. I wonder why he was left behind?” Tomas snickered under his breath, but everyone heard it. The class looked at Tomas with disgust.

“Tomas–how dare you imply such things to another angel without proof,” Mola scolded.

Realizing his mouth had gotten him in trouble again, Tomas’ pink cheeks turned bright red. “Of course, Master Mola,” Tomas sheepishly conceded. “You are right. I was wrong to insinuate evil motives like that, he confessed with a hang-dog look.

But wanting to justify himself a bit, Tomas added: “It just seems so odd that out of that very tight-knit, deeply bonded class of 24, one of them did not leave with the other 23. Master Scion, you said it yourself–those 23 were his best friends! What kept him here? Why didn’t he follow them after he got back to heaven? And…who is he, anyway…and what role does he now have in heaven?

Mola shot a pained glance at the Scion who by now had recovered his composure.

“Tomas, you are obviously very gifted to ask such questions. I can only tell you that the lone survivor of the 24 has been serving the Lord i heaven faithfully and fruitfully for eons now in positions of great trust but he wishes to remain anonymous.

And with that, I think we will conclude today’s lesson. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of History of Heaven, 1001. Be sure to study the documents you received from the Archives about the creation, fall and rescue of mankind via the Two Great Covenants. Please note the many different roles of angels throughout salvation history. I plan to….”

“Master Scion–Michael just arrived and is calling for you in the hallway,” Mola exclaimed with some concern.

“Uh…yes, …uh, tell him I will be right there, Mola.
Huh, I wonder what the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts wants with me, a Teacher,” Scion nervously mumbled to himself. His face twitched again.

“OK–class dismissed!”

A sudden tightness began to rise in Scion’s chest. He moved towards the classroom door but stumbled a little on the leg of a student’s chair as he reached for the door. Grim-faced Mola was right behind him. His face was ashen as he turned to gaze into Mola’s compassionate face. Something was wrong! Very wrong! General Michael had never come to Angel School before to see a teacher.

“What have I done, Mola? Why would he come here? Is there something you are not telling me? You are the one angel I trust more than any in heaven. You have always stood by me when others would not. Please tell me if I have made any mistake! I cannot afford any mistakes, you know that, ” Scion pleaded with tears in his bright, blue eyes.

“Peace, Master, peace! It must be a mistake. Everyone knows you are the best Headmaster that Angel Academy has ever had–the most competent, the most loyal, the most obedient, the most careful leader we have ever known. Surely, you are being summoned to receive an award of some kind in the Throne Room–or something like that, ” Mola cooed as earnestly as he could.

Yes–it must be something good. After all, I have spent eons here making sure I never would be criticized, never accused of making a mistake. I guess you are right. Let’s go out and see what Michael has to say.”