A Religious Debate – Via My Brother

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Religious Debate

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy . There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal.

He’d have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy ; if the Pope won, they’d have to convert or leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a ‘silent’ debate.

On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other

The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.

The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head.

The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine.

The rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy .

Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.

The Pope said, ‘First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs.

‘Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us.

‘I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin.

‘He bested me at every move and I could not continue.’

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he’d won.

‘I haven’t a clue’ the rabbi said. ‘First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy , so I gave him the finger.

‘Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here.’

‘And then what?’ asked a woman.

‘Who knows?’ said the rabbi. ‘He took out his lunch so I took out mine.’

Correction E-Mail Received From Messianic Bible People

 
Shalom Teresa,
 
Tonight begins a fast day commemorating the fall of Jerusalem, prior to
the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. According to Jewish tradition,
it is also the beginning of a three-week national period of mourning, leading up to Tisha B’Av.
 
Our newsletter on Tish B’Av was mistakenly sent out to you earlier today,
three weeks ahead of schedule.
 
Regarding the rebuilding of the Third temple, there are still instruments,
garments, and vessels to be constructed.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Getting To The Heart

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”) 
 

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Getting To The Heart

Lesson 6 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org
 

 
I have thought for some time now that someone should make a movieabout two men engaged in an epic battle with one other.  In some ways, it would be like every other movie:  the hero and villain would be at war throughout the movie, with the hero having the upper hand at some points, and the villain gaining the upper hand at others.  Near the end, the hero would deliver the fatal blow that sends the villain to his doom forever.  But the difference in this movie would be that just before the closing creditsbegin to roll, the camera would back up from the final battle scene, revealing to the audience that the hero and the villain were one and the same person, fighting atop of a brain inside a man’s head.  Fresh from the victory in his mind, we would see the man finally stand up and walk forward to do what’s right.  No longer bound by the thoughts that were raging within him, he would finally be free to live the life he was called to live.An audience of such a movie might think that they had been tricked into thinking that the whole battle was “real” for the entire movie, when it was only being played out inside the man’s head.  But to those who saw what was taking place at a deeper level, they would realize that what took place inside the man’s head was no less real than what took place after he stood up at the end.  

The victory in our mind is often just as critical as a victory in the physical world.  In fact, we often need to secure the victory in our mind first before we can secure the victory in the physical world.

There are, however, ways to cover up our true thoughts and feelings with words and actions that make it look like we’ve got it all together on the inside.  This kind of activity might deceive men, but it never deceives God.  God wants us to win the victory in our minds and in the physical world.  When there’s a disconnect between what’s going on inwardly and what’s going on outwardly, God wants us to get to the heart.

Paul addressed this disconnect in his letter to the Romans.  The Jews were priding themselves on the outward signs of their faith, like the fact that they were circumcised whereas the Gentiles, or non-Jews, weren’t.  But Paul said:

“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).

In some ways, the Jews could have seen circumcision as one of the symbols of their salvation.  It was a physical sign imprinted on their bodies that they belonged to God, that they were children of a special covenant between God and His people.  But Paul said that if their circumcision was external only, then it would only merit praise from men, not from God.  

God wanted their circumcision to be a “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”  Paul said that the Gentiles, who didn’t have the law of God written down for them, would be more honoring to God than the Jews if the Gentiles kept the requirements of the law by doing what’s right.  Paul said:

“If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?  The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker” (Romans 2:26-27).

This isn’t to say that circumcision and the law was of no value to the Jews, as we’ll find out next time in chapter 3 of Paul’s letter.  But it is to say that God wants our inward reality to match up with our outward reality.  And when we get to the heart first, the outward actions will flow much more naturally.  

I got an email from a friend who is struggling with p..n ogr.phy (I didn’t type out the full word so that this email will get past people’s spam filters).  For years, this friend has battled this battle, thinking of himself as an addict.  He hasn’t been sure if he will ever break free.  Although I believe he can and he will, it’s hard for him to believe it, because of the length and the strength of his battle.  

Yet in his most recent email, he said he had just been to a counselor who asked him many in-depth questions about his struggle.  After reviewing the situation, the counselor said that he doesn’t think my friend has an addiction and he told my friend several reasons why.  This was news to my friend because he’s been feeling like an addict for years!  It changed my friend’s thinking about his situation and he’s already had some small victories in his battle since then!

My friend’s actions are beginning to change because he has changed the way he thinks about his problem.  He now sees that there’s a possibility that he really can be free from this battle that has dogged him for so long.

God cares about what’s going on inside your brain.  He cares about what’s going on inside your heart.  And He cares about what you do as a result of what’s going on inside your brain and heart.  What happens internally is just as important—and just as real—as what happens externally.

In one of the final scenes of the Harry Potter series, Harry has a fairly surreal experience and talks about it with one of his most trusted mentors.  As their conversation comes to a close, Harry asks:

“Tell me one last thing.  Is this real?  Or has this been happening inside my head?

His mentor replies:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”

Sometimes we think that the thoughts in our head are separate from, and unrelated to, the actions that we take in our lives.  We treat the two as different realities.  But the truth is that our thoughts influence our actions.  Both are real and God cares about both.

God wants you to have the victory on the inside so you can have the victory on the outside.  

He doesn’t want you to be obedient just so you can say you have faith in Him.  He wants you to have faith in Him so that you can be obedient.  

While there can be value in just doing things because you know they’re right, even if you don’t feel like doing them, there’s much more value if what you do on the outside matches up with what you think and feel on the inside.  When they match up, you’ll feel better about what you’re doing, others will feel better about what you’re doing, and God will be honored by what you’re doing.

As God said to Samuel when Samuel saw a man that he thought God would choose to be as the king of Israel:  

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7-8).

Ask God to renew your heart and mind this week.  Ask Him to reveal anything within you that is improperly motivated, or that seeks for anything other than the good of others and the glory of God.  Then, if God reveals anything to you that needs to be changed internally, ask Him for help to know how to change it.  Ask Him to remake you from the inside out.  Give Him permission to do that work inside you, whatever it takes.  

Then, when God is done remaking you on the inside, you’ll be able to stand up, move forward, and do what’s right.  No longer bound by the thoughts that were raging inside you, you’ll finally be free to live the life you were called to live!

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for caring about what goes on inside us—our thoughts and feelings—just as much as you care about what we do on the outside. Thank You for the reminder that both are real, and both are really important to You.  Fill our minds and hearts with Your will for our lives and help us to believe and act on Your will.  We pray that doing so will make an tremendous difference to us and to those around us in the weeks and months and years ahead.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. I met a great band at a music festival this month and thought you might like to listen to one of their songs, which they graciously shared with me so you could listen to in its entirety for free at the link below.  The band is called Fue, and the song is called “Abide in Love,” based on the Song of Solomon.  Here’s the link to the song, and the link to their website below that:
http://streams.theranch.org/abide-in-love.mp3
http://fueband.com/fr_news.cfm

 
Loving Thoughts

P.P.S. Over a thousand people have downloaded our free eBook that we offered last week called “Loving Thoughts,” a book of thoughts and quotes for those who are passing from this life to the next and those who love them.  Many have also ordered copies of this book in paperback for themselves and as gifts for those they love.  I’ve even had two people pass away this week who were close to us and have given them copies of this book as they grieve their losses.  It’s a very small book, but the thoughts will help to give you a clear perspective on what it means when a Christian passes away.  If you’d like a copy, you can download the free eBook yourself by visiting the link below, or you I’d be glad to send you a beautiful 24-page paperback for a donation of any size to our ministry.  Someone yesterday just ordered 10 copies to give out to friends and family, and you’re welcome to do the same.  Your donations help us with the cost of printing and shipping, plus they help us to continue to create resources like these in the future, so thanks so much in advance.  Here are the links to download or request a copy:
To download the free eBook version, please visit:
http://www.thisdaysthought.org/Downloads.423.0.html
To make a donation and get the paperback, please visit:
http://theranch.org/Get-A-Book.359.0.html
 
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 2:7-29What was the problem that Paul was addressing with the Jews in this passage?
2.  What did Paul mean when he said that “circumcision is circumcision of the heart”?  And how does that take place?
3.  In what ways can our thoughts and feelings differ from our actions?  And in what ways are they related?
4. Are there any areas in your life where your thoughts and feelings are disconnected from your actions?  What might you do this week to help them line up more closely?
 
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Covenants And Promises

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10
The New International Version

The other day I spoke of the covenant that God made with Israel, the Jewish people, the 12 tribes, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This morning, the above verse from Isaiah 54 was on my Today’s Thought e-mail.  I immediately felt that God was affirming what I stated.

We Christians believe that you must receive Jesus as the Messiah to receive salvation.  The Jews don’t accept Him as such.  Therein lies a dilemma.  How do we reconcile the two things, God’s Old Testament covenant and the New Testament (Christian) requirement?  I was talking to my mother about this very thing last night.  She had to agree with me because, if God were to break His covenant of old, how could we believe in any covenant that followed?

We tend to look at everything in human terms since, naturally, that’s all we know.  We cannot and will never know the mind of God until we meet Him face to face.  The Bible states “His ways are not our ways…” therefore, I will not show disdain toward Judaism or the Jewish people ever.

Human beings make and break promises every day.  It’s shameful of us and I’m just as guilty of having done it (more so in the past) as anyone else.  Please don’t think that I have a “holier than thou” attitude about this.  I am just stating my own thoughts and observations for your consideration.

I know that the Christian Old Testament is not the same as the Jewish Tanakh.  It is a Christian version of it.  I did not live in the time before Christ or during His ministry.  I didn’t learn the Jewish faith in grade school.  I went to Catholic school all 12 years and graduated there.  I recently learned, again, that the Catholics have their own version of the Bible.  With all of the different denominations there are within the Christian faith, I wonder just how different each one’s Bible is.  I guess we all must decide as individuals what we will believe as the truth and try our best to follow it.  Human beings are not perfect, I know that I’m far from it, but we can at least attempt to live together in this world by the one concept that I think is in every version, both Christian and Jewish, and that is loving compassion for one another.  Just a thought…

Always remember that Jesus died for us because He loves us!

Humbly yours,
Teresa Marie