The Impossible Dream! (Diet for Dreamers)

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A dream of redemption, of rebuilding, of returning HOME:

Modern Israel, roughly located on the lands of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, is tiny — about the size of Wales or New Jersey. It’s the birthplace of the Hebrew language and of Judaism and Christianity. Although the region welcomed a variety of ethnicities, and weathered the influence and interference of several empires,  the region remained predominantly Jewish until the 3rd century. Afterwards, the Israeli people endured hundreds of years of religious and cultural persecution that led them to flee their homeland, scattering throughout the world — where they remained as strangers in strange lands, further persecuted and alienated. Many Jews dreamed of a place they could call their own … a home, a haven. But after centuries of being harassed, uprooted, dispersed — and even murdered — their dream seemed like an impossible one.

Theodor Herzl shared their “impossible dream.” He was an Austro-Hungarian journalist, political activist, and writer. More importantly, he became one of the fathers of modern Zionism, forming the World Zionist Organization and promoting Jewish migration back to the region renamed Palestine, in an effort to recreate the Jewish nation of Israel. Herzl (May 2, 1860 – July 3, 1904) was born in Budapest, Hungary, to a family of secular, German-speaking, assimilated Jews. His father was a successful German businessman who tried to blend in.

Theodor Herzl, who considered himself an atheist, had a passion for poetry and the humanities, which led to a successful career in journalism. But despite having no religious affiliation with Jews, despite being a successful writer, and the son of a successful businessman, despite being assimilated (blending in), Herzl nonetheless felt the sting of antisemitism. Bottom Line? Herzl was a Jew.

Herzl believed that antisemitism could not be defeated or cured, only avoided. In his acclaimed 1896 book The Jewish State, he outlined reasons for Jews to leave Europe, should they desire, preferably to return to their historic homeland. Herzl believed the Jewish people already possessed a nationality and all they lacked was a nation. He fervently believed the only way to avoid antisemitism was for the Jewish people to have their own state, where they’d be free to practice their unique culture and religion. Little could Herzl imagine the greatest time of persecution, the Holocaust, was only four decades away — less than a lifetime; and if the modern State of Israel had been established prior to the Holocaust, the massacre of 6 million Jews could have been avoided.

Herzl’s ideas quickly spread and, although embraced by many, were largely criticized and rejected — ironically, by many Jews settled in many countries. These critical Jews, who at the time were attempting to blend in and gain acceptance by the gentile population, felt Herzl’s ideas would only fan the flames of antisemitism. But think about it: should any person or people group have to deny their origins, beliefs, culture, identity, and individuality to gain acceptance? What’s this blog about? ACCEPTANCE.

Undeterred by his detractors, Herzl enthusiastically pursued his impossible dream. He gained influential and powerful supporters in several countries, and with each passing year, his impossible dream advanced into the realm of the possible. Although Herzl wouldn’t see it realized before his death, his work had laid the foundation to make his dream a reality.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended a new Jewish state. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel’s first Prime Minister, declared “the establishment of a Jewish state … to be known as the State of Israel”! On the same day, the United States, in the person of President Harry Truman, officially recognized the new Jewish nation.

Today, more than 42% of the world’s Jews reside in the State of Israel, making it the largest Jewish community in the world. Israel is their home, their freedom, and their vindication. April 19th will mark the nation’s 70th Birthday, a time of celebration and thanksgiving … a time to acknowledge that dreams, even impossible ones, can come true!

“Listen to this message from the LORD, you nations of the world; proclaim it in distant coastlands: The LORD, who scattered His people, will gather them and watch over them as a shepherd does His flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10 NLT)

HAPPY 71st BIRTHDAY, ISRAEL!
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You’re NOT Butter! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Anyone remember those amusing TV commercials for Parkay margarine? If you don’t, watch this 30-second spot featuring NFL great “Deacon” Jones.

In every Parkay commercial, whenever someone lifted the lid, the yellow tub of margarine would debate its identity. The consumer would argue with the yellow suff in the container, proclaiming it “Parkay!”; but Parkay’s rejoinder was also the same: “Butter!”

After the consumer tastes the margarine, he or she would nod, agree that Parkay was smooth and creamy, so it must be true: it IS butter. But hey, just because something looks like butter, even tastes like butter, does not necessarily mean it is butter. Butter is butter! Made by contented cows with big brown eyes. Margarine, on the other hand, is a synthetic mixture engineered in a laboratory to approximate the qualities of the real deal. Personally, we’d rather put our trust in cows, not chemists!

All this, however, is beside the point. In these Parkay commercials, that poor yellow tub of margarine had an identity crisis. It wanted to be viewed as butter! Did it really believe it was butter? Nope. At the end of each TV spot, once the consumer gave in and agreed it was butter, the obstinate little yellow tub would tauntingly purr, “Parkay.”

Humor us for a moment. What precisely was Parkay’s problem? It knew it was margarine and not butter. Yet it wanted to be considered butter. Aha! Deep down, Parkay was feeling a little inferior. It wasn’t, after all, the real deal. But then, only butter is the genuine article. But did that make Parkay inferior? Did Parkay serve a special purpose in people’s diets? (Have we totally lost our minds?)

There are countless people in society who suffer a similar identity crisis. Like Parkay, they feel a little inferior to someone else. They go around competing with their friends, family, coworkers — and stubbornly try to convince the world they’re someone they’re not. Each of these people are unique in their own special way. And, like Parkay, they were created to fill a role only they themselves can fill. And yet, like the poor little tub of margarine, they’re not comfortable with who they are. Why?

For many people, their identity is tied to external factors; and they wrongly base their self-worth or significance on accomplishments, associations, and possessions. Let’s briefly examine these factors. Identity and self-worth have nothing to do with:

1)  What we do. Jobs, career positions, sports, academic achievements, hobbies, and even ministries do not define us. What happens if (when) these functions are taken away? Do we lose our significance? Not in God’s eyes: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart….” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV)

2)  What we have. Owning stuff seems to confer status in our materialistic society. But big houses, fancy cars, and lots of “toys” can never really satisfy the inner longings we have. To quote the old Beatles song, “Money can’t buy me love.” Each of us has a God-sized hole in our spirits and no amount of stuff can fill it — only our Lord can do that! “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)  “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NLT)

3)  Nor is our worth based on social standards or the opinions of the “in crowd.” All that matters is what God has to say about us in His Word. His standards are what we’re measured by: “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14 NASB) Furthermore, “…God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11 NLT)

“…God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT) Friends, don’t try to be something or someone you’re not. We don’t have to compare or compete with anyone. We each have our own unique identity — and infinite value, because we’re each worth the death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ! We each were placed on this planet by God’s design … and in His wisdom. He doesn’t make mistakes.

Be the person God made you to be. Be confident in His love and acceptance. Find significance in Him, the Creator of the Universe, and in His plan for your life. It’s not WHAT you do that counts, it’s WHY that’s important:

“…Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 King James 2000)

You’re NOT butter, you’re better!

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