Anti-Semitism In The Ukraine And Beyond

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Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 2.05.32 PMOne of the greatest things about Israel is that it’s a safe place for Jewish people to come and not feel nervous about their Jewish identity. As Golda Meir said; “Above all, this country is our own. Nobody has to get up in the morning and worry what his neighbours think of him. Being a Jew is no problem here.”

 

As tension increases in the Ukraine and the Middle East, Israel is roundly criticised, and people often forget that Jews have been kicked out of scores of countries and made very unwelcome in others. Thanks to God now they at least have one place they can truly call "home". But abroad, the underlying hatred sometimes brims over, and Jewish people are attacked - just for being Jewish. 2014 has seen some terrible incidences of anti-Semitism already, particularly amid the recent upheavals in the Ukraine.

 

The Power of Passover

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As believers in Yeshua celebrate his earth-shattering purchase of redemption through his death and resurrection, Jewish people all over the world celebrate the redemption of Israel with the feast of Passover. As with much of the New Covenant we now enjoy, Jesus' atoning sacrifice for us was gloriously forshadowed in the way that the angel of death "passed over" the Israelites.

God's second favourite miracle?

Second to saving the world at calvary, I think that the Passover miracle is God's favourite. He talks about it all the time in scripture, and made it the beginning of the whole Jewish year (see Exodus 12:2 - Biblically, it's not Rosh HaShanah in the autumn, as tradition now has it). He even defines himself by the event: At the beginning of the ten commandments he introduces himself like this: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery". He used to call himself 'the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob', or 'I AM' until this point... But "the one who brought you out of Egypt" is what he calls himself repeatedly from the Exodus onwards, literally hundreds of times. I think he's quite excited about the whole Passover saga, and I have to agree, it's full of rich beauty, meaning and power...

21 Ways Yeshua Is "A Prophet Like Moses"

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Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 11.56.31 AMPassover is the time when the Jewish community remember the seminal event of their rescue from Egypt, and as we know, it was Passover when Yeshua was crucified as our sacrificial lamb. There are a multitude of parallels between the two events, quite deliberately.

There is a telling passage in Deuteronomy 18 where Moses tells us, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen”. (verse 15). And later in verse 18; “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers . And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”

No prizes for guessing who that prophet might be with hindsight, but John the Baptist wasn't a hundred percent sure so he sent some people to his cousin, Yeshua, to double check. “Are you The Prophet?” they asked. Philip felt pretty sure, and told his brother, Nathaniel, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph."

Let's look at Yeshua's qualifications – is He really The Prophet “Like Moses”?

The Mysterious Case of Moses' Parents

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Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.03.10 PMDo you know the names of Moses’ parents? Probably not, I’d venture. And there’s a reason for that. They are somewhat shrouded in mystery, and revealed only later on, with a scandalous punch. But the message of Moses’ family background is one that brings great hope to us all this Passover.

As we come closer to April 14th, Jewish families will be doing a blast of serious spring cleaning. In Exodus 12:19, God commands the people of Israel to make sure that absolutely no leaven (yeast) is to be found in their houses for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, starting with the night of Passover. This means that there is a purge of all vaguely yeast-related products and a thorough sweep of the house. Of course, yeast represents sin, and the process of hunting down the leaven reminds us that there can be sin hidden away in our lives, invisible to others, but there. Passover is about redemption, deliverance and victory - we can bring out all our hidden sin in hope of liberation, and bring out those skeletons from the closet.

As Moses can tell you, sin in our past and in our families before us need not hold us back any longer in slavery - this is a festival of freedom!

Why I Felt Sorry For Cain, And God's Answer To Me

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Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.34.17 PMPerhaps like me, you might have had the feeling that Cain made an honest mistake, was rebuked by God, went a bit crazy and then killed his brother Abel from jealousy. I have often felt rather sorry for Cain in this story, and perhaps it is because we tend to sympathise with his experience... we try hard to please God, but fail, and this story resonates with our suspicion that we are not quite doing it right. Even though Cain was rightly punished for the murder of his brother, I felt it was sad that he was left to wander the earth alone.

But when we look at the actual text of the dialogue between God and Cain, things are not at all the way they might first appear. The story ends with a note of redemption that I initially missed…

Do You Celebrate Purim?

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Purim is the Jewish holiday taken from the book of Esther that reminds us that God is always at work even when He seems absent, and His plans for you can never be thwarted! It is difficult to find a more dramatic, fast-paced, riveting, and suspense filled plot than in the short story of the book of Esther - have you read it lately? It is traditional for Jewish people to read the book aloud as a story at Purim - feel free to join us! The feast will be celebrated full force at the weekend, with fancy dress costumes, parties, and gifts given to the poor. Here are some thoughts about the meaning of Purim from the book of Esther...

 

Position Paper re: Christ at the Checkpoint

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christ-at-the-check-pointChrist at the Checkpoint” (CatC) is a biennial conference sponsored by the Bethlehem Bible College since 2010.  The conference claims to be “theology in the service of peace and justice” but its true purpose is to fundamentally change the way that Evangelicals in the West read the Bible in order to fundamentally change their political stand regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict-and through them, to affect their political leaders.  Instead of reading the Bible in its historical and cultural context in order to understand what the inspired prophets and apostles communicated as the Word of God, organizers of CatC want us to read the Scriptures only “in the shadow of the occupation”, that is, filtered through the Palestinian Arab’s POV and political aspirations.  The result is “theology” divorced from God’s originally intended meaning; “theology” as clay reformed in the CatC potter’s hand to serve a one-sided, anti-Israel Palestinian political program.

A Short History Of Messianic Judaism

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Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 10.30.45 AMEver since the first friends of Yeshua, there has always been a remnant of Jewish people who believed in him, even though for most of history they would simply assimilate into Christian churches and become invisible as Jews. Today, things are very different, but it was once assumed that one had to choose between being either Jewish or Christian, and many left their Jewish identity at the threshold when they came to church.

At the same time, Christians didn’t have access to the Bible for most of church history, but depended on priests to teach them - often in Latin. Understanding of the Scriptures was limited to only a few. But all that changed after the Reformation and development of the printing press around the sixteenth century, as more Christians were able to read the Bible for themselves. They could finally search the scriptures and see that God was certainly not finished with the people of Israel. People became excited as they saw that God promised to regather his people back to the land of Israel, and that he would also bring them back to himself in revival. This led to a more determined effort to reach the Jewish people with the gospel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and expectations of Israel’s regathering grew.

Friend Of God

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Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 4.15.22 PMAbraham was called “friend of God”. What an amazing thing to be called. One of the places where we see this friendship at its most tender is the time when God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son on a particular mountain. What happened on that mountain reverberates throughout the whole of history, and Abraham shared some of the most painful emotions of his friend, God.

The Red Letter Jesus and His Black Letter Interpreters

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red-letter-jesusIn a recent article,1 Ludwig Schneider (founder of IsraelToday magazine) argues that Jesus' words about himself are "ignored or overlooked since they do not fit in with traditional theology." Schneider's remedy calls for refocused attention on these "taboo words" in order to break away from human tradition and to discover the real Jesus. The "taboo" list includes verses primarily from the Gospel of John2 and a few other verses from Paul's letters.3 In each of these verses, Jesus expresses his dependence on God without referring to himself as God. The point of Schneider's article is clear enough: theologians who claim that Jesus is God ignore the real words of Jesus and manipulate God's Word for the sake of theologically empty rhetoric, or simply put – a la Schneider – Jesus is not God.

Must Israel Be A Jewish State?

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Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 6.58.59 PMWith John Kerry's renewed peace plans, the question of Israel as a Jewish state is back in the mix again. Many people think that the need to separate state and religion is obvious, and that Israel has no right to demand that the whole country is run according to the Jewish religion. But is it really true that it is possible to separate the state from the dominant worldview? Can you imagine always having to work and send the kids to school on Christmas day? Or being obliged to order your life around another religion’s festivals? Transport stops when you don’t want it to, the shops close when it’s not your holiday, but life carries on as normal at Christmas and Easter? Can you imagine not being free to have your children christened or dedicated in a church, or being able to officially get married in a church? These are things that everyone takes for granted in "Christian" countries, whether the citizens are really Christians or not. But the truth is that for many centuries, Jewish people have had to live under circumstances that conflict with the Jewish way of life.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

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holocaust shoesHolocaust survivor, Henia Bryer, recalls, "I had an operation once and the anaesthetist comes and looks at [the number tattooed on] my arm and he says, 'What is this?' And I said, 'That's from Auschwitz.' And he said, 'Auschwitz, what was that?' ...And that was a young man, a qualified doctor".[1] Shockingly, people are growing up without knowing about what really happened.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Europe and the United States of America, but all too often, acknowledgement of the Nazi atrocities and subtle anti-Semetism sit uncomfortably alongside each other.
It is hard to forget the horrors of the Holocaust, but while some actively deny the scope or even the very existence of the atrocities, others simply grow up unaware of the history we vowed never to forget.

Back To The Future

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time_travelWe are hurtling into a largely unknown future and we are living in very troubled times. This statement is true today in Israel and it could easily have been said with equal accuracy in previous millenia. The Bible shows that God well understands the insecurity of living in tumultuous times with threats growing on every side, and has some great counsel for us to follow. Judaism itself has incorporated some of God’s principles about dealing with future-phobia into its very fabric. As we read the news and see tensions picking up pace, let’s consider what the God of Israel has to say about facing the future.

The Apple Of God's Eye

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apple_eyeAs believers, our desire and aim - indeed our destiny - is to become more and more like Yeshua... to be "conformed to his likeness", as Paul puts it in Romans 8:29. As his children, we want to grow and to change to become more and more on his "wavelength", so to speak.

We want to see things the way God sees them, through eyes of faith. We want to feel how God feels and have his perspective on our lives, the lives of others, and the matters around us. We want to think the way he thinks and be in alignment with him - to be living more fully in his truth.

If we ever see something differently to God, guess who's wrong! God, though very far above our thoughts and understanding, will always be our moral yardstick that we are measured against.

However, this can be difficult. Sometimes it goes against the grain to agree with God's choices and to feel the same way as he does. Why does he seem to have this special tenderness towards Israel in particular, and does he really expect us to join him in it?

 

 

Praying Like Daniel Prayed

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Picture_1It was the first year of King Darius' reign, and the long exile of the people of Israel in Babylon would soon come to an end. Daniel was reading his Bible. Then, the penny dropped...

He wrote, "I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes." (Daniel 9:2-3)

He realised that the prophecy was going to be fulfilled very soon, so he rolled up his sleeves and got praying with all his might. But why? If he knew that God would do this anyway, why did he have to ask for it?

What can we learn from this mighty man of prayer?

Time To Party?

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Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 10.26.53 AMTonight we will move into 2014 AD. In Israel, 31st December celebrations are known as the holiday of “Sylvester”. Only a handful of other countries in the world celebrate New Year’s Eve by this name, and whilst it’s great as believers to celebrate 2014 years since Yeshua our Messiah came to live among us, “Sylvester” is something many Jews feel ambivalent about. Israelis love to party, but some feel uneasy joining in the global jubilation.

The abbreviations BC and AD (Before Christ and Anno Domini - the year of our Lord) are hard to swallow for most Jewish people, for whom Yeshua is a blot on the historical landscape and definitely not their Lord. In Hebrew, they talk about years before “the counting” and years of “the counting” without mentioning what (or who) started this whole Western counting business. It is not a calendar markation system that many Jewish people are comfortable with, mostly because the followers of "that man” brought so much persecution for Jews.

The Day Of Midian

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Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 6.26.57 PMAs the Christian world gears up for Christmas, the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 “Unto us a son is born”, will come into focus once again. But perhaps less familiar to many is the treasure just two verses before it, in 9:4: “For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.”

It’s easy for Christians to gloss over texts which have war and battle in them, thinking that they are rather primitive and brutal, irrelevant to us in the twenty-first century. And brutal they may be, but no word of scripture will ever become irrelevant. It is eternal, true, and cannot be broken. And often there is treasure buried in these unlikely places, if we steady ourselves to gaze on the less comfortable, the confusing, and seemingly contradictory texts.

The Day of Midian, it turns out, has everything to do with the coming and birth of Yeshua!

Snow Storm hits Israel

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Screen_Shot_2013-12-15_at_9.02.43_PMIsrael and the whole Middle East has been battered by wintry storm Alexa, which brought bitterly cold weather, pouring rain and a lot of snow. What had been one of the dryest winters for decades suddenly became awash with water as the freak storm hit. Amazing images of Jerusalem under a foot of snow have been splashed across the local news, and of Gaza looking more like Venice, complete with boats punting along, bringing supplies to the needy. Although many are suffering because of the weather, Syrian refugees shivering in flimsy tents, and residents of Ramallah enduring days in the dark and cold with no power, rain is usually seen as a blessing in this region. And Israel is utterly dependent upon the heavens to give the earth the rain that it needs.

Holiday of Holidays

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Screen_Shot_2013-12-09_at_11.58.36_AMEvery year in Haifa, a multi-cultural city where Jews, Arabs and many others live side by side, there is a month-long festival to celebrate the holidays of the three main faiths; Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid. The roads are shut off, stalls are put up, and shows are planned for each weekend. People come from all across the city for the celebrations and cultural events.

This is the twentieth anniversary of the “Holiday of Holidays”, and whilst some might feel uncomfortable putting these faiths in such close proximity, it provides a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel of Yeshua. This year, Arab and Jewish congregations joined together for the campaign “There is hope!” and brought the message to all the communities of Haifa, whatever their background might be.

A Last Days Vision

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Screen_Shot_2013-12-02_at_10.43.31_AM"Do not cast me off in the time of old age. Do not forsake me when my strength fails." (Psalm 71:9)

I have heard people say that the word 'old' is degrading - an insult! But is it?

"Old" is a beautiful word in Scripture, conveying dignity, maturity, and purpose. The question is: What meaning do we give old age?

The Word of God teaches us that old age is a blessing from God, and that longevity will characterize the kingdom of the Messiah (Exodus 20:12 ; Isaiah 65:18). But unfortunately, for many old people nowadays, their reality is the opposite experience. Why is that?

Johnny Khory, manager of the only Messianic care home for the elderly in Israel, shares his thoughts...

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