You may be aware that it is not simple for an Israeli to travel freely in the Muslim countries that surround it, nor will citizens of those countries be given an easy ride on arrival to Israel... not to mention the difficulties caused on their return if such visits are made. Reconciliation is a journey with multiple hurdles and difficulties, including these very practical considerations. But there is a place of peace and safety where people can meet from all around the Middle East: Cyprus. There is a great history of such meetings on this island of peace, and the coming together of hearts and minds. Many reconciliation initiatives based on Isaiah 19 have been held here, as God builds his “Highway of Worship” across the Middle East. Here are some great stories of the meeting of two Egyptians, three Israelis and a Jordanian...
“We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chron 20:12) There is nothing new under the sun. Trouble of great magnitude has come up against Israel before and it will again. But wonderfully, we have a guidebook to surviving calamity. This magnificent book gives many pieces of trustworthy advice about how to survive and even thrive against all odds. The wisdom is tried and tested, and the principles have much to teach us all today, both in Israel and all over the world! Looking at just one story, we can see 12 great tips to help us as we face all kinds of trouble, no matter how serious it is.
“We love Yesua [the Iraqi name for Jesus], we have always loved Yesua, we have always followed Yesua, Yesua has always been with us.’” After one last attempt to terrify the boys into renouncing Yeshua, the ISIS terrorists saw that they were not going to change their minds, and all four were decapitated. God’s word assures us not only that the death of his saints is precious in his eyes, but in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 we see those who are slain and beheaded for their faith will someday receive great honour. We don’t talk about our resurrection lives very much, do we?
These are truly amazing times. God’s Spirit is being poured out like never before here in the Middle East, bringing in a harvest of new believers from the Muslim world and also from among the Jews at a pace that is hard to keep up with. Not only that, but we are also seeing God draw Jewish and Arab pastors together in precious unity that feels completely new, right here in Israel today! Is God is fixing his broken nets to prepare for a miraculous catch of fish? It is so important that we as believers are united and ready for a great influx of new believers.
On 27th January, 70 years ago, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. There are not many left to tell the tale, but I had the privilege of sitting next to a Holocaust survivor on a plane recently, and she told me how she had been rescued as a baby and eventually reunited with her mother after the war. They were from the same town in Holland as Corrie Ten Boom, and her family knew the Ten Boom family well. She explained to me that Casper the watch-maker and his Christian family had helped to hide Jews from the Nazis. She lost almost all of her family during the Holocaust, except for her mother, who just cried and cried, day after day. “She never had a single happy moment after that”, she reflected.
In these times, “truth” is becoming a very debatable concept for some, and certainty is being treated with suspicion. But let’s be honest - is it even possible for anyone to know what is true?
Many people know the famous verse, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”, but not so many people are aware of the context of the verse, and critically, the sentence that is said directly before it…
As diabolical as the bad news is at the moment, we would like to highlight some good news happening in Israel! The darkness seems to be increasing, but those who are shining as lights for Yeshua the Messiah are burning even brighter in contrast. A real breakthrough happened in the kingdom of God recently when a young believer called Shai Sol went on a national television show and boldly talked about her faith in Yeshua. What is even more amazing is that the Israeli press responded positively to her shocking revelation!
Many Christians believe that the Modern State of Israel is not the work of God, but of man, because God says wrongdoers would be spit out of the Land of Israel…. and clearly, Israelis are not following God as a nation. So, such people ask, are the Jews in the Land illegitimately?
Yeshua is coming, ready or not. What will it be like to see Him face to face? This mighty God who calls us “friend”? Have you tried to imagine it? The idea of the “face of God” appears many times in Scripture, and can be understood to mean Yeshua himself - the visible incarnation of our invisible God. With the escalating chaos and destruction in the world, many are wondering if we might be seeing His face sooner rather than later. But are we ready to face Him?
Many times in the gospels, Yeshua tells us to “watch” and to be ready. He tells us to look out for the signs and to be attuned to the birth pangs as the earth groans for redemption.
But whilst the people of Israel by and large missed the time of the first visitation, expecting a conquering king (definitely not a suffering servant) is today’s church in danger of making the opposite mistake?
Storms of every kind are raging at the moment - and not only in Israel. Sometimes, when the storm becomes overwhelming, we might ask as the first disciples did, “Yeshua, we’re in serious trouble here! Don’t you care?”
There have been severe weather warnings in the last few days as a strong storm rips through Israel, matching the fury rising as the Jewish population are in shock and outrage at the recent slaughters and the Arab population are fuming about the racist reprisals. It is becoming more and more unbearable for everyone.
So we turn to the Bible to see what God has to say - does He care? Why does it seem like He’s sleeping through our troubles sometimes?
We 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.
Tensions are high, riots are breaking out, and all hopes of peace seem to be slipping away from the minds of Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab residents.
It must grieve God’s heart to see the city that is so dear to Him in such violent turmoil yet again. Psalm 122 urges us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, or more literally, to ask… ask for shalom, ask about shalom for Jerusalem. Let’s delve into a bit of the meaning behind that... and do it!
Sometimes just a small detail coming to light can totally change our understanding of a situation. Over the millennia, Bible scholars have scratched their heads over things that seem obvious to us now with hindsight. Today, it is not hard for us to fathom how everyone in the world could witness the same event simultaneously, for example. The “explosion in knowledge” and great “increase in people traveling to and fro” that Daniel the prophet wrote of (Daniel 12:4) now makes perfect sense with the development of the internet and air travel.
And for centuries it was extremely difficult for Christians to grasp that the word “Israel” in the Bible could possibly mean ethnic or national “Israel”, since it had apparently ceased to exist as a nation. The Jewish people were scattered across the globe, and it certainly appeared to many that God’s purposes for them had come to an end. So scholars interpreted the Bible in light of their understanding, not imagining that Israel would exist again once more.
There was a humble German carpenter who loved the Lord and lived in Romania around the time of the second world war. He loved to pray, and he loved to share his faith, but the cry of his heart and his one prayer was to lead just one Jewish person to faith in the Messiah.
He was old, sick and poor, and there were no Jewish people in his area, but he prayed earnestly that God might bring just one Jewish person with whom he could share the good news of Yeshua.
Just one... and you'll never guess what God did...
The rainy season has begun here in Israel! The prayers for rain began in earnest at the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the former rains have begun to fall already. Visitors to Israel will often notice the signs about the water shortage, and stressing the importance of water conservation. Like most things in Israel, rain and drought are also deeply spiritual subjects, and God has a lot to say about it all. And have you ever wondered why God chose that little piece of real estate rather than say... the South of France? A stunning part of China? Or lush Ireland? Why dusty little Israel?
Last Wednesday was the special celebration for the beginning of Sukkot, and this Wednesday is the joyful feast to mark the end of the week long holiday. It is known as Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which means the eighth day of the assembly and joy of the Torah. Once again, God has instructed that the Israelites should down tools, and enjoy. In the last blog, we looked at the gathering of the harvest and the importance of rejoicing during Sukkot, and this week will be about some of the other important aspects of the feast; the waving of the four species, and the welcoming of Ushpizin...
The Feast of Sukkot is one of my favourites. All of God’s ingeniously designed feasts are full of creativity and wonder; treasures and promises. But in Jewish literature, Sukkot is often simply called “THE feast”. The biggie - no other clarification needed. Three times a year, all of Israel were supposed to make the trek to Jerusalem for Passover and Shavuot in the Spring, and then Sukkot in the fall. Sukkot means “shelters” or "tabernacles". This is a feast in which God instructs his people to set about making a temporary shelter or booth to camp out in for a week. As a kid I loved making dens, and Sukkot is a bit like that. But why in the world did God want us to make dens?
This is some great training from our friends at EvanTell which will help you to share the good news with Jewish friends from a historical, cultural, and scriptural perspective. Following these guidelines will help you to effectively proclaim the gospel to a Jewish person with sensitivity and tact.
About a month ago, eleven new Israeli believers from a congregation in the north were baptised, and five of them were Israeli-born “sabres”. This might sound a small number but we are praising God wildly over here. This is the pitter patter of the early rains of revival. As we approach Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement this weekend, Jewish believers in Israel will be joining in the country-wide fast, but with a different twist. Unlike the rest of Israel’s Jews, they will not be fasting to atone for their sins, because they know that Yeshua their Messiah has already taken care of all that, once and for all. No - their fast is one of intercession for their dear brothers and sisters who do not yet know Him and the atonement He has bought for them at great cost.