As you are probably aware, tomorrow will be a big day here in Israel: not for Israel only, but for the whole world. I do believe that the official recognition by the USA of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city—and the subsequent embassy move—is a significant milestone in G-d’s plan and world history. (Click here for photos of new US Embassy site on my PCinIsrael FB page)
Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel
For the first time in 2,000 years—and then under Roman administration—and more than 2,600 years since under complete Israeli sovereignty, Jerusalem is recognized the historic and rightful capital of Israel by a foreign nation.
As exciting as this is, I believe if we look a little deeper we will see even more extraordinary events occurring. Tomorrow, not only will the US officially move its embassy, this will occur on the standard calendar date of May 14, when David Ben Gurion signed the Israel Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. But wait there’s more.
To add to the intrigue, Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) begins tonight at sundown. This day (through sundown tomorrow) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City during the Six Day War in June 1967, and recapture the Temple Mount as well.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank God for victory in the Six-Day War and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem”.
However, this day is not celebrated on the Western/Gregorian calendar, which would place the date each year on June 7, but on the Hebrew calendar day of 29th of Iyyar, which this year falls on—you guessed it—May 14.
So, tomorrow we will celebrate the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with the US embassy move on Israel’s Independence Day, as well as the historic reunification and reclaiming of Jerusalem under Jewish control. Perhaps that is a coincidence, and I have not done an exhaustive study, but I don’t see where these two dates have occurred on the same day before now. (If you find more info let me know.)
The Nakba and Ramadan
More intrigue follows as the usual Palestinian propagandized day of rage, the “Nakba” or Catastrophe follows on Tuesday, May 15. Here it is claimed that the Jews ‘stole’ the land of the Arabs, which conveniently leaves out pretty significant details of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence/ Survival.
Add to that the ridiculous claims by Hamas leaders and their insanity to…”drive the Jews into the sea” (…again?) with the familiar slogan, “From the River (Jordan) to the Sea (Med) Palestine will be Free.” I will simply say about this and the rest of similar aspirations: sooner or later we have to grow up, and face the truth, which is actually what G-d calls each of us to, as Isaiah wrote,
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool”(1:18). Then true peace can be known by all parties.
On the heels of Tuesday’s Day of Rage/Nakba comes the Muslim feast of Ramadan on May 16, a month long observance of partial fasting and prayer, which is scheduled according to the Islamic calendar.
Wrapping up this coming week and beginning the following week is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot/Weeks, also known as Pentecost, where the Law of Moses was given on Mt. Sinai, and in Acts 2 the Body of Messiah was ‘birthed’ to essentially launch the New Covenant era.
A Cup of Trembling
It does seem that we are accelerating toward the end of this age seemingly with increased momentum and focus on Jerusalem, especially in light of Zechariah’s prophecy that G-d says “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about.”
There is still much left to occur according to the prophetic vision given in Scripture, but presently it does seem that against all odds and expectations, with some pretty unlikely players on the world stage, G-d is driving His plan to focus world attention on Jerusalem and ultimately on His Son, who one day will reign there in person.
It should be an interesting week, so please pray for calm, and the safety of the young men and women guarding Israel’s borders. One of my friends who we work with at CFI is an Ethiopian Jew. Right now she has three children serving in the IDF, one of them on the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border. So please pray for their safety and her peace (which she seems to be handling quite well).
Pray also that our Arab neighbors will reject the foolish and futile attempts by their political and religious leaders to thwart G-d’s plan as it advances, and to consider the way of peace that He has set forth for each and all of us (John 14:27).
And Chag Yom Yerushalayim Sameach, Happy Jerusalem Day!
Today began the week of Israel’s 70th Birthday. I have a few comments on that in a moment, but first, a little of ‘normal life’ here in the Land on a Sunday, or Yom Rishon/Day One.
A Sunday with my Neighbors
My 78 year old next door neighbor, Yakov*, has our little section of the neighborhood all dressed up with Israel flags of about four different sizes—as a Sabra (native born Israeli) and an IAF veteran, he’s definitely into it. Earlier this week as I arrived home from work I sat on their porch and talked with him and his wife for a few minutes, and about the upcoming celebration.
It is fun and pretty awesome to sit and listen to the stories of people who have been here onsite for the past 50+ years, to tell what it was like and the changes Israel has been through over the past 5, 6 and 7 decades.
Today, I continued to do some touch up work on my apartment, painting some of the trim that has been neglected for years (Yakov’s wife, Golda*, said the steel safety bars over the window haven’t been painted in 40 years since they first moved in. They kina look it, too.) While I was painting the walkway rails two weeks ago, Yakov asked me if I could also paint a pole he had put up for some grapevines, which I was happy to do. So today I did that as well as the front door.
Afterward, I needed to go to the grocery store, so as I walked out of the house, Gil* (my other next door neighbor who is Modern Orthodox) and his littlest son Danny*, were coming down their steps, going for a walk—Danny was on his tricycle. So we all walked together, Gil carrying my trash bag as I carried the recyclables and pulled the shopping cart, as Danny pedaled along beside us. We got to the small playground next to the supermarket—sort of a community center area where a lot of parents—Jews and Arabs—bring their children to play while folks sit and talk, or shop.
While Danny climbed around on things, Gil asked me about the recent US led attack on Syria’s chemical weapons facilities. We both agree it was probably a good thing to do, and that WW3 probably will not erupt out of it (hopefully). The conversation wound its way through Deep State-New World Order politics and the ‘Trump Phenomenon’ that the NWO didn’t seem to see coming, to a corrupt liberal media in the West as well as in Israel, to Ezekiel 38-39, Daniel 9, The False Messiah (Anti-Christ), Armageddon, most of which he was pretty familiar with.
We both agreed that a new temple on the Temple Mount wouldn’t really mean too much in the way of a ‘Messianic Kingdom’ if people do not love one another—which is the goal of the Torah and the Prophets. All said and done, it was a good start for further discussions. BTW, for a good source of accurate news on Israel, go here: http://honestreporting.com/
I returned home and as I was sweeping my walkway, Hans*, the Seminary student from Germany with the wife and four children, invited me over for a few minutes with his in-laws, who will be leaving to return home tomorrow. There we roasted bread on a stick while we discussed life in Israel via broken English and German, and laughter.
This is sort of normal life on a day off in Israel, even though there are dangerous events going on at the Gaza border, armies and factions are fighting a hundred or so miles away, and Israel is preparing for her 70th birthday. It is all very interesting.
Also beginning tomorrow is CFI’s annual conference, where CFI representatives from 35 countries, volunteers and supporters will gather to hear a host of speakers including Israeli government officials and Knesset members, IDF and security spokespersons, Messianic Jewish and Christian Arab pastors, Christian media journalists, CFI’s many project directors, and more. For more, visit CFI’s FaceBook page.
Israel @ 70: Important for everybody
Nevertheless, I am excited about this week. Tuesday night begins Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) through Wednesday, to remember Israel’s fallen soldiers.
This is followed by Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), beginning on Wednesday night through Thursday. This is not only a once in a lifetime event, but a ‘once in history event’, and I do wonder about the significance of it.
Very quickly, the number 70 is frequent and quite interesting in Scripture:
70 = 7 (Perfection) x 10 (representing God’s law i.e., The Ten Commandments, and completeness)
70 Persons of Israel/Jacob’s family went down to Egypt (Ex. 1:5).
70 elders were appointed by Moses (Numbers 11:16).
After reading the covenant God gave him to read to the people, Moses took 70 elders, along with Aaron and his sons, up Mount Sinai to have a special meal with God himself (Exodus 24:9 – 11).
Israel spent a total number of 70 years in captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10), wherein the Land received her Sabbath rests that had gone unobserved for 70 sevens of years: “to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete” (2 Chron. 36:21).
70 sevens (490 years) were determined upon Jerusalem for it to complete its transgressions, to make an end for sins and for everlasting righteousness to enter into it via the Messiah (Daniel 9:24).
Yeshua/Jesus sent out 70 disciples (Luke 10:1)
There’s more, but obviously there is something to the number 70 in the Word. If one studies Jewish history, you will recognize that there is a significance to dates and events beyond the realm of mere coincidence: there is a sovereign God ruling over the affairs of men as well as His own Chosen People.
Seventy years ago the world saw a nation born in a day—out of the ashes of the Holocaust, a nation that in two generations would grow to become the focal point of world attention, whether for praise or defamation. The world saw a scattered people, a previously dead language, and an all but forgotten promise, all come to life in the form of a nation that would lead the world in every area from technology to the arts—it is unprecedented in human history. God promised, and He delivered (see Deut. 30:1-6; Ezek. 36-37; Isaiah 66:5-9; Amos 9:15).
Will anything out of the ordinary or exciting happen this week? I do not know. Perhaps the celebrations will go off without a hitch, though a terrorist attack—or a series of such should not surprise us. Yet, God is sovereign, and He hears the prayers of His people. So let us pray for safety, that His will is done, and that we are careful to observe what He is up to in our day.
Vision for the Future
One other thought. The corresponding letter in the Hebrew alphabet for 70 is the letter “ע” ‘ayan’. This letter is associated with the eye, by which we gain our vision. Romans 11:25 states that in regards to the Good News of Messiah, “blindness in part is happened to Israel.” Not a total blindness, but a partial blindness. Could it be that this year the eyes of a significant number of God’s Chosen will people be opened to what His word really says? I do not know, but, we can pray that it be so.
This week we celebrate the faithfulness of our God. So remember, whatever you may be facing, take heart—God keeps his promises. Happy Birthday Israel!
Well, Passover is just a couple of days away, and people are getting ready for the holiday all over town: bakeries and some restaurants are already cleaning out their shelves of any traces of leaven, down to the crumbs.
Matzah, Matzah Man!
Today when I left work I bumped into my Lubavich friend Avi*, who I have had an acquaintance with since I first got here. He was ‘giving away’ matza for a small donation, so I blessed him in the Name, and I smiled, pointed my finger at him and told him, “Avi, I want you to know that I love you, I love your country and your people—Atta v’ ani, chavarim (You and I, are friends) and your people are my people.” He smiled and thanked me and I wished him a Happy Passover. By the time I got home my matza was broken in my backpack, but, it still tastes as great as matza always tastes! 😛
Visiting David’s Mighty Men
Last week CFI’s David’s Shield director Jim McKenzie and I drove to an army base near Beer Sheva, where reservists were doing their semi-annual training. After the mandatory three-year military service for almost all Israelis (two-years for girls), Israeli citizens serve and train as reservists until the age of 40—and longer if they want to and are in fit enough condition. It is a fellowship of brotherhood that they very much seem to enjoy as they progress through life.
I must say Jim does an excellent job representing Believers from around the world by encouraging Israel’s armed forces personnel—contrasted with a world that almost always condemns anything they do.
One of the things Jim regularly says to Israel’s soldiers is, “For two thousand years there was no Israeli army to defend the Jewish people, but you are like David’s mighty men in the Bible—defending your country and your people from harm. We want you to know that there are people around the world who not only recognize the lies of the media, but who also support what you do for your country, and believe that not only are you doing the right thing, but the righteous thing.”
Friends, you should see the faces of these soldiers light up when they hear this—and they broke into applause several times during Jim’s brief talk.
Afterward the officers—really nice guys, by the way—toured us around and explained some of the training they are doing, especially with high tech (and high priced) surveillance equipment.
It is always a thrill to get to shake hands with these guys: it is especially interesting to observe the facial reactions when I say simple things like, “God bless you guys, may He watch over you and keep you safe,” and “We are praying for your safety.” They are very interested not only in where we are from, but why we come to Israel to do this, and why we care.
We want to demonstrate unconditional love toward Israel, and especially considering the hostility toward the Jewish people from the ‘Christian church’ down through the centuries, we hope to put a more ‘friendly face’ on Yeshua/Jesus as well.
Trouble on the Border?
You may have heard on the news that Hamas in Gaza is planning on launching a ‘massive civilian march’ to the border fence this Friday on Passover. (Obviously, considering the history of Passover, this is not the best time to start trouble with the Chosen People—but it seems some people never learn.)
Many of us understand that with what Israel has faced in the past with terrorism and suicide bombers, they simply cannot allow people to breach their security fences and approach them—even though the Palestinians may “appear” to be unarmed. To let one’s guard down for an instant in such a situation can prove to be deadly. This is obviously just one more attempt to provoke Israel to injuring or killing “helpless Palestinians.” Please pray for our young people’s safety in the IDF, as well as Palestinians whom Hamas may be forcing into a dangerous situation against their will.
Hope for the Future
This week I rode to Benei Brakah just outside Tel Aviv to cover some of what CFI is doing there. Marcia Brunson, CFI’s Hope for the Future coordinator which reaches out to the Ethiopian Jewish community, has several contacts around the country, including this one that is run by an Israeli woman who cares about the families and children whom Israel has brought home to the Land over the past 35 years.
While there, Marcia and Rachelli* planned some summer camp programs for the kids which will include educational curriculum as well as fun events. We also went to a local grocery store which is working with us to provide food vouchers for families in need. Thank you for your prayers and support of our work here in what is often not only economically depressed situations, but spiritually oppressive as well.
Some of you may remember Layel*. About 15 years ago she and two other Israeli high school students attended Hope of Israel regularly and thank G-d, some lasting friendships have been maintained over the years. At that time I was serving at the ‘Youth Guy’ for HOI, and these kids were my students and I have always felt like they were ‘my Israeli kids.’ Of course, they are grown now, have all been through the military and college since then, and are now in the work force dealing with the adult world and all life can throw at us.
I was able to finally catch up with Layel this week and we sat down for a quick bite to eat in Center City Jerusalem, where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic—Ben Yehuda Street area. It has been more than 10 years (wow) since those of us at HOI have seen her, the last time being when she went with a handful of us through the Western Wall tunnels. We came out at the end in the Muslim Quarter, where we were escorted back by a young security guard with an Uzi (Israeli sub-machine gun).
I’ll never forget our discussion about all of the troubles Israel was having with her enemies, and Layel’s sincerely asked question, “Why doesn’t God help us? Why doesn’t He help Israel?”
What do you say? I summed it up by telling her what the prophets say about Messiah’s first and second comings—that it will get worse before it gets better—that Yeshua is Israel’s only hope, and in the end He will be faithful to rescue His people. While we talked I also noticed that the security guard drew close to eavesdrop on our conversation, so I talked a little louder just to help him overhear us as well.
Layel is now an agnostic, and says she doesn’t believe there is a God, yet that all beliefs are valid. Though it is illogical and self defeating to say there is no objective truth and everybody has their own truth—it is like saying everybody has their own math—it really doesn’t work, but it is a popular notion. We had a spirited and challenging, but friendly conversation, and hopefully some things she will think about, with the promise that we will have lunch again soon.
Thank you for praying—a busy time is upon us!
We are very quickly approaching April, and in a little more than two weeks we will be celebrating Israel’s 70th Birthday with our annual conference, as well as a major influx of tourists that will prove to be an historic celebration here in the Land. Security will be at an all-time high I am sure, as we are receiving security warnings that trouble is being planned. So please be in prayer. Also, please pray for Israel’s young people serving in the IDF, the Border Police and the Municipal Police—they all have dangerous jobs and their uniforms make them targets for evildoers.
Again, thank you for your prayers, and for your support. And Chag Pesach Sameach mi Yerushalayim: Happy Passover, from Jerusalem!
Have you ever discovered something significant that has been right under your proverbial nose all the time? Well, I did yesterday. And more on that in minute. But first…
Things are warming up a little over here and activities are increasing as well. Yesterday they had the Jerusalem Marathon, which also included other shorter races (1/2 marathon, 10k and 5k); my next door neighbor ran in one of the shorter races, but I haven’t been able to catch up with him yet to see how he did.
I did go up to the Haas Promenade to watch a little of it, and watching the runners I must confess that I wish I still had knees that would allow me to run in races like this; but while I was out I did see a Jewish man who could not walk without great difficulty. It was a reminder to me that so often we need to see the glass half-full, rather than half-empty, and to be thankful for what we can do, rather than complain about what we cannot do. Anyway, here’s a great story from CBN’s Chris Mitchell on the Marathon’s events. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7Hk00n1Hl0
Bike Ride, photos and a surprising discovery in “my backyard.”
OK, now about that proverbial nose thing. Yesterday afternoon on Shabbat, I decided to take a break from study and get out of the house. So I rode my bicycle up my street to the Haas Promenade area. Just down the street across from the UN center is a hill that I have noticed but have not ventured up, but I have been curious about, so I checked it out. When I got to the top I was shocked: the view was breathtaking. I had no idea that from nearly right behind my apartment was a view of the Dead Sea—about 12 miles away—along with the Judean Desert and the Herodian Fortress. In fact, the entire 360 panorama includes the Temple Mount, Jordan, and the New City of Jerusalem as well. So I took a series of photos and ‘stitched’ them together. You can seen the here: https://pcinisrael.org/media/#jp-carousel-489
We never know what is just beyond the ridge or around the corner, just waiting to be found, “as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor.2:9). Our G-d has good things in store for us, so let us keep seeking—what you’re looking for may just be over the next hill.
While I was up on the hilltop another cyclist came along—he was even older than me! Randolf*, from Germany, is volunteering and helping elderly people in one of the local Arab villages. We had an interesting conversation— though he was kind, he hinted that he felt the Palestinian people were getting the short end of the stick. Though born and baptized Roman Catholic, he does not claim any faith affiliation; but he agreed that the command to love one another is really the answer to the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma—of course, HOW we find that love to give away is another story. Suffice to say we need new hearts (cf. Ezek. 36:26).
From there I rode to the other side of Armon HaNatziv—the Jerusalem suburb I live in—to a small community called Ramat Rachel (“Rachel’s Heights”) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramat_Rachel . Ramat Rachel has an interesting history going back to possibly the first Temple period (before 586 BC) during the days of Jeremiah the prophet. Today there is a kibbutz and resort center by the same name adjacent to the original site, and you can see Bethlehem from there.
On the ride back I was crossing a bridge over Asher Viner Road where they have placed two large, flat steel lions, which is the symbol of Jerusalem; as I rode by I caught a glimpse of the sunset and thought I would get a picture of it. Pretty cool shot—even looks like a Star of David shining through if you use your imagination a little.
From there I continued and rode past the US Consulate General, where they have a big US flag flying—I don’t remember seeing that before, and I must say it stirs a little longing for home to see a big US flag like that…so, I stopped and got a few more pictures. BTW, this is where the interim US Embassy is going to be moved to while the more permanent US Embassy is under construction.
Also, one of the things I do at CFI is produce the daily, encouraging scripture memes for our Twitter and FaceBook pages; be sure to check out and “Like” our stuff. https://www.facebook.com/CFIJerusalem/
These are very interesting times to be alive, especially in Jerusalem. Time is moving quickly and Israel’s 70th birthday will be here in a little more than a month. So please be in prayer for Israel, our President and other leaders, as well as Jimmy Morales, the President of Guatemala, who has courageously stepped up to the plate and committed himself and his small country to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Psalm 147:2 says, “The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel” (KJV); the Contemporary English Version reads thusly, “The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem and brings the people of Israel back home again.” One of the things we at CFI do is to supply free clothing to many of the olim (new immigrants) who ‘make aliyah’ to come home to Israel to live. Four times a year we receive a tractor-trailer load of clothing from US and UK, to distribute to our new Jewish friends: here are a couple of shots of the CFI team.
It is awesome to be here at the ‘Center of the Universe’ to see this happening—Jerusalem is literally being built up, before our eyes, from ancient ruins restored to modern projects rising up to 20 stories, it is happening. Of course, the Adversary is not going to take this lying down, as they say, he is full of “great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev. 12:12), and we can see the spiritual battle behind the scenes influencing what is happening in the natural. At times you can almost feel the spiritual tension and pressure of religious spirits, so pray for me and us at CFI, that the work can go forward.
As we move into the new year and toward Spring, we also see events around our world confirming the word of the Lord regarding the Last Days and His return: Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the [Messiah],’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt. 24.4-8).
Succinctly, Yeshua/Jesus noted:
False Messiahs – Don’t be deceived
Wars and rumors of wars – Don’t be frightened
Natural disasters – again, don’t be frightened
Expect these things as ‘birth pangs: that is, with increasing frequency and intensity
While there are false messiahs aplenty—Jim Jones, David Koresh, the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of the Lubavitch sect of Orthodox Judaism, to the ultimate False Messiah/Anti-Christ yet to come—we are not to be deceived: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). When you know the authentic, you can spot a counterfeit every time. So let us be students—good disciples—of our Lord and ‘study to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).
Wars, Rumors of Wars, and a Soon Coming Embassy
Lately a day does not go by regarding the tension between Israel and Iran (via Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Assad in Syria), with skirmishes on the border to the looming threat of a future nuclear armed terrorist state in Iran. At this point I won’t say anything about John Kerry and the Obama admin paving the way for a Nuclear Iran, plus the 1.7 billion dollars in cash that was given to the corrupt Iranian regime, that abuses its own people who long for the freedoms we enjoy in the West. OK, I did say it. Anyway, we are where we are.
This week at one sunset I sat in my living room and heard, then saw Israeli F-16s fly over head, with full afterburners on (that means you could see the fire coming out of the back of the plane), conducting training runs. What is coming I cannot say exactly, but with the US sale of F-35s to Israel—fighter aircraft which are undetectable to radar—an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities (think “Israel’s 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear facility”) should not surprise us.
To add to the drama, it appears that within a matter of weeks the US Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem—right here in ‘my neighborhood’ of Armon HaNatziv—apparently on the Birthday of Israel. It is interesting that something that has gained world attention is literally right around the corner from where I live, and it is no secret that the enemies of G-d are certainly enraged at a political move that further legitimizes Israel as a state and Jerusalem as their eternal capital. So be it. Please pray for G-d’s will to be done, G-d’s people will be protected, and that cooler heads will prevail in the Muslim/Arab world. https://unitedwithisrael.org/israel-excited-about-us-embassy-move-in-may-arabs-express-ire/
The Temple Mount
Last week I, a media team member and a CFI representative from Scotland went to the most contested piece of real estate on the planet, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, to take photos for CFI’s stock footage library. This is the area where Solomon’s first temple was erected, then destroyed in 586 BCE, then later Zerubbabel’s/Herod the Great’s temple complex was built, which was destroyed in 70 CE/AD. What is there today is an Islamic shrine called the Dome of the Rock—built on the site of the original temples—and the Al Aksa Mosque at the southern end of the 34 acre temple mount platform. We only got about two 10-minute sessions to shoot, due to schedules and a long line (even in February), but here are a few shots. We’ll get back up there soon to explore more, and I’ll write more on this then, but for your own research, here’s an excellent source I read recently: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7972069-the-beit-hamikdash
I am continuing taking photos and developing a library of daily Scripture ‘memes’ for CFI’s social media outreach, including FaceBook and Twitter; we are working to increase web traffic and interest in all of the projects under the CFI umbrella. You can take advantage and share some of these memes in your own ‘sphere of influence’ on your FaceBook or Twitter page! Go here: https://www.facebook.com/CFIJerusalem/ and here: https://twitter.com/CFIJerusalem . This is a great way to get the word out! 🙂
We are also training with video camera and lighting techniques, which fortunately, I do have a little background in from when I worked at a TV station in the late 1980s. The technology has of course progressed, but the basic techniques are the same. I am excited to see how the Lord will lead us in the particular aspect of ministry.
…and Here comes Purim!
If you have never heard of Purim (or aren’t quite sure how to pronounce it), it’s OK, we are all learning. You will find it in the book of Esther, the plot essentially being… a ‘Deep State’ government entity attempts to overthrow the will of the legitimate government through deceit and subterfuge to derail God’s plan and destroy the Jewish people. It is so effective that the only hope is that God Himself intervenes, which He does. Yet, one of the ironies of the Book of Esther is that God is never mentioned throughout the entire story. Lesson: just because God seems to be silent doesn’t mean He is not at work. There are a lot of “hidden things” in life, so also in the Book of Esther.
“Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur… 27 the Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually. 28 So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants” (Esther 9:26-28).
As believers in Jesus/Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, particularly those of us who are Gentiles (“all those who allied themselves with them”, v.27, cf. Romans 11:17), we are privileged to celebrate freedom, and to support Israel and the Jewish people. So, don’t miss this opportunity. Plus, like most all Jewish holidays, there’s food! And at Purim they have special pastries called Hamantashen, ie, Haman’s Pockets/Ears (see below), so don’t miss it.
Please continue to pray for our leaders in the US and Israel, and even those around the world like Guatemala, where each of us–whether individually, or collectively in our respective countries, determines G-d’s blessing and favor for us. Shalom.
“Shalom shalom” can be translated as “perfect peace,” such as in Isaiah 26:3…“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” As you probably also know, “Shalom” is often used as “hello” as well as “goodbye”, regarding which, I once heard a Jewish man quip, “I didn’t know if I was coming or going.” Well, we are hours away from bidding 2017 farewell, while welcoming in 2018! It has been an interesting year to say the least; momentarily I’ll recap a few things that stood out for me here in the Land. But first…
Messiah-mas in the Old City: God keeps His Word! How quickly time passes. A week ago many people were preparing for Christmas, family get-togethers, and gift exchanges. For me, I was obviously away from my mom and sister and my extended family, and we missed each other: yet, time flies and it seems longer than just a week ago that people were celebrating the birth of Messiah.
For me, last Sunday night I went to a Christmas event at Christ Church in the Old City, where they had an open time from about 5:00 to 11:00pm of singing and worship, as well as fellowship and hot refreshments. It seems this evening is normally attended by 1) Christians in the earlier hours, 2) Messianics in the mid-hours, and 3) Israelis in the latter hours (who come out of curiosity, as well as just having something to do).
After about an hour of singing carols in the church, I found myself in the adjacent café sitting with two older Israeli gentlemen who were attending. David and Gideon* talked a with me little about Christmas, but then mostly about their families who were early pioneers in the Land; they also shared about their own travels around Europe in their younger days and their action during the ’67 Six Day War.
Eventually the subject got around to G-d and the Bible, and Gideon said that he believed in God (sort of), but that the Bible was essentially ‘just stories.’ As you may have already figured out, if the Bible isn’t true, then the Jewish people would have a difficult time identifying themselves as a people, as well as their right to the Land.
Gideon’s parents and grandparents came to Israel when there was practically nothing here in the way of Israeli political order and infrastructure, and he was proud of how Israel has grown since then. I asked him, “Gideon, have you ever read Devarim (Deuteronomy), chapter 30, where G-d says that “…the Lord your God will bring you [back] into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers” (v. 5). Of course, the fuller fulfillment of the entire passage is when all Israel turns to the Lord, but even now, as foretold by Ezekiel (cptr. 37), there would be a process of restoration of Israel, even while they are in a state of unbelief.
I shared further, “Gideon, not only has this happened just as G-d has promised, it is continuing to happen today, right before our very eyes.” Though he did not know this about Scripture, he agreed with me, and as he would translate some of what David did not understand fully, I encouraged both of them to read the Scriptures and to seek the Lord.
To the North
Earlier this week, I received a call from some of my co-workers that they were going to the Galilee, but since their original driver was called away on an emergency, they needed someone to drive their rental car (CFI closed their offices this week, so we have had the week off).
This was my first visit to the Sea of Galilee since I have been here: frankly, I saw more of the Land in a week as a tourist than I have seen here in seven months. But that’s OK, I didn’t come here to play, but to work and help the Jewish people.
The Galilee has a particular beauty that you just have to see in person to appreciate. For one of our team originally from Kazakhstan, it was her first visit to this area, and she was clearly in awe of being there. We walked around Capernaum, Mount of the Beatitudes, took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee from En Gev, then drove up into the Golan Heights to a place called Gamla.
Though not so well known, Gamla is a fascinating site significant for its history, particularly in its role in the Jewish War against Rome in 66-73 CE. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla
It has been 11 years since I was there last; and I must say that I missed not getting back there sooner. Gamla is home to the oldest synagogue site in Israel, which very likely hosted the Son of G-d where He would have taught in His Galilee/Gaulanitus (Golan) tour:
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria…” (Matt. 5:23-24a).
Like Capernaum, it is an awesome thought to consider that you are in the very spot on which He stood, taught, and performed miracles (Mark 2-3).
In 2006 our team hiked to the very top of the mountain along a pretty rugged trail. This time one of our team and I made the same trek, it was exhilarating. Gamla has a similar history as the desert fortress Masada, where the Jewish defenders suffered similar fates. Upon reaching the top of Gamla, you not only admire the breath-taking view that includes the distant Sea of Galilee, but you quietly consider what happened on that very spot, where people chose to die free rather than to either be slaughtered or live as slaves to Rome. It is a perplexing situation one hopes never to be confronted with.
In some ways I feel closer to G-d’s people there (and at Masada) than I do even in Jerusalem or the Western Wall; perhaps the tragic nature of Israel’s history is more focused there than at other historical places in the Land. Who knows? But I encourage you, if you have never been to Israel, ask the Lord if He would have you come and see the Land and His people. If you do, consider putting Gamla on your itinerary.
Stuff I remember from 2017
While I won’t bore you with too many details, here are a few details I remember from this year:
My last Shabbat at HOI: Sam prayed for me and Robert G and said, “Robert is going to work in Chicago, and Pat is going to Israel, where it’s safe” (everybody laughed).
Going away party from worship and dance team, and Laurie Taylor’s awesome “Psalm 122 cake”
Spending time with Israeli friends and family over HHDs
Sukkot dinner with my next door neighbors in their sukkah
Catching up with old friends I have not seen in 4, 11, and 33 years
Spreading salt and light with the people you meet in passing, on the bus, and with your neighbors, for example…
Earlier this week I was walking through the Machane Yehuda Shuk (kind of an Israeli farmers’ market) and confronted by two young Israelis who wanted to give me a sample snack from their store there. They were both wearing kippahs which is some indication that they have a religious affiliation. We were talking in broken English and some Hebrew when one of them said something about Moshiach (the Messiah) coming soon.
So I asked him, “How will you know who the Messiah is?”
He (Jacob*) replied, “He will make peace with the Palestinians, and will build the Beit Miqdash, theTemple.”
Me: “So you mean, King Messiah, Moshiach ben David (Son of David).”
Me: “Have you ever heard about Moshiach ben Yosef?” (Son of Joseph) He said yes.
Me: “What does that mean to you?” He wasn’t quite sure, so I suggested, “A suffering Messiah? Like Isaiah’s Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53?” He agreed.
“You know, Jacob, some people believe that the Messiah has already come, and that Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yosef are ‘echad’ (one), that they are one and the same person. Have you ever heard that idea?”
Jacob got very quiet at that moment as he began to think. So I shared, “I have heard that the story of Joseph is a picture of the Messiah: that he is rejected by his brothers, but in the end he gets to rescue them. That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it?”
He nodded, but he realized that he needed to give this some more serious thought, and I realized that I needed to move on. But I’ll be back in the shuk to buy stuff in the future, so hopefully I’ll see my new friend Jacob again.
Out with the Old, In with the New!
This weekend I decided to read back through my journal over the past year, just to reflect on my journey coming here and how the Lord has worked in the process. A year ago I believed the Lord was leading me, but, as some of you may remember, it was not without some reservation or concern regarding many details and responsibilities.
As I moved forward, the Lord has been faithful to lead and provide each step of the way: it is encouraging to recall the moments, obstacles, and challenges on this journey, and how, though I knew not how at the time, the Lord has made a way, and He used many of you to help answer prayers and to support my work with CFI here in the Land—you know who you are. Thank you so much for letting me be your hands and heart, reaching out to G-d’s Chosen People here in His Promised Land.
If I may encourage you all, begin this new year with a journal of your own: each day if possible, but regularly, simply write a Scripture verse or reference, an incident that concerns you, a prayer regarding that or something or someone else. And, when God answers your prayer, record it! You will find great encouragement as you look back and remember things you may have forgotten, and see with hindsight how God worked it all out. BTW, a Bible reading schedule is helpful too. Here’s one: http://oneyearbibleonline.com/reading-plan-downloads/
So as we approach this year’s end, and next year’s beginning, I leave you with wise words from Oswald Chambers, who has been a companion of mine for many years:
The God of Israel will be your rereward. — Isaiah 52:12
Security from Yesterday.“God requireth that which is past.” At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future. God reminds us of the past lest we get into a shallow security in the present…
Security for To-day.“For ye shall not go out with haste.” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, un-remembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us.
Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.
Here’s to a great 2018! Shalom Shalom in Him Who makes all things new,
PS. BTW, if you wish to give a year-end tax deductible gift, please go here and see directions. Thank you, and Happy New Year! 🙂
Looking out my back door: living in Israel, and glad, once again, to be an American.
Wow, what a week, eh? President Donald J. Trump did something that no president in 70 years has had the gumption to do—tell the truth about Israel’s claim to Jerusalem. I don’t know how this will all shake out, and if the US policy will be ‘nuanced’ in the future regarding so-called “East/ West Jerusalem”, but here are a few thoughts that may help us keep things in perspective.
As the President said, “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do.” To that I would say, “Amen. Finally.” Yet, predictably, the Arab/Muslim world as well as the Western liberal press and politicians have reacted in “horror and dismay” and Trump’s decision. Consider these headlines:
Trump ignores warnings with ‘reckless Jerusalem move’ – Al Jazeera (Qatar)
Jerusalem’s Christian Leaders to Trump: Recognition Will Cause ‘Irreparable Damage’ – HaAretz (Israel)
White House forced to deny Donald Trump has DEMENTIA after he slurred and stuttered during Israel speech – and he vows to take medical test to prove it – The Sun, (UK)
The media has taken what should be an historic landmark for progress in ethics and global politics, and turned it into a silly rant about Donald Trump’s dentures. OK, so The Donald did slur the word ‘states’ in his speech. Big deal. Who of us hasn’t mangled the English language at some point in our lives.
What you are really seeing, my friends, is this world’s opposition to God’s will and God’s word. For example, God said in 2 Chronicles 6:6, “I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.” Only one of numerous claims God made regarding Jerusalem.
Yet, the Muslim world has rejected the Bible, as has the Western secular world, therefore anything as important as the status of Jerusalem–notwithstanding recorded history and the archaeological record–will certainly be contested by people opposed to what God has said.
As far as history and the sacred texts are concerned, it should be helpful to observe the import of Jerusalem to the Bible and the Qur’an. In the Bible, Jerusalem is mentioned over 800 times. In the Qur’an it is mentioned…not once.
I think it reasonable and fair to graciously ask our Muslim friends why is it that Jerusalem is absent from the Qur’an, when it is supposed to be so important to Islam?
Do you ever feel like our world is run by children? A very good realtor friend once told me that a common quip in the real estate industry is, that it’s often like “kindergarten with ashtrays.” Such seems to be the august body of the UN: foolish men and women who will seem to go to any lengths to deny the obvious truth.
As it has been said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” As believers, we must understand that silence on the status of Jerusalem from the leader of the Free World, the USA, has only served as acquiescence and bolstered the campaign to de-legitimize not only Israel’s right to Jerusalem, but Israel’s right to exist at all.
Solomon wrote, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil” Ecc. 8:12). To not deal with people who have committed crimes or have evil intentions only makes for a worse situation in the future. Those who are criticizing Trump’s announcement are simply of the same mind of those who lauded Neville Chamberlain with his 1938 ‘peace in our time’ agreement with Hitler, and we know how that ended.
To finally cease ‘kicking the can down the road’ is the best thing US leadership could do, as National Review’s David French said in calling it one of President Trump’s “best, most moral, and important decisions” that “strikes a blow against international anti-Semitism.”
If some are still not convinced, I think it safe to say that when the world’s leader in state sponsored terrorism, Iran, as well as the PA, Hezbollah, Hamas and N. Korea are angry with what you are doing, you’re probably doing the right thing. Please continue to pray for the President for wisdom, grace and courage to handle this situation in a proper way.
Ultimately, Israel and our world needs a Savior. May God use you and me to bring light and sanity to a dark and confused world.