AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACK – 3 Sept 2004

Mt 24:6-14   signs of the end of the age and the return of Jesus

This evening we have obeyed with faith the Lord Jesus Christ in the two ordinances which He left believers:  baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Faith and life go on in the face of evil and suffering.  Love is stronger than death, and so is the power of an endless life.  Jesus said, “I AM the LIFE”.  By participating in the baptisms, by participating together in the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim our hope and confidence in the good news of God:  Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day. . .and He will come again, and we will live with God!

This week in Beer Sheva we suffered a terrorist attack similar to what many other major cities inIsraelhave already suffered.  I received phone calls and messages from Arab and Palestinian believers expressing their sorrow and anguish with us.  At least one believer, Olga Farsevich, was seriously injured in the bus bombings.  Neither our city nor the righteous are exempt from suffering or from evil in this present darkness.  These horrible things go on every day somewhere in the world.  We tend to notice them more when it happens close to us.  Yet even then, LIFE GOES ON because Yeshua is risen from among the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father!

What can we say to these things?  We often do not have a satisfying explanation for specific causes and their consequences.  In the big picture we can say honestly that there is evil in the world and evil-doers.  If we are speaking only relatively, those same workers of iniquity could – and do – claim to be justified in their deeds of lawlessness.  Olga had plans to leave Beer Sheva on Wednesday – the day after the attack – and move to Maalot in the north to begin work at a drug rehab center managed by believers.  Was it God’s will that she go?  She will not be there soon but, God willing, later.  And we are talking here about only one individual out of the more than 100, not to mention their families.

What we can know is that evil must serve the Sovereign YHVH God, for NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and God works ALL THINGS TOGETHER for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!  The reality of our faith is tried and proven by such troubles.  Jesus promised us that we would have troubles in the world, but to be of good cheer. . .He has overcome the world. . .and so will we by our faith in Him.  Roman Sokolovsky heard the gospel many times, but as far as we know never believed it for himself.  We went to his funeral on Thursday without the joy of his destiny (destination).

Our preparation for the troubles and trials to faith to come are not so much supplies of water and food.  We do not know whether we will be secure in our homes or whether we will be fleeing from place to place from persecution.  Our preparation is primarily spiritual.  Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray, that they not enter into temptation.  Their spirits were willing but their flesh weak (Mt 26:41). 

Some things we can do to exercise our faith so that we will endure through to the end victoriously are:
–be filled with the Holy Spirit for power to overcome
–obey God and do what He says
–sanctify ourselves in the fear of God
–rejoice in the Lord at all times
–watch and pray, believing and trusting God
–abide in the true Vine, Jesus, so as to bring forth good and holy fruit
–forgive one another while it is still ‘today’
–visit the sick and the prisoners and help feed the poor and the needy
–be faithful to always give honor to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
–pray for the [true] peace ofJerusalem, because her peace is also Beer Sheva’s and every other place
–love one another.  If we do not, who have known the love of God in Messiah, then who will?  We are His witnesses and His children.
–preach the gospel, for it is the power of God to save both the Jew and the Arab and the Greek and the   Roman and any other national or people group

Messianic Congregation — Beer Sheva –12 June 2004

1Tim 3:15b   . . .so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Yesterday the national leadership conference met here, and the central topic was “Building an Israeli Jewish Messianic Assembly”. This subject has been discussed for over 20 years, and still eludes clear definition. Last week Dima Lavrov taught on three things which should be present in any local congregation: truth, vision, relationships. Today I want to speak more regarding these essentials as they relate to our own congregation, Messianic Congregation – Beer Sheva. I speak to those of you who are new here, to those of you who may not know who or what we are as a congregation, to those who may be looking for the right church for you in this area, and of course to remind the rest of our calling as a local congregation.

It is difficult to find agreement amongst even Jews as to what is “Jewish”; in Israel there is no consensus as to what is “Israeli”. We who are Israeli and Jewish combine all the cultures of man, having lived in most of them and bringing much from them back here to Israel. Our unity is not in our “tribal” distinctions, but in our relationship to the one true God who created and chose us for His eternal purposes.

As we read from Paul’s letter to Timothy, the assembly is God’s house, and it is the pillar and ground of the truth. A pillar is an integral and irremovable part of a building, and a building rests on a stable, unmovable base. As a local Messianic congregation – whether in Beer Sheva or in Tokyo – we should contain and express the truth of the Living God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is the God of Israel, and the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Living God is the Maker of Heaven and Earth and all that is in them, and He has given us the Bible that we can become wise unto salvation. So here, in this congregation, we believe and teach from the Old and New Testaments as being the Word of God with relevance to our lives until and beyond that time is no more. As Paul wrote to Timothy, the Bible is written for us to know how to live worthy of our Father in Heaven while we are still in a world which opposes Him and His Son. Our aim in this faith community of believers is to teach truth so that we will be closer to God—that is, sanctified—and living in His light.

Our vision is joined to the truth expressed in Eph 2:14-18: we who are Jews and also gentiles are a new creation in Messiah Jesus, one new man, expressing the mystery and grace of God through the New Covenant. God loves us all, and the forgiveness of sins and baptism of the Holy Spirit are for all who believe that Jesus died and rose again for salvation to sinners. We say that we are a Messianic congregation. We do not say that we are a Messianic Jewish congregation. Not all of us are Jews, nor are all Israelis Jews, and God has a purpose with each of us for who we are naturally. The fact we live in Beer Sheva, in Israel, in a majority Jewish society already impacts us in a central element of our gathering together here: we encourage the use of the Hebrew language. It is a unifying factor for most of us whom God has brought back to this land from different cultures and languages, and it joins us to the Israelis—mostly Jewish—who already live and govern here. In this way, too, we connect ourselves with the wider Body of Messiah in Israel, both in fellowship and in worship. The redemption which God is carrying out in these last days – and we are a part of that! – includes restoring His people to this land which he promised to give to the descendants of Israel, restoring His people in the covenantal relationship with Himself through preaching the gospel and through righteous judgments, and through restoring the historic language of our people: Hebrew. Our congregation does not excel in “good” Hebrew, but we do what we can to promote it for a testimony to the truth of Jesus being native to the Israeli and Jewish people in this very country. We are not here to reproduce a congregation or denomination like something we may have been part of somewhere else, but rather since Jesus is Head over the church in all things, we are all here by the will of God to let HIM make us into a community of truth, love, and righteousness which will honor the Holy One of Israel, even the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord and Redeemer.

We observe the holidays—the set times which YHVH God gave to Israel. This is natural living here in Israel, but it also witnesses to their significance in God’s plan of redemption. We also observe those holidays which honor the truth that the Son of God was born into this world, according to the Scriptures, and that He died and rose again. We obey the Lord by immersing believers, and by taking the Lord’s Supper to remember His death until He comes again. These things are all part of the truth of what the church is to embody and shine to the glory of the Father and of Jesus.

As you look around here, we come from different streams of life, converging together in Jesus and His cross—His death for atonement of our sins—and by the working of the Holy Spirit in us we flow out streams of living water in newness of life into the Negev—the desert of Israel, which also speaks of dry and thirsty souls needing living water which comes only from God.

We look forward to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory. We want to be ready when He comes, whether we are dead or alive, and to have part in that blessed and holy first resurrection. Until then we want to grow in His likeness through faith and obedience to the will of God. Saying that, we believe in knowing and doing our Father’s will, and not in telling Him what to do! We do not focus on health, wealth, and material prosperity as goals for our lives or as signs of special favor with God. The Lord Himself tells us that we will suffer if we live for Him and His ways. We teach to trust God and His Word rather than to trust in yourself, even if in the Name of Jesus.

Our relationships, then, are an issue of great importance. We are to love one another as Jesus has loved each of us/you. We are to help each other mature in our knowledge of God and in our behavior and life-style. We are to obey God’s commandments to prove that we love each other, for His commandments promote true love. If we truly want Israelis to know who Yeshua is, then we will understand how important it is to love one another and other believers in Him. Evangelism is more effective when we express love and unity in our speech and actions.

We may call ourselves by different names: Messianic, Messianic Jews, Christian, believers, Pentecostals, Baptists, Orthodox. Others may call us by different names: Christians, pagan, gentiles. Whatever name, we want to know and for others to know that we believe in, belong to, and follow Jesus Christ the Lord! It is in His name alone that God gives salvation, and it is for Him that God has created and redeemed all things. This congregation owes her existence and hopes to Him, and with His help, we intend to be overcomers by our faith in Him. It gives honor and glory and praise to God when e choose to follow Yeshua in a world that opposes Him and His kingdom.

I pray that you will commit yourselves with us in this congregation to build up His Kingdom in our hearts and lives.

BEER SHEVA AND THE GOSPEL – 8 June 2002

Gen 21:29 – 22:19

   –Beer Sheva a place of covenant, under oath, with other nations of the land
   –Abraham called on YHVH, the Everlasting God
   –from Beer Sheva, God called Abraham to his ultimate test of faith:  to sacrifice his only and beloved
     son, Isaac, on themountHewould show him
   –the Angel YHVH called to Abraham from Heaven, after the interrupted sacrifice, to promise him with
     an oath that in his seed all the nations of the Earth will be blessed (Gal 3:8,16)
   –Abraham and Isaac returned to live in Beer Sheva

We are blessed together to be here today – Jews and Arabs, descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Ishmael, through Jacob and Esau – as heirs of the promise to Abraham by the true God that through his seed, even the Messiah Jesus, YHVH Himself is our exceedingly great reward (Gen 15:1).  Our father Abraham showed that he was prepared by faith to offer up Isaac, in whom all the promises were bound, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, if necessary to fulfill those promises he received.(Heb 11:17-19; Gen 21:12)  Abraham loved YHVH His God!  Isaac loved his father!  Abraham loved his son, for he trusted that God would restore Isaac to himself. 

About 2000 years later, God the Father did sacrifice His only begotten and beloved Son, and did indeed raise Him up from among the dead, in order to confirm all His promises to those who have the faith of Abraham in the Word of YHVH.  What love that God should send His only begotten Son, Jesus, into the world that we might live through Him!  Jesus loved His Father!  God loved His Son, and he loves us as much!

After another 2000 years, we are gathered together here in the Name of Messiah Yeshua as brothers and sisters and joint heirs with Christ in the Father’s Kingdom, for which we also pray that His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  We worship the Lamb of God, through whom today is a blessing for all of us in Beer Sheva, the city of the fathers.  We, too, call on the Name of YHVH, the Everlasting God, and praise Him for who He is to us.

We remember, as we take the Lord’s Supper together, the price of having peace with God and with one another.  In Messiah we are children of God our Father.

Today in Beer Sheva, we confirm the LORD’s promises and blessings that He gave to Jesus, including those which He gave to Ishmael and to Isaac, blessings of hope from the God of all comfort.

We proclaim the good news that Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus Christ is alone worthy to be God’s appointed King, and we serve Him who has bought us with the price of His own precious blood.

BEER SHEVA IS YHVH’s

(Our congregation was attacked by over 1000 ultra-orthodox religious Jewish men, women, and children the following Shabbat after this message was given.)

I have been preaching recently on the need and responsibility we each and all have to dig up the clogged wells of our inner lives in order for the water of life in Christ Jesus to flow freely in us and through us for blessing and fruitfulness unto God our Father. We have a need and responsibility for knowing Him and the Lord Jesus both differently and freshly. This leads us to sing a new song.

Today I want us to consider together a picture which the Holy Spirit gives us through the prophets, and our response to it as those called by God to stand by faith in Him to fulfill His promises – even to Beer Sheva and the Negev.

Read:  Is. 41:17-20

Are you thirsty?  Thirsty for the living water which Yeshua promises to give to drink to all who whole-heartedly come to Him and glorify Him who is seated at the right hand of the Father!?  Do you consider yourself poor and needy for more of God, for more of Jesus in your life and in the life of the congregation?  YHVH, God of Israel, says that He will answer and will not forsake those who trust in Him to satisfy their thirst.  Indeed He will give even more than we could think to ask for.

Many of us are like cactus and like camels – suited to living in the desert, in dry lands.  We do not need water all the time, but we can manage with and preserve the relatively little water that is.  I really think that to make it in Beer Sheva, we need to be like this, and God in His wisdom knows what He is doing when He has called us or sent us to live here.  He, who knows us better than we know ourselves, has seen in our personality and character something that He knows  can endure in a place like this:  it is in our nature, and here we can glorify His Name. (As I think about it, it may also be a place to chasten some of His children who have forgotten Him in wetter circumstances, or who have forgotten that YHVH is also God of the arid zones!).

But even so, the desert is not God’s idea of the Promised Land!  The desert  is a place where He displays His “skills” and His love as a Shepherd – even as the Good and Great Shepherd.  It is a place where He tries and improves our faith and our willingness to humble ourselves to walk obediently and gladly in His ways.  It is a place where He makes us ready to enter into the good land which He has promised to those who love Him.

Beer Sheva is the chief city and the capital of the Negev – the wilderness (ערבה) and desert (מדבר) of Israel, and which covers more than 60% of the land.  Both physically (geographically) and spiritually, B.S. and the Negev represent the general condition of the whole world, which is mostly a spiritually dry wasteland. God wants to bless the world through fulfilling His promises toIsrael.  (Rom 11:11-15)  The Negev has a hope and a future by the Word of the LORD spoken through the prophet Isaiah.

ReadIs. 35:1-7

The Holy Spirit urges us here to be strong and courageous, and not to fear, for God will be for us and with us, even as Jesus reassures His disciples.  We have a rich heritage here in Beer Sheva, beginning with our father Abraham, embracing Jews and gentiles, and on to the great prophet Elijah receiving sustenance in the time of his great despair. (1Kg 19:3-8)  Upon this holy lump, despite present darkness, the sovereign LORD has spoken of a great redemption and future for the wilderness and desert.  It shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.  The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it.

Looking back to the passage in Is. 41, we notice in v. 19 that the LORD will plant different types of trees in the desert and the wilderness. These are not all trees suited to dry lands, but rather to Lebanon, where there is much rain and coolness.  Yet God intends to give such abundance of water in the Negev that even these trees will be able to flourish, and the desert trees will be transformed to thrive with this abundance.  Verse 20 states plainly that people will know that YHVH, the Holy One of Israel, has done it.

Brothers and sisters, do we want the Lord Yeshua the Messiah to be glorified here?  Are we both thirsty enough ourselves and desirous of God’s glory enough to want Him to give us rain from Heaven to make the Negev like Carmel and Sharon?  Do we want the Lord not only to have His cactus plants and camels, but also His cedar trees and cypress, which cannot thrive here except  that He pour out the living water of His Spirit of Holiness?  Physically, the Negev will have to wait for the Kingdom of God to come to earth at the return of the Lord Jesus toIsrael.  Spiritually, God is calling to us to call upon Him to fulfill His purposes in us, the Body of Christ, here…now…that the world will know that we in this small congregation can be witnesses to the truth of Messiah in Jesus:  different trees whom God has planted together, united in the Spirit, loving each other, at peace with each other.

ReadIs. 51:1-3

Believe God’s glad tidings for Beer Sheva and the Negev.  Our son Tal has a middle name, Shimon, because we believe the Lord’s promise to the children and tribes of Israel that Simeon will inherit his portion of the land which includes Beer Sheva. (Ezek 47 – 48)   You who pursue and who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, pray and intercede for our city to become as Eden, the garden of YHVH.  Let God give us a new song to sing as we pray and live in the hope of His great and precious promises.  Beer Sheva belongs to YHVH!  Beer Sheva belongs to the Lord  Messiah, Yeshua the Nazarene, King of the Jews!                 Amen.

WATCHMEN IN/OVER BEER SHEVA AND THE NEGEV – Oct 1998

Ps. 127:1  —  Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain

Watchmen protect and guard the interests of the owner/sovereign – in this case God the Father and His Son Yeshua the Messiah.  In the eternal wisdom of God, His strategy to win the war between the devil and Himself was that the Son of God/Son of Man would come into the world and be nailed to a cross as a sacrifice for sin, making peace through His cross to all who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, the Anointed One of God, who rose from the dead.  We overcome the world by believing in Him.  Our victory is in His victory.  By the poured out blood of Yeshua, God has redeemed (purchased back) the Land of Israel, the whole earth, even the whole of His creation, and has given all authority over it to the Lord Jesus.  The Kingdom of God will come!  Believers are properly watchmen when we stand in faith upon the Word of God regarding the Church and our authority as members of the Body of Messiah in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ to bring conviction by the Holy Spirit of sin, righteousness, and judgment to human beings, whoever and wherever they be.

God’s Interests in Beer Sheva

   –confessing and proclaiming the Name of the LORD Yeshua and make His name known (Jer. 23:27 – “My people have forgotten My Name”) and to sanctify His Name and make it honorable (Ezek. 36:22-23 —  We have profaned and made the Lord’s Name a reproach).  Yeshua the Messiah is LORD to the glory of God the Father!;

   –preaching the good news of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of the Living God;

   –holiness, righteousness, truth, mercy, peace in His people, His children;

   –unity of the Spirit among believers;

   –love towards God’s children and His house, as well as for the lost and the helpless

      –supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks for all persons, and for those in authority, both for our own well-being and for others to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2: 1-6)

Must therefore be aligned with God’s will and purposes

   –the gospel is neither partisan nor sectarian

   –the glory and the honor belong to the Lord Jesus Christ

   –all of God’s promises regarding the people andlandofIsraelwill be fulfilled

–Praying in the Spirit

   –does not require gift of tongues, nor exclude it

   –according to mind and heart of God the Father and the Son, who always pleased Him

   –modeled after the “Lord’s Prayer”

      –love of God firstly; love of neighbors as ourselves; proclamation of God’s Kingdom

Spiritual Warfare:  requires living faith in God’s sovereignty and His righteousness

   –covering the whole wall of the house and the city:  to carry out the work given us to do until the Lord’s return – preserving that which properly belongs to Messiah and the N.T.  inside, while at the same time keeping out what is not His

(I am sharing that part which I have been given presently.  We know in part and even that part is as looking through a cloudy glass.  We should each be able to bear witness to the truth by the Spirit of Truth.)

    –making one’s life a prayer:  submit to God and resist the devil, the flesh, the world

      –humility and meekness

   –not condoning or participating in what you know to be against the LORD and His Anointed One

   –honesty before God and man regarding our own sins and iniquities, but standing by faith in the truth of our justification by the grace of God

   –putting on the whole armor of God, with prayer

   –praise (sacrifice)

   –at various times may be fought on one’s knees, on one’s feet, on one’s face, with fasting

CLOGGED WELLS: UNPAID TITHES AND OFFERINGS

Last week I spoke about digging up our stopped-up wells so that the spiritual life in Messiah can flow through us more freely.  We spoke of some of the “stones, dirt, and garbage” which can clog up our wells.  It had been my intention to speak today on another subject related to God’s purposes for us here in Beer Sheva, but during the week the Holy Spirit convicted me of another stone in both my life and in the congregation’s, which is limiting God in blessing us here as He would want.  It is a subject which is seen from the first pages of history down to these last days, as written for our instruction in the Bible.  

The Lord does not change:  He wants His people to give from their incomes and increases in order for Him to bless us.  From Cain and Abel (Gen 4:4) to Abraham and Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) to Jacob (Gen 28:20-22) to the people of Israel under the whole Tenach (the O.T.:  Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21-24; Dt 12:17-19; 14:22,28-29; 24:19-22; Pr 3:9; Mal 3:8), the believers who feared YHVH understood that all that they had belonged to God, and that they “owed” Him at least 10% (a tithe).  

Under the Law the LORD told Israel through Moses that 10% belonged to YHVH, and was holy to Him.  He instructed the children of Israel to give this 10% for Him to the Levites, who served Him as priests in the Tabernacle/Temple. (Num 18:23-24)  This corresponds to deacons and elders within local Messianic/Christian congregations.  The Levites were to give from this tithe their own tithe as an offering to YHVH, who was their inheritance, rather than a land possession with the other children of Israel.  

The tithes and offerings are God’s “taxes” upon the citizens of His Kingdom to help service the general welfare which His government provided (similar to Mt 22:15-22; Rom 13:1-7):  firstly, to pay the priests their “salaries”, who as a tribe worked every day of the year, while the rest of the tribes only worked 80% of the year, not having to work on Sabbaths and holidays. (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21; 1Tim 5:17-18)  This corresponds to elders who teach, and to other servants who serve regularly and faithfully the local churches on Sabbaths and Sundays.; secondly, to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle/Temple, and for feast days (Dt 12:17-19); thirdly, to care for the poor and the stranger, the widows and fatherless. (Dt 14:28-29)  The first amounted to the “whole tithe”, or 10%; the second and the third raised the total offering to 16%-17%.  The blessing which YHVH promised was based upon these extra donations, which were voluntary.  The tithe was obligatory, a necessary duty upon all.  

Mal 3:7-12   We rob God!  Instead of stealing from Him by not paying our tithes, He wants to give us at least 80%-90% of what is already His.  YHVH is saying to give Him even the minimum of 10%, and He will give us more than enough.  This is grace; He is asking from us the minimum under the Law, and He will bless us, although the Law does not require Him to!  

Give to the Lord, and He will bless in such a way that unbelievers will notice.
Give to God what is rightfully His, and He will increase our income to enable us to bless and help others, to His glory.

Tithing also provides a defense against greed and stinginess.  

So much for the O.T., but what about the New Testament?  Aren’t we under grace now and not the Law?
Mt 23:23-24   justice, mercy, and faith + tithing
Lk 11:42   justice and the love of God + tithing  

So speaks our Lord Jesus.  

If you read 2Cor 8 – 9, Paul instructs Christians regarding giving.  His teaching is based upon the words of the Lord Yeshua, who upholding the principles and commandments of the Word of God as written in the O.T. in this matter, just as He is concerning the promises made to the Fathers connected with the people and the land of Israel.  The apostle in particular praises those who gave more than his own expectation, despite their poverty and affliction, and says that they gave firstly unto the Lord and then to them by the will of God. (2Cor 8:1-5)

Many of us are having financial troubles.  Could it be that we are robbing God?  Many of us have not had a ‘new song’ in a long time.  Could it be that we are robbing God and rejecting His interests in the congregation?   

Mal 3:13-18   God makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve Him and those who do not; the Book of Remembrance is for those who fear YHVH and think of Him.  

2Cor 9:6-15   God will bless the whole-hearted giver, and many will give thanks to God.

May the Lord increase our faith to give more than mere duty – but at least our duty! – and unclog our wells.  Spring up, O well! (Num 21:17)