SOUL SECURITY: MILITARY SERVICE? – 12 Feb 2013

The Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, is facing difficulties forming a new government coalition, partly over the issue of “sharing the burden”.  Sharing the burden here primarily refers to more equality in sharing the economic and military burdens of the country.  The political agenda of Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid (There is a Future), the party receiving the second largest number of votes in the recent elections last month, included in its platform making military service compulsory for most of the ultra-orthodox religious Jewish men who have been exempted in order to ‘study Torah’ (which is not really the Law of Moses or the Old Testament, but rather the Gemara, or commentaries on the Torah by Jewish sages of earlier centuries).  The dilemma is growing as the percent of the ‘haredi‘  population grows, putting a burden not only on the defense of the nation, but also on the cost of paying social welfare subsidies to more and more non-working adult males.

One of the fears of the ultra-orthodox haredi community is the rampant secularism of the military institution, which they fear will negatively impact those young men (and women) with respect to their religious convictions.  It is just on this matter that proclaims the weakness of their rabbinic religion and faith.  Even us among the Messianic community of believers in Yeshua/Jesus recognize the risks at this juncture in the life of our children who generally do go and serve in one of the branches of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces/Tzahal):  the years of military service of 18-21 year-olds is a proving ground and critical turning point in their lives regarding the choices they make for the way in which they will live.

We as believers in Messiah Yeshua are stereotypically accused of belonging to a cult, a deviant religious belief system outside the predominant religious culture, controlling and minutely regulating the lives of the adherents, and threatening to the ‘normative identification’.  In Israel’s case, the predominant religion and culture is Judaism, which denies and rejects the truth of Messiah being Jesus.  Yet, nearly all who identify themselves as of the Messianic Jewish/Christian faith (excluding Arab Christians) in Israel serve in the IDF, defending the country and its people — including the haredim and the Arabs —  as a necessary phase in their lives, not only as citizens, but also in submitting to the civil authority under which we live.

For those who believe in Yeshua, this is part of religious faith, too, in this present evil age, even while we much prefer peace to war, and look with expectation for the Lord’s return to transform this world.  The large majority of the believers in Yeshua here of working age also have jobs whose incomes are taxed by Israel.  We are not cloistered away, but are sent even as sheep among wolves.  (See earlier post on the topic of serving one’s country here:    http://streamsinthenegev.com/latest-news/serving-ones-country-4-july-2012/  )

The tension in Israeli society between the secular and the religious is not between the large majority of Israeli Jews and the small minority of believers in Yeshua, but between the vast majority of seculars who believe that they are just as Jewish as the growing minority of the ultra-religious who claim to be the guardians of Jewish identity.  Which is more the ‘cult’?  According the the Law of Moses, all have a role to play as one people and family to share the burden of hearing YHVH’s voice and doing His will.  Then, there will be an end to civil strife, military conflict, economic struggle . . . and the one true God will be glorified:  Israel will be His people, and He will be their God; and all the nations of the Earth will praise and glorify the God of Israel for what He has done!

THE TEMPLE OF GOD

Tisha b’Av/9th of Av

The Temple is a:
House of God– a dwelling place for the Father and his family
Throne room – King of Righteousness
Seat of judgment — Judge of Righteousness
Holy Place – glory and worship of God

Dt 12:11-14   the place where YHVH God chooses to make His Name abide.  There you shall bring all [of your offerings].
Josh 18:1; Ex 25:40   the Tabernacle – made according to the Heavenly pattern – set up in Shiloh      (for almost 400 years)

2Sam 7:1-7,11,13   David wants to build YHVH a house; God says that He never spoke a word about that to anyone from the tribes of Israel.  The Son of David (not Solomon nor a son of Solomon, but of Nathan Lk 3:31) will build a house for God’s Name, and His throne will be established forever.
2Sam 24:16-25; 1Kg 3:15   Jerusalem the chosen place for the altar of sacrifice to YHVH

1Kg 5:5; 8:27   Solomon directs Hiram to build a house for the Name of YHVH God; the Shechinah Glory was in that Temple, which cannot contain the fullness of the God of the Universe!

Jer 26:6   YHVH declares through Jeremiah that He will destroy the Temple and Jerusalem

2Kg 25:8-9; Jer 52:12-14   the first Temple – the House of YHVH – burned and destroyed by Babylonians in 586 BC

2Chr 36:22-23   Cyrus, King of Persia, commanded by YHVH God of Heaven to let Israelis return to the Land of Israel and build another House of YHVH in Jerusalem

Hag 2:1-9   new Temple built, not as glorious as the first:  the Shechinah Glory was not there!  Destined to be greater than the first temple and to be filled with the glory of YHVH:  Yeshua was there!

Zech 7:4-7; 9:18-19   no more fasting for believers in Messiah on the 9th of Av (the fifth Hebrew month), or in the month of Tishrei (the seventh month); all of these mentioned fasts(and in the 4th and 10th months) have to do with the destruction of the Temple, and the Babylonian invasion and captivity; Messiah Yeshua has brought days of rejoicing instead of mourning

Mt 24:1-2   Jesus prophesied the destruction of the 2nd  Temple, which occurred in 70 AD

Jn 2:19-22   Jesus Himself the Temple in His own body

Mt 12:6   Jesus greater than the Temple

1Cor 6:19-20   born-again believers are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are to glorify God in our     body and in our spirit; sacrifices of thanksgiving, of praise; our bodies a living sacrifice

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dan 9:27; Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:3-4; Rev 11:1-2   the antichrist perverting the Temple of God

Ezek 43:4-12; Mal 3:3   millennial Temple in Jerusalem in the Land of Israel, God’s dwelling place in the midst of the children of Israel, Levites offering sacrifices in righteousness

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Rev 21:1-4,22-23   no physical Temple in the new heavens and new Earth, for YHVH God of Hosts and the Lamb are its Temple.  The glory of YHVH God fills His new creation; God will be all in all!

YESHUA/JESUS IS COMING AGAIN! – 14 Oct 2010

This news is not new!  It is also good news for those who love His appearing!  It is the same “old” news!  It remains current news!

There is a wave of deception entering from without and working within the “Church” connected with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ from Heaven to judge the nations and to establish His righteous reign over Israel and the rest of the world.  Many professing believers/Christians — and some are truly so — are re-defining terms to interpret the Word of God to be saying what He isn’t, or else to not be saying what He is.  The spirit at work in this seeks to de-legitimize both Israel and the gospel in their uniqueness; to make what God calls “new” (as in New Covenant and new creation) only something re-newed or re-cycled; and to weaken doctrinal support not for these only, but also for the hope of the literal and personal return of the same Yeshua/Jesus who ascended in bodily form to sit at the right hand of the Father until the time appointed.

The gospel/good news goes out to “whosoever” from whatever nation and group of people.  God is working to save whosoever repents and believes His good news concerning repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and the free gift of eternal life to all who truly believe.  Any consequential transformation of a society or a culture is only in part and definitely temporary.  Only the return of the Lord to establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth is going to permanently change this situation at a universal level.  Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is working to bring as many as will to have part in the better resurrection, which is the first resurrection, which is far better than merely entering the Millennial Kingdom in the flesh for those of Israel and of other sheep nations who come through the great tribulation without giving themselves over to the antichrist, and upon whom Yeshua will show mercy and compassion at the end of the age.

To make this as simple as possible:  as long as Satan is the god of this world, then the world is not going to be transformed to a degree satisfactory to YHVH God and His Son; and as long as Israel — His chosen people and nation — remains an enemy of the gospel, then the God of Israel is not going to be satisfied with any lesser transformation.  Both of these conditions will prevail until the coming again of Yeshua, and thank God that the Father has set a time for this!

Therefore, it is for true believers not to lose sight of the blessed hope as we go about being light, salt, and a fragrance in the world in the faith, hope, and love that more individuals will have their own heart and minds transformed by that which is the power of God to save:  the gospel.  In God’s Kingdom, every part will be holy in order that all is holy.  It appears that the elect are going to be more and more “hid with Messiah in God”, and not be the most vocal and visible, or high profile, or most popular, or even most ‘influential’.  Even so, come Lord Jesus!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHVH!

No Confidence in the Flesh

Philp 3: 3-11 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in the Messiah Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so. . . .  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Messiah.  Yet indeed I also reckon all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung, that I may gain Christ. . . .

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the 50th day of counting the sheaves of wheat, according to the Law of Moses, which Jesus came to fulfill.  The counting does not begin from the day after His death and burial – or even from the time He descended into the lower parts of the Earth to set free the captives – but rather from the day of His resurrection, from the day after the Sabbath.  We who believe in Jesus as Lord and Messiah are a new creation.  We begin with resurrection life in Messiah and then begin to learn what it is to suffer for His sake, to die with Him to ourselves, to live our lives unto God and His will.

The gospel is not something Jewish, since the Law makes no one righteous, and we can not be justified by the works of the Law.  Neither is the gospel something Greek or gentile, because non-Jews were outside of God’s covenant with Israel, and, according to the Bible, the gentiles worshipped demons and not the one true God.  So we see that the gospel is neither religion nor philosophy, not man’s wisdom or knowledge, not of demons or angels.

If our fellowship with God the Father and His Son Yeshua and with other believers is based upon any of these things esteemed by the world, then this is what Paul calls “having confidence in the flesh”.  Yet Paul claims that to be a true Jew and a true Christian is just the opposite:  “to have no confidence in the flesh”, concerning which he writes that he had more to boast in than others.  Let’s look at his credentials from our passage and consider how they apply to our identity and hope as God’s children.

circumcised on the eighth day

of the race of Israel

of the tribe of Benjamin

a Hebrew of Hebrews

in regard to the Law, a Pharisee

 

as for zeal, persecuting the church

as for legalistic righteousness, blameless

Notice that all of Paul’s “confidence in the flesh” have to do with those things of natural birth, supposed keys to citizenship in God’s Kingdom either through no choice of their own, or either through confidence in choosing the right party.  Everything here takes pride in one’s self, status, giftings, intellect, or else in one’s “team”.

Paul learned that these outward endowments and benefits are not ultimately those which count for eternity, for God is no respecter of persons.  He is after people, like David, who have a heart for Him, whose relationship with Jesus is worth more than whatever else he or she thinks important, who live now with a vision of the everlasting Kingdom of God.  All that is of now, Paul counts as rubbish, and he looks for the glory to come, which is all of God.

Have we learned. . .are we learning. . . to reckon all that makes us feel proud to be but refuse compared to the matchless beauty of the meek and lowly Holy One of Israel?

Let’s close with Paul from v. 12-21 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but one thing:  forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.   Let us therefore, as many as be perfect , be thus minded; and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.   Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.   Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk according to the pattern we gave you. . . . For our citizenship is in Heaven, from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of the humiliation, that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working of His ability even to subject all things to Himself.

ISRAEL IS GOD’S CHOSEN

Oct 2007

“Go Unto All Nations” Magazine

Hong Kong Asso. of Christian Missions

For the first time since the dispersion of the children of Israel almost 2000 years ago, more Jewish people in the world today live in the State of Israel than in any other country.  More than 40% of Jewish people live here.  Close to 68% of the more than 5.4 million Jews who live in the country are native born (sabras).  The modern state is 59 years old, and YHVH God is actively intervening in the affairs of men to bring to fulfillment His covenantal promises and oaths given long ago – as recorded in the Bible – and which He confirmed by the words of the Lord Jesus and of His apostles. (Gen 17:4-8; 26:2-5; 28:13-15; Ezek 36:22-28; Mt 5:17-18; 2Cor 1:20)

“You only have I known.” (Amos 3:2); and, “Israel is my first-born” (Ex 4:22-23).  Israel is a special nation.  It is unique amongst the lands and nations of the world.   There were other nations, such as Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt before Israel came into being, but God has declared Israel – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to be His inheritance (Is 19:25).  YHVH chose the children of Jacob not because they were/are better than the other nations or people groups (that is, the Gentiles), nor because He needed a large number of people to accomplish His purposes to glorify His name and the name of His Son.  (If so, He would have chosen the fathers of those who became the Chinese!)

No, the LORD’s thoughts and ways are not like ours.  The Father of all the families in the world (Eph 3:14-15) chose Israel before they were even a people so that they should not boast about being God’s Chosen People to the hurt or offense of other nations.  God chose us (I am myself a Jew) because He loves us – just as through Messiah He chooses out individuals from every nation and tribe and family in the same manner – and has called us to be a blessing to Himself and to all nations for His holy name’s sake.

This high calling has proven too great for the Israelis to live up to (Acts 15:10), just as it would be for any  other nation or person had God chosen them.  Only Yeshua/Jesus, the Messiah and Son of the living God, only He has completely and fully pleased and satisfied God the Father.  Israel’s hope is going to be realized only through Jesus; the Church’s hope is going to be realized only in Messiah/Christ.  The tension between this destiny of holiness and between being like the gentiles is powerful in these last days.

With this very brief theological and historical background, we can view in perspective the context of life and Christian ministry in Israel.

LIFE OF ISRAELIS TODAY

Despite being the People of The Book, most Israelis and Jewish people around the world are ignorant or unbelieving regarding the covenantal relationship with YHVH. (Ezek 36:16-29)  This results in the present deteriorating conditions of life in the nation.  Not because of Jewish people’s obedience is God fulfilling His perfect plan of redemption of saving His people from their sins, but rather by His mercy and grace for the honor of His holy name.  We are immigrating (making aliyah) from all the countries to which we were scattered.  Jerusalem is considered by God to be the political and religious/spiritual capital of Israel.  But as with the chosenness of the Land and of the People, God’s choice for His city is contested by those who do not have His word in their heart.

Since the beginning, defense has been the top priority of securing Israel’s borders from neighboring Arabic nations – predominately Islamic – who have opposed and resisted the re-establishment of a sovereign Jewish/Israeli state.  YHVH God’s sovereignty over all the nations brings with it both satanic  and human negative reaction!  This emphasis on defending the nation and her borders from continuous wars and rumors of war has burdened the population with high taxes.  The cost of living in Israel is very high.  The standard of living is a mix of first and third worlds.  Compared to her immediate neighboring countries, Israel surpasses them all in providing a relatively high standard for her citizens.  At the same time, wages are low, sometimes oppressively so.

Israel’s economy is no longer based on agriculture, as it was in its first 30 years, but has shifted to high-tech research and development, in which she excels in a number of areas. In the Negev Desert southern region of the country, much desert research and application of water use and irrigation is carried out through Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.  Music and the arts play a major role in the cultural life of Israelis.  All these talents and works are beneficial to other nations also, but Israel’s calling as the Chosen People of God is to honor and glorify YHVH as a holy people, and to serve the other nations to bless them for His holy name’s sake!

Modern medicine is practiced at a high level, and is provided at low cost to most members of the society without distinction.  Although Israel is located at the western edge of Asia, her political and economic models are western oriented.  Educational institutions of higher learning are very competitive in receiving applicants.  The cost of education continues to grow, placing a further burden on the normal wage earner.

The stereotypical path for many Israeli youth is that they finish high school at age 18, go into the compulsory military service for two years (girls) or three years (boys); upon completion of their duty they travel to other far parts of the world, often to the east, or to South America; then [the parents hope!] they return to Israel to study, get married, and continue their lives.

Israel and the Jewish people are an interwoven cross-cultural fabric which God is making and forming to be a praise to His name.  We come from many different cultures which we acquired over our long years of exile:  many languages, skin colorations, cuisines, styles of music, art, literature.  Israel is truly a masterpiece in the making!

RELIGIOUS LIFE

Some people have the mistaken impression that the Israeli people live holier lives than people from other nations.  When they visit the “Holy Land”, they have been disappointed or even disillusioned to find Israelis acting in ways unsuited to the “holy people of God”.  This is a cause of stumbling for even many Christians who do not understand the prophetic word given by the Holy Spirit through Ezekiel (36:24-27) that [most of] the Jewish people would be brought back in unbelief and living in the manner of gentiles to the land of promise before the Lord would cleanse them of all their uncleanness.  Israel today is primarily a secular society with lots of authority in the hands of ultra-orthodox religious and political parties and leading rabbis (Jewish spiritual leaders and teachers).  Believers in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God make up a negligible percentage of the population (much less than 1%).

Significant issues governing life and cultural events are regulated by orthodox halacha (rules and regulations for every facet of living):  for example, determining who is Jewish from birth; who has legal authority to marry in a Jewish wedding; who/what legitimizes divorces; who conducts burial ceremonies.  The orthodox Jews fall into many streams within the religion of the Jews.  Some do not even recognize the existence of the current nation, because to them the Messiah has not yet come!  (Of course He has!)  Others accept the State, but refuse military duty, and receive exemptions to study in yeshivot (Jewish religious seminaries).  And then there are those who are religious Zionists, believing that this land is ordained by God for the Jewish people, and that the Jews must defend and preserve it by all legitimate means sanctioned by law – and sometimes in ways deemed unlawful.

Other streams of Judaism, such as Reform and Conservative, are seeking to gain legitimacy in Israeli Jewish law, and have had a very limited amount of success till now.  In other religions – including Christianity – there are many similarities to the way in which Jewish people conduct themselves in the affairs of God and man.  The Jewish people are a glimpse of humanity.  It is important that believers in Jesus recognize this when looking at – even judging – the Israeli Jewish people.

There is something of a religious/spiritual revival in Israel, but not yet a return to YHVH God Himself, and especially not in the full repentance of believing the gospel.  There is very much a looking eastward (Ezek 8:15-16) by many Israelis, seeking spiritual meaning in forms of eastern religions and various New Age expressions.  Nothing has changed much since Moses and the Prophets warned Israelis not to follow the ways of the heathen, but to keep covenant with the one true God who created them for His own glory.

KOSHER FOOD

One of the main features of Israeli culture is kashrut, or, religiously acceptable food for eating.  Part of this dietary custom is based on the Law of Moses regarding the types of food – especially with respect to meat, fowl, and fish – which YHVH God of Israel allowed or forbade for His people to eat (Lev 11).  Many Israeli Jews, whether religious or not, will “keep kosher” in their homes, and many restaurants have kashrut licenses so that religious Jews will know that the food there complies with regulations.  These regulations also include, in rabbinic Judaism, the separation of meat and dairy in food production, storage, consumption.  This is based on a misunderstanding of the commandment “do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Ex 23:19), and has led to all sorts of religious regulations requiring, for example, separate dishes and silverware for either meat or for dairy products; separate refrigerators and sinks, as well.  These rabbinic restrictions place a financial burden on many people and also in their eating habits, and upon their conscience as “good Jews”, and their freedom to eat other people’s food preparations and provisions.  Under the New Testament in Messiah, Yeshua has broken down this wall of enmity between Jews and Gentiles, making it possible to be sent as “missionaries” anywhere in the world, and to be free to eat socially and sociably with all people, giving thanks to God, to whom belongs the Earth and all its fullness! (1Cor 10:25-33)  The Lamb and His blood have made us kosher!

One of the main weapons which ultra-orthodox authorities will use against restaurants, banquet halls, and conference centers is to threaten to invalidate their kashrut license, which for many of these establishments would mean losing their ability to remain open and operate successfully.  This legal sanction is used not only lawfully against violators of dietary regulations, but also against such businesses who, for example, host Messianic/Christian events, especially those sponsored by local Israeli believers.

THE SABBATH

The Sabbath day (Saturday; the 7th day of the week) is the blessed and sanctified day which God made a sign between Him and Israel (Gen 2:3; Ezek 20:12).  YHVH gave Israel the Sabbath to observe to remind His people that He is the Creator of the universe in six days (Ex 20:11), and also that He is the Redeemer and Deliverer (Dt 5:15).  It is a covenant sign for Israel to remember YHVH’s work in this creation, whereas the Church is a witness to the new creation in and through Christ, and to the eternal New Heavens and New Earth to come for all who are the Lord’s.  Thank God for the day after the Sabbath! While the Sabbath continues to bear a certain difference from other days of the week in Israel, it has become more and more like any other day throughout most of the country, except for a few ultra-religious pockets in parts of the nation, such as the Mea Shearim section in Jerusalem, and Bnei Brak in the Tel Aviv area.  Religious Jews today will not drive a car on Shabbat; will not smoke (if they do on other days); will not write; will not spend money; will not use a phone, turn on electrical switches, or cook a meal.

The spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of unsaved Jewish people everywhere today is fought over the issue of ultimate authority:  does it belong with the teachings and traditions of man; or does it lie with the Word of God as written in the Tanach (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings) and the New Testament?  According to the Lord Messiah Himself, more Jews would believe in Him if they believed what Moses and the Prophets wrote! (Lk 16:29-31; Jn 5:44-47)

There is a sense, similar to the time surrounding the lifetime of Jesus, that people are “waiting for Messiah to come”.  Street signs and car bumper stickers even proclaim this!  We are in the last days when many false messiahs will come on the scene, promising peace. (Mt 24:4-5)  Within one sect of “mainstream” Judaism – Chabad – many believe that their rabbi, who died in 1994 at an old age and never was in Israel, is the Messiah.  Even today they actively promote his picture and his teachings as if he is the Messiah for the Jews.  Others are looking for a political or military leader.  Yeshua said that Israel would accept someone “coming in his own name”, but that He “comes in the name of His Father”, in the name of YHVH (the LORD)! (Jn 5:43; Mt 23:39)

MESSIANIC BELIEVERS

The Jewish believers in Yeshua/Jesus in Israel go by – and are called – several names:  Jewish believers in Jesus; Messianic Jews (Yehudim Meshichi’im); Hebrew Christians (Ivrim Meshichi’im); Christians (Meshichi’im or Notzrim); traitors and infidels.  Depending on who is saying what to whom, the description can sometimes be clear as a reference to faith in Yeshua; sometimes it is not clear; sometimes it carries a negative connotation.  Even the Chabad Jews who believe in the Lubavitch Rebbe are considered Messianic Jews since they are Jews who believe in a Messiah.  Therefore, it becomes a matter of great importance that we distinguish ourselves as believers in Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah, based on the Bible.  The Lord tells us that if He was called names of dishonor, so, too, would we if we are of His household (Mt 10:24-26).

There are no definite figures as to how many Jewish believers in Jesus there are in Israel, but the overall number of evangelical believers is somewhere between 10,000-11,000.  At present there are over 100 congregations/churches within the Messianic Jewish community.  Most Jews still come to faith through the witness of Gentile Christians, but an increasing number are being brought to repentance and faith through the testimony of friends, or through reading books – often those which tell of Jews who became believers.  And now, of course, many more families are bringing up their children in the knowledge and way of the Lord.

Many of the congregations use the Hebrew language as the primary language within the services, but there are many in which Russian is the “official” language for worship and teaching/preaching.  In our own congregation, Hebrew is the unifying language, and we provide translations into Russian and into English.  More than half of the members of our congregation are from a Russian-speaking background.  Everyone is encouraged to learn and to use Hebrew as much as possible, since we live in Israel and Hebrew is our common tongue.  Praise God for helping us, since still most believers in Israel are immigrants who have come from other countries, speaking Spanish, Rumanian, Amharic (Ethiopian), etc.

A growing number of native-born Israelis are repenting and believing the gospel, but they still make up a very small minority within the whole Body of Messiah in Israel (not to mention in the world!).  As God brings more of the Gentiles to saving faith in Jesus, we should expect to see more Jews being saved on the way to that Day approaching when all Israel – the full remnant from all the tribes – will be saved when they see Him whom they have pierced.  (Rom 11:25-27; Rev 7:4-8; Zech 12:10)

The believing community in Israel has developed remarkably in the past 25 years.  There is a much greater awareness within Israeli society that Jews do and can believe in Jesus and still retain our identity as Jews.  Hundreds of books have been written in or translated into Hebrew to help inform and educate believers in our knowledge of the Lord and of our walk of faith.  Summer camps for children have multiplied to meet the growing number of children from believing families, as well as to fit the varied interests and expressions of the Messianic body.  Youth conferences, soldiers’ conferences are organized every month, sometimes every week somewhere around the country within the Body of Christ.  Uncountable local and international leadership events and prayer gatherings take place regularly and frequently in Israel.  It has reached the point where we have too many good things to choose from!  Our Father in Heaven is surely pleased whenever He sees barriers which Jesus broke down being enjoyed, as brethren are expressing His reconciliation through the blood of the cross in unity and love between Jewish and Arab believers; and as different streams within the Body – charismatic, Pentecostal, “baptistic” – rejoice in opportunities to mix in humility and love for the sake of the name of Yeshua and of the gospel.

There are now more believers serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) than at any other time in her modern history.  As the generation of fathers and mothers has grown and multiplied, so have our children come of age to enter military service in larger numbers.  This provides the believing soldiers a stronger support network, as well as real-life situations in which to mature in their faith and relationship with the Lord, to demonstrate the truth of the faith through their own life and conduct, and to share with those who still do not know the one true God and His only-begotten Son.  It is a key stage of transition from youth to becoming young men and women.

Evangelizing in Israel is technically legal, but is still viewed with much suspicion and disfavor by the majority of society.  Anyone who witnesses about his/her faith to others with the intent to persuade them that Yeshua is the truth is considered a missionary, which is a very negative term here.  There are laws against adults knowingly witnessing to minors (not their own children), that is, to those under the age of 18.  Of course, minors can speak of their own faith with others in their age group, such as at school.   Reasonable laws also exist to prohibit offering any bribe or other inducement or promise of material gain as a means to cause someone to “change his religion”.  We are often falsely accused of doing such things, but God cannot be deceived, and He knows the heart of every person.

The most effective way that is used to show Jewish people why we believe in Jesus as Lord and Messiah is through the prophesies given in the Old Testament.  Some key passages which are often referred to are Isaiah 53; Jeremiah 31:31-37; Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:24-27.  These portions have historically been accepted as Messianic – applying to the Messiah – and so have much credibility to influence someone to re-consider his “inherited” prejudice and ignorance regarding them.

There are anti-missionary groups, such as Yad L’Achim (Hand to the Brothers) and Lev L’Achim (Heart for the Brothers), which aggressively operate to prevent Jewish evangelism.  They employ strategies and tactics to discourage, and even intimidate, Jews from hearing the gospel and from attending Messianic worship services.  Little has changed since the New Testament was written, and just as false witnesses and false accusations were used against Yeshua or against Paul in a futile effort to stop the spread of God’s good news, so today similar methods are used against the evangelical Messianic community.  In different cities around Israel, and in different congregations over the years, there have been various degrees of persecution and harassment to disrupt life, and at times to the extent of loss of jobs or the ruin of businesses.  Bible book stores have been burned; congregational facilities have been destroyed by arson; windows have been broken in homes; believers have been publicly insulted and humiliated simply because of their faith in Jesus.  Violent demonstrations and riots have occurred at Shabbat services; baptisms have been forced to be carried out in other places due to measures used by such anti-missionary groups.  Some of these situations have been taken to court, with mixed results.

Surely there are those amongst these groups that do fear God, while many are innocents caught up in a spiritual battle which they do not realize or understand.  Others are simply rabble-rousers who are willing to make trouble for a price.  We know that Saul – before he was Paul – was such a God-fearing Jew who was sent out by religious/political authorities to persecute the beginning church.  He did a good job!  Then one day, by the grace of the living God, Yeshua was revealed to him and he repented and believed, giving the rest of his life to suffer for the sake of the name of Him whom he had been blaspheming.  So, too, we believe that there are amongst these anti-missionary forces some who truly fear God and believe with all their heart that it is right that they oppose the Holy Spirit and the gospel.  And we also believe that God, in His lovingkindness, will also reveal to them the truth about His Son, and change their hearts and spirits to love the One they now hate without cause.  Meanwhile, the believers need to trust the Lord, loving Him above all things – even our own lives – and to grow more into the image of God through blessing those who curse us, praying for those who persecute us, loving our enemies – all this for the sake of Yeshua who died for our sins while we were His enemies, not knowing what we were doing.

Over the course of years in struggling for the right to be considered as Jews while accepting Jesus to be the Messiah and Savior, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled against the legitimacy of that idea.  They base their judgment on historic precedents and perceptions:  that for a Jew to believe in Yeshua is to forsake Jewish identity and the Jewish people. (Jn 9:22; 12:42)

Religious and political interests which oppose the gospel have tried several times to change existing legislation, or to make new laws, which would further restrict the liberty to evangelize or preach the gospel to the Jewish people.  Thankfully these efforts have not yet succeeded, but the intent to do so is strengthening.  This is a matter for prayer that the Lord would prepare the believers to remain faithful to the Great Commission which He left us with to carry out until the end of the age.

Gentile Missions

What can Gentile groups do to engage in Jewish ministry?  Firstly….pray.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; pray for reconciliation between Jewish and Arab believers; pray for Israel and the Jews to repent and return to their God through the only Way – Jesus – and so find true peace and security through the forgiveness of their sin.

As Gentile believers, the Holy Spirit has given inspired instructions for reaching out to Jews for their salvation.  The New Testament is based upon what was written in the Old.  Therefore, it is important to know the whole Bible when speaking to Jews about Yeshua, as they are usually ignorant of their own Scriptures, but in their souls they know that they speak to them as God’s chosen people.

The specific role of non-Jewish Christians is to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom 11:11) by your humble and thankful relationship with the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob through knowing the truth about who Jesus is.  Gentile believers can express to the Jews that they love Israel and Jewish people because of their faith in Jesus as Messiah and the Savior whom God promised.

The Jewish person may not respond in a way or as quickly as hoped for.  The Apostle Paul teaches the necessity, therefore, of also showing mercy to them (Rom 11:30-32) because of the great mercy shown to you by God.  Gentile believers can also support Jewish ministry through financial gifts to the believers.  (Rom 15:26-27)  This helps the many Messianic believers who live near poverty levels to know they are loved and blessed by their brethren, and to enable them to maintain even a very modest level of living and to be freer to serve the interests of the Lord.  Too often well-meaning Christians want to “bless Israel” by donating money to Jewish institutions, some of which actually discriminate against the believers!  Should there be a desire to bless unbelieving Israel in this manner, then it is best to give first through the local believers, and allow them to give to suitable organizations in your name and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This puts a local personal face of the Messianic/Christian community as the channel of blessing Israel.

Finally, you can come as tourists and see for yourselves what God is doing with living stones!  Visiting the Holy Land makes the Bible a very personal book, as places and geography written about in the Holy Scriptures become familiar.  Jesus was born in Israel (Mt 2:20-21); He grew up and ministered in Israel; He was crucified, buried, and resurrected in Israel; this same Yeshua will return to Israel to establish God’s Kingdom on Earth!  Even so, come Lord Jesus! 

The Joy of Fellowship in the Truth of God’s Love – 1 Oct 2004

1Pet 1:3-9 we rejoice greatly in Him whom we love for saving our souls

On the Day of Atonements last Shabbat, the Jewish believers amongst us then did a very significant thing (Neh 9:2):  we accepted and confessed our sin and rebellion against YHVH our God (Lev 26:40) and against His Son, the Messiah Jesus (Mt 27:25).

As priests of God in Christ – and as sons of our fathers, whether in the time of Moses or whether in the days of Yeshua – we have a responsibility to accept our personal and collective guilt for our iniquity, transgressions, and sins against God and against our fellow man (Lev 16:11,15,17,21).  We are connected to our people both in promises and in judgment, according to God’s covenants with us.  God has an historic plan of redemption throughout the generations and history of man to bring about His purposes to live with all those who love His Son, Jesus Christ, and know Him as Savior and Lord.

All of the appointed times of YHVH – Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot, Succot – remind Jews (and Christians) that the Creator redeemed and delivered His people Israel from bondage in Egypt (Dt 16:6,12; Lev 23:43).  They are also based upon sacrifices of blood, the blood of covenant with God and His people.

As I have mentioned times before, the Passover was a sacrifice and a deliverance by grace and power, apart from the reckoning of sin.  But it did require faith and obedience on the part of the Israelis in Egypt to put the blood of the slaughtered lambs upon their door posts and remain inside their homes.  From Shavuot, with the giving of the Law, the people became aware of the holiness and righteousness of the great God and Savior who had saved them and promised to give them the land which He promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob and to their descendants.  The people of Israel “became” sinners, who had to offer all kinds of sacrifices in acknowledgement of his or her sin and guilt and defilement.  The Day of Atonements was the national day of corporate cleansing by the Holy God through the sacrifice of the goat to YHVH and the sending away to live in the wilderness the other goat to Azazel, laden with all the sins of the children of Israel.  This, too, is all of grace, but requiring the personal application of the Israeli to him-/herself, lest he/she disqualify himself from inclusion as a member of the family of God.

Now we come to the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated with great rejoicing (Dt 16:13-15), because not only is the final harvest of fruit gathered, but God Himself will dwell in the midst of His people! (Ezek 37:21-28; Lev 26:11-13).  The sacrifice has been accepted, and the people rejoicing in the goodness and love of the Lord!

For us now as believers in Jesus, we have a better sacrifice and already enjoy the pledge of the fullness of God’s presence with us.  The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and there is great joy in the love of the Father when we live with thanksgiving by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross when He died for our sins.  There is great joy to know God’s power working on our behalf, and of His righteous ways.  The blood of the Son of God cleanses our conscience, which all the blood of animals could not and will not accomplish.

The booth (succa) reminds us of our temporary life here, both in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, and in our actual lives as we anticipate the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection.  Through it all, God keeps us and provides for us as we look up at His wondrous creation and consider the ultimate expression of love in giving us His Son for the propitiation of our sins.  The Kingdom of God is presently within us, yet there is joy.  How much more so when the Lord Yeshua returns to bring the Kingdom to Earth, and with it righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit!  All the nations which survive along with the remnant of Israel will be blessed by the presence of the Lord in their midst.  And to demonstrate this – and their understanding that this is all of the one true God – all the nations will come up to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles to worship the King, YHVH of Hosts!

As we celebrate today Succot, we also celebrate with the Lord’s Supper, which is a prophetic reminder that the Lamb who was slain, and for doing so has received all power and authority and blessing and honor and a Name above every name. . . this same Yeshua who ascended up into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father will Himself return to establish God’s Kingdom in Israel and over the whole Earth and universe!

Come, Lord Jesus!

Yom HaKippurim – Day of Atonements – 18 Sept 2004

Day of Atonements and Understanding the Centrality of Our Faith

For us who believe in Jesus and the New Covenant, understanding the Messianic roots through the Old Testament given to Israel helps us to see some of the details that are supplied to grasp more fully the fulfillment which is in Jesus and His sacrificial atoning death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

Simply stated, the King of Glory (Ps 24) – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Gen 49:8-12; Rev 5:4-7), the Ram whom God supplied as a burnt offering (Gen 22:9-19), the Lamb slain who sits on the Throne (Rev 5) – humbled Himself by clothing (identifying) Himself in the likeness of sinful flesh – as a Goat! (Lev 16; Rom 8:3-4; Mt 25:31-46) – and willingly offered (sacrificed) Himself in purity and without blemish unto God as a sin and guilt offering, shedding His own blood, to the glory of God the Father, and taking upon Himself all of our iniquities, transgressions, and sins in order to be the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe, that we might live with the Holy Father – indeed, that God may live with and in us.

Lev 16: 29-34; Heb 10: 11-23 N.T. in Messiah our everlasting reality of annual Day of Atonements

Lev 23: 28-30; Rom 11: 25-27 anyone not appropriating the God-provided sacrifice personally, and so  afflicting his own, is cut off from the people corporately.  Jesus died for the whole world, but especially for those who believe.  All Israel are those who, when they see Him whom they pierced, accept the covenant blood sacrifice.

Lev 16: 5-10; Jn 10: 17-18; 11: 49-50 Living scapegoat bearing all the iniquities, transgressions, sins of Israel, and Israel being atoned for on the basis of the accepted blood sacrifice of the first goat unto the LORD; two goats. . .one sin offering; atonement (reconciliation) and the effectual removal of guilt and uncleanness from the camp on the innocent goat — made sin for us – sent alive into the desert as a witness and testimony of the accepted sacrifice by God of the first goat slain.

We are to be with Jesus, outside the camp, willing to bear with Him His reproach, which falls on us who believe in Him.  He is worthy! (Heb 13:12-14)

Memorial of Shouts

Lev 23:24; Num 29:1 YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the one of the month, you shall have a sabbath rest, a Memorial of Blowing of Trumpets, a holy convocation.

Mt 24:29-31,36 Immediately after the tribulation (see v.21) of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the Earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . .But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven, but My Father only.

1Cor 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mysterywe shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1Thes 4:15-18 For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord:  that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Messiah will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Ps 50:3-6 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all all around Him.  He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His peopleGather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.  Let the Heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge.

Rev 10:6-7 But in the day of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God will be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

Rev 11:15-19 Then the seventh angel sounded [the trumpet], and there were loud voices in Heaven saying, The kingdoms of this world have become of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever.”  And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O YHVH God of Hosts, the One Who Is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned.  The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants – the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your Name, small and great – and should destroy those who destroy the Earth.”  Then the Temple of God was opened in Heaven, and the Ark of His Covenant was seen in His Temple.  And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

Next  week begins what the Jewish people call the New Year, but what the Bible calls the Memorial of Shouts, or of the Blowing [of Trumpets].  This is one of the appointed times of the LORD, and is the beginning of the final set of holy-days to bring Israel to confession of sin and repentance, unity as a people, to put away evil, bring in the harvest of the righteous, and to re-establish God’s Kingdom in Israel and over all the nations of the world (Ps 2).  These times of the LORD to Israel help us as believers in Jesus and the New Covenant to understand God’s plan of redemption and salvation, and His calendar for when these things will be.  The Mishna teaches the Jewish people that the time of the blowing of the trumpets through the Day of Atonements are the “days of awe”, days of judgment when all the inhabitants of the world pass before YHVH God, like flocks of sheep:  They either are chosen to live or to die, depending on their righteousness.

Many Bible teachers connect the “Feast of Trumpets” as marking the time of the rapture of the Church, that this is the next event as far as believers are concerned.  This is both right and wrong!  It is right in that there is a connection between the two; it is wrong to say it marks the time it will happen.  This can be said with certainty because of what is written in Lev 23:24—giving a specific day—and in Mt 24:36—saying that the day is unknown.  Num 10: 1-10 instructs Israel that the blowing of trumpets is for a purpose and also as a memorial for them before God.  They will remember their special covenantal relationship with the LORD, and He will remember them to deliver them from their enemies.

As Jesus has Himself, as the Savior, fulfilled the appointed times of Passover – Unleavened Bread – First Fruits – the beginning of Harvest in their sequence and times; if He is presently by the Holy Spirit fulfilling His work of grace and truth since Weeks/Pentecost; then we should expect that Trumpets – Atonements – the beginning of Booths/Tabernacles will be fulfilled by God in their sequence and times – a matter of days and weeks at the end of the age — as Yeshua is revealed to be the King of the Jews and of all the surviving nations.

As believers in Jesus we are not subject or bound to times and seasons (Acts 1:7; Gal 4:9-11; Col 2:16-17; 1Thes 5:1-10).  Think about it a moment:  if the Lord were to take up the believers to Himself at the time of the new moon of the seventh month, then satan would be waiting and watching on that day each year to guard his household, and believers would be waiting, too.  And if the Lord did not take us up this year, for example, then we would not be expecting Him for at least another year, along with the devil!  Yet we are plainly warned not to wait for a certain day or hour, because this is God’s secret, but rather to hope in faith and love and do His work until He comes, as a servant would His lord or as a bride would her groom.  We can “hasten” the day by wanting Him to come while living in obedience with faith until then! (Heb 9:28)

Israel, though, does have a set time in her calendar given by YHVH Himself to remember a shout (תרועה) at the beginning of the seventh month and preceding the Day of Atonements.  What shout is Israel to remember?  It is here that I want to suggest that God is waking up Israel with this memorial,

  1. to acknowledge and recognize that YHVH God of Hosts has indeed entered the battle to deliver His saints – Jewish and gentile believers who hold faith in Yeshua without seeing — out of the hands of the enemy and of the great tribulation – at the sounding of the 7th trumpet;
  1. to prepare herself for coming judgment and wrath – and the hope of mercy – through repentance and fear for rejecting the truth of God spoken through Moses and the prophets, and especially by Jesus Himself (Jn 15:22), regarding the Messiah, who is none other than Jesus. (Zech 12:10; Lev 23:29; 26:40-42); and
  1. to call upon the name of YJVH, Yeshua the Messiah the Nazarene, for salvation and deliverance out of Jacob’s Trouble, the great tribulation. (Jer 30:7; Mt 24:21-22; Num 10:9; Mt 23:39)

As in the days of bondage in Egypt, the LORD will hear the heart cry of His people in their affliction, and will send the One greater than Moses – Messiah Yeshua – to save His people from their oppressors (Num 10:9) and from their sin and uncleanness on the Day of YHVH, the Day of Atonements.

As believers, we can continue to pray for God to reveal the truth about Yeshua now to the Jews (and Arabs and other gentiles), so that as many as possible can have their part in the first resurrection.

As believers, we do not wait for holidays to direct our lives but rather by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us each and every day, that we, too, will be ready and not ashamed when the Son of Man comes.

Unity Through Love – 26 May 2004

Jn 17: 11-26

The Scroll of Ruth is read in the synagogues this holiday.  It is a story of love and mercy:  of someone “outside” – even poor and a stranger (זר) – who was brought “inside”.  She was chosen, but she also chose:  to belong to the treasured people of YHVH God, and to place all her future and hopes in their God.  About 1970 years ago, more than 3000 persons who were separated from God because of their unbelief and sins were brought into His Kingdom of light and love.

Our being here today from around the Negev, and even including Jerusalem and Ashkelon, is no mere circumstance.  As believers in Yeshua we were born again when we repented and believed in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, now seated at the right hand of the Father.  We come into the faith of Messiah who has already come, and who will come again at the time God has set to fix and restore all things (Acts 3:21).  We are joined with those from nearly 2000 years ago – and even before – to God through Messiah.

Just as Jesus had to die, like a grain of wheat must in order not to be alone but to bear much fruit to bless many,  so too are we who believe and been baptized, baptized into His death so that we can walk in newness of life, being a blessing to many for the sake of the name of our Lord and Savior.  For this God has given us the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the church – the Body of Messiah:  you, me, all from out of every nation, tribe, language who have received the same precious faith by the righteousness of God.  Just as Yeshua rose from the dead, so we have this living hope, and it is the Spirit of Christ in us that is a baptism unto life eternal!  We join ourselves to all who are called by the name of Messiah and all our hopes are in Him who is Head over the church in all things and lives amongst us through His Spirit.

There is no Pentecost – and no Holy Spirit – no life in Messiah Jesus apart from faith in His death on the cross for our sins and in His resurrection.  By grace the Father has given us the Spirit to sanctify for His Son a beautiful, spotless, blameless Bride…full of love and peace and joy for our Lord and Husband. . .and full of love and peace and joy for each one whom Jesus chooses to be part of His body, His bride.

So we are here today, brothers and sisters in Messiah, to demonstrate our unity by our love.  Let Israelis know; let Palestinians know; let anyone/everyone else know that Jesus, the only begotten Son of God sent to us as Savior, He is Lord of lords and King of kings!

Let us pray for a fresh and double outpouring of the Holy Spirit now near the end of the age, as we humble ourselves and repent for all our sins which bring reproach to the Name of our Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ.  As He Himself prayed, let us show our unity by love for each other, and so fulfill His joy and ours.

The Whole World Revolves Around Jesus – 27 Dec 2003

John 1:1-5,10-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This past and coming week the whole world is reminded that Jesus Christ was born.  Not only did millions—perhaps billions—celebrate that this most unique person came into the world, but in a few days time, all will also acknowledge His influence when this year 2003 ends and the next 12-month period begins.  Modern history and global culture revolve around this Man—Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday I went up to Bethlehem with some of the medical students and my two sons.  As you remember, the congregational offering from a few weeks ago was set aside to help provide toys for children living in the Bethlehem area.  That was done, and there was a sense of joy and satisfaction in doing that in the name of the Lord Jesus.  I was able to visit the homes of some Palestinian Arab Christian friends who live in Beit Jala.  They were blessed and encouraged that someone “from the other side” would come during these times of troubles, and also be of one spirit with them to celebrate Jesus at this special time for believers.  With your permission, I was pleased to give them a gift from the congregation here to their children’s center, Beit Halika, to bless them in the work they do as believers.

The Manger Square, where the festivities of Christmas Eve take place, was full of people, but not as in earlier years before the intifada.  Despite being warned not to identify myself as an Israeli, God provided opportunities to do so, even to a policeman from Hebron with whom I had a conversation about the weather!  I could also testify of the birth of Jesus as the reason we came, when asked at the checkpoints.  They wouldn’t let me in as an Israeli, but as an American.  Praise God!  Even the apostle Paul found it helpful to have dual citizenships!

What was very evident at Manger Square was the political exploitation of the celebration of the Savior of the world to express anti-Israel slogans, whether hanging on banners from the roof and walls of buildings, or from the Christian patriarch at the midnight Church service, which was broadcast around the world.  Just as Israel did not receive her King Messiah when He was born until this day, so do many of those in the Church today still not know Him, who was born and died to be the King of the Jews.  The apostle John expressed it well:  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.  It is truly saddening to see the Glory of God being “darkened” by the false prophets of this world.  The Lord Jesus told us that His Kingdom is not of this world.  The Holy Spirit expressly says through the Scriptures that such would be the situation in these last days.

We who believe are called – not to be lukewarm, not to be nationalistic and militant, but rather to be witnesses of Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the Son of God who is Heir of all things.

It is not certain what will come upon us during 2004.  We do know that the time will come for the one to be called the antichrist, and it is written of him that he will change the times and law (Dan 7:25).  Who knows, the day may come when the year will not be marked by the birth of Jesus by those in authority.  And even now, laws are proposed and passed to change laws in western Christian nations to make it illegal to publicly express or display faith in the one true God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

As we look ahead to the next year and wish for others and ourselves a “happy and good year”, let us bear in mind that what is happy and good according to the world or to our flesh is not necessarily what will make for a blessed year according to God our Savior.  He wants more people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  If you were to say that to unbelievers as you wish for them a happy and good year, they would not understand it that way!  The Lord wants us to grow more mature in the faith, and often that comes only through suffering – trials and tribulations – of some sort or other.  That is not what we usually consider as we wish each other, and ourselves, a good and happy year!

But God has a plan to bring honor and glory and praise to His Anointed One—Jesus—by whom all things were made, including us.  I do pray and wish for each one of you, and for all of us together, a good and blessed year for the sake of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Peace be upon Israel in our days!