July 23, 2013
"For He Himself is our peace, who made groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." -Ephesian 2:14-15
The LORD is literally fulfilling His prophecies in Israel before our very eyes as a team of 14 of us from all over the world had the incredible privilege to witness! It is true that the LORD continues to pursue His first Chosen People - the Jewish people. He is using the Gentile nations to make Israel jealous and draw them unto Himself! While it is very true that the majority of Jews in Israel are very resistant to accepting Yeshua as the "Son of God" and their "Messiah,” there are Jews that are turning their hearts to HIM and accepting Yeshua as their Lord and Savior in miraculous ways! Many Christian missionaries in Israel struggle with seeing the initial fruit of their labor and claim that the most difficult people to minister to are the Jews. However, they believe that their mission is to plant seeds and spread the Gospel for the preparation of God's appointed time to act in the last days. GOD's manifested Truth and Presence is so prevalent in Israel. We had the blessing of hearing the testimony from a Jew who became a believer after Jesus literally appeared to Him just like Paul on the road to Damascus! At first, this Jewish man was resistant to the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah due to his Jewish roots and many Jews believing that if they become "Christians" then they will lose their Jewish identity. The Lord however, kept working on his heart and as a result, he became a follower of Christ and is now an evangelist for Christ to his own people! We had another major blessing of hearing a testimony from a Gentile, a United States pastor who used to work on Broadway with many Hollywood celebrities in New York. The LORD revealed Himself to his man and he became a disciple of Yeshua! He married an American, Jewish woman who also became a believer and GOD supernaturally brought them to Israel to open up a drug rehab center for Jews and Muslims which has now increased to the building of a church, a women's shelter, and a school of ministry. GOD has brought hundreds of Jews and Muslims to this church and drug rehab center where He has literally, supernaturally restored them from drug addiction and they have become Christians! Jews, Muslims, and Gentiles are coming together through this ministry to worship and serve our GOD. We attended one the of Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath on Saturdays) services at their church right on the very top of Mount Carmel which is where Elijah called fire down from Heaven. Their visions and calling from the LORD was the fulfillment of "one new man" that is from Ephesians 2:14-15 in which the New Covenant no longer distinguishes Jew from Gentile but they are now "one new man" in Christ our Lord. We witnessed Jews, Muslims, Africans, Asians, Europeans, Americans, and many others all united under the Truth of God's WORD. In the Old and New Testament GOD states that He will save a remnant of Israelites as He Promised to Abraham. I highly recommend the book "The Road to Carmel" by David Davis (he pastor I mentioned above) who is the vessel that GOD used to begin fulfilling His prophesies in Israel. It is the whole story of how GOD brought him and his wife into a relationship with Him and the incredible spiritual warfare they have had to endure in His calling upon their lives. It is a life changing book and has captured my heart for God's Chosen People as well as Muslims. The book truly ministered to my heart.
While the AMAZING fruit of GOD's work is prevalent in Israel, the enemy's work is very devastating: Israel has one of the highest abortion rates in the world! That's right, the "Holy Land" is under great corruption which was a shock to our team as we discovered the strongholds of the enemy. It is mandatory that men and women at the age of 18 serve in the military. Men must serve for 3 years and women for 2 years. The military gives women 2 free abortions while they are in the military resulting in horrific rates of abortion. In addition, Israel has high rates of human sex trafficking and illegal drug use. I was absolutely shocked to hear that radical Jews call Yeshua "Yeshu"which means "May his name and memory be obliterated." Many Jews do not understand the full meaning of this name but radical Jews know what it means. This was absolutely heart breaking to discover while in Israel. We were told that if anyone stated this name, to correct them so that they knew what it truly meant and to please use the name of "Yeshua."
The Jewish faith varies quite dramatically from radical Orthodox Jews to mystic Jews who believe in a "new age" spiritualism/witchcraft to secular Jews who do not practice their faith. The spiritual world is very much pronounced there especially in Jerusalem where the tension between Muslims and Jews is the most prevalent than in any other area of Israel.
While it was incredible to stand and behold the most sacred Holy sites of all time, the majority of the Holy sites are not the originals but are either completely destroyed, in ruins, or are reconstructed to look like the originals. Our team was present during a very interesting time in the Jewish and Muslim faith. This month is the month of Ramadan for the Muslims so we had to respect their fasting during the day. Thousands and thousands which can reach up to 80,000 Muslims go to the Dome of the Rock, where the Holy of Holies used to be, to eat and feast at sundown. On July 15th, according to our calendar, but it is July 9th according to the lunar calendar, it was the anniversary of when both Temples were destroyed for the Jews which is called Tisha B'Av. Jews mourn on this day and everything shuts down. Our outreach on this day was more "low key." We spent the day in prayer for the Jews on the promenade right off of the Sea of Galilee.
Our travel itinerary began in Haifa where we received instructions and education on Jews and Muslims and how to ministry to them effectively. We were sent out in groups to differing neighborhoods to hand out tracts and talk with people. Haifa is a modern city with cafes and restaurants. It is also a city in which Jew and Muslims “tolerate” one another. Haifa is also where Mount Carmel is located where we attended the Shabbat service. From Haifa, we traveled to Nazareth and spent 5 days working and leading a kids’ camp. Nazareth is a predominantly Arab city now so the kids were Arab and spoke Arabic. The local teenagers were our translators. However, Israel makes English classes mandatory in their schools so many kids had a basic understanding of English. The children were wonderful! I was able to lead and teach a science workshop where we had the kids build tornadoes in a bottle, build a bridge with straws, tape, and paper, gak or silly puddy, and created a reaction with baking soda and vinegar in bottles which we attached balloons to the bottles and the reaction formed CO2 which caused the balloons to inflate. I was also a counselor so I was responsible for our group of kids to make sure they attended their workshops and classes. I was also the “back-up nurse.” We had another nurse on our team from Germany who was the primary camp nurse so just in case the injuries were astronomical, I was sent in for back up. Thank God we only had minor cuts and wounds that took place during our water games sessions. The local teachers taught the bible classes since they spoke Arabic. I had the privilege of telling my testimony to my group of kids during the Bible lesson which was such a blessing for me! I have to say though, my testimony did not even compare to the testimony of a young boy whose name was Samuel whom Jesus appeared to in a car accident. Jesus told Samuel that He was Jesus who took away his sins and to believe in Him! That is so of God to appear to His little ones and use them in profound ways for His Glory. Oh to have the faith of a child! What a blessing! Samuel is a Christian as well as his family. Bless the LORD!!
While in Nazareth, we got to outreach by handing out tracts to people as they stopped in their cars at the red light in a busy junction or intersection. We were rejected many times and others fully supported and encouraged our efforts. One man told me that the Bible was not true and not to believe in it. Another Arab man pulled over on the side of the road and gave me his number. He said he was a pastor and if we needed anything during our stay in Israel, then to call him! Praise GOD! My highlight during this experience was when two very radical Islamic women accepted the Gospel Tract that I handed to them! At first they looked at each other in hesitation, but then turned to me and took the tract! Praise GOD!! While we were handing out tracts, one of our team members witnessed someone cut the driver’s side tire on our van with a knife and then ran off. By the grace of GOD we were parked right in front of a mechanic shop so our team member and one of our leaders quickly took the care to the mechanic and the tire was fixed in no time! GOD is so incredibly good! I was so excited that we were worthy to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake as His Word declares!! We prayed for the man who cut our tire. Perhaps he will one day be a follower of Christ!! One night in Nazareth we set up our keyboard and tambourine and sang worship songs in the middle of the street. It was amazing!! We had such a blessed time worshipping our Lord in the city of where he grew up. Another highlight in Nazareth was when one of my team mates from Germany and I felt led to pray for a radical Muslim woman sitting on the street by herself. She accepted some pastries we had just purchased and we prayed over her even though she only spoke Arabic. She was very grateful for the prayer.
Being Arab, they practice “Arab hospitality” and were so generous. We were invited several times to Arab homes for dinner and we even attended a “groom’s shower” which is a pre-party for the groom before the wedding. They fed us, opened their home up to us, and we got to walk down the streets in the procession as the neighbors threw rice and candy at us from their balconies. There is a lot of dancing, clapping, singing, and playing instruments. This particular group was a Catholic Arab family so it was not an Islamic wedding.
From Nazareth, we went back to Haifa where we celebrated a true Seder meal by the Messianic Jew I described above in the beginning. It was so rich as he described the history and meaning of the meal. After a couple of days of rest, we headed out to Tiberias which is a 2000 year old city along the Sea of Galilee. We got to swim in the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river where some of our team mates were baptized!! Amazing!! We drove around the whole Sea of Galilee and got to see Capernaum where Peter is said to have lived and where Jesus called him to be His disciple. We also stood on the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus taught the Beatitudes to His disciples. It was absolutely gorgeous! As we stood there in awe as one of our team mates read the beatitudes from the Bible. While in Tiberias, we handed out tracts and talked with people along the promenade of the Sea of Galilee. We also worshipped there as well. One experience I had was when a Jewish man came up to me and wanted to ask me questions that he did not understand in the Bible. We talked for a good 30 minutes but sadly, he was not open to the Truth of Jesus and believed in a type of new age religion. I learned that yes it is good to know and have evidence and arguments for the TRUTH of GOD but ultimately, it takes the Holy Spirit to open up the heart and mind to the revelation of the TRUTH of Christ. We probably could have spent the whole night discussing Scripture but unfortunately his heart was not open. Perhaps one day, though.
From Tiberias we traveled to Jerusalem for our final stop. We stayed at a well known prayer house which overlooked the whole city of Jerusalem. We could see Palestine from our bedroom window and the wall that separated the two people groups. Since we were staying at a prayer house, we were in charge of leading a prayer and worship time for 2 hours every day while we were there. We spent the time praying for Israel and the surrounding Muslim countries as well as for all countries in the world.We were joined with people from all over the world; specifically people from Portugal and Africa! The people from Portugal sang in Portuguese while we sang in English. The people from Africa gave us a small devotional after our prayer time and what they spoke of was so “first early Christian” theology: The WORD of GOD is what they live by and is so precious and dear to them. It was that simple but so rich and humbling. Their words truly resonated to my soul. It was like reading the WORD of GOD for the very first time with such awe and wonder. It reminded me of what the WORD of GOD should be in my life. I can truly say that I will remember their small, simple sermon for the rest of my life. It is true that one does not need to go to seminary or be a master in theology to understand and know the WORD of GOD, for HE has already revealed it to us in its purest and most glorious form through the HOLY SPIRIT. The WORD of GOD truly, truly pierces the heart and soul and is a “double-edged sword.”
The Old City was beautiful! Our leaders step up a time for us to take a tour by an official tour guide so that we could know what and how to pray for Jerusalem. We were told that our outreach in Jerusalem had to be more “subtle” since Orthodox Jews are more prevalent there and they could black list the missionaries already there if they found out who we were and what organization we were from. The main event for me was being able to worship right in Jerusalem on a busy Jewish street. People surrounded us clapping and smiling at us. It doesn’t get much better than that: to worship the GOD of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac in the midst of His people! Then a most Biblical truth manifested itself to us! We got to experience what Jesus experienced with the Pharisees in His day! A group of Orthodox Jews stood there in absolute rejection of us. The leader of the group came up to one of our team mates and asked him what we were “stirring up”? Our team mate handled the situation with such grace, truth, and love! The LORD was truly glorified by his actions and truly represented our Lord Jesus. Our team mate lovingly told him that we were Christians who came to worship OUR and THEIR GOD. The Orthodox Jew told him that we should leave and worship back in our own countries. He then started walking around us. We did not obey his request but continued to worship the LORD. One of our leaders began to walk around us praying as we continued to sing. The Orthodox Jew then began telling the people watching us to leave and not to listen to us! It was incredible! I could not believe what I was seeing! He was seriously going around to each person persuading them to not be “corrupted” by us! It was so like in the Bible!! PRAISE GOD!! Again, we were being rejected for the Truth of the Gospel! I have to say that during these times, my faith was increased a hundred fold and the LORD’s manifest presence was more real than at any other time I can remember! I found myself praying that the LORD would bring about revival to the United States through judgment and persecution so that our country could wake up out of its “lukewarmness” and become blessed by the glory of persecution! It may sound so strange to say and think this, but it is so true when Yeshua said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Blessedness in the Kingdom of GOD is the exact opposite of what the world believes “blessedness” to be. We prayed for the Orthodox Jew that the LORD would soften his heart and give him eyes to see and ears to hear His Truth. That would be so awesome if we saw him one day proclaiming the Gospel to his Orthodox brethren!
What I noticed in Israel is that for the most part, people wanted to see what we were handing out. They were generally very curious and because they did not want to be “rude” they read it and thanked us for the gift. What also stood out was the fact of how radical Christians are in Israel! It was truly such a blessing in my life and a testimony to me. The WORD of GOD is literally their life! They treasure the precious WORD of GOD and truly want people to know about Yeshua and come to faith in Him. I found myself convicted one day by the Holy Spirit during one of our prayer times in which I confessed before my team and GOD my sin of being “lukewarm” and “prideful” in my faith. What I learned was that GOD’s WORD sustains me and even my faith is a gift from Him. Whatever good thing I have, it is from Him and belongs to Him for His glory, honor, and praise.
Our typical day consisted of each of us taking a turn to lead a group devotional every morning for our team, eating breakfast, worship, a briefing on the day, day time outreach in the community, free time or rest time, eat dinner, night outreach in the community, worship, debrief, and then bedtime. We were all exhausted by the end of the day but it was worth it! Our team consisted of 14, each from the United States, Singapore, China, Northern and Southern Ireland, Wales, Germany, and England. Despite our differing cultures, we were unified and likeminded in the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, our time together was so blessed and each of us got along with one another so well! The Lord protected our time and relationships with one another from the enemy. I learned so much from their countries and walks with the LORD which encouraged and edified me. At the end, we all agreed how blessed our time was and thanked our LORD for the work He was doing in Israel and His Chosen people whom He is bringing back to their Promised Land but this time not under the Old Covenant Law, but under the New Covenant where Jew and now Gentile can worship together as “one new man” in our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, who reigns and is the same yesterday, today, and yes, forever! Praise be HIS NAME!