Sunday, March 30, 2014

Desperately Seeking Relevance

Desperately Seeking to be Culturally Relevant:
The Very Worst Mission

Ageism has been on my mind a lot the past several weeks. I'm 62, but my husband is 70, so I tend to think of the issues of aging from perspective of his age more than mine. Granted, few people can believe Tony is 70 because he is still working in a physical trade, though becoming less and less physically able to be the actual laborer.

We often see things that younger generations do, and even though we came from the notoriously rebellious Baby Boomer generation, we often comment to each other that we would never have dreamed of saying or doing something so disrespectful to our parents or grandparents. We were disrespectful - don't get me wrong - but not in ways that we have witnessed this generation.

This morning I was reminded of what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, how "in the last days" the times would be perilous because of the way people interact with others they are in relationship to. You know the verses:
  • "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

By the last thought expressed we can know the apostle meant that he was not speaking of the unsaved world, but of the believers.

For the past month my thoughts have been returning to the dangerous pattern that I am seeing among the young adult generation of Christians who are going their own way. I've been reading that they believe their Christian parents views are too conservative on social issues and despite what the Bible says, they believe, for instance that the time has come to accept homosexuality. They also do not like their parent's support of Israel, so they have gone in the direction of undiscriminating support of the Palestinian cause that is marked by anti-Israel-ism.

One of the good things about being young is the willingness to see things through new eyes, but when the new eyes do not regard clear Bible statements as more relevant than what is trending culturally, those eyes are being deceived.

I was looking for what the Bible has to say about a generation that does not give due honor to the elders, which is how I was led to 2 Timothy 3. I decided it was worthwhile to see exactly what Paul meant when he wrote that one of the traits that would make the last days perilous was that the younger generation would be "disobedient to parents".

It was worthwhile to dig deeper because this phrase goes far beyond a kid not minding mom and dad, it speaks exactly to a generation that cannot even be persuaded by the Word of God:
  • Looking at the word apeithes (disobedient), it literally means "unwilling to be persuaded (by God) which shows itself in outward disobedience (outward spiritual rebellion); disobedient because unpersuaded.
  • G545 /apeithe-'s ("unpersuaded") begins with the decision to reject what God prefers, with His offer to persuade about His preferred-will (cf. 2307 /théle-ma). See G543 (apeitheia).

This is exactly what this generation is doing on the issues of homosexuality and Israel. They claim they are the ones who are really being like Jesus, but the truth is their claims are hollow. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.

We cannot claim to hold the high ground of being more like Jesus than our parents when we reject the Word of God as the truth we adhere to.

These young people desperately need prayer, for they have decided they are more socially just than God. They see themselves as a new generation of the faithful, when in fact, they have left the narrow path.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Holds Back Reconciliation?

We want everyone to come with us as we follow Yeshua in all His purposes that are being summed up beginning in our days, but the truth is not everyone is going to submit to many of the things that God is accomplishing through Messiah. Here are some of those things in my understanding.

First and foremost is our personal and corporate transformation in the likeness of Yeshua/Jesus. It is the Alpha and Omega of God's purpose in Messiah. If we do not yield our flawed human nature to His cross and allow the nature of Yeshua to be formed in us as is God's desire for us, then nothing else He desires for us can come to completion/maturation either.

Secondly, I believe that the issue of horizontal forgiveness (between God and us) is not completed or mature until we get hold of the necessity of walking in parallel forgiveness (between us and others). The truth of Matthew 18 where failure to forgive becomes a prison of torments to the unforgiving BELIEVER, is not a somewhat important issue, it is a critical issue. We cannot become spiritually healthy individuals without this key understanding of God's demand on us, and we certainly cannot resolve ANY of the breakdowns between different factions in the Church/Body.

Thirdly, the previous two issues are imperative to resolution in the divide that surrounds Israel and the Church, Messianic Jews and Palestinian Arab Christians, Christian Zionists and Pro-Palestinianists, Christian lovers of Israel and Christian deniers of Israel.

I dare say, that in each and every faction mentioned there is refusal of forgiveness that the factions are tripping over.

I'm not talking about some kind of Mooney fake-smile forgiveness, but the transformational Jesus-kind that takes wounds to the Cross and engages the ministry of reconciliation that we have been sent as ambassadors into the world to be.

I'm also not talking about some kind of doormat reconciliation where we expect everything of ourselves and nothing of the other person. Jesus did not let the villagers in Nazareth throw him off of the cliff when they were incensed with the truth He was bringing them. He walked right through the tumult and chaos and continued on His way with His ordained mission.

Those who are going on with God's plan for them have to drink of the cup that Yeshua drank from, and be baptized with the baptism He endured. (Mt 20:23). If you look at this passage in context is was two disciples wanting to be exalted to sit on the throne on either side of Him and all the other disciples mad at their personal ambition. So dealing with two factions, Yeshua told them they would have to drink from the cup He would drink of -
death on the cross - and be baptized with the baptism He endured - the baptism by fire, which speaks to me of the fury of opposition and accusation He endured on His way to lay down His life to the purposes of God.

When we take up our cross to follow Him, we have to learn the significance of releasing forgiveness to reaching His highest. If we do not come out of the baptism of fire - walking through the opposition and accusations against us as we are walking out God's purposes for us - then we cannot complete the fulness of God's heart for us personally and individually.

As Dan Juster wisely observed when he recently addressed a gathering of Palestinian Christian Arabs and their supporters from the international Church, we cannot build a theology on our woundedness - not Palestinians and not Jews either. The wounds cause us not to be able to see with God's eyes. Only when we take them to the Cross and allow forgiveness to transform us can we have the clear eyes to see the heart of God.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spiritual Warfare in the Israeli Ministries

By Eddie Santoro
Love of Yeshua/Ahavat Yeshua congregation of Jerusalem
Zion's Glory and Tikkun Ministries

The Scripture declares that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherever God's Kingdom is advancing there is a war raging and all of us who believe are on the front line of that battle. Here in Jerusalem, we feel it most intensely. The very powers of hell are set against the reestablishment of the local Body of Messiah in this city, for those same powers know that this great end time event is a necessary precursor to their demise and the return of Yeshua.

We war against this resistance daily and things which might be accomplished easily somewhere else require huge amounts of prayer, perseverance and faith in this final battleground.

Warfare  |  Yeshua is a Jewish name. He is the Jewish Messiah and he came to the Jew first. In the beginning, all of his disciples were Jewish and yet in a calculated and successful strategy of the enemy, this wonderful Jewish Messiah has been made the enemy of his people. Here in Israel the government is against Jesus. Children are indoctrinated in the public schools to believe that Yeshua is not for the Jewish people. Orthodox Jews work full time to be certain that the local community knows that Jewish believers in Yeshua are really "wolves in lamb's clothing" whose secret agenda is the destruction of the Jewish faith.

We are keenly aware that there are often religious spies present when we gather, recording every spoken word so that they can be twisted and used against us in the never ending propaganda war.

Believers receive in the mail very enticing and highly funded glossy magazines telling them why they need to leave the faith. One of the leaders in our congregation who is seeking to advance his position at work is being attacked as a Christian missionary. This national rejection of Yeshua is so great that even his wonderful name, "Yeshua" has been replaced by "Yeshu", which is an acronym whose meaning is; "May his name be blotted out".

It is against this backdrop of national rejection that we work so vigorously to return Yeshua to his people. In a nation that is so primed to reject and hate their Savior, it is not surprising that the simple sharing of the Gospel is often met with anger, hatred and sometimes even violence. The resistance in this nation, especially in the city of Jerusalem is like no other place in the world and yet likewise, the results of this nation coming to faith will be unparalleled.

Even the simple reality of gathering together for our weekly meetings is a battle. Here in Israel there has always been a traditional six day work week. Although today many people do not work on Fridays, it is usually a hectic day of running errands, shopping, cooking, cleaning and preparing for the Shabbat before all the stores close at 3pm. Most children go to school six days a week and many young parents in our congregation not only work full time, but are also pursuing higher education in the evening. It is a true sacrifice to give up their one free day and come to the congregation instead of resting at home. And in addition, there is the constant pressure of a nation at war; facing threats and terror daily. We see this intensity of life here also as a strategy of the enemy to wear people down and to discourage them from being a part of the body.

And Yet the Victory is Ours  |  We want to assure you that in spite of this powerful resistance, we are gaining ground! We praise God that our meetings are filled with the life and presence of God through the Holy Spirit. When we gather, there is often "breakthrough" worship that pushes back the demonic host who have assembled to counteract all that is happening. Often in the midst of this worship, there is a strong prophetic flow that breaks forth which challenges and directs us. We have six Israeli men that share in the ministry of the Word, a thriving teens group and a flourishing Shabbat School and three dynamite worship teams! Our congregation is filled with people who are being drawn to the love and life of Yeshua. And we have confidence that this is just the beginning!   

Every single week after the main service we devote another hour and half to food fellowship. During these times new people are made to feel at home and when unbelievers attend a meeting, there is time to get to know them on a personal level.

This battle is not only being fought and won in our main meeting but the strategies of the enemy are being defeated throughout the week. Over the past month we had a brother's and a sister's "brunch" with sixteen brothers and thirty-four sisters attending their respective events! Nightly small groups of believers gather to share the gift of hospitality or just to pray together.

And finally in what may be our greatest victory, the Good News of Yeshua is not only being confined within the walls of our congregation but it is breaking out onto the streets of Jerusalem. Many of our people are students in Israel's universities. Others work in jobs in the secular work place and all of us live in the midst of a predominately unsaved Israeli society. The opportunities to relate to the "unsaved" are many.

Frequently I find myself in a store or restaurant speaking with the clerk or waiter about our faith. Another precious sister, until she gave birth to beautiful twin daughters last month oversaw dance outreaches on the streets of Jerusalem. Another brother who works in a store in Jerusalem often shares the Gospel with religious Jews who leave with much more than their desired purchase. Last week several of our people shared in depth with a young man who sought them out to answer many of his personal questions about his ultra-orthodox upbringing. Jackie and I have had two recent meetings with a young man who is open and very close to receiving Yeshua as his Lord.

When we consider the mighty battle that we are waging, we would be amiss if we did not take a moment and thank you for the loving, generous and supportive relationship that you have allowed us to share with you. We know that your prayers are effective. We are certain that your intercession on our behalf is making a way for us. We encourage you not to grow weary, as the struggle is ongoing and will intensify with each advance on our part. Every day there are new challenges, but through your prayers, the grace of God will overcome the resistance of the enemy. We are on a triumphant procession and we are certain that God's promise will be fulfilled and "all Israel will be saved".