Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ishmael and the Living Water

The following was originally shared via my Facebook status on December 3, 2015, in response to the the terrorist attack that took place in California that week. 

I'm really sorry to read about the recent Islamic Terrorist attack on American soil yesterday. We had another one in Jerusalem this evening. It was at the Damascus Gate, and happened while we were at the preschool Hanukkah party just a few blocks away. This has been our life since mid September, but tonight's collision of events reminded me of something that makes these situations different for us than for most of you in the States (and elsewhere). We see the evil of radical Islam manifest daily, lately, but we also see the power of Yeshua's death and resurrection to change lives and bring unity to nations!

Although Aviel's preschool is Hebrew driven, we have a good number of Arab students,and each class has a Jewish and an Arab teacher, all believers in Yeshua. Tonight at the party, I listened to my son sing songs to Yeshua in English, Hebrew, and Arabic with his friends under the instruction of these diverse women who love the Lord. This was taking place all while we had a host of sirens in the background, clearly indicating that we had an attack very close by. Its so surreal to know that such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit was taking place inside the walls of the preschool, while such evil was present on the streets.

This isn't the first time that I've been at the preschool during an attack, either. On another occasion, the brigade of sirens passed by, coincidentally (or not), while I was setting up my art lesson with the children based on the story of Hagar and Ishmael from Genesis 21. I actually did tear up explaining the elements of the composition to my young students, primarily about the Lord providing this mother and son with a well of water from which to drink. We talked about how that was a prophecy of the "Living Water" of Messiah Yeshua that the Lord would give Ishmael's decedents, who are the Arab people.

Later that day, an Arab Christian friend, former Muslim, shared with me her stunning testimony of meeting Yeshua in her sleep before she repented and received Him as her savior! Now she loves the Jewish people! Oh how He is at work!

Since then my prayer for my Muslim neighbors - the sons and daughters of Ishmael -- is that they would encounter the Living Water, and drink from the depths of the well the Lord has provided; that they would leave the slavery of Islam and get into the freedom granted through the one true God who came down in the flesh of a JEWISH man and died for their sins! And whenever I have the opportunity, I share that FULL truth with them (always met with mixed reactions - stories for another time! But -- God's word does not return void!).

Terrorism is evil and I certainly advocate for conservative leaders who are willing to call it what it is and take action to prevent attacks. If you've ever been friends with a victim of terrorism then you know taking such steps to protect your nation is NOT lacking in compassion whatsoever. God hates the shedding of innocent blood, especially in the name of a false god. We must hate what He hates, and in tremendous compassion and justice, protect our neighbors and children from such vile attacks. (This is my informed and firm opinion).

The other side of this is that we are also called to go into the all the nations and make disciples in the name of Yeshua. When it comes to Islam, this really starts from a posture of prayer. The warfare surrounding this issue is so far beyond breaking down through offering works of kindness. Its a principality that only the Lord can take down, and we need to call on Him to do so humbly from our knees, and administer the gospel from that place first and foremost, and allow the rest to follow. Otherwise, we're not armed and ready.

And I'll tell you my not-so-secret to living here: the discipline of prayer to take down the strongholds of Islam in my Arab neighbors, also takes down the strong hold of fear in my own life (Phil 4:6-7) Its a two-for-one victory! That's the only way I am able to walk these streets with two children during these times of attack, though sometimes I definitely stay in! I know the Lord is with us, and working in the lives of our neighbors by the power of His Spirit.

I am personally thankful for places like our preschool that allow for the power of Yeshua to be on display, the power of Yeshua to bring down the wall of hostility between Jewish and Arab (Gentile) believers (Eph 2:14), even when such measures might be necessary in the natural for our protection. It encourages me in the life and ministry that we have as a family in this great nation of Israel. Works of the Lord such as this, really won't make the news, so I hope this will encourage and embolden you! Please pray with me for the descendants of Ishmael to drink of that deep well of "Living Water" and never thirst again (John 4:14)! The Lord hears you! heart emoticon

Pharisees in the Land: A look at Paul and the Law

The original articled appeared in Saved News, Summer 2015

"Look at all the Pharisees!" I both chuckled and offered correction to my son’s description of the Ultra Orthodox on the Jerusalem bus recently.  His innocent thought came from illustrations of Pharisees in a children's bible, drawn to look like the Ultra Orthodox today.  It’s a fairly accurate portrayal because they are the decedents in tradition of the Pharisee party that existed during the time Yeshua.  My own discomfort was from the Christian use of  “Pharisee” as in insult, implying a legalist and hypocrite, though it seems we are missing something in our criticism.

Paul was a Pharisee. 

His supernatural encounter with Yeshua on the Damascus road gives me hope for my Ultra Orthodox neighbors who are opposed to any presentation of the Gospel.  The most extreme are part of an "Anti-missionary” organization that has not been beyond violent acts against those of us who know Yeshua. They are a tough crowd, but the bible promises they will look upon the one whom they have pierced and repent!    

Paul’s own zeal for the law transformed into a radical passion for His Messiah.  Through the Holy Spirit, He brought a strong teaching on being under grace, and no longer under the law, yet a life lived for Yeshua – the word made flesh -- reconciled these two positions more so than the some pervasive teachings on freedom and grace presently promote.

Primarily, even after the cross, Paul confidently upholds the full counsel of scripture as authoritative.  He admonishes Timothy, "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching…" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Likewise, to the Romans, he explains, “through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  (Romans 15:4). Written before the New Testament was canonized, in context he is affirming the Law and Prophets; the power of the Holy Spirit to elevate the law for the believer, in the manner of Yeshua’s teaching equating lust to adultery.

Even so, on occasions Paul still upheld the letter of the law for the sake of the gospel. While he taught against the necessity of circumcision, Paul circumcised Timothy before they joined in ministry together (Act 16:1-5).  Similarly Paul again follows the letter of the law taking on a Nazarite Vow (Acts 18:18).  Later he submits to the elders who instruct him to enter into purification rituals, for the testimony of living in "observance of the law." (Acts 21:17-26)

Today many teachings focus on freedom in terms of personal liberties, and even downplay God’s word to justify lifestyle choices.  The life of freedom Paul demonstrated, however, is one of dying to self, and standing firmly on the word of God. Paradoxically, his freedom led to a life of chains.  In Yeshua’s blood, he became free from sin, from the world, but a bondservant to the Lord. He was beaten and imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.  Ultimately, this freedom brought him to the point of spilling out his life-blood in martyrdom for Yeshua’s namesake.  Are we willing to lose our lives to find life?  If not, we don’t know freedom Paul speaks of!