Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Image may contain: text that says '#FAMILY'

One of my newer friends (thank you for Miriam and Shlomy, Jesus!) posted this on Facebook this morning, and I just started crying.  It had been building since I got the news last night of 4 local teens in a deadly car accident about five miles from our home.

My friend lives half a world away.  She and her husband minister to the lost in the land of Israel. She was asking us to pray for them as they embark on a mission today.  Here is what she said...

"...please pray that we love in His love today and are kind in His kindness.  May His presence prevail and not our ideas and plans for the future."

Even as I pray for my friend's successful ministry initiative today 6400 miles away, I am thinking about and praying for all those who know and love the dead and injured in this tragic accident.

To those of you locally who are ministering to the devastated today, please know you are being prayed for!  I think of Isaiah 61:1 and 3 in this - -

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

These verses are prophetic, speaking of the Messiah to come.  Jesus Christ's coming and ministry and death/burial/resurrection fulfilled these verses.  Those of you who have the third Person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit, living within you - - - you are meant to fulfill these verses too by loving on the broken.

Don't spout these verses to them, but hold them in your heart.  What the crushed need right now is your love, your presence, your tears flowing with theirs.  Hold these verses in YOUR spirit, Christian, and believe, know, that our God is with us in our horrendous pain and that He will restore.  He will keep His word.  He cannot do anything less.

Much love to, and many prayers for, you all as you "love in His love today and are kind in His kindness"!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Hard to Feel Thankful

One of my most enduring memories of the Thanksgiving season is from my childhood.  I had (and still have) a beloved aunt, who lived with her preacher husband and four sons in Huntington, WV.  Many years, we would travel there from Georgia, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  I remember one year that my cousin, Paul, and I went bike-riding.  I thought Huntington was a very exotic and exciting place.  One of the reasons was that my cousins lived in a "vertical house" - - basement, main floor, second floor and, wonder of wonders, attic!  (We lived in a ranch with a creepy, dirt floor basement at the time.)  Another reason was the cobblestone streets in their neighborhood, much like the picture above.  They were beautiful but, when you tried to ride your bike over them, they nearly beat you to death!  It was a rough ride!

A couple of days ago was Thanksgiving Day, one of my top two American holidays.  I've mentioned before that I have spent some other "Thanksgivings" feeling ... not so thankful.  Perhaps this was true of you this year.  Perhaps this Thanksgiving and upcoming Christmas season is for you "a rough ride".

While Thanksgiving Day is a cherished holiday, when many of us intentionally gather to thank God for each other and for our other many blessings, God makes it plain in His word that we should be thankful daily in ALL circumstances.  (Example:1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

This, frankly, seems crazy, does it not?  (Yeah, I mean, Psalm 92:6 ESV says "the fool can't understand this").  It's a tall order, for sure.

Almost every day, for a person my age, I learn of a friend or loved one or friend-of-a-friend, who has received devastating news.  How does one thank God for that?  When one does not feel at all thankful?

The secret is . . . praise, even if it is "forced praise", praise you don't feel like giving, a focus on the Almighty when you'd rather focus on yourself and your challenges in this life.

To quote Dr. Michael Youssef - - - {underlines are mine}

"Oh, you may begin your praise out of a sense of duty. You may come to God only out of obedience and begin praising Him without having a completely thankful heart. But once you start praising God, you cannot continue for long without that negative spirit breaking. I have seen this happen over and over again in my own life. No matter how bleak or sad my circumstances, I am uplifted as I praise the Lord. As I honor God for who He is and for the glorious things He has done, my eyes are opened to God’s abundant provision and blessing."1

Nowhere in the Psalms or other places in Scripture where we are commanded to give thanks and praise to God do we find "if and when we 'feel' it".  What and how we feel is irrelevant, in this matter.
We are commanded to DO it.  And, the harder it is do it, the louder we should do it.  Often in the Bible people who were "getting serious" with God were LOUD about it.

Almost in every case when someone gets bad news they ask, "please pray for me".  Of course, what they are requesting is that we pray and enlist others to pray that the adverse circumstances will change, just as the early Christians prayed for Peter to be released from prison.  That is right and good!  (May we have more faith in praying than did they, because when Peter showed up at the door after being released, they were surprised to see him!)

However, let me encourage you as you pray, to begin with praise.

Isaiah is a good example for us here.  In his book, chapters 15-24, he is prophesying woe upon woe upon woe on practically every nation in his part of the world.  But, in chapters 25 and 26, he just stops . . . and praises the LORD!   Isaiah 25:1 (NIV) - -

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.

I love how Isaiah declares the truth that God is perfectly faithful - - not sometimes faithful, but perfectly faithful!  And, Isaiah praises God for the marvelous things He is going to do!  Furthermore, our loving God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).  Nothing that He allows to touch us surprises Him in the least.

Praise is, then, the appropriate first step in our praying.  When we begin by praising God, our thankfulness then follows as the Holy Spirit fills us up with Himself.  In the middle of his anguish David "got" this.  He was one who praised loudly.  Note what he proclaimed in Psalm 69:30 (ESV) - - - -

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Lord God, some of us are currently fallen at the feet of our Savior, grabbing onto His feet and ankles with all we have in us, begging for a change in our circumstances.  Our pain and our fear are real.  Remind us of the sword You have already placed in our hands, the weapons you have already given us to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).  As we swing the weapon of prayer, may we always begin with reminding ourselves of how perfectly faithful and loving and good You are.  Thank you for the marvelous things you are doing and will continue to do in and through us, Lord!  In Jesus' name, amen.


1     Leading the Way "My Devotional" for November 24, 2018: "Spiritually Open".

Friday, November 16, 2018

Walking Buddies

8   But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
9  These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

I'm pondering this morning what it meant that Noah "found favor" in God's eyes.  As God observed Noah's life, He (the LORD, Jehovah) approved.  Why?

There was no Holy Spirit dwelling in the hearts of believers, as happened after Jesus Christ's finished work.
There was no Old Testament Law.

But, somehow, Noah knew God and, here's the secret . . . he walked with Him.  He knew God deeply BECAUSE he walked with Him.

Through that relationship Noah's faith was exercised to the point that he was able to endure hundreds of years of scorn from his fellows, while he trusted God's word and built "the boat to nowhere".

I used to have a walking buddy.  She and I would meet at a local park and walk a couple of miles and talk about all sorts of things.  We shared our lives together in this way.  Since then, her health has prevented us from walking together, but over the miles we became fast friends.  That friendship endures to this day.

When you walk with someone, either physically or relationally, you share your life with that person.  When you do that, you become closer to them.

With whom do you walk?  With whom should you walk?  Today, many of us wear these little devices that count our steps.  We are obsessed that we get the required number of physical steps each day.  I submit to you that it is much more important with WHOM we walk!

If you study the Scriptures, the spiritual giants of faith treasured their walks with God.  God commends them for how these men and women drew close to Him - - and not just to ask Him for things like "oh lord, please protect my children from harm", etc.  That is Genie God interaction, not true fellowship with the LORD.

Walking with God is costly, because it demands you NOT walk other paths which can be extremely beguiling, that you NOT spend your time in pursuits that are anti-faith, anti-God.

Making good spiritual choices as described above is a mark of spiritual maturity.  The ability to do so grows out of a faith relationship with the Savior.  Being "blameless" like Noah is not about creating your own self-righteousness, though.  Noah was righteous and blameless because he walked with God.

Noah's was a different day, although the principle is today the same.

Today, righteousness is only the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ, a relationship with the only Savior.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  The Bible says that there is only one name given to man through which we can be given God's righteousness, and that is the name of Jesus.  Salvation exists in no one else and in no institution, such as a mega Church that offers to confer salvation through membership. (Acts 4:12). Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior clothes the believer in God's righteousness and initiates the eternal, spiritual walk with God.  Each believer is given a welcome gift at the moment of salvation, that being God's Holy Spirit, who takes up residence in each believer's heart.

The old hymn "In the Garden" puts it so well - -
"And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.
And, the joy we share as we tarry there...none other has ever known."1

Oh, there are so many distractions!  Let's not allow them to interrupt our "walking time" with God today!  Put Him at the front of the line, and walk with Him before you walk with anyone else.



Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Sons of God

We have been off-and-on (with a foray to Israel, for example) studying the difficult book of Genesis since the end of May, 2018.

Here we find ourselves now confronted with one of the most difficult passages in all the Bible, a passage that has multiple interpretations, some of which are fantastical.  Here is today's text, Genesis 6:1-7 (ESV).

1When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.3Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide ina man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4The Nephilimb were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Immediately, several questions arise.
1.  Who were "the sons of God"?
2.  Why were they allowed to intermarry with the "daughters of man"?
3.  Who were the Nephilim and what were they like?
4.  Can God regret His own actions, feel sorrow for His own actions?
5.  Why did God change His mind (vs. 7) and save Noah's family?
6.  What is meant by "and also afterward"?

So, let's begin with question 1, which has three possible interpretations.1

Some believe the sons of God refers to fallen angelic beings who were allowed by God in the antediluvian days to have free access to Earth (having been expelled from Heaven in Satan's rebellion), interacting with humans, teaching them, and eventually interbreeding with them to produce half-angelic offspring with characteristics such as extreme height, superhuman strength, "men of renown".
This view, although fantastical, is supported by texts such as Job 1:6, 2:1 and 38:7, all of which present the phrase "sons of God" as angelic beings.  Other verses which render this view probable are Mark 16:5 and Genesis 19:1-5 and Jude 6.
God emphasizes in Genesis 6:3 that mankind is FLESH, as opposed to being an angelic being, and them puts a limit of 120 years on men as a lifespan, whereas we see in Scripture that previously people lived hundreds of years.  Could the intermarriage of human and angel been an attempt to achieve immortality?  Indeed, we see lifespans continue to decrease after the Flood, so that it is rare anyone lives over 120 years of age.3
The early Hebrew writers, as seen in the Holy Scriptures, as well as in apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (Book of Enoch, etc.) are unanimous in their agreement that "sons of God" were angelic beings.  This was the view of both pre-Christian Judaism and of the early Church.

A potential "fly in the ointment" is Matthew 22:30, which is used by those who hold one of the other views to reject this one.  Let's look at the words of Jesus in this verse.
30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
Note that Jesus is talking about the holy angels who are in heaven, not the fallen angels.  Nowhere in Scripture is it stated that angels cannot "marry", but that they DO not.  The fallen angels did not care about God's created order, nor about the preservation of the uncorrupted human bloodline, nor about God's plan for the ultimate redemption of man.  Rather, the fallen angels, at the direction of their commander, Satan, actively sought to derail all three, which is what drove them to have sexual relations with human women.

The book of Jude, verses 6-7, tell us that God imprisoned these fallen angels for their heinous sin and then destroyed all human life except for Noah's family.  Had He not done so, this corruption of the human bloodline would have continued to the point that Messiah could not have been born and redeemed the human race.

II. and III.
Closely related to each other are the other two interpretations of this verse.
One says that "the sons of God" refers to the chosen messianic line of Seth intermarrying with the children of Cain.  R.C. Sproul held this viewas did John Calvin.3
The other postulates the "sons of God" were powerful human rulers.
The main flaws with these two interpretations are three-fold:
a.  God had never forbidden the two family lines from marrying, nor had He forbidden women to marry "powerful human male rulers". (As a side note, were the human women of Cain SO much more attractive than the human women of Seth? SMH...)
b.  Mere human reproduction would not likely have produced such genetic abnormalities as the Nephilim, Anakim and Rephaim (Joshua 11, Numbers 13) . . . all races of giants, with superhuman strength.
c.  No mere intermarrying of humans could have provoked the extremely harsh judgment of God described in Genesis 6:5-7.  However, a corrupted human bloodline and the extreme proliferation of fallen angel evil on the Earth could have.

Before closing today, let's deal with question 2 from the beginning of today's post. 

WHY did God allow this?!

We need to remember that the Bible is God's revelation of His redemption of Man.  I believe God allowed this descent into depravity to demonstrate the depths of mankind's sin, and why we are helpless to save ourselves.  The people before the Flood had no Scriptures, no written revelation of God that survived the Flood to this day, unless Noah carried some writings onto the Ark.  Our Scriptures do not say....
Is it any wonder God then, after the Flood, gave mankind The Law, The Torah, through Moses.  Had He not, and had He not locked up in Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6-7) those evil, fallen angels, history would have likely repeated itself.
The point is - - throughout the Scriptures, God continues to unveil His redemptive plan, beginning in Genesis with a stark picture of how badly we need a Savior.





Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Day 8, Nov. 2: Yad Vashem and Locusts

On Day 8 of our trip, the Sar Shalom Israel team went to the site on the Jordan River where "the locals" choose to be baptized.  I had been there last January, and really had no desire to go back, especially since I wanted to go somewhere else.
On my last trip to Israel, 9 months ago, I had been driven by Yad Vashem, Israel's World Holocaust Remembrance Center.  But, there had sadly been no time to visit.
With my team leader's permission, I went on my own to experience it on Nov. 2nd.
The center was opened in 1953, only five years after Israel won its independence and established itself as a free country.  Obviously, creating a place such as this was a high priority for the people.

There is no admission price for visiting Yad Vashem, although they solicit donations and charge for both the audio tour and the "guide" - - the brochure and map.  With both in hand, off I went.  It was a gorgeous day outside.  (In fact, we had no rain to hamper our activities, this entire trip.)

I will tell you I was either near tears or openly weeping as I walked through the main building of the campus.  Several times, I was tempted to just take a shortcut out, and leave. The architect of this place was brilliant in his designs.  There was an introductory film about life in Europe before the Holocaust.  The term Jews use for The Holocaust is "shoah", which means "catastrophe".  It is closely related to the Hebrew "shoar", which means "burning".  Both are relevant.

In late 1930s Germany the Nazis' persecution of Jews was gradual, increasing in intensity as time went on.  In 1938, for example, Nazis publicly burned hundreds of copies of the Hebrew Bible.  Jews were then prevented from equal opportunity in the marketplace.  Next, Jews were herded into "ghettos", areas in the towns WAY too small to contain them adequately, and prevented from leaving.  They could take next-to-nothing with them.  Their possessions were confiscated by neighbors and by the State, and synagogues were looted and burned.  Here are some confiscated items of silver.

There in the ghettos, tens of thousands, especially the medically vulnerable and elderly, died. Next, the Nazis began to execute Jews via firing squads, near their towns.  And, finally, the piece of the Holocaust we hear most about - - extermination centers were set up in Poland, after that nation was conquered.  Jews were then shipped via train to these death camps and exterminated, often after medical experiments of the grossest order were perpetrated on them.

In the first gallery after that film I mentioned earlier, the role of the Christian Church as a whole was laid out.  It was damning and extremely hard-to-bear.  I will make a bold statement here:  if the Christian world and so-called Christian countries had stood up to Hitler's initial mistreatment of Jews, there would have been no World War II.  Allowed to punish and mistreat Jews without interference, Hitler became emboldened to spread his hate all over Europe.  By the time the Christian world "got woke", it was too late.  Entering the fray, Allied countries had all they could handle to try to defeat Hitler who, by that time, had conquered most of Europe.

Although the major Christian institutions were silent, there were individual European Christians who put their own lives at risk to intervene and save Jewish families.  Over 21,000 of those individuals are commemorated on the grounds of Yad Vashem, an area called The Righteous Among the Nations.  Learn more about these heroes here:
One of them was the missionary Corrie Ten Boom.  A tree is planted in her honor on the campus.  Another was Oskar Schindler, a non-Jewish German of "Schindler's List" fame (Steven Spielberg movie), who is credited for saving the lives of over 1200 Jews.  See picture below of Schindler's List. Many Holocaust rescue stories remain, of course, unknown - - but not to God.

There were a couple of nations who saved their 58,000 Jews - - Denmark and Bulgaria.  They stood up to the Nazi menace and just said "NO!", followed by deliberate action to get Jewish citizens to safe harbor elsewhere (to Sweden, in the case of the Danes).

When the Catholic Church became established around 325 AD, there was (and continues to be, in some quarters) a strong vein of anti-Semitism.  Why?  The argument is that "the Jews killed the Savior".  This is closely tied to "replacement theology", the belief that the modern day Church (Catholic and Protestant) has replaced the Jews as God's chosen people.  Later, some of the most prominent Reformers (Protestant leaders) were horribly anti-Semitic, for this same reason.  So, let's not lay all this on the Catholics, shall we?

By contrast, the Bible teaches that the Jews were and still are God's chosen people.
Paul explains this in Romans 9:33 - - -

"They are Israelites, and to them belong the glory, the adoption, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen."
But, he goes on to talk about grafting in of Gentiles in Romans 11:16-24.  He refers to the whole Church as an olive tree, and to the Gentile members as "wild olive branches" who were grafted in.
In Romans 1:16, Paul affirms that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been made available "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (the Greeks being a prominent group of Gentile people).

Horrible, horrible things have been perpetrated on the Jews over the last 2000 years by many groups who claim to follow Jesus - - that same Jesus who was (hello?) Jewish!!  Not only that, but Jesus was an observant Jew.  He said Himself that He did not come to destroy the Law, but instead to fulfill it.  
I'm getting rather far afield here in this post, but suffice it to say that our attitudes as Christians should be to LOVE Jewish people and to try to make up for the atrocities committed by those so-called Christians who came before us.  
Another bold statement:  if you mistreat the Jews, the "apple of His eye", you are not a true Christian.

Allright, enough of my sermonizing (for the moment, lol!).  Here are some additional pictures from Yad Vashem.

Children's Memorial, Entrance
In this exhibit, visitors walk through in utter darkness, while the names and ages of Holocaust victim children are read aloud in somber voices.  It is chilling.

Hall of Names, where the names and personal details of millions of victims have been recorded on Pages of Testimony (symbolic tombstones, filled out by the surviving family members of dead loved ones).  These can be seen at the bottom of the photo, a macabre library...Pictures of some victims are shown above.  The Hall is massive.

Hall of Remembrance, where the names of 22 murder sites (chosen from among hundreds that existed) are placed on the floor.  A memorial flame (the tall black structure) burns continuously, next to a crypt in the floor.  It contains the ashes of martyred dead, brought from concentration camps.

By the grace and power of Yeshua HaMaschiah, may we all swear . . . 
Never again!

When I blogged recently about the Israeli pro-life ministry Be'ad Chaim, I said I'd return to the passage from Joel 1.  That time has come.  Let's briefly examine the entire passage:

2Hear this, you elders;
listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
3Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.
4What the locust swarm has left
the great locusts have eaten;
what the great locusts have left
the young locusts have eaten;
what the young locusts have left
other locusts a have eaten.
5Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine;
wail because of the new wine,
for it has been snatched from your lips.
Joel 1:2-5 (NIV)

Yes, the Holocaust, the shoah, was a 20th century catastrophe of epic proportions.  

But, what about modern-day Israel?  What about the "new wine", the unborn future of Israel, being devoured by the "locust" of abortion?  Babies are being slaughtered at a rate of 1 out of every 6.  Yes, today, one of every six pregnancies is aborted in Israel.  (This is actually an improvement, because earlier in the 1940s-50s, it was one in four.)

When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, let's remember the unborn.  When we pray that the barbaric practice of abortion will stop in America, let's pray it stops in Israel as well, that Israel's modern-day holocaust will cease. 

Let's "get woke", this time before it is too late.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Day 7, Nov 1st - - Holocaust Survivors, The Garden Tomb, Old City at Night

Earlier than usual this morning we headed about an hour out of town, back toward the Mediterranean coast, to the town of Rishon Etzion, where we met with Miriam and Schlomo, Messianics who have an evangelistic outreach to local Jews.  Rishon Etzion is the first area to which settlers began to return, once aliyah (which means “to return”) began in the 1800s.  At the time, an American billionaire of Jewish descent (Rothschild, I believe?) tried to establish the area as  “wine country”, planting vineyards all over the region.  However, the wine did not end up tasting very good, and so, the project was abandoned.
Today, the town is beautiful, a resort town, but without all the huge skyscraper resort hotels.  The beaches (which we briefly stopped by) are unspoiled and sparsely populated.

The couple, whose last name I have decided to not give, for their protection, has been working with groups of Jewish people in the area for just a few years, building trust and relationships.  I don’t want to jeopardize that.  They took us to a center that provides services and programs for Holocaust survivors.
Now, you would think that these folks, all of whom were children during the Holocaust, would all be infirm or decrepit, right?  No!  A more joyful, fun-loving, enthusiastic bunch of 80-somethings you’d be hard-pressed to find.  They clapped to welcome us, sang with us, danced with us, hugged and kissed us....most could not speak English, but it was a terrific honor to be with them.  A humbling experience.  We gave them gifts - - bathrobes to enjoy.  They were absolutely delighted!
Below, is a picture of our Arab Christian bus driver helping one of the men try on his bathrobe.  I love this picture because, it is illustrative of how this Land can be healed, the only way, and that is through the love of Jesus Christ.

And, here are a few more, including a 20-sec vid of us singing and dancing the Hava Nagila with the folks!

From there, we stopped for a quick lunch at an Elvis-themed burger joint, run by Arabs.  I’m not kidding.  It was decent food and a whole lot of fun.  Mike (L) and Ronnie (R) are huge Elvis fans, and they loved the Israel-Elvis experience!

We also visited Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where we gave out more stuffed animals to children who were coming out of recovery from surgery as well as those in ICU, also giving handmade incubator covers to the NICU unit.
About mid-afternoon we arrived at The Garden Tomb.  I learned from the docent that it is possible to travel to Israel and “volunteer” there for a few weeks.  You get a small stipend, but not enough to live on.  The site was established by and is run by a board in England.  They provide apartments on site for the volunteers.  Some of you, my readers, might be interested!  The gospel message is presented to every group that comes through.  So, if you love sharing the gospel, visitors to The Garden Tomb are a guaranteed “congregation”!

The first stop on the tour was at Golgotha, where a justification for this being the “actual” Golgotha was presented.  (Catholics teach that it is inside The Church of the Holy Sepulchre - - actually, they teach that Jesus was buried inside that same huge church).  With the afternoon shadows and due to rock erosion, it is hard to see the two "eye sockets" of the skull.  If you could see a picture from the early 1900s, they were much more prominent. 
Next, we were taken to the center of the Garden, where various features of the garden were introduced.  It is a beautiful complex, and the picture below is of an ancient winepress there.  This garden is NOT in Gethsemane, by the way, but lies just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Third, we got in line to walk inside the tomb.  I wish I could have taken a picture in there, but it was forbidden.

Our last stop was at one of several courtyards for small groups to gather and have short worship services.  We sang a few songs, with our leader playing guitar, shared some scripture and participated in communion with matzo bread and the juice, held in tiny, wooden chalices.  So special!

After our contemplative time in the Garden, we split off into groups and went to various places.  I went with three other group members to walk around the Old City.  The first two pictures are from Azaret Israel Plaza, an area of ruins just behind the Western (Wailing) Wall.  The third is of beautiful Jerusalem from just outside the Old City Walls.  Jerusalem is extremely hilly.... And, the last one is of the Western Wall.  The men's section is on the left, and the women's is on the right.

After walking about 3 miles (or more!) we ate dinner at a Thai restaurant and called it a night.  Sore legs, full hearts, precious times!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Day 6, Oct 31, Israel's Seedy Side

I've never spent a more wonderful Halloween.  Call me a Scrooge (no, wait...that's Christmas...), but I just can't put aside the demonic aspects of this "holiday" to enjoy it very much.  Therefore, it was with great joy I lived this day where Halloween does not rear it's head.  That does not mean that Satan did not make his presence felt.

You've heard me crow about how much I love Israel.  It is not a perfect place, however, because like all the Earth, it is filled with imperfect people.  Even redeemed sinners are grossly imperfect, after all.  Today, though, we saw Israel's seedy underbelly.  We rubbed elbows with poverty and also with murder.

Our first stop was at the former US Consulate, which is being renovated to become the new US Embassy, here in Jerusalem.  You may remember the flap that ensued when President Trump decreed the embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  It is heavily guarded.  We were only able to make a picture in front of it, a brief visit.

Next, we went to Jaffa Street, where we visited with Evan Levine, who heads up  It is a ministry to the poor, providing free dental care, which is not covered by the Israeli universal healthcare.  This Messianic ministry also promotes and facilitates adoption and foster care in Israel.  It is hard for Messianic families to adopt because there are only about 40,000 Messianic Jews in Israel, and the Ministry of Health wants to place children only in families with religious traditions similar to those from which the child came.

Our next stop was the King of Kings Messianic Jewish Congregation.  We entered the large office building that houses, not only this ministry, but also space the congregation rents out to other businesses.  The ministry began back in 1982 as a bible study and, in those days, was the first Messianic Jewish church in Israel.  For 20 years, they rented the YMCA building in Jerusalem, but they could only get it on Sunday nights.  So, the tradition of holding their services on Sunday nights was born. It continues to this day.  (Actually, that's their mostly-English service.  They also hold a Hebrew service each week as well as doing a Facebook Live broadcast of their Sunday night service.)
So, in around 2002, they bought this horrifically dilapidated building that had sat mostly vacant for several years, but contained a vacant movie theater (now their main sanctuary) and 3 porn shops.  The building was also used as a public toilet.  No one could understand why they even wanted it.  But, after looking at many, many other properties, the potential of this building was realized.  They purchased it, and set to work on the remodel.  Today, the ministry averages 400 attendees each weekend, offers delicious food out of their soup kitchen on Mondays and Wednesdays, has a counseling center, a music-training center, a prayer tower and a clothes closet.

Several of our team members worked to serve the lunch at the soup kitchen (pic above), while others either worked in the clothes closet or prayed at the prayer tower. What a blessing it was to serve the needy with other volunteers from around the world!  Afterwards, we all went to the prayer tower, where we worshipped in music and prayer.

After lunch, we went to visit a pro-life center which has been working to save the unborn in Israel since 1988.  It is called Be'ad Chaim Israel, and is headed by Sandi Shoshanni, who has headed the ministry since 2005.  The ministry has 12 counseling centers in major cities of Israel.  The counselors talk to women who are considering abortions and also minister to women who are hurting after having had an abortion.  I learned a lot, and it was sad.  If you look at our faces in this candid shot, you will see how stricken we all look.  We learned a lot of sad information.

Abortion has been legal in Israel since the country began, in the 1940s.  Today, abortions are free for most women, as part of the universal healthcare program.  $40 million of Israeli tax dollars each year go to fund abortions.  BUT, contraceptives were not free until about a year ago.  How's that for an irony?  Furthermore, a woman under 18 has to go with a parent to obtain a prescription for contraceptives, but does not have to have parental consent for an abortion.  Approximately 1 in 6 pregnancies in Israel are aborted.  The numbers used to be worse - - it used to be 1 in 4.  Young women serving in the Israeli Defense Force are forced out if they get pregnant and don't have an abortion.  If a woman finds herself in that way and wants to continue to serve out her time, she must have an abortion.  It is not at all uncommon for Israeli women to have several abortions.
Miscarried babies are not given to families for burial.  Be'ad Chaim Israel runs Gardens of Life, a place where a tree can be donated and planted in memory of an aborted baby or a miscarried baby, in order to help deal with the pain of the aftermath.
The ministry also solicits funds to support mothers/families who choose to keep their babies.  It is called Operation Moses.  This program provides necessary items for families for the first year of life.  Sadly, one of the more prevalent reasons mothers choose to abort is that they can't afford to keep their child.  The cost to support one child in O.M. for its first year is $6000.  If you would like to support this ministry, you can find them at

I close with this verse from Joel.  And, in a couple days I will return to it, when I blog about the Yad Vashem.

5Awake, you drunkards, and weep,
and wail, all you drinkers of wine,
because of the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
Joel 1:5 (ESV)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Israel, Day 5, Oct 30, Jericho and Al Wahaa

Oh my goodness....what a day!  The emphasis today was on ministering to ministries that reach out to Muslims.  For most of the day, we were in territory to which Jews are denied access.

This morning, we headed up to Jericho.  It's not overly far from Jerusalem.  On the way, we stopped at the traditional site of the Good Samaritan story.  We did not enter the museum, but had a time of worship and scripture reading there on the grounds (and made pictures, of course!)

Next, we stopped at a roadside stand to allow any party members to ride a camel (those that wished to), to allow for souvenir shopping and treat procurement.  Several of our group are huge fans of Magnum ice cream bars.  Somehow, though I've not had one in months, I got roped into this cray pic!

Arriving in Jericho around 10:00, we met an amazing man named Tass Saada, who is an Arab evangelical Christian.  Now...Arab Christians are a minority in Israel.  But, evangelical Arab Christians are even more rare here.  Tass' testimony is amazing.  You can read about it in his autobiography called, "Once an Arafat Man".  I'm not going to tell you much about it, except to say Tass was saved in young-middle age, after he had made a very successful career as a restauranteur in America.  Now, he lives in Jericho and ---
  • runs a successful restaurant
  • drilled for a spring of fresh water and established a bottled water business
  • established a highly-respected private preschool that has a long waiting list (Seeds of Hope)
God used him to do all of this in territory that is controlled by the Palestinian Authority (which is highly Muslim).  I wish you could have heard all the miracles that God worked, to lead him to where he serves today.

I have to tell you a funny about the title of his book.  A member of our team who shall go unnamed heard the title and thought it was "Once an Arab Fat Man".  We have laughed and laughed over that one!
Tass related that, although he is very circumspect in his actions, he is friends with the most powerful Muslim Imam in Jericho.  As you read about these faith heroes who are sharing the gospel in the most hostile of environments, you will hear a couple of key themes.  One is that they look for common ground with the "enemies" of our faith, living out the admonition from Jesus to "love your enemies.  Bless those who curse and spitefully use you." (Matthew 5:43-44)  Another is that they build relationships and that they "love one another".  It's just pretty amazing!
The children at Tass' school were amazing.  They are pictured above.  Someone had donated a camera and tripod, which the ministry had needed for a year and a half.  Our group brought it to the school.  The director was so thrilled!  These children are educated in English and are taught core values, using Chick-fil-A materials that have been adapted for the culture.  And, they and their families are respected and loved.  If you would be interested in sponsoring a child's education for a year, go to

We ate lunch in Tass' restaurant and then some of us bought his book.  I have already started reading it.  He is friends with another Israeli man I greatly admire, Joel Rosenberg, who wrote the foreword for his first book!  Another thing I'm learning is that the evangelical Christian community and Messianic communities in Israel are very connected.  Years ago, the man who had served as an aide to Bibi Netanyahu met the former aide to Yassar Arafat and hugged each other, because they both shared a common bond - - their dedication to, and worship of, Jesus Christ as Savior.  Stunning!  I never cease to be amazed by my Lord.

From Jericho, we returned to Jerusalem and had ourselves a wild goose chase.  We were searching East Jerusalem for a Muslim women's safe house, run by evangelical Arab Christians.  Problem one seemed to be able to find it.  Now, think about it - - a safe house for battered women?  The whole idea is for certain people to not be able to find it.  Regardless, it took probably 30 extra minutes to find the place, which is in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem.  When we did, what a blessing we received!

It is called Al Wahaa, which is Arabic for The Oasis.  The director is Layali Khouri, a lovely young wife and mother who is actually a Baptist, living in Ramallah.  (You have heard of Ramallah, haven't you? It is under the control of the Palestinian Authority and is a place of significant political unrest. I have never been there, nor would I go.  Just as I won't go to Gaza or to the Golan Heights.)  At any rate, a Baptist in Ramallah?  Wonders never cease!  Here is a picture of both Layali (R) and her "right hand", Rita (L).  Rita spent her early years in Chicago, but has now lived in Israel longer than she lived in the States.

When we entered Al Wahaa, it immediately felt like a sanctuary.  It smelled divine, and had a peaceful air about it. We brought in the many comfort items we had with us.  In the picture below, I was discovering that some of the bottles of conditioner had leaked onto the bottles of nail polish and....what to do?  Well, we worked it out, never fear!  The ladies served us both dessert and drink, which is a hallmark of Arabic culture.  And, note: it is considered rude to demure and to refuse the host's hospitality.

The center provides a place for moms to bring their children, if they wish, but also to escape bad home situations, if needed.  Bible studies are held there and other support is provided.  Again, the emphasis is on building trust and establishing relationships. The Al Wahaa we visited was in the larger Jerusalem area, but there is also one located in Ramalla.  You can reach this ministry through their Facebook pages: Al Wahaa Jerusalem or Al Wahaa Ramallah.

After leaving Al Wahaa, we were pretty tired.  In fact, after returning to the hotel, I did not go with the group to dinner, choosing to retire to the room. But, OH!  How beautiful to get just a glimpse of how the gospel of Jesus is being spread in the Muslim world, in areas we look at as being closed to the gospel message!  Our God's plan is perfect, and He is on the move!