An open letter to Paul Wilbur
On September 25, 2018 Paul Wilbur gave a concert in Jerusalem, created a live recording, and touched many hearts. I was there. He’s been doing this for some 40 years, and we’ve been friends for 37 of those years. I’ve written him this letter to express what happened inside me during the event.
You stood before a packed house at the Pavilion, backed by top notch musicians and singers. The air was charged, electric. Then you plunged in, unhesitating, boldly welcoming the Lord to return to the City of the Great King. And as never before, I got it. Anticipating Yeshua’s coming is the heart of your message. How appropriate, especially for this time in history. I realized anew that it’s this anticipation that forms and defines us. “Adonai, Adonai. Every knee will bow to you Lord most High…”
I’m so proud to see you in this place the Lord has given you, to see your years and years of sincere, all-out praise. It’s a place of much influence, giving glory to God in earnest—inspiring multitudes.
Wow! Remember our Friday afternoons at Beth Messiah, those pre-Shabbat prayer times 35 years ago. We’d groan (well, mostly Asher) and jump and yell and fall on our faces before the Lord as He visited our hunger with His presence. There were prophetic moments then—longing to be in this land. And now here we are!
Hearing these songs that move my heart, I’m newly aware of the stark contrast we live with. On one hand there’s the current day-to-day struggle—to see lives transformed by Yeshua’s death-busting atonement. And on the other hand—His coming reign. I’m lifted, strengthened, freshly inspired by the Lord’s voice through yours. The King is coming so soon. And that makes all the difference.
“You’ve captured our hearts…My soul is thirsting for you…the touch of your love.” These lyrics are of intimacy. Mr. Wilbur (as we called you back in the congregational elementary school where we taught together in 1981-84) you remind us of the exceedingly personal dimension of our relationship with the Messiah. It’s not academic. It’s intimate. Through your worship, the transparency of your passion for the Lion who is a Lamb, I am brought back, restored to tenderness.
It’s so tough to stay tender in this harsh world, especially in Israel. This worship experience is a respite from battle. “Your love is better than life…My soul is satisfied with the richness of you.
When you sing about the longing for Yeshua to come it feels as if you are expressing the truest longing for all of us. “Who was and Who is and Who is to come.” As you did back at Beth Messiah Maryland in the 80s—you continue to inspire us to worship the Lord with all our heart. What a journey! I will ever love and deeply appreciate you.
This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, November 8, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.
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France was the “only African team” in the recent World Cup final, according to Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto – literally half the French team had African origins! Is their success an indicator of Africa rising, or merely an expression of the challenges many Africans in the West face in reaching the highest levels in anything except sport?
Where It All Began
Revive Israel supported a recent event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the political capital of Africa and home to the African Union Headquarters and UN Economic Commission for Africa – and the likely home country of the Biblical Queen of Sheba and base of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.
The aim of the Africa-Israeli Restitution Forum was to address root causes of some of Africa’s problems. The core concept was that the sins of Egypt against the Jewish people (Ex 1:8-14) have never been repented of by Africa collectively, bringing a curse – ultimately over not only Egypt but also all Africa by extension, just as Achan’s sin brought a curse on all Israel (Joshua 7:20). These curses of Egypt, slavery, despotic leadership and child murder, have therefore been afflicted upon Africa, hence a long history of slavery, often tyrannical leadership and high infant mortality.
Curses Turned to Blessing
The broad African representation in the forum repented on behalf of their Egyptian precursors, asking forgiveness of the Jews present, and seeking to align themselves with Israel. There was also deep reconciliation between Ethiopians and Ethiopian Jews, as well as forgiveness towards the white race for the sins of colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism and slavery of the black race. Also present were tall and dark-skinned Jews of the South Sudan/West Ethiopia Neur tribe (Isaiah 18:7), whom God touched deeply.
Several interesting events took place around the same time:
- During the forum, a peace treaty was signed between warring tribal factions who have killed tens of thousands in nearby South Sudan, including many Neur. (See here).
- The day we left Ethiopia, an event was held for over 120 members of the Ethiopian parliament, strongly encouraging them to move their embassy to Jerusalem.
- Newly elected Christian President of Ethiopia and Nobel Peace Prize contender, Abiy Ahmed (see here), normalised relations with neighbouring Eritrea, after decades of bitter warring and the deaths of tens of thousands. (See here).
Beginning in Egypt
So, are there any Biblical indicators of a new dawn for Africa? There is a Biblical pattern of Israel entering Egypt in time of difficulty: Abraham in time of famine, along with Jacob and Joseph; Yeshua, Mary and Joseph were political refugees, and in the future it seems that Yeshua will enter Egypt in time of difficulty (Is 19:1) and as part of his strategy for reclaiming planet earth (Rev 1:7), en route to Israel. This Biblical pattern is encapsulated in Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my son”.
So why Egypt? In Isaiah 19:25, Egypt receives an extraordinary title from God: “Egypt My people”. Why? We need to look back to Genesis! The firstborn son of Abraham was Ishmael, son of an Egyptian mother and husband of an Egyptian wife. God told him that he would be the father of “a great nation” (Gen 17:20) – note NOT “nations”, and given his ethnicity and proximity, this is surely Egypt! In Biblical culture, the lead and protecting role of the elder brother is very important – therefore the elder brother according to the flesh should physically protect and bless the younger, Isaac – son of the promise.
A New Africa
Psalm 68:31 was a guiding Scripture for the Africa-Israeli Restitution Forum:
“Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God”.
Just as the remnant of Egypt is entering a new alignment with the remnant of Israel, so Ethiopia is called to lead Africa in blessing Israel, releasing an end-time wave of blessing across the continent. Could it be that we are about to see reversal from slavery, corruption and dictatorship, a revival overflow from Africa? Could a continent that spent centuries serving other nations now rise up to become first among equals? Let us pray together for Africa to be released into the fullness of her destiny in the Lord!
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, October 31, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Joni has worked in education and management and has been a writer for Kehila News Israel since 2016. He holds an MBA, as well as teaching qualifications. He lives in Israel with his family.
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Discipling a new generations of leaders
The mandatory military service in Israel plays a significant role in shaping the identity of her people. This challenging season forces young Israelis to conform or take a stand for what they believe.
Unsurprisingly, upon completing their army service, many of these young men and women pack their bags and go on what one may call a journey of self-discovery.
This is a vulnerable time also, if not more so, for young believers who find themselves at a crossroads looking to the future.
Lech L’cha, a 3-month discipleship school, was launched specifically to take on this challenge. Its purpose is to equip young Israeli believers for their future while keeping Jesus at the center of all they do.
“Lech L’cha” (translated: “Go forth!”) were the words God spoke to Abraham when He commanded Abraham to leave his home and go to Canaan (Gen. 12:1).
These words can be linked with the commandment Jesus gave His disciples, saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19). This commission is the driving force behind the work of Lech L’cha.
Partnering with local Israeli congregations, the school seeks to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
Fundamentally, the heart of Lech L’cha is to help young believers in the land become fully grounded in the Word of God as followers of Jesus, to be equipped for service in their local congregations according to the giftings God has given them, and to grow in leadership skills.
The program takes place twice a year during the Fall and the Spring semesters. Just earlier this month Lech L’cha started their 26th Discipleship Training Program.
For a period of three months the students live on campus and explore the land of Israel together.
They develop healthy spiritual disciplines, engage in study projects in the classroom, but also get a chance to participate in evangelism and outreach.
Pray with us for the work of Lech L’cha, as they equip Israeli young adults for further growth and potential leadership roles within the Messianic community of Israel!
Learn more: http://lechlcha.com/en/home-2/
This article originally appeared on FIRM and reposted with permission.
FIRM (Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries) is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
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After son’s murder, Arab pastor forgives killers and testifies of God’s love
The murder of a Christian Arab young man provided a painful platform for the man’s father to publicly display the power of Yeshua’s love and forgiveness.
The stabbing death of Jonathan Nueseri, 24, after a traffic altercation in a village near Nazareth, rocked the small community of Arab Christians many of whom are also believers. Jonathan’s father, Michael Nueseri, is a well respected believer and pastor in the North. Many Arab Christian leaders credit him with their coming to salvation or nurturing them in the faith.
If ever there was a time to learn from his example, it was after the death of his only son — a child for whom they waited and prayed 14 years.
When a group of Muslim dignitaries came to visit the Nueseri’s to seek a sulha (reconciliation agreement), Michael Nueseri publicly declared his faith and forgiveness.
“For 38 years I believe in the education I received from the Messiah and I am not prepared to throw that all away, even in spite of the murder of my son,” he said. “I have no enemies, I forgive everyone and the law will deal with this issue.”
“I love all of them, Muslims and Christians, I do not say this out of weakness, but I know what I learned from the Messiah, and I beg everyone to follow this path and to stay calm,” Michael said.
Despite the sulha tradition, some families refuse reconciliation attempts and reserve the right to take revenge, causing concern that violence could run rampant in the community. According to an article in Come and See dozens of relatives and neighbors were gathered at the Neuseri’s home when the sulha dignitaries arrived.
“Michael gave a five-minute speech that was shocking to many: He told the dignified group that he forgives the murderers and does not have any demands. He said that he would like to share something with them, and proceeded to share about the love of Jesus who he follows and serves. He said that he has been walking with the Lord for 38 years and is not going to be shaken because of circumstances, as hard as they might be. He then explained that we have all sinned and need to repent. He continued by explaining that ‘I do not have an enemy’ and he forgives the murderers because this is what His Lord taught him, and this is not an act of weakness. He also approached his extended family in the crowd – some of whom were outraged because of the murder – and asked them to calm down so as not to ruin the testimony that was built over years, and to let the judicial system handle the case.
“Suddenly, one of the dignitaries, a Muslim Imam from a large mosque in Acre, came to Michael and said: ‘This is faith, real faith,’ kissing him on his forehead as a sign of deep respect. The chairman of the Sulha committee was also astonished by Michael’s reaction. He told the audience that he has been visiting bereaved families all over the country from the far north to the deep south, but has not met a man like this.”
Michael has since been asked to share on news outlets and he begins with why he named his son Jonathan, which means God gave: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
“He also explains why he took the stand of forgiveness that is so uncommon in our society,” the article continues. “In a traumatized society that has suffered lately from violence and revenge, Michael sharing the good news has been like ‘cold water to a weary soul.’”
Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, are a minority in Israel, but Christian Arabs are an even more marginalized group comprising about 1 percent of Israel’s population. Most Christians here adhere to Greek Orthodox or Catholic theologies. An even smaller minority of Christians are born-again believers.
Nueseri’s murder underscored the violence that Christians face in Muslim-majority communities. On a regular basis Christian properties are vandalized and residents are intimidated in Muslim-majority towns. Jonathan was attacked by nine suspects and stabbed to death over a minor traffic dispute.
Christian Arab groups on Facebook mourned Jonathan, a volunteer with the Israel police and beloved friend, and demanded that the situation cannot go on like this for Christians.
“Today we said goodbye to your body, dear brother, but your soul and your memory will will remain engraved on our hearts,” an Aramaic Christian group posted on Facebook. “Instead of a wedding, we got a funeral.”
The same group exposed several vitriolic comments by Muslims on social media after Jonathan’s killing. “Infidels, the people of the book, are evil and hell is their eternal place,” one person wrote. Another, commenting on pictures of Jonathan’s funeral, wrote: “In accordance with the religion of Islam, it is forbidden for Muslims to pity the death of infidels… because they are the people of hell.”
The group also quoted a family member of one of the suspected killers who threatened Christians for exposing the social media comments: “You’ve talked too much beyond your computer. Is there one Christian with the balls to take it up with us? You accepted the reconciliation because you are a cowardly people. You agreed to the sulha like mice. So stop threatening from beyond your computer screen because whoever tries to play with us, his fate is known — and its not in peace and not in talking.”
Another family member of one of the suspects also made the shocking comment: “We are the bosses of Rayna… Whoever doesn’t like that, the cemetery is waiting to absorb you.”
Following the Sept. 1 murder, police arrested nine people on suspicion of involvement in the murder. The town of Rayna declared two days of mourning after the incident. Thousands attended Jonathan’s funeral that day, including people from nearby towns who had never met him.
Let’s pray that the power of his father’s message of forgiveness and Yeshua’s love transcends the messages of hate that are being spewed.
Friends of Jonathan composed a song for him, which you can listen to here [in Arabic]. The friends lament: “Jonathan, we won’t forget you, murdered in cold blood, we won’t forget you, stay engraved in our hearts.”
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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The sleeping fox catches no poultry
“The sleeping fox catches no poultry” goes the proverb. This is just one of many proverbs that echo the bible. Time and again the Scriptures, both of the Hebrew bible and of the New Testament, call us to take initiative and to not remain passive. One of the most important biblical ideas is that fruit, or harvest, is the result of man’s interactive partnership with God, and not a sudden drop-down from heaven “by grace”. From Solomon, who saw poverty as the fruit of inaction (Prov. 6:10-11), to Yeshua’s teachings about forcefully advancing God’s kingdom (Matt. 11:12) and taking its yoke upon ourselves (Matt. 11:29), the call is the same: express your faith in the Creator by being creative! Step out, take action, do something!
Why am I writing about this? Because if it were not for the initiative of one teacher from a Bat Yam congregation, there would be no development in the children’s ministry in that congregation. This particular teacher, in conversation with Alec Goldberg (Israel Director of the Caspari Center), broached a matter that lay heavy on her heart: there are many children in the congregation, and although their Shabbat School teachers desire to serve these children to the best of their abilities, these teachers lack both knowledge and experience.
As our regular readers will know, the Caspari Center regularly holds seminars for Shabbat School teachers, where they can learn both the theoretical and practical aspects of working with children in a congregation. Unfortunately, Israeli reality dictates that not everyone is available to participate in our seminars, which are held on Fridays. Although Friday is a day off for most people, many congregations have meetings that day, while other people might need to work or study, making it impossible for some children’s ministry workers to participate in seminars.
We decided to try something new, and come to the aid of the teachers in this Bat Yam congregation by offering on-site training. As a pilot project, we conducted a weekly series of evening meetings in the congregational building to train the teachers, for a total of 5 weeks. I embarked upon this course enthusiastically as I routinely train new teachers in my congregation and am aware of the importance of this process.
I remember the first meeting with this group of teachers. Not many were present – only eight teachers – and they were already tired from a full day of work or study. But as they spoke about the children and about what they were hoping to achieve through the course, each one began to revive. I saw that their love for God and for the children gave them the strength to continue. Their incredible motivation struck me, and I realized just how much I wanted to help these people. They came to every meeting hungry to learn more, and carried out all their tasks with zeal.
From the New Testament, we know that Paul and the disciples of Yeshua taught the believers intensively. For one year, Paul and Barnabas taught people in Antioch (Acts 11:26), and for three years, day and night, Paul taught the Ephesian presbyters (Acts 20:31). Of course, we are not Paul, nor could we reach this level in Bat Yam in only 5 meetings. But we do look to the early disciples as our role models.
I was pleased that my students immediately applied what they had learned in class, and then happily shared the positive results, some of them unexpected! When something is done regularly, a habit is formed. It’s what happened here, too. When, after the fifth meeting, I informed them that the course had come to completion, some of the teachers expressed their disappointment, that they had only just gotten a taste and weren’t ready for it to end. This is always a good sign. They enjoyed learning, which gives me hope that they will continue to learn on their own.
I am so happy that the Caspari Center was able to respond to the need of this congregation to train their teachers. We hope to offer this new kind of on-site training for other congregations’ teaching staff in the future.
This article originally appeared on Caspari Center, October 16, 2018, and reposted with permission.