Bonds – E Pluribus Unum
What factors bind a nation together into a common harmony? Is it a Communist philosophy? The former Yugoslavia was held together by that forcefully applied glue which, when it finally dried and cracked apart under the dictator Tito, left Yugoslavia permanently broken up into its former warring factions based on religion and ethnicity. We also watched the USSR dissolve into confusion after seventy years of oppression, and Communist materialist atheism led to the murder of millions wherever it flourished.
Is it perhaps religion that can bond? We have historically seen religion come to power and oppress its population for centuries, and create animosity and wars, inquisitions and burnings between Catholics and Protestants and especially against Jews, between Shiite and Sunni Muslims and the minority religions such as Christian and Jewish and Bahia in their midst, and between Hindus and Muslims as well. Today we witness the ongoing wars and terrorism committed by the Islamic world against its own populations, and against its perceived enemies that are not Muslim, including the perpetual hatred and threats of annihilation of the Jewish State of Israel.
What bond unites individuals to a common purpose to create a healthy and free society? Is it merely our common humanity? History has proven the nature of humanity is not by nature only good, as can be seen by the bloody French Revolution in the name of “Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood,” the bloody Communist Revolution, the horrendous acts of Al Qaeda and ISIS, and the Nazi Holocaust, among others. It is evident that racial or tribal bonds are not sufficient either, judging by the bloody history of tribal warfare in black Africa, and the racial tensions in America today. It seems clear enough that human nature is in need of laws and restraints, and a moral code by which to live, and to survive. Is it the American Constitution? That great Constitution, without the undergirding of a firm moral code, can be interpreted to affirm and introduce the most destructive ideas into new norms detrimental to the health and unity of society. Can identifying with a political party or movement create sufficient bonds to preserve a nation? It would seem today’s America shows quite the opposite as political divisions are splitting the country on virtually every issue, a divisiveness of rancor and enmity that has not been seen perhaps since the Civil War, which claimed nearly 600,000 American lives. There is no longer required any national or military service, which once drew people from every level of society and race and religion and obliged them to participate together in something bigger than themselves.
The American motto E Pluribus Unum, meaning out of many, one, is being reversed to mean out of one, many in a distorted attempt to create a “multiculturalism” that does not unify the nation, but divides it into cultural cantons and loss of a bonding single language. Even the final bonding motto “One Nation Under God” is now considered by many an offence, and there are regular attempts to remove it from the American heritage, prayer is now forbidden in most schools, and the Bible considered an anachronism. On campuses and in the media there is open hostility to religion, especially to the Christianity upon whose influence the USA was founded. Now the western world sees nothing larger than the individual Self and its entitlement to rights to feed its personal pleasure, whatever it may be, somehow including that macabre right to destroy one’s children in the womb in the name of sexual freedom and convenience. Even sexual gender identity and its natural drawing together of male and female for the purpose of love and family has been blurred to create an unhealthy fear and hostility between the sexes. Almost daily we hear of Americans murdering Americans, there being no real threats from an external enemy on its borders.
Here in Israel we have some one hundred languages spoken by Jews that have come from virtually every nation under the sun. There is every race, creed, and political and religious opinion imaginable, under that true adage that “if there are three Jews gathered there are five opinions.” We do have a bonding national language, the revived and ancient Hebrew tongue, although signs appear also in Arabic, English, and often Russian. Though this is the Jewish national homeland, a large segment of Israel’s citizenry are Arab, most Muslim, but many Christian, and on any day in any place all the citizens live and work together peacefully without making news at all. Violent crime is very low in the State of Israel.
But there are bonding factors in the very fabric of the nation. Though there be intense differences of opinion on any given subject, we all here together face imminent existential danger from a hostile and outnumbering sea of neighbors on all sides and borders, some who perennially declare their intention to destroy us on religious and political grounds, and have indeed attempted that more than once. We all understand that it is our very existence that depends on our unity. Therefore most Jewish citizens serve dedicatedly in our necessarily powerful military out of that reality, and that fact blends otherwise differing cultural backgrounds into a common unity of purpose. Even many Arabs choose to serve in the military or other national service, and the large Druze community serves with complete loyalty to the nation.
Another binding factor is that the very rhythm of Israeli life in the Jewish state is regulated by the Biblical festivals, forever reminding us of our long history and heritage, and of our relationship with the G-d of Israel. Whether one believes or not, we are reminded weekly by the Biblical seventh day Sabbath when most businesses close, and the year is marked by the other Biblical and historic festivals, including the holy Day of Atonement, when all is closed and not a car appears on any street or highway. And the Bible is taught to our children in public schools from kindergarten upwards. The regular ancient archaeological discoveries here remind us of the reality of a national unity and purpose that goes back many thousands of years. The very symbol of the State of Israel is the Menorah, a symbol of the holy Light of the world, and the coming of the Messiah. Though there is freedom for all of Israel’s citizens to choose political sides and religion, there yet remain bonding factors causing our necessary unity in this tiny land, though at times appearing fragile, for the sake of our survival in a very hostile environment. And many here in Israel believe with a perfect faith the motto, In God We Trust.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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How to be a ‘cheerful giver’
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”
This verse is of course referring to the giving of financial offerings and tithes to the work of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It might be one of the most poorly obeyed commandments in the entire Bible.
The reasons for this aren’t difficult to understand.
It is NOT natural or easy for people to be “cheerful” when they’re giving away their hard-earned money. If you’re like me, you’ve got your own bills to pay and you’ve got stuff you want that’s available in exchange for that money. Putting it in the offering basket means needing to find other money to pay those bills and giving up the chance to have that stuff we want, or need, or have convinced ourselves that we need.
So many people don’t give at all, and others give “grudgingly” out of a sense of duty, or (sadly) even fear that if they don’t God will withhold a blessing or otherwise punish them. People would no-doubt LIKE to have a “cheerful” attitude while giving, but they don’t know how.
If this is ringing any bells with you as you’re reading this, allow me to share what allows me to be “cheerful” as I’m dropping my financial offerings in the plate at my congregation.
A few months ago one of the leaders of the Believer community in Jerusalem said that if the entire Body of Christ worldwide tithed the Biblically indicated amount of 10% of their income, the total would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 Billion US dollars annually. I don’t know where he got that estimate, but even if it’s off by a bit, it’s still a staggering figure.
Just imagine how much better shape the world would be in if the Church of Jesus Christ had that kind of budget.
A comparison can be drawn to the activities of George Soros, who according to Wikipedia has donated around $11 Billion to various Left-wing causes over the last several decades, mostly what he would call “educational” programs aimed at young people in various countries. The effect of this “philanthropy” speaks for itself, with millions of people adopting a Liberal/Progressive ideological worldview and effecting the political, social, economic and cultural orientation of cities, countries and entire civilizations.
George Soros did all of that by spending, over the course of several years, a tiny fraction of the amount of money the Church of Jesus Christ should have been spending every single year. Like it or not (and I don’t) one can’t escape the fact that Soros wanted to see a change in the world and he strategically invested his own personal money in projects that would bring about that change.
We who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ can and MUST do the same thing.
Because the Church CAN influence society and the culture for the better. But it doesn’t just happen. It costs money and it costs time. Every donated penny and every volunteered minute that you and I can spare is needed.
To address an issue which might be on some people’s mind as they read this, I know I am blessed to attend a church where I can be confident that my tithes will be well and responsibly spent, and I also know not everyone who is reading this will feel they can say the same thing. If you’re among them, I will advise you that I consider the time I spend praying for my pastor and the leadership team to continue to have the wisdom and integrity to be good stewards of those tithes to be part of my offerings to them, and to the Kingdom.
So, when you put your hard-earned money in the offering plate at church, or you spend your scarce free time to volunteer there, you shouldn’t look on it as giving up the opportunity to buy something you want for yourself or spend time on something you want for yourself. You should see it as an investment towards something you DESPERATELY want for yourself.
You want your church to have the resources it needs to buy food to help widows, orphans and others who are in distress, to have a radio show where the people in your community will hear the Gospel, to buy supplies for the Sunday/Shabbat school where your children go during the service, to pay your pastor a salary which will allow him to devote himself full-time to the work God has called him to do, etc.
You want what what God wants and what Jesus instructed us to pray for in Matthew 6:10, for His Kingdom to come “on earth as it is in Heaven.” That’s what we’re getting in exchange for the money that we put in the offering plate and the time we volunteer to help at the church, or to attend the prayer meeting, or whatever.
When I think about that, it helps me to stay cheerful. I hope it helps you too.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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Shimshon and Israel
While reading Cliff Keller’s awesome new book, “The Lion and the Lamb”, I came to realize how the modern State of Israel bears so many resemblances to Shimshon, or Samson. Both were born out of a promise from G-d that their strength would prevail as long as they were obedient to Him.
The early pioneers were strong but godless and as the years went by they fell under the spell of Delilah, which translates into the modern world of lust, addictions and self compromising. Appeasement and comfort have come to replace obedience and dependence on our G-d.
Just as Shimshon became lacking in wisdom and discernment, so has Israel today. Shimshon supported Delilah but all he received from her was mockery, betrayal and torture. Today Israel supports Gaza with food, electricity, water and other basic needs and in return, Israel receives nothing but mockery, betrayal and torture.
Could Shimshon have been that ignorant to realize that after being betrayed three times in a row, Delilah would still persist in trying to discover the secret of his mighty strength? Or was he completely bewitched, believing that what the L-rd had promised from birth was no longer relevant in his life? Did he really think that if he betrayed the promise of G-d and tried to operate out of his own strength, he would succeed? Of course he failed so he was taken to Gaza, both eyes gouged out and continually mocked and tortured there.
And so it is with Israel today – a godless nation, operating out of her own strength and not obedient to the promises of our G-d. So history has repeated itself. We are blind and continually tortured and mocked by the demons that dwell in Gaza. When will we ever learn to stop trusting in our own strength?
When will we repent and turn to the only One who can save us, The G-d of Israel! And then hopefully our final destiny will NOT be like that of Shimshon’s!
Carolyn Margolin-Hyde was raised in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue near Chicago. She graduated from University of Illinois and as an RN she practiced nursing for many years. After making Aliyah Carolyn served as worship leader at K’tsir Asher, The Harvest of Asher Congregation, in Akko, and then led worship at Kehilat Poriya, a congregation near Tiberius. She has written and recorded many worship songs in English and Hebrew and her worship CD’s include “Just Like Joseph” and “The Latter Rain”- contemporary worship CDs; “Deep Calls to Deep” – a soaking CD; and “Fine Linen” – worship with a touch of the blues.
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Surrender to Grace: Understanding the 12-Step Process
When I was a college student, I lived near an ice cream shop. When I was frustrated or upset I would go there and indulge in their soft, creamy ice cream. But this type of emotional eating didn’t begin as a student. I began emotionally overeating long before as a protection against a traumatic experience. I ate when I was lonely or sad and to suppress the effects of the ordeal that changed my life.
I didn’t know it then but I perfectly fit into the addiction cycle pattern. I would go through a painful situation that would trigger all kinds of uncomfortable emotions such as anger, rejection, hurt feelings and so on. That’s when I would self-medicate my pain with food. I was actually stuffing down my heartache, burying it under something sweet. I eventually stopped ‘binging’ and tried to get my life in order, which would work until I was set off again by a wounding event.
Finally, one day I’d had enough, and decided to go to the college health center and see a doctor about a healthy diet plan. Outside his office I met another student, and after chatting she told me about a 12-step group call Overeater’s Anonymous. “Would you like to go to a meeting?”, she asked. I said yes.
Later that week we walked into a bare, church basement, where about 8 women sat around a plain, wooden table. They shared very openly about their defeats and successes. I was so impressed. I was just coming out of a New Age spirituality where everything was aimed at acquiring hidden knowledge in order to ascend up to God. Here everything was out in the light. These women were authentic, and God met them where He always meets us, at our point of need.
As for me, my group leader told me to pray every day for God’s will in my life. She gave me a simple diet plan to follow and called it ‘putting the cork in the bottle’. I also phoned in my meal plans to my sponsor. My whole relationship with food changed. It wasn’t controlling me any more. One day instead of giving in to the sin of running towards food instead of God for comfort, I phoned this sponsor. I realized I was stuffing down anger instead of dealing with it, and that this process wasn’t about deprivation. I was fighting for my freedom.
The 12-Step program rests on scriptural principles that state we can’t overcome addiction in our own power. We need to admit we are helpless, and ask God to give us His strength. The Bible tells us we need God to free us from our moral failures. Neuroscience tells us our brain is a chemical factory, and the more we indulge the greater the hold our cravings have on us. Both tell us we cannot transform ourselves. We need support. The 12-Step program gives us a way to reach out to God and others.
As I worked through the 12-steps, I became a believer in Messiah Yeshua, and I realized I didn’t have to wear a protective garment of flesh to keep me safe or make me feel solid. The Lord became my shield. As I forgave, repented and shared my failings and joys with others, the weight came off.
Each step in the program becomes a conduit for the Holy Spirit to deepen our souls, open closed hearts, break through defenses, and cultivate character. We trust God, and are filled with His power. We forgive where wounded, and repent our reactions to pain. We share our mistakes with others, and paradoxically this transparency reduces shame. We are no longer defined by our failures.
What do we run towards to satisfy our hunger and thirst? Is it food, shopping, TV, drugs, porn, or alcohol? In the 12-Step program we reach out toward God, and also look to others for support and accountability. We are not just abstaining from a bad habit, instead we’ve embarked on a transformative process that begins with admitting our inability to change, and ends with what has been called the ‘renovation of the heart’.
Yeshua said:, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The 12-Step program is based on that principle. It is the practical outworking of a biblical spirituality that reconnects body, mind and heart in conformity with God’s grace and in community with others.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Dr. Snyder is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with an MS in Education and Fuller Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. in Marital and Family Counseling. She has over 10 years clinical experience. Her work experience includes Chaplaincy in the National Institutes of Health, Clinical Research Center, Bethesda Maryland, Assessment Supervisor at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, D.C. and Employee Assistance Consultant in the Federal Government. Dr. Snyder holds dual citizenship with the United States and Israel. She became an Israeli citizen in 1983. Her vision for a Messianic Counseling Center began in the 1990’s, and is seeing fulfillment in the Anchor of Hope Counseling Center and Lay Counseling Training Program.
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The Temple was built on a threshing floor
Way back in the time of Moses, God told the people of Israel that he had already chosen a place for his dwelling place in the Promised Land, long before they’d even got there:
“You are to seek only the place Adonai your God chooses from all your tribes to put His Name to dwell—there you will come.” (Deuteronomy 12:5)
Why that spot was chosen
The location is not specified at that point, but God had decided where it would be long before the Israelites got to Canaan. With hindsight, we can see God had put his prophetic mark on his spot back in Genesis 21: it was the place where God told Abraham he was to sacrifice Isaac – mount Moriah. The mount of God’s bitterness. Zion in fact means “marked”.
So how did the Israelites know which place God had in mind?
It all began when David was in dire straits – a plague had broken out against Israel, and there was only one way to stop it:
So Adonai sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, so that 70,000 men of the people died from Dan to Beersheba. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Adonai relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Now withdraw your hand.” The angel of Adonai was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” (2 Samuel 24:15-16)
”So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 50 shekels of silver. Then David built there an altar to Adonai, and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. So Adonai was moved by prayer of entreaty for the land, and restrained the plague from Israel. (2 Samuel 24:18-25)
King David bought that land fair and square, under the instruction of God, and it was on that site the first temple was built. And then after that, the second one. And today, the Dome of the Rock stands in its place.
The significance of threshing
The context of King David’s initiative to purchase that threshing floor was the need to stop the Angel of Death, who was exacting the punishment for sin. As believers this link makes sense – it’s the cosmic place of God’s victory over sin and where the power of death was stayed. But what has threshing got to do with it?
Threshing is essentially dividing – separating the wheat from the chaff.
Threshing floors crop up (excuse the pun) a few times throughout scripture, and there’s something in this agricultural process that God is wanting us to think about.
The threshing theme is woven throughout the Bible, and in Jewish thought. How does the book of Psalms start? With a song contrasting the righteous with the wicked using the analogy of a well watered-tree versus chaff. It begins with the phrase, “blessed is the man” – much like Yeshua’s beatitudes in his sermon on the mount – blessed is he who does not join with sinners, but who meditates on God’s word:
He will be like a planted tree over streams of water,
producing its fruit during its season.
Its leaf never droops—but in all he does, he succeeds.
The wicked are not so.
For they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand during the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. (vv.3-5)
Different destinies for the righteous and the unrighteous
Malachi, the last prophet, ends his book with the same picture:
“Then you will return and distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.”
“For behold, the day is coming—it will burn like a furnace—when all the proud and every evildoer will become stubble. The day that is coming will set them ablaze”—says Adonai-Tzva’ot—“leaving them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 3:18-19)
John the Baptist appears to pick up right where Malachi left off! He is telling the people of Judea about the Messiah:
“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He shall clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn; but the chaff He shall burn up with inextinguishable fire.”
This is not the picture many like to have of Yeshua, but this is who he is.
Yeshua’s sovereign right to thresh
We need, as Paul says, to consider the kindness and the severity of God. The motif of sifting the wheat from the chaff reappears in the last supper. Yeshua turns to Peter, the one on whom he was counting to feed his sheep, and says:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)
We have an enemy who seeks our destruction. But more wonderfully, we have the Messiah himself on our side! Yeshua is rooting for us, interceding for us, and is our ever present help in times of trouble.
Yeshua came as the suffering servant, he paid for our sin out of the purest most selfless love the universe has ever known. He has extended grace upon grace, and made a way open to the Father – while we were still sinners. As someone once said, the gospel is the only story in which the hero dies for the villain! Jesus didn’t only die for sinful Christians, but also for Muslims, for Hindus, atheists, witches, Buddhists, for those in the LGBTQ community (and any other letters I’ve missed out), the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker… absolutely anyone who repents of their sin and believes on his name is welcomed into the Kingdom. The sacrifice of God’s own Son, the shed blood of Yeshua the Messiah, is mighty to save.
But our window of opportunity to accept this amazing grace is not eternal. Judgement Day will surely come, as he graciously warns us. And the righteous judgement of Jesus is a good thing, as the songs in the book of Revelation declare. Finally evil is finished and dealt with forever.
Therefore just as the weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks and those who practice lawlessness. They will throw them into the fiery furnace; in that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear! (Matthew 13:40-43)
Of the increase of His government
and shalom there will be no end—
on the throne of David and over His kingdom—
to establish it and uphold it
through justice and righteousness
from now until forevermore.
The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot
will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6)
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.