The secret for success of the Jerusalem Lions
Last Friday I went to the Kraft Family Sports Campus on the Western outskirts of Jerusalem to play my role as an assistant manager for the Jerusalem Lions football team as they attempted to do something no Israeli football club had ever done, win a third consecutive national championship title. The Lions are a sports team which shares many attributes with every assembly of Christians in the world, and that’s why I’m writing this blog post to try and glean some things from what I’ve experienced and observed in the four years I’ve been with this team that can be useful to whoever might be reading this.
The championship game was tough, as we knew it would be, but in the end the Lions were victorious. After the post-game celebrations I overheard a reporter interviewing one of our coaches, asking him what the “secret sauce” was to the Lions success over the last few years. I was in a hurry to catch a ride home so I didn’t stop to listen to his response, but on the way home in the car I thought about it a lot and this is what I came up with.
We’ve got great coaches and some very talented players, but other teams also have those elements. There’s other things we have that give us some advantages over other teams, but they mostly help on the margins.
What makes the Lions so special, and so successful, can be stated in one word, “love”, kind of like what someone once said Believers should have for each other (John 13:34-35).
The players, coaches, managers and trainers which make up the Lions organization are men and women from many different backgrounds. It’s likely that many, perhaps most of us, would never have met each other, much less become friends, if it wasn’t for the team. I’m the only Jewish Believer on the team (I’m pretty sure there’s at least one on every other IFL team) and there’s one Arab guy who’s kind of a nominal Catholic. The rest of the guys have various levels of Jewish religious observance, from a few who are Orthodox rabbis to others who are pretty secular or “traditional.”
We all have different professions and vastly different political views, so much so that at team barbecues or on the bus when we’re travelling for an away game the discussions about politics and social issues can get quite rowdy.
But we all love the game of football, the city of Jerusalem that we’re all VERY proud to represent, and most of all each other. That love is a powerful glue which holds everything together despite our differences and gives us the strength and motivation to play our individual roles which are meant to contribute, in big and small ways, towards the goals and purposes our leaders tell us we’re all aiming for.
Now, wouldn’t it be simply MARVELLOUS if all the congregational fellowships we attend worked like that?
Believers have the first part. We’re all from different backgrounds, nationalities, tribes, professions, political persuasions, etc. Now we need to work on loving each other enough to unite our efforts towards the goal we’re all supposed to be agreed upon and working towards. It might help to keep in mind that although very few of us live and work in the earthly, temporal city of Jerusalem, in chapter 12 of Hebrews it speaks of a “heavenly Jerusalem” which all Believers should love.
Brothers and sisters, I consider myself tremendously blessed to be part of a sports team which has the kind of brotherly love, dedication, motivation, drive and success that EVERY organization, religious, secular or whatever, would like to have. The leadership of this team often encourages everyone to think about what they can do to help the team accomplish its goals, and that’s what I will close by asking of you, beloved readers.
Think about what you can do today, tomorrow and every day, to help your congregation and by extension the corporate Body of Christ worldwide, to bring us all closer to the plans, purposes and goals that the Bible tells us our King has for us to accomplish. The best place to start (I’m saying this to myself even as I’m saying it to you) is by following Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself.”
It works really good when people do that. Just ask the Jerusalem Lions.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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Towards unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
I returned home on Friday night from one week in Kenya. I was invited to be part of a small team for a diplomatic mission, speaking with church leaders about reconciliation of Gentile Christians — and church “positions” — with Jewish believers in Jesus/Yeshua, with a conference being planned in two years. For my part, my Jewish identity is not conflicted with my faith in Jesus and being also identified as a Christian, along with other believers and followers of the Messiah. But this is also something that might not necessarily have been so just a couple of hundred years ago, and even lingering until today in many quarters.
The return of the Jewish people in the latter days back to the Land of Israel promised by YHVH to the descendants of Jacob has restored and revived the truth that God is not finished with “Jewish” or with Israel, the natural and physical people and land which so much of the Bible centers on. God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ comes through the Jews and looks to the day of the Lord’s return to rule and to reign from Jerusalem in Israel. For those whose world-view dismisses the future and hope of the Jewish people and Israel, Jewish identity and Israel’s existence pose both a challenge and a threat.
Beginning already in the New Testament gospel accounts, we read that there were many Jews who believed in Yeshua but were afraid to say so, for fear of being put out of the synagogue — of being excommunicated. It did not matter how many traditions and commandments they might observe and keep, faith in Yeshua as Messiah and Lord — as the Son of God — rendered them “not kosher”, not acceptable. My religious and political leaders cast Yeshua outside the camp, and that is where we who believe in Him are called to be as well. When the Gentile believers began to far outnumber the Jewish believers (which did not take that long, being that there are far more Gentiles in the world than Jews), their thinking and attitude became skewed into a “doctrine” that the Jews were finished as a people loved by God, despite their rejection of Jesus. God had no more need or use for His Chosen People: their calling was completed when we rejected and crucified the Lord, even though Yeshua asked the Father to forgive all of those involved who did not know what they were really doing, and to Whom.
In Acts 15 we read the historical account of a watershed moment in “Church history”, when the authorized Apostles grappled with the question of whether Gentile believers needed to ‘become Jewish’ in order to be saved and be true believers. The answer was an emphatic “No!”, except for four restrictions which the Holy Spirit gave the Jewish apostles to place upon the new converts, in order to enable some common ground of fellowship and of worship of the one true God. When the church ‘fathers’ began to hold their own councils to deal with establishing some doctrinal orthodoxy for the new life in Christ, they began to also grapple with the question of the Jews, who would not disappear and go away. In 787 AD, at the Second Nicaean Council, the Gentile church leaders asked whether Jewish believers needed to become Gentiles in order to be saved and true followers of Jesus, and they said, “Yes!”. Jewish Christians needed to forget the Jewish part of their identity, and just become a good, for example, Spanish Christian, or a good American Christian, or a good Kenyan Christian, wherever the Jewish persons may be living. The Gentiles could retain their identity, but not the Jews.
God is restoring Jewish identity among believers in Jesus/Yeshua; and, yes, just like many Gentile Christians who retain or take on too much of their own culture and peculiar traditions of their church or spiritual stream into their brand of Christianity, so, too, do some Jews (and, even some Gentile believers who love the God of Israel and His people) take on too much of Judaism and their country’s culture into the faith which calls upon all believers to grapple with the gospel truth that we are all a new creation in Messiah/Christ when we are born-again by the Holy Spirit from Above, and are one new man in Christ/Messiah. There are both Jewish and Gentile aspects which can enrich the Body of Messiah, yet the gospel is neither Jewish nor Gentile.
The Holy Spirit is moving and working throughout the Body in the world across every denomination and ‘non-denomination’ to bring unity — which is forever inherent in YHVH God — among believers wherever and whatever we may be identified. This is towards fulfilling the prayer of the Lord for the divine unity which is His with the Father, and that is to be all of ours with each other and with Him. No one can manufacture this; it is truly a God-thing! It will only be fully realized in the resurrection life, yet however much can be manifested here before then the Holy Spirit will surely do in all those who are the Lord’s.
For me it is not institutional reconciliation, but acceptance and reconciliation — with confession, repentance, and forgiveness having their necessary part for excluding those who do not meet our own or our denominations’ qualifications — with any and all individuals whom the Lord accepts, including me. Praise God! There is still a hope and a future for the Jewish people and for Israel as a nation. The blessing to all the world depends on God’s fulfilling all His covenant promises to Israel, and the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus confirms them. We who know and love our Father and Yeshua are called to share and to preach this good news, and to help one another be reconciled to God. “…Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart….”
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, March 4, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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Israel’s unsolved rift
What was the source of the heated argument among the National Council on the morning of May 14th, 1948, just hours before the declaration of the state of Israel?The name of the state and the final wording of the declaration had been agreed upon, but the inclusion of a reference to God in the text was the last obstacle for the committee.
Ben-Gurion felt that in the final sentence of the declaration the phrase, ‘With trust in the Rock of Israel (צור ישראל), we set our hands in witness to this Proclamation…’ would satisfy both religious and secular Jews.
The spokesman for the religious parties, Rabbi Fishman-Maimon threatened to not sign the declaration unless the words, ‘and its Redeemer’ were to follow the ‘Rock of Israel.’ Aaron Zisling of the left wing of the Labor Party was equally determined in the opposite direction. He said, “I cannot sign a document referring in any way to a God in whom I do not believe.”
It took Ben-Gurion most of that morning to convince both sides that the ‘Rock of Israel’ could been taken as ‘God,’ or it could be interpreted in a symbolic way to refer to the ‘strength of the Jewish people.’ In the end the Rabbi Fishman-Maimon consented and ‘the Rock of Israel’ was kept without “and its Redeemer.”
This rift between religious and secular Jews has continued to this day, and probably is the greatest source of division among the Jewish people. This subject is a sore spot in Israeli politics, and it seems each Prime Minister acts like a pin-ball, bouncing from side to side trying to appease everyone, but never fully succeeding.
Unfortunately, such serious divisions/rifts are nothing new among the Jewish people-just think back to the time of the split kingdom after Solomon, or the severe divisions that existed among the Jewish sects during the time of Jesus and his disciples—Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, Essenes, etc.
After the splitting of Israel and Judah in the time of King Solomon, Israel had 19 consecutive bad kings who did not please God and they were eventually sent into exile. Judah on the other hand had 9 good kings who sought to please God and 11 bad kings, but they also were taken into captivity.
On a number of occasions, righteous Judah fought against wicked Israel – their own brothers – as a form of God’s punishment (I Kings 15:9-16). There were also times when they made alliances, but they usually didn’t end well due to corruption and compromise.
Right before Judah was taken captive by the Assyrians, God spoke through Ezekiel the prophet saying He would one day join Judah and Israel, and they would be one in His hand (Ez 37:15-28). The context of this joining includes God gathering the Jewish people into their own land, cleansing them of their sin and setting one King over them forever. Of course, this has yet to happen.
Recently, in prayer, I’ve sensed the heart of the Father longing to unite His sons again. This also includes all of Abrahams sons of faith, Jews and Gentiles who have put their trust in Yeshua as King and Messiah. A unified people or nation is unstoppable (Gen 11:5-6). Imagine what God would do through a unified righteous people from every tribe and tongue. We live in a day where this joining together is under much attack, and the call to pray for this unity is urgent.
Let us continue praying for Israel’s division to be healed through union with their Messiah. And let’s keep agreeing and cooperating with Yeshua’s prayer in John 17 for oneness in His global body, and not stop until He gets what He has desired and asked for!
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, February 20, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Cody served on staff with YWAM for four years before moving to Israel. He joined Revive Israel's staff in 2013. He and his wife, Liat, help lead the youth group at Ahavat Yeshua Congregation and work together in Revive Israel’s international department. They have a passion to see the word of the Lord go out from Jerusalem through media and by going out to the nations themselves.
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Reporting from the Land of Oz
Here in the land of the free and home of the brave we are hearing thunder and the blessings of abundant rainfall along with the rumbling and rattling of sabers all around about- north, south and east, predominantly. Muscles and missiles are flexing on our border with Lebanon and that of Syria and Gaza, not to forget Persia promising to erase us from the map in a mere three days. Of course our immediate neighbors the Palestinians have already done that on their maps of Palestine with no hint of the State of Israel existing on them. But never mind, with odds against us of more than a million to one, why worry?
It’s part of a long and arduous story, a process of history for millennia where we have somehow thus far outlived the great empires who have regularly tried to destroy us. But now, besides owning a remarkably armed and highly motivated military on land, air, sea, and under the sea, we’ve got our Secret Weapon (don’t ask).
That Secret has brought us abundant rains this year to refresh our aquifers, and has now opened the treasures of the deep with a massive offshore discovery of natural gas about to render us energy independent. And that odd Jewish mind, which has long been the receiver of mysteries from that Secret, has been harnessed here to develop wonders of technology to, among other things, turn salty sea water into fresh, becoming a large percentage of our potable water to drink and to irrigate our land for abundant crops to feed our folks with every culinary delight, including pineapples and trout.
And by some other specie of miracle, fear is virtually non-existent among Israelis, who are too busy building, surfing, biking, and also skiing on the snows of Mt. Hermon and, in one form or another, continue happily celebrating all the ancient festivals of YHVH, undeterred. As our first prime minister, the secular Ben-Gurion noted, “Whoever lives in Israel and does not believe in miracles is not a realist.” And so realists we are.
*Oz in Hebrew: ‘strength’
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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Resting from the daily grind
PARASHAT VAYAKHEL (AND HE ASSEMBLED)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 35:1–38:20
I marvel at God’s Word and the amazing wisdom and insight that it contains! In it, we find instructions that are relevant until today, and that enrich our lives when applied. Before I continue sharing a couple of thoughts from this week’s Scripture portion, it is important for me to emphasize that I am sharing my own personal convictions from God’s Word, and am in no way passing judgment on anyone who disagrees with me.
In this week’s Scripture portion, the command to keep the Sabbath is found right in the first verse. This is actually a repetition of the same command found four chapters earlier in Chapter 31, verses 12–17. When God repeats something more than once, it’s a pretty clear indicator that it’s important:
Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
In Exodus 31, the command to observe the Sabbath comes in the middle of God giving Moses instructions for how the children of Israel are to prepare His dwelling place, the Tabernacle. The entire Tabernacle was centered around God, His precise instructions, and His holiness. But the building of God’s dwelling place on earth also contained a provision for God to commune with the children of Israel! In the midst of all the instructions, we find that God instructed Israel to stop all of their work on the seventh day — the Sabbath — and to make the Sabbath day a holy day, a day that was set apart from the other days of the week.
What does this have to do with God communing with His people? Well, the Sabbath day was also a sign of a special relationship between God and the people of Israel (Exodus 31:13). I believe that the Sabbath is itself evidence that God created us for relationship. God stopped and rested from creating after He created man so that He could spend time with him! Therefore, the Sabbath is a sign that Israel belongs to one living God, who created human beings for the purpose of relationship. The Sabbath is also a sign of trust that God is our provider and that He will provide everything we need!
I am reminded of a challenge that I received many years ago before I entered fulltime ministry. In that period of my life, I was working about 80 hours a week, 7 days a week. I was sharing with a friend about how much I was working and he asked me a very important question that I’ll never forget. He asked, “Moran, do you think that in six days, God can accomplish what you can do in your own strength in seven days?” I was so convicted by my lack of trust in God’s supernatural provision for my life, and I started to take a Sabbath one day a week to rest and to be with Him.
In essence, God shows us that part of doing His “work” — building His Kingdom — includes time to spend with Him and to trust in His provision for us and our families. Even when we are doing God’s work, we need to stop, seek Him, follow His instructions, and apply His wisdom to our lives.
I would like to encourage you to take a break from the daily grind, and simply spend some time with your Creator.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.