Showing posts with label Israel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Israel. Show all posts

23 April 2013

To Egypt and back

Leaders in the church, Part 7
< Herod and the astrologers | Index | John the Baptist >

Joseph takes his family to Egypt to escape from Herod, and later they return and head for Galilee. This shows us how important it is to lead from obedience. But what do we do when the information is incomplete? And what does this say about leaders and about followers?

A painting of the escape to Egypt
When I began my trawl through the New Testament for information on leadership, I had no idea that by the seventh article I'd still be in the second chapter of Matthew!

But that is right where we are, looking at Joseph and Mary's escape to Egypt and then their decision to settle in Nazareth in Galilee. (Matthew 2:13-23)

Once again, dreams are an important feature. I've occasionally been guided by dreams in the past, I wonder if you have too? This time, the angel in Joseph's dream instructs him to take his family to Egypt because Herod is going to hunt down the baby to kill him. As before, Joseph was obedient, he got up and set off in the night for Egypt.

Later, when Herod was dead, he was told to return to Israel (again by an angel in a dream) and was finally guided (in another dream) to settle in Galilee in the town of Nazareth.

Leadership - What can we learn from this about leadership? Right away we  can see the importance of acting on what we hear from the Father.

Leading is not about following our own plans and visions, it's about following the Father's plans and visions. In other words, leading is about obedience. It's not about my wisdom, it's about Father's wisdom expressed in whatever way he chooses.

In Joseph's case the Almighty's will was expressed in dreams, it may sometimes be the same for us. However, the Holy Spirit may choose to speak in many different ways. It's up to us to be alert and notice his communication - whatever form it takes.

Acting on incomplete information - Something else we can glean from this story is that leading through obedience is not always easy.

'Escape to Egypt and stay there until I tell you' meant that Joseph's obedience would be open-ended. Not only would they go to Egypt, they would stay there for an unknown period of time. Presumably he would have found work as a carpenter and there was a large ex-pat Jewish community in cities like Alexandria. Should they settle, build a house and set up a business? Or would it be better to do contract jobs and find temporary lodgings?

Similarly, 'Go to Israel' is incomplete information; apparently Joseph was not told what part of Israel to choose or how long to remain there. Guidance and obedience don't always result in the clarity we might like.

There's also the important matter of using our own brains, wisdom and experience. When guidance lacks detail we may need to depend on our own resources to fill the gaps. Joseph decided for himself that it was unwise to go to Judaea. In a further dream he was warned again and decided to settle in Galilee in the small town of Nazareth. He worked the rest of his life and died in Nazareth without seeing what Jesus would eventually do. We rarely see the end from the beginning.

For us and for others - Leading implies followers. We have responsibilities to others and to our heavenly Father. Here is Joseph having to make decisions that also affect Mary and the infant Jesus. Here's the One who has come as Emmanuel ('Elohim with us') placing his safety in the hands of a carpenter! Even those with great authority (even Jesus) must learn to put their trust in the hands of other leaders.

This is true in the church, isn't it? Christ himself is the head of the church yet he has entrusted his body to the leading of ordinary men and women, not because he needs to but because he chooses to. And it's the same for us.

One of the primary ways leaders come off the rails is when they begin to think people should follow them. Demanding to be followed will never be effective because true authority is always given freely, not demanded. If people don't want to follow you no amount of cajoling or threatening or persuading will change their minds. But if you are worthy of respect and trust they will follow you without hesitation, even without conscious thought.

Joseph was followed into Egypt, back to Israel and on to Galilee because Mary respected and trusted and loved him. And the infant Jesus, the fullness of the Most High in tiny, helpless, human form was also entrusted to his care and to that of Mary. Have you ever thought how truly awesome that is?

And have you ever thought how awesome it is that the Father trusts us to lead one another? Jesus lives in every believer, he has planted his Holy Spirit and nature in us individually. If you lead you are leading people who are filled with the presence of the King of Kings! So be very careful and ever so humble in all you say and do and think.

This is why we are told that few should teach (James 3:1) and none should be called Teacher (Matthew 23:8). And it's why Paul wanted the churches to recognise elders who would be true and faithful (Titus 1:5-9). Much depended on it. Much depends on it still.

Leading by doing - Notice how an angel was sent repeatedly to show Joseph what to do next. He was given dreams that showed him the need to journey and provided clear destinations. There's a clue for us here if we are willing to see it.

If anyone aspires to lead the body of Christ they must lead by their actions, not merely by talking. If the lesson is to love one another then leading will involve practical and sacrificial loving. Isn't that how Jesus did it? If the lesson is sharing the good news in every day life then leading will involve inventive ways of sharing it daily.

Unlike Father, we can't insert a dream into a sleeping person's mind. However, we can insert a dream by demonstrating it in our own lives, by acting it out. In the church we are, I think, surrounded by many, many sleeping people (certainly in Western society). So go and show them the dream, reveal it to them by your actions. You are a leader, in many ways we all are. So get to it!

Questions:

  • What would have happened if Joseph had ignored the dreams in his leading?
  • Can you think of examples of local leaders in your own life who show the way?
  • How might you lead, or lead more effectively?
  • Had you considered that when you lead you are leading people who contain Christ?

See also:


< Herod and the astrologers | Index | John the Baptist >

27 December 2012

Israel and Iran love one another

Remarkably, Ronny Edry has started a viral peace campaign on the internet. Initially it was 'Israel loves Iran', then 'Iran loves Israel', and now it's worldwide and growing apace. Take a look at the Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts. What a great idea!

Ronny Edry's Peace FactoryIsrael and Iran are at best very suspicious of one another, at worst sworn enemies. Iran would like to see Israel destroyed, Israel is considering a strike at Iran's atomic research infrastructure.

Ronny Edry started something bigger than he expected when he put up a simple poster on Facebook expressing love towards Iran.

After a while it built quite a bit of momentum with replies from people and places he didn't expect.

It's not merely that his poster has gone viral (although it has), but rather that the whole idea of loving one another has gone viral. Quite a movement!

Ronny, knowingly or unknowingly, has reiterated Christ's message to his followers to 'love your enemies' (Matthew 5:43-48). To our shame we have not always done that as we should. Well done, Eddy. And well done everyone who has taken the idea and run with it.

Watch this video of Ronny speaking at TEDx in Jaffa, Israel. It's a video you really should definitely not miss.



Questions:

  • Do you think Ronny's love movement has lasting value?
  • How many people might a viral idea like this reach?
  • Can you think of further and novel ways to contribute to Ronny's idea?
  • Is there anything greater than love? Who might you offer love to today?

See also:

04 November 2012

Astonishing tales of reconciliation

Hear some interviews with extraordinary people. This article provides a little background to some recordings available online and then suggests ways you might engage with the situations described. Listen and consider carefully what you hear.

A slimline microphone
In the last post we heard something of the need for reconciliation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. In this post we have more on the same theme.

Julia Fisher records interviews with some extraordinarily brave people engaged in sometimes suprising ways with Father's purpose for his people.

Here in the West we have little idea of what it means to be a believer in a place where it may be hard and dangerous.

Every week she broadcasts one of these short but informative, moving, challenging and encouraging interviews. Here's what she wrote about one of them a few weeks ago.

It may surprise you to hear that in the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and in the West Bank there are a growing number of Palestinians who were born into Muslim families coming to faith in Jesus – these people are called Muslim Background Believers or MBB’s for short.

It is very dangerous for them to openly declare they are Christians. Equally for Christian Arabs to witness to Muslim people is very dangerous. My guest today is such a person. To disguise his identity let’s call him “J”. I met J in Jerusalem recently – he lives there. He spends a great deal of his time encouraging MBBs in the West Bank. I put it to him that not many people realise these people exist.

There's a full list of these broadcasts on The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund website. You can listen to them online or download them (click the 'Radio' link at the top of the Home page). They are all worth hearing but the interview she refers to in the quote above is week 115. Listen to week 116 as well where the story continues.

These followers of Isa (Jesus) have truly difficult and dangerous lives, probably much like those of the early church persecuted by (among others) Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:54-8:3). They need our help and support in prayer, and perhaps in other ways too.

A suggestion - Download the recordings for weeks 115 and 116 and listen to them with your friends. You could do this with any small group of twenty or fewer. Perhaps you are part of a cell group, a Christian Union, or a prayer group. After listening you could discuss what you have heard, pray for the people you heard about, pray for Julia Fisher and her work as an interviewer and broadcaster.

Questions:

  • Do you think it would be easier or harder to grow as a believer if you had no access to the Bible? Why? Did the early church have Bibles?
  • What does it mean to you to store up the word in your heart?
  • Apart from the Bible, what other aspects of our lives do you think Western believers take most for granted?
  • How can you help these people? How should you pray? What else might you do?

See also:

03 November 2012

Israel and the need for reconciliation

A report about a Palestinian Christian sparks thoughts of reconciliation and encouragement between Arabs and Jews in the land of Israel. We consider what we can do, individually, to take this essential process forward.

Speaking in the Capernaum synagogueThe Archbishop Cranmer blog recently had a guest post about the problems between Israel and the Palestinians, in particular claiming that we are hearing much less than the whole truth about the Palestinian side.

The article, by Anglican Friends of Israel, involves some analysis and examines the reasons that ordinary Palestinians might wish to be very circumspect in what they say, especially to Western media.

A personal story - But what struck me most powerfully was the story of a Palestinian Christian woman who has decided to speak out. Her name cannot be revealed for obvious reasons, but her story is outlined in the full article and she is clearly a very brave person. She has been speaking to meetings in the UK recently, helping to expose the false reports so readily accepted by some churches in the West.

It's most important that stories like this are told and shared widely. That's why I've decided to pass the information on to everyone who reads 'Journeys of heart and mind'. Some extracts from the article are quoted below, but I encourage you to visit the original and read it for yourself in full.

Many of us suspected that [the] romantic picture of bravery and harmony in the face of brutal oppression concealed a much darker reality but it was hard to prove as Palestinians largely kept silent. To be sure, some clues couldn’t be missed – the murder of Bible Society employees in Gaza, the sack of Bible Society and YMCA property in the West Bank.

Back in 2007 when the Gaza murder was still raw, my wife and I were invited to a meeting to hear the widow of the victim speak. She very bravely told us her story. Some dozens of us, Palestinian followers of Isa (Jesus) and European believers met together for prayer, to talk, sing and to share a meal. It was a very special day, an occasion I will never forget.

Fr Nazaih, the long-time parish priest of Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank [said], “…Little by little the Christians leave because they cannot live with the Muslims. There are some fanatics who do not like the fact that we exist.”
...
One of the most courageous women I have ever met spoke ... about her life as a Christian Palestinian in the West Bank. Her life and family members have been threatened because she has dared to break the conspiracy of silence that permits too many Christians to retain a rose-coloured vision of life on the West Bank.
The original article goes into her story in some detail.

What can I do? - Let's think for a moment about our role in all this - our role as believers living in the West. How do we deal with deceit, especially when it is widely promulgated as fact? We do need to keep speaking the truth and doing it in love, not from an angry, vengeful heart. But apart from spreading the truth whenever and however we can, we also need to provide whatever practical help we can.

One way to do this is to work through organisations like 'The Joseph Storehouse' who provide help to Jewish and Arab families facing hardship in Israel, or 'The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund' (OTRF) who work so hard to build reconciliation and trust between Arab and Jew in Israel.

There are many more good and exciting stories out there. Julia Fisher, director of OTRF and a broadcaster in the UK, has written a series of books about much that has been happening in and around Israel encouraging so many across the divide. I strongly recommend buying a copy of her first book, 'Israel: The Mystery of Peace'. The true stories it contains will lift your spirit and warm your heart. Take it from me - they will! It's also very worthwhile spending some time looking through the pages of the OTRF website.

Israel is not a lost cause. How could we even begin to think such a thing! This land is so beautiful, so historic, and above all so special in the sight of the Father and of the Son. Even for those with a purely worldly view of history and geography, this is a special place. Harmony and reconciliation are possible here - possible but not easy. It is well worth making the effort.

Questions:
  • Have you visited Israel? If so, did you have an opportunity to speak with ordinary local people (Jews and Arabs)?
  • Are there ways you could help the reconciliation process? Visit some of the links on this page and see if there are things you can do.
  • If there is no reconciliation in Israel, what do you think the result will be?
  • Should reconciliation be primarily a political process or can it begin at a more personal level?

See also:

24 September 2012

Seven times?

How many times must I forgive a person who wrongs me? We take a look at forgiveness in terms of Cain's murder of Abel, Israel's history, and the teaching of Jesus. There's a pattern, a thread running through all these themes. We see how forgiveness is protective and comes without limits.

Forgiveness at its source
When Yahshua told Peter he should forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), he was clearly making the point that forgiveness is something that should be seen as having no limits.

But this is not the first time these words are found in the Bible.

All wise and all knowing as he is, Jesus would have been very familiar with the earlier texts in Genesis 4:15 and Genesis 4:24. He intended Peter (and us) to get the deeper message. So what is that deeper message?

Cain - Read Genesis 4:8-26. In verse 8 we see how Cain attacks his brother and kills him. Which is the greater sin, attacking my brother or killing him? Most of us would agree that murder is worse than injury. But is it? We'll come back to that.

Cain's punishment is more than he can bear, he understands he is to become an exile, hidden from Yahweh's presence, and a restless wanderer at risk of death. Even so, Yahweh protects him by placing a mark upon him and decreeing seven-fold vengeance on anyone who dares kill him.

Cain goes into exile but raises a family and builds a city. His descendent Lamech also commits a murder and claims seventy times seven-fold vengeance. Notice in verse 26 that it was after these events that people began to call on the name of Yahweh.

Israel - We can see much in the history of Israel that mirrors these events. The life of Cain is, in a sense, prophetic. Joseph's brothers were jealous, they sold him to Egyptian traders and told their father that he was dead. For all they knew it was true.

The nation passed into slavery in Egypt, hidden from Yahweh's presence. When they were released from Egypt they became restless wanderers at risk of death, but they carried the mark of circumsision and were protected from destruction at the hands of the Egyptians and other nations.

They began to call on the name of Yahweh and worshipped him - first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Forgiveness - Let's move on again, to the conversation between Peter and Yahshua. Peter wanted to offer the protection of Cain to his brother, but Jesus requires the protection of Lamech. What is really going on here?

Peter's forgiveness is just like the forgiveness of the Father. It is the thing that protects from vengeance. Peter either forgives his brother, the fault is forgotten and the relationship restored, or he does not. And he needs to treat every repeat offence as if it's the first. And like Peter, we too are called to forgive without limit, without counting. It's what the Father and the Son have done for us, forgiven without limit. How can I do less for my brother, my sister?

It is the word of the Father that he will demand life from anyone who harms us. We have only one enemy - the evil one - and he cannot stand against our Father.

The pattern set by Cain and Lamech (pre covenant) comes down via Israel (Old Covenant) to the church (New Covenant). Cain was offered a mark and a seven-fold protection. Lamech claimed a seventy times seven-fold protection.

Israel (before the Messiah) was given the mark of circumcision and protection through repeated but temporary ritual sacrifice.

In Yahshua we (with Israel) are given the mark of the Holy Spirit and protection through ongoing and indefinite forgiveness. But like Lamech we must claim that protection. In our case we can only do so by believing and confessing Jesus as Lord.

Oh yes... Murder or injury, which is worse? Jesus pretty much equated anger and murder - don't murder, don't injure, and don't even be angry. Anger is the source of murder in my heart just as it was for Cain.

Read Matthew 5:21-22, 1 John 3 and 1 Corinthians 6 for more on this topic.

Did you know? There's a 'Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance' that was formed to promote forgiveness in all situations. The organisation declares that 'Forgiveness is the greatest healer of them all' and 'Without forgiveness there is no future'. They have some great stories about forgiveness.

I'd say that Jesus is the greatest healer and without him there is no future. But Jesus came to open the way to forgiveness, healing, and eternity.

04 January 2012

The dry bones of church will live

Part 10 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< An overwhelming army | Index | No later items >

Once again Yahweh speaks, this time in explanation and application. He spoke to Israel but through them he is also speaking to us. He can reach us wherever we are and he can transform us from death to life, from dry and scattered bones to a mighty army.

A small groupAnd now that the work is complete and the army restored, Yahweh speaks once more. This time it's by way of explanation as to the meaning of the valley of dry bones vis-a-vis Israel.

Yahweh speaks - And then he told me: 'Son of man, the bones are the Israelites. They say, "Our bones are dry, we have no hope and are disconnected." So speak to them and say: "This is what Almighty Yahweh says: my people, I shall open your graves and raise you up. I'll put my Spirit into you, you'll live, and I'll return you to your land. Then you'll understand that I, Yahweh spoke and did it, says Yahweh,' (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

Everything that happened in the vision and every word that Yahweh spoke applies to Israel in captivity. But like all biblical prophecy it applies again to the church as well - it applies to us. We'll come back to that.

Israel - First of all - the bones are the Israelites. This is presented as background information for Ezekiel, it is not something he is told to speak over the people. The Israelites had been carried off from the promised land as slaves. They felt they had no hope, they were literally disconnected from the land, from Jerusalem and from the Temple.

For the Jews in captivity this would have been very significant. For most of them the thought would be that Yahweh's Presence was in the Holy Place in the innermost part of the Temple in Jerusalem in Israel. They were hundreds of miles away in Babylon therefore they were hundreds of miles away from Yahweh. There was no hope of help!

But he can reach them where they are and he has more words for Ezekiel to give them. He says that he'll open their graves and raise them up into new life! He will put his Spirit into them and return them to Israel. And then they'll understand the inconceivable - Yahweh can reach them, will reach them, and has given his word! He has spoken and is responsible for achieving it.

The church - So how does this apply to us today, also his people, also broken and ineffective. Just look at the history of the church and the state of the church in the West today. Riven by schisms and disagreements over doctrine and practice. Separated into denominations and streams. It would be easy to write out a long list of problems and issues. We usually gather with others who are like-minded and this undoubtedly isolates us from some of the differences.

Notice that the rest of the chapter (Ezekiel 37:15-28) follows right on from the valley of dry bones and covers the important matter of unity. This is not a coincidence.

The Spirit of Christ has been drawing his people together, little by little. All down the ages he's dealt with one issue after another. Much has been done, beginning with doctrinal essentials like grace in the 16th century and going right on to a pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century. But our response has often been to leave the old and start something new.

In our own day we are seeing a lot of rearranging - the bones are being fitted together. Thousands and thousands of family-sized groups have already formed, people who will love one another and love those around them. Some of these are house churches, some are small groups in the larger churches, some are CUs in colleges and workplaces. There is great variety.

Flesh and skin are covering these bodies. All they need now is refilling with breath, to stand up, and to be united into a single army under Christ as head and commander. It will not be easy, in fact it's far beyond our ability to do, our King and Commander Yahshua will have to do the work. We will need to listen and watch and do what his Spirit tells us and shows us - no more - but no less.

Like Israel in Ezekiel's day, he can reach us, he will reach us, and he's given his word. He has spoken and is responsible for achieving it.

< An overwhelming army | Index | No later items >

07 January 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Electric vehicles with a difference

Better Place have been beavering away for some years, agreeing deals with nations and states around the world, developing the technology, making the case for their approach to electric vehicles, running demonstrations.

The Renault FluenceFinally they are ready and are buying 115 000 Renault Fluence cars for the Israeli and Danish markets. They are also installing charge points and battery swap stations in Israel and Denmark and demonstrating taxis in some other countries.

A recent news article provides plenty of information about the current situation and is well worth a look.

You can read the background in earlier articles here on AAJ (scroll down after clicking the link).

Well done to Shai Agassi and his team. Lateral thinking of this kind is what the world needs right now if we are to make any impact on fossil fuel use.

Another example of the same sort (albeit much smaller) is the story of Dale Vince and Ecotricity. Articles in The Sunday Times and BMI Voyager cover that story well.

17 February 2010

UPDATE - Better Place rolls out first trial

Here's the latest on Shai Agassi's Better Place company. The trial rollout of a few hundred cars has begun in Israel.



See main article >

16 February 2010

Hebrew origins - recent evidence

A pottery shard found in 2008 may be the earliest known text in an early form of Hebrew and dates to the 10th century BC. The western gate of Khirbet QeiyafaThis is around the time of King David and would push the archaeological record of the language back by about 400 years from the previous oldest recorded sample.

The new evidence may also support the idea that parts of the Bible were written far earlier than previously thought. The piece of pottery recently unearthed at Khirbet Qeiyafa carries an ink inscription. As recently interpreted by Gershon Galil it closely resembles several Bible passages from Exodus, Psalms, and Isaiah. Earlier translations are less clear.

Gershon Galil's version reads
You shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord]. Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an] [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and] the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king. Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

14 February 2010

Shai Agassi - Joined-up thinking

Shai Agassi, the Israeli/American alternative energy entrepreneur is thinking big. he can't help it, it's in his nature! Better PlaceThe most valuable things he has brought to the table involve lateral thinking, sudden leaps that change everything, paradigm shifts.

Where most of us are content to tweak the status quo, Shai Agassi understands that to make a real change we need to look at our problems with open minds, recognising that the solutions may sometimes be there right before our eyes but that 'tweak the status quo' may blind us to them. We often look without seeing.

Shai's solution to battery powered motoring is close to rollout in a major way, first in Israel, then Denmark, then Australia, and with a range of other places queuing up to follow the lead of these three. Banks are beginning to believe in the business model of his company, Better Place, and are starting to provide loans to enable the infrastructure to be built. Governments are also backing the idea with funding. Car manufacturers, electricity companies and even oil companies and chains of petrol stations are joining in too. This is an idea that is starting to fly.

But if that's not enough, Shai Agassi is also pointing out that we need joined up thinking on electrical energy. Wind farms, electric motor vehicles, battery exchange systems all face issues, but build them all on a large scale and they help one another out in significant ways.

Listen to Shai as he explains.



You can also watch Shai explain his battery swap technology (recorded in 2009).



See update >

03 September 2009

Israel's New Disciples

This is the title of Julia Fisher's latest book, the subtitle is 'Why are so many Jews turning to Jesus?'Israel's New Disciples.

It's a very good question! Julia provides some intriguing answers in the book by publishing edited interviews with a number of key people living and working in Israel.

Although I haven't yet finished the book I want to draw attention to a couple of brief mentions that struck me as particularly significant.

First, as someone interested and involved in networking small groups of believers in Eastern England, I was fascinated to read about the same sorts of things happening in Israel too. On page 56 Julia quotes one of her interviewees,

I see, alongside the traditional congregational structure, a growing number of smaller groups of believers with a greater focus on community living.


And secondly, on page 79 she refers to Islamic Indonesian followers of Isa actually praying for Israel and a real need for believers in the West to get more involved in prayer and interaction with Messianic Jews.

These two factors mesh amazingly well with things I've been watching elsewhere. Namely the growing trend in the West to meet at home informally and become more involved in practical ways of real community living, and the trend reported by Wolfgang Simson of rapid growth of small, close-knit groups of new believers in Asia.

We live in very exciting days!

By the way, I strongly recommend anyone interested in events in Israel to read Julia Fisher's other books, 'Israel - the Mystery of Peace' and 'A Future for Israel?'.

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