This week Christianity Today published an article by two rabbis claiming the Last Supper was no Passover Seder. Here are the facts!Continue Reading...
Three Reasons we Give
Revival, Giving and the Tabernacle
This week’s Torah reading starts in Exodus 35. The tabernacle, which will become the central meeting and worship site for the Israelites, is going to be built. There is excitement. They have seen the miracles of God—the plagues, the Red Sea, and now Moses coming down from the mountain, shining from the glory of God. He brings them the Ten Commandments.
“Take from among you an offering for Adonai. Whoever has a willing heart, let him bring Adonai’s offering: gold, silver and bronze…” (Ex. 35:5 TLV)
The people respond enthusiastically.
“Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit was willing came and brought Adonai’s offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for all its service as well as for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women, everyone whose heart compelled him, and brought nose rings, earrings, signet rings, bracelets, and all kinds of golden jewels—everyone who brought a wave offering of gold to Adonai.” (Ex. 35:21-22)
We live in a day and age where we are reluctant to respond to such calls. And rightly so. There is so much corruption in ministries today that people are afraid that their gifts are not going to enrich the kingdom, but enrich some would-be king.
Not long ago, a media pastor asked people to buy him a luxurious jet—for the Kingdom. A few years ago he may have gotten his plane. But one of the beautiful things about social media is that it has given the regular guy a voice. And regular guys all over the internet said, “WHAT? Why in the world do you need a $65,000,000 jet?” Donors were encouraged to give at least $300 a piece towards the luxury jet, but the social media backlash was so intense, they abandoned the project (only to take it up again later).
By and large, believers want to be generous. But they don’t want to be abused. They want to give to the Kingdom of God. But they also want to make sure their giving is going to result in genuine fruit.
In Exodus 35, the people gave freely and liberally. Why? Three Reasons:
Generosity is a fruit of revival
By revival, I mean a visitation by the presence of God. In His presence, it is hard to be selfish. I saw this when I served in Pensacola at the historic Brownsville Revival. Not only did people give, but also they sacrificed in ways they would not have before the move of God, in order to be there. People quit good jobs and took lower paying ones to be in the revival. People moved from beautiful cities to the deep south, so they could go four nights a week to revival meetings. They were so hungry for God, and generous giving was a fruit of that hunger.
They trusted Moses
Because of the lack of accountability, the abuse of funds given by hardworking people and the lavish lifestyles that some in ministry live, many believers do not trust their leaders. Even though the vast majority of leaders in local congregations are accountable and want to do the will of God, we often only hear about the $65,000,000 jets.
The Israelites were a fickle bunch—my ancestors. One moment Moses was a hero; the next, they are talking about killing him. But at that special moment—after the golden calf incident and after Moses had gone back up on Sinai and came down glowing with the tablets—they knew Yahweh was their deliverer. And they gave. They knew that God was doing something special in the earth through them. And “everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit was willing came” and gave cheerfully.
We give to Local Projects
I made a mistake a few years back. We built a beautiful Coffee House at Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv. I didn’t want to be a burden on our people, so I raised all the funds outside the congregation. As a result, even though the project was a great success and we now have regular outreach concerts, the people did not own it initially. I never gave them the chance to. It was Ron’s project. Once it was built, they loved it, but I didn’t give them the chance to be part of the building.
People love to invest in their home congregation—especially if it is the consequence of growth. We are getting ready to embark on a $200,000 renovation so we can double our capacity from 150 to 300, and begin to livestream our meetings in Hebrew to the whole country—and Israelis around the world. Many in our congregation are barely surviving financially, but they will want to give to this. Yes, most of the funds will come from outside of Israel, but they will be a part of it—whether in giving or some other way. They will own it.
The people were excited to give to their tabernacle. This would be akin to their local congregation—except it would be mobile. They lived in a very religious world. They had to learn the hard way that there would no idols, no marking of their bodies in worship, or prostitution and no boiling of kids in their mother’s milk. There would be no child sacrifice. They were eager to worship their God, but they were steeped in pagan traditions. Now, with Moses’ guidance, they would give of their most precious possessions to see a beautiful tabernacle arise.
Take some time and read Exodus 35. It will encourage you.
A recent report on RT News, reveals scores of former Muslims converting to Christianity in Europe. I recently met with a missionary to Europe who told me of one evangelist from a Muslim background who goes into refugee camps every day. Because of the danger, he asks the Lord to lead him to those refugees who are ready. The results of have been astounding.
One church has grown from 150 to 700 mostly from refugee converts. Last week 80 refugees from Iran and Afghanistan were baptized. In Austria, since January 1st there have been more than 300 applications for baptism and 70% are Muslim background refugees. And a church in Liverpool is attracting over 100 in their Farsi service (language spoken in Iran).
Furthermore, many of these have followed Yeshua into the waters of immersion—making it official to all their friends and family that they have left Islam and now serve Yeshua. One young lady says in the video, “Since I became a Christian, I fear no one.”
One of the reasons for the mass conversations is ISIS. Many of these refugees have witnessed the most horrible atrocities in the name of Islam at the hands of ISIS members. They want nothing to do with that religion.
Another reason is that in Muslim countries the penalty for converting is usually death. In Europe no such laws exist.
Additionally, it is rare that someone can hear the true message of Yeshua in countries like Syria and Saudi Arabia. However, in Europe, they can freely go to a church.
In their home countries, even if they are not killed, they will suffer complete rejection from their families and communities. There is no where else to go. In Europe they are finding new friends, who embrace them fully in the love of Yeshua.
Let’s keep praying for eyes to be opened and more Muslims to find freedom in Yeshua.
“Truly I tell you,” Yeshua replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31)
Israel is the lowest ranked team at the World Baseball Classic, 200-1 underdogs! They have been compared to the Jamaican Bobsled Team. And, as I am typing, they are in the ninth inning at 8:19 AM, Sunday morning (Israel time) and are about to defeat baseball powerhouse, Cuba. This is after going undefeated in their first round against third-ranked Korea, fourth-ranked Taiwan and ninth-ranked Holland.
This is nothing short of a miracle…well, just short of a miracle. After all, we are talking baseball, not Red Sea partitions.
Yawning, not Fawning
Now you would expect that the nation is just overwhelmed with excitement and pride. The truth is, most Israelis could not explain the rules of baseball and are unaware of our success at the #WBC. When our Sports Minister was asked if she was going to South Korea, (where Israel is playing), she was clueless that the event was even taking place.
Nevertheless, to see sluggers wearing the kippah and singing (or at least listening) the Israeli national anthem is moving. In addition, according to Jewish tradition, the players read from the book of Esther (known as the Megillah) from the dugout.
“The Finger of God!”
So, why isn’t the nation more excited? Let’s go back to 2004. When Maccabi Tel Aviv scored six quick points, they were still trailing by three with two seconds left in the Euroleague basketball game that would decide if they made the playoffs or not. They fouled the other team’s best shooter. He hadn’t missed a foul shot in his last 18 Euroleague games! He missed them both. Tel Aviv got the rebound and Gur Shelif quickly passed the ball to Derek Sharpe, who swished a three-pointer, as time ran out. We won in overtime!
The headline read the next morning, “The Finger of God!”
“Maccabi’s coach, Pini Gershon, declared the shot a Passover miracle. “You have witnessed a miracle. I am a believer. And if this is not a miracle, I don’t know what a miracle is.”
As a new immigrant, I watched the ending on a beach in Eilat with about 500 people. It was truly the greatest comeback I’d ever seen. We went on to win the Euroleague Championship that year.
You see, being the people of the book, rebirthed after 2,000 years of wandering around nationless, we view every victory as God-inspired. When Israel won just two medals—a bronze and silver—in last summer’s Olympics, the bronze medal winner, Or Sasson said, “We did something amazing. Israel is a judo empire.”
Well, not quite. But we overcame a lot to get those medals. First, a Saudi opponent forfeited her match to avoid going up against an Israeli. Then, the Lebanese Judo team would not let the Israeli team on the bus they were supposed to ride together. Finally, after the aforementioned Sasson, defeated his Egyptian opponent, the Egyptian refused to shake his hands. So, with the world against us, we tend to see the finger of God, not only in theology and war, but also in sports.
Why not Baseball?
And yet, when I just told my very Israeli wife of Israel’s heroics in the World Baseball Classic, she had no idea what I was talking about. Let me explain why.
- First, Israelis don’t play baseball. We play soccer and basketball. In schools, there are no baseball teams.
- Secondly, Israelis don’t watch baseball. Your average Israeli could not tell you what a bunt is. A sacrificed fly might be mistaken for doves being sacrificed at the Temple, before connecting it to baseball.
- And, thirdly, our “Israeli” team doesn’t have many Israelis—two, to be exact—and my guess is they immigrated.
“Support has also suffered because the team is, well, not very Israeli. Thanks to the WBC’s “heritage rule,” its players are almost all Americans with major or minor league experiences and varying degrees of ties to Judaism and Israel.”
So the only way for Israelis to truly get excited about this “Purim Miracle” is for our team to keep winning.
Mensch on the Bench
A mensch is a Yiddish word for “stand-up guy” and some are crediting Israel’s miraculous success with their mascot, who actually can’t stand up. The Mensch on the Bench, as he is known, resembles a rabbinic Jew; he is 5ft tall and was the idea of infielder Cody Decker.
“[The Mensch has been a] big hit in South Korea and with pictures of him wearing a t-shirt making the rounds on social media, he’s also been involved with generating the hashtag #JewCrew.”
Is Baseball the new Judo?
After Israel’s Olympic success in judo, it became all the rage for younger Israelis. However, the problem with baseball is that you need 18 people, a field and equipment. Nevertheless, if the Israeli team continues on this tear, the larger population will rally behind our sort-of-Israeli team. The good news is that it slowly catching on. After today’s win, I noticed that it was on the front page of, not just our English news sites here in Israel, but our most popular Hebrew site had a story about it as well.
If Israel somehow reaches the finals in Dodger Stadium, they will arrive too soon for us to connect it to Passover, and Purim is just now ending. We might just have to event another Jewish holiday. Maybe this one will be celebrated with hotdogs, peanuts and crackerjacks.
How refreshing! For the past eight years the United States, under the leadership of President Obama, has distanced itself from its historic friendship with democratic Israel. President Trump’s new United Nations Ambassador wasted no time and making it clear that the United States was back on the side of the Jewish nation.
She expressed shock that the Security Council focused solely on issues that have nothing to do with world security—namely Israel. Not a word about Hamas’ extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, Assad’s butchering of half a million Arabs, or Hezbollah’s growing arsenal. They didn’t seem concerned that Iran is developing a ballistic missile that is able to carry a nuclear warhead to New York City. In fact, they didn’t even mention North Korea’s testing of missiles or assassinating the brother of their dictator on foreign soil.
Here is what the NY Sun wrote:
But the meeting, she said, was not about Hezbollah’s illegal buildup of rockets in Lebanon, it was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists, it was not how we defeat ISIS, it was not how we hold Beshar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of thousands of civilians.
“No,” she said, “instead the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East. I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the Council has operated month after month for decades. I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore to the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.”
Images of former Secretary of State, John Kerry, angrily rebuking Israel for building homes, while ignoring those who are committing murder, have subsided. For those still wondering if the Trump administration was going to be pro-Israel, wonder no more. Haley’s Comet is soaring!