Arab Christian Pastor Thankful to be an Israeli

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We were blessed with so many fantastic speakers at the ICEJ/ACLI Conference earlier this week, and I want to share about one of the most interesting speakers of the event, Pastor Saleem Shalash.  Pastor Shalash is an Arab Christian living in Nazareth (Jesus’ boyhood hometown), shepherding Home of Jesus the King congregation.

His gratitude for salvation is clearly obvious, as is his love for Israel.  Only 1% of Christians in the Middle East live in freedom, and the vast majority of those are in Israel.  He humbly recognized that he has more rights than Jewish Israelis, including lack of mandatory service in the IDF (as a Christian Arab), though having the same right to subsidized medical care.

Additionally, he confirmed what is known by mamy: the Arab-Palestinian cause is very lucrative.  Monetary and humanitarian aid given to the Palestinians could be used to build dozens (if not hundreds) of schools, hospitals, government facilities and much more, yet those resources flow right into the pockets of Palestinian leaders.  Founding leader Yasser Arafat, current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal are all worth over $1 billion…while the Palestinian people suffer.

Saleem fully recognizes the stark contrast between his fellow countrymen and himself, calling it “the difference between heaven and hell.”  Whereas Arabs and Palestinians, in general (particularly in the Gaza Strip and West Bank), live in turmoil, he enjoys peace and relative prosperity in Israel.

Regarding his homeland (Israel), he stated unequivocally that it is the prerogative of the Israeli government to determine its capital.   With great excitement and energy, Pastor Shalash exclaimed that the move of the US Embassy was not just history, but HIS story…God fulfilling His covenant with Abraham to use Israel to save the world. (See Israel: God’s Vehicle to Redeem the World and Israel: God’s Vehicle of Eternal Salvation)  Indeed, He is!

In closing, Pastor Shalash used a familiar Bible account to illustrate God’s work in Israel today.  In Luke 5:1-7, Jesus was standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and found two boats on shore and fishermen (Peter, James and John among them) cleaning their nets.  Jesus got into Simon Peter’s boat, cast out a short distance and began teaching the crowds on shore who had followed Him there.

When He finished, He instructed Peter to put out into deep water and cast the nets.  Peter was a master fisherman and had just spent a very unproductive night fishing, had gotten the nets cleaned up for the next day, and was perhaps a bit indignant at being given fishing lessons!  You see, it was the wrong location.  Fishing in the deep was not what they did!  They knew the fish stayed in more shallow parts of the lake.

Not only was it the wrong location, but it was also the wrong timing.  Fish don’t bite in the daytime!  On top of that, it was the wrong tools.  Their nets were not made to fish in deep water.  Wrong location, wrong timing, wrong tools.

Yet, they obeyed and the nets were so full of fish they needed help hauling them all in!

Comparatively, many would say Jerusalem is the wrong location in Israel for embassies!  After all, not a single nation’s embassy has been in Jerusalem since the 1980’s.  Some would say the timing is wrong.  Though the US Embassy was the first to move (on May 14, 2018), there is outcry that it will result in extensive regional conflict, which some nations and people groups have vowed.  Still others argue that moving embassies is the wrong tool.  Do something different…just don’t move embassies to Jerusalem!

You see the parallels.  However, God chooses foolish things of the world to confound the wise!  (1 Corinthians 1:27)  His thoughts are also higher than ours.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
~Isaiah 55:8

We were truly blessed by the boldness and contagious joy of Pastor Saleem Shalash, but we were even more grateful for the evidence that God is indeed calling all people to Himself.  Pastor Shalash sees the Light and is a Lightbearer to his fellow countrymen.  The love of Jesus to all mankind is shining brightly into the Arab community in Nazareth Israel and beyond as Saleem takes his message of Christ’s love and redemption around the world.

Praise God His love isn’t reserved only for a small group of people, but for the entire world!

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
~John 3:16

Israel at 70: A View from the Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy and a Jewish Author

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At the ICEJ/ACLI Conference in Washington DC, we were privileged to hear from Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy, Yaron Gamburg, gave an exciting speech about the history of Israel.  In regard to Israel today, he mentioned three key things of which everyone should know:

  • Land – As we know, God’s covenant with Abraham promised Israel a land.  (See Genesis 12 and 15, as well as other references.)  When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, He referenced a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3, Ezekiel 20).  Yet, when Israel was reborn in 1948, Israel was far from a land flowing with milk and honey.  Yet, Isaiah 35:1-2 tells us that the desert will blossom.  That is happening!  You see, the land blossoms only when Jews are in it!  God keeps His promises to His people.
  • People – God’s covenant with Abraham also involved people.  Abraham would be the father of the Jewish people.  Since Israel’s rebirth, 3.5 million Jews have made aliyah (return to the homeland)!  Israel has now overtaken the United States as the most Jewish-populated country in the world…as they should be!  God is bringing His people back to their land, just as He promised.
  • Purpose – The Jewish people have a purpose: to make the world a better place.  Avi Jorisch, author of Thou Shalt Innovate, also spoke at the conference, concurring that tikkun olam (making the world a better place) is part of the Jewish DNA.  It is ingrained.  Ganburg referred to the Jews as “lights unto the world,” and strive to leave a positive impact.

Jorisch spent considerable time describing innovation in Israel, including all the ways in which inventions are helping people all around the world.  We previewed CBN’s latest release entitled, To Life, which documents the worldwide relief work done by Israelis.

It is so important that we share the truth about Israel.  Here’s a great way to learn (then tell) about Israel’s efforts to be “lights unto the world.”  To see To Life for free, click the link.  Check it out, then spread the word!

Make Way for the King!

Pull up a chair and join us at the study table!  This is part 3 of a series I’m doing regarding the return of King Jesus!  If you missed the first two parts, go back and check out:

We found that King Jesus will not return physically to earth until His people invite Him to return.  Matthew 23:39 says:

“For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Oh how He must long to hear those words!

When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised him land and descendants…forever.  God had a world view in mind.  In fact, Romans 4:13 indicates that Abraham was to be “heir of the world.”  God’s idea was of a worldwide kingdom, and He uniquely invited us all to become part of His kingdom.

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
~Romans 2:28-29 (ESV)

We’re all invited in!  When the Lord Jesus circumcised our hearts (saved us, put a “new heart” within us), we entered His kingdom realm!

But hold on!  Good for us…not so good for the unbelieving Jew, who is also the descendant of Abraham.  How does that work?  Good question!  To understand, we have to draw a distinction between “natural Israel” (son of Abraham by birth and lineage) and “spiritual Israel” (son of Abraham by salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Galatians 3:29)

We share a “spiritual” heritage.  Spiritual Israel is the true family of God!  Paul puts it this way, in Romans 11:17-23:

  • Some Israelites have been broken off from their own tree.
  • Some Gentiles have been grafted into that tree.
  • As a branch, we cannot boast because the root supports us…the branch doesn’t support the root.
  • God is both severe to those who disobey and kind to those who trust Him.
  • The “broken off” (unsaved) people of Israel may be grafted back into the tree.

We all have the same opportunity!  John 10:14-16 tells us we are one flock with one shepherd, and Colossians 3:11 says there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles).

Yet, God has not forgotten about “natural Israel.”  They will be restored.  In fact, Romans 11:24-26a describes a national salvation of ALL Israel!  As great as the spiritual revelation is to us Gentiles, consider how much more glorious it will be when natural Israel becomes spiritual Israel!  The Apostle Paul spoke of it in Romans 11:11-15:

Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves.  Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.  I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead!

Oh glorious day when the King is invited back by His people!

But, here’s a secret…it will be a united effort!  Check back tomorrow as we bring this mini-study to a close.  There will be two parts tomorrow…so check back early, then again mid-day for the grand finale.  I have something special planned!

See you then!

Conditions of the King’s Return

Hi friends!  As promised yesterday, we’ll spend the next few days following along with an ongoing Bible study I’m teaching live.  The study is called “What in the World is Going On: Understanding the Prophetic Signs of Our Soon-Coming King,” and we’re getting to the really good part!  So, join us for the live study if you can.  (Info here.)  If not, hang in there with us here on this blog over the next few days and I’ll try to keep you engaged!

Anyone doubt that Jesus is coming soon?  We’re seeing world events line up with Bible prophecy as never before.  In fact, we have spent several weeks previously discussing world events, particularly in the Middle East involving Russia, Iran, Turkey and other places.  We also studied the great covenants of God to find that He used the Abrahamic Covenant to lay out His promises to the Jewish people (and ultimately to us as believers), the Mosaic Covenant to reveal sin and our need for redemption, and the New Covenant that allows us to enter into salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  But the most triumphant covenant is yet to be fulfilled…it is the Davidic Covenant, fulfilled during the Millennium, when King Jesus physically returns to earth and we reign with Him.

Three conditions must be met, though, before the King can return:

  • Israel must be in her land.
  • Israel’s historical mission of being the vehicle for world redemption must not fail.
  • Israel’s destiny must be a national one, not simply a spiritual one.

Regarding the first condition (Israel being in her land), dilemmas existed for some time.  First, God had promised Abraham land and descendants…forever.  However, Jews were dispersed all over the world from 70 AD to 1948.  How could the King return if His kingdom was non-existent?  Secondly, Gentiles ruled over Jerusalem for years.  That all changed on May 14, 1948 when the nation of Israel was re-born, and in 1967 when Jews took control (as controversial as it is) of Jerusalem.  Condition #1 has been met.

What about the second condition: Israel fulfilling its call to be the vehicle of world redemption.  What in the world does that mean anyway? Well, Genesis 12:3 tells us that all the families of earth will be blessed through Abraham and his descendants (Jews).  Well, friends, that blessing is salvation.  Israel gave us the Messiah, who we call Jesus!  And Jesus is accepting of all who will put their trust in Him.  Israel is fulfilling her calling as vehicle of world redemption (despite the fact most Jews do not recognize the Messiah!)

The third condition demands that Israel’s destiny be a national one, not simply a spiritual one.  God needed a real, physical place to place real, physical people through whom to bless all the families of the earth!  Indeed, the destiny of the Jewish state is a national one.  Israel remains the custodian of Scripture and is the “final destination” of Jesus when He returns to set up His millennial kingdom.  He must come to Jerusalem.  Thus, there must be a Jerusalem in which to come!

See, friends, the conditions for the return of the King are in place!  But there is something more that must happen and we’ll discuss that tomorrow!  Be sure to come back, as each day we’ll build toward the exciting finish on Sunday!  Meanwhile, be blessed as you consider the amazing gift God has given us through the Jewish people!