Our Challenge in Combating Anti-Semitism

We’ve concluded Day 3 of a reunion and refresher for those who have attended the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem’s Christian Leadership Conference in Israel.  I was blessed to attend in late-2015, and have enjoyed reuniting with classmates and others who attended between 2010-2017.

Yesterday was a day of challenge for us!  There we sat, in a room full of staunch Israel supporters, yet I don’t believe any of us went to bed last night with the assurance that we have done all we can do to connect the church to Israel.  There is so much to be done, and each of us have our own God-given means of accomplishing His purpose.  Mine is to help others come to deeper realization of our role as Christians in understanding God’s purpose for us.

Daryl Hedding, Assistant Director of the US Branch of ICEJ, led off our sessions with “The Role of the Church in Combating Anti-Semitism,” where we were reminded that decisions made impact generations to come.  When the Holocaust occurred, people declared, “Never again,” yet support of Israel has shrunk consistently since then.  We are losing generations, as each one is making decisions that impact the next.

In Daryl’s work with young people, he illustrates steps he believes (and I agree) lead to that problem in many cases:  Rejection of God’s Word (Humanism) leads to things such as Darwinian evolution, which leads to “survival of the fittest,” then racism and, ultimately, rejection of God’s people (anti-Semitism and genocide).  Thus, it seems logical that, if one gets the beginning wrong (ie – teachings of Genesis), he will stray in the middle (ie – did God really give His Son to save the entire world?), and will likely miss God’s best in the end (ie – eternal life with Him).

The segway for the next session was Psalm 102, where we see and hear the distress of Israel (verses 1-11), before acknowledging the steadfastness of God and His compassion for His people (verses 12-17).  What follows is striking.  Verses 18-22 indicate that those things were written for a generation to come, and that the Lord will gaze upon the earth, set His people free, and bring about praise in Jerusalem.  The challenge: we ARE that generation.  Those living in this time have seen the Lord answer the distress call of the Jews and draw them out of the Holocaust.  He is establishing them in their own land, and will one day soon bring praise to Jerusalem!

2017-0812 CFYV Reunion - Intl Panel

International Panel: Kenya, Malaysia, Scotland, England, Ghana

Yet anti-Semitism grows.  We heard from an international panel of what is going on in their countries.  A bright light is Ghana, where 70% are Christians and the country is very pro-Israel (thanks in part to Israeli aid in developing their military and other humanitarian efforts).  However, Malaysia is primarily Muslim and is totally closed to any sort of relationship to Israel.  In fact, as a whole, they hate Israel and will not allow their people to travel there.  England and Scotland are seeing record numbers of anti-Semitic actions (including violence) and attitudes. Not only have evangelical churches become almost extinct, but only about 5% of those remaining are supportive of Israel (according to the panelists).

Following the panel discussion, we ran head-on into a direct challenge issued by Dr Susanna Kokkonen.  Those of us in the west live in a “spoiled society” and we are tremendously complacent.  Many are content to attend church each week, but how many are active in doing the work of the kingdom?  One such work (though not the only work) is taking a stand for Israel.  However, as it was pointed out, there are Christians being persecuted around the world and, in large part, we do nothing!  We are watching Holocaust-type activity going on against “our own people,” but do not take a stand.  Thus, if we take no stand for “our own,” how likely are we to take a stand for Israel and the Jewish people?

Wow…do you feel “hit between the eyes?”  So did we…and “we” are a room full of people who absolutely love Israel!  Please understand, this is not a guilt trip.  God has called us all to something, and if you are doing that “something,” you are within His will.  But, let’s diligently seek His will!  Let’s petition the God of the universe to direct us.  Let’s see what He has in store for those of us who will make Him Lord, not just Savior!

If we are that generation spoken of in Psalm 102, then the Lord is about to act on behalf of His people!  Let’s be part of the action!

Blessings my friends!

Reunited in Love of Israel

What a blessing to reunite with dozens of like-minded friends who love Israel! I’m in Washington DC, joining a couple hundred fellow graduates of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem Leadership Conference.  Those Leadership Conferences, held at the Holocaust Museum and Research Center in Jerusalem, seek to bring together Christian leaders from around the world to study specifically about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

At last night’s reception, I counted at least 15 of my 27 classmates from 2015, and we had a great time catching up with one another.  Most of us are actively involved one way or another in sharing the truth about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.  We were greeted by Dr Susanna Kokkonen (Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem) and welcomed by Shaya Ben Yahuda (Yad Vashem International Relations Director), both very dear friends of ours.  We were also welcomed by Cary Summers from Museum of the Bible, a supporting partner in the Conferences, as well as these Reunion/Refresher events.

During the evening, we were reminded that anti-Semitism is on the rise and, though painted with a different brush, is still the same picture the world ignored prior to the Holocaust.  After that, the world said, “Never again,” yet the BDS movement and Jewish hatred on college campuses (often sparked by radical Palestinian agendas) are rampant.  Friends, as Christians we cannot be silent.

As the evening progressed, we were treated to a special live production of “Portrait of Courage: A Call to Action,” performed by volunteers of Operation Exodus.  This was a depiction of what life was like in Jewish communities in Europe prior to the Holocaust, how covertly things changed, and the life-saving results of a few non-Jews who took action (sometimes at the risk of their own lives) to rescue Jews from the rampage of the Nazi killing machine.  It was quite moving and very well done, and certainly served as a call for us not to be silent in the current state of affairs.

Operation Exodus is dedicated to fulfilling a mission the prophet Isaiah described this way:

Thus says the Lord God,

“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
~Isaiah 49:22

Indeed, God is calling the nations to bring His sons and daughters home.  Yes, we have a responsibility in that!  Given the current rise of anti-Semitism, there is a growing call for American Jews to return home.  Most seem very happy and content in America (just as they were in Europe), but I wonder…will the same sudden destruction, brought about by American anti-Semitism, overtake them like a storm, as the German version in the 1930’s did?  God forbid!

Those ignorant of past mistakes are bound to repeat them.  Let’s not be part of that crowd.

At the end of the program we saw a short video about a group of young men who individually made aliyah (return to the homeland).  More tomorrow, but I leave you with this:

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Friends, I invite you to join millions around the world in observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day today.  January 27 commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, and is marked by an official observance at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Education Center.

Anti-semitism continues to rage across the world and it is important that we “never forget” the human atrocities and loss of 6 million human lives. For that reason, Christian Friends of Yad Vashem is teaming up once again with the National Religious Broadcasters to broadcast A Nation Remembers, the official state ceremony. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin are scheduled to speak, and the program will also include survivor stories, poetic reading, music, and ceremonies.

In late-2015 I had the rare privilege of attending a Christian Leaders Conference at Yad Vashem, where I met Dr Susanna Kokkonen and became familiar with her work at Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.  Hear her remarks about A Nation Remembers:

You can catch the ceremony on NRBtv (DIRECTV 378) on Friday, January 27th, at 7pm Arizona time (9pm Eastern), or look for it online at A Nation Remembers.

Whose Banner are You Flying?

Happy Lord’s Day, my friends!  If you have followed the last two days, you are aware that a very strategic Christian Leadership Conference is taking place in Washington DC.  The focus is on Jewish-Christian relations and I am so blessed to be here with over 100 fellow graduates of Christian Leadership Seminars held at Yad Vashem Museum and Research Center in Jerusalem over the past 6 years.

The purpose of these Seminars is to educate Christian leaders around the world about the Holocaust, Antisemitism, and understanding our Jewish roots as Christians.  Why?  Because the world (including churches and Christians in general), for the most part, do not understand those key issues and their importance in the world today.  Thus, beyond the education we continue to receive, we have tremendous networking opportunities and the encouragement to know that we are an army standing together for the sake of Israel!

Today’s sessions included a very timely teaching from Dr Susanna Kokkonen (Director, Christian Friends of Yad Vashem), who reminded us (among many other important things) that following the Holocaust, churches proclaimed it to be sinful and a degree of repentance occurred.  Europe and the west (including the US) rose to prosperity and great freedom following that era of repentance.

However, in 1967 (when the Jews regained control of Temple Mount) Christians (in general) began to have a problem with Israel.  Mainline churches began to reject Israel, and Replacement Theology began to grow in  prominence. The Western world began to lose faith in Him and rejected Him instead, putting materialism and other worldly things in His place.  Now, about 70 years later, our society has almost completely rejected Christian values.

Judges 2 records a similar pattern for the Israelites.  Verse 14 tells us that, after a falling from faith, the anger of the Lord burned against the Jewish people. As a result, they could no longer stand in the victory that God had given them.  I’m wondering…are we facing a Judges 2 moment in Christendom?

One thing is certain: much of the world has turned a blind eye toward antisemitism.  Consider this: in the summer of 2014, Hamas began raining rockets down upon Israel.  As always, Israel was blamed, and virtually no one stood up for Israel in the political/nation-state arena.  Instead, Israel was falsely accused of things that very eerily mimicked the very things they faced in the Holocaust, when no one raised a question about the Nazi atrocities.  For example, Israel was accused of:

  1. Establishing ghettos in Gaza. (ie – removing Palestinians from their homes to live in squalor.)  That is precisely what the Nazis did to Jews in the Holocaust, yet absolutely no hard evidence exists that Israel did such a thing to Palestinians.
  2. Developing death camps in Gaza.  Again, another Nazi program during the Holocaust, yet nothing to indicate that Israel has done any such thing.
  3. Committing genocide (killing off entire nations/tribes).  If you don’t think that was  what the Holocaust was about, you don’t understand history.  Yet, Israel is falsely accused of doing the same.

On and on the examples go, in constant attempts to turn world opinion and concern away from the Jews, and to condone illegal actions of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

My friends, that was a mere 2 years ago.  And what is the church doing?  Unfortunately, the church in general is ignorant or uncaring, and certainly unengaged.  All the while, the propaganda war is boosting the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) Movement perpetrated by those who wish to wipe Israel from the face of the planet.

Now, let’s go a step further and hit closer to home.  While Christians fail to stand with Israel, a bigger threat looms.  Jews are not the only target…they are simply the first target.  Genocide of Christians in the Middle East (along with anyone else that doesn’t agree with their brand of Islam) is reaching levels few of us know or understand…at the hands of ISIS.

That’s an entirely different teaching that I won’t get into here.  But I need to finish the narrative.  Jews look back upon the exodus from Egypt as the key event in their history.  Thus, I think there are some important principles we can learn from that event as well.

Will you stop for a moment to read Exodus 17, then pick it right back up here?

What did you find there?  I find a rebellious people and a faithful God!  And, dear friends, we count on the same today.  Yes, repentance before a holy God is required, but notice the name of the Lord given to Moses at the altar: The Lord is my Banner!

I think of the black banner of ISIS, of which  we have become all too familiar.  I suspect none of us fly that banner.  But what banner do we fly?  Friends, everything we do raises a banner, and we are wise to raise the Lord’s banner.  But we have to answer this question properly to raise the banner of the Lord:

How do we treat the people He loves and has chosen?  Can we hate or be indifferent/uninformed toward the ones He loves and still fly His banner?  If we sit back and do nothing, does His banner fly over us?  I suggest not.  We can’t hate what He loves or love what He hates and reside under His banner.

Food for thought…where do you stand regarding God’s chosen people?