Monday 15 April 2013

Happy Birthday Israel. 65 today!

On Sunday, Israel was remembering its fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Today, 15 April, is Israel’s 65th birthday. 
During the last 48 hours Israelis have  remembered all the people who gave their lives so that they might have freedom and a future to celebrate.
A week ago, I was in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day of weeping and mourning. Each year there are less and less Holocaust survivors and the number of soldiers and civilians killed in Israel’s struggle for survival continues to grow. Everyone in Israel has lost a loved one in one of Israel's many wars. Either that or they know someone who has lost a loved one in conflict.
Israelis celebrate their country’s birthday every year and they do so because more than any other nation on earth, they never take their existence for granted.
So as Israel celebrates their 65th birthday, let us pray that the Lord will safeguard that vulnerable little country surrounded by enemies who constantly breathe out threatening and slaughter against them. May their God shine the light of His love on them and remove the veil of darkness that hides Messiah from their view.
Great God of Abraham! hear our prayer
Let Abraham’s seed Thy mercy share;
O may they now at length return,
And look on Him they pierced, and mourn.
Remember Jacob’s flock of old;
Bring home the wanderers to Thy fold;
Remember too Thy promised word,
Israel at last shall seek the Lord.
Though outcasts still, estranged from Thee,
Cut off from their own olive tree;
Why should they longer such remain?
For Thou canst graft them in again.
Lord, put Thy law within their hearts,
And write it in their inward parts;
The veil of darkness rend in two,
Which hides Messiah from their view.
Oh! haste the day, foretold so long,
When Jew and Greek, a glorious throng,
One house shall seek, one prayer shall pour,
And one Redeemer shall adore!
Thomas Cotterill
Happy 65th Birthday, Israel!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Bless this house

The Grace and Truth building in Israel officially opens
A historic event took place in Israel on Saturday 6 April when the first indigenous Christian place of worship to be constructed since the state of Israel came into being in 1948 officially opened. Almost 300 people, most of them members of the congregation, gathered to give thanks to God for his faithfulness.
The growth of the Church in Israel since the rebirth of the country in 1948 has been remarkable. When the modern state of Israel came into being there were, significantly, just twelve Jewish believers in the land. Twenty years later, in 1968, the number of Jewish believers was less than fifty. In 1988, they numbered less than 500 but today no one knows how many Jewish Israel followers of Jesus there are. The lowest estimate is 10,000 but, according to others, there could be twice that number. The fact is that the Church in Israel is growing at a phenomenal rate and the Grace and Truth congregation was one of the first to come into being and its leaders see the fellowship as having a great destiny. The congregation was also the first to declare its commitment to the historic Reformed Confessions of Faith.
The vision for the building began in the 1990s and after purchasing, with great difficulty, a piece of land, the groundbreaking ceremony took place in November 2000. The project came to a halt after funding dried up but throughout the difficult years, when some members of the congregation saw the building as an albatross around their necks, congregational elder David Zadok retained the vision. Two years ago, with the help of the Isaac da Costa Foundation in Holland, work began again and the building is now virtually completed.
David Zadok, who is also the Israel Field Leader of the UK-based mission Christian Witness to Israel, came to faith in Jesus in the USA and returned to Israel in 1983. He joined the Grace and Truth because of its commitment to Reformed theology and was ordained an elder in 1990 but returned to the States some ten years later to study at Westminster Theological Seminary. David was installed as the church’s pastor in January and in his address to the congregation, he reminded them of God’s covenant faithfulness to the Jewish people and the importance of ‘land’ and ‘place’ in the Old Testament. God provided a place for Adam and Eve to live, he promised Noah he would not again destroy the earth with a flood, and he promised land in perpetuity to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants. The land provided, among other things, safety and security but it was also the place from which God’s law would go forth to all nations. Even in the New Testament Jesus promised to prepare a ‘place’ for his people.
The Grace and Truth congregation has experienced many changes over the years, not all of them positive, but the fellowship is now in a situation to reach out to the community and to serve the wider Messianic Jewish community throughout the land. With the opening of the building, said Pastor Zadok, God had provided a place in the land for his people which they must use for his glory and from which they must reach out with the gospel to their neighbours. Reflecting on the recent history of the Jewish people, Pastor Zadok reminded those gathered that God had brought his covenant people back to the land promised to their fathers and had restored Hebrew as the common language in Israel. The Jewish people in the land have come from all nations and languages to their ancient homeland where the tongue of the prophets is the common language, making it possible for the congregation reach their people with the message of Messiah.
Situated in the southern part of Gush Dan, the building is beautifully Middle Eastern in appearance and was designed to resemble both a church and a synagogue. Inside, light streams in from all sides and from the huge domed skylight, symbolising the light of Messiah. When the idea for the building was conceived, it was for a multi-functional structure that would be open seven days a week throughout the year. Had the building been completed a few years ago, the congregation would not have been able to make full use of it but things have providentially come together at a time when the congregation is in a position to make the best use of the facility. Since work began on the building, a major road junction has made access to the venue from the north and south, the east and west easy and quick, and a second major junction is currently under construction. This puts the magnificently designed building in a convenient position to serve not only as a house of prayer and worship but also a conference centre and a cultural venue.
The building was completed through the generous financial assistance of the Isaac da Costa Foundation and organisations as far away as Canada and Finland. But outstanding loans remain to be repaid and the congregation, though growing, is financially challenged. Christian Witness to Israel is appealing to Christians around the world to help the congregation through prayer and financial contributions. Donations to the project can be sent via Christian Witness to Israel, 166 Main Road, Sundridge, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN14 6EL.