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Our Very Real And Personal God

I was recently struggling with a situation that made me feel desperate to hear from the One who could see further down the road than I could. I felt like a soldier who needed specific instructions from the commander detailing what I should do and how I should do it. I guess what I was needing the most was assurance that God was with me even though I felt fear of the unknown future. 

During this time, I came across the story of Joshua when he had just succeeded Moses as the new leader of the children of Israel. But Joshua was about to do something his predecessor had never done. He was about to lead the people of Israel into the Land that God had promised to all their forefathers was theirs to take. So here was Joshua walking in a new position and into a place he had never been. I love what happens next- God shows up! But not in the same way He had revealed Himself to Moses. He reveals Himself to Joshua in a way that was personal to Joshua. The captain of Israel’s armies met the Captain of heavens armies and received the affirmation he needed that God was with him. (See Joshua chapter 1 and chapter 5:13-15). Directly following this encounter, Joshua courageously fulfilled what he was called to do. 

This is not the first time that God personalized His encounters with people. David was a shepherd who had spent many years with his father’s sheep. When David was in sin with Bathsheba and had not yet repented, God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke him in a way that David would understand. He used an analogy of a thief stealing the only beloved sheep of a poor man in order to slay it as a sacrifice. David could most certainly experience anger for someone doing such a thing and it was then that God could reach his heart by saying, “You are that thief”.(See 2 Samuel 12). But David knew God in so many personal ways that He said of God, “You have searched me and You know me…You are intimately acquainted with all my ways”.- Psalm 139:1&3. 

One more example that rises above all others in regards to how God reveals Himself in a very real and personal way is through the sending of His own Son in the form of a man. Yeshua, the Word of God, was made flesh and He lived among His people. (See John 1:14). Could there have been any more personal way for God to relate to man than by becoming one? That is mind-boggling to me.

But this is the God we serve. One who is so holy, so perfect, so above all, yet His desire is for us to know Him personally. And the more we know Him, the more we can in turn reflect His nature and character to others in a very real and personal way. He came through for me in the midst of my struggle and I know that because He is no respecter of persons, if you seek Him, He will come through for you too. 

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What is Your Orientation

What is your orientation like? God’s orientation, the way He sees things is totally different than the way we see things. And we have to adjust our orientation if we are going to follow Him. Let me give you an example. When God called Abraham, he comes out of Ur of the Chaldean, comes down through the crescent and he reaches the Land of Israel. If you know Israel by map, you would see the ridge that runs north to south through the middle of the country. To the left, there is the Mediterranean sea and to the right, the Jordan Valley. Our automatic orientation is that north would be up and left and right would be east and west.

So, Abraham comes into the Land that God promises him and there is too little grass for his herd and the herd of his nephew, Lot who was with him. The two men are both shepherds and both have a lot of flock, so there was a lot of arguing between the herdsmen. Abraham is a peacemaker who believes in the promises of God that he doesn’t have to fight to fulfill those promises. So he says to Lot, “you chose which land you want, left or right and whichever one you chose, me and my herdsmen will go to the other”.

When we make our decisions based on an earthly northward pattern, we may be way off. Our cultural backgrounds may dictate certain understandings that are really not the way God sees it. God’s north may be due east and not what you are thinking. So when you think about making decisions and lining yourself up with God’s values, you have to line it up according to His word, to get His orientation on things and then you’ll be able to make a proper decision in your walk with the Lord. But if you are basing your decisions based on a cultural understanding, you might be pitching your tent near Sodom and Gomorrah and that never ends well because bad company corrupts good morals. When you are making decisions, you want to be able to line yourself up with God’s word so that when He tells you to go left or right, you will know where you are headed.

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Comparison is a Sickness

I was just a child in elementary school learning to read when I experienced something that would change my life. My teacher, who had also taught my older brother and sister before me, saw that I struggled to read and said, “If you are their sibling, why are you so different that you can’t read like them”? In that moment my confidence to read was shattered. For many years afterwards, I was terrified to read in front of people because one woman who had authority in my life spoke something negative over me. And as long as I believed those words, they had power in my life. 

One day I decided not to let them affect me anymore. I began reading out loud and was even able to read in front of the group I was teaching at the “Heart to Serve” seminar. When I shared this testimony with those who were present, they clapped for me because they saw that I could do it and in encouraged them to overcome their fears and weaknesses as well. 

Those who think they are weak have a lot to give. Many times, the weak are stronger than those who think they are strong. Yeshua told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul responded, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Messiah’s power may dwell in me”. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Since I was born in the 1960’s, I remember the time when magazines came out featuring models as examples for beauty. Intelligent young women suddenly struggled with anorexia and depression because they were trying to be like those models and they couldn’t. How many times have we looked at other people’s Facebook pages or lifestyles or the opportunities other people have and we compare ourselves with them? It produces the same kinds of sickness! No one is supposed to be the same as anyone else. We were all created differently with sets of strengths and weaknesses. But God never intended that we should accomplish anything on our own. When we try to be perfect in the eyes of man, we fail because our trust is in ourselves and not in God. For it is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts”. – Zechariah 4:6. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. But He has given us the gift of His Holy Spirit and this same Spirit that raised Messiah from the dead lives in us! 

“But let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD”. – Jeremiah 9:24.

If you have swallowed the lies of the enemy about who you are, I encourage you to face that lie with God’s truth and trust Him to give you the courage to see yourself through His eyes. He has given you great gifts to be used for His glory and as a blessing to others. So don’t let the enemy make you sick with comparison or depression about what you don’t have. Be thankful for all that God has given you and go out and make something of it! 

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What do you do when life is more than you can handle?

A woman and her husband made Aliyah from Russia in 2014 with their baby and they had another baby born here in Israel since then. 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old. Her husband wasn’t really stable in his mind and so he wasn’t really able to find a job. Their debt was growing and then he committed suicide in March. She is left alone with two very small children and a huge debt.

Dima was also working with her as a new immigrant. She was about to get evicted from her house and an organization helped her pay for one month’s rent. Orphans Promise can possibly help her with another month’s rent. Arik is going to try to help her close out her debt. The bank agreed to help reduce the debt from like 69,000 to 15,000 shekels. We sent out requests to several organizations and so hopefully we can close out her debt altogether.

Pray for this mom who is going through so much. She needs to care for her children, and for herself while dealing with all the bearocracy.

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When Cynthia’s Dream Came True

Have you ever passed by the homeless on the street and assumed that what brought them to that place was a series of poor decisions? Or have you ever thought that a single mother was single because she wanted her freedom and wasn’t willing to make things work with the man she married? Perhaps what comes to mind when you meet a house cleaner is that they have no education or motivation to progress in life?

Unfortunately, too many times we assume we know the story just by what we see. But the truth is, not everyone’s story is according to our assumptions. Take the nation of Israel for example. This country is made up of people groups from around the world. Immigrants from Ethiopia, Ukraine, the Americas and the like all come to Israel in search of a home. But these immigrants face incredible challenges, one of which is learning the Hebrew language. Parents who make Aliyah with their children come with very little and need to find work immediately or they will not be able to eat or rent an apartment. Many of these immigrants make Aliyah with skills, knowledge and degrees from their homelands. But without the ability to communicate in Israel’s national language, their degrees and skill-sets are entirely unusable. They must choose to either learn the language and face a mound of debt, or to work jobs such as house cleaning in order to feed themselves and their families. 

*Cynthia, like many other single mothers, shared this exact predicament with the staff of CBN Israel. She had made Aliyah nearly two decades ago, but being abandoned by her husband, she had no choice but to find menial jobs to cover hers and her children’s basic needs. With determination, Cynthia managed to teach herself the Hebrew language over time and even began helping others who were struggling in their Hebrew courses. She dreamed of the day that she too could take courses in Hebrew, specifically the study for tour guiding. It was no longer the Hebrew that was holding her back, but the finances. The expense for such a course was well beyond her small, monthly income. 

When the staff saw the obstacle that was keeping Cynthia in this holding pattern of poverty, they worked on gathering the funds needed to pay her way through her studies. The funds came through and Cynthia was told the great news. “Thank you so much!”, she enthusiastically exclaimed. Presently, Cynthia is enrolled in her studies towards her dream come true. 

*Name altered for privacy.

It is because of those who give to CBN Israel that immigrants, both new and old, are finding help and hope in their times of need. Would you consider partnering with CBN Israel and helping us make a very real impact on the lives of real people? On behalf of our staff and the many lives we have touched through your support we say, “Thank you!”

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The Value of Reflection

When we look into a mirror we are able to see what we normally cannot see which is a good look at ourselves. If you have ever had your spouse or a friend tell you that you have something stuck in your teeth when you smile, it illustrates why having a mirror can be valuable. We desire people to value us, and a mirror enables us to check ourselves and see us the way others see us.

One of the reasons we observe traditions in Israel is that it reminds us to ‘reflect’ and look back at what happened in the past. As with Passover, observing these festivals are opportunities to reflect and remember the joyful occasions of God’s deliverance. However, there are also times of remembrance of God’s correction in our lives. The 9th day of Av in the Jewish calendar is one of these observances where the Jewish people remember the tragedies of history and take time to reflect.

The 9th of Av is associated with multiple tragedies in Jewish history, the most important being the destruction of both the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem. In reflection on these tragedies, there is a value in knowing what led up to such severe acts of national judgement and destruction. When we apply this concept to our personal lives, it may be unpleasant to reflect back on these times because it forces us to revisit the places of our failures. But the value in times of reflection is not for the purpose of condemnation, but education. Remembering helps reinforce the lessons that were learned through the pain, and keeps us from repeating those failures.

The Bible teaches that we are to:

“Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25, NASU)

The value of what we hear and learn through God’s word is only as good as we are willing to walk it out. Like the story of creation in Genesis, God’s word brings order out of chaos, and our lives will gradually have a decline in chaos as we align ourselves with the statues of His word. 

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Loving Leadership

There are many different forms of leadership, and there are many motivations for wanting to become a leader. As I was driving through the Jordan valley, I looked at the mountains on the other side of the Jordan River, and I thought about Moses standing with the Lord on one of those mountains. The Lord had taken him up to Mt. Nebo so that he could look into the Promised Land that he would never enter. I thought about how loving and humble a man he had to be in order to lead the people of Israel for forty years, knowing that he himself would never enter into the promise.

Earlier in their journey in the wilderness there was a place where the complaints of the people with Moses brought him to a point of frustration. He was instructed to speak to a rock in the sight of Israel and bring water out of it. But in anger, he struck the rock and water came out. For this, God told Moses that he would not enter into the land of Canaan as promised.

When I think of this situation, wouldn’t it be so easy for Moses to blame the people for why he disobeyed God and hense received such a punishment? It is safe to say that most of us would probably have chosen to pick up and leave and wash our hands of these ungrateful, stiff necked people. Moses could have wrapped himself up in bitterness, but instead he chose to continue leading God’s people. What an amazing man to be able to see past where the people were at and to believe in the promises of God to transform them into what He was calling them to be. Moses continued in the wilderness to partner with God in the slow process, to intercede and teach this rough band of former slaves because he believed in the God who was able to complete what He had started.

It is very possible that Moses was aware of the transforming power of God in the life of a person because he had spent so many years of his own life in that same wilderness before anyone was following him. He had seen in his own life what God can do and it enabled him to continue to love and serve people who were very difficult to be with. Walking with others may not be an easy thing to do, but when you recognize how gracious God has been in His dealings with you, it may help to make it easier to see beyond where they are now and concentrate on what God has called them to become. This is the godly calling of leadership. It is not a place of authority and power so that others can serve you. It’s a place of allowing God to use you to serve others so that they come into their inheritance.

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Come Out of the Shadows

Jesus said we are the bride, but what does it mean to be His bride? A bride means first of all that we are the most beloved in His eyes- pure. Jesus sees us as pure although we know that we are not apart from His blood. The issue is that we look at ourselves in the mirror and see all the spots- the dark parts. Often, we lean either towards being very judgmental about ourselves or towards narcissism and in that case, we really don’t see. The truth is that we all have those areas that are unlovely and cause us to feel ashamed. Sometimes we get to a place where we see everything that is wrong with us and we don’t see ourselves in the mirror that He placed in front of us.

In the book of Song of Solomon 1:6, the woman that Solomon loves is feeling ashamed of who she is and unworthy of his love for her. She says, “Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!” This woman was not with prestige and servants. She was working in her father’s fields. Her skin was not flawless like a daughter of a king, but instead she bore the scars from the harshness of the sun. Essentially she is asking the question, “what do I have that you would choose to love ME?”

But her lover repeatedly responds with kindness and affirmation- “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!”- Song of Solomon 1:15. This lover is like our God. He does not see the scars that we see. He sees us with the eyes of love and He sees who we will become because of His love. Later in the second chapter verse 14, Solomon says to the woman, “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hidden places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” Is this not an incredible picture of God’s amazing love? This woman, like us, is hiding because of her shame and lack of self worth. But the lover, like God, desires to hear her voice, to see her face and to openly, unashamedly, reveal that this is the one he loves! 

Beloved, God is saying to you, “Come out of the shadows! I see you for who you are. Do not be ashamed of your scars for you are beautiful in My eyes!

Psalm 45:10-11 says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” Further in verses 14 and 15 it says, “In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her— those brought to be with her. Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king.” You see, when we receive God’s love for us and walk in our identity as His bride, we are changed and in turn, that change provokes others to want to know Him. Imagine it! Wouldn’t you want to meet the One who loves the unlovely, beautifies the broken and turns the shamed into the glorious? 

That my friends is exactly the work of God in our lives…at least it is for those who are willing to receive His love and come out from hiding in the shadows. 

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Establishing the Kingdom

In 2nd Samuel chapter five,  we see the establishment of David as king over all of Israel. This didn’t happen all at once. There was a long process between the time David was anointed by Samuel to be king as a young man and when David becomes the king of all Israel in Jerusalem. The process was a time of preparation, where both David and the children of Israel come to a place where they were ready to receive David as king.

The David who is anointed by Samuel is not the mighty man of war that we read about later.  He is an insignificant lad who is tending the sheep of his father. He is not even considered by his own family as anything special and is forgotten when the rest of the family attended the special sacrificial feast that the prophet Samuel showed up at. David had no accomplishments to put on a ‘resume’ in order to become the king of Israel.

God, however, sees the heart. He examined this boy and found something that He did not find in any of his brothers. We do not know the details about his battles with the lion and bear that he fought to protect his sheep. But we know that these hidden battles early on in life gave him a testimony that he carried with him into battle with the giant later on. He struggled against a strong adversary where no one could witness his bravery, and he experienced first-hand a God who gave him the victories. God saw the heart of a boy who cared so much for the dumb sheep entrusted into his care, he could be trusted to care for His people also.

The foundation of David’s life which was laid in this lonely time is where he found God to be a special companion. He may have become familiar with the stories that he had heard about God’s dealings with the Patriarchs and his ancestors. He may have even been like others who revered and worshiped this God of his fathers. But in the lonely place where David is of little significance, he experienced God in a way others didn’t. His extraordinary confidence in his personal relationship with a great God is why David’s courage stands out. When everyone else retreats in fear, David runs towards the challenge of the giant:

“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Sam 17:45-47, NKJV)

God desires us to know him in the same way that David did. His call is not to just hear stories about Him from others, or even participate in distant worship and reverence. Not that these are bad things, but we miss out if we do not seek out more. It is in experiencing God in your own circumstances, and seeing His hand at work in your own life that enables you to become all that He has called you to be.

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For Your Glory, Lord

No one wants to suffer. In this day and age, we have so many luxuries that we think, “well, why should we have to suffer”? As believers, we have personal access to the God of the universe who can speak one word and heal us instantaneously, provide for us miraculously or create a universe for that matter. So, when we begin to suffer, we cry out to Him for help and if our circumstances don’t change, we think, “what just happened here? Doesn’t He see what I’m going through? Doesn’t He care?”

But what if God is allowing that suffering to do a work inside of us that could not be done through any other means? Or what if God has a greater purpose of salvation through our suffering? After all, wasn’t that what Yeshua went through for us? Yeshua never sinned and never deserved the suffering He endured when He walked the earth. Yet the Bible says that He was well acquainted with sorrow and grief (Isaiah 53:3) and was even separated from His Father when He bore the sins of the world on Himself. Did not Satan himself question Jesus concerning this matter of suffering? 

Jesus didn’t need to fast, but He did and He experienced hunger. It was when Jesus was hungry that Satan encouraged Him to use His power to turn the stones into bread. Why suffer if you have the power to change it? Satan then took him to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms and their splendor. “You can have it all, Jesus, and not have to suffer if You will bow and worship me”, Satan said in paraphrase. (See Matthew 4). But this was not the way the Father planned to bring the world salvation. Salvation for all men, women and children would come through Yeshua’s suffering. Remember, Yeshua left His throne to become a human like you and me and He chose this humility and suffering for your freedom and mine. There was a purpose to His suffering. 

Many times, this is what happens when we suffer also. Yes, God has all power and all authority over all the principalities and kingdoms of heaven and earth. He can speak one word and alter the course of history. He can heal us instantaneously and there are many times He does! He can open doors to our financial breakthroughs and can rescue us out of horrible relationships and the list of things He can do is literally infinate. Nothing is impossible for Him. But the truth is, His ways are not like our ways. And there is no formula. The only thing we know for sure is that He is good and His ways are perfect. So even when we don’t get what we want, the way we want, and when we want it- it does not mean that He is not hearing our prayers and at work in our situation. It’s just that there are times He chooses to walk through our suffering with us, giving us grace instead of deliverance, perseverance instead of rescue and revelation of who He is instead of the easy way out. When we experience suffering, we can trust the Lord to use it for His glory while we humble ourselves like Yeshua and pray – “Father, not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). 

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