“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Christians often struggle with the humanity of Jesus. His humanity—Him being fully human—challenges the divine Superman we often want to make Him. Because of this, we do not usually think about Him having faith, a trust in God. When Jesus faced His death, as He hung on the cross and suffered, He did so as a man facing the same fears that each of us faces when confronted with death. Yet, He was also convinced of a just God who would vindicate Him. In the midst of His suffering, pain, and death on the cross, Jesus believed that His death would not be the end, that God would not let His death be the final word.“In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9). Jesus was not Superman, a being that looked like us but immune to the struggles, pains, and fears of human existence. Jesus was a man and faced His life and death as such. This gives poignancy to His statement on the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” It’s a statement in the face of life’s final, greatest journey of profound faith. Often Jewish sages, like Jesus, cited part of a biblical verse as a way to refer to the entire verse. Jesus’ statement on the cross-cited the first part of Psalm 31:6: “Into Your hand, I commit my spirit; You redeemed me, faithful God.”As Jesus breathed His last, He communicated His profound confidence in a Father who would not abandon Him. The circumstances of His death were very real and final, as was the pain and suffering. But, God did not abandon Jesus to the grave (see Acts 2:29-36). Even in His death, Jesus demonstrated for us the ability to trust His Father when confronted with an unknown and uncertain future. God is faithful regardless of the circumstances, and He will not abandon us. The circumstances may be very real, even life-threatening; but we can trust God when confronted with such circumstances.“Father into Your hands I commit my spirit; You redeemed me, faithful God.”PRAYERFather, regardless of my circumstances, I trust You and Your faithfulness to never abandon me. Amen
What is the true meaning of home? For 18-year-old Idan, this word has meant many things throughout his life. After his parents’ divorce and a series of familial difficulties, he was processed through the Israeli Welfare Ministry, facing many moves between permanent and temporary housing. He found himself living alone as a minor after being subject to many family struggles. On the eve of one of the Jewish holy days, he was invited by a local family to join their holiday meal, and from that evening forward, Idan proceeded to live under the Levy family’s care for the 3 years that followed. However, now that he has graduated from high school, he will follow his peers in his mandatory army service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He will serve in the navy, and live during the week on a closed base.
Because Idan was never officially adopted by his foster family and has now reached the legal age of emancipation from the foster-care system, he is considered a “lone soldier”. This status is usually reserved for new-immigrant international Jews who go through the ‘Aliyah’ or immigration process and serve in the IDF while their families remain in their country of origin, however, there are special cases such as Idan’s where this classification is granted to native-born Israelis as well. Lone soldiers are allotted certain benefits such as a living stipend, time off for family visits, and other supports to try to mitigate the difficulty of completing their service without family support. However, despite these strides to offer greater assistance to lone soldiers, often the struggles they face are still too steep, and many are forced to return to their home country, slip into depression, or in some cases have even been known to take their own lives. There is a great need for this population to find a place they can truly call “home” during their service, and CBN Israel felt called to fill this void. CBN recently rented a large home in the greater-Jerusalem area, to support lone soldiers of different life circumstances. The home will eventually house up to 10 soldiers and 2 house-parents and will give highly subsidized rates for rent, food, bills, and other expenses. The home will also be a space for structured programming to offer the soldiers a sense of community to come home to.
Idan said that he prayed to God to prosper him in the next season of his life, as he knew his emancipation date from the foster system was drawing near. When asked about his next step after high school, he would tell people that he was believing for a home for lone soldiers like himself, where he could find community and a permanent home during his service. He even thought of starting one by himself. Therefore, when Idan heard that this was exactly what CBN Israel was trying to provide, he says that he was very eager to join the project, and help build it from the ground up. “I was so happy and I knew that I was destined to go there”, he said in the early stages, even before a home had been rented, or any other soldiers had signed on to live there. When asked about why this type of program is an important option for lone soldiers, Idan stated, “People want to feel safe and understood, to seek out support from people with common challenges, even though they come from all different backgrounds. A home for lone soldiers can easily become a real family for those without”. He also added that there is a need to honor those who travel across the world, and potentially risk their lives to serve Israel – “I believe that such projects [as this one] need to operate in a wider range of areas, to help as many lone soldiers as possible. At the end of the day, lone soldiers do not normally come home to warm hugs, a listening ear, or people to reaffirm them in their faith. They also must face the struggles of adulthood alone in terms of the financial burden and home responsibilities that their families would otherwise support them in”. It is with the support of foundational participants like Idan that the home for lone soldiers is now up and running!
Idan also recently returned from a pre-army trip to an orphanage in Kenya, where he says he “took 40 children into his heart as new brothers and family”, and says he is eager to return to these children after his army service. Idan’s commitment to helping build a sense of “home” for so many people is what makes him such an inspiring presence in this program. Whether it is for soldiers who traveled across the world to serve Israel, or the children Idan hopes to cross the world for after his service, “home” is a feeling that Idan has learned to take with him, and it is something CBN hopes to provide for many more needy soldiers in the future. If you are invested in stories, such as Idan’s, and other residents of CBN’s lone soldier home, please consider partnering with us today to ensure the continuation of this project for inspiring young people. From everyone at CBN and the lone soldiers we support, we say, “thank you”!
[Name(s) have been changed for privacy purposes]
“Let My people go, so they can serve Me.” Moses repeatedly uttered this refrain to Pharaoh insisting the Egyptian ruler release the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham. Many modern translations translate Moses’ command as “Let My people go, so they can worship Me,” but the word better translates as “serve.” Everyone loves a story of freedom; it’s one of our inalienable rights. The Exodus is one of the great stories of freedom in human history—an enslaved people miraculously led by God to freedom from their oppressive masters. It was such a potent story that in the “Slave Bible”—a Bible given to African slaves brought to the Americas—the story of the Exodus was removed being deemed too problematic. Our love for liberty spills over into our faith and spirituality. We often focus on our “freedom” in Christ, or that Christ has “freed” us. But, freed us for what? The story of the Exodus, Israel’s miraculous deliverance, is not about freedom, but rather about God’s liberating His people so that they can serve Him. The Exodus from Egypt is not so much about the slave going free, but about God redeeming a people from slavery to serve Him. Throughout the Bible, the focus does not fall on freedom and liberty, but rather on service to God. The Bible mentions God’s kingship for the first time in connection with the deliverance at the sea: “The Lord reigns forever and ever” (Exod. 15:18). A king is to be served. God established Himself as Israel’s deliverer and its king. The people, then, were freed in order to serve: “Let My people go, so they can serve Me.”The problem, however, is that we don’t want to serve. We want our freedom, our liberty. The Bible views things differently: God is king; we are His servants. He makes the rules; we follow them. Jesus spoke far more about service and servanthood than He ever did about freedom and liberty. He understood that we either serve God or something else, (Matt. 6:24) but we have to serve somebody. God delivered Israel to serve Him. They were freed to serve. He still frees people to serve Him.PRAYERFather, today I submit my will and my life into Your hands. You are the King; may I follow You today as Your faithful servant. Amen.
“Let My people go, so they can serve Me.” Moses repeatedly uttered this refrain to Pharaoh insisting the Egyptian ruler release the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham. Many modern translations translate Moses’ command as “Let My people go, so they can worship Me,” but the word better translates as “serve.”
Everyone loves a story of freedom; it’s one of our inalienable rights. The Exodus is one of the great stories of freedom in human history—an enslaved people miraculously led by God to freedom from their oppressive masters. It was such a potent story that in the “Slave Bible”—a Bible given to African slaves brought to the Americas—the story of the Exodus was removed being deemed too problematic.
Our love for liberty spills over into our faith and spirituality. We often focus on our “freedom” in Christ, or that Christ has “freed” us. But, freed us for what? The story of the Exodus, Israel’s miraculous deliverance, is not about freedom, but rather about God’s liberating His people so that they can serve Him. The Exodus from Egypt is not so much about the slave going free, but about God redeeming a people from slavery to serve Him. Throughout the Bible, the focus does not fall on freedom and liberty, but rather on service to God.
The Bible mentions God’s kingship for the first time in connection with the deliverance at the sea: “The Lord reigns forever and ever” (Exod. 15:18). A king is to be served. God established Himself as Israel’s deliverer and its king. The people, then, were freed in order to serve: “Let My people go, so they can serve Me.”
The problem, however, is that we don’t want to serve. We want our freedom, our liberty. The Bible views things differently: God is king; we are His servants. He makes the rules; we follow them. Jesus spoke far more about service and servanthood than he ever did about freedom and liberty. He understood that we either serve God or something else, (Matt. 6:24) but we have to serve somebody.
God delivered Israel to serve Him. They were freed to serve. He still frees people to serve Him.
Father, today I submit my will and my life into Your hands. You are the King; may I follow You today as Your faithful servant. Amen.
As Spring begins to bloom across Israel, flowers peek out from behind a long winter’s frost and animals rise from their deep slumber. From biblical to modern times, Spring has always symbolized renewal and reawakening. The Jews celebrate the coming of Pesach/Passover when God liberated His chosen people from their enslavement in Egypt, and through their Exodus, they wandered for 40 years in the desert until they renewed their identity as free people. For Christian Believers, this is also a season of renewal as Jesus’ miraculous resurrection is the ultimate symbol of revitalization in both body and spirit. However, for many disadvantaged women, there are few opportunities to see themselves outside of the role that society and their life circumstances have placed them in.
Across Israel, CBN works with different congregations to bring together groups of widows, single mothers, and victims of abuse in different cities to create a space of fellowship to share their common struggles and build a community of support. This past week, CBN Israel hosted a group of Jerusalem Believers for a seasonal dinner to share a meal and connect as the Spring season approaches. There were 35 women in attendance, many of whom have been present at previous events as well. The women were gathered to sing worship together, enjoy a meal, pray in small and larger groups, receive food vouchers for the coming season to support their families, and receive teaching on the renewal of one’s identity in faith.
The teaching was based on the Old Testament book/Megillah Song of Solomon. From Chapter 1 through 8 this book follows a woman who undergoes a transformation in self-perception, and this is exactly what the CBN Israel staff tried to inspire in the attendees of this event. The woman at the beginning of the passage is described as dark due to sun exposure from tending to her brother’s vineyard and neglecting her own – ‘Look not upon me, that I am swarthy, that the sun hath tanned me; my mother’s sons were incensed against me, they made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept’ (Song of Solomon 1:6). We can see that she forgoes self-prosperity for neglect, and lives into the role that was set for her. Her identity is conflicted though, as she describes herself as beautiful like ‘the tent of Solomon’, yet she knows she is viewed in contempt by her brothers and is described as dark and gloomy. In Chapter 2 we can see how the Spring season brings in transformation, as her newfound beloved calls her out of her hiding place, wishes to hear and see her, and wishes for her to be visible to all.
The teaching shows that it is easy to become this woman; A woman that sees herself through the lens of others or gets stuck in her own self-perception. However, we can choose what kind of mirror to look through, and the truest reflection is found through the lens in which God sees us. Life is a journey of balancing these different views, and at last in Chapter 3 the woman is shown as having a renewed way of describing herself. She speaks to her own strength as a border wall, and how she has become “[…] in his eyes like one bringing contentment”. Lastly, the woman states, “my own vineyard is mine to give”.
The teaching clearly had a large effect on the women of the event, as many were moved to reevaluate what lens they viewed themselves through, and how in this new season they may feel empowered to seek His lens first, how they may prosper their own fruit of transformation in their lives, and how they may seek to be a strong figure through the love of God. CBN hopes to bless more disenfranchised women throughout the country to begin a season of renewal in the Lord. It is through your support and partnership with CBN Israel that events for female empowerment such as this one can take place within the local Body of Messiah. From the CBN Israel staff and the beneficiaries we support, we say “thank you”!
We live in a world filled with talking: talk radio, twenty-four-hour news channels, Facebook, Twitter. We are surrounded by the noise of communication. Much of that communication, unfortunately, is cruel, hurtful, untrue, and demeaning. People hide behind their computers to give others “a piece of their mind” or “put them in their place.” It’s their divine right after all in a digital world.
Two thousand years ago James recognized the peril of human communication. Its unbridled ability to harm and destroy.
“And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself…It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth…Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs?” (James 3:6-12 NLT)
“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.” James sees it as an impossibility that we can both bless God and curse those made in His image. In our world where people are paid to give their opinions, and social media exists so anyone can give theirs, we often find our communication filled with deadly poison, even when we think we are defending God. God does not need our defense if it comes at the expense of hurting another person, made in His image, with our words.
We have become so accustomed to criticism, opinion, and saying our peace that we no longer ask, should we say that? Does what I am saying convey the truth and edify others? Is what I’m about to say going to poison one created in the image of God? Maybe instead of focusing on the critical and corrective, we should give our attentions to the creative and constructive.
Our words hurt. They damage. And, they ultimately reflect the genuine quality of our relationship with God. We cannot curse one made in His image and bless Him. Perhaps in a world filled with talking, our silence is the greatest testimony to our faith in God.
Father, today, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile. And, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
Let us pray for God to keep a watchful eye over His People, and bind the schemes and resources of their enemies so they can do them no harm (Zechariah 12:1-5; Psalm 91)
Fifteen seconds… Imagine you are awakened to hear a siren blaring, and must gather your family to rush to shelter from incoming rocket-fire, and this is the amount of time you have to say a quick prayer under your breath and hope that you will see another day.
Due to on-going tension along the Gaza Strip, Israelis have had to endure a barrage of attacks, from their Western border since 2001. These attacks have historically included the throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails, large and small-scale terror tunnels for burrowing subterranean routes into Israeli territory, Qassam rocket launches, and most recently the threat of incendiary kites sent from Gaza in the hope of burning Israeli agricultural fields and setting nearby villages alight. This constant security threat is felt most by those closest to the border, and it does not get any closer than the city of Sderot, which is only 1 kilometer from the active conflict zone. This reality leaves the residents of Sderot only 15 seconds on average to rush to nearby bomb shelters when they hear the siren alerting to an incoming rocket attack. Because of this, an estimated 75% of children between the age of 4 and 18 in Sderot exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause severe anxiety and disturbed sleeping habits, among other symptoms. Because of this, CBN Israel has felt a strong call to assist these victims of terror through partnerships with local organizations in Sderot.
However, amidst this reality is a beacon of hope! Yir HaHaim is the local Messianic Congregation in Sderot, and despite starting their ministry in a city which is often referred to as the “bomb-shelter capital of the world”, they have named their congregation the “City of Life” as a proclamation of faith despite these adverse conditions. They have been called to be a light to their community, as they are aware that the city of Sderot houses many new immigrants, Holocaust survivors, homeless and low-income families, widows, orphans, and those affected by both direct terrorist attacks and the general threat of living in one of the world’s most conflicted zones. It is through the support and partnership with CBN Israel that this ministry is able to offer numerous programs for both Believers in Sderot and other citizens in need, making the congregation a hub for healing, support, and living the Gospel. Not only has CBN’s support allowed for community members to receive much-needed food vouchers, but there has also been an emphasis on funding holiday celebrations at the congregation. These food security efforts are vital to not only ensuring that daily needs are met, but also to create annual milestones for trauma victims to look forward to, and inspire more community involvement and outreach. Arguably though, the most impactful assistance has been CBN’s funding of therapeutic efforts for victims of terror. These efforts have taken different forms. There are one-time healing events, such as a sponsored day for elderly victims to visit a therapeutic thermal spa for restoration and relaxation following one of the most brutal nights of rocket attacks. There is also a focus on long-term support though, such as the sponsorship for over 52 families to receive vital trauma-informed therapy for overcoming PTSD. This investment in the community’s mental and spiritual health has been a large priority for CBN and Yir HaHaim to ensure Sderot residents have the opportunity to resume a normal life and seek a ‘refuge and a fortress’ (Psalm 91:2) in the protection of the God of Israel.
Please help us pray for the peace of Israel, the ‘shelter of the most High’, and the efforts that CBN has been called to fulfill in aiding victims of terror in these Southern territories. It is because of those who give selflessly to CBN Israel that these victims are finding help and hope in their time of need. Would you consider partnering with CBN Israel and helping us make a very real impact on the lives of the needy in Sderot? On behalf of our staff and the many lives we have already touched through your support we say, “Thank you!”
Forgiveness. It’s something we seek so readily for ourselves from God. In fact, God’s forgiveness of us provides a foundational principal of our faith. We seek it from God for ourselves, yet how readily do we extend it to others?
We often assume that our forgiveness from God is the precondition for us being able to forgive others, yet at the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus stated, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15). Jesus actually inverted the order: our forgiving others is the precondition for God forgiving us!
Jesus placed such a premium upon our forgiveness of one another as a prerequisite to God’s forgiveness that he told his Galilean listeners, “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple [Jerusalem is at least a three day journey from Galilee] and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matt. 5:23-24).
For Jesus, between me and God stands you, my neighbor (Luke 10:25-37), my enemy (Luke 6:27-31). In the manner that I relate to you, God will relate to me. Or, as Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5:7); by my showing mercy to another, like myself, I will receive mercy from God. Elsewhere he said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38). If I intend to receive mercy from God, I must show mercy; if I want to receive forgiveness, I must forgive.
In the parable of the “Unforgiving Servant” (Matt. 18:21-35), a servant, shown great mercy by his master, refuses to extend mercy to his fellow servant, like himself, and therefore, he faces judgement from the master because of his failure to show mercy. Jesus concludes the parable, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matt. 18:35).
Forgiveness. It’s something we all want from God. But, according to Jesus, before we can be forgiven, we must first forgive our neighbor, including our enemies. How different would our world, communities, and relationships be if our view of forgiveness aligned with Jesus’?
Father, forgive us today as we have forgiven those around us, even our enemies. May we show Your mercy to all we come in contact with. Amen.
This past weekend marked the celebration of Purim in Israel and across the Jewish diaspora, marking the beginning of the Spring holidays/feasts. Purim is the Jewish holiday commemorating God’s faithfulness to his chosen people against the wicked Haman in the ‘Megillah’, also known as the Book of Esther in the Bible. This holiday is celebrated every year on the 14th of Adar in the Jewish calendar and extends into the weekend in Jerusalem, where an extra day of festivities is observed. This holiday is vital to remember God’s promise of protection to the Jew’s in ancient Persia, and that he delivered them from the tyrant Haman. Haman plotted to kill off every Jewish man, woman, and child in Persia and would have succeeded if it were not for the courage of Queen Esther who interceded for her people. Today the more serious tones of heroism and near-death peril for the Jewish people have been transformed into a joyous occasion for Jews, young and old, to celebrate the Lord’s fidelity to protect them and ultimately restore His people to their homeland.
Many of the cultural traditions of today that are done in light-spirit can be traced to serious teachings from the Megillah. For example, the holiday of Purim in modern times is celebrated by participants wearing elaborate costumes, which can range from the likeness of the biblical characters themselves to modern-day superheroes and pop-culture icons.This tradition of costumes and masks, many believe, is derived from the fact that there is a lack of outright mention of God’s name throughout the written story. For some, this lack of the Lord’s name indicates an absence of His presence in ancient Persia. However, for many who can clearly see His works on behalf of liberating the Jewish people say that it is not an absence of God, but a ‘hidden’ nature. Jewish analytical texts show that the name Esther comes from the Hebrew word meaning “concealment”, and the word Megillah comes from the Hebrew root meaning “revelation”, therefore, the entire story indicates that it is our job to find revelation in the hidden nature of God in the story of Purim!
CBN Israel had the pleasure of hosting Purim festivities this past weekend at Yad HaShmona, a “moshav”, or collective village/settlement outside of Jerusalem, which was originally founded by Finnish believers of the Kibbutz movement in the 1970s. It is now a vibrant community of Believers residing in the picturesque Judean Hills, and are known for drawing in crowds for their celebrations of numerous Jewish feasts. CBN Israel was proud to host a vibrant festivity for members of the Moshav and surrounding residents to eat traditional fare, like Oznei Haman (also known as Haman’s ears, a cookie shaped after the famous villain), and enjoy watching the episode of SuperBook’s illustration of the story of Queen Esther.SuperBook is CBN’s collection of beloved animated Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments for distribution across the globe in over 40 languages and was just recently produced in Hebrew. Children gathered at the Moshav to color in SuperBook coloring books, receive SuperBook merchandise, watch the Purim story in theater-style animation, and even greet Gizmo, the famous robot side-kick who travels throughout the episodes on biblical adventures. Clearly, SuperBook was the star of the show at this holiday gathering, and for parents, at the event, they noted that “to see the stories that [they and their children] had grown up reading now in animation really brought the Bible to life!”
New and old traditions merged for a celebration of Purim, the Book of Esther and SuperBook this past week. As one looked out onto the celebration of Israeli Believers, celebrating the miracle of Esther and the unveiling of the Lord’s faithfulness from atop the Jerusalem Hills, it clearly showed that God’s promise to protect and deliver His people is surely not hidden any longer!
The children of Israel found themselves in the wilderness of Zin (Num. 20:1-13). They desperately needed water, so God instructed Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water. Moses, however, frustrated with the complaining of the people struck the rock, and bitter water issued forth. As a result of Moses’ disobedience, he could not lead Israel into the Promised Land. That responsibility fell to Joshua.
God rebuked Moses and Aaron for their disobedience saying, “Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me, before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore, you will not bring this assembly into the land which I gave to them” (Num. 20:12). Two things stand out in the Lord’s pronouncement: 1) He equated “believing in Him” with human obedience, and 2) God’s name is sanctified through our obedience.
We frequently speak of believing in God in a way where what we mean is believing something about God. Faith then, for us, is often merely belief about God. In the Bible, “to believe” in God requires our obedience. It’s not our belief or opinion about God, but our obedient response to His commands and directives. As James stated, “faith without works is dead” (2:17). Moses and Aaron’s disobedience meant that they did not believe in God in that moment.
Moses and Aaron’s disobedience to God’s command meant that they did not sanctify God’s name before Israel, rather, they profaned it. The verb translated in this passage as “to sanctify” literally means “to make holy.” Think about that. Our obedience has the ability to make God holy before people, and our disobedience profanes Him before the world. Perhaps the reason why the world around us does not treat God as holy is because we, His followers, do not live in submitted obedience to Him, making Him holy in the world.
If believing in God equals our obedience, our obedience, then, sanctifies God’s name within our world. Our disobedience results in His name being profaned. In the Bible, a person’s obedient actions determined their faith in God. That obedience makes God holy in the world.
What an incredible thought: the God of the universe, who is holy, relies, in part, upon our obedience to make Him holy within the world. What an awesome responsibility. Do we through our obedience show ourselves to believe in Him? Do we seek to sanctify Him, make Him holy, before our world through our daily obedience to Him?
Father, may our obedience demonstrate that we believe in You, and may Your name be sanctified in our world through our obedience to Your commands. Amen.