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Weekly Devotional: The Annunciation

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” 

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:34-38 NKJV). 

Mary lived in a land under foreign Roman rule. If the God of Israel alone was God, how could this be? The Jewish people yearned for God’s redemption. But, against the might of Rome—how would that happen?

Then the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. He announced a message to her that had been anticipated and hoped for by many. So, on the one hand, she was prepared to hear it and receive it—she would be the vessel of God’s redemption by giving birth to His Son. However, there was one problem: She was a virgin. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

Gabriel then proceeded to relay how this would be accomplished, concluding with the reminder, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” The Jews found themselves in a difficult and dark period looking for God’s redemption—how will this be? Mary, a virgin, asked the same question—how will this be? The answer is: With God nothing will be impossible.

Mary’s story and Israel’s in a way are intertwined. How can this be? A virgin and an enslaved people—with God nothing is impossible. He always provides a way. He entered the story. Mary responded to Gabriel’s message by saying: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” She didn’t understand how it would happen, but she trusted in God. She submitted to His will. 

Throughout the Bible, God showed up to deliver His people. He sent messages of hope in the darkest circumstances. When things seemed impossible, He sent deliverance. The annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary proclaims that He is with us. 

This holiday season some of us find ourselves in impossible and hopeless situations. If not us, we know someone who is struggling. And while we may not have the solutions ourselves, we can trust that “with God nothing will be impossible.” Will we choose to trust and submit to God, even when we don’t know how it will happen? Will we serve Him even when the situation seems impossible?

Redemption comes through obedience. Mary trusted God and submitted to His will. Her choice led to the redemption of the world. Do we trust God regardless of the appearance of our external circumstances? Will we obediently submit to His will for Him to bring hope and deliverance in our lives and those around us?

PRAYER

Father, thank You for sending Your Son. Despite how difficult the circumstances appeared, You made a way. Lord, may we submit to You and help bring Your light, hope, and redemption to our world. Amen.

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Israel Hosts Fifth Christian Media Summit in Friendship and Unity

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

A week ago, I attended Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) Christian Media Summit (CMS). Held virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, this year’s summit drew more than 100 media professionals and opinion leaders from across the world. According to the CMS website, the summit’s goal is to “foster better understanding and strengthen the friendship between Christians around the world and the State of Israel.” Like a Christian media United Nations, attendees “Zoomed” in from some 40 countries on four continents. We expectantly joined together once again, this time to unite around the 2021 theme, “Abraham Accords and Abrahamic Religions: Partners in Peace.” I was not disappointed. 

I participated in the 2018 and 2019 Summits on the ground in Jerusalem. Nitzan Chen, who has been director of the GPO since 2011, envisioned this outreach to Christian media and launched the first summit in 2017—engaging Israel’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem and Heritage, and Tourism. Each year its impact multiplies to educate members of Christian media, equipping us to do our reporting with a robust background of context for each topic. This was the fifth time the prime minister met with the media in order to highlight progress made during a given administration. Not surprisingly, at this year’s event, Israel’s improved relations with its Arab neighbors was prominent.

While Nitzan’s credentials as a journalist, broadcaster, reporter, and past chairman of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council are impressive, he is also a warm, sincere friend to all of us. His dedication and enthusiasm are evident. I am heartened that he had the foresight to reach out to Christian media knowing that we report facts to counterbalance the liberal media.  

Nitzan has put the entire GPO staff on this project, getting the funding and scheduling an array of speakers that included top officials, artists, military, attorneys, Arab Israelis, archaeologists, and many others. In essence, he is Israel’s de facto official liaison to the Christian World for the CMS, a tool that he and his staff designed.

Nitzan shoulders a lot of responsibility. The Foreign Press Association in Israel (FPA), a non-profit organization, lists 480 journalists working in international news outlets. They report from Israel, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. Those based in the region include Israelis and Palestinians who work for foreign media outlets. The GPO is the touch point for foreign journalists. They issue press cards to media employees in Israel and coordinate media for state events and official visits. Bloomberg, Reuters, The New York Times, the BBC, Der Spiegel, and other major news outlets view Israel as the epicenter for stories about events being shaped in that part of the world. 

Although those of us in Christian media view Israel, the ancestral Jewish homeland, as the epicenter, we draw our views as facts from the Bible, the ultimate authority. Nonetheless, many foreign media in the FPA, founded in Israel in 1957, have become instruments of bias.

Several of many excellent talks included remarks from Israel’s leadership. Prime Minister Bennett took the opportunity in his first speech to say, “Today more than ever, Israel stands united with Christians. We are brothers and sisters, we are united, and we won’t let anyone extinguish our light.” He emphasized, “In the Middle East, there is only one place that fully protects Christian life, where the Christian community is growing, thriving, and prospering, and that’s in the State of Israel.” Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, commented, “We know we can count on you, dear friends and allies in the Christian world, to stand with us in the fight against terror and to be our partners in the efforts to counter the lies and spread the truth of Israel.” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid observed, “You are colleagues, and more than that, friends. What unites us is greater than what separates us.” 

In addition to Israeli speakers, we heard wonderful remarks from Arabs representing nations that were signatories of the Abraham Accords, such as Ahmed Al Mansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As founder of the Crossroads of Civilization Museum, Al Mansoori talked about the “Abrahamic Family House” the UAE is building to recognize the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The innovative structure will enclose a church, synagogue, and mosque under one roof. It was amazing to hear that it will also include a Holocaust gallery. Yousef Hadad, an Israeli Arab, commented that while there are “no perfect societies,” he was astonished that “some Arabs didn’t know about Arab Israelis until the Abraham Accords. They did not even know Arabs served in the Knesset. Now they know more.”  

Several Christian leaders also offered perspectives, including American Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders. He described Christian media as “a firewall against anti-Semitism” and said that Jewish- Christian relationships are a “match made in heaven.” Pastor Richard H. Liverance, former western regional marketing director USA for the Ministry of Tourism, made an excellent suggestion: “Seminaries should require students to go to Israel” as part of their education. 

Pastors Glenn Plummer, Church of God in Christ Bishop of Israel, and Dumisani Washington, founder and CEO of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, offered insightful comments about Martin Luther King’s outlook on Israel. “The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist” and “Jewish history and culture are a part of everyone’s heritage, whether he be Jewish, Christian or Muslim,” said Plummer. Both pastors announced exciting, Israel-focused educational efforts including Plummer’s future Israel Media Institute and Washington’s 16-week study course for blacks to become peace ambassadors. 

Toward the end of the summit, my good friend Ari Bussel offered a vision for the future based on the five years of excellent summits. Ari and his wonderful associate Norma Zager, also a good friend, co-host a weekly radio program on KBRT 740 AM, the largest Christian station in southern California. Their program is called Conversations Eye to Eye, The Jewish Voice on Christian Radio. Ari is a foreign correspondent and Norma is an award-winning journalist. Ari opened, saying, “What an extraordinary gathering. Some of us waited an entire year for this very moment.” In a just-right verse Ari quoted Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

Ari reported that the GPO asked for input about what they could do next regarding Christian media. I consider Ari and Norma not only as Team LA but as Team Israel USA. Ari and Norma collaborated on some excellent ideas that grew into a program to recruit millions of ambassadors to join Nitzan Chen.

Here are their ideas for the future: 

Israel can recognize each Christian pilgrim and visitor as a “Special Ambassador” to the Christian world—particularly their local church community. Give a certificate to each Christian tourist on arrival to Israel (or before departure). Create a plaque for churches coming to Israel, calling each church a “Special Friend of Israel” to commemorate the visit and the relationship. The plaque could then be displayed as a reminder in their home churches.

The pair blue-skied other ideas, as well—hold a lottery where a church wins an all-expenses-paid trip; award churches who hold the most tours; set up a shared website for Christian friends to post their photos, comments, and memories. Ari and Norma suggested the name Israel Christian Network (ICN), noting that a new approach requires the participation of all Israeli government ministries and agencies in an ongoing commitment. Ari compared the project to marriage, wherein continuous commitments come from both sides to raise the level of ambassadors to new heights. He concluded with a smile and an enthusiastic, “Let us create together the ICN!”

Turning the last page of another successful summit, an announcement from Nitzan Chen and Hadassah Schwartz, Senior Coordinator of International Religious Journalism, came as a wonderful and welcome hope—the next CMS, slated for June 2022, will be held in Jerusalem! 

I close mentioning CBN Israel’s own Chris Mitchell, 20-year bureau chief in Jerusalem, and Julie Stahl, CBN News correspondent. They capably represent us in Christian media and to the world. Many thanks to them for their outstanding work, especially considering the challenges of COVID-19. 

As always, excellence permeated the entire summit. To learn more, readers are invited to log in to the CMS link: https://www.cms-israel.com.

Join CBN Israel in prayer this week for Israel and the global media:

  • Pray for truth and context to increase in the media’s reporting about Israel. 
  • Pray for Israel’s Government Press Office staff for strength and wisdom.
  • Pray for remembrance of Proverbs 12:22 that “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”
  • Pray for protection and endurance for the CBN News Middle East Bureau in Jerusalem. 
  • Pray that all journalists reporting in the area will experience protection, since they are often in dangerous situations. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Single Mother: Makdes’ Story

Life was already hard for Makdes, a single mother with three kids, living in Jerusalem. She had no contact with her children’s father, who abandoned them long ago—and she struggled alone just to survive. And then, she suffered a cerebral stroke that left her disabled. Now, she has to walk with crutches, and mostly stays at home. Her outlook for the future seemed bleak. 

But after years of waiting, Makdes finally received approval for government housing due to her disability. This was a positive breakthrough, since private rentals are expensive, and it was difficult to find long-term affordable housing that accommodated her medical needs. 

However, she still needed special furniture suitable for her disability—including a bed, sofa, and aid equipment. These necessities are very costly in Israel. Seeing no other option, she took out a large loan—plunging her and her family into deep debt, and economic danger. 

But CBN Israel came to her rescue. Our team helped Makdes renegotiate her debt, put together a financial plan—and even paid off one of her debts with a special grant! She says, “Thank you so much… I felt so overwhelmed, and did not know where else to turn.” We offered her emergency relief and encouragement—as well as guidance to become self-sufficient.

And your gift to CBN Israel can extend hope and aid to many others in need, including Holocaust survivors, immigrant families, aging veterans, and more. The cries for help are growing in Israel—but your support can supply groceries, housing, essentials, and financial help to those in need. 

Please join us in making a difference in the Holy Land!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Galilee

By Marc Turnage

Galilee is the northernmost region of the central mountain range that runs like a spine (north-south) through the land of Israel. The mountains of Galilee have the highest elevations within the hill country, and therefore, offer the coolest temperatures along with lush vegetation. 

Galilee divides into two regions, Upper and Lower Galilee. The names derive from the heights of the region, with Upper Galilee containing the high mountains (more than 3000 feet above sea level), while Lower Galilee has lower hills (the peaks remain below 2000 feet) and broad east-west valleys. The division and names initially appear in the first century, but such a division stands behind the order of towns within the region recorded in Joshua 19:35-38. The natural boundary separating Upper and Lower Galilee is the Beth-Haccerem Valley. 

The Upper Galilee extends into southern Lebanon today, until the Litani River Gorge. Its mountainous terrain impeded travel, which in antiquity meant more scattered settlements. The northern part of the Upper Galilee offered more tablelands and springs, which enabled more settlement. 

The Lower Galilee consists of a series of ridges running east-west that create valleys for passage between them. These passage ways proved to be incredibly important travel corridors as people moved both regionally and internationally through the Lower Galilee. To the east, the Galilee slopes down towards the Jordan Valley, the Huleh Valley (north of the Sea of Galilee), and the Sea of Galilee. The southern boundary of the Lower Galilee was the Jezreel Valley. In the first centuries B.C. and A.D., at times the Jezreel Valley was considered part of the Galilee, and other times it was not. 

The Galilee served as the center of Jesus’ life and ministry. He grew up in Nazareth, which sat in the heart of Lower Galilee. He traveled throughout the Galilee preaching, teaching, and healing in the villages of the region. 

He travelled from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee via the Beth-Netofa Valley, an east-west valley that provided travel from the Mediterranean coast to the Sea of Galilee. Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2:1-12) and healed the nobleman’s son in Cana, which sits in the Lower Galilee. When Jesus travelled to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, he went through the Lower Galilee. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Clothe Yourself

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NASB).

Paul outlined for the Colossians what it meant to be a follower of the Lord. What do you notice about his list? Everything pertains to how we treat one another: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. For Paul, the evidence of our relationship with God depends upon how we treat others. 

Paul recognized that the believing community lived in front of a watching world. How could they call their polytheistic family members and neighbors to reject their upbringing, turn to the one true God, and follow Him if their own lifestyles and patterns of behavior did not differ from the world around them? 

The practice of prayer, devotion, worship, singing, Bible study has little value if we do not live with a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love in front of a watching world. 

It’s not about looking different with a list of “do-nots,” but rather—in a world fractured, unkind, arrogant, and unloving—to demonstrate the opposite. A person walking out their life with love and compassion is a faith that cannot be ignored nor denied. We often underestimate the importance our actions play in communicating our faith in God. 

Think for a moment. How would these behaviors that Paul outlined to the Colossians look in our fractured world today? Our world talks about justice and love, yet you cannot have justice without mercy, nor can you have love without forgiveness. Clothe yourselves with love. 

In these verses, Paul used action verbs to describe the expected behaviors of the Colossians. Twice he says, “clothe yourself.” He tells them to “bear with one another” and “forgive.” He expected them to act in this manner. When you get dressed in the morning, you naturally select your clothes and put them on. 

So, too, Paul expected the Colossians to choose these essential behaviors, including love. He did not tell them to pray until they were empowered to do so. Rather, do it. Choose to do it. Love. Be kind and compassionate. Be humble and gentle. Forgive as we have been forgiven.

How differently would our lives look if, every morning, we chose to exhibit the behaviors Paul outlined for the Colossians? How would that impact those around us? We too live in front of a watching world. How will we choose to live? 

PRAYER

Father, may our actions toward others today demonstrate our faith and love in You. May our lives testify to Your truth. Amen.

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How Anti-Semitism Reproduces and How to Stop it

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

By the time World War II ended, the world was reeling in shock and chaos from the ravages of hate gone viral. In Europe alone, an estimated 15-20 million people died in a war viewed as the most destructive in history. 

Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Germany then surrendered to the Allies on May 7. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s judgment to call for photographic proof while liberating the death camps proved wise—the photo documentation provided incontrovertible evidence of inhumanity beyond comprehension. As the appalling photographs made their way into the public eye, the watchword “Never Again” was born. 

Tragically, the seeds spawning this hatred were never destroyed—and they are active once again. Anti-Semitism continues to rear its wicked head and is spreading like a malignant cancer. Proactively aided by the United Nations, mainstream media, the World Council of Churches, and others, anti-Semitism also grows when onlookers react with passivity, denial, and apathy. Modern-day minions may not be marching in lockstep like the Nazis in Nuremberg Stadium, but marching they are. Among them are lone gunmen attacking Jews in synagogues and in the streets; terrorists inside and outside Israel; Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah constantly scheming; and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement inciting economic warfare against the world’s only Jewish nation. 

A quote attributed both to Spanish philosopher George Santayana and Winston Churchill  summarizes my column today: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Looking in history’s rearview mirror will help us understand how the Third Reich made hate and death acceptable to ordinary Germans and to churchgoers, as well. The evangelical Christian community must expand prayer, action, and vigilance so as not to imitate Germans who either appeased, denied, or enabled the evil. Passivity is not an option today. 

How did Hitler’s propaganda machine grind out the lies and legislation that led to the death camps where 6 million innocent Jews were murdered? “Gradually” is the key word. When Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, his hate-fueled machine first began carrying out smaller, organized attacks against the Jewish people. 

At the time, some 500,000 German Jews made up only 0.8% of the population. Outstanding in many professions, Jews in Germany accumulated a disproportional 24% of that nation’s Nobel prizes. 

Nevertheless, their achievements did not protect them. On April 1, 1933, Nazi boycotts and violence targeted Jewish-owned businesses. Laws passed one on top of another banned Jews from professions. Jewish-authored books were thrown into fires all over Germany. Then in 1935 the Third Reich passed the Nuremberg Laws, making Jews non-citizens.

All the while, throughout Nazi Germany many in leadership were cultured elites who attended elegant parties, classical music concerts, and the like. They were conveniently ignorant and in denial about what was actually transpiring right under their noses. Even high-level religious leaders—either devoid of discernment or full of fear—welcomed the Nazis openly and accepted their deceitful lies. The brilliant, beloved German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer did his best to alert the church. His dedicated opposition led to his hanging at the Nazi Flossenburg concentration camp a few weeks before liberation in 1945.

The evil genius of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda, created the “golden age of propaganda.” Goebbels’ nickname, “Poison Dwarf,” is fitting. The five-foot-five-inch Nazi built Germany’s propaganda machine into an eventual takeover of Germany’s newspapers, radio, magazines and films, along with media takeover in conquered countries. 

Goebbels implemented the strategies written in Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), which is still a bestseller. He described his propaganda technique as so “colossal” that no one would believe that this kind of “impudence to distort the truth so infamously” would even be attempted. In similar fashion, we hear “colossal” lies about Israel today—one of the most historically outrageous being that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital. 

Goebbels once said about lies, “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

When you read some of the Hitler/Goebbels quotes, think about the current propaganda against Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. Remember, propaganda is a vehicle that drives an agenda without objectivity. Its selective facts, rumor, and loaded language are designed to derail a person, group, movement, institution, or nation. An often-overlooked result of repeating lies is that even you yourself will come to believe it. Is this true for mainstream media? Germans “came to believe it themselves.” 

More insights became available in the 1940s, when the U.S. Office of Strategic Services cited a book by psychoanalyst Walter C. Langer, who wrote The Mind of Adolf Hitler: “His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong.” The Hitler/Goebbels anti-Semitic party line is still alive, with its strategies resulting in a deadly propaganda downline that reaches from the 1920s to 2021.

What are we to do? First, understand God’s outlook on courage. Joshua 1:9 says: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

God has given Christians another chance following the events of World War II and the Holocaust to stand with the Jewish people and oppose the poison of anti-Semitism. With that being said, Christian commitment to this cause needs to expand much further. Although Yad Vashem recognizes almost 27,000 Righteous Among the Nations as “Drops of Love in an Ocean of Poison,” Christian rescuers during the Holocaust were too few—and many died. We must remember history but be determined not to repeat it.  

Be on your guard and watch out for new displays and indications of the same type of propaganda utilized by Hitler and Goebbels decades ago. Read reliable information. Develop discernment in what you read and hear. Speak out with a factual and reasoned voice against the disparaging lies. Reaching out to the U.S. Congress on behalf of Israel with tools from Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) can help guide better and stronger legislative decisions. 

Support trusted Christian and Jewish organizations that strengthen Israel. Travel to Israel when you can. To expose today’s propaganda downline, we must proactively abandon apathy, maintain vigilance, dismiss denial and naivete, and most of all, source and share the facts. The Christian Broadcasting Network and CBN Israel serve as an enormous repository of facts, documentaries, and balanced news about Israel. 

Prayer is foundational but be warned: Passivity helps propaganda proliferate. 

Use emails and social media, along with discussions and programs in our churches, to promote support for Israel and the Jewish communities in the United States and abroad. Let’s determine to be champions for the truth!

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for the Jewish nation and people:

  • Pray that God’s light will shine into every anti-Semitic crevice all throughout our world and expose anti-Semitism for the evil it is.
  • Pray for Christians to renounce passivity and indifference and to act on behalf of Israel and the global Jewish community.
  • Pray for the global mainstream media to stop disseminating a biased, one-side narrative that dishonestly portrays Israel as villainous oppressors and occupiers. 
  • Pray for churches espousing replacement theology to wake up and repent their wrong attitudes against God and His covenant people, the Jews. 

Together, may we remember and meditate on Paul’s exhortation to the churches in Corinth: 

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Lone Soldier: Anna’s Story

When Anna was a young girl, her family immigrated to Israel. Although she was not from a religious family, Anna came to faith in God as a Messianic Jew when she was 14. But in her teens, conflicts at home grew so intense that she was forced to leave and attend a boarding school—where she became more grounded emotionally and spiritually. 

Later, she was accepted into a program with the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), to help her prepare for life in the military. During this time, she needed a safe, healthy place to live, where she could also grow in her faith. But she had little money, and no family support whatsoever. 

Thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel has a home for lone soldiers like Anna. Her pastor, who once lived there, recommended it to her as a good fit. We gave her a safe haven while she attends the IDF program, and it has been life-changing. She enjoys the friendship and encouragement of other lone soldiers—and she has joined a congregation, where she is maturing as a believer. 

Anna is happy to belong to a caring community of friends, saying, “I am grateful to have found this place that I now call home. CBN Israel has shown me so much kindness and support!” 

Your gift can help so many in Israel who have nowhere to turn. You can provide food, housing, job training, financial assistance, and other aid for those in need, especially during the pandemic. 

And you can provide relief and hope to elderly Holocaust survivors, single mothers, terrorism victims, immigrant families, and more. Plus, you can bring frontline reports from the Holy Land through CBN News. 

Please join us in making a difference throughout Israel!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Jordan Valley

By Marc Turnage

The Jordan Valley is a narrow valley the extends from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. It is part of the great Syro-African Rift, the longest scar on the face of the planet, that spans from Syria to Lake Victoria in Africa.

The southern stretch of the Jordan River as it exits the Sea of Galilee passes through this valley on its way to the Dead Sea. From the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to the northern shore of the Dead Sea is roughly sixty miles, yet over these sixty miles, the Jordan River meanders a little over two hundred miles. Today, the Jordan Valley serves as the international boundary between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Israel, and the West Bank.

The Jordan Valley served as an interior travel route between the hill country of Cisjordan (west of the Jordan River) and Transjordan. It enabled east-west travel between these two regions, as well as north-south travel through the valley. In the first century, the Jordan Valley served as one of the three routes Galilean pilgrims could take to Jerusalem. The Gospels record Jesus following this route on his final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 19:1-11).

The northern stretch of the valley, from the Sea of Galilee until south of Beth-Shean, received good rainfall, and therefore, had rich agriculture. South of Beth-Shean towards the Dead Sea, the high mountains of Samaria restrict rainfall and the climate becomes harsh, dry, and unfriendly. Along the Jordan River, however, vegetation grows and as recently as the 19th century served as the habitation for lions, among other wildlife that still live there today.

Throughout the periods of the Old and New Testament, settlement existed within the Jordan Valley. Sites like Beth-Shean, Jericho, Pella, Deir ‘Alla (biblical Succoth), and Rehov provided important administrative, religious, and commercial centers within the Jordan Valley. It served as the route between many biblical stories that involved places in Cisjordan and Transjordan.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: True Humility

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a provocative parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 

“Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14 HCSB).

What is the purpose of this parable? Is it about prayer? No. Is it to convey that we are all sinners before God? No. What precipitates Jesus to tell this story? Those who identified themselves as righteous despised others that they viewed as “less than.” It conveys the importance of humility in our faith; God exalts the humble and resists the proud (James 4:6). 

But Jesus lays His finger on a very subtle and important aspect of pride: It’s easy to profess humility before God; pride often appears in how we view ourselves versus others. 

We want God to love us, to forgive us, to bless us. In fact, our modern Christian faith tends easily toward an egocentrism. But what about the person we don’t like? What about those who think differently than we do? Who behave differently than we do? What about sinners? 

Do we hold them in contempt? Do we view ourselves as more important in God’s eyes since “I’ve found the way”? In such instances, our relationship with God, our obedience to Him, becomes the source of our pride because we view it as making us closer to God than others. 

We cannot be close to God and hold others, also made in His image, in contempt. That doesn’t mean that we accept everyone’s behaviors, but how we view them matters. Jesus taught that those who extend mercy to others will receive mercy from God. 

There is no room for contempt of others, even outsiders, within the kingdom of God. Humility comes when we can look at another and recognize the good and the bad in them just like the good and bad within us. When we understand that, we understand Jesus’ parable.

PRAYER

Father, may I show mercy today to others, even those outside of my circles. Help me to see them with the compassion that You have for them. Amen.

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UN Watch: Resolving to Fix the United Nations’ Anti-Israel Bias

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and the UN, strode to the podium on October 29 at a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) at the UN General Assembly in New York. “It’s always open season on Israel at the Human Rights Council,” Erdan declared. He recounted some of UNHCR’s earlier examples of exaggerating supposed Israeli human rights transgressions, including the 1975 resolution that Zionism was racism. Then, in a dramatic step, he tore up the distorted UNHCR report and announced, “Its only place is the dustbin of anti-Semitism, and that is exactly how we shall treat it.” Erdan then scolded the UNHCR further for its anti-Israel bias further, declaring, “The suffering of the victims of humanity’s greatest crimes goes unnoticed. Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you!”

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NASB) fittingly describes the UN’s anti-Israel bias: “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who declares lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

The special session—held when the UN General Assembly meets in order to discuss an important wide-ranging topic—seems hardly special when you consider that Israel’s enemies use it to bludgeon this nation for offenses, real and imagined. In fact, Israel—the world’s lone Jewish state—is the only country that is permanently on UNHCR’s agenda. Established in 2006, on paper the UNHCR identifies itself with noble goals—to promote and protect human rights around the globe, “guided by principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.” But the reality is so much different. Since its inception, the organization has condemned UN nation states 142 times. However, condemning Israel 95 times out of 142 is preposterous.

UNHCR tends to ignore the colossal human rights abuses from North Korea, China, Syria, and Iran—abuses of, for instance, Christians and Muslim Uyghurs in China or Nigerian Christians. I find it astounding that dictatorships such as those in Cuba, Venezuela, and Somalia are nevertheless represented on the 47-member council. 

Fortunately, the United Nations Watch (www.unwatch.org), founded in 1993, has become a powerful instrument for combating untruths about Israel. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, right next door to the UNHCR headquarters, it is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO). Its purpose is to scrutinize the performance of the UN using the “yardstick of its own charter” and hold them accountable. 

UN Watch has developed an exceptional, extensive UN Watch Database available online to anyone in the world. The UN Charter, signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, contained noble goals to prevent war, promote freedom, and provide peaceful strategies to settle conflicts. Regrettably, their noble goals have long been tarnished by nations that have no business in the UN—as outlined in Article 6 of their charter: “A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” 

With their consistently biased resolutions, one might think the UN Security Council members had never read Article 6. The Security Council’s composition is instructive. With five permanent members—China, France, Great Britain, the Russian Federation, and the United States—and 10 rotating members, the permanent members are a combination of U.S., French, and British democracies, China’s brutal communism, and Russia’s mixture of dictatorship and democracy.

Exploring UN Watch’s database, it is obvious how far the United Nations has strayed from its founding principles. The database is easy to navigate and is full of UN speeches with texts, committees, voting records, and more. This resource links information with actionable items that all clear-thinking citizens can easily implement to oppose the UN’s wrong decisions. UN Watch is laser-focused on history, attitudes, propaganda, and resolutions against Israel. It is worth noting that UN Watch’s factual submissions correcting UN reports are mostly rejected. 

The executive director of UN Watch is Hillel Neuer. Recognized as one of the world’s top human rights advocates, he has an impressive resume—and his dedication is a stellar example for advocacy. McGill University in Montreal, Canada, awarded their Jewish native son an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2018, naming him “a voice for those without one.” In various articles, he is described as an activist who is “feared and dreaded” (Tribune de Genève) by dictatorships. The Journal de Montreal commented that Neuer “makes the UN tremble.”

Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper listed Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” His leadership is a blessing not only to all who suffer human rights abuses worldwide. For evangelical Christians who detest the UN’s stubborn anti-Israel bias, he represents us! 

Neuer skillfully follows in the footsteps of Morris B. Abram, the Founding Chair who established UN Watch in 1993. Abram’s life story is the stuff of legends. Growing up in Fitzgerald, Georgia, he pioneered civil rights litigation, and the American Jewish Committee elected him as president in 1964. A Rhodes Scholar, Abram grew into a globally recognized human rights champion. Among too many accomplishments to list, he prominently advocated in the 1980s on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union. In 1993, United Nations Watch was the first NGO designed to hold the United Nations accountable to the principles of its charter. Abram, who died in 2000, left a legacy that has improved the plight of millions in peril worldwide and given us a way to help cure anti-Semitism at the UN. 

Earlier in the year, on March 22, Ambassador Gilad Erdan spoke at UN Watch’s virtual launch of its website portal. First commenting, “We cannot allow the anti-Israel lies spewed at the UN to go unchallenged,” he went on to praise the “phenomenal” UN Watch website. He added, “The UN Watch Database is a great resource to learn more and take action.”

Estimates show that there are approximately 600 million evangelicals in the world. Our influence as advocates for the only Jewish state has potential to influence the decisions at the United Nations using the fantastic tool UN Watch has created. 

In illogical resolutions since 2015, the UN has condemned Israel 112 times, North Korea, 6, and Iran, 5. Imagine the difference we can make if millions of us took five minutes to read a UN Watch action item and responded with an email. Let us determine to help cure the UN’s anti-Israel bias.

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week:

  • Pray for UN Watch that its success to hold the UN accountable will increase. 
  • Pray that the next UN Secretary-General will serve with moral clarity. 
  • Pray that more UN delegates will have the opportunity to visit Israel. 
  • Pray that pro-Israel Christians will choose UN Watch as a tool for advocacy.
  • Pray against the growing anti-Israel hostility within the UN and around the globe. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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