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Who is My Neighbor?

“Just then an expert in the law stood up to test [Jesus], saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the law?’ He asked him. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. ‘You’ve answered correctly,’ He told him. ‘Do this and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28 HCSB).

To Jesus’ reply, the lawyer followed up with the natural question, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

Have you ever noticed the nature of that question, “Who is my neighbor?” No matter how broad or narrow you make the circle, the question seeks to draw a line and define who’s inside and who’s outside of the line. Who are we obligated to love, and who are we relieved from loving? Jesus, however, turned the lawyer’s question around: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers” (Luke 10:36)? In other words, it is not for us to define insider and outsider, but rather: We must go be the neighbor.

Jesus drew His inspiration for His teaching from God Himself. He recognized that God does not distinguish in His mercy, and neither can we. “But I tell you, love your enemies … so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus saw in nature God’s mercy toward all humanity, and He calls upon His followers to imitate God: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

But that makes us uncomfortable. We want to believe that God loves us because we’re on the inside. Of course, we want Him to love those like us because they also are inside the line—they are our neighbors. But those who hate us? God must certainly feel differently toward the evil and unrighteous. No—not according to Jesus. He sends His sun and rain on everyone. His mercy extends to all humanity without distinction, and we must follow His example.

It’s wonderful to think about how much God loves us, but He loves our enemies the same. He calls us to imitate Him in our mercy toward them. That’s hard. But it’s what we’ve been called to do. So, who is our neighbor? The person across the street. The foreigner in our midst. Our enemies, the people who hate us. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

PRAYER

Father, You send Your sun and rain on us all to show Your great mercy. May we be merciful as You are merciful to everyone. May we demonstrate our love for You by how we love others who are created in Your image. Amen.

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Holocaust Survivor | Arkadi’s Story

He was too young to suspect trickery. Lured by a Nazi guard with the promise of treats, Arkadi reached eagerly for a chocolate. But the ensuing blows left the child with severe brain damage, leading to vocal cord impairment and a lifetime of speech problems.

The Nazis murdered all his family members except his mother, grandmother and himself. He can’t forget the deprivation in the ghetto they were forced into. “I was a little baby, and my mother hid me for hours when she had to go to work for the Nazis,” he recalls. “I would starve for hours until she returned carrying some food.” When they returned to their Ukrainian village after the war, everything had been destroyed. It was difficult for Arkadi to find a job. His life has been tainted by the brutality of the war that destroyed his childhood hopes.

When he had a chance to immigrate to Israel, Arkadi took it and encountered many other Holocaust survivors. Thanks to the wonderful people he has met here and the generous support of CBN Israel donors, his life has changed. He is astonished by—and so grateful for—the regular provision of food coupons and medicine. The tears don’t stop flowing as he describes his gratitude for the difference our team has made in his life. He says that although he can’t speak well, everyone here seems to understand him!

You can make a difference in the lives of so many Holocaust survivors like Arkadi. During this time of worldwide concern about the COVID-19 virus, the need remains urgent as CBN Israel continues providing food, medicine, shelter, and other necessities to those who desperately need our help.

People in Israel are depending on you. You can make the difference!

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The Lord Who Delivers

“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me’” (Exodus 20:1-3 NKJV).

Why did God begin the Ten Commandments by stating, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”? Before He uttered one command or statute, He reminded the people of what He had done for them.

He brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery; therefore, He had the right to demand their loyalty and give them His commandments. God’s law began with a statement of what He already did for His people. Based upon that, they were called upon to obey His commands and live according to His ways. 

No other god delivered the children of Israel. The Lord delivered them; therefore, they could not have any other gods in His place. He demanded their commitment and devotion.

God’s law is not punishment or harshness. Rather, it forms the covenant between Him and Israel that identifies them as His own and allows them to call Him their God. The covenant forms the essence of God’s relationship with Israel. You may even say the covenant is God’s relationship with Israel. His covenant stood upon His act in delivering them from Egyptian slavery and bondage. In other words, His mercy in redeeming Israel laid the foundation for the covenant He gave them.

Seen in this light, God’s law with Israel is the culmination of an act of love, for it established the relationship between God and Israel. The redemption from Egypt freed the Israelites so that He could formulate the covenant with Israel. However, commitment and devotion stood at the heart of this relationship.

We often want relationship without any obligation whatsoever. Freedom without servanthood. Grace without law. But that’s not how it works in the Bible. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Relationship demands some form of commitment and devotion. We are freed in order to live for God and to be a blessing to others.

PRAYER

Father, when we consider all that You have done for us, may we commit to living our lives for You and being a blessing to the world around us.

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New Immigrant | Svetlana’s Story

It had always been a powerful dream. For decades, Svetlana had felt the pull of living in Karmiel, Israel. Now the timing seemed perfect—her son had moved there with his family. But Svetlana’s husband got cold feet. Wasn’t he too old to start life all over again in a new place, let alone learn a new language and adjust to cultural changes?

Thankfully, her husband’s fears abated, and the couple immigrated to Israel. They moved in with their son’s family, but quickly discovered such a move wasn’t easy. New immigrants receive very basic government help—short-term housing for the first year and a small stipend for expenses, which didn’t go very far with the high cost of living. The combined family was soon struggling to survive. Their son was having troubles of his own finding work, while Svetlana and her husband were retired and couldn’t contribute much to the household income.

Fortunately, at the Hebrew language school for new immigrants, Svetlana heard about our immigrant center where they could get help with food and other needs. When she got there, she was delighted to receive food coupons, blankets, clothes, and diapers for the baby. Her eyes filled with tears of relief and gratitude. The family’s finances stabilized, and Svetlana now volunteers at the distribution center. It is her way of giving back to others in the same way that she was helped.

You can make a difference in the lives of so many new immigrants like Svetlana. During this time of worldwide concern about the COVID-19 virus, the need remains urgent as CBN Israel continues providing food, medicine, shelter, and other necessities to those who desperately need our help.

People in Israel are depending on you. You can make the difference!

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The Torn Veil

“The curtain secluding the Holiest Place in the Temple was split apart from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and rocks broke” (Matthew 27:51 TLB).

The Jewish community viewed the Holy of Holies as the place of God’s Shekinah glory, the dwelling of His divine presence. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and he could do that just once a year—at the Feast of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Throughout the centuries—from the moveable Tabernacle in the desert to the First and Second Temples—the Jewish people held the Holy of Holies in a profound sense of awe, respect, and fear.

In the Temple in Jerusalem, a purple, scarlet, and blue veil hid the Holy of Holies—God’s Court—and the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat that it contained. When Jesus breathed His last on the cross, God tore the veil apart. It is easy to imagine the Priests’ terror and incomprehension when they beheld this; the massive curtain was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and four inches thick.

Yet, in the moment when God tore the veil in two, He welcomed us through the blood of His Perfect Lamb so that we could step inside, both Gentile and Jew. While the physical rending of the curtain was spectacular, Jesus, our sacrificial substitute, bridged the cavernous, previously impassable gap between God the Father and us. 

Through Jesus, we now have access to the Father and can enter into a living relationship with Him—a relationship that not only offers eternal life but healing and transformation for our lives right here and right now. 

Risen from the grave and ascended to Heaven, Jesus is the great High Priest who intercedes for all of humanity. He is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that, through His descendants, the whole world will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). God’s redemptive plan has always been universal in scope, and His desire is that all would be saved. 

PRAYER

Father, thank You for giving us access to Your presence in an unprecedented way through Jesus. We celebrate that the veil is torn, the tomb is empty, and our risen Lord will one day return! 

 

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The Lamb of God

The ancient Romans executed tens of thousands by crucifixion in their vast empire. By all accounts, crucifixion was a torturous means of death, intended to cause its victims maximum suffering and humiliation.

As Roman soldiers drove nails into Jesus’ body and gambled at the foot of His cross, families and Temple priests were slaughtering lambs by the thousands in preparation of the Passover celebration. Priests ceremoniously flung lambs’ blood all over the Temple court as they chanted the Hallel—a verbatim recitation of Psalm 113-118. 

Perhaps Jesus could hear snippets of the chants as He hung outside Jerusalem’s walls. Chants such as: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants” (Psalm 116:15 NIV). Or Psalm 116:3—“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.” Or Psalm 118:22—“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  

While the skinned lambs were being roasted for food, they hung on hooks by their front legs in the shape of a cross. At the ninth hour, as Jesus took His last breath, many Temple lambs would also have died. God offered His only Son, the Perfect Lamb, for us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

In this era of rising global anti-Semitism, it is critical that Christians understand the truth about who is responsible for killing Jesus. Tragically, over the centuries, the Jewish people have wrongfully suffered the blame. There were many accomplices involved—Judas, the Chief Priests, the Sadducees, Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and Roman soldiers—and it is abhorrent to place the blame of Jesus’ death on an entire people, a people to whom Jesus Himself belonged. 

The Chief Priests and Sadducees, who handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, were corrupt leaders in Jerusalem who enjoyed the privileges of wealth and power for their collaboration with Rome. Their motivation for killing Jesus had far more to do with eliminating a potential threat to that wealth and power than anything theological. 

Moreover, Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of an inexorable and inevitable redemption plan from the heart of God—a plan no one could stop. 

Recall Jesus’ words: “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18 NKJV). 

PRAYER

Father, thank You for making a way for us to be redeemed through Your Son’s sacrificial death on the cross. 

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Move Forward

“Then they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. … And the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land’” Exodus 14:11, 13-16 NASB).

God and Moses had an interesting relationship. They went back and forth at each other as they led the children of Israel out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land. At times, Moses called God to account, and God changed His mind. The Bible indicates that God even encouraged such a back-and-forth. One of the only times, however, where God gave Moses a strong rebuke was at the shore of the Red Sea. 

The children of Israel find themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the sea, and Moses tells them to stand by and watch God deliver them. In other words, we are in an impossible situation, so take a seat and see what God does. Moses’ response sounds pretty spiritual. When the people of God are at the end of their rope, He will show up to deliver them. Just have faith. Stand by and see His deliverance!

God, however, responded to Moses’ passivity with a harsh rebuke: “Why are you crying to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward!” They had to act. Their deliverance depended upon it. The Hebrew of this passage indicates that they had to step into the midst of the sea before God divided the waters: “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea.” 

We often identify faith as believing. Within the Bible, faith is action. They had to step into the sea, the barrier that stood in front of them before God miraculously acted. They had to act—before they saw His provision. That is true faith. 

Faith is not willing ourselves to believe. Rather, faith is acting when we don’t see. And usually, God calls upon us to act as part of our deliverance. He doesn’t swoop in to save the day. He calls us to step forward, even into the absurd. Then He acts. Then He delivers. 

Are you sitting around waiting for God to deliver you? Do you sound like Moses telling yourself to stand and see God’s deliverance? Perhaps God asks you, “Why are you crying to me? Move forward!” Moving forward into what seems impossible is the greatest act of faith.

PRAYER

Father, may we partner with You in our deliverance. May we daily step into the impossible moving forward to see You work miracles in our world and lives. Amen.

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Single Mother | Eden’s Story

They were about to be evicted! Eden was pregnant and because her husband was not yet an Israeli citizen, she was the sole breadwinner. The couple had met in Israel but learned that the path to citizenship was not always an easy one—especially for those coming from countries where family documents might be lost or hard to find.

As a result, Eden was under constant stress, working three jobs. But the bills kept piling up. Then, her husband unexpectedly left her with a pile of debts and an infant to raise. As a single mother, she couldn’t work the hours she had put in before, and soon the desperate 32-year-old had no food, no hope, and nowhere to turn.

Thanks to our generous partners, we were able to provide Eden with a way out. When she discovered CBN Israel, she never imagined the outpouring of support she would receive. Our team was there to help meet her immediate needs, reducing her debt and teaching her to manage her finances.

In time, Eden was debt-free, working in a kindergarten and back on her feet. Because her burden was lifted, her stress went away, and calmness returned. She and her husband, now a citizen, are finally reunited. “God’s grace and mighty hand together with … help from CBN Israel donors are a true miracle,” she says gratefully.

You can make a difference in the lives of so many single mothers like Eden. During this time of worldwide concern about the COVID-19 virus, the need remains urgent as CBN Israel continues providing food, medicine, shelter, and other necessities to those who desperately need our help.

People in Israel are depending on you. You can make the difference!

GIVE TODAY
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Hiding from God

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 HCSB).

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree and God came to walk with them in the garden, they responded by hiding themselves. Children who disobey a parent often respond in the same manner; they hide themselves. But God did not leave Adam and Eve in hiding; He searched and called for them. You could say that, from the time of the Garden, the story of the Bible is God in search of mankind.

The psalmist realized how intimately God knew him, and he recognized that even if he wanted to hide from God, he could not: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol [the underworld], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:7-12 NASB). The psalmist finds himself overwhelmed with the realization that even when he wants to hide from God, he cannot. 

Think about this: Even in those moments when our disobedience and shame drive us to hide from our Father in heaven, He searches us out. He pursues us and doesn’t allow us to remain in hiding. When we want to wrap ourselves in darkness to hide from Him, He dispels the darkness in His pursuit of us. What an incredible reality!

When Adam and Eve came out of hiding, God provided clothing to cover their nakedness; He continued to care for them. He could have unleashed His fury, but He didn’t. The psalmist’s realization that God knows him intimately, that God pursues him to the ends of the earth, elicits in him the response of obedient surrender: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 NASB).

While our disobedience may drive us to hide from God, His pursuit and searching of us should cause us to respond with a yearning to walk obediently in His ways.

PRAYER

Father, even in those times when I want to hide from You, You are there. You search me out and pursue me. Lead me in Your paths. Amen.

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New Immigrant | Irina’s Story

It was even harder than she’d feared. Worried about being alone and friendless in a strange land, Irina had been uncertain about immigrating to Israel. It wasn’t easy to leave her homeland behind, along with a steady job and good friends. Yet the 51-year-old Ukrainian woman felt strongly moved to seek out a new life in the land of her forefathers.

As a new immigrant, Irina received a temporary apartment in the city of Karmiel. But she had no furnishings and the cupboards were bare. She learned that setting up home in a new country when you don’t arrive with wealth is no easy task. Soon, her initial insecurity turned to real anxiety.

Thankfully, because of generous CBN Israel donors, our local partners in Karmiel quickly stepped in and began helping with furnishing her apartment and buying her food. Irina was also given linens as well as many other home furnishings and supplies. “I had never met anyone before who cared so much for me; their hearts are pure and the love they show is so real,” she says in wonder. Irina hopes to one day pass on the help she now receives—to other new immigrants going through the same hard process and helping them get on their own two feet.

You can make a difference in the lives of so many new immigrants like Irina. During this time of worldwide concern about the COVID-19 virus, the need remains urgent as CBN Israel continues providing food, medicine, shelter, and other necessities to those who desperately need our help.

People in Israel are depending on you. You can make the difference!

GIVE TODAY
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