Blog

Weekly Devotional: Abandoning Love

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: … ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear evil men but have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not … I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first’” (Revelation 2:1-4 RSV).

John’s message to the church in Ephesus praised their works, their patient endurance, their testing of those who claimed to be apostles (but were not), and even their bearing up for the sake of Jesus. But they had abandoned the love they’d had at first.

Interpreters have often taken this to mean that they abandoned their love for Jesus, but that doesn’t make sense within the context. He commended them for their patient endurance for the sake of His name. They were fine as it related to Him. That wasn’t the love they had abandoned. They had lost the love they had for fellow believers.

In the midst of testing those who were calling themselves apostles and refusing to bear evil men—actions that are necessary within the community of faith—they had lost the love that they had for others. We have to walk a fine line between preserving the integrity of the faith, which reflects God’s holiness, and loving those made in His image. When maintaining the purity of the faith becomes our focus, we can fall into the trap of our judgment becoming judgmental and unloving. 

Jesus will not tolerate this. He taught, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV). He threatened the Ephesian community that if they did not change their behavior and “do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:5 RSV), He would come and remove them.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of being judgmental and unloving. We justify our actions, claiming that we are defending God and the faith from corruption. God doesn’t need us to defend Him; He needs us to reflect and represent His character. He is holy; He is also love.

Our current environment makes it easy for us to become polarized, even within the church. We can quickly resort to judging others while hiding behind a claim of righteousness. We cannot abandon our love for one another and expect our communities of faith to reflect a healthy body of Christ.

If we persist in judging others, we need to heed the warning Jesus offered to the Ephesians, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5 RSV). He will judge those who insist on judging others without love.

PRAYER

Father, we confess that too easily we fall into the trap of judging others; forgive us. While we seek to walk rightly before You, may we do so in love for others. Amen.

Read more

Torah Reading Commentary: “Here I am”

By Mark Gerson

One of the most enjoyable aspects of hosting the podcast, “The Rabbi’s Husband,” is learning why my guest chose the passage we are discussing. There are thousands of biblical passages to choose from, and a guest—by virtue of having selected the one under discussion—invariably has derived original, fascinating, and sometimes moving insights from it that have profoundly impacted his or her life. I am fortunate to be able to learn, discuss, and share these insights. 

One example is an episode I released last week with Rabbi Ari Berman. Rabbi Ari is the President of Yeshiva University in New York, which is the premier institution of Modern Orthodox Judaism. The passage he chose was perhaps the most interpreted, debated, and haunting passage in the Bible: the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac) from Genesis 22. Every biblical student, from the most renowned ancient Rabbis to kids in Sunday school today, have encountered, pondered, and commented on this awesome passage. 

Who could say anything original about it? Well—Rabbi Berman. 

At the beginning of the passage, God appears and says one word: “Abraham.” 

Abraham responds to God with equal conciseness: “Hineni” (“Here I am”). This is not a declaration of location. It is a statement of existential presence. Here I am: completely, wholly for you.  

God tells Abraham—at least, Abraham interprets God this way—to take “your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac” to the mountain to sacrifice him. This is the first mention of love in the Bible. 

Several verses later, Isaac indicates he realizes something is odd. They are going up the mountain for a sacrifice, but there is no lamb. 

Isaac asks: “Avi”? This is often translated as “Father.” But it is the most personal way to express that relationship. It is more like “Daddy.” 

Abraham responds: “Hineni.” 

Just as Abraham was present for God, he is now present for Isaac. But there is a problem. How can he be present for both God and Isaac, given that God has (according to Abraham’s understanding) instructed him to slaughter his son? 

With this question unresolved, Abraham and Isaac proceed up the mountain. Abraham binds Isaac, lays Isaac on the altar, and takes out the knife. The Bible makes the purpose very clear. Abraham is holding the knife to “slay his son.” 

At this moment, with Abraham’s arm presumably raised high to strike the fatal blow, an angel of God appears. The angel says: “Abraham, Abraham.”  

Why, Rabbi Berman asks, does the angel say “Abraham” twice? The angel could presumably have said “Abraham” as loudly as necessary for the Jewish founding father to hear. And Abraham, presumably, would be ready to listen to an emissary of the God who is giving him this horrible assignment. The answer is in Abraham’s reply. 

“Hineni”—the third time. 

The purpose of the repetition of “Abraham” is clear. The angel, as Rabbi Berman explains, was addressing both Abrahams: Abraham the child of God and Abraham the father of Isaac. Abraham, in answering “Hineni” to the third statement, was being educated in one of God’s great truths: He could be present both as God’s child and as Isaac’s father. 

This message was not primarily intended for Abraham, as he and Isaac walk down the mountain apart, live apart, and do not have another recorded conversation. It was intended for us. Our two great allegiances are to our God and to our children. What happens, the story of the Akeidah leads us to ask, when they conflict? 

The answer is reminiscent of what Maimonides, perhaps the greatest rabbi of all time, said when asked what to do when the Torah and science conflict. Given, he said, that the Torah is true, and science is true—they both must be right. So, if you think that the Torah conflicts with a scientific fact, your interpretation of the Torah is wrong. 

Similarly, God is telling us at the Akeidah: If you think your obligation to your son and to God conflict, your interpretation of either obligation must be wrong. In God’s world, you can be present for both the Lord and for your children.

Why is this important? It disproves a common expression: “I would do anything for my children.” Anything? Even if we are tempted, we cannot be present for our children in a way that does not also accommodate God. 

If a parent wants to indulge a child with too much money or too few rules, to gain a child an advantage by cheating or to protect him from consequences by lying, the answer from Genesis 22 is clear: Your responsibility is to be present for both God and your child. And we cannot be present for God in a way that does not accommodate our children. If a parent wants to study or pray at the expense of providing sufficiently for his family economically or spiritually, the answer from Genesis 22 is equally clear: Your responsibility is to be present for both God and for your children. 

What a gift from God! Given that our feelings of love for God and for our children are so powerful, they can each easily take over our entire selves. And no tension could be more painful and more difficult than the one that could be produced when our greatest passions meet our greatest ambitions. In comes God, telling Abraham—and in so doing, telling us—there is no such tension. You can always be true to God and true to your child. In fact, being present for one means being present for the other. 

Hineni!  

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Website: therabbishusband.com
Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

Read more

Jesus’ Overlooked Statement That Could Have Changed Jewish History

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Is it possible that overlooking one of Jesus’ most profound declarations could have been a leading cause of the cancerous spread of anti-Semitism in churches and communities throughout the world? This cancer has endured for centuries, and the diagnosis is clear: It’s a malignant melanoma. Left untreated, this cancer is deadly. Its simplest definition, “hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people,” also applies to Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. 

Yet even after centuries of hostility toward the Jewish people—the targeting of Jewish communities during the Crusades and the Inquisition, bloody massacres of Jews during the pogroms of Russia and Europe, 6 million Jewish men, women, and children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust during World War II—the cancer of anti-Semitism is still on the rise. 

So, what is Jesus’ pivotal statement that held the potential to diffuse anti-Semitism within churches across the globe? It’s found in John 10:17–18. In response to His confrontation with the religious leaders, when He healed a blind man on the Sabbath, Jesus boldly declared, “The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.” It’s imperative to understand that many individuals and groups played a part in the crucifixion of Jesus. However, make no mistake: In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus agonizingly accepted God’s redemptive plan to “lay down His life and take it up again.” He was, after all, God in the flesh. Nothing and no one could have prevented Jesus’ death on the cross or His resurrection three days later. Yet, over the centuries, people have forgotten this critical truth. And that oversight may have led to centuries of assigning wrongful blame for His death.

We know in biblical history that when Satan entered onto the scene in the creation story, he quickly set about to undermine and destroy God’s plans and purposes. That evil intent evolved when God chose Abraham to father the Jewish generations to convey His words and to send our Savior to be born into a Jewish culture 2,000 years ago. It was God’s intention that, through the covenant with Abraham and his descendants, “all peoples on earth [would] be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). In other words, if God chose the Jewish people to play a central role in His plan to bring redemption to all of humanity, then it would make absolute sense that they would be a primary target for the evil forces at work in our world. One way to explain anti-Semitism: Whatever God loves, Satan hates

When anti-Semitism marched through later centuries with swords and spears, boots and bombs, with tanks and terror, we expected that the phrase “Never Again” had been permanently stamped into the collective consciousness of Western society. Yet we’re presently confronted with a different and deeply troubling phrase: “Now Again.” It’s not mass imprisonment and genocide in concentration camps. But anti-Semitism, like cancer, can take many forms and is able to spread undetected until it’s too late. 

The modern malignancy has been clear for decades among terrorists surrounding Israel in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, with Iran’s apocalyptic Imams as their malicious benefactors. Today’s anti-Semitism has spread to the United Nations, college campuses, political parties, activist groups, churches, synagogues, social media, and businesses in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and many other parts of the world. 

The hatred is darkly conceived, whether murder by gunfire, stabbing, or cyberspace plotting. For example, hate-filled hackers broke into a Jewish Zoom meeting and interrupted prayers with their Nazi symbols and ugly slurs. Threatening, defamatory notes are taped to the doors of Jewish students in college dorms. Even in the U.S. Congress, at least two openly anti-Semitic congresswomen were elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in 2019 the United States had the greatest number of anti-Semitic incidents since 1979. Could emphasis on Jesus’ words in John 10:17–18 have derailed the heinous genocide of the Holocaust? What about today’s rapidly growing malignancy? 

A glance at history will help shape our answer. As ardent Jewish believers, Jesus’ disciples—and thousands more Messianic Jews—traveled the Roman Empire with the Good News. In God’s plan, Judaism birthed Christianity. God prepared for a one-of-a-kind birth event through the Old Testament prophecies. God’s redemptive plan culminated in our Jewish Savior, Jesus Christ. 

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, non-Jews embraced Christianity en masse through the Jewish Apostle Paul. When the Romans destroyed the second Temple in 70 A.D., the narrative began veering in another direction. Aided by the passage of time and Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, the Jewish roots wilted. Christianity blossomed when Constantine made it the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 381 A.D. Although Paul’s 30 years and 10,000 miles of travel lit Christianity’s fire for Gentiles roughly 350 years before Constantine, a precursor of already embedded disdain of its Jewishness had crept in. Beginning around 150 A.D., some early church fathers unfortunately laid the groundwork for anti-Jewish sentiments among non-Jews that would later be carried into the Medieval and Renaissance eras.

Centuries later Martin Luther, the foremost pioneer of the Protestant Reformation, exacerbated anti-Semitism with his anger at the Jews for rejecting Jesus. This rigid, unreasonable stance marred his otherwise profound legacy. Luther’s 1523 A.D. pamphlet, “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew,” transitioned into the malicious and horrendous book, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” two decades later. In a dreadful manipulation of Christianity’s message, in the 20th century Hitler drew from Martin Luther’s “On the Jews and their Lies” in his propaganda against the Jewish people.  

Fueled by an emphasis on misinterpreted New Testament verses about the death of Jesus, it became commonplace to accuse only the Jews for deicide—killing God! Gentile Christian populations pointed deadly fingers of blame at the Jewish people, their religious leaders, and the Jewish disciple, Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Yet the early Jewish believers—responsible for carrying the Gospel to the nations—were eventually martyred for their unwavering faith. They and the Jewishness of Jesus slipped into the background of Gentile thinking, where even today some Christians express surprise to learn that Jesus, His family, and early followers were all Jewish. 

The ensuing centuries produced vicious slander, lies, persecution, and death in Jewish communities worldwide. Gentiles gradually decided that God had rejected the Jewish people and that the Christian church had “replaced” them as His chosen people, a theory that eventually became known as “Replacement Theology.” These Gentile churches embraced a doctrine that assumed God had abandoned His ancient, eternal covenants with the Jewish people. Furthermore, in the eyes of non-Jews, the Jews were solely to blame for Jesus’ death—and so they became the evil stepchildren who were ultimately responsible for killing Jesus. 

In reading the New Testament accounts, many Gentile Christians lacked the historical and cultural context to read the Gospels more accurately. As a result, they assumed there was no difference between the Jewish leaders who argued with Jesus during His ministry and the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem who wanted Him dead. What’s more, they also presumed that the decision to hand Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, made by the Chief Priests and Sadducees, represented the wishes of the Jewish masses. Consequently, this is how the actions of a few Jewish elites in Jerusalem, who collaborated with Rome and saw Jesus as a threat to their wealth and power, were now transferred indiscriminately to the entire Jewish people.  

By blaming only the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion, many within Gentile churches found themselves on a slippery slope of hatred or judgment of the Jewish people. Moreover, they missed the central message of Jesus’ words about His life in John 10:17–18: “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.” Today, many pastors and churches still subscribe to Replacement Theology, elevating the status of the church and dismissing the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. In essence, they set aside God’s divine plan of redemption, forgetting the profound debt of gratitude owed to the Jews, God’s chosen people, for our faith. While Satan was at work using every means possible to kill Jesus, it was Jesus who had the power and authority to lay His life down. He was not merely another Jewish victim of Roman brutality; He willingly sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for all human sin and wrongdoing. Yes, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, the Chief Priests, the Sadducees, and Judas all played a role, but Jesus is the one who chose to give His life. No one could have touched Him had He not made that choice as our Sacrificial Lamb. 

Here we are in the 21st century with anti-Semitism on the rise around the world. Is it too late for modern-day Christians to help stem the tide of this hatred? No, because God has given us a second chance to express our commitment to the Jewish people as shown by the warming friendships between our two communities. Thankfully, many Christians over the past decades have recognized the error of Replacement Theology and have acknowledged how often these views have planted the seeds of anti-Semitism within the church. While it’s not possible to change the past, it is possible to impact the future and build bridges of healing with our Jewish brothers and sisters. 

Consider taking the following steps. When studying the Bible, become familiar with the Jewish culture and God’s unbreakable covenants with the Jewish people. Rediscover the biblical message, including the message of Jesus, through a Jewish lens. Remember that Jesus, His family, and His early followers were all Jewish. (They read from the Old Testament Scriptures—not the New Testament; they met in synagogues—not churches. Their faith was Judaism, not Christianity.) Make it your goal to understand Jesus and the Gospels within their Jewish context and begin to peel away centuries of baggage that actually reflects Greco-Roman and Western thinking more than it reflects the true biblical message and worldview. Reach out to build friendships with Jewish people in your community. Be sure to do so in love and build relationships without an agenda. Defend Israel where needed and support the valuable projects and initiatives of CBN Israel.  

Finally, memorize John 10:17-18. When you hear an anti-Semitic remark, quote the words of Jesus and speak the truth in love. Although Christianity’s divorce from its Jewish roots resulted in overlooking Jesus’ own declaration, let’s make sure to do our part to stand against all forms of anti-Semitism. Defending our Jewish brothers and sisters—and Israel—is an act of love to God.

Pray with us this week with a focus on stemming the tide of global anti-Semitism:

  • Pray that all Christians will recognize that we, as Gentiles, have been given the privilege of being grafted in with the Jewish people as God’s people. 
  • Pray for the worldwide Jewish community who find themselves feeling more fearful and uneasy due the rise of global anti-Semitism. 
  • Pray for the world’s only Jewish state—Israel—which experiences unrelenting hostility, hatred, and even terror simply because they are Jews. 
  • Pray for CBN Israel that, with the help people just like you, we would be able to stand with Israel and bless her people in need like never before. 

“The reason my Father loves Me is that I lay down My life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father” (John 10:17-18).

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. By invitation, she has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times. She hosts her devotionals on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

Read more

Weekly Devotional: Those That Please God

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; play the lyre to our God, who covers the sky with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, and causes grass to grow on the hills. He provides the animals with their food, and the young ravens, what they cry for. He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; He does not value the power of a man. The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love” (Psalm 147:7-11 HCSB).

The psalmist begins this psalm by calling upon the people to sing to the Lord. He quickly transitions into a series of descriptions of God’s taking care of the natural order—He provides clouds, rain, grass, and food for the animals; He attends to the cry of the young ravens. Notice how each element provides the basis for the next. When the psalmist looked at the natural order, he saw God’s hand; he saw God’s provision, and it moved him to praise God.

Do we see God’s hand and provision in the natural processes of our world?

The psalmist transitions from recounting how God provides clouds, rain, grass, and food for animals to reflecting on what God doesn’t value and what He does. The might of horses and the swiftness of men spoke of military prowess within the ancient world. Strong cavalry and swift soldiers were essential for national defense and conquest. Nations looked to these as a source of their might, what made them great.

But military power, strong horses, and swift soldiers did not impress God. The one who covers the heavens with clouds, sends rain on the earth, makes the mountains sprout grass, and cares for birds and beasts does not value the things that nations prize and delight in. Rather, He values those who fear Him, who wait for His faithful love.

We tend to value different things than God does. It’s not our power and prowess that delights God. It’s our fear and awe of Him. In constructing verse 11, the psalmist defines those who fear God as those who wait for His faithfulness.

Do we have the patience to wait for God’s faithful love?

Even as followers of God, we often find ourselves enamored with the things our world delights in, but it shouldn’t be so. God values things differently than we do. The things we value should reflect His values.

And we should never forget to look at the world around us and allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with awe at the one who provides clouds, rain, grass, and food for beasts and birds. He’s not only worthy of our praise and thanksgiving; He values our awe of Him and our waiting for His faithful love.

PRAYER

Lord, when we look at the world around us that You created and oversee, our hearts are overwhelmed with awe for You. We praise you and wait for Your faithfulness. Amen.

Read more

Torah Reading Commentary: Abraham – The Constitution of Faith

By Mark Gerson

One of the many lessons about biblical understanding I have learned from my Christian friends is the principle of “First Mention.” This principle, in the words of Pastor R.T. Kendall, states, “The way a word is first used in the Bible will be the way this word is largely understood thereafter.” Others have emphasized that this highly intriguing principle is not limited to understanding a “word” but also a concept, a doctrine, or an idea.

So, who has the first relationship with God in the Bible? This is perhaps debatable, but I’ll define a relationship as an encounter between two or more beings that develops over time and involves the committed and extended participation of both parties. You don’t have a relationship with the person you ask for directions on the subway and never see again, and Cain didn’t have a relationship with God, who criticized him for killing Abel and never spoke with him again.

With whom does God have the first relationship in the Bible? God seems to have wanted a relationship with Noah, but Noah never says anything to God. And there was a lot he could have said. For instance, he could have asked God if He really thought that everyone was evil and deserved to be destroyed, including the 5-year-old child who was playing by the tree around the corner from the ark.

The first relationship that God has in the Bible is with a man born 10 generations after Noah: Abraham. Abraham is the first person with whom God has multiple conversations, and both parties are transformed by these conversations. Indeed, the Bible does not record that dynamic between any two beings before Abraham and God. This is not to say that Abraham and God had the first relationship; the Bible does not purport to record everything that happened. But it is instructive, particularly with regard to the principle of “First Mention,” that the first relationship between God and man is that of God and Abraham.

What happens in their first conversation? It is, appropriately and perhaps tellingly, momentous. God comes to Abraham (then Abram) and says: “Fear not … I am a shield for you; your reward is very great.”

Abraham is going to say something back. It will be the first recorded response to God since Cain’s ignominious, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”—and it will be the first, and thus perhaps the defining interaction, in the relationship.

This is a good time to stop and consider a paradox of biblical understanding. Jewish teaching instructs that the 101st time studying a text is incomparable to the 100th, as the biblical text yields new lessons, fresh insights, and original guidance every time it is studied. This is almost intuitive. If a person invited to a Bible study demurs by saying, “I’ve already read that,” he would be greeted quizzically or pitifully—depending on whether he should know better.

However, a key toward deriving new lessons from an additional consideration of the text is pretending that you don’t know what follows. Much learning comes through anticipating what you think the biblical figure will do or should do—and then matching that against what he or she does. The most fruitful biblical interpretation, then, comes from rereading what we have never read before. This exercise in pretending to forget what happens next in a familiar story might be difficult to execute—but it is possible, and the reward in biblical understanding is well worth it.

To rewind: God tells Abraham not to fear, that he will be Abraham’s shield and that Abraham’s reward will be very great. What would we expect Abraham to do? Surely to express awe, gratitude, devotion, or some combination.

Instead, Abraham says, “What can You give me seeing that I go childless, and the steward of my house is the Damascene Eliezer? … See, to me You have given no offspring; and see, my steward inherits me.”

Abraham responds, in other words, with the opposite of what we expect. He tells God that he wants only one thing and implies that not even God can provide it.

One might expect God to become disappointed, frustrated or angry with Abraham. Instead, God tells Abraham that he will father a child and, consequently, have so many descendants that they will be as hard to count as the stars. And then, as if to bolster his credibility, God reminds Abraham of something: “I am God who brought you out of Ur Kasdim to give you this land to inherit it.”

Proving Himself might seem beneath God, but He decides to show us all what humility is: sublimating ourselves to our principles. In the process, God reveals Himself further: as merciful, understanding, slow to anger, and solicitous of the man with whom He would like to begin a world-changing relationship.

Abraham, one would expect, will finally treat God like God—with reverence, appreciation and trust. Yet, after God makes an argument to show that He is worthy of Abraham’s respect—“I … brought you out of Ur Kasdim [of the Chaldeans] to give you this land to inherit it”—what does Abraham say?

“My Lord, how shall I know that I am to inherit?”

The audacity of Abraham’s continued need for God to prove himself, combined with the fact that Abraham is never criticized for this and is called in the Jewish tradition, “our father,” leads us to ask: This being the first encounter in the first relationship in the Bible, what are we supposed to learn?

We have a word, or really a concept, for the relationship of man with God: faith. To understand Abraham’s faith—and how it might instruct us—it helps first to consider his name. Every Hebrew letter corresponds with a number, and so the combination of letters adds up to something numerically. The numerical equivalent of the word “Abraham” is 248. There are, at least by traditional Jewish counting, 248 organs in the body. So, Abraham is complete. This means a lot of things, particularly that his faith is complete. Abraham is a man of complete faith.

How could this man of complete faith—this father of the Jewish people and of “many nations”—be constantly (even when in direct conversation with God) questioning whether God will do what He says? Because he doubts. These doubts do not concern the existence of God. That is not a serious question for Abraham, any more than it is for us. These doubts are much more profound.

They concern whether he should base his life upon his God-given mission, whether he understands God’s promises correctly, and whether God will deliver on Abraham’s understanding of those promises when all evidence suggests that He won’t. These doubts concern, most of all, whether God is present with him.

Do these questions sound familiar? If so, the next question is: How should one feel about them? We can feel inadequate, weak, faithless. Or we can think of the source of faith, the Torah.

In Leviticus 25:18-19, God hopes that there will be people who “follow my decrees and [are] careful to obey my laws. … Then the land will yield its fruit and you will eat your fill.” It sounds like these are deserving people of faith. And they are. How do they respond to this divine promise? Very much like their father Abraham, as would be suggested by the principle of “First Mention.” These people, the Torah suggests, may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?”

One might be tempted to condemn or at least criticize them for their faithlessness! But not God. He says that he will send “a blessing.”

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Website: therabbishusband.com
Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

Read more

Abraham Accords Agreement Welcomes Sudan into the “Circle of Peace”

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

President Trump’s foreign policy is dramatically reshaping the Middle East. The intensely complex, conflict-ridden region is moving into a new era. On a conference call in the Oval Office on October 23, Trump announced Sudan’s entry into the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement. Gratified about “peace in the Middle East without bloodshed,” President Trump called Sudan “a new democracy” and broached the possibility of including five more Arab nations into the fold. 

During that three-way telephone conversation from the Oval office, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the Abraham Accords a “circle of peace.” Since September 15 of this year, three Arab countries have now normalized relations with the Jewish state: first the United Arab Emirates (UAE), then Bahrain, and now Sudan. 

Reporters on hand in the Oval Office asked Prime Minister Netanyahu about the benefits of the Accords. He mentioned the already active plans in the areas of tourism, technology, and trade with UAE and Bahrain. To the President Trump’s remarks that “the same thing is going to happen with Sudan. … It changes the lives of people,” Netanyahu responded, “Exactly as you said, Mr. President. We’re not engaging in bloodshed. We’re not engaging in antagonism. We’re engaging in cooperation. … It’s not a distant vision. It’s not a distant dream. … We’re actually seeing the fruits of peace right now. … We’ve never seen anything like it.”

In thanking President Trump for brokering the peace agreement, Sudan’s Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, pointed out, “We’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime. I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism.” He hopes that his once-reviled country will now become a respected nation.

Prime Minister Hamdok was referring to Sudan’s pock-marked history that has been deeply scarred by its terrorist-Islamist President, Omar al-Bashir. Thrown out in 2019, he is finally in prison and standing trial. The International Criminal Court is indicting al-Bashir with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide—the first head of state to be so charged. In the meantime, Sudan’s current regime is a shaky one, shared by two leaders: Lt. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his civilian counterpart, Prime Minister Hamdok. Al-Burhan is set to cede control of the transitional Sovereignty Council to Hamdok in 2022. 

Sudan’s transition to a civilian, democratic government is frankly miraculous, and in numerous ways. While optimism was on full display during the Oval Office conference call, Sudan’s shocking history will pose knottier challenges for the peace agreement to move forward. Sudan’s former President, Omar al-Bashir, ruined Sudan during his reign of terror from 1989 until 2019 when he was deposed. A civil war that took place in western Sudan, the Darfur Genocide is tragically cited as the first genocide of the 21st century. Figures vary, but some show that 2.5 million people were murdered, including 1 million children who were brutally tortured, raped, or killed. 

A second civil war took place in Sudan’s south, a more ethnically diverse part of the country. After 20 years of war, South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. By that time, 1.5 million people had been killed and 4 million displaced. The nation’s current population of 10 million is mostly Christian and animist.

Sudan’s population today is more than 41 million, mostly Sunni Muslims. Upwards of 2 million Christians live there, with Catholics and Protestants in the majority along with 100,000 Orthodox Christians. The country’s history dates back to the Bible, which calls Sudan by varying ancient names such as Kush (Cush), Nubia, and Havilah. For example, Genesis 2:11-12 mentions Nubia as rich in gold, bdellium and onyx. Some scholars even believe that this area was the southwestern boundary of Eden, a vast well-watered land in between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. And Numbers 12:1 tells us that Moses married a Cushite woman.

Thus far, Sudan is the largest nation geographically in the Abraham Accords and sits on Egypt’s southern border. Protests for democracy began in 2018, and in 2019 the military overthrew al-Bashir. The country began to see shafts of light in their 30-year cavernous hole of darkness. 

Sudan is no longer constitutionally dominated by Islamic laws and it assures freedom of religion. The interim Sovereign Council now has a Christian woman as a member. Yet, even after al-Bashir’s ouster, unrest and instability persisted. In addition, Christian persecution remained rampant—with murder, discrimination, and arson strikes against this minority population. In 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended a special envoy to help Sudanese Christians during the transition to democracy. 

The USCIRF is chaired by Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council. He praises the appointment of Donald E. Booth as special envoy to Sudan. For years Christians were not allowed to march at Christmas, but when December 25 was declared a public holiday last year, Sudanese Christians marched with joy. Of this jubilant expression of religious liberty, one pastor exclaimed, “How great is freedom!”

Another set of miracles surrounds Sudan’s history with Israel. In 1967, Sudan hosted the Arab League in its capital, Khartoum, after Israel won the 1967 Six-Day War. The League passed the Khartoum Resolution, which famously contains “The Three No’s”—no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel. In Netanyahu’s announcement to Israelis from his Jerusalem office last week, he commented that Khartoum’s three “no’s” had become three “yeses” of peace. “Today, Khartoum has said, ‘yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel, and yes to normalization with Israel.’ This is a new era. An era of true peace.”

Prior to finalizing the negotiations, President Trump mandated that Sudan first pay $335 million to U.S. terror victims and families. He tweeted, “Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, justice for the American people and big step for Sudan!” 

A big step, indeed. The U.S. government had pressed this issue with Sudan for 25 years, due to a direct al-Qaida connection. Osama bin Laden had lived in Sudan for five years in the 1990s. His al-Qaida network perpetrated two terror attacks that killed 700 Americans. Sudan was already included on the terrorist list in 1993—with sanctions—due to its support for jihadists. Sudan is listed as one of four State Sponsors of Terror—with Iran, North Korea, and Syria. A U.S. President has the power to lift the designation, and Congress has 45 days to object if it wishes. In an interesting aside, Spanish politician Josep Borrell Fontelles, a diplomatic High Representative of the European Union, tweeted: “US intention to lift the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation of #Sudan is momentous.”

Please join us in praying for Sudan as it joins the “circle of peace” with Israel:

  • Pray with thankfulness that the Trump Administration has designated $50 million to advance religious freedoms worldwide, using a State Department “whole of government” approach. 
  • Pray for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing for Sudanese Christians who have undergone horrifying traumas and grief.
  • Pray that stability will expand and become permanent for Sudan’s transitional government. 
  • Pray that the current leaders, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdock and Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will grow in unity on behalf of their nation
  • Pray for blessings of health and stamina for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is a dedicated Christian. He is the point man for the evolving new era in the Middle East. 
  • Pray that Israel and the U.S. will continue to make strides toward unprecedented peace in the Middle East.

Yes, momentous events are unfolding in Sudan. Yet our prayers must reflect the complicated realities ahead. Let us include Genesis 2:11-12 prayers asking God to restore modern Sudan’s ancient Nubian prosperity akin to rich in gold, bdellium and onyx.

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. By invitation, she has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times. She hosts her devotionals on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

 

Read more

Victim of Terrorism: Lena’s Story

Lena and her husband were working the factory night shift, when her phone rang. It was the police—reporting that her apartment building was hit by a rocket. The couple rushed home and stood there in shock. Their apartment was gone. Everything they ever owned was destroyed.

Israel had been under rocket attack from Gaza, and their village in Ashkelon faced constant bombardment. Yet, they were emotionally unprepared for the terrorism they saw.

“I felt so empty… On the one hand, I felt so grateful, because my husband and I were still alive. Our neighbors in the apartment above us and the apartment below us were all killed,” Lena said tearfully. “But, on the other hand, I knew we had lost everything. … I’d never see it again.”

Although the government restored their building’s exterior, the entire interior was ruined—furniture, photos, appliances, electronics. But thankfully, friends like you were there for them.

CBN Israel local partners in Ashkelon were there to help Lena and her husband clean up the debris. Thanks to generous people like you, we gave them furniture, so they could live normally until they could save up to buy other necessities. We also provided them with electronic devices, and a washing machine and refrigerator, which they desperately needed.

Lena and other terror victims are so grateful for this help. We are extending God’s love and emergency aid to many more who are hurting throughout the Holy Land, especially during COVID-19.

Your support of CBN Israel can offer food, essentials, and more to Holocaust survivors, refugees, lone soldiers, and families in crisis. Please help us make a difference in this special land for those in need!

GIVE TODAY

Read more

Weekly Devotional: If God is for Us

Between our 24-hour news cycle and social media, it’s pretty easy to find ourselves overwhelmed by anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. The struggles of today, the worry of tomorrow threaten to drown us in despair—even those who believe in Jesus.

Fear and uncertainty have the potential to throw us off balance mentally and emotionally. How often do we allow the climate of our society and the world around us to dictate our mood, feelings, and outlook?

Paul asked the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NKJV). He proceeds to argue that if God didn’t withhold His Son, but offered Him for us, then what have we to fear? He asks in verse 35, “Shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” separate us from the love of Christ?

All of these trials posed real threats to the Roman believers, yet Paul reasons with them that in spite of those things (note he didn’t say they wouldn’t experience them), they could not be separated from the love of Christ. He continues, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39 RSV).

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Let that sink in for a moment. Not famine, pestilence, or pandemic. Nothing. Not peril, sword, principalities, or elections. Nothing. Not social and racial unrest. Nothing. Not the present, nor the future, not even death. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Then why are we so fearful? Why, as believers, do our anxieties so often mirror the world in which we live? We may like to claim verses of Scripture, maybe even these verses in Romans 8, yet we live overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.

Do you believe He is for you? Do you believe that He is also for the person on the other side of the street that you don’t agree with? He is.

Faith cannot coexist with worry. You may say you believe that God is for us and that nothing can separate us from His love, but does your life align with this truth?    

Do you find yourself wrapped daily in the truth that God is for you? If so, then the worry and anxiety within our world should not affect our mood or feelings. Our fearful world looks for those who walk in peace in the midst of chaos. Maybe that, more than anything else, can testify to an anxious world the reality of a God who is for us.

PRAYER

Father, You are for me; You are for us. Help us today to walk in the truth of that realization and may our peace in chaos testify to Your love and bring glory to Your name. Amen.

Read more

Torah Reading Commentary: The Right Man?

By Mark Gerson

One of the infinitely great and true aspects of the Torah is the complexity of every major figure. Indeed, perhaps the mark of genuinely knowing a biblical character—from Adam to Abraham, from Rebecca to Miriam, from Jacob to Joseph, from Judah to Moses—is appreciating just how each of them is a mixture of good, bad, and changing qualities. This makes naming children challenging, as everyone in the Torah has characteristics that we definitely do not want our children to have. And it would make blessing a child—as we Jews do every Friday night, with a prayer that they be like a biblical character—similarly challenging. We solve that by blessing our girls to be like four people (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah) and our boys to be like two (Ephraim and Manasseh). Consequently, we ask God to imbue our children with the best qualities of multiple people and thus to build up their sacred uniqueness.

Usually, the complexity of the biblical character emerges as we get to know him or her. We meet Moses when he is an infant, we are introduced to Abraham before he begins his life’s journey, and we hear about Joseph when he is born but are really introduced to him when he is a self-centered and pampered teenager. 

Their complexity will emerge along with the stories about them. There is one character, though, who stands apart. This character may be the least complex of the major figures of the Bible, in that his personality is straightforward and his actions predictable. Yet it is this character who, alone, the author of the Torah directly assesses. But the assessment is so complex that it leads us readers to appreciate the complexity in assessing any person. And this is a valuable lesson, as assessing people and situations is the function that we do most frequently and most importantly. 

Noah, we are told in Genesis 6:9, is “righteous in his generation.” This seemingly simple assessment has launched millennia of discussion and debate among the wisest Jewish commentators. The pro-Noah side maintains that the appellation of “righteous” is, especially coming from God, unambiguous praise. And Noah’s being called righteous “in his generation” amplifies the praise. Jewish teaching emphasizes that we all respond, with remarkable sensitivity, to the moral character of our surroundings. Consequently, it is important to live in a community of people who will elevate us. It is remarkable, this school maintains, of Noah to be righteous in a degenerate generation—as his ability to resist the negative influences all around him make him even greater. The primary proponent of this view was Resh Lakish, the third-century gladiator who left that profession to become a great Rabbi. Coming from a world of bad influences, Resh Lakish knew just how pernicious they can be—and judged Noah favorably. 

The other school maintains that “in his generation” is criticism. Sure, Noah was righteous in that generation—a generation so bad that God couldn’t find anyone else worth saving from the flood. In any other generation, Noah would not have been anything special. 

How should each of us assess Noah?

God tells Noah that he is going to destroy the world and instructs him to build an ark to save himself, his family, and animals. Noah dutifully complies. However, as the commentators in the second school emphasize, complying is one thing, but arguing is what genuinely righteous people do. Abraham and Moses both argue with God, and both resoundingly win—convincing the Lord. But Noah never makes the case for anyone. He can’t find one sweet child to bring before God and say, “Are you saying that she is evil and should be destroyed?” He is, commentators in this school say, a “tsaddik in fur.” A person who is cold can warm up in one of two ways: by putting on a fur coat or by lighting a fire. The fire will warm everyone, but Noah chooses the coat. 

The ark that God commands Noah to construct is, by any standard, enormous—as is befitting a ship that needs to house so many animals. Surely, in the years it took to build the ship lots of people would have stopped and asked Noah what he was doing. He either somehow avoids such conversations or engages them and fails to inspire anyone to repent or even help him build. In either case—despite having the blessing of God and a huge building project—he does not positively influence anyone. 

Years pass, and Noah finishes the lonely process of creating the ark. Noah enters the ark with “his sons, his wife and his sons’ wives with them.” The commentators take note of the order. The men enter separately from their wives, acknowledging that it would be improper to make love while the world is being destroyed. 

The world is destroyed by the flood, a year passes, and a dove indicates that the earth is dry and habitable. Still, Noah stays in the ark. God has to tell him to disembark: “Go forth from the Ark,” God instructs, “you and your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you.” God wants the husbands to join their wives. It is time for them to make love, to repopulate and to recreate the world. 

“So Noah went forth,” the Torah tells us. “And his sons, his wife and his sons’ wives with him.” 

Noah leads his party out of the ark in the wrong order! Whether he is traumatized or something else, we do not know. All we know is that he is consistent and thus predictable. He does not rush out of the ark to recreate the world when he learns it is habitable.

God does not give up on Noah; quite the contrary. God blesses him and guarantees him with the rainbow that he will never destroy the world again. God proves himself to be an exceptional therapist, but he still needs a willing patient. 

Noah responds by planting a vineyard. He gets completely drunk and “debases” himself with nakedness that his son Ham disgracefully observes and talks about. We are told that Noah lives for 350 years—leaving him plenty of time to repent, transform, and recreate. But Noah, as far as we know, does nothing. 

What do we think of Noah? It is one of the many awesome and eternal questions aroused by the Torah. Before answering, we should ask another question: What does God think of Noah? We are not told. But I have a theory. 

I think God is saying, “I am not going to blame Noah for failing to recreate the world. I blame myself. I picked the wrong guy. Noah was always a fundamentally decent man, righteous in his generation by either interpretation. But he was a passive rule-follower, not an inspiration, not a risk-taker, not a leader. He was never going to recreate the world, he was never going to deliver me to the nations. Of course, he would instead disappear into drunkenness. I should have known that goodness does not alone qualify a person for leadership, that different challenges call for different qualities and sometimes thus different people. I’ve learned, and I have a solution. I’m going to create Abraham.” 

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Website: therabbishusband.com
Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

Read more

Not Fake News: Israel Holds its Fourth Christian Media Summit

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Mistrust of the media is a modern global phenomenon. Yet on October 18, Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) extended a warm hand of trust to Christian media organizations from across the world. Despite this summit being a virtual Zoom event due to Israel’s pandemic lockdown, the GPO still delivered—for the fourth year in a row—superb information and valuable insights from both Israeli and Christian leaders. 

In 2017, when the GPO unveiled its first Christian Media Summit (CMS), it invited 150 top-tier Christian media entities—including founders and CEOs of world-renowned Christian media outlets—to come to Israel for briefings, dialogue, and travel to faith-related locations. Worldwide, approximately 500 Christian media professionals from some 50 countries have participated in the last four years. Well over 100,000 people across the globe watched the GPO’s livestream of the event and God TV’s broadcast. 

The GPO’s highly respected Director, Nitzan Chen, opened the summit, greeting us warmly as always. He exhorted us to maintain “the good name of media,” adding that “our honesty and integrity are a jewel in the crown for all of us.” In fact, Israel’s government views Christian media as a vital professional channel of information to Christian tourists, viewers, readers, and Internet users across the globe. 

In his annual remarks to the summit, Prime Minister Netanyahu once again emphasized, “We have no better friends than Christian media around the world. You have been with us through thick and thin. You have been extraordinary champions.” In his parting comment, he encouraged us to “keep raising the torch of truth.” 

The U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, inspired us with one of his Torah readings during Israel’s Rosh Hashanah lockdown. His comments focused on Genesis 25:9, where brothers Isaac and Ishmael buried their father Abraham together. The Ambassador linked it with the recent Abraham Accord: “It’s a universal benefit for people to reconcile. When it happens, we can rejoice.”

Other leaders in Israel’s political, civic, military, cultural, and religious roles once again furthered our understanding in order to improve our ability as media professionals to promote facts about Israel. The Summit featured first-class briefings by such luminaries as Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus, International Spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces; Professor Shmuel Shapira, Director General of Institute for Biological Research; Jerusalem Post Editor Maayan Hoffman, Dr. Jurgen Buhler, President of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; and Olga Deutsch, Vice President of the research institute NGO Monitor.  

Gordon Robertson, CEO of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), discussed Israel’s national symbol, the Menorah, noting, “The Menorah is now outside the Temple, and that is Israel.” He based his remarks on Isaiah 49:6: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” CBN and its founder, Pat Robertson, have led the charge for nearly five decades in urging evangelical Christians to stand in support of Israel and the Jewish people. 

Today, CBN Israel gives Christians the distinct opportunity to reach millions worldwide with unbiased news and films that tell the true story of Israel while also providing humanitarian relief to Israelis in need—including aging Holocaust survivors, victims of terror, families in crisis, and new immigrants making their prophetic return to their ancestral homeland. 

With warm ties now at an all-time high, you may ask how such good will developed between Israel and evangelicals. Simply put, relationships matter. The Christian Media Summit arose out of trust-building between Jews and Christians in the United States, Israel, and among 600 million evangelicals around the world.  

This friendship-building began speeding up in 1980, when the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) planted a seed in Israeli ground. Like institutional “grandparents” of the now numerous Israel-focused Christian organizations, their work for 40 years has grown into a massive oak tree of comfort and practical help, with branches in 90 nations.

Meantime, in 1981, U.S. Pastor John Hagee held the first annual “Night to Honor Israel” in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. He met with local Rabbi Areyeh Scheinberg to propose his idea. Their friendship and collaboration have endured for 40 years as a model for evangelicals and Jews. 

Yet, when the new millennium began in 2000, understandable caution and suspicion about Christians—based on centuries of anti-Semitism—still remained embedded in Jewish communities. 

Surprisingly, the horrific Second Intifada—which also began in 2000—became a setting where the warmth factor rose somewhat among Israelis toward evangelicals. The Second Intifada (Arabic for “uprising, rebellion, to shake off”) was a five-year nightmare of grief, agony, and trauma for Israelis. Palestinian terrorists donned suicide vests and used all kinds of violence to murder 1,137 civilians and security personnel. No location was immune to grisly terrorist violence, whether a bus, restaurant or home. The number of injuries soared, with 8,341 Israelis wounded during this prolonged terror campaign. 

Within the Jewish population—around 5–6 million at the time—almost everyone knew someone who had been murdered or injured. Tourism came to a virtual standstill. Israelis, if they could, fled the country. Yet despite the violence, one group of visitors continued traveling to Israel: evangelical Christians. 

Although many Christian—and Jewish—tours did cancel, enough came anyway to at least be noticeable. During those years, when I worked alongside Goodwill Ambassador Earl Cox, I recall the astonishment among Israelis when they saw our groups of Christians. Going to Israel during an Intifada, during a time of vicious violence, made an unspoken yet powerful statement: “You have friends.”

In the United States, several initiatives unfolded between 2005 and 2007. In 2005 the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), known as the leader in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship via Congress, wisely invited Christian leaders to join up with its bipartisan organization. In 2005, AIPAC—a historically Jewish institution—hired a seasoned National Outreach Director from the Jewish community to lay the groundwork. Then in 2006, Pastor John Hagee founded Christians United for Israel (CUFI), and in 2007 AIPAC hired me as its first Christian Outreach Director and continued building its non-Jewish outreach staff. 

The mostly Jewish members of AIPAC have embraced its Christian members, who in the last 15 years have developed strong relationships within AIPAC and in the U.S. Congress with both Democrats and Republicans. This has resulted in the added success of key legislation benefiting the U.S. and Israel. AIPAC’s advocacy is considered key in ensuring Israel’s security aid annually. The work of both AIPAC and CUFI has become a driving force of advocacy. 

AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., draws 18,000 attendees. CUFI’s 9 million members fully support donations in the millions to Israeli charities. Both organizations host multiple annual tours that promote not only Israel’s spiritual richness but also geopolitical insight into Israel’s issues. Tourism in that country reached its highest numbers in 2019, with 4.5 million tourists spending $6.65 billion. More than half of these were Christians.  

With the tremendous growth of engaged pro-Israel Christians in the last 20 years, it’s not surprising that American evangelicals jumped into the last presidential election urging both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to sign on to “Five Principles” to support Israel. Key among them: moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. 

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s U.S. branch launched the presidential project, naming it American Christian Leaders for Israel. They created an active coalition of hundreds of top evangelical leaders in 2015. They first sent a Letter of Principles to both candidates. The Clinton campaign never responded. They heard from Trump’s campaign almost immediately. Now, since President Trump’s win in 2016, his policies toward Israel are legendary. 

It’s clear that Christian media and 600 million evangelicals worldwide will remain dedicated to Israel’s well-being. Not because Israel or any other nation is perfect. But because Christians serve a perfect God who offered us redemption through the Jewish people as vessels for our Bible and our precious Jewish Savior. We have every reason we need for our loyalty. 

Let’s pray that Christian support for Israel will be strengthened like never before:

  • Pray that God would continue to inspire more Christians to build bridges of healing, trust, and hope with Israel and Jewish communities across the globe. 
  • Pray for CBN Israel that they would continue to grow and expand their capacity to bless more and more Israeli families and communities in desperate need. 
  • Pray for Chris Mitchell and the CBN News team in Jerusalem that they will continue informing the world about what is happening in Israel and the Middle East—all from a biblical and prophetic perspective. 
  • Pray for author Joel Rosenberg’s success with his new media channels AllIsraelNews and AllArabNews, which will increase additional Christian and balanced media.
  • Pray that CBN would continue to produce timely films and documentaries that tell the true story of Israel and the Jewish people. 
  • Pray that evangelicals will do their part individually through social media and emails to pass along good news and facts about Israel.
  • Pray that God will alert Christians to rising propaganda against Israel and equip Christians with courage to oppose it.

What a powerful alliance the evangelical-Israeli partnership continues to be. Let us always hold fast to this certainty: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

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. By invitation, she has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times. She hosts her devotionals on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

Read more