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Creator of Heaven & Earth

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is how our Bible, the Word of God, starts. These words are so significant, the crew of Apollo 8 read them to the world while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968.

Yet the understanding that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth is the one biblical concept which has come under the sharpest attack in modern times. In fact, many churchgoers today can believe much of what the Bible says, except that He is the Creator.

Not by chance
Since Charles Darwin published his work “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, countless scientists claim to have disproved the Bible and some even say the very existence of God. According to Darwin, ‘survival of the fittest’ was one of the main driving forces of Nature, not an all-creating God. Small changes within species gave one an advantage over the other. By a gradual and random process, these better-adapted species not only survived but eventually dislodged the weaker species.

At the time he proposed this theory, Darwin was unaware that such ‘small changes’ – like gradually growing wings, legs, eyes, etc. – was not just an accidental change in the physiology of a creature, but required a highly complex alteration in the DNA code of an organism. DNA codes are the building blocks for any living being and consist of massive arrays of highly complex molecules. Today, we know that Darwin‘s ‘small changes’ are in reality extremely improbable changes to elaborate systems.

In 2004, microbiologist Doug Axe demonstrated that to accidentally arrange the various elements of a protein called beta-lactamase (an enzyme which confers antibiotic resistance upon bacteria) would need an incredible amount of chance. Axe showed that to rearrange just this one particular enzyme by chance would be a probability of 1/1077. The number 1077 is an incredibly large number: A one followed by 77 zeros. To illustrate just how huge this number is – or how small its probability – consider that there are roughly 1080 atoms in the universe! This means the probability to form just this one protein by chance would be only slightly higher than finding one particular atom from all the particles that exist in the entire Universe; obviously a task infinitely less probable than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack .

There are many more examples from science itself on how improbable life on earth truly is. Scientists today speak about the ‘fine tuning’ of the cosmos or about the ‘Goldilocks theorem’, meaning that our universe on so many levels seems to be incredibly fine-tuned just to make life on earth possible. From the size of the earth, its distance to the sun, the type and size of the sun, the tilt of our planet, etc., everything seems so perfectly tuned to make life on earth possible. Again, the probability that such conditions are found anywhere in the entire known universe is extremely unlikely. 2

All these factors make the notion of evolution by chance scientifically less and less plausible. The odds against it are mounting to such a staggering degree that a whole new theory is being formulated in order to maintain belief in Evolution – and to avoid acceptance of a Creator God.

In May 2007, Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology stipulated that our known DNA-based world is inexplainable by current probability models. He thus proposed a totally new approach. But instead of considering the simplest and most logical of all explanations – that there is a omniscient and omnipotent God who created our amazing world – he suggested that since our own universe does not account for all the improbabilities of life on earth, there must exist an endless amount of parallel universes that would explain the infinitesimal chances of life here on earth.

A high view of Man
Years ago, I was discussing science and God with one of my fellow students at the Weizmann Institute. When I submitted to him that he would need more faith to believe in pure chance than I need to believe in the God of the Bible, he laughed. But today, this seems to be truer than ever.

Long ago, King David knew already what scientists are discovering only now: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech,
and night unto night reveals knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

To believe in God and science is not a contradiction, as many greatest scientists of the past were inspired by the Bible when developing their theories to describe the amazing order which God placed into creation.

However, the question remains: Why start the Bible with such a seemingly provocative statement: “In the beginning God created…”? Is it necessary to believe in a Creator God? Why would it matter to believe in evolution by chance? A leading megachurch pastor recently stated such a start to Scripture is confusing, at least to young modern-thinking people, and advised therefore to avoid reading the Old Testament in general.

But it does matter because the reality of God as Creator of the heavens and the earth is central to a biblical worldview and to the way God wants us to know Him.

Early on in Scripture, we find the core of mankind’s calling and identity. We are created – both male and female – in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This separates and elevates us from the animal world and from the concepts of human origins in other religions. Being created in the image of God gives a tremendous calling to humanity to rule, cultivate and tend the earth (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). It is a calling which encourages science, research and technology to accomplish these ends. It gives us – even in our fallen state – the enormous hope that one day we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), and already in our fellowship with God here on earth we are being “transformed into the same image from glory to glory”. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This truth of humans being created in God’s image also gives us something that no other creature on earth possesses. It gives tremendous value and dignity to every human life, whether a believer or not, rich or poor, regardless of race or gender.

Jürgen Habermas, one of the leading philosophers of our time, made a profound statement. In a lecture entitled “Glauben und Wissen” (Faith and Knowledge, 2001), this self-avowed atheist expressed concern about the increasing secularization in modern societies. The very understanding that mankind is created in the image of God, he said, gives each man and woman a unique dignity, so that every human deserves respect no matter what they believe. Even as an atheist, Habermas recognised that retaining the concept of Imago Dei acts as a humane safeguard for our modern society. And this very boundary he saw as eroding. Amazing words from someone who denies God!

The results of abandoning God
Habermas’ concerns were proven correct over 70 years ago in Germany. Some time back, I visited the exhibition at Villa Wannsee, just outside Berlin, where in January 1942 Hitler’s ‘final solution to the Jewish question’ was rubber-stamped by various government ministries. In this beautiful lakeside setting, the decision was made to eradicate all eleven million Jews in Europe, followed by a toast with glasses of cognac.

I was intrigued to find out what drove these well-educated participants at this notorious Nazi gathering. For many years I viewed Christian antisemitism as the main engine behind Hitler’s murderous plans. But at Wannsee, I learned these men were driven by a pseudo-scientific theory called “Social Darwinism”. In certain ways it was a logical extension of Darwin’s theory from animals to humans, and this led them into the depraved field of eugenics, championed by Eugen Fischer, Josef Mengele and other Nazi ‘scientists’.

According to many Social Darwinists, not all races were equally fit to live. Some were ahead of others in the evolutionary process, and the race which was endangering humanity with degeneration the most was the Jews. German universities had special research departments to study the application of Darwinism to human societies. ‘Racial hygiene’ and euthanasia were the tools to maintain racial purity. The result was the brutal murder of six million Jews. The piles of corpses from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen show the depravity of humans who no longer saw themselves as created in the image of God, but an accident of nature. In such a world, morals had no place; man became a law unto himself and this led to the industrial slaughter of fellow humans.

Even today, man no longer considers himself as being created in the image of God but as elevated in the place of God. The moral ambiguity of our post-modern world carries few safeguards against evil. Years ago, the foreign policy chief of the European Union refused to recognise the terrorists of 9/11 as being evil. They were just misguided individuals, he said. Our world has become an increasingly dangerous place as it has thrown overboard the moral safeguards against human depravity.

The Maker of Israel
On the other hand, still seeing God as the Creator of the world gives us a sense of humility and accountability to our Maker. It gives ownership and final authority to Him. King David once again reminds us of these profound truths: “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

Consequently, the Creator of the heavens and the earth is also their Owner, which gives Him full authority to do “according to His good pleasure…” (Ephesians 1:9).

The noted 13th century Rabbi Ibn Ezra once posed the question: Why does the Bible start with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth?” His answer: “Because a time will come when men will question the right of the Jewish people to live in their own land. But as the Creator of the world, He can do as He pleases.”

The prophet Isaiah returns to this very point again and again. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.” (Isaiah 40:22-23)

“Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.’” (Isaiah 42:5-6)

God made everything! He is not just Creator of the heavens and the earth, but “I am the Lord your Holy One, the Creator of Israel…” (Isaiah 43:15).

This means the Maker of Israel is also the One who “made all things” (Isaiah 44:24). He who called Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem is the One who “made the earth and man on it” (Isaiah 45:12). And the Saviour of Israel, and our own Redeemer, introduces Himself thusly:

“But Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” (Isaiah 45:17-18)

That means the entire history and fate of Israel is in the hands of the God who made and possesses everything. While God wants us to reason with Him, to search His ways and have dominion on the earth, He also wants us to recognise that we all are accountable to our Creator. Paul gives us this healthy warning against the arrogance of our time: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20)

In summary, the amazing truth of the Gospel is God invites mankind to be reconciled with Him and to rule and reign with Him as the Creator of heaven and earth. This gives us both humility and confidence in our calling. It invites us to fight His battles, but also to rest assured that His purposes will stand even though we might not fully understand them.

Finally, it gives us incredible hope for the future, when once more the Creator of the heavens and the earth will majestically create a new heavens and a new earth “in which righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 3:13)

Notes:
Stephen C Meyer, Signature in the Cell, Harper Collins e-books
2 Eric Metaxas, Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, Dutton Adult/Kindle Edition.

A New Beginning for Yad Vashem - Sari Granitza

In early May, Israel will mark Yom HaShoah – the nation’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a solemn occasion with many unique traditions which pay tribute to the six million victims of the Holocaust. There is no entertainment on television. Movie theatres and dance clubs are closed. In the morning, a nationwide siren brings all traffic to a complete stop and everyone stands to attention. And the president, prime minister and other senior leaders assemble at Yad Vashem to lay wreaths in honour of those who perished in the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

For Christians, a new tradition has developed around Yom HaShoah as well. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, through its unique partnership with Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, helps sponsor an annual Christian Leadership Seminar during the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day. This special educational program draws Christian pastors and ministry leaders from all over the world to Yad Vashem for a week of lectures by experts on the Holocaust and antisemitism, encounters with Holocaust survivors, and related field trips around the country.

This year’s Christian Leadership Seminar will be the first one held under the new Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, Ms. Sari Granitza. She has been working in the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem since 2003 and took over the reins of the Christian Desk from Dr. Susanna Kokkonen in mid-2018.

Ms. Granitza was born into an observant Jewish family in Jerusalem and was raised both in Israel and the United States. She received her BA in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Haifa and her MBA from Tel Aviv University. For ten years, she worked in Israel’s thriving hi-tech industry. From there, she assisted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in foreign relations during his first term in the premiership in the late 1990s, developing key contacts with government officials and leaders in the Jewish Diaspora from around the globe.

Ms. Granitza now comes into her new position with 15 years of valuable experience in building support for Yad Vashem and explaining its important mission to a variety of audiences. As Deputy Director of the International Relations Division, she was involved in every aspect of the events and visits of Yad Vashem’s supporters from around the world, including many Christian leaders throughout the years. She also frequently presented lectures on the Holocaust in both Hebrew and English, including on behalf of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem at prestigious events, such as the National Religious Broadcasters convention in the US. Ms. Granitza was also responsible for planning and executing Yad Vashem’s International Missions to Europe and Israel, hosting donors of all faiths, backgrounds and nationalities.

Having lost family members in the Holocaust, Ms. Granitza takes her job very seriously. As an ambassador for Yad Vashem to the Christian world, she will continue to promote Holocaust education as an important means for ensuring that the atrocities of the Shoah never happen again.

Founded in 1953 by an act of Israel’s parliament, Yad Vashem was entrusted with the mission of safeguarding the memory of Jewish victims of the Holocaust and imparting its meaning to future generations. Christian Friends of Yad Vashem was established in October 2006 in cooperation with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to raise awareness about the Holocaust and its universal lessons within the Christian world. Today, CFYV is active in many countries worldwide and works with a variety of denominations and Christian ministries to build bridges between Jews and Christians.

To read more about Sari Granitza, check out this interview!

ICEJ Interviews New CFYV Director - Sari Granitza

Sari Granitza may be stepping into the shoes of Dr. Susanna Kokkonen as Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, but she is no stranger to this revered institution and to the tragic legacy of the Holocaust which it seeks to memorialize in perpetuity. Her family on both her father’s and mother’s side lost many members to the Nazi genocide against the Jews of Europe. And she has now worked for well over a decade at Yad Vashem to help preserve the memory of the six million Jews killed in the Shoah. We recently asked Sari to share about her work with Yad Vashem, and her vision for its outreach to Christians going forward.

From childhood, the subject of the Holocaust always moved and interested Sari, who grew up in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak surrounded by Holocaust survivors. Even her kindergarten teacher had a number tattooed on her arm. This early introduction planted seeds deep in her heart which blossomed when she joined the staff at Yad Vashem more than 15 years ago.

“I feel that Yad Vashem is fulfilling an important mission and I am very proud to be a part of this great institution, which gives a voice to the Holocaust victims and survivors”, Sari explained. “As time goes on and the number of remaining survivors dwindles, we need to continue to pass on their legacy and to learn and teach about what happened, to ensure for a better world of acceptance and mutual respect for one another.”

WFJ: As the new director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, what is your basic message to Christians about the importance of Holocaust education and of supporting the mission of CFYV?

Sari: In the Bible, we are commanded to remember and pass on to future generations: “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt…" (Deuteronomy 25:17); Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation”, which is exactly what the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem does...

It is important to recognise and be vigilant when we see hatred and antisemitism rising. Being a bystander is not an option as that just endorses them. In order to stand up to antisemitism it is crucial to know the facts, to recognise it and to know how to fight back within our communities. I believe this starts with education – to arm people with historically accurate facts in order to combat distorted and false facts.

Yad Vashem is the spiritual home of the victims - those who were murdered and those who survived. They asked us never to forget and to continue telling their story. We see countries, institutions and individuals that are not necessarily denying the Holocaust, but are distorting the facts. Through the artifacts, documents and testimonies which Yad Vashem is collecting and the research Yad Vashem is conducting, we serve as a voice to the victims and survivors and will continue to be their voice when they are no longer with us.

WFJ: What is your vision for CFYV going forward? What has worked best so far and what new initiatives do you want to pursue?

Sari: It is crucial to reach out to Christians in all corners of the world. Our mission is a common one and we want and need the Christian world as our partners. As the generation of Holocaust survivors dwindles, people of all faiths must now join forces to carry on the torch of remembrance, and build bridges of understanding, cooperation and friendship between the Christian world and the Jewish world.

It is our obligation as religious believers to learn from the past and educate future generations with the facts. We must empower the younger Christian generations with accurate and reliable historical information, teaching them to follow the example of the Righteous Among the Nations, who took it upon themselves not to be bystanders but to actively choose good over evil.

In a private conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he mentioned that we often see that there is a lack of general knowledge in the current generation. When we look at the survey conducted by the Claims Conference published on Holocaust Memorial Day 2018, some very worrying statistics were revealed:
• over two-thirds of Americans had never heard of Auschwitz;
• half could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto;
• one third claim that less than 2 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust;
• 58 per cent believe a similar event could take place again

My vision is to try and change these statistics and make the world more knowledgeable about the Holocaust. To do this, we will partner with ICEJ and continue to host many visitors and groups like the Christian Leadership Seminar, and travel globally to lecture and provide ready-to-print exhibitions for display in schools, churches, universities, libraries and community centers around the world.

Some of our new initiatives include:
• A new representative of CFYV in the US, Rev. Mark Jenkins, who will regularly travel to different churches and communities to spread our message.
• For the first time, we had a CFYV booth at the 2019 NRB Convention.

WFJ: How troubled are you by the growing rise in antisemitism worldwide? What will CFYV be doing to combat it?

Sari: It amazes me that antisemitism still exists and is thriving in the world after the Holocaust and in the 21st Century with all its advancements. We must remember wherever there is antisemitism there is also hatred, xenophobia, racism and consequently violence. It is not strictly a Jewish issue.

A major tool to combat the rise of antisemitism is access to complete and accurate information. The work carried out by the Yad Vashem Archives and Research Department today is crucial. As time passes, countries and institutions are distorting the facts. Yad Vashem is currently engaged in an urgent eleventh-hour project to recover and document the truth from the generation that witnessed the events; collecting testimonies from survivors is more important now than ever before. We want to encourage our Christian friends to partner with us in this project.

I invite Christian leaders from around the world to participate in the ICEJ-Sponsored Christian Leadership Seminar at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, becoming ambassadors equipped with the tools to educate their communities to stand up against antisemitism.

We are all created in the image of God and I believe that with this premise in mind, it is important for us to continue building bridges between the Jewish and Christian worlds to advance towards our common goals.


Christian Friends of Yad Vashem was founded in 2005 in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. It is crucial for Yad Vashem to continue with this important work! Only 40% of Yad Vashem's annual budget is met by the Israeli government, with the shortfall funded through private donations. For more information or to support the work of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, please go to: int.icej.org/yadvashem
 

Egypt My People!

A recent visit to Egypt by a group of ICEJ leaders opened our eyes about the amazing things God is doing there and the great plans He has for this ancient nation, including with regards to Israel.

After Israel, Egypt appears in the Bible more than any other nation. It is an extraordinary land with a widely influential culture which dates back earlier than even the history of Israel. Besides Babylon, Egypt was the first world empire to emerge after the Flood and in the following centuries it would greatly impact Jewish history. The Exodus from Egypt shaped the national identity of Israel like no other event. Egypt was also the only country besides Israel where Jesus lived. It thus has a rich Church history, with the Coptic Church as possibly the oldest existing church in the world. It takes its name from the Arabic word for Egypt, ‘qubt’.

No wonder the Hebrew prophets also predict a glorious end-time history for the nation of Egypt. But let us start from the beginning.

Israel’s Ancient Connection with Egypt
The biblical story of Egypt starts right after the Flood, when Egypt (or Mizraim) is introduced as one of the grandsons of Noah, and a son of Ham (Genesis 10:6). When God called Abraham out of Ur in Chaldea, he journeyed to the Promised Land. Yet soon after, a famine broke out in Canaan and he “went down to Egypt” (Genesis 12:10). When he arrived there, the great pyramids of Giza had already been built a few hundred years earlier – these massive stone structures which still puzzle engineers to this day. Once Abraham and Sarah left Egypt, they returned with “male and female servants” (Genesis 12:16, 16:1). One of them was the woman Hagar, who birthed a son by Abraham named Ishmael, who became the main ancestor of the Arab tribes of the Middle East.

Isaac, too, was tempted to escape a famine towards Egypt but the Lord instructed him to stay in the land “because I will bless you” (Genesis 26:2). But Isaac’s son Jacob would die in Egypt, together with all the twelve patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. Joseph, one of these patriarchs, even became the prime minister of the Egyptian empire and through his wise leadership saved not only his family but the entire world.

In Egypt, Israel grew to become a great people counting over a million souls. According to the rabbis, it was only during the Exodus from Egypt, when God brought His people out ‘with an outstretched hand’ to Mt Sinai, that Israel became a nation. Because of its system of slavery and oppression, the Bible usually refers to Egypt from then on as a sinful nation, representing human strength and efforts which fail to deliver (Isaiah 31:1-3). Even the Book of Revelation refers to the fallen state of earthly Jerusalem as “Sodom and Egypt” (Revelation 11:8).

Yet throughout history, there was always a strong Jewish community in Egypt. The Bible reports Jews fleeing to Egypt during the Babylonian occupation of Israel (Jeremiah 40:6-8; 43:5-7). Later in the Greek period, a further influx of Jews to Egypt is reported. When Alexander the Great established the coastal city of Alexandria around 332 BC, a notable portion of its inhabitants were Jewish. The historian Josephus reports that the Jewish population of Alexandria and all of Egypt numbered up to one million people. It was so strong that Alexandria became a center of Jewish thought and philosophy, with Philo (20 BC-50 CE) considered one the most influential thinkers of his time. Josephus reports that even a replica of the Temple in Jerusalem was built by Onia, the son of a high priest, on the Nile island of Elephantine. This structure was destroyed by Titus in 71 AD, shortly after Herod’s temple in Jerusalem was leveled, in order to prevent the rise of a new center of Jewish worship.

But something else came out of Alexandria that would become a main tool to spread Christianity, and that was the first translation of the Tanach (Old Testament) into a foreign language – Greek. This translation was done on the order of Ptolemy II, an Egyptian ruler who felt strongly that the Hebrew Scriptures should be added to and made accessible in the legendary library of Alexandria. The translation is called the Septuagint, referring to the 70 Jewish translators. The Septuagint (or LXX) was then widely used by the early Church and many OT references in the Greek New Testament quote directly from this text. The significance of this translation of the Bible into a commonly-used language can hardly be overestimated and might be paralleled only by the translation of Luther almost 1800 years later into another common language – German. The Egyptian-spawned Septuagint became the book Paul and all the Apostles preached from when they travelled the world.

When Jesus was born, he in a way ‘relived’ the history of Israel in relation to Egypt. Like his ancestors he had to flee to Egypt – instructed by an angel – and would return only years later in order to fulfill the prophecy of Hosea… “out of Egypt I called My son” (Matthew 2:15, quoting Hosea 11:1). It is amazing to see the richness of the Coptic tradition today concerning the various places where the holy family lived and visited. Most of these places are linked to the extensive Jewish presence in ancient Egypt.

When the Gospel spread around the world decades later, it quickly reached Egypt, as Jews from Egypt had been present in Jerusalem to witness the unusual events on the Day of Pentecost (Act 2:10). According to tradition, the Evangelist Mark became the bishop in Alexandria and he may even have been the founder of the very first ‘Christian’ Bible school in the world. Today, the oldest New Testament parchment, the Ryland P52 fragment, dating to possibly the first century, was found in Egypt. When the Council of Nicea later decreed to change the Passover celebration to Easter, it was the Church of the East – most prominently Alexandria – which resisted the longest this new anti-Jewish law from Constantine. But eventually, Egypt also was infected by the antisemitic trends of the Church and the Christian rulers of Alexandria expelled all Jews from the city.

The Isaiah 19 Highway
All this indicates that in a very unique way God’s hand seems to be on the nation of Egypt throughout history. Egypt became an agent of deliverance for Israel, but also a subject of God’s judgment because so many times they failed the people of God. But God always seemed to give special attention to Egypt. The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 19, foresees – like no other prophet – the purpose of God for Egypt and with it for the entire Middle East.

Isaiah’s vision starts with “God coming to Egypt” (Isaiah 19:1). The immediate result is not revival and blessing but a season of immense shaking and turmoil. Political chaos with “Egyptians turning against Egyptians” and the rise of a ‘hard master’ who will rule over the nation. In all this time of hopelessness, Egypt will call upon the Lord and this will trigger a sequence of seven astonishing developments (Isaiah 19:16-24):

1. Egypt will fear the Lord and the nation of Israel;
2. Five cities will speak the language of Canaan;
3. There will be an altar to the Lord;
4. He will send a saviour to defend and deliver them;
5. The Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians;
6. The Lord will strike Egypt and they will call upon Him and He will heal them; and
7. There will be a highway of blessing reaching from Egypt to Assyria via Israel.

ICEJ Leadership Team in Egypt
While we did not see the total fulfilment of the Isaiah 19 vision during our recent visit, we did see and hear first-hand some amazing developments in Egypt today which appear to be a powerful foreshadowing of the incredible things to come.

After the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 and the turmoil which followed, many churches in Egypt were attacked by radical Muslim groups. The government initially did very little to protect the churches. Soon, an Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood-led government came to power (with Western support) which erased any hope for religious freedom in the nation. Yet amidst this persecution, on 11 November 2011 the Church of Egypt assembled for an historic prayer gathering attended by tens of thousands of believers in Cairo’s out-of-the-ordinary “Cave Church”. This was the beginning of a prayer movement which would spread over many cities of Egypt. Not just one altar, but many prayer altars have been built across the nation. God answered their prayers when in 2013 Egypt witnessed the largest political protests in world history, as some 30 million people went to the streets across the country to demonstrate for a new, freer government. The global media failed to report the true significance of these historic demonstrations, which led to the more open government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The situation for the Church in Egypt became more tolerable and the country made a considerable shift in its attitude towards Israel.

While there is still pressure and occasional violence from Islamist groups, the churches are growing. Particularly among Muslims, God is revealing Himself in visions and dreams. But what is equally amazing is that a significant shift in theology has been taking place in recent years. While many of the churches held strong views of Replacement theology concerning Israel, today there is a refreshing shift. There are no cities yet who speak the ‘language of Canaan’, but there are many born-again believers – some of whom we met – who, because of the vision of Isaiah 19, now study Hebrew. One worship leader we met told us how, not long ago, he was praising and interceding with other Egyptian brothers when “the spirit of God took hold of me” and for almost an hour he sang in perfect Hebrew, a language that he never spoke before.

Another amazing thing we learned while in Egypt is that over recent years believers there have started celebrating the biblical feasts. For instance, a network of over 700 Egyptian Christians have been gathering in various places each year to hold Passover Seder meals during the Easter season.

This finally brings me to the main reason we travelled to Egypt this Spring. The Lord has been speaking to us in recent years about the prophecy in Zechariah 14:16-19 of the nations coming to Jerusalem to “keep the Feast of Tabernacles”. Interestingly, the only nation mentioned by name is Egypt.

“If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:18)

The Lord placed it on our hearts to pray that God would open a door for Egyptian brothers and sisters to come and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with us in Jerusalem. The word of God gives a warning about the nations not coming to celebrate the Feast and he mentions Egypt in particular. But I like to look at it the other way around: If they do come for Tabernacles, then God will give their nation rain. We took this to mean that it would release a special blessing on the nation of Egypt.

This is a historic year for Egypt and Israel, as 2019 marks the 40th anniversary since Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty between their nations. We believe a strong delegation of Christians from Egypt at this year’s Feast of Tabernacles could be a prophetic declaration which would release tremendous blessing upon Egypt.

When we met with the leaders to share our vision with the brothers in Egypt, we did not know what to expect and were not prepared for what we experienced. As they introduced themselves, they came straight to the point: “We believe in the vision of Isaiah 19, as we know that Zechariah 14 speaks about Egypt needing to come to the Feast. Can you please help us to make it possible?”

The door could not have been more open. We all agreed that the Lord has something special in store for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. It could be the beginning of something new, not only for Egypt but for the region.

We have it on our heart to bring 40 pilgrims from Egypt to join us at this year’s Feast. Many of the brothers and sisters need financial help, as the economic challenges will not allow them to come.

For that purpose, we have established the “Isaiah 19 Fund”. This special account will be used to assist believers from Egypt to join us at this year’s Feast of Tabernacles, as well as to enable us to rightly connect Egyptian pastors and ministry leaders with what God is doing here in Israel and especially within the Messianic body.

If you feel the Lord wants you to be part of what He is doing in Egypt, please prayerfully consider a donation towards the “Isaiah 19 Fund”. The costs for one person from Egypt to join us at the Feast will be around US$ 1,500. Please stand with us in this very timely and important matter. It will bless Israel, it will bless Egypt, and you will be blessed as well!

We also feel this initiative will need to be expanded in the coming year. Already now, we have similar requests from believers in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. For many of them, visiting Israel comes with a risk, but they believe it is important for them to be here, and we sense a strong leading to support them in this important mission.

Finally, please join us in praying for all the Arab countries. Pray with us for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on these nations, and that we might have a greater understanding and revelation of God’s purposes for Egypt and Assyria in our day.

No doubt, the purpose of God for Egypt is to bring them to a point where God can say: “Egypt My people”! For the nations which comprise today the ancient Assyrian empire (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even into Iran, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia), His declared purpose is to bring them to a point where God can declare: “Assyria, the work of My hands”! And all of them, together with Israel, will be a blessing in the midst of the earth (Isaiah 19:24-25). This gives us a strategic way to pray, as well as an incredible vision of hope for the future.

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Give Today to the ‘ISAIAH 19 FUND’

The ICEJ is expecting as many as 40 Egyptian pilgrims to come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles 2019. This is not only an historic year as Israel and Egypt mark 40 years of the peace treaty between their nations. It also holds great prophetic significance, as these believers are coming in response to the vision of Isaiah 19 and in obedience to the call of Zechariah 14:16-19 that Egypt should come up to Jerusalem to “keep the Feast of Tabernacles”! However, most of them will need help covering the costs of this visit to Israel. Please join us in assisting these precious brothers and sisters in Christ to make the journey to Jerusalem for Sukkot. It will cost approximately US$ 1,500 for each person from Egypt to attend the week-long Feast. Your gift to the Isaiah 19 Fund will help make it possible. And you will be blessed as you set in motion the prophetic plans and purposes of God for this region in our day.

Please give your best gift today to the ‘Isaiah 19 Fund’.

ICEJ-Sponsored Seminars Fueling Aliyah

Many Jewish families still living in the former Soviet republics are interested in making Aliyah to Israel but need help in finding out how the process works. Long before a Jewish person ever boards a plane headed for Tel Aviv, a long list of paperwork must be filed to satisfy the requirements of both their home country and Israel. This takes time! Plus, most potential immigrants must take Hebrew language classes and job training courses to be better prepared to live and work in Israel.

The ICEJ is helping meet this need by sponsoring Aliyah Seminars in a number of East European and Central Asian countries, including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic States. These are areas where recent geopolitical events and economic factors have resulted in a major surge in Aliyah. Last year, Russian-speaking immigrants accounted for 64% of the worldwide Aliyah to Israel.

In Ukraine, the seminars are held away from the fighting in the East, so the families can have a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere to prepare for the move to a new country. The Ukrainian conflict triggered a regional economic recession, which increased Aliyah from Russia and Belarus as well. The ICEJ also has organised Aliyah seminars in Finland for Jews from Northwest Russia and in Latvia for Jewish families from Belarus, considered the last dictatorship in Europe. Both Finland and Latvia provide secure locations with the air of freedom.

The Christian Embassy has teamed up with the Jewish Agency to facilitate this latest wave of Aliyah in new and innovative ways, according to ICEJ Aliyah Director Howard Flower, such as the new fast-track weekend Aliyah seminars. These provide comprehensive pre-Aliyah programs aimed to alleviate concerns, answer questions, and educate participants using trained Aliyah counsellors. Most attendees are young family members who move to Israel ahead of their parents and must be ready to live alone there until the rest of the family arrives.

Weekend Aliyah seminars are effective tools to prepare Jewish people for the most significant journey of their lives. During the three-day seminars, the focus is on real life lessons about Israel, such as the economy, job market, the education and health systems, absorption programs and much more. At these seminars, participants receive personal attention from Aliyah representatives, most notably Israelis themselves. The needs of each individual are addressed, ensuring that everyone receives the information and advice they need for a successful Aliyah.

Right now, the ICEJ is planning at least seven more Aliyah seminars in 2020, including in Berlin, Munich, Alma Ata (Kazakhstan) and Russia, along with Helsinki, Kiev and the Baltic states. Please help us meet the needs of future Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet republics. Partner with the ICEJ in sponsoring weekend Aliyah seminars that will set Jewish families on a completely new course in life back in the land of their forefathers. The average cost per person, including meals and accommodations, is $150 USD.

Please make a generous donation today, even by sponsoring an entire Jewish family.

GIVE YOUR GIFT TODAY!

Jewish Summer Camps Help Promote Aliyah Surge

With an increase in reports of growing anti-Semitism around the world, including Western countries, the desire of many Jewish people to come home to their ancestral homeland is also growing. The ICEJ “is preparing for increases in aliyah from Latin America and Germany, while expanding our work in Russia and Ukraine” according to ICEJ Aliyah Director Howard Flower.

One of the Aliyah-related projects we’re most excited about is a series of summer camps for Jewish youth from the former Soviet republics countries that we are helping to sponsor in Finland, Belarus and the Baltic states. The largest number of Jewish immigrants to Israel in recent years have come from Russia, Ukraine and other FSU states, with young people leading the surge. ICEJ Aliyah director Howard Flower estimates that in the next few years as many as 100,000 Jewish people will make Aliyah from the FSU.

“How do you get 100,000 people ready for aliyah?” he rhetorically asked. “The answer is intensive aliyah seminars, aliyah fairs, aliyah summer camps and other small meetings and workshops. We are involved in helping support all these types of activities.”

The ICEJ actively “fishes” for Jewish people who might be interested in making Aliyah, based on several verses in the Bible including Zechariah 2:6; "'Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,' declares the Lord, 'for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,' declares the Lord.” Also Jeremiah 16:15; "‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.”

Please join us today in helping fulfill these prophetic calls for the Jewish People to return to Zion!

Donate Today!

Loving Families for Israel’s Children-at-Risk

 “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity…” (Psalm 68:5-6)

The Father-heart of God and His emphasis on family is clearly displayed throughout Scripture. It is the Lord Himself who sets people in families. So what a tragedy when anyone, much less a child, winds up “fatherless”.

Although Israeli society places high priority on families and children, there are still approximately 367,000 at-risk youth in Israel today. Over 10,000 children have been removed from their homes by social services, and only one in four are currently in foster care. Although 120 children on average are adopted each year, the standard waiting period for adoption is five years. That is a long waiting period for a developing child to spend outside a secure family structure.

Since every child deserves a permanent home, ICEJ AID is becoming more involved in adoption and foster care programs in Israel. One example is the adoption adventure of Colin and Helen. An ICEJ team recently visited their home to hear their amazing story first-hand.

When Colin and Helen made Aliyah from the United Kingdom to Israel in 2009, they fully intended to start a family. But soon after settling into their new home, the couple was faced with the heart-breaking reality that they could not conceive children on their own. Unwilling to give up on the dream of raising children, they explored adoption.

Adoption in Israel, however, is no easy journey. In addition to the normal bureaucracy, family court hearings, batteries of psychological tests, and home inspections familiar to any adoptive parents, Israel also requires the prospective parents and children to be from the same religious background. Although Colin and Helen are both believers in Yeshua, Israel considers Colin to be Jewish and Helen to be Christian. Although religiously-mixed households are relatively common in Israel, finding a baby with a matching religious heritage is rare.

In faith, however, the family submitted an adoption application which was rejected, not based on religion but due to Colin’s age. Frustrated by this answer, Helen cried out to the Lord and immediately heard Him say: “I am going to give you a child and it is not going to be difficult.”

When Colin & Helen learned of the desperate need for foster parents in Israel, they contacted an Israeli agency and applied to be a foster family. The social worker assigned to them was candid with the couple, explaining that although Colin’s age would not be a problem for the purposes of fostering, it would prevent the fostering arrangement from ever becoming an adoption. But she promised to do her best to find them a young child who needed their care.

Once their application was submitted, Colin and Helen had one small concern: The next three months would be filled with travel outside of Israel. Colin had speaking engagements in several countries and Helen would be traveling with him. The agent assured them the approval process would take at least that long and they could travel without worry. Happy and trusting the Lord would answer their prayers, the couple proceeded with their travel plans.

Imagine their surprise when, the day before departure, the social worker called. A baby boy, born the day before, was in need of an immediate home. Since the child had one Jewish parent and one Christian Arab parent, the agency saw Colin and Helen as an ideal match. Shocked at this development, the couple considered cancelling their travel plans. However, with so many people relying on them, they prayed and told the agency they felt to honour their commitments abroad.

Resting in the Father’s promise
The baby boy who was a perfect match for their family was sitting at the hospital waiting to be loved. Once again, Colin and Helen put their trust in their heavenly Father; His timing was perfect, and He was in control of their future as parents. In that moment, His promise to “give them a child and it will be easy” became their foundation, and peace rolled in like a flood. So they began their three-month speaking tour, resting in the Lord’s assurance that He would provide.

And provide He did. Upon their return to Israel three months later, the couple were astonished to discover that their social worker, convinced this baby was “meant for them”, had placed the baby in a temporary three-month situation and he was now ready to come home with them. In the joyful months that followed, the Lord began to open doors that Colin and Helen had never anticipated. Even before “Joshua” was placed in their home under a foster-care arrangement, the Israeli agency decided to make an exception and allow Colin and Helen to begin the adoption process.

Throughout that process – which involved a battery of interviews, questionnaires and hearings – the unique religious makeup of their family, which seemed to perfectly match Joshua, became a constant topic of discussion. Colin recalled being asked numerous times, by social workers, lawyers and others throughout Israel: “So what exactly do you believe?”

At one point, however, this miraculous story seemed destined for a disappointing end: When it came to adoption, the state of Israel considered Colin and Helen together to be a “Jewish family” and Joshua a Christian, thus religiously incompatible. They had already waived the age restriction but were unwilling to suspend the religious requirement. However, many professionals involved in Colin and Helen’s story and touched by their love for the boy and each other, voiced their support. Once again, Colin and Helen rested on the Lord’s promises, despite the possibility that this baby they had fallen in love with might ultimately be taken away.

After many legal discussions, it was decided that the adoption could go ahead! But the Lord did not stop there: Before Joshua’s adoption could be finalised, the couple were informed that his birth mother was pregnant again, and the social worker who had first placed Joshua in their home wanted them to consider taking the sibling as well. The Lord had already been speaking to both Colin and Helen individually about growing their family even more. By the time the social worker came to their home, armed with her list of “reasons why” they should consider this, their hearts were already prepared, and the “yes” came naturally.

Three become four, and impact many
The story of “Lisa’s” journey to join this little family contained some of the same obstacles they encountered the first time. The state once again had a problem with the seeming incompatibility of religions, but the Lord made a way and the court decided not to separate the siblings. Lisa joined her brother and new parents and both children were officially adopted into Colin and Helen’s family.

Colin and Helen’s adoption saga has had a powerful impact on their local congregation, which is comprised of Jewish and Arab believers. Joshua was the first baby of both Jewish and Arab descent in the fellowship and seemed to tangibly symbolise their “one new man” identity. In addition to fulfilling Colin and Helen’s dreams of becoming parents and placing two unwanted children into a loving home, the Lord is using their story to reconcile and strengthen an entire community.

Call to action
While Joshua and Lisa are now part of a happy family, many more children are still languishing in Israel’s social system, desperately in need of a loving home. Join us in making sure they are placed with suitable families here in Israel! Your gift to ICEJ AID will help expand adoption in Israel and provide much-needed support for foster- and adoptive parents once accepted. (Note: Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

Give to ICEJ AID today.

Equipping Israelis to Fight Fires

Just imagine seeing incendiary balloons and kites soaring through the sky, then watching one drop and set your field on fire, burning your crops within minutes. These are the kinds of daily attacks that Israelis living near the Gaza border have faced this past year.

These arson attacks are not as frequent during the winter months, as it is the rainy season when fields are relatively wet. Yet as soon as the summer heat arrives, the fields get very dry, arson attacks multiply, and the fires spread rapidly. Therefore, there is a great need for better firefighter training in Israel’s south.

With all this in mind, ICEJ-Australia recently funded a Christian firefighting expert to come to Israel to share his expertise and training with his local counterparts. In March, Tim Wainwright, a professional firefighter from Australia with 25 years of experience, visited the Negev and trained firefighters, security officers, community leaders, and youth in fire safety.

Even though this was Tim’s first time in Israel, he skipped touring the Bible sites and diligently poured out his knowledge and expertise to the security personnel and other residents in the farming villages near Gaza. In the youth village of Kfar Silver, for instance, local students learned how to protect themselves and others in case of a run-away brush fire.

All the students who received training from Tim were thankful that he came all the way from Down Under to teach them, not only in the classroom but also via hands-on training with fire safety equipment.

“Our class listened to an exhilarating lecture from an actual firefighter from Australia”, said Kate, a local Israeli girl. “We learned about fire, safety equipment and different methods to extinguish fires. Living near the Gaza Strip, this information might unfortunately become very useful... It was really fun and interesting as well.”

Tim’s visit will surely have a great and lasting impact. One young man at the youth village said he enjoyed learning about firefighting so much that he now has a dream to become a firefighter to help his people! So small seeds were planted in the hearts of these Israelis, even while they are now better prepared for the arson attacks that are likely to come this summer!

Your support can make a difference in the lives of Israelis every day. Send your best gift to ICEJ AID today for our ‘Israel In Crisis’ fund. 

Vietnam & Kazakhstan

Doors opening in Vietnam
By: Mojmir Kallus, ICEJ VP for International Affairs

More than forty years after the end of the bitter conflict which raged on its soil, the nation of Vietnam remains in the minds of an entire generation ever associated with the bloody war fought between the North and the South, but more broadly between the Communist forces and the Free World led by the United States.

The country is now united and despite residues of Communist ideology, it is generally open and allows Christians to live in relative freedom. Relations with Israel, opened in the 1990s, are booming in recent years, especially due to Israeli inventions and technologies which can significantly contribute to improving the life of its citizens. Today, Vietnam is a fast-developing country with over 90 million people, and it is becoming one of the major players in all of Southeast Asia.

In late February, I spent several days in the capital of Hanoi, as a result of previous contacts made with Sister Chung Bach at our regional conference in Singapore and at the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles last year. I found the door to be wide open for cooperation with the growing body of local Christians. A dinner with 15 pastors from all over Vietnam was organised where I was able to share about the history, mission and vision of ICEJ. The next day, I conducted a seminar attended by about 80 people, mostly church leaders, who were shown ICEJ videos and heard about the biblical foundations of our support for Israel.

At the seminar, an umbrella organisation for Christian ministry to Israel in Vietnam was established, and the ICEJ is privileged to be a leading partner. The Chairman of the new organisation is Pham Tuan Nhuong, senior pastor of a Word of Life church in Hanoi, who will represent the ICEJ in Vietnam going forward. We hope to see a group from Vietnam at this year’s Feast of Tabernacles, as our cooperation and exchange continue to flourish.
 

A Good Report from ICEJ-Kazakhstan
By: Serguei Popov

The ICEJ-Kazakhstan branch opened about two years ago, and since then God has carried out a great work among the Christians in this Central Asian nation. Many churches now celebrate Israel’s “Independence Day” every year in May. Monthly prayer services are held in the northern city of Karaganda and the southern city of Almaty. Kazakhstan also is one of the few Muslim countries sending “love offerings" to Jerusalem. Last year, 46 pilgrims from Kazakhstan attended the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, and more pilgrims plan to come this year. Please pray with us for God to continue to richly bless the work of ICEJ in Kazakhstan and other Muslim countries in the region and worldwide.

Bolsonaro & USA Tour in Israel

Brazil’s Bolsonaro meets with US Evangelicals

During his March visit to Washington, DC to meet with US President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also met with a group of prominent Christian leaders, including ICEJ-USA National Director Dr Susan Michael. At the CBN-sponsored event, Bolsonaro shared his vision for Brazil and received prayer and commitments of support from the Evangelical leaders.

Bolsonaro told the Christian gathering that he has experienced two major miracles, one that he is alive after an assassination attempt during his campaign, and second that he won the election. He now seeks to move Brazil in a new direction, away from its prior leftist leanings. His main goals include protecting the unborn, reversing socialism's toll on Brazil, and strengthening his nation’s ties with Israel. He is looking to God for wisdom in the face of great opposition.

Dr Michael introduced the work of the ICEJ to President Bolsonaro and encouraged him to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. He explained that his decision to do so was firm, but he was working out the best way and timing possible, to minimise any economic repercussions.

When Bolsonaro—a Catholic—previously visited Israel, he was re-baptised in the Jordan. While there, he noted how much the small nation has prospered despite its few resources and how it serves as a role model for Brazil, which has much greater resources.

The meeting was closed in prayer by Dr Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who prayed for Bolsonaro to be anointed by the Holy Spirit, protected, and strengthened for the challenging years ahead.

 

ICEJ-USA leads inspiring tours to Israel

Over recent years, the ICEJ-USA branch has been arranging and leading numerous tours to Israel. After coming on an ICEJ-USA familiarisation tour last year, Pastors Murphy and Twila Matheny of Cedar Lake Church in Biloxi, Mississippi asked our US office to help them plan the first Israel tour for their congregation. In March, the group had a wonderful time of fellowship and faith-building as the Scriptures came to life in the Land of the Bible. Several experiences really stood out, including this incredible moment captured on camera at the Yardenit baptismal site as several members prepared to be baptised in the River Jordan (Photo courtesy of Betty Ladner). Then, during their visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a member of the group who had never surrendered her life to the Lord was overcome by His presence at the Kotel and asked Jesus into her heart on the very spot. Meanwhile, ICEJ-USA National Director Susan Michael helped organise and lead a recent tour of the Holy Land for the mega-church she attends, the Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale, led by Pastor Doug Sauder. The 140-person tour was a great success and many lives were touched and changed forever.

 

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