30 October 2014

From Israel to the Nations

“...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8b

This is where it all started – the baby church that Yeshua began by investing around three and a half years into 12 men, which then exploded onto the streets of the dusty city of Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit blew in, and gradually but consistently spread out into the surrounding local areas. And from there, the good news of Yeshua the Messiah eventually invaded the world.  Today, this very same gospel has come full circle – it has returned to the tiny nation from whence it began, and as a result, the local Body in Israel is growing steadily.

But wait, there’s more!  Not only are there believers in Yeshua now living throughout the whole Land, but Israelis are once again taking the word of the Lord back out to the nations!  Rania Sayegh, the director of HOPE (House of Prayer and Exploits) in Nazareth is one such person whom God has launched out to the nations from Israel, taking the prophetic word of the Lord wherever she goes.

It's such an amazing season for us here in HOPE and a busy one for me personally,” says Rania. “The Lord has been pouring His grace and presence in a powerful way in the House of Prayer among the youth, and also having the privilege to step into opened doors in the nations.”

During the summer, Rania spent time in France to teach at a conference and also connect with a local House of Prayer.  “It was a powerful time of ministry on the joy of the Lord and faith in the Kingdom. The wine of the Spirit was poured out over us during 5 days of worship, prayer & teaching and this School of the Prophets was attended by around 100 people. It was such a special time of teaching and fellowship with the people, and I also had the privilege of leading a prayer watch in the House of Prayer in Toulouse,” shared Rania.

Rania has been discipling the young people of Nazareth over many years, and during the autumn this year was able to take a couple of them with her to a special conference in Cyprus.  Attended by leaders from all over the Middle East, the conference focused on the scriptures in Isaiah 19 that declares, “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria.  The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria.  The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.  In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.  The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.””

Rania continued to share, “The trip to the Isaiah 19 Conference in Cyprus was a wonderful time to connect with Houses of Prayer from around the Middle East. Also it was the first time two of my spiritual daughters (who work with me at HOPE) have

20 October 2014

From Death To Life: A Testimony.

Rivka* grew up in an Ultra- Orthodox Jewish family in the heart of Jerusalem's religious neighbourhood. Tucked away in the middle of the city is an area where time seems to have stood still. The residents look like characters out of a previous century, the men wearing black suits and wide brimmed hats and the women in long skirts, high necklines and covered heads, leading broods of similarly dressed children. This is Mea Shearim, a community of Ultra-Orthodox Jews who separate themselves from modern society in the pursuit of Torah study, prayer and family. Here you will find no TVs, internet or movies, no secular books or magazines. The only newspapers are printed by the community without the distraction of photos or references to modern living. This ghetto-like neighbourhood has its own religiously approved education system, medical services, welfare institutions and economies.

Rivka's family maintained the strict rules of  Jewish Orthodox religious life, just like all the other families in their neighbourhood. The children were taught how to live according the expectations of their community but within her family there was not much love. As expected, an arranged marriage was organised for Rivka, as soon as she was old enough and she began a new life as an Ultra-Orthodox wife - keeping all the rules and regulations of a Kosher Orthodox home. Soon after her marriage, she discovered her new husband was a cruel man and he physically and emotionally abused her. She begged her family to let her come home but in this very conservative society, divorce is forbidden and Rivka was expected to make the best of it. Her life became unbearable. She was trapped and had no one to turn to. She became more and more depressed. Eventually, desperate, she ran away. This was a disgrace for her family and they managed to find her and arranged to send her to America to an uncle who was an Orthodox Rabbi. They hoped he would be able to 'sort her out'.

09 October 2014

Bringing The Old Testament To Life

A Personal Reflection On Experiencing The Feasts Of Israel

Living in Israel for a number of years was amazing, inspiring, stretching, and so much more, in so many ways and I thank God for the privilege of that adventure. 

One of the unique experiences of spending extended times in this nation was the opportunity to see the Old Testament Feasts lived out in normal everyday life. God intrinsically flowing through the yearly rhythm of life: preparing, guiding, fulfilling. His very presence at the centre of each seasonal celebration. It is almost impossible to live in Israel without the subject of God coming up because he is still, even today, the focus of so much of the culture and of every traditional family get together. On Friday evenings, in many Jewish homes the grown up children return home for Mama’s cooking as they join together to welcome the beginning of the Sabbath. Even in secular homes, everyone knows the biblical origins of the Shabbat. Toddlers in Kindergarten act out the traditional lighting of candles and bless and share out the sweet, plaited Shabbat bread. God is woven into every aspect of the culture. Nowhere else in the world, can you witness a whole nation coming to a standstill to honour a Holy day as happens on Yom Kipur (The Day of Atonement). Not one car moves on the street, no TV, no radio, all the shops shut, and the would be silence is broken only by the excited shrieks of children enjoying the freedom of a car- free city. The Feast of Tabernacles, a harvest festival (Ingathering) at the end of the farming year, demonstrates not only God’s provision of food but also of shelter as home-made ‘tabernacles’ are built to remember the journey from Egypt through the desert - when God miraculously provided for all the needs of a whole nation. Passover, probably the most well known Feast of the Lord, tells the spectacular story of the deliverance from slavery to freedom and the significance of the Passover Lamb. The whole script is acted out by the entire family centred around a family meal. The celebrations are mostly fun, loud and enthusiastically celebrated. 

The Weekly Sabbath (Shabbat) Table
I have often found there is a great chasm between reading about something and experiencing it for yourself. The complicated instruction manual that comes with some flat pack furniture can make a simple table look like a kitset house! It is only as you follow the instructions step by step that in the midst of doing, it all begins to makes sense. I had of course, read about the Feasts of the Lord in the Bible, but in their Old Testament framework they seem ancient and strange. I had even read up on the expressions of these feast in modern Judaism, when I first prepared to go to live in Israel, but the explanations were complicated and confusing. It was only as I lived through them and experienced the traditions in their normal family settings that I realised they were not complicated at all and the ancientness of their institution was a beautiful thread that flowed through history, linking the past to the present and reminding each generation of their roots in the Almighty God’s ancient plan for the salvation of mankind. 

Passover Celebration
Celebrating with Messianic Jews who have found their Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth, these time-honoured celebrations take on a new dimension