26 March 2015

Passed Over at Passover

As a general rule, one does not think of being ‘passed over’ as a good thing.  It speaks of being unnoticed, insignificant, and undervalued.  And being an eldest child would normally position you in quite the opposite light - noticed, significant, and certainly valued.  Why?  Well, for the most part, the first born child of any family is usually awaited with great anticipation - it’s new, it’s exciting, it’s the first time.  It’s the joy of discovery as every new experience is a first.  Not that any and all children following aren’t loved and anticipated and valued as much as the eldest, but you can only experience the ‘first born’ once.

Being a first born in Western society today does not often carry the same kind of weight it once did - an exception would be the heir to the British throne!  But in ancient civilisations, being the eldest meant something, not the least of which was a double portion of the inheritance.  Two siblings would have their inheritance divided into 3 parts - 1 portion for the younger and two portions, or a double portion to the elder.  With that also came extra responsibilities to care for the family - parents when they were elderly or widowed, sisters that had not married, and anyone that needed taking care of.

Being a first born in the ancient Hebrew culture again had added significance.  In the book of Exodus, God has this to say:

13:1-2 The Lord said to Moses,  “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”
13:12-13 “...you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord.....Redeem every firstborn among your sons.”

The first born belonged to God - they were holy, or ‘set apart’.  When it came to the cattle and animals, the first born was sacrificed.  When it came to the eldest son, God did not want him sacrificed, so they were redeemed, exchanged by payment of an animal sacrifice instead.  It was in this same way that Isaac’s life was redeemed with a ram when offered by Abraham to God on Moriah.

So why all this kafuffle over the first born?  Well, it was all about being ‘passed over’:

13:14-16 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem my firstborn son.’  And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

As we noted at the beginning, being passed over is not usually a positive state of affairs, but if one is going to be passed over, never was there a better time than just before the Exodus, when the Angel of Death was to visit every home in the country of Egypt to take the life from every first born in the entire land!  Because of the blood of a lamb on the doorway, each Hebrew home was passed over, the eldest son and livestock were spared.  And It was at the time of commemorating the Passover, that Yeshua, after sharing the special meal with His disciples, became a literal and eternal personification of the Passover lamb.  Colossians describes Him this way:

1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

It would have been with this in mind that Yeshua, as the first born over everything God created, put Himself in the position of not being passed over.  As it says in 1Corinthians

5:7 For Messiah (the Anointed One), our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Yeshua was not passed over - He is the Passover Lamb.  Yeshua was not redeemed as the first born - He is the Redeemer.  His sacrifice was and is for the redemption of all that God has created.  His sacrifice, redeems us.  In the ancient Hebrew narrative it was a lamb that gave blood, so the first born would be passed over by the Angel of Death.  For us today it is Yeshua that gave blood so we are passed over by the holy judgements of God.  Just as Isaac was redeemed with a ram, so he would live out his full calling and purpose and receive the first born inheritance, we too have been given the redeemed life, set apart to be all the Father has created us to be and to receive our full inheritance as His children. 

This year, Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) starts at sundown on 3rd April - known on the

19 March 2015

United By Terror

You would have no idea what these women have been through judging by the enthusiastic way they threw themselves into dancing the night away. Their strength seemed endless as they made good use of the dance floor for hours on end.

But each of these women represented a family torn apart by terror. Some had lost a husband, a child, a parent. Some had been emotionally or physically paralyzed by the trauma of being in a terror attack themselves. Standing together on the dance floor, they were for a brief moment, taken out of their private worlds of pain and memories and united together in the celebration of life. This was the annual Purim Banquet organised by Springs of Hope in Jerusalem. "My Mum looks forward to this every year," said one son, "She was afraid to leave her house for two years [after surviving a terror attack on a bus] but this brought her out again."  Several families echoed the same sentiment. Here, they could leave their worries at the door and have some fun with people who understood.

The banquet was also the culmination of an international forum called 'Walk With Me', hosted by Springs of Hope, bringing together experts from around the globe united by the subject of terrorism.

Michael Gallagher from the Omagh bombing Support Group, Northern Ireland
The four day event, held in Jerusalem in March 2015, focused on the 'Voice of the Victim of Terrorism'. The Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, a victim of terrorism himself, launched the first session. He was the survivor of a molotov cocktail that was thrown into his car as he drove to work. It was laced with glue so that the fire would stick to his body and cause maximum injury. His survival was miraculous. His revenge, he related, was not for more death but for life, which he saw in the birth of his three children who would not have existed if he had not survived. He has dedicated his life to public service.

Springs of Hope, did an amazing job bringing together incredible Keynote speakers from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds. United by the effects of terrorism in their personal lives, the tone of this forum was not revenge, but hope. Through mutual respect and shared understanding the various participants gave informative presentations and interacted in discussion panels.

Canon Andrew White shares about Christian persecution in Iraq with
Muslim reformer Asra Nomani and 'Dry Bones' cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen
Special therapy workshops using art and jewellery-making took place for some of the Jerusalem victims of terror that Springs works with.

Walk With Me 2015 also featured a special screening by Swedish filmmaker Bo Persson who was present to introduce his new film, "Watching the Moon at Night" about terrorism and anti-semitism around the world. Local, short films were also presented by students of the Sapir Academy, Department of Cinematography.

Swedish filmmaker, Bo Persson
Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, Springs of Hope had intertwined professional musicians into the program, lifting our spirits with beautiful musical renditions. The professionalism and hospitality shown by Springs was exceptional.

The forum concluded with a memorial to Victims of Terrorism and Cantor Moshe Goldberg sang the 'Kaddish', the traditional Jewish prayer for mourners.

Israeli singer,
Inbal Gershkovitz
We were so impressed with this initiative from Springs of Hope, who for over 10 years have been doing a wonderful and unique work among Victims of Terror in Jerusalem. This was not just another conference. This was a forming together of a network of experts, many of whom had never met before, to be a voice and a catalyst for action. We will be sharing more about this forum in the near future but in the meantime, be praying for the leadership of Springs of Hope as they step out in this new direction -  bringing people together from different countries, religions and traditions to speak out against terrorism.

Lisa Miara interviews Dan Alon, an Olympic
Fencer who survived the 1972  terror attack
on the Munich Olympic Village
Keynote speakers included:

Professor Henry Abramovitch, Israel.
Mr. Khaled Abu Toameh, Israel
Mr. Dan Alon, Israel.
Mr. Robert Campbell, Northern Ireland
Chief Detective Inspector Stephen Cargin, Northern Ireland
Mr. Michael Gallagher, Northern Ireland
Mr. Yaakov Kirschen, Israel.
Mr. Gavriel Mairone, Israel/USA
Mr. Chris Mitchell, USA
Ms. Lisa Miara, Israel
Ms. Asra Nomani, USA
Mr. Arnold Roth, Israel
Mr. Axel Schmidt, Northern Ireland
Mr. Barry Shaw, Israel.
Dr. Martin Sherman, Israel
Canon Andrew White, Iraq

If you would like make a financial contribution towards helping victims of terrorism CLICK HERE

12 March 2015

Christian Delegation Stands With Holocaust Survivors At The Israeli Knesset

Your People My People were honoured to be invited by Helping Hand Coalition to attend their 2nd International Knesset Convention a few months ago. Local delegates, from various agencies involved in helping Holocaust Survivors in Israel, joined together with international representatives of Christian ministries from around the world to express solidarity and share vision. The meeting was hosted by Andre Gasiorowski, chairman of Helping Hand Coalition together with Yoel Razvozov, Member of Knesset and chairman of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.

Before the forum began, we were given a tour of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) building. The government was not in session on the day we visited so we were able to enter the Plenum (the assembly hall for all the Knesset members) and hear something of the history and workings of the government. Israel is a democratic country that has established within its national law, the protection of the diversity of religions, cultures and traditions co-existing within the country. All Israeli citizens: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and others have full voting rights. There are 120 Members of Knesset  - both, Arabs and Druze hold seats in the Knesset alongside their Jewish citizens. There is something about standing in the place where government resides that reminds you of the weight of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the elected members. As we stood gazing down on the seats labeled with the individual Member of Knesset who sits there, we prayed for God's wisdom and revelation to invade each decision and discussion. That this diverse body, whether individuals knew Him or not, would be used to bring about His purposes in this land that is so close to His heart.
The Plenum, The Knesset - Jerusalem

Middle: Andre Gasiorowski.
Right: MK Yoel Razvozov

The forum gathered and delegates took their places around a huge oval table. Speeches were made and presentations given. It was an opportunity for Christian organisations to express their support to the delegates representing Holocaust Survivor support groups, welfare agencies and Holocaust education foundations. The local delegates also took the opportunity to thank the International organisations for their support in the past and their appreciation for future cooperation.

Knowing it is Christians from around the world who are supporting them, helps tear down the walls of historical antisemitism they have experienced from the church and builds bridges towards reconciliation between Holocaust Survivors and Christians.

We want to pass that thank you on to you. Through your generous support, many Holocaust Survivors, across Israel, are being taken care of and experiencing dignity in their old age.

We strongly believe in the work HHC are doing to make a difference in the lives of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. If you would like to be a part of that CLICK HERE and note your donation is for Holocaust Survivors.

05 March 2015

Happily Ever After - Or Not?

A wise King once said ‘There is nothing new under the sun’.  And for every new movie or novel that is released, it seems there are multiple versions of similar tales that come before them.  For sure there are different styles of the telling, different eras and periods that the stories are set in.  The characters and personalities can be vast and varied and at times there are even surprising twists and turns that take us in an unexpected direction.  And any Hollywood buff can tell you, when it comes to stories about the fight of good vs evil, for the most part, good will win because it’s what the audience wants.  Despite the odds, boy finds girl and true love wins, damaged relationships are mended, things that are lost or broken are restored and repaired, and the princess is rescued by the prince!  

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  Sometimes history is far more surreal than any script writer or novelist conspires.  And sometimes ‘good’ really does win!  Which leads us to Purim and its origins, a story so fantastical that its very name implies ‘a bit of a gamble’.  The proper definition of Purim is ‘lots’: items/stones drawn from a bag or similar to help make a decision, so something chosen by chance...or divine will. 

Divine will?  Aha, into the story of Purim enters the ‘God factor’!  You can read the full account in the Book of Esther in the Bible, but in the briefest of summaries, God chose a people, and when somebody made plans to destroy the people God chose, the villain was thwarted and destroyed by his own schemes.  It’s the perfect story of good triumphing over evil and has some great plot twists and surprising turns on the journey!  If only, in similar fashion, the Holocaust of World War II had been stopped so abruptly before it started, millions of lives would have been spared.  Not to mention the Spanish Inquisition and various Crusades and Pogroms throughout the centuries.  Where was the ‘God factor’ during those stories?

I’ll be honest with you - I don’t have a nice packaged answer to that question.  It’s the same question as ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’   Sometimes it seems it is nature itself that intrudes with natural disasters and life shaking events.   And at other times it’s the choices of individuals and groups that set the course of our lives in directions we would never choose to go.  Esther faced this when she was torn from her home and forced to become a mistress of the King.  At the time, she had no idea she would be chosen to be the Queen, only that she was forced to give up all hopes of a husband and family of her own.  I don’t know when, or if love ever came into it for Esther.  Being Queen certainly would have come with rank and privilege, but the King was not from her culture, had banished his previous wife, and still kept a harem of other women.  Hardly an ideal situation even for an arranged marriage!