More from the Holy Land

I have been a bit remorse in getting to this blog this week, and most likely will be so next week, too. I am sure you will forgive me, knowing that I am touring the holy Land and quite busy all day. We have been on a full schedule, and now as Shabbat comes to an end, we are going to take a nice “Shabbat Walk” hike to a natural spring. I spent the entire day just resting and talking with a friend who I rarely get to talk to, and it was great.

Floating in the Dead Sea as we talked was nice, too!

I have seen communities here in Israel, the kind the media calls “obstacles to peace” and am amazed at how much lying and misrepresentation there is in America about the truth of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Our guide, Yosi, is an Israeli who served and fought in the IDF, has written a book about his experiences, and is a very Godly man, with very practical ideas. His testimony about Jew and Arab relations, along with the confirmation we have received from people living in communities where they live on the border, literally, of the Syrian terrorists, is that Jews and Arabs have no problem with each other: it is the minority made up of of extremists and the satanically-influenced (that part is my own belief) lies of the media that make the world believe it is all the Jews’ fault.

I saw a man and his family walking to the community pool in flip-flops and bathing suits, and he had an M-16 over his shoulder. Every soldier I have seen in the streets, not on patrol but just walking somewhere, has a gun.

We in America have had no idea what life here is like except when we were going through a similar thing during the revolutionary days.

Yet, they stay. Despite potential for terrorist attack, or from any of the surrounding nations, despite hateful and lying media slurs and condemnation, despite the world coming against them, the people of Israel stay and will not leave. Why? Because this is their land. Not just Jerusalem, but the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley, all of the land God promised, even those parts that are now Jordanian and Syrian. It is all theirs.

I am a Jew- it is my land, too. I don’t live here, but let me tell you this- if it was possible, I would. Why? The reason is simple: IT IS MY LAND! God gave this land to me and I am supposed to live on it; no one should ever take it away. And I would never let it go without a fight. Of course, I don’t live here, and probably never will, but I am still a part of this land.

I am here now, this very moment, and the land and I are together;  I will always have a part of my heart here, and the land will always be a part of me.

I am writing this sitting at a desk, and directly to my right is the large patio door leading to the balcony overseeing the Dead Sea, with the Jordan Rift mountains all around us.  It is magnificent! It is breathtaking. It is humbling.  The awesome power of God to create mountains that are so powerful, so absolutely desolate and yet, at the same time, so absolutely beautiful. Not to mention all the history they have witnessed.

This is the place to come if you really want to know what the Jewish world is like, and to get close to God. Talk to these Jews, who have gone through hardship and suffering, yet who still are friendly and happy to help you. Oh, yes- they seem to be impolite, they  yell and walk right through you, but it’s just because they are practical and have no time for “niceties” – they are too busy living.

We in America have it so soft and so easy that we end up spiritualizing everything because we are relaxing in our high-back chairs,, watching the game on our 62″ HD TV, and thinking about God on the commercial breaks.  We thank Him for His goodness and then go back to the game.

These people are survivors who are descendants of pioneers:- they are tough, they are determined, and they are not going to give you any “bull” or accept any from you. They talk from their heart, honestly, and expect the same back. That is why, to we soft and self-absorbed Americans, they seem harsh and unfriendly. They aren’t, please believe that- they are just not interested in “fluff.”

Their practical approach to God is simply that God wants us to be good to each other, help the needy and put doing good over doing what religion says is required. What I mean by that is that if you are passing by a man who is sickly and needs help as you go to the Temple, and you do not help him because by touching him and feeding him you would become unclean and could not then worship God, you have done wrong. God would prefer that you do not worship or sacrifice to him if it means not helping that man. Yeshua told us (and showed us) about this when He healed on the Shabbat, when He told the parable of the Good Samaritan, and when He (gently) chastised Martha for cleaning and cooking while Mary listened to Him talk.

Too often people are so spiritual that they spiritualize themselves right past God. They are so anxious to act “righteous” and be “holy” that they forget the best way to do that is to dress down and wash someone’s feet. That is the lesson Yeshua was trying to teach the Disciples when He washed their feet.

The bottom line is that it is what we do for each other every day that God wants to see. What we do for Him, specifically religious rites and ceremonies, are not as important to Him as what we do for each other. Whatever sacrifice you make to God needs to be one that smells nice to Him- loving concern for others smells nice, giving to the poor and needy smells nice, helping people get somewhere they need to go smells nice.  Not leaving a tip for the waiter but leaving a tract stinks like yesterday’s diapers. Saying you are going to do something for someone then copping out reeks of two week old eggs. Making a big deal about your tithe or your giving to a charity or your wonderful experiences with God when you haven’t really had any is a stench that will reach to heaven and back again.

Our guide Yosi said it so very well: If you could sing songs and dance for Jesus or give food to a hungry person, which would you do?”

Which do you think would please God more?

Even When We Know Where We’re Going to End Up, We Don’t Know How We Will Get There

Yesterday I talked about my bike ride and close brush with wiping out. The question I keep asking myself is why didn’t I know about the cement bumpers? Did I forget they were there or are they a new addition? I haven’t been that route for a month or two, so which is it?

Even though I knew where I was going, I didn’t know about the cement bumper. Whether I forgot or not, the end result is the same- BIG surprise at the last moment!

There is a story of a man who tells Yeshua how he is going to make a larger barn, and then do other things to square away his life, and Yeshua says the man is a fool because he spends all that time working for things that he won’t enjoy because his soul will be demanded of him that very night. It’s like the old expression:

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

When we accept the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah and do T’Shuvah, we are beginning to walk a path that we think we know, since we have an idea of how to act, the Ruach helps us to know what we should do, and the end is eternity in God’s presence. But the sad truth is that the end is the only part we can be certain of, because the path is not straight, it is very narrow, and there are thorns, brambles, and many rocks along the way.  It is a difficult and treacherous road to take, and Yeshua warns us about this.

Even though I know where I am going to end up, I don’t really know how I will get there, meaning I am not sure what the travel itinerary has in store for me. Jonah thought he would go to Tarshish, and we all know how that turned out. Nebuchadnezzar thought he would rule the world, but he ate grass for 7 years, and Herod thought he would be able to keep the Messiah from being born, and I am sure he didn’t expect to end up the way he did.

Once we have accepted God’s grace and walk in His will we know where we will end up, but we really don’t know where we are going. So be prepared for anything; for friends to abandon you, for family to fall away from you, for workers to distrust you and talk against you, for the world, itself, to seem to come against you at every turn.

It ain’t easy being a real Believer, and it is a constant battle with yourself to stay the course. Especially when you don’t know which direction the course takes. It is easy to take a wrong turn, so always look to the Ruach (Spirit) to lead you (a sort of spiritual GPS), take along the Atlas (Bible) which will show you the way to go, and make sure you read it all the time.

And trust in God, who may not tell you where you are going until you are there, but wherever that is, He is already waiting for you.

Watch where you are going, keep an eye on where you are, and never forget what is at the end of the journey. All the troubles along the way will be like a small mist that evaporates in a second once you are in God’s presence.