In the Desert

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Palm trees in the desert, taken today just north of Eilat.

Today I traveled down to Eilat, where I will be working for a couple of days.  Isn’t it amazing to see these beautiful date palms growing in the desert?  Awhile back, I was on a flight to the States, and I overheard some men from Oklahoma.  They had been in Israel to study irrigation and how Israel was able to grow things in very harsh conditions.  G-d continues to bless the land.  While here, the temperature is supposed to be 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit!

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The new Ramon airport, which is scheduled to open this year.

I was also able to see the progress being made on the new airport.  It was supposed to be completed last year, but now is scheduled to be completed in early 2019.  The airport is named in memory of the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster, and his son Assaf Ramon, who died six years later when his F-16 fighter jet crashed over the Judea and Samaria Area.

Sunday, June 24, Israel shot at an unmanned drone over the Golan Heights.  As many of you know, while Baruch and I were in Vietnam and Singapore, many rockets were shot into the south of Israel.  None made it to our city.  But still, the attacks continue.

In Israel news today, Prince William of England will visit Israel tomorrow, where he is scheduled to visit Yad Vashem and his great-grandmother’s (Princess Alice of Battenberg) grave in Jerusalem.  She is honored as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

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Shabbat Shalom!

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Gorgeous flowers from my walk today.

Shabbat is upon us and it is so good to be in the Land.  Shabbat is very special here.  It is in the air on Fridays, as people hurry to get everything they need, since the stores will close early and not open until Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Please find below a short commentary by Baruch on this week’s Torah portion.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Chukat, we read a unique verse concerning the well from which the Children of Israel drank water. Concerning this well it was said,

Then will sing Israel this Song: Come up O’ Well They answered her.” Numbers 21:17

The first thing that stands out about this song is its similarity to that of the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1. Both verses begin with the same phrase, “Then will sing….” It is also significant that in both verses the verb is in the future tense. Rabbinical commentators see the passage in Exodus as having a dual fulfillment. That is, the verse has relevance not only in the days of Moses, but also in the last days. The same point is applicable for the verse from Numbers.

It is also interesting that Israel sang praises to the well which provided the water, but never to HaShem Whom provided the manna. In the New Covenant one reads about the connection (symbolically) between the manna and the Messiah. In John chapter six Yeshua speaks about the bread (manna) that came down from heaven and taught the people that He is THE BREAD OF LIFE! (See John 6:48-51). Although Yeshua related Himself to the manna symbolically, the Scripture reveals a most unique relationship between Him and the well. Paul teaches that the well was Messiah (See I Corinthians 10:4). In actually it was the Rock that covered the well that was Messiah. It seems that the Rock followed the Children of Israel in the wilderness and provided them water. Wherever the Rock was the “well” was underneath. Hence it could be said that in fact the water came forth from the Rock and that there was no well in reality.

The last part of the verse admonishes the people to respond to the “well”, i.e. the source of the water. This is the important message of the Song, Israel must respond to Messiah in order to receive the “gift”. It is most significant that twice, in verses 18 and 19, the term gift is used in regard to the water. Rabbinical texts understand that the gift relates to salvation. Now it is easy to see why and how Paul taught that the Rock in the wilderness was Messiah.

In the same way the people were thirsty in the wilderness for what the Rock could provide them, so too do we need to be filled with the Spirit of Yeshua so we too can continue on our journey of following HaShem’s leadership as we press on to the upward calling that each believer has received in Messiah Yeshua.

Singapore

Baruch and I arrived home this morning.  We were blessed with very good flights and it was wonderful to get home.  Our time in Singapore went by so quickly, as we had several meetings and Baruch taught each evening we were there.  This time he taught the book of Revelation and everyone was very interested and attentive.

The college Baruch is taught at has campuses in several Asian countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Cambodia and Laos.  As of 2016, they have trained over 100,000 pastors.  In 2016, they decided to expand their focus to include training city pastors.  Prior to that, their emphasis had been on rural pastors, which have a different set of struggles and needs.  The city pastors need additional training to confront the more educated people who are in high tech or business.

We also met with a pastor in Singapore who is originally from S. Korea.  He is very interested in facilitating Baruch coming to S. Korea to teach.  This interests us because our television show is already airing in S. Korea on Daystar and this would be a great opportunity to promote our Bible teaching program.

It was very moving to be in Vietnam and Singapore and hear Baruch teaching about idolatry, while being surrounded by temples to false gods. We realized that we were in a part of the world which did not have knowledge of Judeo-Christian teaching.  It was so foreign to us and made me sad.

Vietnam Part 2

Some of the people we met in Vietnam.

We were blessed by the students and leaders we met in Vietnam.  They are serious about their faith and want to learn and share about the L-rd.   On our flight from Vietnam to Singapore, I sat next to a 19 year old boy from Vietnam.  He asked me to tell him about Israel.  It was very sad that he did not know about the Bible at all.  Nothing!  I think most of us who are from the West assume that people know something about the Bible, G-d, Christianity, etc.  We need to be aware that there is no foundation to build upon for many people.  The entire foundation must be built first.

Last night we were told of a new law which was just passed in China.  It is now illegal for any male child, aged 16 and under, to go to a church.  Illegal!  This is the same government which is becoming more and more influential in Vietnam and the surrounding countries.

We are so honored to be a part of the educating of new leaders in the believing communities in Asia.  We will be meeting with administrators to see how we can further assist in filling this need.

Right now, the Vietnamese government is annexing some areas in the northern area of the country which concerns people that Chinese industry will move in there and also, the government just passed a law that digital media industries such as Facebook and Google will be required to store the data of Vietnamese users in Vietnam.

 

Vietnam Part 1

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Scenes from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon):  A woman selling food, colonial architecture, night lights, and a street lined with bookshops.

Our time in Vietnam is coming to an end.  Early tomorrow morning we catch a flight to Singapore.

We have learned so much on this trip about Vietnam and its current situation.  Currently, the Vietnamese leadership is cooperating with the Chinese government and there is a renewed crackdown on religious freedom.

We were informed that if we had said on our visa application that we were coming to Vietnam to teach the Bible, our application would have been rejected.  If we had listed our contact, the religious leader, he would have been investigated.  We found out that this leader has been imprisoned 21 times!

Over the years, spies have been sent to their congregation.  Many of them became believers, so the government quit sending spies but still monitors the congregation.  For these reasons, there are many underground churches.  This particular pastor met secretly for 5 years to earn his Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies.

Time is getting short.  Doors will be closing.  We felt an urgency to spread Bible truth and we were honoured to teach these students who know that persecution will follow.

I will share more in my next post.

Familiar Friends

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Sunday morning with the group from Alba-Iulia, Romania.

I wanted to introduce some of our faithful friends from Alba-Iulia, Romania.  They traveled to Sebis to join us for this last leg of our Romania trip.

On the far right are Myodrag and Simona, who lead a congregation in Alba-Iulia.  In the middle is Anca, who is married to George (in the front, taking the selfie) and on the left are Florin and Anca, who are newlyweds.  This group traveled to Sebis to join us for the services there.  We had such a great time with them and they are all very supportive of our work. They give us great encouragement and we need to keep them in prayer as they work to spread the Gospel in their town and beyond.

Simona was kind enough to be Baruch’s translator for the morning and evening services.  She does a great job and we appreciate her and Myodrag very much.

 

 

Shabbat Shalom!

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Beautiful flowers in Sebis, Romania.

This week’s parasha is Parashat Korach.  Please find a brief commentary by Baruch on this passage of Scripture (Numbers 16:1-18:32).  May you have a blessed Shabbat!

In this week’s Torah reading, one of the main themes is rebellion. It is clear from this passage that rebellion against G-d leads to death. Those who witnessed HaShem’s response to the rebels were most fearful. After the incident with Korach’s rebellion, HaShem affirms the leadership of Aaron and his sons (the priests) at the Tabernacle. Aaron is commanded to guard his charge at the Tabernacle. Why was this the first thing that G-d commands Aaron? Although the one who rebels against G-d and His leadership is guilty of this offense alone, when leaders are not fully committed to their call, it creates the environment which leads to rebellion. In other words, the people will reflect the commitment to G-d that the leadership demonstrates.

In this passage, HaShem emphasizes this by stating the following:

And you shall guard the holy charge and the charge of the altar and there will not be any more wrath upon the Children of Israel.” Numbers 18:5

This verse reveals that if the leadership fails to maintain the proper spiritual condition of the Tabernacle, then there will be judgment upon the people. Why would this be? It seems unfair that the people should suffer because of the insufficient work of leadership. There are two reasons for this. First, when the Tabernacle is not in the proper spiritual condition, it does not atone for the transgressions of the people and therefore the punishment of sins must be administered. Second, this is but another example of how frequently people are affected by the sins of others.

It is also most interesting that the priesthood itself is called a gift (See Numbers 18:7). This needs to be understood in two ways. First, the fact that HaShem has created the priesthood to serve on behalf of the people is a gift. Second, the calling to serve G-d in a leadership position is also a gift. Notice the end of verse seven which states that the one who is not from the tribe of Levi and attempts to serve at the Tabernacle shall die. This verse clearly emphasizes the importance of a call to serve in leadership. This should lead the person who is called to take with a great seriousness his service and those whom he is serving to respect the work which he does. It is when these principles are violated that HaShem ceases to bless the people, and when the blessings cease, the outcome will be that G-d will curse the people. There is no position in between, G-d is going to be blessing or cursing us. This Biblical truth often escapes our attention.

Therefore, let us renew our commitment to be diligent in our call to Him, regardless of what our call may be. Your faithfulness will impact others and so will one’s lack of service. We seldom think of service to Him as a matter of life and death, but this is exactly what our passage from the Parashah states.