The International Flavor of Serving in Israel

by Jill Czelusta –  Representative for Bridges for Peace

This is the fourth summer that the Lord has provided the funds for me to volunteer with Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem.  Each summer has become more and more enjoyable because of the friendships that have formed while serving the Jewish people in His Land.  Bridges for Peace (BFP) is an international organization with offices in at least eight different nations, so there are volunteers who come from all over the world.  Since I have had the privilege to return each summer, I have made friends with several long term volunteers that I keep in contact with throughout the year, and I make new ones with each visit.

This past Shabbat the volunteers who are here by themselves, like me, decided to get together for dinner.  As a short term volunteer, you are always invited to someone’s home for Shabbat, but this time we hosted ourselves at one of the volunteer’s apartment.  With the 10 of us around the table, nine countries were represented:  France, England, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Namibia, Russia, Japan, Canada and the United States.  Ages ranged from early 20’s to 60 something.  The evening was filled with questions about how each of us ended up volunteering with BFP.  One by one, amazing stories were told of how God directed their steps and then faithfully provided for the call.  Over and over I heard my story.  First it was a dream to come and serve in Israel.  Each one had heard of BFP and how you could volunteer. Each one did not think they would have the funds to come, but God miraculously provided.  Three of them were young people who participated in the Zealous Project – an 11 month discipleship program for 18-30 year olds. When they completed that, they chose to return and serve some more.  Some were in midlife and just wanted to serve here in Jerusalem.  Some, like me, are spending their summer vacation here both serving and taking in the sights of Jerusalem and greater Israel on the weekends.

The other amazing thing that I have noticed is that when we go out on a delivery to bring food to the elderly Holocaust survivor, they always ask, “Where are you
from?”  One time I am with someone from Japan.  The next time I am with someone from New Zealand, then Canada, then England, then Ireland.  Each time, the Jewish person is so surprised that people from all over the world love them enough to spend their time and resources to carry a bag of groceries to their small apartment and to sit down and visit with them.  We listen to the stories – some very hard to hear – but necessary to hear, and remember. We cry together, and then laugh together as they tell of their children, grandchildren and great grand-children.  Then there are the hugs…the best part!

I am so thankful that the Lord has chosen to use me for this amazing ministry to the poor, the elderly and new immigrants of Israel.  I had the opportunity to deliver new school supplies and backpacks to a school in Bet Shemesh that BFP has been working with for 14 years.  The parents and students arrived and immediately began to hug the BFP staff and those from the Jewish agency that we partner with for this project.  I was surprised to see such appreciation for what I consider such a small gift – a backpack and assorted school supplies.  I also learned that BFP helps to pay the book fees for some of these students.  One of the parents thanked us because her son was one of those who received the help.  She said that for the first time last year, he received his books on the first day of school like most of the other kids.  He came home so happy that day and it made a difference for the whole year. She could not say thank you enough.

I will end with this.  As a Food Floor Worker, I come in contact with the families that come in once a week to receive their food parcels of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and canned goods.  I have the opportunity to greet them and, if they speak English, get to talk with them a bit.  Regardless, every one shakes my hand and says ‘Toda,’ or thank you.  One couple came into the work area because they insisted on saying thank you to everyone there.  They had ‘graduated,’ and this would be their last time to pick up food.  They had been on the program for one year and it was enough to get them on their feet and to get a job to provide for themselves.  They were so full of joy and so thankful.  They had experienced the love of Jesus through perfect strangers and the generosity of Christians from around the world.

I know that I am there to be a blessing, but I know I receive way more than I give out! Thank you to Women of the Word for your prayers and support throughout the years!

About Jill Czelusta: Jill visited Israel for the first time on a Bridges for Peace tour in 1995, returned in 2004, and has had a love for the Land and a heart for the Jewish people ever since. Jill is a friend of Women of the Word and has also been to Israel with WOW.  This is her fourth summer volunteering at the BFP Jerusalem Assistance Center.  She is a graduate of Institute of Israel Studies and is currently enrolled at Master’s International University of Divinity pursuing a Master’s Degree in Judeo-Christian Synergism.  During the school year, she teaches AP Chemistry, AP Physics, and pre-calculus at a private Christian school in northern Vermont.  Her undergraduate degree is in Chemistry from Virginia Tech. Her other favorite pastime is visiting her 2 children and their families. Jill will be leading a tour of Israel in the summer of 2020.

Who Will Have Pity on you O Jerusalem? – Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem

by Betsy Roy

The Bible asks a poignant question in Jeremiah 15:5. “Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem, or who will grieve for you? Who will turn aside to ask about your welfare?”

Jesus grieved and wept over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34,35 and Luke 19:41,42) because he knew Jerusalem would be trampled down in 70 AD and an hour is yet to come when all nations will come against Jerusalem as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. Yet the final outcome will be victorious for the Kingdom of God as King Jesus will rule from the Holy City and all who have survived of all the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King and celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14:16).

In the meantime, much has happened in Jerusalem and Israel over the last 150 years or so as we witness the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral home, the restoration of the Hebrew language, the blooming of the land, and most astounding the increase of Jewish people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah! Hallelujah!

Jerusalem is the center of the nations (Ezekiel 5:5). Not Tehran, nor Mecca, nor Cairo, nor Washington DC, nor Moscow, nor Bejing, nor Tokyo, nor London, nor Paris, nor Rome, nor any other city. It’s Jerusalem! In this city our Lord Jesus was crucified, died, resurrected and ascended back to heaven. To this city our Lord Jesus will return as his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. There is no city like it! It is unique!

Man has tried and continues to try to bring “peace” to this city, but it is beyond us! The Bible instructs us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), but what does that really mean and how do we effectively do it? The meaning of Jerusalem is “teaching of peace”. Jeru means Torah or teaching. Salem means peace. The word “pray” in this Psalm means to “ask” so the phrase can be written to say “Ask about the prince of peace and his teaching of peace.” Therefore, when we pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” we aren’t praying for the absence of war per se although we can pray that the enemy of our souls not be allowed to bring war out of God’s timing. We should be praying that people (souls) that do not know Jesus as Messiah begin to ask about him and his teachings. We can also pray that those of us who do know him have a deeper understanding of his teachings and walk as disciples in this world. May we be salt and light and draw others to him.

We can pray that veil in front of the eyes of the Jewish people becomes thinner and thinner and that they will look up and recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah and that a spirit of supplication and repentance comes upon them so they will cry “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 13:35). Only when this happens on a national level will the Lord return. Let us cry out for a great harvest of souls in Israel and throughout the Middle East of both Jew and Gentile.

In Hebrew the word “peace” means completenes, wholeness, a state when things are as God intends them to be so this is what we are asking of God. We are not asking Him to withhold the final time of war because as it is written, so it will surely come. Jesus prayed that we would understand the way of peace. May we understand it and pray for others to understand it also. That is “praying for the peace of Jersualem”.  Will you join me in it?

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation. 

 

The Fall Feasts

by Rose-Marie Slosek

The fall is a time of several major feasts in the Jewish calendar.  On September 9-11 of this year (2018), the Jewish Civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah (also known as the Feast of Trumpets), will be celebrated. It is the first of the “High Holy Days” and celebrates God making the world!  A shofar is blown during the service.  Giving to the needy so that one may be included in the Book of Life and have a happy year is a tradition practiced by Jewish people all over the world. 

Sweet food is eaten, such a challah bread with raisins and apples dipped in honey. The head of the fish is often served so you remember to be “the head and not the tail”– a leader instead of a follower! If you want to wish someone a happy new year you say, “L’shanah Tovah”  which means “a good year” in Hebrew.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is scheduled ten days after Rosh Hashanah. On that day, people repent of their sins, and ask God to forgive their sins. It is called the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths.” People fast and do not work that day so they can repent.  It is called the “Day of Atonement.” September 19th is the date this year. 

On September 24th and 25th is the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) or Sukkot. It is a time to remember God’s provision in the wilderness but also to look forward to the time when the Messiah comes and all the nations come to Jerusalem to worship God. People construct and live in hut like structures on their porches, balconies, back yards, to remember the fragility of life and to be thankful for their homes and God’s provision.  It is a time of great celebration! People gather in the sukkot structure and eat and rejoice together. This feast also has great prophetic meaning for us as believers.. Zechariah tells us that a day will come when we will go up to Jerusalem year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14: 16).

At the end of Sukkot, the Jews celebrate Shemini Atzeret where people spend an additional day with God! While Sukkot is for everyone to celebrate, only the Jews celebrate Shemini Atzeret as they celebrate the special relationship they have with God. This is celebrated on October 1st this year.  

On October 2nd is Simchat Torah.  It celebrates the conclusion of the public Torah readings for the year. People often dance with the Torah scrolls around the table where the Torah is read! In Israel Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are condensed into one day.

As Christians, we can appreciate these holy day celebrations as they often are very symbolic in nature and point to Jesus in some way.  Jesus did celebrate the Feasts and learning about them can be very enriching. 

These holidays have three parts to them:  Israel was to observe the holiday each year to remember and celebrate something God did in the past, while looking forward to some prophetic purpose hidden within each festival that is still to come!

There is often confusion as to whether Christians should or even must celebrate these festivals. Paul addresses this in the book of Colossians : Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  (Colossians 2:16,17)

Judaizers, even modern day ones, say that we must celebrate these festivals but we have liberty to honor them or to no partake in them. They have beautiful imagery, but all things find their completeness in Christ so we are not compelled to as far as religious duty.  We can easily enjoy the symbolism and history of the festivals and contemplate their prophetic meaning. Thank God that we have a once and for all atonement of our sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All things have been provided by God in Christ and this is nothing that we can earn of ourselves.  However, we can take this good advice from Paul as he writes to the Corinthians : Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. “  (I Corinthians 5:7-8).

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel. Consider joining us on the next Amazing Israel Adventure March 31 – April 11, 2019.  Trips to Israel are open to men and women. 

How should Christians Relate to Israel: Part 2

by Rose–Marie Slosek

Click here for Part 1: How Should Christians View Israel

Part 2: A hundred years ago, one could not have even seen that Israel would come back on the world stage as a country. If you read books concerning eschatology and end time issues written before 1948, they do not seem to focus directly on Israel because Israel did not even exist as a sovereign country.  

In 1948, Israel was once again a nation! This was a mere 70 years ago! But Israel is now, and will be increasingly, at the center of much world controversy.  Jerusalem is the most contested city on the earth and will be until Jesus comes. It is now essential to realize that God is not finished with Israel. He who has begun a work in her, will finish it, and why is this? It is because of covenant.  Although we can be happy that the embassy of the US has moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem we must also realize that we cannot relate to Israel, nor does God relate to Israel, through political avenues. Because Israel is both a sovereign country and a political state, many Israelis may not remember or pay heed to Israel’s covenant with God, and those that do may be mistaken in its application and meaning at this time in history.

So we need to be able to relate to Israel according to biblical wisdom and not secular or political protocol. So let us turn and search the scriptures. God has spoken to Israel by means of The Law and the Prophets. When Israel was straying from God, God sent prophets to call Israel back to Himself. When they did not return, then there were consequences. God allows free choice, but He was sovereign over the nation, and sovereign He still is and will forever be.

Blessed be He! To our way of thinking, God’s ways can be difficult to understand or appear harsh. But God is God and acts from wisdom and covenant love.  We must stand with Him and trust Him.

There is much humanism that surrounds both Jewish thinking about its own nation, and also our thinking as Christians about who and what Israel is and what God will do to accomplish His purposes with His nation on the earth. If we find ourselves on the wrong side of God, we will find ourselves of no use to Him, or worse, to be at odds with Him and He will have to sweep us aside. At some times, in some crucial moments in history, there is little place for error.

Many stand with Israel no matter what she does. Yes, it is our place as Christians to stand with her, but not without discernment and clarity as to where God stands with her.  To the degree that she is astray, we cannot fully support her. So it behooves us to know the covenant. God has a history of using other nations to come against Israel to bring His people back to Himself.  We cannot forget this. He controls the discipline, but He allows it, even causes it, make no mistake. (Ezekiel 38:14-18, Ezekiel 8:7-18).

Just as the bible says, “God disciplines everyone He loves and chastises everyone He receives.” (Hebrew 12:6) So it is individually, so it will be corporately with Israel. He cannot now accept them because in many ways they are not right before Him and because they have not yet “Looked upon He whom they have pierced and… mourned… and wept bitterly” (Zechariah 12:10). Make no doubt about it, national repentance is in Israel’s future. But gloriously, when they have, He will raise them up. God’s heart is restoration and salvation and grace, but all things must be in order. So let us, even if we do not not understand everything, begin to pray with a spirit of brokenness and supplication, that God will have His perfect way with us, as the Branch, grafted in, and with the original branch, the nation of Israel. We are in this together. May God give us great wisdom and compassion. 

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel. Consider joining us on the next Amazing Israel Adventure March 31 – April 11, 2019.  Trips to Israel are open to men and women. 

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How Should Christians View Israel? Part 1

by Rose-Marie Slosek

It is really important for a Christian to correctly understand how we are to view Israel in the plan of God.  There is much misinformation that is widespread and often Christians will mix different schools of thought together without realizing it is confusing their thoughts about Israel. Let’s discuss a few critical points for a foundation.

God chose the nation of Israel to be His own nation in the world, a priestly, prophetic people who would show forth to the world around them Who the Living and True God is. Deuteronomy 7:7 & 8a says, The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than the other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers…”

God chose a people, not because they were strong or special in themselves, to reveal Himself to the peoples of the earth. Israel did not choose God, God chose Israel.  He made a covenant with Abraham and swore by Himself (Gen. 22:16) to uphold it. This made him the chief Upholder of the covenant. Abraham did not hold back his son, Isaac, from God (foreshadowing God not holding back His Son from us)  and so God promised to make the descendants of Abraham as the “stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). God honored Abraham’s faith but God swore by Himself and not by man when He made the covenant.

God knew that man was fallible. Israel’s history is a checkered one: they strayed from God, they did not heed the prophets nor obey the commandments of God, they wandered in the wilderness because of “unbelief.” (Hebrew 3:19).  God has always been looking for faith, not just lineage. So not everyone of the household of Israel is or was right before God. What now qualifies both Jew and Gentile is belief in the atoning work of Jesus Christ to save us. Paul says, “ 28 He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is external in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly. And circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, and not by the letter.” (Romans 2:28-29).

The nation of Israel, as a whole, rejected Jesus as their Messiah. There were individuals who accepted Him, but Jesus was not accepted by the nation as a whole. Jesus said, “they [Israel] missed the day of their visitation” (Luke 19:44). Judgment was sent: they were sent into a deep spiritual and physical exile. A veil now covers their spiritual eyes (2 Cor 3:15). Paul says that a “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.“ (Romans 11:25).

We, as Gentile believers, are the wild vine that has been grafted into the vine of God. Some of the original vine (natural Israel)  has branches that have broken off because of unbelief. We do not replace the original vine (Israel), but we are blessed to be able to be added to the household of God. When the “times of the Gentiles” are over, God will bring the nation of Israel to full salvation as a nation! There will not be one Jew who does not know the Lord on the Day when they shall look upon HIm whom they have pierced! (Zech 12:10). ALL Israel shall be saved! (Romans 11:25-26). Let us pray for that Day, but also pray that individual Jews, each come, today, to a heartfelt conversion during their individual  lifetimes. During this season, the “times of the Gentiles,” the gospel is presented to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, and each must make an individual choice before God, although collectively the “veil” still remains over Israel.

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations, especially Ireland and Israel , and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel. Consider joining us on the next Amazing Israel Adventure March 31 – April 11, 2019.  Trips to Israel are open to men and women.