I am writing from the Jews for Jesus office in Tel Aviv, having been here for about ten days. I always enjoy my visits here. My parents have lived in Israel for 25 years and this year I was able to come just in time to celebrate my mom’s birthday (I won’t say how many years).
It is always a blessing to spend quality time with our growing group of young missionaries and interns in Israel—to teach them, to encourage them and yes, to help them face challenges and solve some of the numerous problems that arise as we minister in this troubled Land. I am proud of our team as I see their courage, their zeal and their creativity. I was especially encouraged to meet a 19-year-old who recently came to faith in Jesus and was volunteering in our office. She hopes to be able to go to Bible college soon.
My recent time in Israel was even more blessed because I met up with the good people from Westwood Community Church in Minnesota to help guide them on their very first trip to the Holy Land. I get to do this now and then in response to requests from churches that are especially interested in Jews for Jesus. It’s a great way to build relationships!
I remember when I was first learning how to conduct these tours. I was privileged to take a Biblical archeology course from Miriam Feinberg Vamosh (celebrated author of numerous books about the land of Israel) and Tuvya Zaretsky, one of our Jews for Jesus founders who was serving as adjunct faculty at Fuller School of World Missions. It was part of my coursework for a master’s degree in missiology with emphasis on Jewish studies, and it was packed with insights that I remember to this day. Later, I also had the privilege of touring the land with Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a world-class expert on Israel.
Since then I have seen and taught on most of the biblical sites throughout Israel numerous times. But there was a heightened sense of expectation among the people from Westwood Community Church. They were so excited; they just knew they were on the trip of a lifetime. Some had been walking with the Lord for a very long time; others had known Christ for less than a year.
It was marvelous to see their sense of awe as we traveled together through the Galilee region, down to the Dead Sea and then up to Jerusalem. To experience in full color what they had previously only been able to read about in black and white was truly a life-transforming experience. This was a group of first-class appreciators. Do you know what I mean? They were exceedingly grateful for each devotional thought, each tidbit of information, each song sung in a special place—it was all so very meaningful to them, and they let me know that over and over again. Their keen interest prompted many thoughtful questions, not only about Israel the place, but also about Israel, the people.
These folks wanted to know all about Jews for Jesus, too. They gave generously toward our ministry in Israel, and a dozen members of the group even took time away from the tour to do street evangelism with our missionaries in downtown Tel Aviv. They returned brimming with enthusiasm to tell the others about their experiences.
When this lively church group left for home I must confess I was tired (they kept me on my toes!), but I was also greatly encouraged. They had not only given me the opportunity to bless them, but also to be blessed by them. I got to see Israel and our Jews for Jesus evangelistic ministry in a fresh way, through their eyes.
It may be hard to imagine becoming jaded about something as special as walking where Yeshua (Jesus) walked, but it can happen. In fact, becoming overly accustomed and desensitized to the wonders of life with God happens to believers more often than we might realize. Before we know it, we can become indifferent to His grace and love, casual about our own salvation, neglectful of His love for us and for the world.
I’m reminded of Yeshua’s words to His followers in Laodicea, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). That may sound like a brutal indictment, but it actually presents a picture that provides an interesting perspective.
Laodicea had an aqueduct that carried water from hot mineral springs some five miles south. That distance led to the water becoming tepid before entering the city. The people would want their water to be either therapeutically hot or refreshingly cold, but it was neither. What an image for them and for us. This is what happens to believers if we allow ourselves to become distant from the Lord, the living water and the source of our faith. We succumb to spiritual malaise and a tepid faith.
We need to be refreshed in our faith, to see again the treasures of God’s love and mercy, to have those precious biblical truths ignite our passion for the Lord once again. While that comes through drawing close to God and His Word, it really helps to be around people who themselves have that freshness of faith. That is why fellowship with God’s people is so important if we want a vibrant and robust faith in Him.
I enjoyed wonderful fellowship with the saints from Westwood Community Church, and their faith strengthened my own. Their sense of expectation for the good things they would receive from God enhanced my own expectation of the Lord for my life. Their gratitude and appreciation of all they were experiencing renewed my own gratitude to God for what I had already seen and known, but needed to be reminded of once again.
You don’t need to go on a trip to Israel to receive fresh eyes of faith. God wants to give that to you and to me wherever we may be as we wait on Him for His blessing. I pray for myself and for you dear friend, just as the apostle Paul prayed: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints . . .” (Ephesians 1:17-18). AMEN!