- Article 1,'Countdown to Combustion
- Article 2,'Something Good in Nazareth'
- Article 3,'Songs of Longing on Israeli Radio'
COUNTDOWN TO COMBUSTION
Can you feel a sense of anticipation in the air? An awe? An excitement mixed with a little dose of dread?
A countdown is in progress. “T” minus only a limited amount of time until a great fire is kindled. This feeling is referenced and especially highlighted this month. The 15th of May marks the climax of the counting of the seven weeks (50 days) from the firstfruits celebration of Passover. This Feast of Shavuot is also called the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. We are to do this countdown at this time (Deuteronomy 16:9 and Numbers 28:26).
There has already been a firstfruits down payment. The countdown is leading up to the full deal. Forty days after the firstfruits resurrection, Yeshua left the scene (Acts 1:3). Peter and James and the gang had to wait only 10 more days to complete the countdown of 50 days, for the full deal, THE outpouring. For most of us the countdown is longer.
What are we expecting to happen?
We are in what feels like an agonizingly slow process of being awakened personally and corporately from the numbing slumber of the daily grind and the droning buzz of pervasive resistance. We are being awakened to this life of expectation, to this hunger for more, to the realization that we do not have to settle for life as usual. God’s plan is to fill us with something completely different, with the fluid of transcendency, with the nature of otherness, with the Spirit of Holiness. That is where He dwells, on a different plane, in a different reality. He desires to impose His reality upon ours. He longs for His kingdom to become more and more manifest here. Yeshua said, “I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already kindled”(Luke 12:49, GNB)!
Let the fire fall!?
On the 50th and final day of the countdown, His disciples “were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”(Acts 2:1-4).
What followed was an unprecedented breaking in of God’s kingdom reality: Miraculous proclamation in unknown languages. Conviction. Signs. Healing. Wonders. Thousands swept into a community of unity with all things in common. “Then fear came upon every soul…” (Acts 2:43).
Isn’t this what we are hoping will happen?
Yet we also note that in the midst of the greatest revival the earth had ever known, there is a warning in fine print, a little caveat…the HolySpirit is Holy. He brings a fire that burns what is not of Him. Ananias and Sapphira were consumed in this community of fire. When they insisted on lying, the level of God’s presence in power and holiness was such that it came to light immediately and was judged with mortal finality.
Torah promise of God’s Glory is also a warning: DON’T PLAY WITH FIRE!
We see these two outcomes of God’s manifest presence throughout the Book: supernatural kingdom blessing on the one hand, and holy judgment of sin on the other. One of these passages is Leviticus 9-10, in which God gave Moses instructions on how to prepare the people in anticipation for the glory of the Lord appearing in the new Tabernacle. Atonement was to be made for the sins of the priest-leaders. Atonement was to be made for the sins of the people.
When Moses and Aaron had finished appropriating the sacrificial atonement, they went before God’s presence, then “came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering…”(Leviticus 9:23-24).The people saw it, shouted and fell on their faces.
Fire is exciting.
Fire is also dangerous.
Two of the priests then had a spontaneous idea to do something with the incense fire that God had not instructed them to do. In their presumption they did not distinguish between holy and unholy. The level of God’s presence in power and holiness was such that fire consumed them (Leviticus 10:2). His judgments may not be what we expect. We see in a very limited way, and our capability of judging is very limited. God sees the whole picture from beginning to end – all of mankind, all of history. And His judgment is righteous and ultimate.
How do we become holy?
It’s interesting that the process of being made holy, set apart or “sanctified,” is a central part of traditional Jewish prayers: “Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has made us holy…”
Wanting to be wholly set apart for the life of God does not bring us to nervous insecurity. It’s the opposite. With confidence we commit ourselves into God’s hand.
“But now the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and the power of God’s Spirit have washed you and made you holy and acceptable to God.”(I Corinthians 6:11, CEV)
“May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being – spirit, soul, and body – free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.” (I Thessalonians 5:23, GNB)
May we live in this anticipation. May we cooperate as God prepares us during the countdown. May we cooperate as God washes us and makes us holy.
God must have quite a sense of humor: A former Soviet-Muslim named Vakif is leading the Messianic Jewish congregation “Netzer HaGalil” in Upper Nazareth. The article below is taken from a recent interview with Vakif.
I was not born Jewish. I grew up in a nominally Muslim family in a region of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) called Tatarstan. After Communist travel restrictions lifted slightly in 1973, my parents moved the family to Siberia to seek economic stability. There I met my wife Tatiana who is of Jewish lineage. At the time my Muslim background and her Jewish roots had virtually no significance for us. In 1991 we moved back to Tatarstan to take advantage of an agricultural land opportunity and start farming. I had never farmed. Even though I worked hard and enjoyed it, we could not pay back the loans we had taken for farm equipment at very high interest rates. I despaired as the reality of our condition sunk in, and prayed a desperate plea, “Help me” to a power I did not know!
In 1997 in the middle of our terrible financial plight, various family members began to believe in Yeshua. I was opposed to this, and decided to visit these religious meetings to make sure they were not too detrimental for my family. On my second or third visit, I fell to the floor in conviction and said, “This is what I want.” God soon performed a miracle, and the bank wrote off our farm loan!
We went back to Siberia where I spent many months unemployed. Much of this time was spent reading the Bible. I felt strongly that I needed to be immersed in water. The day following my immersion, I miraculously received a highly desirable position as an electronics and measurement technician.
Israeli believers from Haifa came and spoke at our church, encouraging those with Jewish ancestry to make aliya (immigrate to Israel). My wife Tatiania was deeply touched and wept for days. We began to consider making aliya. I fasted for 3 days and then heard a very clear voice inside saying “What, you’re still here?!”
Within less than a year we moved, landing in Israel in late 1999 with our 2 teenage children, but with no money, no friends, no extended family, and not knowing the language. I only had one contact when we arrived. It was Leon Mazin’s* telephone number.
NETZER HAGALIL CONGREGATION
In 2005 Netzer HaGalil Congregation was started in Upper Nazareth by Leon Mazin and several families as an affiliate of the Haifa congregation Shavei Tzion (part of the Tents of Mercy network). When the congregation was established, they rented a small facility in the industrial area, and recently remodeled the interior. From early on, Netzer HaGalil has had a humanitarian food ministry, distributing basic food items each week to dozens of economically challenged households in Nazareth. Congregational leader Vakif says, “We want to lend a helping hand, letting our actions speak louder than our words and even before our words. This basic expression of concern has had a spiritual impact on those who are the recipients of the food. We are also planning a children’s music outreach program.” In addition to regular weekly prayer and worship services, and a home group in the nearby town of Migdal HaEmek, the congregation also conducts a teaching course for new believers.
Vakif relates: “I don’t know of anyone who came to God who did not have problems. But then we see things beginning to change. We see that the people are coming more and more with an expectation to receive from God. And we are seeing an increase of fellowship connection among us. Also, people are developing a connection to the Biblical, Hebraic roots of their faith, for example the celebration of the feast of unleavened bread with all the symbolism of Passover.”
Many new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have settled in the Nazareth area. Although they have Jewish ancestry, for most the connection with Jewish life and the Bible had become extremely minimal after decades of Communist rule. Some had even been Russian Orthodox Christians in the FSU, and are confused as to how they can resolve that with living as Israelis in the Jewish homeland. Vakif explains, “When they are exposed to us, suddenly they see that faith in Yeshua is not irreconcilable with Jewishness. We read the Torah portion weekly and celebrate the Biblical Jewish feasts. Recently some visitors have been surprised to discover that we are really living as Jews.”
At this time in Nazareth there are many Arab churches but only two Messianic Jewish congregations. Please join us in praying for a permanent facility for Netzer HaGalil Congregation. This is significant. Unlike in other towns in the Galilee such as Capernaum, Yeshua was not received by the ancient Jewish population of Nazareth, though He lived here most of His life. We want to change that history. *Leon was (and still is), a pastor in the Tents of Mercy network. Vakif found work in a factory and also began serving with Leon in the Haifa congregation and then the Nazareth congregation. Since 2010 Vakif has served full time as pastor of the work in Nazareth.
Songs of Longing on Israeli Radio
Occasionally we hear a “crossover” song on secular Israeli radio – from religious Orthodox Jewish singers, into the Hebrew secular mainstream. One such singer is Yonatan Razel, whose songs are being played on secular radio stations. His songs and others like them reveal the heart hunger in this nation, and a yearning for the God of Israel. The heartbeat you hear in these songs is not a national sense of “God, save us from those pesky Iranians wanting to wipe us off the map,” but rather a more deeply personal chord from the innermost being of the composer. The lyrics speak for themselves: