An Open Letter to Paul Wilbur
On September 25, 2018 Paul Wilbur gave a concert in Jerusalem, created a live recording, and touched many hearts. I was there. He’s been doing this for some 40 years, and we’ve been friends for 37 of those years. I’ve written him this letter to express what happened inside me during the event.
You stood before a packed house at the Pavilion, backed by top notch musicians and singers. The air was charged, electric. Then you plunged in, unhesitating, boldly welcoming the Lord to return to the City of the Great King. And as never before, I got it. Anticipating Yeshua’s coming is the heart of your message. How appropriate, especially for this time in history. I realized anew that it’s this anticipation that forms and defines us. “Adonai, Adonai. Every knee will bow to you Lord most High…”
I’m so proud to see you in this place the Lord has given you, to see your years and years of sincere, all-out praise. It’s a place of much influence, giving glory to God in earnest—inspiring multitudes.
Wow! Remember our Friday afternoons at Beth Messiah, those pre-Shabbat prayer times 35 years ago. We’d groan (well, mostly Asher) and jump and yell and fall on our faces before the Lord as He visited our hunger with His presence. There were prophetic moments then—longing to be in this land. And now here we are!
Hearing these songs that move my heart, I’m newly aware of the stark contrast we live with. On one hand there’s the current day-to-day struggle—to see lives transformed by Yeshua’s death-busting atonement. And on the other hand—His coming reign. I’m lifted, strengthened, freshly inspired by the Lord’s voice through yours. The King is coming so soon. And that makes all the difference.
“You’ve captured our hearts…My soul is thirsting for you…the touch of your love.” These lyrics are of intimacy. Mr. Wilbur (as we called you back in the congregational elementary school where we taught together in 1981-84) you remind us of the exceedingly personal dimension of our relationship with the Messiah. It’s not academic. It’s intimate. Through your worship, the transparency of your passion for the Lion who is a Lamb, I am brought back, restored to tenderness.
It’s so tough to stay tender in this harsh world, especially in Israel. This worship experience is a respite from battle. “Your love is better than life…My soul is satisfied with the richness of you.
When you sing about the longing for Yeshua to come it feels as if you are expressing the truest longing for all of us. “Who was and Who is and Who is to come.” As you did back at Beth Messiah Maryland in the 80s—you continue to inspire us to worship the Lord with all our heart. What a journey! I will ever love and deeply appreciate you. – Eitan Shishkoff
Network Updates from
The general atmosphere here in Israel during the Autumn “high holiday” biblical feast season is one of repentance. Many people (even atheists) ask each other for forgiveness, at least on a superficial level, leading up to the Day of Atonement.
In Matthew 18:15-22 we read Yeshua’s teaching on forgiveness. “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother…” (NKJV). This is not forgiveness between man and God but between man and man. Here the person who has been hurt must go to the one who caused the damage.
What is the damage caused through hurt and unresolved issues? Anger, bitterness, resentment, and even physical pain and sickness are a few of the results we may experience when we’ve been hurt.
What are the stages we go through from the point of being hurt to the point of having the ability to go to our brother as Yeshua teaches?
First, someone hurts us.
Then, we must recognize how we are reacting to that hurt. What are the emotions we are experiencing? What are we thinking? If we approach the offending person while in this initial state of turmoil, it will likely only cause more trouble.
Once we are aware of our own condition, we must seek help from the Lord through prayer. What is the help we need in this situation? Part of it is certainly to forgive them. However, we need to also look at our motivation. Is it coming from a place of unhealthy fear? Or, are we looking to “prove” ourselves superior to, or more spiritual than, the other person? Neither of these are good motivations and can be an indication of the condition of our own heart.
After we have gone through the above stages, then the desire to forgive the person who hurt us can come from a place of humility, as we remember that Yeshua while on the cross asked the Father, “Father forgive them…” Who were the ones whom He asked the Father to forgive? His executioners! Why did He ask the Father to forgive them? “…for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Another tool we can use in working through our hurts is putting ourselves in the other person’s place. What would I want them to do if I had hurt them? This is also a good time to consider those we have hurt and think about what we have or have not done to make amends.
Only now comes the right time in this process to go to our brother. This is not truly possible without Yeshua and the covering of His love. Our hope is that God will cover the nation of Israel and all nations, with Yeshua’s love; and that they will see Him – the one who is the atonement for our sins. – GUY COHEN
School of Arts & Children’s Programs
In 2010 we launched our school for the arts, Rainbow of Sounds (Keshet Tzlilim in Hebrew), under the umbrella of Return to Zion Congregation. From the very beginning, the goal has been simple: if we believe in the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel, we can also believe in its cultural restoration. Music and artistic expression have been part of the Jewish heritage for a long time. Take King David as a case in point.
Therefore we have decided to develop this aspect of our culture in light of the Messianic Jewish vision and faith. The musical dimension of this project has been complimented with other art forms. Today, children (as well as adults) can choose from among these classes: piano, stringed instruments, wind instruments, guitar, drums, solfeggio/music theory, choral singing, vocals, chess, painting and musical composition.
Eight years of hard, but fruitful work are already behind us. Today more than 120 students are learning! Eighty percent of the students are children of new immigrants. They are not able to pay for this artistic-educational enrichment, but because of generous people who believed in this vision, it has been possible for them to participate. Some of them are from the congregation. Some of them are from surrounding neighborhoods. Instead of spending their time aimlessly, today these children are developing aspects of their inner potential. Here they find friends, discover new horizons and begin to develop and use their talents. (For example, they held a touching concert on Hanukkah for Holocaust survivors.)
Days of Creation
At the end of the kid’s summer vacation in August, we had five “Days of Creation” at our congregational facility in Haifa for over 50 boys and girls, most of whom are children of new immigrants. They learned what the Bible and natural sciences have to say about the Creation, the origin of life, and God’s plan for our personal lives. They were engaged in creative activities and, of course, spent time playing and making friends. From 9 am to 3 pm, the children were organized by age groups, participating in creative workshops – drawing/painting, working on a short film in the media studio and taking part in the particularly popular culinary club.
The “Days of Creation” were a special opportunity (and challenge) for us to prepare and implement an ambitious new undertaking. It was a broad, community-wide effort. On the last day, we took the children to the park and the pool. These days were important for the formation of a worldview, for building relationships and for the future of each child. We see great prospects for this ministry. Through the open hearts of children the Good News also touches both their parents and friends.
Material support of camps
We would like to provide more support for children from needy families who want to take part in the school and other extracurricular events. We would like to be able to increase provision for educational excursions, healthy food, contemporary visual materials, etc. In addition, significant resources are required to pay teachers and specialists and to purchase and repair musical instruments and stage equipment.
Devoted and loving Staff
Today in our school of arts and in children’s programs there are many good employees and volunteers, but with the growth of this ministry, we will be glad to find and add new, dedicated staff.
Pray that through these programs the Lord will touch the children and their families. – Return to Zion Staff
Who Is the Underdog?
In the wake of the Nazi Holocaust, most of the world saw the Jews as underdogs. This was enough to allow the State of Israel to be established in 1948 with United Nations approval. However, since that time Israel has become stronger and more prosperous. Starting in the 1980s, many began to see the Palestinians as the real underdogs.
However, this point of view displays ignorance regarding the context of this conflict.
The heart of this conflict lies with Islam.
Muhammad proclaimed that the Jews had once been God’s Chosen People, but were replaced by the Christians. Then, according to Muhammad, the Christians were in turn replaced by the Muslims, who became God’s Chosen People. I call this Islamic supersessionist displacement, “Replacement Theology on steroids.”
For many centuries the history of sovereignty and control of the Holy Land seemed to confirm this Muslim theology. For much of the 1,400 years leading up to the time of Messiah, it was mainly inhabited and controlled by the Jews. Later came the Christian Byzantine Empire. Then, in 638 A.D., the Muslims took over and controlled this territory until 1917. The most concrete and visible promise to the Chosen People was the Promised Land, and the history of this Land seemed to prove Muhammad’s theology to be correct—it was controlled first by the Jews, then by the Christians, then by the Muslims.
However, starting in the late 1800s, the situation began to change. The Jewish people began to return. In 1917 the Christian British Empire took over from the Muslim Turks. Then in 1948 the Jewish State was established and subsequently survived several wars with multiple Muslim armies against all the odds.
So now, the reverse of Muhammad’s displacement theology has happened. Sovereignty of the Promised Land went from being Muslim to being (British) Christian to being Jewish in a period of several decades. It began to look as though God had miraculously restored this Land to Jewish sovereignty. It began to look as though the Jews had not been replaced by Christians or Muslims after all.
If so, then Muhammad was WRONG about this important Islamic theological doctrine that the Muslims are now God’s Chosen People. If the “Prophet” Muhammad was wrong about this important doctrine, that would seem to make him a false prophet of a false religion!
Could that be why—among the 50 Muslim-majority nations in the world—only three of them (Egypt, Jordan and Turkey) actually recognize Israel’s right to exist? The total population of the other 47 nations exceeds one billion people! Israel has 8 million.
So who is the underdog?
In 2005 Israel uprooted all the Jewish inhabitants from Gaza, giving the Palestinians there the opportunity to actually build a Palestinian State. Instead Hamas has focused their resources on their stated goal of destroying Israel, not on building a viable state and benefiting and developing their own people. They are totally dependent on foreign ‘aid’ from the UN and Muslim countries such as Iran.
The true conflict is not essentially between Israel and the Palestinians. It is with Islam. The Palestinians have been victimized by being deliberately kept as refugees by Muslim leaders, to be used as a tool and a weapon against Israel, because the very existence of Israel proves Islam to be a false religion.
Where—According to Scripture—is All This heading?
“…in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3 NKJV).
This is happening all over Europe and also in North America. Those who once stood with Israel are now turning against her.
What is the LORD’s answer to this?
“In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (Zechariah 12:8).
And then, the greatest news of all:
“…in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4a).
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced“ (Zechariah 12:10). – By Eric Morey, founding elder