Autumn in Israel is like December in the West — but more extreme. Schools shut down for a month, work stops, and the entire city shuts down for three of the largest Biblical holidays — Rosh HaShanah (the Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). It’s an incredible feeling to celebrate these holidays in the city that Yeshua celebrated them! (You can read about His adventures in Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7.)
I want to share briefly about just one of the feasts — Sukkot. The people of Israel are commanded in the Torah to live in temporary dwellings, called a “Succah”, for seven days “that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in tabernacles [sukkot] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 23:43) Jews around the world [and especially in Israel] build Succahs to eat their meals and sleep in for an entire week!
For us as Believers, it’s also a reminder of when God led His people out of Egypt. But it’s much more than that for us. It’s a reminder of where we came from (living in tents in the wilderness), where we are now (aliens & sojourners on this earth [1 Peter 2:11]), and where we are going (to the new Jerusalem, where we will one day tabernacle with God [Revelation 21:3])!
How awesome is that?! What a beautiful, tangible reminder of the hope we have in Him! If you’d like to do some further study about God’s glory in the Feasts, check out this book on Amazon. It’s an excellent resource.
While I was in the USA last month, I had the opportunity to speak at Living Acts Church in Tyler, TX. There were so many things on my heart that I wanted to share about — what life was like in Israel, what it is really like to live in the middle of a war zone with enemies all around you, first-hand stories from believers in the Iraq church that are being persecuted & killed by ISIS…
But God put a message on my heart that I believe touched on all three, entitled: A Hope The Does Not Put Us to Shame, based out of Romans 5:1-5.
The message we grow up hearing the world tells us is: “don’t let your heart get set on anything.” Why? Because they don’t want us to be disappointed when those things don’t happen. But both Yeshua & Paul argue something totally different — they say that we need to set our hope on something that we know is guaranteed. Our lives, our families, our marriages, and our kingdoms aren’t promised to us in this life, but we are promised that His kingdom & His righteousness will be established on this earth and that the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it.
I was overwhelmed by the response to my sermon. Dozens of people approached me and encouraged me, invited me over for a meal, and pledged their prayers & financial support on my behalf.
These people really love me. They believe in me. But more importantly, they believe in the call that God has on my life and are willing to give to the point where it hurts in order ’to advance God’s kingdom. I had a tangible, face-to-face encounter with God’s love & generosity… through His people.
I wasn’t expecting any of that. I was just there in Texas to see my friends get married.
Up until this point, I have simply been trying to raise enough money each month to pay my rent, purchase some groceries, and maybe even buy a little toothpaste. But the response I received from the Body in Tyler, TX broke the glass ceiling that had been hanging over my head.
If I will wrap myself up in God’s kingdom and consume myself with His vision for Israel & the Gentiles, He will take care of all my practical needs. To be burdened by the Kingdom of God isn’t the problem, it’s the cure.
They had preached my sermon back to me with their lives. They freed me to dream bigger than myself. And for that, I have no other words other than to say, “thank you.”
Learning a language is a full-time job, much less a language like Hebrew with an entirely different alphabet that requires my tongue to develop a new set of muscles. But only two months into my intensive Hebrew course, I am falling in love with the beauty & depth of this language.
The class is completely immersive — from day one, the only language the teacher speaks is Hebrew. It was completely daunting to me at first. But after two months of spending hours upon hours in a classroom where I read, write, speak, and listen exclusively in Hebrew, I’ve started to get the hang of things!
Learning Hebrew is unlike learning any other language. You see, our faith is woven into the very words that make up this language. As I’m learning new words and studying Hebrew ways of thinking, portions of the Bible that lay dormant in my heart and mind are coming alive with rich new meaning.
To see that the words of Scripture were not meant to stay in our Bibles, but were meant to be on our hearts and tongues at all times, so that even our day-to-day words would remind us & point us to Him is simply indescribable…
I have two weeks left until I graduate from my “Aleph” Hebrew course! So far I’ve been able to maintain an average in the mid-90s. Pray that I am able to keep that up & that I would continue to retain the language! My plan is to continue with “Bet” when the next semester starts at the end of October.
It’d be hard for anyone to turn on the news these days without hearing about a war happening somewhere in the Middle East. Both ISIS and Hamas are ruthless terrorist groups that hate & kill in the name of Allah, while innocent men, women, and children are caught in the crossfire.
But let’s step aside from politics for a moment. I want to spend some time writing about the Body of the Messiah here in the Middle East. With Facebook & Twitter showing us just a glimpse of the atrocities, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “justice” movement. “Christians are being kicked out of their homes,” “Children are being massacred,” “An American journalist was beheaded.”
Don’t get me wrong, we should stand for Justice. We should pray for Justice. But we must remember, Justice is not what is promised to us in this lifetime.
Our dear Savior told us: “You will be hated by everyone because of me.” (Matt 10:22), “Yes, a time is coming when the one who kills you will think he is serving God.” (John 16:2) Sound familiar? The Body in Iraq & Syria right now is experiencing exactly what we’ve all been promised to experience as followers of Yeshua the Messiah.
My dear friends in the West, beware lest we all succumb to the brainwashing of the American Dream. What our brothers & sisters are experiencing in Iraq is real Christianity. And instead of (primarily) protesting against ISIS, we need to be standing with, praying for, and encouraging the Believers in the land to finish the race strong and endure to the end, regardless of what that end might be.
May God give me the faith to say, like my brother in Iraq, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Watch the video here, shot by my roommate, Jonathan Goff, earlier this month.)
It’s been almost 3 months since I arrived in Israel… and I love everything about this land!
In many ways, I feel like I’ve arrived home. I feel like this is where I was born to live. And the more I settle in, the more I realize that I’m in this for the long-haul. I feel like God has called me to this land, to these people, at this time.
Every day is just a continual confirmation of this truth:
I was made to live here.
From before I even set foot in the country, God had already opened up doors for me to find the perfect place to live. I have an apartment right in the heart of downtown Jerusalem that I share with two roommates — both Believers. One is from America and works for CBN’s Middle East bureau, and the other is from Singapore and is working in ministry while studying Hebrew.
I also started working as the Media Director for King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, which means I manage & create all of the media for the ministry. From running cameras and directing the online livestream during Sunday services, to filming and editing videos throughout the week, to creating a plethora of graphic designs for various parts of the ministry, I’ve hit the ground running and am already plugged in and part of the team.
Our vision is to show the true face of Yeshua to Israel & the nations. And a large part of the way we do that is by practically blessing the people around us. One of the stories I had the opportunity to tell this month was about a sex shop that was miraculous transformed & restored into a Biblical family counseling center.
To watch the video I produced & edited, click here.
As soon as I arrived in Israel, I knew that my first priority was to learn the language. It’s humbling (and downright embarrassing at times) to live in this country and have the locals be more fluent in my language than I am in theirs.
Fortunately, there are several ways to learn Hebrew in Israel. One of the most common is Ulpan — an immersive Hebrew school. I wasted no time: within my first few weeks, I signed up for an intensive 12-week course that has quickly become my highlight of each day! Between the classes & the homework, I easily spend 20 hours a week learning Hebrew. And after 8 weeks, I am already at the point where I can read & write fairly large portions of text, as well as hold a simple conversations on the street!
I want to thank my home church in Texas — Living Acts — for generously sponsoring my first 12-week Hebrew course. It was an unexpected blessing and I was overwhelmed when I received the news. I hope to take three semesters of Hebrew over the next year in order to (God-willing) become street-fluent in the language by next summer. !!אני אוהב ללמוד עברית
The Israel/Gaza Conflict
Evidently, Israel has become an international news item over the past few weeks as hundreds of rockets have rained down from Gaza and Israel has retaliated from the air, the sea, and most recently, by a ground invasion.
First of all, I’m safe. Jerusalem is just over an hour away from most of the fighting and can be reached by a couple of the long-range rockets, but as a general rule, life goes on as normal in the city. Israelis have decided — as they feel they have to — that they cannot let their lives be governed by terrorists.
It is surreal to be here during this time. Things are much more than they seem in the news, and the tension between Jews & Arabs grows more and more real each day. With every rocket that’s fired and every bomb that explodes, there are more than just casualties. There are seeds upon seeds of bitterness, division, & hatred sowed into the hearts of this next generation. Children orphaned, brainwashed, and enslaved to hate… it is an endless cycle of hatred.
And while it may be tempting to lean on the United Nations for peace, or Egypt for a ceasefire, or the Iron Dome for safety, it’s important to remember that we, the body of the Messiah, have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. I didn’t know what that meant when I lived in North America.
I think I’m just starting to understand…
I urge you, pray for Israel, Gaza, and the peace of Jerusalem. May those who love her prosper. (Psalm 122:6)
It’s official. I purchased a one-way ticket and will be moving to Israel on May 28th.
I remember the first time I set foot in Jerusalem and walked her narrow streets. She is a city like no other — rich with history & meaning. Her walls are weathered by centuries of destruction, war, & conquest. Significance is woven into every crevice and for millions around the world she stands as a beacon of light & hope.
Everyone has an opinion about everything, especially about God. And everyone has a story. When you ask, “Why are you here?” you will never hear the same answer twice. People are loud, yet warm, kind, yet blunt, hospitable, yet stubborn. There is no place like Jerusalem.
Within minutes, I knew that I had arrived home.
There was no where else that I wanted to live. There was no where else where I knew I was supposed to live.
Over the past year, things have come together in ways I could have never dreamed of. From people that I’ve met to doors that have been opened to overwhelming support from family and friends, I have no doubt in my mind that I am not going to Israel as much as I am being sent to Israel.
When I arrive, I will be joining the team at King of Kings working primarily as a Producer/Shooter/Editor. I will also be focusing my efforts on learning Hebrew, studying Torah, and weaving myself into several different communities in the city.
It would take more words than I have right now to share the dreams that God has put on my heart for Israel & for the Jewish people. (If you would like a taste, however, you can listen to the sermon that I preached at Living Acts Church in Tyler, Texas.)
This site will become a collection of thoughts and photo essays from my travels, focusing on faith, business, media and the Middle East.
I was given the opportunity to speak at my home church in Tyler, Texas this past weekend about what I believe God’s plan for Israel is out of the Bible.
I focus most of my teaching on passages from Romans 9-11.
If you’re interested in hearing my vision & heart for why I am moving to Israel this spring, I encourage you to watch the recording from the service below.