How To Provoke Jew & Arab To Jealousy
Anne Graham Lotz and Dr. Erez Soref join panel on ministry in Israel.
Joel C. Rosenberg and co-host Dr. Carl Moeller sit with Anne Graham Lotz, Dr. Erez Soref, and others to have a panel discussion about the challenges of ministry in Israel and the Middle East. They all bring different perspectives on that topic and others, including what blessing Israel means from a Palestinian perspective and the importance of discipleship and mentoring.
- [Narrator] Coming up on this episode of Inside the Epicenter.
- [Dr. Soref] So it kinda gets depolarized between the ones that would call us a traitor or try to make our life as difficult as possible, and those that are positively surprised that, "Wow, we have never heard this before." "It sounds suspicious maybe, but interesting nevertheless." So that's kinda the two polarities.
- [Carl] Can brothers in Christ from Jewish and Palestinian backgrounds agree to disagree agreeably? We hear and read so much about extremism and hatred in this region, but can love bind brothers together, even though they disagree on some sociopolitical issues? Hi, welcome to Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg, a podcast of the Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Moeller, Executive Director of the Joshua Fund, and in today's podcast, we explore the challenge of being a both and ministry to Israel and the greater Middle East. This panel discussion includes Khalil Sayegh, Erez and Sisi Soref, Anne Graham Lotz, Joel and Lynn Rosenberg, and me, Carl Moeller. I hope you'll be informed and challenged with this stimulating conversation. Well, we are truly blessed by what all of you have shared with us today. It has been a profound honor to hear what God is doing in each of your lives, in each of the ministries. Some of you just speak about some of the things that are real about sharing the gospel in Israel.
- [Dr. Soref] So again, I can't really compare it to the US, but I know that in Israel, it's considered something that is very not socially acceptable. So over and over and over, we would get the response when we talk about the gospels, like, "How come you talk to us" "about Jesus of Nazareth being Jewish and all that?" "That's not for us." So that's on the one hand. On the other, we had some really interesting experiences more and more in recent years, and I'm actually thinking about when Anne was talking about her neighbors, I was thinking about Christmas at your house. Remember, a few years ago? So the Rosenbergs live next to us and we've invited all our neighbors to their house for Christmas Eve, and they all came. And it was just, I mean, it was just heaven blessed.
- [Joel] Just to be clear, we went out on a double date. We said, "So we like Christmas." "We know it's not a Biblical holiday" "but it's special to us personally." "Is that something we shouldn't do?" And they said, "Actually, no." "Israelis have seen a lotta movies." "They've seen Home Alone." "They've seen whatever and It's a Wonderful Life." "They're kinda curious, so they wouldn't know how to do it," "but if you do it, we'll invite all these unbelievers" "and as long there's a gospel focus." And that was a very special evening.
- [Dr. Soref] That's right. One of our neighbors, he grew up in an orthodox kinda background, and we're reading from Isaiah nine and different passages in the Hebrew Bible, and he was like, "Yeah, why didn't they tell us this?" "I'm gonna tell all my friends." "They didn't tell us this," "that it talks about the Messiah and all that." That's the more positive ones. So it kinda tends to polarize between the ones that would call us a traitor or try to make our life as difficult as possible, and those that are positively surprised that, "Wow, we have never heard this before." "It sounds suspicious, maybe, but interesting nevertheless." So that's kinda the two polarities.
- [Carl] That's fascinating. And for so many people who don't understand that evangelism, the gospel in Israel, it is a counter-cultural message. It is something truly radical. Khalil, I was thinking of you, and bless your brothers, thank you for sharing a little bit of your story with us tonight. I'm sure for all of us, we could spend so much more time diving into your story and the unique perspective that you bring as a brother in Christ and as someone who shares a different perspective on some of these issues. But as a Palestinian, how do you relate to Genesis 12, one to three, where it talks about blessing Israel and all of those things? I mean, what does that look like in your context as you see and understand that from a Palestinian perspective?
- [Khalil] Well, that's a tough question to start with. I don't know how much you've thought of that.
- [Carl] I told the ladies I would go easy on them. I'm not sure.
- Yeah, I mean, I don't know how much I can answer this specifically. I wouldn't say how I understand it. I would say how I don't understand it, and I think I do not understand it as any support for a political entity, that is the modern State of Israel. I don't see it by any means connected to this modern state that exists today. I don't believe personally that God is dealing with modern states as modern states. However, it could be the case that he's dealing with people, nations as a people, and I don't have any problem with saying we have to respect the Jewish people for who they are, as she mentioned, that the Jewish people were the people who brought the Bible or brought Jesus, all that. I don't have a problem with all of this. This is all something I believe in and I respect. Now, when it becomes to the political entity, whether it's Israel or even Iraq or the United States, I don't think this fits my understanding of it. However, blessing the Jewish people as the Jewish people or Arab people as the Arab people, I don't have any problem with this but it wouldn't be political entity.
- [Carl] Sure.
- [Joel] Let me add something. Ya know what's interesting, is of course that happens. The word Israel doesn't appear at all. God is taking an Iraqi, we would say by modern standards, a pagan, and he's revealing himself to be a personal God. That's mind-blowing. And he's gonna create a nation, yes, but ya know what's interesting? The Joshua Fund didn't choose other Abrahamic passages where you begin to get land grant and very specific things. The general nature that, "I love you." "I'm gonna take you out of paganism." "I'm gonna take you out" "and then I'm gonna do something very special with you." "And those who bless you and your line," "I'm really gonna bless them." "If people are against you, it's an issue." But then he says, "For you, I'm gonna bless all the families of the earth." And of course, outta that, we get the messianic prophecy. So strictly speaking, when the Joshua Fund focuses on the initial elements of the Abrahamic covenant, it's very gospel-oriented. It has the seeds that will develop but the Jews don't come until Jacob, and Jacob, not really until Judah, so we're not really dealing yet but we believe it, but we're not dealing with it yet in that mission statement, and that's important because it's part of. If we picked other passages, it would immediately go to a point of contradiction and contention, but this is the essence of the initial laying out of the gospel through one man.
- [Carl] That's great. That's beautiful. Erez, you were gonna say something.
- [Dr. Soref] Actually, I just wanna say I think that Genesis 12, one to three, is connected to the passage that Anne was talking about. It's the principle that we see throughout the Scripture and repeated in Romans 1:16. I think the question is begged to be asked, "What does it mean, and why did God even say" "I'm not ashamed of the gospel, da-da-da," "to the Jew first, or first to the Jew," "and then also to the Greek or the non-Jew?" And the answer is not because the Jews are any better in any way, shape, or form. Actually, Deuteronomy 7:7 says, "God says to the Jewish people," "I have not chosen you" "because you're smarter or bigger or stronger." "Quite the opposite, actually." So it has to do with God's order, not with value as it were. And not to begin a political argument. I think it's kinda representative of the spirit of the Joshua Fund that Khalil and I could probably deeply get into it because I disagree with him, so. But we're not gonna do it!
- [Carl] That's right. That's the beautiful thing. Speaking from my perspective, one of the things that I loved most about coming to the Joshua Fund was this idea. Anne mentioned it, how Jesus's love is big enough and rich enough and true enough for all people, and the love of God is universal. The choosing and the direction those things are his divine prerogative, but it's for loving. Yes, Anne, go ahead.
- [Anne] If I can just say something 'cause it's so interesting it came to my mind. I spoke several years ago at the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast and so there are all the people that are gathered in Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast, but in the doorway was the Palestinian who was the top chef in the kitchen, so he just came to hear. And then also in the doorway was the orthodox Jew who was the director of sales at the hotel. It was a big hotel. And I gave the message as clearly as I could without being offensive, and that night, both of them put their faith in Jesus.
- [Carl] Praise God.
- [Anne] And so I've stayed in touch with them. So to me, you've put aside all the other stuff and it's just the gospel. It's just Jesus. Palestinians need to be saved and Jews need to be saved and gentiles like me need to be saved.
- [Carl] Yes, amen!
- [Anne] But it's the gospel that draws of Jesus, saying, "When I'm lifted up, I'll draw all men to Myself."
- [Carl] Amen. He himself is our peace. I love that.
- [Joel] One other thing. You say it in various contexts, Carl, it's just one of your challenges coming is still trying to figure out how to do it. This is why most ministries don't do it, and I really commend Erez and Sisi and the team at the Israel College of the Bible 'cause they really are doing it, right? And the question is can you hold that you do believe that God has a current plan for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and that that's not contradictory to loving Palestinians and wanting God's mercy which include human rights? It's not contradictory. It's challenging, but it's not. And a lotta ministries, it's not within them at this point in life to try do both at the same time. It's just too complicated. And maybe the word drags from one side to the other. That's fine. But yeah, it is a challenge.
- [Carl] Great, great points. Slightly different direction. Lynn, Sisi, you talked about some of the needs of some of the women in your discipleship and leadership cohort. What are some of the other needs, maybe from the whole panel, that Israel and the neighboring countries are experiencing right now? What are some of the big needs that are there that you see?
- [Sisi] Well, I can just say something about women. Obviously, we work with women, but one of the greatest needs that we kind of experience is really discipleship. We feel there's a lot of evangelism going on and many are coming to Christ. I'm not just saying that just to sound good. But what is lacking really is a heart and passion for discipleship and for building up like babes in Christ. And for me, it really touches when God spoke to Peter and he said, "Feed my lambs," and I feel that this is something that's lacking for young women, specifically, and for babes in Christ, that coming to know him is really having the heart and infusing a passion to disciple and to mentor and to walk alongside women that need to be strengthened. And I will share a challenge that I noticed that's happening really is that today, the media is all over so people are exposed to media. So many are hearing and listening. They're coming to Christ, but they are having the media or discipleship media feed them to the point where they kind of say, "We don't need discipleship really." "We have it all on the media." And so we have experienced actually that being a challenge for true mentoring and discipleship is investing in somebody, including them in their lives, walking along with them, and understanding really the value of passing that on to generations to come, so that's just one of the challenges that we've noticed lately with those that are coming to Christ.
- [Carl] Great, great.
- [Lynn] I was actually gonna say the same thing, which is I think it's the same thing in the American church as well. When we lived here, I saw the same thing, that there aren't enough mature believers in the Lord who are willing to open their homes and really have these young believers to be a part of their life. Not just once a week or at the church and for a Bible study, but they are really thinking of them as their children in the Lord because, especially in this context, they're not coming from families that know the Lord, a lot of these new believers, so they don't have a context for "How do I be a Christian parent?" "How do I have a Christian marriage?" "What does a home look like" "that's full of generosity, that's open?" And so you have to model that. You can't teach that over the internet. You can't learn that on YouTube. You can only learn it when you come and you rub shoulders with young people. And I think we're so private and we just guard our privacy because we're tired, and I don't know what all the reasons are, but it's a lack of just willingness to spend yourself on people instead of projects and plans and all kinds of things, but to focus on people, one or two people, and making them a part of your home, really. So that's one of the things we're trying to communicate to the women in the program is don't try to think of a big strategy. Just start inviting women to your home.
- [Joel] Yeah, and the only thing that's worse than the lack of women's discipleship is men's discipleship. I say that we were very involved in discipling and equipping young men and women here in the Washington DC area when we lived here. Lynn and I and our pastor, Dr. Koshy, I referenced, we wrote a book called the Invested Life. How to make disciples of all nations, one person at a time. It's a great passion of ours. We've had the joy of investing in our work with the Joshua Fund, and so we love that. And I say that so Erez and I, and Khalil and his way, and certainly Anne, we're all involved in media ministry. We believe that's a great way to get the message out as far and as wide as possible, but that's never a substitute for personal investment and it begins with opening your home. I really don't see a way. I would encourage people not to just if you're gonna meet with someone, just meet at the coffee shop or just meet at the church. That's a thing. But when you open your home, you're opening your life and they are observing, and most of discipleship is observational and modeling anyway. And there's something about the smell of a good meal and seeing the pictures on your walls and seeing your children, good, bad, or whatever that day, and the books on your shelves. They're absorbing a lot more information than just what you are trying to communicate and teach at that moment.
- [Carl] That's so helpful, Joel. For all of you, you all touched the Joshua Fund in Israel and the neighboring countries in a slightly different place. What did you see is the most important things that the Joshua Fund is doing now to come alongside ministries and organizations in Israel and the West Bank and the Arab countries?
- [Dr. Soref] I think what stands out at least for us but I think that's true across the region, stands out with the Joshua Fund far above others is the, I think Joel referred to it as the line item of coffee in the budget or something. So just for years and years and years, staff members would come, they would take the time to meet the different leaders, to get to know the lay of the land. It came to a point where some of the people, we would ask them questions about, first of all, restaurants in Israel. "Are there any good restaurants in this and this location?" 'cause they know all of them 'cause they go there. But more seriously, about oftentimes we find that we wanna refer someone to a certain area, and again, some of the staff in the Joshua Fund, they've dug very deep. Actually, they know some people that we may not. So it really stood out and so it's not just a funding project and a conditional way. "Here's the money." "Here's how you're gonna do it and have our name on it." It was never the way the Joshua Fund did it, and so I think that's part of the great appreciation in Israel, and I imagine, the region.
- [Carl] That's great.
- [Sisi] I think also, I just wanna add also just the love to flow over to all the churches all over the country and in other areas. Jordan, Egypt. We go to a lot. We see Saudi Arabia, Jordan. But to have a love for all of the people around us, that's significant I think for Joel and Lynn. I think personally, for my life, I mean, I never thought I had an issue. I love everybody, obviously. We're all best friends. But to have that real love that flows and to bless the women. I can vouch for going to meet the women in Nazareth. Before we started the program, we decided we're gonna just invite several women from the Galilee and our Arab sisters to meet and to see what were the needs, and I remember telling Lynn, "While we're doing the program," "they have to know really good English" "and they have to know really good Hebrew." "Otherwise, they won't be able to study." You remember that? And so we arrive at the restaurant. We have all those Arab women sitting there and they're just sharing their side. "God told us this is our time." "We need you to help us." And I remember feeling the Holy Spirit come over me and just saying, "Help them." "Come towards them." Doesn't matter, really good English, really good Hebrew, and I just felt that. I shared it with Lynn. We were kinda crying and stuff, but it was really, I think from them to me personally to have that really burden. And another thing is the All Israel News. I am equipped. I look at YNet all the time but it's through the All Israel News that I learn what's going on, like you said. I determine to know what is going on everywhere and I know it by All Israel News, so thank you for All Israel News.
- [Joel] I didn't even know that, so I'm very happy.
- [Sisi] Yes, and of course, I pass it on to my sons, to my father, to whoever.
- [Joel] Thank you.
- [Carl] Well, thank you. Can we thank our panelists for this interesting, wonderful time? If you'd like to learn more about the Joshua Fund, visit our website at joshuafund.com, and there you'll learn more about what we are doing in the Middle East to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, and how you can participate in this healing work we're doing in this critical region. And as always, you can check out the show notes for anything you heard on this podcast that you'd like more information on. For Joel Rosenberg, I'm Carl Moeller. Thanks for listening to this episode of Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg.