by Tamar Afriat
We are year in this covid pandemic (which has felt more like ten years!) and I believe it is important for us to stop for a moment and take a step back. When I look around in the secular society and even among believers, I see much fear and confusion. But when I look at God and focus on what He is doing, I am filled with gratitude and excitement. I will go so far as to say covid has been a blessing, and most of us don’t know it.
A year ago, Gil wrote these words:
“Why would God use a plague to judge the earth? …Trial and tribulation are a tool that God sometimes uses to wake people up, to cause them to seek Him. Looking at the present sufferings in that light, this pandemic can be seen as an expression of God’s grace and love in that He is shaking the very things that may be hindering many from seeking Him. God is more concerned about our eternal destiny with Him rather than keeping us comfortable in our temporary lives here on earth.”
The Covid Harvest at Tiferet Yeshua
While we have experienced many trials and difficulties the past three months here at Tiferet Yeshua, at the same time we have had an unprecedented number of young Israeli seekers, some from religious backgrounds, contacting us and joining us each week in our services. Gil had the opportunity to partner with an outreach ministry here in Israel to teach a seminar on Yeshua’s parables. From that seminar, two young people have been joining our services regularly.
It is such an amazing blessing that God gave us the budget to hire Kosta last year to focus on discipleship: Kosta is busy meeting weekly with new believers for discipleship and communicating with new seekers who are asking for New Testaments and information about Yeshua.
Kosta shared this testimony about a young man he is discipling through zoom:
While I was praying for E., I felt like I couldn’t continue, like something was blocking me. God put on my heart that E. has an issue with forgiveness. So, I stopped and asked him if there was someone in his life he was not able to forgive. He told me that there was a difficult situation with someone at work, and he had told himself that he would never forgive this person. So, I prayed for E., that God would touch his heart to help him with forgiveness. The next week when we met, he told me, “I can’t believe it! When I went back to work after you prayed for me last week, I saw that guy, and I was actually happy to see him! I can’t understand it. It’s like my heart has totally changed toward him.”
Another young man, B., who reached out to us through our Facebook page, came to faith all on his own through seeking information online about Yeshua. He began reading the New Testament on his own and asked Kosta if there needed to be witnesses for baptism. The reason: he already made the step of to commit his life to the Lord and baptized himself in the Mediterranean.
God is Doing a Quick Work
We have shared about H., a man from a religious background who came to faith at Tiferet Yeshua this last year. H. committed his life to the Lord over the summer and immediately started joining Moti at our weekly Feed Tel Aviv outreach to the homeless. This week I saw H. at the congregation: he was there for a meeting with Gil and Kosta, and he had a young man with him. It turns out that H. witnessed to this young man during Feed Tel Aviv outreach. Apparently this young man has a very difficult life story. During their meeting, H. told him: “I want you to know, whether or not you choose to follow Yeshua, I will be here for you. I will help you in any way that I can.” A nine-month old believer witnessing to others and leading them to the Lord – how many of us could take a lesson from this “babe” in Messiah?
I am convinced that God is using the Covid crisis to cause people all over the world to seek Him while He yet may be found. The question is: are there workers for the harvest? Yeshua’s words come to us now, almost with urgency:
Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
We are praying that that the Bride of Yeshua would look to her Bridegroom who wants to share with her what He is doing because He wants her to partner with Him. Our prayer is that God would send workers to His harvest in every nation of the world.
We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who support us! Your generous giving is allowing us to have workers who can devote their time to this harvest.
by Gil Afriat
In the first nine months of the covid-19 pandemic, it seemed like our congregation was being protected from the covid-19 virus. Yes, it was challenging for all of us being in long-term quarantines, not being able to meet in person, and trying to care for those who had suffered either financial or emotional difficulties. However, we were all so thankful that only two people from our congregation contracted the disease and both recovered quickly and without major symptoms.
Hope and Fear
Starting late December, just as Israel was beginning to vaccinate its citizens, more serious cases of the virus started to arise in our congregation. The Israeli government’s massive vaccination campaign caused responses on opposite ends of the spectrum in the community of believers and in society at large – hope and fear. Some felt hope that the vaccination was grace from God to allow us to start making our way out of this pandemic. Others, however, were gripped with fear—some legitimate concerns about the vaccine were engulfed by a tidal wave of conspiracies about the vaccination. To this day, fear continues to cloud the decision-making of many believers, causing much confusion.
Covid Hits Tiferet Yeshua
Then on February 2nd, we heard from a dear family in our congregation that the whole family was sick with covid, and the father, Orel, had been admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties.
Orel and Monica Obreja are parents of nine children, making the seriousness of Orel’s condition feel more dire. They are also a well-known and beloved family in Tiferet Yeshua: we are a small congregation that feels very much like a large spiritual family. While Orel was in the hospital, Monica was so weak that she could not even stand on her feet. When she finally started improving a week later, two of her teenage sons were admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties. That same week, Olga, one of our team members, and her whole family contracted the virus. Then we got word that the doctors had decided to put Orel in an induced coma in order to intubate him, which meant that his condition was dire.
The Valley of the Shadow
The following week, Orel’s condition took a turn for the worse, and Monica called us in tears: the doctors had told her that he only had a few days to live. A week later, our sister and co-laborer in the ministry, Olga, was admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties. Then we learned that the music leaders of our worship team, a husband and wife team, were also infected with the virus. It felt like illness was all around us and death was knocking on the doors.
We did all that we knew to do: we prayed non-stop. We asked our international friends and partners to pray as well. Without having to ask or organize anything, the congregation came together and provided food and groceries for Orel’s family. Olga’s family was provided for as well. We felt like all the challenges we faced up until this point through the last year were nothing in the light of this struggle.
Battling in Prayer
For two weeks, the whole congregation was praying, fasting, and trying to help care for the immediate needs of our families who were hit with covid. We were encouraged with updates from Monica that the doctors were amazed that Orel was still alive. Then by the week of February 21st, we had news that his condition had slightly improved. We knew it would be a long process of healing for Orel and that we would have to organize long-term support for the Obreja family, but we were also hopeful that soon we would celebrate Orel’s healing.
Purim’s Death Knell
As we approached Purim that week, we learned that our worship leader couple was now bedridden with covid and that another woman from our congregation was also very sick with covid. As a pastor of a small flock, the attack on the lives of our people felt raw and deeply personal. Purim, a holiday of joy, celebration and divine turn-arounds, was on Friday that week, the day of our services (which we still hold on zoom), and we were preparing to hear a message of faith and hope for that day. Two hours before our service was to begin, however, Monica called to tell me that Orel had passed away.
I felt broken and confused, and yet I had to find a way to lead the service, to share with everyone the devastating news and point them, somehow, in the direction of His comfort and healing—one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I should have known, though, that it had nothing to do with me—Holy Spirit arranged the service in such an intimate and special way. It was healing and encouraging to everyone, me included.
God is Sovereign
This season of trials has taught me much. The greatest lesson I have learned is that the more I grow in my faith, the closer I draw to God and the more I understand about Him, at the same time I am discovering how little I know about Him and His ways as well. All I need to know in these challenging times is that God is sovereign, and He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28) – even suffering and the untimely death of a loved one.
Beauty for Ashes
We barely see one step in front of us, but God sees the end from the beginning and where each event will ultimately lead us. Along the way, God’s Word prepares us for these moments: when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us (Ps. 23). We are actually blessed when we mourn because He will comfort us (Matt. 5:4). We consider ourselves happy to endure in sufferings (James 5:11). We discover Him intimately close to us when we are the most broken and vulnerable. In that place, He promises us beauty for ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning (Isa. 61:3), that if we sow in tears, we will reap in joy (Ps. 126:5). We are holding onto all these promises that He will bring about a rich harvest in each one of us of being closer to Him, more dependent upon Him, and filled with a joy that not even death can steal.
During this last year of historic global shaking, we are pausing to reflect more during the biblical holidays because we understand this important reality: significant biblical events and holidays have an “in-time” component as well as a future, end-time prophetic component. The events described in the book of Esther and the holiday of Purim are no exception.
Purim is rich with lessons and morals to reflect upon, and this year’s Purim is imbued with added significance: exactly one year ago, Purim was the moment that the covid-19 pandemic blasted into Israel, sending the nation into a draconian lockdown. I have felt the somber significance of this date as the starting point for a very challenging year, and I have been asking God to speak to us about what He wants us to learn from this. I believe there is an important lesson here and, ultimately, a message of hope.
The 2020 Purim Effect – the holiday’s problematic side
Looking back over the past year, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Israel’s covid-19 crisis was jump-started by Purim celebrations which turned into mass infection events. At a recent press conference, Prime Minster Netanyahu went so far as to say:
“Last year Purim caused an outbreak that forced us to close the country.”
Since then, we have observed all our holidays in a subdued and even mournful way: each holiday the government ordered everyone to stay home to observe the holiday with only the nuclear family.
Ad lo yada – not knowing the difference between good and evil
Considering that Israel entered the new covid-19 reality on Purim, what could possibly be an “in time” lesson from this moment? It is important to point out the fact that Purim is the one biblical holiday that Jews, both orthodox and secular, observe in an unholy manner. Anyone who has been to a traditional Purim celebration will know that there is lots of food and alcohol, and things can get wild. In orthodox Judaism, the Purim principal of celebrating ad lo yada (until you don’t know), a statement from the Talmud, means you should get inebriated to the point that you don’t know the difference between evil Haman and righteous Mordechai.
In my younger days, I remember vodka shots served at the entrance of an orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem where we were going to hear a traditional reading of the Esther scroll. To be fair, every year rabbis try to reign in excessive Purim revelry and encourage temperance. However, with a green light from the Talmud, reckless abandon reigns even at many religious Purim parties. Purim is a high point for the party culture among secular Israelis who join the holiday revelry with raucous costume parties.
A Reflection Point
As I reflected on what God might want to tell us about the biblical timing of this pandemic with Purim, the principle of ad lo yada –being in a state of not knowing good from evil—struck me. Blindness to sin in the world should not surprise or shock us. What should disturb us is compromise with sin in our own lives. Personally (and for many others) this has been a terribly painful and confusing year, and, in reaction, my flesh has been crying out in frustration, depression, anger, confusion—just wanting to have the world back to the way it was. It has felt like a spiritual boot camp, and God has been showing me things about myself I was ignorant of or making allowances for.
As we approach the one-year Purim anniversary of when covid sent us into lockdown, I feel God in His grace lovingly reminding us to ask Him to search our hearts (Ps. 139:23-24). This year Purim’s dark side (ad lo yada) prompts us to ask ourselves challenging questions: in what ways have we been blind or made allowances for sin in ourselves? In what ways have we been in a spiritual stupor and lost sight of our basic calling to be light to a dark world? In what ways do we look just like the world? These are hard questions I have been asking myself. When it comes to questions like these, I always ask God to do the leading because He does it with love, grace and mercy. And we have the promise that He is faithful to complete the good work that He started in us. (Phil. 1:6)
2021 – Hope for a Purim Reversal (v’nahafoch hu)
One of the central themes of Purim for Jews is what we call in Hebrew v’nahafoch hu which literally means “it is turned upside down”. Purim is a story of dramatic reversals, of events being radically turned around and reordered in a moment by divine intervention, of death turned into life, of sorrow turned into joy. The book of Esther describes the Hebrew month of Adar, the last month in the biblical Hebrew calendar, this way:
…the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them,
and from mourning to a holiday.
The fast of Esther (Ta’anit Esther), which we observe the day before Purim, highlights the holiday’s opposites and reversals – from fasting and mourning one day, to extreme joy and celebration the next. While Purim 2020 marked the beginning of Israel’s entrance into the covid-19 nightmare, we have hope that Purim 2021 will be a v’nahafoch hu moment, turning the direction of events to come out of this pandemic with the lessons that God wants us to learn and with the fruit that He wants to produce in us. As we come to the end of the biblical calendar year, we have something to look forward to: a new year and Passover, the holiday of redemption, are waiting for us right around the corner with a promise of hope and a new beginning!
by Tamar Afriat
by Tamar Afriat
One of the best feelings in the world is to be snug in your warm bed on a cold winter night with the sound of the wind howling outside. It is one of those things we tend to take for granted: a clean, warm bed, a hot shower, a warm meal. Recently, I had the occasion to see up close and personal what it looks like not to have a bed, a roof over your head, or warm clothes on a cold winter night, and it was shocking, humbling, and amazing.
This past month our team joined associate pastor Moti Cohen at Feed Tel Aviv, the weekly outreach to the homeless in south Tel Aviv, in order to help out with a special project. We had received a generous donation for our Feed Tel Aviv outreach with which we purchased warm winter gear for the homeless (hats, socks, neck warmers, blankets and high quality sleeping bags). In the cold winter months, being able to stay warm becomes critical for people living on the streets.
After preparing and serving the warm meals at the facility, we all grabbed bags of the winter gear and sleeping bags and followed Moti out into the dark streets and alleyways of south Tel Aviv where many homeless spend their nights. At one time, Moti only served food out of the soup kitchen facility until he realized that many of the drug addicts are so weak and sick that they cannot walk the several blocks to get to the facility. So, knowing the streets, parks, and alleyways where the drug addicts spend the night, Moti started taking the meals to them. It was to those places we went to hand out the warm winter gear.
It is one thing to serve the homeless out of a bright, clean soup kitchen which is soaked in prayer and worship on a regular basis. It is another thing altogether to go out onto the streets where homeless drug addicts are huddled together to get through the cold night. This area of the old central bus station in Tel Aviv is considered the worst area for homelessness, drugs and prostitution in Israel and is just a couple block away from brand new multi-million dollar high rises and high-end businesses .
For some of us, it was our first time out on the streets with Moti, and it was shocking, humbling, and amazing.
Shocking: seeing people huddling together under makeshift tarps of rags and cardboard boxes, shooting up heroine or smoking “nice guy”, a cheap and horribly addictive street drug—anything to numb the pain of who knows what trauma they have experienced.
Humbling: to serve with some truly amazing people who have a special gift to get on level with the homeless, in the trash, with the rats, and give them love and respect, and to share the love of God with them. Whoever is willing, we connect with drug rehab facilities.
Amazing: Some just wanted prayer, like the man in this picture. It was a powerful moment for all of us.
As much as this ministry is an outreach to the neediest of the needy, the people on whom our society has given up, it is also an essential learning experience for us. To put it in the words of our friend, Anat, who runs a ministry with her husband, Ishai, reaching out to the women enslaved in the sex industry in this area: “This is what Jesus would be doing if he would came here today. He would find the Samaritan woman right here. He would find Mary Magdalene right here. He wouldn’t go to our churches, I’m sorry to say, but He would come right here to the homeless and the needy.”
When we minister to these precious people, we touch something important in the Lord’s heart : humbling ourselves to be open to and to serve those who are in the most desperate need of His love. That is indeed what He did for us. I imagine that those dark, cold, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless live is not a far cry of how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.
“I imagine that those dark, cold, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless drug addicts are trying to numb their pain in whatever way they can is not a far cry of how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.”
We want to thank you for supporting this ministry. Because of your help, we are able to continue this important work of reaching out to the poorest of the poor in our city. Thank you!
By Gil Afriat
The Bible is clear that God will judge the earth in the end times and that His judgments begin with His household (1 Peter 4:17). Judgement is a word that makes most cringe, but in God’s economy, judgment is an act of grace to remove the things in and around us that hinder His love. In the beginning of the pandemic last year, I felt one of the things that God was doing through this global shaking was to wake up sleeping believers and to cause complacent non-believers to seek Him. I still believe that continues to be an essential part of God’s plan through this pandemic. Throughout the trials and difficulties of the covid crisis, we have seen believers growing in spiritual maturity and committment in our congregation. We have also seen an unprecedented number of Israelis reaching out to us online seeking information about Yeshua. Praise God!
God is now taking things to a deeper level: as this pandemic crisis continues, causing turmoil in the physical, emotional, economic and political realms worldwide, God’s judgement has been exposing weakness and darkness in the corporate Body of Messiah so that we can repent, be sanctified and become the spotless Bride He is calling us to be. The goal is glorious, but the process is painful.
One of the great shakings of this pandemic has been political instability around the world as governments struggle to deal with the challenges of the pandemic, particularly in democratic countries. In the United States, the 2020 presidential elections were possibly the most contentious, divisive elections in that nation’s history, and people around the world closely followed the tumultuous unfolding of the elections and their fallout. On November 8th, just five days after the election, Ron Cantor, our friend and elder at Tiferet Yeshua, publicly shared a word about the election on his Facebook page: Ron felt the Lord speak to him that the election would go to democratic candidate Joe Biden largely because of the idolatry on the part of many believers toward Donald Trump. (You can read Ron’s full word here). In response, Ron received a barrage of vicious attacks from professing Christians, some even cursing him and telling him to go to hell. At that time, Ron was the only public voice not prophesying a victory for Trump, which is what all the public platform prophets were doing.
On January 7th, Jeremiah Johnson, one of those voices which had been prophesying victory for Donald Trump, posted a public apology for inaccurately prophesying a second Trump term (You can read Johnson’s apology here). Though he expected a backlash, Johnson said he never could have imagined the attack that came his way in response. On his Facebook page Johnson shared the following:
“Over the last 72 hours, I have received multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry. I have been labeled a coward, sellout, a traitor to the Holy Spirit, and cussed out at least 500 times. We have lost ministry partners every hour and counting.” (for the full post)
I share these stories only to highlight the exposure the Lord is causing to these things in all of us. We asked a family member of ours living in the US how things felt there after all the turmoil and violence surrounding the elections, and he said one verse has been going though his mind a lot recently: the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12) I firmly believe that God is calling all of us to take a long hard look at ourselves instead of pointing the finger at others, and to look at where our hearts, thoughts, and speech are reflecting the world’s values rather than God’s, whether it be in our daily lives or how we express ourselves on social media. Where have we allowed our love to grow cold?
Another end-time warning from Matthew is 24:10-11 God has put on my heart during this season:
“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
This verse talks about brothers in the faith betraying one another and hating one another. No, I do not think that what we have seen in this last season is the full end-time fulfillment of this verse. However, seeing brothers in the faith hatefully attacking each other over perceived “loyalty” to a political leader or to the “words of the prophets” is troubling and should be a wake-up call to us all.
The Love Litmus Test
The Word of God is clear about the standard:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But what about Matthew 22:39 where Yeshua already stated that to love our neighbor as ourselves is the second great command? Actually, Yeshua’s command to His disciples in John 13 is different because He is setting a new standard for love: His selfless and sacrificial love is the standard. For the perfect list of the qualities of Yeshua’s love, we should study 1 Corinthians 13. We should make it our litmus test!
It may seem like an impossible task, and it is if we try to do it in our own strength. We can succeed to love others the way He loves us only if we receive, comprehend and experience God’s unending love for us and His unending grace for our mistakes and failures. When we internalize that, His kind of love will naturally flow out of us. And we will show love to more than our brothers and sisters in the faith; we will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44) That is real spiritual warfare!
I have hope and faith God is doing something great in His Body in this season, that God is cleansing us from the ways of the world, and that we will see the Bride rising up in love and holiness to be a witness to a world that is growing darker and more confused by the day.
On December 20th Israel kickstarted its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and, within two weeks, has vaccinated nearly 2 million people, making it the world leader in vaccinations per capita. Not everyone sees that as a positive statistic. In fact, we have received emails from abroad and calls from worried congregation members raising concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, that it might even be the “mark of the beast” spoken of in the book of Revelation.
Whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and ethical, each person must decide for themselves by careful research and prayerful consideration. Careful research means do not take the word of social media posts just because it is not mainstream media. Check claims, sources, and the credentials of the people making them. Whether the COVID-19 vaccine is a candidate for being the mark of the beast is something we can get to the bottom fairly quickly. But, before addressing biblical information regarding the “mark of the beast”, I think we should take a look at where we are at this unprecedented moment in our lifetimes.
If you had asked me a year ago if I thought that end time events might occur during my lifetime, my answer would have been “No”. Today I’m not so sure.
We are in the midst of the greatest global crisis since World War II. The period between the end of World War II and the outbreak of COVID-19 was the longest sustained period of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. The last fifteen years in Israel, a country which has lived through cycles of war and struggle since its founding in 1948, have been its most peaceful and prosperous ever.
Without any warning, this microscopic virus appears, and suddenly the world is on its knees. In addition to the health dangers, the pandemic’s effects on us are multifold: isolation, fear, confusion, depression. Add to that mix many hours spent at home in isolation, looking for answers in the vortex of the internet and social media, and voila`: truth becomes a fluid concept and fear nourishes far-flung ideas.
BIBLICAL TRUTH vs THE INTERNET VERSION (is the COVID-19 vaccine a candidate for the mark of the beast?)
In order to have the mark of the beast (the antichrist), the beast has to be on the scene first, right? The Bible is clear on important issues, and being able to recognize the antichrist is very important. According to Revelation 13, he is a charismatic leader who will
- miraculously survive a fatal head-wound which will cause many to worship and fear him. Rev. 13:3-4
- be given “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” 13:7
- exercise his authority for 3 1/2 years 13:5
- be boastful and blaspheme God, heaven and the host of heaven 13:6
- will be given authority to persecute and kill the people of God. 13:7
However, the beast is not the one who makes people take his mark.
The Second Beast – the false prophet
The false prophet, according to Revelation 13:11-18, is the beast’s PR man and more who:
- forces people to worship the beast
- performs miraculous signs and wonders
- gives “life” to an image of the beast and kills those who refuse to worship it
- forces all people to take the mark of the beast to be able to “buy and sell”
What will happen to those who take the mark of the beast? Revelation 14:9-11 is abundantly clear: they will be thrown into the lake of fire.
PUTTING THE FACTS TOGETHER
Considering the specific identification that the book of Revelation gives, are there any two characters on the world stage right now exerting that type of influence and power globally? Not by any stretch of the imagination. With such important issues, God would not give us information that is highly symbolic and requires extrapolation, just like prophesies of Messiah’s first coming were specific and literal.
KNOW YOUR GOD AND USE LOGIC
God created us in His image and honored us with the freedom of choice. He is the God of life, but He gives us the freedom to choose between life and death:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)
God would NEVER let people choose death without their knowledge, meaning: you cannot accidentally take the mark of the beast! It will be a choice, a tough choice, but a clear choice, nonetheless. Tricking people into choosing death is what satan does. Not God.
BE ALERT & OF A SOBER MIND 1 Peter 5:8
The events of this last year have proven how quickly and utterly things can change, and what those radical changes and pressures have revealed in society and, more importantly, in the Church, is distressing. In the attempt to grapple with these challenging times, some have fallen down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out who is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings on the “new world order”. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “command certain people not to…devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” because they “promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” (I Timothy 1:3-4)
One of the main “signs of the times” is the deception of believers and the great falling away. (Matthew 24:24-25) Spending more time in His Word and in His presence, being connected to a local body of believers is how to keep from being deceived, not by spending hours on end on the internet trying to figure out the next move of the kingdoms of this age.
Despite some troubling trends that have come to light in the Body of Messiah this past year, I am also filled with great hope because I know that God is showing us, in His great mercy, the things in us that hinder His love. I have also seen many believers clinging to Him and His truth more than ever, despite many challenges. God is preparing the Bride to be able to endure and be light in the darkest hour of history, to be a vessel of love, hope and mercy to a lost and dying world. And that is something to be excited about.
by Tamar Afriat
by Moti Cohen
Happy New Year dear friends! I would like to share an update with you about our weekly outreach Feed Tel Aviv. Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and, because my wife has a Russian background, I know that this holiday (called Novi Gode) is a very festive and nostalgic time for those who come from the former Soviet Union. Russian Jewish immigrants in Israel celebrate this holiday with certain foods, and I decided that after our regular meal distribution to serve one of the staples of the traditional “Novi Gode” food that every Russian associates with the holiday: smoked salmon served on white bread with lots of butter. The Russian speakers in the area of our outreach (drug addicts and women enslaved in the sex industry) were excited and touched by the special holiday food. Some of them, with tears in their eyes, said that it was the loveliest surprise they could have had. They were touched that I, with my Moroccan Jewish background, would care enough to do something special for them. This very simple dish that we served created a special atmosphere, smiles and even laughter which is extremely rare for people who live a daily existence of so much suffering. Praise God!
This year our congregation received a generous donation from believers in South Korea which has allowed us, among other things, to purchase winter gear for the homeless which arrived this week. So, on New Year’s Eve we were able to hand out blankets, sleeping bags, warm socks, hats and gloves to the people living on the street who suffer greatly during the winter months. We give all the glory to the Lord, and we would like to thank our friends for their generosity: your support is enabling us to continue serving in our calling as a congregation to shine the light of Yeshua here in His homeland Israel!
We pray that God would bless you abundantly in 2021 with the blessing He has promised for those who love and stand with His people Israel!
At the end of 2019 we published an article about looking ahead to 2020:
“The path before us may seem clear, but we might be continuing on it without listening for direction from Him: He may be calling us off the ‘main highway’ to something we never imagined.”
Little did we know how much we would be going off the main highway in 2020 into something we could never have imagined!
In 2019, we had just finished our major sanctuary renovation and were getting ready to install livestream technology. When Israel went into total lockdown in March, we had been meeting in our newly renovated sanctuary for about six months. As of the writing of this article, we are in another strict lockdown, and our new sanctuary has sat empty and almost completely unused for the majority of 2020.
THE BUILDING NOT MADE BY HANDS
How does a congregation survive without being able to physically congregate? Like many other congregations around the world, Tiferet Yeshua went online when the pandemic hit. Despite the many challenges we faced through this pandemic, we can say that, by God’s amazing grace, Tiferet Yeshua has continued to thrive and even grow—becoming more God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9). Beyond that, this year we have experienced financial breakthrough and expansion of our ministry here in Israel.
THE AMAZING YEAR OF 2020 FOR TIFERET YESHUA
The end of 2020 is the first time that we are not finishing out the year barely above budget red line —this is a huge breakthrough! We feel God’s hand on us through this crisis, supplying and encouraging us to continue forward and prepare for bigger things to come. We even found ourselves in the amazing position of being able to bless those in need more than ever and to help other congregations and ministries here in Israel because of generous international support.
- Covid Crisis Help – we were able to provide financial support to families and individuals in our congregation who suffered economic loss because of the covid-19 crisis.
- Special grants – We were able to give special financial grants to widows, single mothers, and orphans who suffered disproportionately from the economic crisis
- Mercy Ministries Support – in addition to being able to continue funding our own Feed Tel Aviv outreach ministry, we were able to support other fantastic ministries of Messianic believers in Israel such as: The Red Carpet (an outreach for women enslaved in the sex industry in south Tel Aviv), The Drug Rehabilitation Center in Netanya, and Adullam Outreach Center in Jerusalem.
- Homeless Winter Outreach – we were able to address the immediate challenges the homeless face during the winter months by providing jackets, thermoses, hats and gloves, sleeping bags, and warm winter clothes.
- Covid Grocery Outreach – during Israel’s first and second lockdowns, we provided over one hundred weekly food packages to those in need within our congregation and to people in the community at large. We also brought weekly groceries to single mothers in our congregation.
- Congregations in Need – we were able to give support to a couple congregations in need, one Ethiopian congregation in particular which offers a place of worship for the many undocumented workers and refugees from Africa living in Tel Aviv.
- Little Hearts Preschool – we were able to give a grant to an amazing little preschool in Jerusalem, one of the only Messianic Jewish preschools in Israel!
This year became the year of online outreach all over the world, making our ability to livestream an important asset! In 2020, Israelis found themselves in home quarantine and spending lots of time online while looking for answers to the questions the pandemic has caused many people to ask. This year we were able to hire a professional to redesign our Hebrew website and YouTube channel to improve our online media outreach. Additionally, we invested in critical technology for our livestream and hired a professional soundman.
OUTREACH AND DISCIPLESHIP
In March this year Kosta joined our team in order to focus on outreach and discipleship. Kosta has led street outreach during which he and his team have had many conversations with open and seeking Israelis, handed out many Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian New Testaments and booklets with Old Testament messianic prophesies. He has also been investing in keeping in contact with people who are interested in learning more about faith in Yeshua, in discipleship of new believers, and staying in touch with new congregation members. In short, Kosta has been an enormous asset to our team!
AN ENORMOUS THANK YOU
Despite and through the pressures of this challenging year, God is doing amazing things, and we cannot thank all our supporters enough for standing with us and supporting us. God is always faithful, and He always provides for our needs in surprising ways; but this year, He went out of His way to surprise and bless us through the love and generosity of the international family we are honored and blessed to have. May the Lord bless you with knowing Him more intimately this coming year and leading you into the surprises HE has for you in 2021!
Our Lord Yeshua is the light of the Word (John 1:1), and He calls us to be like Him—to shine His light in the darkness of the world. Each year when Hanukkah comes around, it is getting darker and colder – the perfect time to focus on being a light. When so many in the world are experiencing a dark and difficult time due to the stresses and challenges of the covid-19 pandemic, being a light is all the more important.
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 15-16
Closure of Restaurants, Hotels and Reception Halls due to Covid-19 has Surprising Effect on the Needy
Each month, we prepare 1,400 hot meals for the poor and needy in Tel Aviv. In addition to our weekly outreach in south Tel Aviv, we have also started providing meals for four other humanitarian outreaches in the area of south Tel Aviv. Before the covid-19 outbreak, restaurants, hotels, and receptions halls provided soup kitchens and halfway houses with all their leftovers. Because of the covid-19 restrictions in Israel, restaurants, reception halls and most hotels are closed, meaning that, in addition to many people being out of work, humanitarian outreaches have lost their source for meals. The outreaches I spoke to had looked into the option of ordering catered food, but the prices were astronomical. God put it on our hearts at Feed Tel Aviv to help other outreaches to the poor that have lost their meal source by increasing the number of hot meals we make each week.
Making Hanukkah Special, Even on the Street
This week during Hanukkah, we wanted to bring some joy in our street food outreach, and, along with the warm meals, we handed out dozens of Hanukkah doughnuts. As you can see in these pictures, there were quite a few children who came to take the doughnuts we were handing out. The fact that there are children in the streets here is a new phenomenon: the soup kitchen facility from where we serve food is located in an area of brothels, hard core drugs, crime and violence. Until recently, we never saw children hanging around this area. The children we have been seeing here recently are the children of migrant workers, the majority of whom were employed in restaurants, hotels, and reception halls which have been completely closed for the last several months due to the covid-19 restrictions. They have no money and, because they are undocumented workers, no access to the State’s social safety net. As a result, they are sending their children out onto the streets to beg, which is the last resort of truly desperate parents. I have been noticing how their mothers arrive with them to the public park nearby and from there they send them out to try to find food.
Thanks to your ongoing support of this outreach ministry, we are able to respond to the immediate needs of the weakest sectors in society here in Tel Aviv which are suffering the most from covid-19. Thank you for helping us shine the light of God here in Israel!
There was a man who firmly believed that access to the Word of God was the only way to bring about real personal and societal change, especially for the poor and disenfranchised. Where he lived there were no Bibles available in his native language, and he was willing to risk everything to get them into people’s hands. His name was Jan Hus, and he was burned at the stake in 1415 for translating the Bible in the Czech language. During Jan’s day, Bibles were only available in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and were the monopoly of the tiniest fraction of the population—church clergy and academics. Back then, making Bibles available to non-elites was a bloody business, and many were brutally executed by religious authorities for attempting to translate any part of the Bible. For the next couple hundred years following Jan’s murder, many brave and deeply committed men paid with their lives for attempting to get Bibles into the hands of everyday people in their own language.
“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scripture than the pope does.”
~William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the Bible into English
Why was there such great resistance to the translation of the Bible, beyond the fact of the clergy wanting to retain its hegemony on power? The answer is this: the Word of God is powerful, and when a believer starts reading the Word daily with the aim of getting to know God, the kingdom of darkness trembles.
Knowing God without reading His Word: Impossible
Five hundred years after those first brave men began risking life and limb to get Bibles translated and into the hands of everyone, the majority of people in the world have the Bible available to them. In the West (including Israel), we not only have multiple versions of the Bible in our native language, we have easy and instant (thanks to smartphones) access to it. According to the American Bible Society, the average American household has 3 Bibles.
With such easy access, one might naturally conclude that there would be very high Bible literacy rates. Sadly, the opposite is true. According to a study by LifeWay Research, over 40% of church attenders in the US read their Bibles only occasionally, once or twice a month, and only 45 % say they read their Bibles more than once a week. If the Word of God is our daily spiritual bread, those statistics mean that two thirds of all believers are spiritually starving. Considering the love, devotion and faith it took those men over five-hundred years ago to risk their lives to give everyone the right to access the Bible, it is heart-breaking to realize how few of us make use of that precious right.
As a pastor, it doesn’t take long to notice the effects of spiritual malnutrition from not reading the Word. We make it a habit to ask people who are seeking council for persistent difficulties in their lives whether they regularly read the Word, and we have discovered that a high percentage of them do not. And they tend to have an anemic prayer life as well.
The only way to experience real change emotionally is to grow spiritually. The only way to grow spiritually is getting to know God. The only way to get to know God is spending time in His Word and in His presence through prayer each day. Period. There are no short-cuts in any relationships, and that includes the incredible relationship with God that we are privilidged to have.
Taste and See!
It can be a real challenge finding the time for prayer and meditation on the Word with busy schedules and the noisy distractions in everyday life. As believers we have access to every kind of worship or the latest message from our favorite preachers, and it is easy to put on worship or listen to a good sermon or teaching while cleaning or cooking or driving to work. However, hearing about Him is not the same as spending time with Him. When all we do is “hear about Him” from others, we will not know Him or His voice. Because this one step is so absolutely integral for believers to start growing, maturing and fulfilling their destinies in God, and because it makes us absolutely dangerous for the kingdom of darkness, the devil spends extra time trying to throw distractions at us to keep us from carving out that time each day.
Here’s a little secret: when you sincerely pray God’s will, He always comes through. If you want it with all your heart, and you ask Him for help, and you don’t give up, even when you’ve fallen off the wagon for a few days or a week, He will give you the grace to push through the initial challenge of making His Word and prayer a daily part of your life. When you do, you are in for a great surprise: spiritual hunger increases when you start feeding it on the Word and the sweetness of His presence. Before you know it, you will miss Him if you skip a day, that’s how satisfying His presence is. Soon enough you will discover the wonderful, constant journey onward and upward in Your relationship with the Creator of the Universe!
If you don’t spend time daily with the Lord in prayer and reading His Word, I want to challenge you to take God at His Word, to taste and see how good He is! Then share your experience with us.
by Tamar Afriat