What I learned and love about the Israeli Messianic community – 1. Buildings

While I lived in Jerusalem, I found that Christians and Messianic Jews living there would host travellers and people doing short term projects.   This gives you a unique angle for visitors who both love Jewish people and the Jewish Messiah.    So after being there a few months, I was encouraged to do the same, often I was asked to show around someone who is new to doing volunteering work, see interesting places like Jerusalem’s old city, the Kotel, good places to eat out, but also somewhere to fellowship at the weekend.

Now imagine this.   New visitors have often told me how this congregation looks like a ‘normal church’ or doesn’t feel authentic.    Or, in the case of June of 2019 an angry-sounding woman commented on my blog tells me any congregation that isn’t her perceived style is pagan and “doing it all wrong”.

I got thinking, how do I reach out to these sorts of people to understand what I learned from the Messianic community in Israel?    I think its quite different from how people perceive what’s an ideal place to have fellowship.

Different religious buildings can be on a scale, one end of this scale is traditional and other is modern.   Let’s look at some well known examples:-

This St Paul’s Cathedral in London

This is the Dominion Theatre in London, its borrowed by Hillsong church on sunday

In conventional churches in the UK, these can have stained glass windows, giant organs set into the building, pews and similar decor.  Or, some can be modern places with car parks, modern kitchens and a stage with a projector for song lyrics.

Jerusalem Great Synagogue, Israel

Here is the #2 biggest synagogue in the world in Budapest Hungary

In traditional Judaism, you will see buildings with pews also, which I think facing three sides of a square, some nice hanging brass lamps and lots of wood panelling everywhere. Also like modern Christianity, some synagogues will be new buildings with more emphasis on practicality and comfort and have a sophisticated AV system.

Neither traditional or new is wrong, they are just two different styles of how things are done.    Some buildings will be owned and some will be rented off someone else.

The Messianic movement in Israel is relatively new (modern Israel is only 71 years old) and the body of believers is small 20,000-30,000 people.  So congregations are small and budgets for a building are small and will usually rely on donations from other places, ie: Christian friends from other parts of the world.

So, therefore, Messianic congregations can vary quite a bit also in style.

Here is Christchurch congregation inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, Israel.  Like a traditional-looking church but has services in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.

Here is Kehilat HaKarmel near Haifa.   This is maybe the closest you will see to a Jewish Synagogue, it has an amazing custom-designed building, but I love the community, teaching and the outreach work that has been done there also.

This is King of Kings congregation in the Clal building.  This is a shopping mall with the congregation in the basement which is a converted cinema, and the 16th floor if you look up hosts prayer conferences in smaller gatherings.   This was my main source of fellowship.

This is the Shelter Hostel in Eilat, this congregation is more look a house church but is a functioning youth hostel for any type of traveller (like me) with staff to run the place but also has optional bible study and worship on Shabbat.

This Jerusalem Assembly.    This is the most likely type of building I think believers meet in.    An ordinary office block.    Looks a little scruffy from the outside, but it has been painted up nicely inside.  
All these places are authentic places for worship, the building shape and style doesn’t always matter, but these all provide bible teaching and worship for Jewish believers in Yeshua in different parts of Israel.
More soon…..
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Jerusalem hotel entrance and perspectives on the Gospel

See this? this is the Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem.  Spin around, and you can see some nice scenery, look for the four flag poles on the right. (use your computer, probably won’t work so well on a phone)  Also look at the English/Hebrew text on the side of the building.

Here is the same place, but different floor:-

I see this as an analogy to the way Jews and Gentiles see the gospel.

This hotel I stayed in on my first ever trip to Jerusalem on a tour with my Dad in 2004.

Look at the hotel from the top floor, on one side and it is next to Hebron Road, and you can enter it from there.

It’s a little far away, you might need to zoom, but spot those 4 flag poles, there is another entrance which is several floors downwards.   The sign writing is also there.

I think of this, Jewish people read the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament) could enter the hotel from the bottom floor.

Christians tend to be more familiar with the New Testament.   This is the top floor.   The two floors are connected together.

Imagine the building is the body of Christ.   We are one in Jesus/Yeshua, Jew and Gentile.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Often observant Jewish people who know Yeshua (Jesus) as Lord and Saviour would of learn the Tanakh, and when reading the New Testament will find that this completes the prophecies in Zechariah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and more, from the very first book of Matthew explains Jesus family lineage from Adam to Abraham to Noah to King David all the way through.

For Gentile Christians, when reading the New Testament, then reading the Old Testament, told us the promise of the Messiah, the need for his atonement on the cross, Jesus’s Jewish background, and the New Covenant to come.

Both the OT and the NT also will harshly remind us of the past when mankind has been in sin, with idolatry and immorality.

This scripture doesn’t discard the Jewish people, not are Gentiles suppose to take up Jewish holidays and customs as an essential thing.  (actually, I like doing these when I visit Israel, or my Jewish friends in London)   Neither Jew or Gentile is more important than the other.   When understood right, salvation means we are one the Messiah.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Also, as I’m a languages nerd, I remember looking up a word ‘Bishara’ I heard in Arabic from someone reading the beginning of the book of Matthew; I found that in the Hebrew it is הבשורה (Ha Bishara) and Gospel in Arabic is Injila according to Google Translator, but the word I was looking for is actually “Good News” which is Bishara in Arabic.

I was just thinking about memories of this hotel and how the Jerusalems’s unique places made me think of the bible’s plans for us.

China trip – 1. Introduction

In the last year or so I had a real interest in China, a nation both ancient and modern on a large chunk of Asia with over a billion people.   I have heard stories about how China has the largest number of people coming to Christ, good relations with Israel, although a nation with restrictions and still officially Communist.   Today, although China is manufacturing capital of the world by a long stretch, everyone wants to do business with the Chinese as the economy is booming and folks there want to buy British and European made products.

I got offered to go on a 9 day mission trip in April 2017 to teach the Bible to current believers there in Beijing, and after a while trying to get my work to get me the time off which took me weeks, I had 16 days to use.    Later on, I found that the trip was full.   I was disappointed but as I already got a flight with Alitalia to fly Gatwick to Beijing via Rome for a real good deal of £395, I decided to make my own plans.

Getting a visa is tricky.  I left it a bit late and most sources online were recommending me get one from a Chinese travel shop in China town area of London.   This was frustrating as I had to get two lots of photos from a nearby post office, as the first ones were the wrong size.   The visa is £180.

This isn’t China, but I do like this part of London.  There are 2 maybe 3 churches of Chinese believers round here.   It would be really interesting to see what its like for Christian to live or work in this district.   I’m also keen to see how Chinese people respond to the life of Jesus.    My trip is purely a holiday and to see and document this fascinating place.

2. Beijing’s industrial aftertaste

Southern France / Pyrenesse trip – Toulouse’s churches

Toulouse is a large city in France.   I turned back here after I could not proceed any further towards Andorra, see the previous article.

Bars, cafes and shops have all the charm you would expect to see in a French city.

France has a history based on Catholicism, today it is a very secular country.   There are not many evangelical Christians.

When I visited, I did see a nice Christian bookshop which was shut when I went past it on a Thursday evening.

I also saw this really nice church, it’s the Notre-Dame du Taur

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Stain glass windows are some of the best I have seen.

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This painting of Jesus’ trial looks really good, with his disciples to the right, the Sanhedrin and Roman leaders in the middle and members of the public on the left.

IMG_20170923_181804305My church in London sponsor missions in France, as there is a shortage for those to spread the gospel as Africa, Asia or South America.

In another part of Toulouse, I spotted this mission tract whilst waiting for the traffic lights, hope more of these do get seen by the French people.

Here’s the book shop I found above.

Introduction – Newspaper danger – Occitane, little known district of France & wannabe new nation – No Andorra for me – Toulouse’s churches –

Does Star Wars The Force Awakens contain bible influences?

For some years people have seen analogies from Star Wars to the bible.

I’m sure its only a matter of time until some theology bloggers start analysing The Force awakens. I thought I would start the ball rolling. 🙂

  1. A friend of mine who lives in London, I’ll call him S. He is from a Jewish background and was in a prison in a Muslim country and after being in there for years and subject to horrendous abuse, had a real life encounter with Jesus and accepting him as his Lord and saviour, the Lord gave him instructions to get out of the jail past the guards and walk free.
  2. Brother Yun was arrested by security police numerous times and was thrown into prison three times for sharing the gospel in communist China……    ….Once, Brother Yun was paraded through the streets with a red cross tied behind him for half a day. When night fell, he was locked and left alone inside a large interrogation room. The wooden cross was taken off his back but his hands were still tied up. All of a sudden, the rope that was used to tie his hands snapped by itself. He immediately walked out of the interrogation room and walked through the courtyard in the midst of onlookers. Nobody stopped him or said anything to him. It was as if God had blinded their eyes and they did not even recognise who he was. 
  3. reyIn the new Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens, the newest generation Jedi, a young woman called Rey, is attached to a chair with shackles in a locked jail. Through using the ‘force’ she repeatedly asked the Stormtrooper guard to unlock her and let her free. After the third attempt the guard obeys her and she walks away.
  4. Acts 5 : 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
  5. Acts 16 : 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.  25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.  35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”  37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

All 5 of these stories isn’t by using lock picking or getting out through a ventilation duct.  Each one is escaping from a prison was only through faith.

#1 ‘S’ has not put his incredible testimony in print or on the web, only from when I listened to his tragic but ultimately heartwarming story.  I’m trying encourage him to write a book.

#2 Brother Yun is one of the most famous pioneering Christians in China (I really need to buy this soon) http://www.inspirationalchristians.org/biography/brother-yun/

#3 spoilers here  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Force_Awakens

#4 Acts 5 : 17

#5 Acts 16 : 22