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The God of Time

As we begin each new year, it is always good to be reminded that God is a God of beginnings. One of the main characteristics of God is his eternal nature. Eternity is a difficult concept for us to grasp. Eternity is a quality that has no end but also has no beginning: It always was and always will be.

‘Eternity’ is thus sometimes a term used to refer to heaven; a place when time as we know it does not exist. One of the greatest scientists who ever lived was the Jewish physicist, Albert Einstein. With his theory of relativity, Einstein radically changed our earthly concept of time. According to this theory, the faster you go, the slower times passes.

For example, if we would move in a spaceship at very high velocity, close to the speed of light, time would be dilated. If you could watch events on earth while travelling at 99.9% of speed of light, the events you were observing would look like an extreme time-lapse recoding on your smartphone, with everything moving 25 times faster. During your year on that spaceship, you would see your family on earth celebrating 25 years’ worth of Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. When you returned to earth, they would be 25 years older while you would only have aged one year.

Einstein then stated that, should you travel at speed of light (which is impossible) and watch events on earth, you would observe it in a ‘hyper time-lapse’ which would show you everything on earth simultaneously. From your perspective, time as we know it on earth, would no longer exist.

Now all this is hard to imagine and even more difficult to understand but many experiments have proven Einstein’s theory to be correct. To see all human history simultaneously seems impossible; our brain would be overwhelmed by the amount of information.

During World War II, my father had an experience which brought him to the verge of just such a ‘hyper time-lapse’. Laying on his deathbed in a Russian POW camp in winter 1946, weakened by starvation and extreme pneumonia, he overheard the doctors saying “Bühler will die tonight!” In his desperation, he remembered the prayers of his mother and called to God. Then something happened to him that he told us kids many times: “In an instant I saw my entire life, from birth until that day, passing by like a movie. Then a voice came to me saying: ‘If you die now – the way how you lived – you will be eternally lost!’” That day he gave his life to Jesus.

When God looks at events on earth, He is not confined to our time-space world. Augustine, one of the early church fathers, understood that time as we know it was created by God and that He exists outside our time. The best way for me to understand this is to remember that God identifies himself with light (e.g. John 1:9). That means in His realm, time does not matter.

It makes perfect sense when Jesus stated to the scribes of his time: “Before Abraham was I am” (John 8:58). From our perspective, this makes no sense but, from God’s perspective it was perfectly correct. As the eternal God, He is without end and without beginning.

Therefore, Paul knew and understood that God knows us and called us even before creation (Ephesians 1:9) and before time began (2 Timothy 1:9). What an amazing thought it is: Before the earth and the universe existed God already thought about us. That is why you and I exist today and this gives meaning to our lives.

Another amazing truth is that before time began, God already knew that humanity would need his saving grace in order to get us to our destiny. God perfectly knew that we would fail, make wrong decisions and even rebel against Him. But before time began he already provided an eternal remedy: the blood of Jesus. The book of Revelation describes Jesus as “… the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8). The cross and the church is not a ‘plan B’ or an emergency scheme of God but was on his mind before time began. Jesus is thus the focal point and centre of time and history.

The prophet Isaiah highlights another characteristic of God which stretches our mind: “ … I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,…’” (Isaiah 46:9–10). Not only did God see the start of our lives but He also knows how we will finish. There is no doubt that at the end of history ‘his council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.’ What a great encouragement that is.

One of the greatest examples of this timeless and unshakable council of the Lord is the history of the people of Israel. The foundation of Israel’s purpose lays in God’s eternal purpose. Its biblical account starts after the flood.

After Noah’s family left the ark, his sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth – started new families and clans as described in Genesis 10. These families became the starting point of post-flood humanity. The Rabbis count 70 families and clans which originate from the sons of Noah, describing the nations of the world:

  • The European clans from Japheth “… everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” (Genesis 10:5)
  • The African and some Middle Eastern tribes from Ham (“…, according to their families, their languages, in their lands and in their nations.” (Genesis 10:20)
  • The sons of Shem as more tribes from the Middle East and the regions of the East “… according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.” (Genesis 10:31)

Genesis 10:32 summarizes these 70 families of the earth: “These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood”. After the flood, God committed to never again destroy these families with a deadly flood (Gen 8:21f).

The following chapter however describes how, even after such a great judgment as the flood, mankind would still not worship God but were only concerned for their own interest and pride (Gen 11). This is where when Israel’s history began. Since God promised not to destroy mankind anymore by a flood, he decided instead to provide them a way of salvation. He called Abraham and prophesied to him “in you the families of the earth shall be blessed”, and the line of hope for the families of the earth began. Paul later recognizes that the very moment when God established the lineage of Abraham, it was the starting point for God’s salvation story with all the families, all the tribes and languages (Galatians 3:8).

Israel played a singular role in the salvation story of humanity: They gave us the word of God and their Messiah brings light even to the furthest part of the world. As the seed of Abraham, Jesus became the center and focal point of time and history. And that is why the church will always be indebted to bless the seed of Abraham as they were God’s vessel to bring salvation to humanity.

Let us now fast forward to the end of history: John the seer was supernaturally taken out of the earthly timeframe and was able to see ‘the end from the beginning’. He was amazed to see all the families of Noah united in heaven worshipping the lamb:

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” (Revelation 7:9–10)

What started in Genesis – and even existed before the foundation of the world – now finds its completion. This amazing truth, that God already knew our end before our lives began, should personally give each of us the greatest encouragement. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. There are no surprises or emergency meetings in heaven because our God is the God of history who says not only about Israel but also about your life: ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.’ This is why Paul could so confidently state to the church in Philippi: “… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6)

Even if your new year began with difficulty or unexpected challenges, be assured God will accomplish all that he has purposed for you. He will show you the good works God prepared beforehand for you (Ephesians 2:10). As you stay close to Jesus, spending time with Him and in His word, He will be the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1).

May the Lord bless you as you walk in his eternal purposes in 2019!
 

ICEJ Participates in GPO's Christian Media Summit

The ICEJ was well represented at the second annual International Christian Media Summit, held in Jerusalem in mid-October and hosted by the Israel Government Press Office. Over 200 Christian reporters, publishers and broadcasters drawn from some 35 nations were addressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Deputy PM Michael Oren, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, former UN Ambassador Dore Gold and a number of other senior Israeli officials and top scholars and analysts. ICEJ Vice President David Parsons again served as the GPO’s primary Christian consultant for the summit and about a dozen ICEJ national directors and local staff participated in the gathering.

The Christian Media Summit proved once again to be rich in content and well-timed as Israel continued to mark the 70th Anniversary of the nation’s rebirth in 1948. PM Netanyahu was particularly relaxed at a briefing to kick off the summit, as he fielded some 20 questions – far more than he does at regular press conferences with the local and foreign press corps. He also invited US Ambassador David Friedman to bring a greeting, and the American Jewish envoy proceeded to quote Jesus in his remarks about the media battle over Israel, saying “the truth will set you free.”
 

New Developments in Eastern Europe

In October I visited Ukraine, which is one of the larger countries of the former Soviet Union with a population of 44 million. Evangelical believers make up about 8% of the population or about 3.5 million people. There is complete freedom of worship in the country which provides a great opportunity to develop our work.

I ministered together with Serguei Popov in four churches in Kiev, and our main purpose was to take our Ukranian branch to another level. Pastor Valeriy Alymov was appointed the new Executive Director, taking over from Grigorij Komendant, a respected father figure in the Ukrainian church and a great champion of Israel. We had a successful meeting with ten senior leaders of the largest evangelical denominations and representing together more than 4500 churches, including the Baptist Union, Pentecostal Union, Charismatic Union and Messianic congregation. They all support the new ICEJ branch which is being formally established.

I found that general awareness of Israel in the church is rather weak but the Lord is stirring the hearts of pastors who want to understand more about God’s plan for Israel. Now that good foundations have been laid, we have a strong and dedicated team on the ground who are ready to run forward. Please pray for continued favor and open doors in Ukraine.

Next, we went to Riga, Latvia, for an ICEJ regional conference with participants from our branches in Finland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Ireland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Latvia. We presented our DNA statement, and discussed expectations of the branches. Fruitful discussions emerged between representatives of mature and experienced branches and the newcomers who appreciated the opportunity to learn from their experience. We also had a Shabbat dinner together with the Jewish Agency, and they shared about Aliyah to potential olim. ICEJ‘s VP of Operations Barry Denison also had the opportunity to introduce our ministry to the Jewish Agency in Latvia.
 

ICEJ On Christian Campuses

In November, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman David Parsons visited the USA to spread the word at Christian colleges about the work of the Christian Embassy and discuss his new book Floodgates. At Liberty University, he met with Dr. Ed Hindson, Dean of the Divinity School, and Dr. Randall Price, a popular professor on many Israel-related subjects. Parsons also spoke in the daily chapel service at CBN, as well as the weekly chapel for students at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. He challenged the students with a message about the stronghold of atheistic Darwinism in Western societies today and the key prophetic role it plays in the growing rebellion against God in these last days.  

Farewell to Dr. Susanna Kokkonen

Recently, Dr. Susanna Kokkonen decided to end her time as Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, which operates in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. She held the position for ten years, and her daily work and impact at Yad Vashem will be greatly missed. Ms. Sari Granitza, a long-time deputy with the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem, will assume her role.

“For the past decade, Dr. Susanna Kokkonen has provided outstanding leadership to one of the most vital and sensitive aspects of our ministry by overseeing the Christian Desk which we helped establish at Yad Vashem”, said ICEJ President Dr. Juergen Buehler. “Dr. Kokkonen put her academic skills as a Holocaust scholar to full use in such initiatives as the annual Christian Leadership Seminars. She also brought a unique spiritual touch to Holocaust remembrance and education, even by creating a place of prayer in her special corner of this revered institution. Most of all, Susanna was a ‘light’ amid the painful, dark memories housed at Yad Vashem. She knew her Bible well and had a distinct way of relating its eternal truths to the universal lessons which Yad Vashem teaches on Antisemitism, racism and genocide.”

Originally from Finland, Dr. Kokkonen received her Ph.D. in Holocaust Studies in 2004 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where her dissertation focused on Jewish Refugees in Post-War Italy, 1945-1951. She later worked as a pro-Israel Christian lobbyist at the European Parliament in Brussels and as cultural attaché at the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv.

In 2008, Dr. Kokkonen was tapped to serve as Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, which was still relatively new. Over the ensuing years, she solidified the work of the Christian Desk as an important facet of the Yad Vashem campus, and expanded its reach to Christian communities on all continents. She hosted scores of Christian dignitaries, addressed hundreds of Christian tours groups, and organised numerous Christian Leadership Seminars that drew participants from over 50 countries. Dr. Kokkonen also successfully launched the CFYV’s Prayer and Study Tour, reliving history in Israel from the times of the Bible until today. In addition, she became known for having a special rapport with Holocaust survivors and turned much-needed attention on the needs of elderly, forgotten Righteous Gentiles in Israel.

Fluent in six languages, Dr. Kokkonen will continue to make appearances for Yad Vashem while also travelling around the world to speak to Christian, Jewish and civic audiences about the Holocaust, genocide, Antisemitism and Israel today, as well as to engage in humanitarian work. To keep up with her activities, please visit: http://susannakokkonen.com/
 

Shalom From Burundi

“We are honouring Israel first, because Israel is God’s firstborn among the nations,” announced the First Lady of Burundi, Her Excellency, Reverend Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza as she introduced our ICEJ delegation from Israel. We were greeted with an enthusiastic “SHALOM", because “shalom” is a common greeting in Burundi.

Representing ICEJ headquarters, Jo Olsen, Jannie Tolhoek and I were incredibly honoured to take part in the first International Women Leaders’ Conference in Burundi organized under the theme, “Women of Destiny, arise, be courageous and act for the matter concerns you.” The conference was attended by 500 Burundian women and 116 delegates from 24 nations, as well as the First Lady of Zambia, Her Excellency, Esther Nyawa Lungu and the First Lady of Central African Republic, Her Excellency, Brigitte Touadera. The First Lady of Burundi is an ordained minister who has a passion to mobilize the women of Burundi to understand their role as leaders, not only in their homes but also in their nation.

As part of the conference, we travelled three hours north to the province of Ngozi to take part in the launch of the First Lady’s “Free to Shine” campaign, which has a mission to eradicate mother to child transmission of HIV. We also visited the “Good Samaritan Orphanage”, which is now caring for 40 orphans. We had the opportunity to pray for the orphans and caretakers, as well as bless them with supplies for the orphanage.

Walking away from this conference, I am inspired by the First Lady’s life and her amazing endeavours. It was also touching to see a genuine love for Israel exuding from the Burundian people. Many conference attendees even came to our Israel delegation to say they pray for Israel and have a dream to one day visit the Holy Land. God moved powerfully during this conference, and we look forward to seeing what the Lord will continue to do through this historic moment in Burundi’s history!

Hearts of Generosity in Bolivia

When Pastor Alberto Magno Sales de Oliveira was baptized in the Holy Spirit, he received a new vision and love for Israel that not only impacted his life, but also brought a spiritual renewal to his family and congregation. One of His dreams was to bring large groups of Bolivians to the Feast of Tabernacles, and he has seen God fulfill this dream year after year.
He shared, “We dreamed that our people would be a part of this move of God. Step by step, God supported us and confirmed our dream. Today, we not only have a group of pilgrims, but the love of Israel in the hearts of Bolivians.”

As pastor of the First Evangelical Baptist Church in Bolivia, Oliveira witnessed his congregation express their love for Israel, not only in words but in action. The people of Bolivia come every Shabbat with generous and voluntary donations that God miraculously multiplies each year. Pastor Oliveira explained to his church, “This will be for exclusive use of the ICEJ in Jerusalem, because ICEJ is our arm and extension of the church. They can do what we cannot throughout the year. We have decided to be a part of the Christian Embassy, not only during the Feast, but also in everything ICEJ does throughout the year.”

Other churches have seen what God is doing in Oliveira’s church, so today his church bring donations from several ministries to donate to the ICEJ. As one final comment on their giving, Oliveira said, “When we see the work of the Embassy, we feel very happy. It ensures that our offering of comfort is indeed comforting the people of Israel. The ICEJ can put into practice the generosity of the people of Bolivia. We are glad to know that the money is used in a precious way through the ministry of the ICEJ.”
 

OFEK- New Horizons in Aliyah

Ofek Israeli means “Israeli horizon” and is the name of the coordinating body for Jewish Aliyah efforts and initiatives. Since the Israeli government seeks to maximize its resources for the greatest impact possible, Ofek was created to harness the dynamic – but at times disorganised – power of grassroots organisations in 22 nations around the world.

Ofek’s recent annual conference with Jewish leaders was held in Ashkelon, bordering the restive Gaza strip to the north. This location, a natural choice for Ofek’s CEO Shimon Cohen, a retired general, was chosen to show solidarity with border communities along the Gaza Strip, which currently face challenging, turbulent times.

The theme of Ofek’s recent annual conference was “From Vision to Reality.” Many Aliyah experts and operators from several countries were in attendance, which made it a great honour and privilege for ICEJ’s Barry Dennison to deliver a keynote speech during the conference. Barry was warmly welcomed by CEO Shimon Cohen, who stated in a subsequent interview how grateful he was for ICEJ’s engagement and support in Aliyah conferences for Jews in former Soviet republics, where freedoms are often highly restricted. The success rate for these conferences is high, with 70% of participants choosing to make Aliyah.

Barry Denison delivered a well-paced and poignant survey of Evangelical Christians’ Bible-based motivation for wholeheartedly engaging with Israel and Aliyah, clearly demonstrating the shared biblical foundation between the two faiths and thus the natural practical partnership. Using this principle, it is clear that “when we read the Bible text… Israel is there. God’s calling of the Jewish people is without regret. It was His choice.” He captivated his hearers and laid out how “God has a plan for the Gentiles to bless the Jewish people.”

The ICEJ’s proud track record of unwavering and effective support for Israel through aid work and advocacy left a strong impression, especially the ICEJ’s help to the Gaza border region and the fact that the ICEJ has helped 140,000 Jews return home to Israel. Duly impressed, the audience dispatched Barry from the podium with strong and heartfelt applause.

ICEJ looks forward to continued cooperation with Ofek to help bring more of God’s people back home.
 

12th Annual Festival of Tolerance in St. Petersburg

The 12th annual Festival of Tolerance in St. Petersburg, Russia was yet again a great success. ICEJ Russia and our longtime partner in the Jewish Community, the “Eva Foundation”, organized this event to raise awareness of the Holocaust.

The festival began with a Jewish drama group from Bryansk performing the play, “The diary of Ann Frank.” The program continued with a discussion about the book “The German’s are Hunting us with Dogs”, which is the story of two young sisters who escaped the Holocaust. The book contains a series of drawings done by young Jewish children to illustrate the poem written by Alla Aisensharf, one of the sisters. A video presentation of the story followed, as well as dramatic readings by middle school children.

ICEJ has translated, printed, and distributed the book in Finland as a contribution to this Holocaust awareness campaign. Proceeds from the Finnish book went to purchasing warm bedding for the remaining 68 Holocaust survivors living in St. Petersburg that the ICEJ helps care for, along with other elderly Jewish people and invalids.

The festival was a great success and provided an excellent method of Holocaust education for those that attended.
 

Ebenezer Testimonies

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” (Sam 7:12)
Ebenezer means “stone of help” and was set up by Samuel as a marker and memorial of God’s help and provision. After the 2018 Feast of Tabernacles, the ICEJ staff can testify the Lord has helped us “thus far” and continues to be our Ebenezer.


1. Days before our grand opening event at Ein Gedi, the police said the festive evening must be cancelled. The night before the event, God did a miracle by giving us the permit we needed for the opening night to go on just as if nothing had happened!
2. As Daniel Kolenda prayed for God’s healing touch over the crowd at Ein Gedi, a woman in her 80’s was instantly healed from the chronic pain in her legs and back which had plagued her for many years. After realizing God had healed her, she began dancing and praising God!
3. ICEJ VP and Senior Spokesman David Parsons, sick with a head cold and fever during the Feast, was daily strengthened by God, who enabled him to emcee, speak, and connect with people throughout the entire Feast.
4. ICEJ’s President Jürgen Bühler, still recovering from a recent major surgery, felt God’s continuous provision of strength and energy to serve as the keynote speaker for the opening night in the arena and to attend each day of the Feast.
5. An 84-year-old pastor from the Philippines came to Israel for the first time; in one of the sessions of the Feast God healed him from a heart disease that he had for several years.
6. Christine from the USA shared, “My husband changed his opinion about Israel after reading the ICEJ Word from Jerusalem magazine, and he was finally open to come to Israel. I am here with my husband at the conference.”
 

 

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