Category Archives: Israel

My Story of Salvation

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:20, NIV

I am not an academic, a Biblical scholar, or even a very good Christian. I am a Christian who recently renewed my commitment to Christ. I am new to the Bible. I am trying to grasp some fundamental truths about Jesus Christ and the salvation He gave me.

My Need for Salvation

I take the Bible as the true and inspired Word of God. I believe that I need to be saved by the redemption and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). I know I am a sinner and will one day be judged by God. I believe that the Fall of Man (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) is a historical event.

The consequence of that sin is an eternal separation from God, who is perfect and holy. The Fall of Man is the root of all sin in the world. God is the source of life. Separation from God means eternal death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NIV).

The Joy of Jesus

The Promise of Salvation

By accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was set free from sin and eternal death. Since making this decision to become a Christian, I have experienced a steadfast love and peace I have never known.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV).

It is overwhelming to me that God did this for me. But it makes me ask: How did God give His only Son?

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the ultimate penalty for my sins. He died on the cross. While Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30, NIV). Jesus meant that He had truly done everything necessary for my salvation.

The Trinity

As the Son of God, Jesus is equal to God Himself, as a man God walked the earth. Theologians call this the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. However, even though Jesus was equal to God the Father, (John 1:1–3; 10:30, NIV). God chose to become a human being (Jesus) and die for us sinners, (Philippians 2:5–8, NIV).

The Gift and the Giver

So, back to the beginning- I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son. I accepted Him as my Savior because He paid the eternal penalty for my sins when He died on the cross.

Instead of death and separation from God, I now have eternal life because I believe in Jesus Christ. By trusting in Christ, three things happen:

  1. My sins are forgiven (Colossians 1:14).
  2. I become a child of God (John 1:12).
  3. I possess eternal life because of the Gift of Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

My Declaration of Dependence

On July 4, 2016, I called out to Jesus Christ on the windswept cliff tops of Pointe du Hoc. Pointe du Hoc is located between Utah and Omaha Beaches and sits atop a prominent position on the coast of Normandy, France. The overhanging cliffs up are to 100 feet in height. I claimed my total Dependence in Christ on Independence Day.

I know I was a sinner and I asked for His forgiveness. I believed Jesus had died for sins. There was no clanging of bells or flashing lights or a moment of earthshattering ecstasy. There was a warm, stable feeling of complete confidence in God. God had heard my confession of sin when I acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and master of my life.

The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13, NIV). My simple declaration has been an anchor of my faith that saved my life.

No Easy Days

I still have bad days. I am weak, lazy, and sinful. I try not to focus on my weaknesses and faults (too many to list). Instead, I put my trust in Jesus Christ to help me.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV).

My faith in God has brought joy to my life. He has fulfilled every promise He made me. I am still learning to walk in the Christian life. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Part 1

This is my attempt to try and understand the problems of the Middle East.

Judaism and Islam

Judaism and Islam are the world’s two oldest, and largest monotheistic religions and they share a city they both consider holy– Jerusalem. The two religions share a variety of beliefs, customs, and practices. At the same time, there are enough differences, both cultural and in practice, that make the two religions clash. The conflict is so bad that even the similarities between the two ancient religions have been the source of conflict. This contention goes back thousands of years. Judea is the Biblical Hebrew and Israelite home of Jewish ancestry. Arab states considered Israel as their own land since they conquered Palestine in 638 C.E., but according to written history and oral tradition, it was the promised land of the Jews. Judea was captured by the Romans and renamed Palestine. Palestine was later conquered and inhabited by the Arabs for over a thousand years. In 1881, Jewish settlers started migrating to Palestine in large numbers. Their goal was to consolidate and live together in their own culture and in their ancient homeland, they believed, promised to by God. These migrations came in greater and greater waves, especially after World War I and the Holocaust of World War II.

 

Israel and Palestine-Two Worlds Clashing

The Zionist Movement

The Zionist movement arose to restore the Jews to Israel, their believed Promise Land. Towards the end of World War I, the British government decided to endorse a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British decision to help the Jews was made public in a letter from Lord Arthur Balfour to lead British Zionist Lord Rothschild on November 2, 1917, just before the end of World War I. The contents of the message became known as the “Balfour Declaration.” The Balfour Declaration was drafted with the assistance of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was a strong supporter of Zionism.  Britain wanted to protect her sea route to India. Britain’s economy relied heavily on trade from India. Supporting Zionism was the most straightforward way of securing lasting British influence in the Egyptian region of the Suez Canal. The Arabs resented the Jews coming in and taking over their land. Under the leadership of Grand Mufti Haj Amin El-Husseini, the Arabs rioted for days until later revolting. This riot was the first step of creating a history of hostility between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Next, Britain put a stop to Jewish immigration into Palestine. It wasn’t till after the Holocaust when Britain allowed mass immigration into Palestine. The horrors of the Holocaust left the Jew survivors with no other choice than to return to their ancestral homeland. The tremendous growth Jewish immigrants over the years into a land they had lived for over a thousand years made Palestinians angry and protective.  Not even the White Paper of 1939, which curtailed the migration of the Jews to only 75,000 and did not allow them to purchase land, satisfied the Arabs. The time of pre-independence history of Israel before 1948 created a stable base for various political parties and a specific cultural and economic development of a Jewish State. In 1947, the United Nations (U.N.) partitioned the land of Palestine into two states– one Arab and the other Jewish. The Arabs did not accept the new partition of Palestine, which led to a war. The Jews won an astounding victory against overwhelming odds, giving birth to the modern day state of Israel.

A Map of Israel and Palestinian Territories

My New Bible Study Program

Introduction

I started my Bible Study Program a month ago. I wanted to give it 30 days before I started writing on commenting on what I’ve learned. The results have been amazing.

Background

I grew up in a very secular household. My mother’s family was German Presbyterians, my father Italian Catholics. My parents never debated about God. No one was right or wrong.

For some reason, we never discussed religion. For my dad, God seemed to be a private and personal thing with him, and I didn’t want to intrude upon it. I grew up without religion simply because no one made any effort to teach me about God or any religion.

My father wanted me to be baptized by the Roman Catholic Church. I think this was more a tradition than anything. From the time, I was three years old until I was six my mother took me to a local Presbyterian Church. I attended Sunday School, but the lessons never stuck. When I six years old I told my mom I didn’t want to go to back to the church, and we never did.

After my parents divorced when I was ten, my Dad took me to Catholic Church once or twice a year.  With my brief experience of the Catholic Church, I had no direct experience of the “Divine.”

The rituals of the Catholic Church seemed very formulaic. My memories are of sitting, standing, and kneeling. The congregation said memorized verses at designated times. The service finished with believers making the sign of the cross and saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

The Catholic Church we attended didn’t seem to have a social connection. The whole experience seemed very isolating and without emotion. That is the sum of my religious experience and training.

Becoming a Christian

I felt a stirring in my heart to commit to Christ. I made a simple declaration to bring Christ into my heart. The decision gave me a sense of purpose I have not felt since I was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

My decision to follow Jesus Christ has changed my life forever. I am determined to get an education equal to the great task of serving the Lord. A sign of my spiritual decline would be my neglect of the Bible. When I started my Bible Study, I knew nothing of God or His word.

Getting Ready

Now I see myself as a prayer warrior, an athlete in training. I try my best to study God’s word for at least an hour a day. Exposing myself to the inspired message of God has made me a happier and better man.

Going from non-belief to belief has been a transforming experience. My identity as a believer in God has changed my life. It has been a happy, satisfying, and comforting new way of looking at the world. I could never keep quiet the still small voice in my heart that kept speaking to me. I tried to be indifferent and respond to the gentle moving of the Spirit of God.

I knew the time had come to get serious about knowing the most person in human history– Jesus Christ. I didn’t know anything about His life, His teachings, or even His impact on the world. My Biblical knowledge was starting from scratch.

I know it wasn’t just about what I knew but that I knew Him.

Thru the Bible Network

I started with Dr. J. Vernon McGee, a Bible teacher, theologian, who was also a radio minister from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In 1967, he began broadcasting the Thru the Bible Radio Network program.  Dr. McGee’s program is a systematic study of each book of the Bible, where he takes his listeners from Genesis to Revelation in a five year “Bible bus trip,” as he called it.

Dr. McGee has an easily recognizable, heavy West Texas twang. He sounds like President Lyndon B. Johnson. His 30-minute program is designed to guide listeners through the Old and New Testaments in just five years. I learned he died in 1988.

The world has changed a lot since the death of the Dr. McGee, but the daily messages remain intact and are an excellent reference tool for any beginning Bible student. Dr. McGee uses cultural references that date the program. (Still, every once in a while, you hear mention of the Soviet Union or the Vietnam War.)

I believe Dr. McGee teaches straight out of God’s word, and I think God honors that even though he has been dead for 30 years. His mission statement is ‘The whole Word to the whole world.”

How Bible Study has helped me

I use Dr. McGee’s book and study material. His commentary is helpful and has encouraging interaction with God through His Word. His book is full of discussion starters and suggested questions to help me with my study of the Bible.

I value the time I have with God’s Word. Studying it first thing in the morning allows me to make it a priority. I start each Bible study session with prayer. I humbly ask God to help seek the truth in what I read in the Bible.

The best way for me to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to live my faith through personal and physical example. Studying the Word of God has become one of my greatest treasures and hope in a new and better life.

Bible Study has helped me in four areas of my life:

  1. Help me to grow in my love for Scripture and the Lord.
  2. Gain wisdom and knowledge that the Bible teaches.
  3. Internalize the Word of God in a way that transforms my life.
  4. Getting to know Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer.

I don’t know where the Lord is leading me. I am excited about the great adventure and blessings by walking with God in faith. I know God is always faithful to His promises.

Praying- Source: thoughtco.com

Understanding Israel- The Israeli Settlements: An Uneasy Peace

Living in and around a combat zone like the Occupied Territories in Israel is complicated and extraordinary. Interviewing people from both sides to understand how this conflict impacts their daily lives. It tough looking for answers to this complicated conflict. Everything depends on what side of the conflict you are on.

In Jerusalem, you are either an Israeli or Palestinian. Both sides claim this small piece of land as their “home.” This land is divided by walls of hatred, fear, anger, and concrete. I wanted to understand why. I am going to try and put some cracks into those almost impenetrable walls.

The State of Israel was established in 1948, in an area known then as Palestine. The new nation’s borders almost immediately exploded into a war. The War of Independence led to a Palestinian Exodus into two territories: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on either side of Israel. Today some Israeli settlers are staking claim to land in the West Bank by building communities there called settlements.

With the settlers come the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) that protect them. There also come the Palestinian protestors that want the settlers out. I was curious to find out why anyone would want to live in such a volatile place. Usually, Palestinians are not allowed into the settlements for security reasons. This decision is very controversial because the settlement is technically in Palestinian territory.

Most Israeli families want to live a normal life, away from all the controversy. To an outsider, all they hear is that the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories are the reason that there is no peace agreement.

An American-Israeli settler named Tomer says, “When we came here there was nobody here, so we didn’t take anybody’s land. The hill we live on had nobody around it, and nobody was using it.”

For some Israelis, the settlements offer an affordable place to raise a family. But for the Palestinians is about getting land back they already claim as their own. Refugee camps are where many Palestinians came to live after they were displaced from their homes after Israel became a nation.

The camps started out as communities of tents for displaced Palestinian families. Now, over the last 70 years, they have grown into makeshift housing for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Israeli settlements are being built up all around the camps.

Mazin, a Palestinian activist, says, “The settlements affect my daily life. Most of the time in the summer we are without water. Most of the time in the winter without electricity. This happens because every month there is an increase in the number in the settlement.”

As the settlements push deeper into the West Bank the tensions increase. Roads leading into the settlements become battlegrounds.

“The bus stop near my house has been bombed three times,” said Udi, an Israeli student. “You can get blown up just going to school. We are restricted to living inside the fence of our settlement. The Palestinians can go wherever they want. It’s scary to be afraid all the time.”

Israeli Settlements

Israel says that this increased violence is the reason they built the walls and checkpoints that surround the Palestinian territories. Many Palestinians cannot pass through these checkpoints at all. Mariam, a Palestinian refugee, living in the West Bank cannot visit her son living in the Gaza Strip on the other side of Israel.

The settlements force the Palestinians and Israelis to live closer and closer together and pulling them further and further apart.

Jerusalem Today

“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

– David Ben Gurion, Israel’s First Prime Minister

Jerusalem is a place like any other city. People live, work and shop, all things that you do in a normal life. But Jerusalem’s Old City is ancient and special in the hearts of Palestinians and Israelis.

The best vantage point is on the Mount of Olives, is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City. The Mount of Olives is a place for several key events in the life of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, it’s described as the place that Jesus ascended into heaven.

From the Mount of Olives, you can see the Dome of the Rock in all its golden magnificence, shining in the noonday sun.  The Dome is a key holy site for Muslims because it’s where they believe Mohammad ascended to heaven. Behind the Dome is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Church is built on the site, where most Christians believe, that Christ was crucified. Out of site from the Mount of Olives is the Western Wall, Jewry’s holiest place. The Wall supports the Mount where the Temple once stood.

Jerusalem’s significance is not in dispute, but it’s status. After nearly 20 years divided by barbed wire, Israeli soldiers took control of the whole city, East and West, in 1967.  The international community did not recognize what Israelis called the “reunification” of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Western Wall

All embassies stayed in Tel Aviv. East Jerusalem was accepted by the international community as the future capital of a Palestinian State. This was the agreement between a negotiated settlement of Israelis and Palestinians. President Donald Trump recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may undermine the regional stability. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will be rocked.