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In this issue:
Earthquake. The "Big One" is on its Way  |  There will be Famines and Earthquakes  
That they may be one  |  Counting the Omer: Our Passover Gift to God

Earthquake

The "Big One" is on its Way
 

Monthly Report: April 2008
Adar II - Nisan  5768

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The vast Syrian-African Rift Valley - the physical boundary between the two continents of Africa and Asia. 


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By Tamar Afriat

How great would the devastation be if a big earthquake were to strike the State of Israel today? Destruction and casualties from earthquakes are directly related to earthquake magnitude and the strength of building infrastructure. The state of Israel’s infrastructure has many scientists worried that the occurrence of a catastrophic earthquake, a magnitude of 7 or greater, would have devastating consequences.

In addition to the loss of life and widespread destruction of infrastructure, a major earthquake in such a politically volatile region would have dire consequences as such a quake would most probably destroy holy sites  sensitive to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. “All of us should be worried,” explains Dr. Shmulik Marco, from the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences at Tel Aviv University.

“When it strikes - and it will - this quake will affect Amman, Jordan as well as Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. Earthquakes don’t care about religion or political boundaries.”  (EurekAlert, 3Oct07)

Marco has constructed a timeline of Israel’s major quakes over the past two thousand years: the major ones were recorded in the Jordan Valley in the years 31 BC, 363 AD, 749AD and 1033 AD.

“So roughly,” says Marco, “we are talking about an interval of every 400 years. If we follow the patterns of nature, a major quake should be expected any time because almost a whole millennium has passed since the last strong earthquake.” (Jerusalem Post, 14Nov07)

The longer the period between earthquakes, the greater the tension builds in the earth’s crust, and the more catastrophic the earthquake will be when it occurs.

He concludes, “The quiet is worrisome. The longer we go without a large quake, the more we can expect one.” (Arutz Sheva, 6Mar08)

Since 1975, Israel has instituted building codes which are on a par with international criteria for earthquake resistance. However, the extent to which these building codes have been properly enforced is questionable. Additionally, the fact remains that many of Israel’s buildings predate the 1975 building codes and are extremely susceptible to damage or collapse in the occurrence of a catastrophic earthquake.

 

Old City of Jerusalem after a strong earthquake of 6.2 on the Richter scale in 1927

Geologist Dr. Hillel Wust-Bloch from Tel Aviv University explains that one of the major problems facing Israel today in regards to earthquake preparedness can be seen in places like Beit She’an, Jerusalem, and Tiberias where there are entire neighborhoods built in the 40’s and 50’s that are “cheap and vulnerable.” According to Dr. Hillel, Israel’s lack of progress in building safety is “particularly bewildering.” (Ibid.)

Dr. Shmulik Marco says history shows there is a major earthquake over the magnitude of seven on the Richter scale about every 400 years in the Holy Land. However, there has not been such an earthquake since 1033 AD - almost 1,000 years ago.

The very week this article was being written, an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale was felt throughout most of Israel and caused a six by five foot hole to open up on the Temple Mount. As usual, officials of the Wakf Islamic Authority who oversee the Temple Mount blamed Israel’s archeological digs outside the Temple Mount for causing the sink hole on the Temple Mount plaza near the Dome of the Rock.

Many Orthodox Jews are praying and actively preparing for the reestablishment of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, with Muslims covetously protecting their stake and claim to the Temple Mount as the third holiest site in Islam. The international community has a vested interest in the status of Jerusalem and many advocate an internationally administrated Jerusalem. Therefore it does not take much imagination to conjure up scenes of strife and violence that would erupt if a major earthquake were to damage or destroy the Temple Mount or other sensitive holy sites in Israel.

In great movements and manifestations of God on the earth, from His leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, the Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection, to the Messiah’s return to Jerusalem at the end of the age, creation responds accordingly with great shaking. Those seeking to know the
signs of the times understand earthquakes as harbingers of the coming of the end of the age, as it is written in Matthew 24:7-8: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

 

Old City of Jerusalem after a strong earthquake of 6.2 on the Richter schale in 1927

And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” 

It is no coincidence that the displacement of the Mount of Olives in the earthquake described in Zechariah 14:1-5 corresponds exactly to the pattern of fissures and rifts in the mountains surrounding Jerusalem mapped by scientists. In other words, Israel’s scientists are warning that a great earthquake is coming, one like the earthquake prophesied in Zechariah 14:1-5: “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming … For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem … Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.  And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move to the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through my mountain valley … as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.”

Israel's eastern border is formed by a series of valleys which make up part of the vast Syrian-African Rift Valley, which starts in northern Syria and extends to Mozambique (6500 km). The Rift Valley is a gigantic crack in the earth's surface. The whole course of the valley is characterized by an abundance of underground springs (fresh water, salt water, sulfur and hot springs), bizzare land and rock formations and earthquakes. Geologists believe that the Rift Valley is actually the physical boundary between Africa and Asia - Africa drifting south and Asia moving north along this huge crack. (http://www.jafi.org.il/education/noar/sites/desert.htm)

The growing number of little earthquakes, these tremors shaking the earth under our feet of late here in Israel are nothing less than birth pangs, the earth literally groaning under the outrages of humanity: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until
now.” (Romans 8:22)

Greater Tel Aviv. Many of the structures were not built according to standards to withstand a major earthquake.

It is just over forty years ago during the Six Day War that the Jewish nation retook Jerusalem, God’s holy city and the dream at the core of the Jewish heart for two thousand years of exile. Yet today, many Israelis are more than willing to offer her on the altar of peace by partitioning her or giving her over to the Palestinians or the international community. True, the pressure put on the Israeli government and the public psyche by the international community to make such
concessions and give away covenant land for peace cannot be overestimated.

Nevertheless, it goes without saying that Israel’s highly secular, liberal society has sold out to the religion of western hedonism that flouts biblical morals and values. The Lord has promised
to shake everything that can be shaken. It will happen more literally than we know and in ways we never expected. In Israel when things begin to shake, the stakes are always higher. And in the end, only that which cannot be shaken will remain. The visible will disappear, but the unseen will remain. Only a deep, passionate and steady focus on our love for Him will keep us in the Secret Place of the Most High and under the Shadow of the Almighty. 

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There will be famines and earthquakes…

Israel has so many existential threats that she is just not able to deal with all of them at the same time - or at any time for that matter.

Israel is facing a very serious water crisis: Besides war, Yeshua listed two phenomena of nature as signs of the beginning of sorrows: famines and earthquakes. Well, we are facing both.

More than half of Israel is desert. Modern irrigation has caused the deserts to bloom like a rose. But Israel is running out of water and has done very little about it, while her use of water is growing by 4% a year.

By the end of the year, the Western Mountain Aquifer and the Coastal Aquifer will plunge below the safe minimum. The lower the fresh water level, the more sea water from the Mediterranean seeps into the underground water sources, permanently polluting them. Already, some of the Coastal Aquifer is contaminated by salt - up to a kilometer inland in this tiny strip of land.

Secondly, Israel’s other source of water, the Sea of Galilee, will also plunge below the safe minimum by the end of the year. Again the danger is irreversible contamination.

Israel’s season for rain is only from November to March and the last 10 years have seen very scarce rainfalls. This year has been equally sparse. But Israel’s government goes merrily along -basically doing nothing to build substantial desalination plants (which take years to build) or even implementing conservation among its citizens.

However, the situation is so bad that the government has begun to threaten to end water subsidies for agriculture, but the farmers in return claim they need even more water for the growing Israeli population and for increased exports.

“This country is not behaving like a country that is experiencing a water crisis,” says Prof. Hillel Shoval of Hadassah College Jerusalem. “We are directing half of the water we have to agriculture, although its contribution to our gross national product is only 2%.” (Ha’aretz11Mar08)

So it looks like Israel will continue to drive her Chevy to the levy 'til the levy runs dry - bone dry.

By Shira Sorko-Ram

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"That they may be one..." 

Maoz Israel Ministries and Congregation Tiferet Yeshua count it a privilege and a joy to join other congregations and ministries in Israel in joint events and projects.

Once every three months, pastors’ wives and women who are leaders in ministry in Israel
are invited to come together for a morning of fellowship and a luncheon hosted by congregation Tiferet Yeshua to share, to discuss, to plan, to pray for each other and to simply enjoy each other’s company. Here are pastor’s wives from ten congregations and leaders from several other organizations from Tel Aviv and surrounding areas, Haifa, Beersheva, Akko and Jerusalem. There is great power in unity and we are treasuring our time together.

Teenagers from six congregations in the Tel Aviv area form a group called “NEGED” and meet weekly at Congregation Tiferet Yeshua. Here are some of the youth on an outing at a retreat center in the Judean Hills directed by Arni Klein. Another part of the group was back at the retreat preparing the chow!

Sderot, a city of 20,000 in southern Israel is hit by up to 50 rockets a day from Hamas terrorists in Gaza. With a gift of $10,000 from Maoz, a group from Tiferet Yeshua is cooperating with a project Calev Meyers from the Jerusalem Institute of Justice has initiated - to distribute gifts of food for Passover this month to the citizens of Sderot. We will be working alongside a group of believers in Sderot who will be heading up the distribution.

(Left: Calev Meyers)

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Counting the Omer
Our Passover Gift to God
By Ari Sorko-Ram

During the Biblical year we encounter a very unique season called the “Counting of the Omer.” This season falls between the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost).

The Lord commanded the children of Israel to count the Omer for fifty days starting from Passover. On the fiftieth day they were to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost).

An Omer is a sheave. Counting the Omer is a very important principle and commandment in the Biblical calendar. Counting the Omer required fifty days of obedience. For fifty days the children of Israel were commanded by the Lord to do something. They were to do it every year. Obeying this law requires the longest continuous observance of any commandment in the Bible so we should take note of it. As I see it - if the Lord reminds us to do something every year for fifty days, there is surely something in this commandment very important for us to learn and experience.

It’s the season

The yearly counting of the Omer starts at Passover. The Passover is celebrated in the month of Nisan (March-April), the beginning of all months - the first Biblical month in the spring of the year. You might wonder why it is the first month - unlike January of the Gregorian calendar and September of the Orthodox Jewish calendar. The Bible calls Nisan the first month because it signifies the beginning of life as a free people. It was the month Israel gained her freedom and salvation out of Egypt physically.

Passover, when instituted, also foreshadowed the day when the Messiah would give His life on the cross and sacrifice Himself as the Passover Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. For the New Covenant believer, Nisan is the month when deliverance from spiritual Egypt was offered to” whosoever will.”

Becoming a free person is the beginning of everything. Until we are free, we aren’t able to fulfill our destiny. So, every year the Lord reminds us through His Word of this important day when we’re to begin counting fifty days. At the end of this period we celebrate Shavuot, also known as Pentecost (meaning fifty) or the Feast of Weeks. It is at this time when we begin to prepare for the harvest, having brought forth the first fruits and having dedicated them to the Lord.

It’s about Counting

So what do we do during these fifty days of Omer? The Lord commands us to count. The Omer is a measure of wheat or barley, and according to tradition the farmers would go out into the field on the first day after Passover and tag the visible buds - the first fruit of the field. It is important to know that I’m not talking about ten percent of the buds - what we call a tithe, but rather every single bud they spotted that first day after Passover in their fields.

Then for the next fifty days they counted. And it didn’t just mean one, two, three, four, five… It meant going out to the field every day, watering these first buds, pulling the weeds around them, tending them carefully, making sure that in fifty days these buds would grow into ripe fruit or
grains - the first fruits. Then the farmers would gather all of these marked buds and bring them to the Temple of the Lord - to present them as an offering unto the Lord at the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). God promised that if we brought these first fruits to Him as He said - He would then bless us with a bountiful harvest.

You may wonder where I am going with all this. Let’s look at some Scriptures - so that we can begin to understand the whole picture.

Leviticus 23:15-16
And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.

Exodus 23:19
The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. [This is refering to those same buds that were carefully identified and tended.] You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

This commandment is written three times in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) - twice relating to how to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot and one declaring this as an unholy practice.

The English language is not as clear as the Hebrew in this Scripture. The actual word in this Scripture is not “chalav,” the Hebrew word for milk, but “chalev” - that is, the fat that surrounds the vital organs. If you read some of the studies of the sacrificial system in the book of Leviticus, you will find out that this fat belongs to the Lord. (Leviticus 3:16,17; Exodus 29:13) It is to be burned on the altar.

At the time when the Lord gave the Law to the children of Israel, pagans in the land would actually take a young kid goat and boil it in the fat that was around the vital organs of its mother. They would then eat it, believing that they would be more fertile and multiply as a result. No need to say - it was a pagan idolatrous practice.

So God commanded us not to keep these pagan practices. Instead we’re commanded to bring our first fruits to Him. In other words, we are to invest our efforts into what God has given us. We are to safeguard His gifts, making sure they produce fruit which we then dedicate to Him and present them before Him. Then He will multiply them and bring forth a harvest.

Where am I as an individual in this process?

Let’s bring this down to a personal level. I think that if we can understand it personally, we can then understand it corporately and nationally. Every physical example has a spiritual and personal significance for our lives - how we plant, how we sow and how we harvest.

Psalm 139, verses 13-14 are some of the most encouraging verses in the entire Bible, because they tell me that I am not a mistake. None of us or any other human being on earth throughout history was born by accident. As humans we, of course, make mistakes in relationships, not always walking in Godly order. Sometimes children were not planned, but your birth was never a mistake.

In verses 13 and 14 King David is speaking to the Lord about this truth:

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Let me paraphrase it in accordance with the language of today. What David basically says is,

“Lord, you met me in my mother’s womb, and you did an awesome job! You didn’t make a ‘jalopy,’ you made a ‘Mercedes Benz,’ a capable creation. So now I have great confidence
that I have a purpose and a destiny. But you didn’t stop there. You have imparted to me all the gifts that I need to fulfill my destiny. Furthermore, no one can take these gifts from me nor keep me from fulfilling my destiny that You gave to me except me.”

In verse 15 David continues,

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

What it says is - your birth is between you and the Lord. This is monumental! God the Father has met each one of us personally in our mother’s womb. What God essentially says is, “I’m dealing with you personally and secretly. It is between you and Me.”

Still, more is to come in verse 16:

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written…

God recorded it all in a book so that heaven and earth would not forget, and that the devil would also know. Every detail about you is recorded in this book - His book. All of your giftings, your talent - everything you have going for you. It is there, before you had problems and failures, before there were mistakes, before you were sick or whatever has happened to you. Your destiny has already been prepared and set before you by God Himself and you can attain it. So be encouraged!

The second part of verse 16 says,

…The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

Here is the dynamic situation. The Lord says, “I did this before you were born. I’ve already given you all the first fruit that you need - every talent.”

And then, from the day you were born God gives you a reminder every year, saying, “In the first month, on Passover, I want you to remember something - the great salvation I have given you.” And immediately after we remember our salvation and celebrate it, the very first day after Passover, God says, “Start counting your Omer. Tag every bud.”

What is a bud on a personal level? It is a gift that God has given you that has not yet developed. All the gifts that you receive from God are like the little buds. You have to take care of every gift and you have to nurture them to maturity. These gifts are like seeds that the Lord has planted in you, but it is your responsibility to tend to them, develop them, water them and pull weeds around them so they can grow.

It’s about character

What are the weeds in our life? Nothing will hinder the gifts God has given us more than a bad character or a bad attitude. Every year the Lord gives us fifty days to focus and work on these things. Of course, we want to be growing every day of our lives, but God puts an emphasis on developing our lives these fifty days a year. One of the ways to pull out the weeds of our character is to develop integrity in the smallest details of our lives and to study and focus on the fruit of the Spirit. If you will spend fifty days in the beginning of the Biblical year to renew development of your character, you will probably do well the rest of the year and see a harvest.

Jack Hayford, a well known pastor, when teaching on leadership, says, “When I look for somebody to work with or for me, I look for three things. The first is integrity. The second is integrity, and the third is integrity.”

We need to develop integrity; there are so many areas in our lives that require integrity so that the plans and purposes of God can work in our life. Then we need to water this virtue with prayer and develop it in practice with every test and opportunity that God allows to come our way.

Lord of the harvest

Taking care of the buds is just the first step. The Lord says that after the fifty days we are to collect all these gifts together with the effort we have put into them and dedicate them to Him. In return, if we do this every year, God promises us a harvest. All we have to do is what He tells us to do and invest what He has already given to us and we will be fruitful.

Our God, the Lord, is the Lord of the harvest. But who is the lord of the first fruits? You are! What you do with your first fruits will determine what God does with the harvest in your life. If you ignore your first fruit, God will ignore your harvest. You and I can influence God’s harvest in our lives. God will not meet our needs merely according to our needs. He will meet our needs according to His Word.

Bring something!

Remember the principle: the Lord is the Lord of the harvest, but you are lord of your first fruits. The Lord is the Lord of the harvest, but you determine what God will do with the harvest.

Deuteronomy 16:16

Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LOR D your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover], at the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost], and at the Feast of Tabernacles [Succoth]; and they shall not appear before the LOR D empty-handed.

The Lord specifically says that we need to have something in our hands to present before the Lord in order for His purposes to take root and blossom in our lives.

Verse 17 continues:

Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LOR D your God which He has given you.

Where did the Lord give you this blessing? In the womb. God is not asking you to bring something you don’t have. You don’t have to give what somebody else has. It is not even about how much you give. It is about what you give, relative to what God has given you.

Grateful heart and more

What can I possibly give to God that He would want? First and foremost I offer Him gratitude for my salvation. A heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving is my first offering of sacrifice.

Every time I come to the House of the Lord to worship I experience my own “Passover” all over again. And what I bring before the Lord is the awe I feel when I think about how great my God is! How unfathomable is His love. Before I even knew Him, He dealt with my sin.

But this is not all. At least once a year I need to come before the Lord with the first fruits in my life.

The Lord gives me a period of fifty days during which I am to concentrate on what He has given me in order to realize His purpose for my life. I am to develop His gifts and dedicate them to Him. Until I dedicate what I have to God, He can’t do much with them. But as soon as I give Him my gifts and talents, the harvest begins. It’s not by power, nor by might, but by the Lord’s Spirit.

Then, when the last holiday of the yearly cycle - Succoth - the Feast of Tabernacles arrives in the fall, I will celebrate the harvest. But how can I have a harvest if I don’t bring my first fruits to the Lord? And obviously I can’t properly develop my first fruits if I am not walking in God’s free gift of salvation.

So, if you are walking in salvation, if you are grateful, if you invest your labor in your first fruits and if you dedicate them to the Lord, you will have a harvest.

You don’t have to be a theologian to be a good evangelist. You don’t have to be an agricultural
genius to be a good farmer. To harvest souls - just as a farmer harvests his crops - you need a basic understanding of the principles of the Kingdom, one of which is - if you do what God
asks, He will do what He promised. We give him our first fruits as a sign of our obedience - a gift that surely pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father. So on the first day after Passover, let’s start counting our own special and unique sheaves - our talents, gifts and skills - and watch the harvest come!

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A Passover Gift to Israeli Believers from Maoz Partners

 

 

 

April 2008

 

Dear Maoz Partner,

Greetings this Passover Season!

This year we are having our congregational Passover Seder at the new hotel facility of Yacov Damcani, an evangelist of many years in Tel Aviv and a member of Congregation Tiferet Yeshua.

He has built a hotel through donations received from Europe - a facility that will house groups of
Christians who come for a few weeks under a special service program. First, they will study the Bible with emphasis on God’s plan for Israel’s salvation, and then, with Yacov leading, they will witness on the streets of Israel’s cities and villages.

Celebrating Passover with Yacov is one of the many ways we and our congregation are connecting throughout the country with different Israeli Messianic groups. And we’re seeing more avenues of cooperation everywhere we turn.

Last week we were approached by Japanese businessmen who are ready to underwrite the cost of translating some outstanding commentaries on the New Testament written by a well-known Israeli Messianic teacher. We are now preparing to work on this project.

And on our trip to Burkina Faso, West Africa, there was tremendous fruit when we, together with Pastor Tony Sperandao and his eldership from nearby Ma’ayan Congregation cooperated in a joint venture to Burkina Faso, holding Israel conferences and supporting children who attend Christian schools under the direction of African Pastor Ram Zango.

All that is to say: your giving to Maoz is reaching much farther than we can reach on our own. There is power in unity. That is why the Lord prayed, “That they all may be one…that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me…” John 17:21-23

Today, Israel does not yet know that the God of Israel has sent Yeshua to bring salvation to this land. But our unity in action is powerful to break down the mammoth spiritual strongholds that exist in this nation.

Your gifts are reaching across this nation. Your continual, regular contributions bring us the opportunity to be effective in many different areas of ministry and enable you to be an effective vessel to bring the Gospel to Israel.

Over the last six months the U.S. dollar has fallen almost 25% on the international market. This means that for every dollar that we receive from our U.S. partners we obtain 25% less in Israeli shekels. Nevertheless, the Lord has blessed us in such a way that He is stretching our shekels and we are continuing and even expanding our outreach as we participate with other ministries. Who but the Lord could do that?

In the midst of turbulent economic difficulties, may the Lord cause His face to shine on you, and remember your deeds of love and mercy to the people of Israel.

          For Zion’s sake,

A&S signature


          Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram

P.S. As our gift to you for your donation of any amount this month, I offer you my new book, “To the Jew First,” which is just off the press. My dear friend and co-laborer, Ray Wilkerson, Maoz’ VP for Ministry Partnership, kept urging me to get this sermon into a booklet form because we believe the information will give you greater understanding of why God said to reach the Jewish people first!

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