“We live in a world with little time for faith” by Julia Fisher
“The recent remembrance of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 has reminded us, as if we needed reminding, of the fragility of human life and what a dangerous place the world has become. Along with our uncertain economic situation, especially surrounding Europe and the future of the Euro, it is no wonder many people are feeling unsure about their financial security especially as they look ahead to their old age.
The other day whilst listening to the radio I heard a BBC correspondent say, “We live in a world with little time for faith.” I found myself agreeing with him and started to wonder where, at such times of fear and uncertainty, people are turning to for help and reassurance.
Recently whilst in Israel gathering interviews for The Olive Tree (1) radio series, I met with a Messianic Jewish pastor called Ofer Amitai. Ofer is also one of the leaders of The Israel Prayer Centre in Jerusalem (2). He shared his concern about Christians in the UK who think they are people of faith with an accurate understanding of the Scriptures. With the recent explosion of unrest in the Middle East keeping the spotlight firmly on Israel he was concerned about how many Christians have a distorted Biblical view about Israel. He is concerned that too many of us are having our opinions about international news stories influenced by biased secular reporting and, as a result, we are confused because we don’t have moral or spiritual clarity on the important issues of the day. He went on to explain that if our praying ceases to be based on the Word of God, we pray without conviction and our praying can therefore become a vain effort to bring our own sense of balance into what we think we see. Thereby, he added, we are unwittingly trying to manipulate God into seeing things from our point of view.
So this begs the question, if our prayers are influenced by our feelings and opinions rather than praying according to what is on God’s agenda as found in the Word of God, how different are we to those who have little time for faith?
I asked Ofer to explain what he understands God’s passion and agenda is at this time in order to help Christians here in the UK pray accordingly. The following is an extract from that interview ….
“To answer your question in a nutshell I have to go back and ask ‘What has been God’s purpose from the beginning?’ If I read from Genesis to Revelation, I believe God’s purpose has always been to redeem mankind from death and sin. The Bible makes it clear how God chose a man – Abraham – and supernaturally made him into a nation. Israel is the nation chosen by God to work those purposes out.
But Israel failed. However, the book of Romans tells us clearly, that God would use Israel’s failure to bring us to the Messiah. The story is that God made a new covenant through the blood of Messiah with Israel. God said that in the last days He would resurrect the nation and He would restore her to Himself and then fulfil the rest of his agenda which is very clear both in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation and in the Prophets.
Now the centre of His workings and agenda is on this nation of Israel. It is not clear to people because we are not a holy nation serving the Lord, but it will be clear. So whilst God’s passion is for all mankind to be saved, at the same time He has not forgotten His Word to bring His people back to Himself. If God has been faithful to His plan thus far, surely He will be faithful to carry out the rest of it.”
Ofer has lived in Israel for many years and has seen a great deal happen there. So I asked him to look to the future and describe what he is expecting to happen in the next few years.
“Let me tell you what I’m praying for,” came the reply. “One of the things that is burning in the heart of God is to be found in Zechariah 12 ‘… they shall see me whom they have pierced.’ There the prophet Zechariah is speaking in the first person – God is taking away the human veil to speak personally. It is like the story of Joseph weeping in the back room waiting to reveal himself to his own brothers.
If I look at the political situation I can’t see an end to it. If I look to the prospect of wars it scares me to think how much more bloodshed there is to come. But ultimately I have to hang on to something and I want to believe that it is in God’s agenda that at some point He will intervene and disrupt human history. I’m not talking about the second coming. But without getting bogged down in all the various interpretations surrounding that event, I believe God’s heart is to reveal Himself to His people because the Scriptures clearly speak of Him gathering us into the land and then revealing Himself to us. How? I don’t know. I just want it to happen! That’s what we are praying for.”
During the past year, whilst visiting Israel and meeting with believers there, both Jewish and Arab, I have been amazed at some of the stories I’ve been hearing about former Muslims living in the West Bank who have become Christians and immediately embraced the God of Israel and the Jewish people! So surprised was I to hear such stories that I have now spoken to a number of evangelical Arab Christians / evangelists who are working amongst the Muslim population living in the West Bank to check the facts. Each one has told me that they are personally in touch with several Muslim background believers (MBBs) for whom this is true. When I ask how this can be, they reply that when these people read the Bible they realise it is all about the Jewish people and Israel and how the God of Israel is working out His plan of salvation for the nations through them!
And perhaps what is most amazing is to hear that these MBBs are praying for the salvation of Israel and they see themselves as being the ones who can witness to their Jewish brethren and make them ‘jealous’ to know their Messiah, Jesus.
When I tell these stories to Christians in the West, they go very quiet. These stories are so unlikely that only God could bring this change of heart about. But this is what is happening in Israel and the wider Middle East today because they live in world where people have more time for faith and increasingly they are understanding the purposes of God in these days and are praying along these lines.
It is these people that The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund seeks to help and support – often they have great needs and they are living amongst people who need help and whom they are trying to help; but they cannot do this alone. We are a small charity working to encourage and help believers, both Jewish believers and Arab / Palestinian Christians. If you would like to receive our free bi-monthly newsletter or send a donation please either visit our web site www.olivetreefund.org or write to me, Julia Fisher at The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund, PO Box 850, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 9GA, UK.
- The Olive Tree radio programme can be heard every Sunday afternoon at 16.45 on Premier Christian Radio London 1305, 1332, 1413 MW, National DAB, Sky Digital 0123, Freeview 725
- Israel Prayer Centre, Jerusalem … to receive regular prayer updates email firstname.lastname@example.org