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February 2012

The Meaning of Rain

By Gary Alley

It is wintertime in Israel, which means it is raining.  In fact, this past month of January, 2012 saw the highest number of rainy days in one month on record since the founding of the modern state of Israel.  During this time of the year, the days are typically short on light because of cloud cover, consistently cold because of uninsulated stone buildings, and undeniably damp because of intermittent drizzle.  It is a stark contrast to the stereotypical thought of a hot, dry Israel.

While true, Israel is a semi-arid climate, its year, though, revolves around two significant seasons— the dry summer and the wet winter.  Without the right combination of those two distinct weather patterns, Israel’s agriculture would fail.

Most will recall Jesus’ familiar words, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt 5:45).”  Some have wrongly interpreted this teaching by explaining that God sends both good (the sunshine), and bad (the rain), upon everyone.  But anyone familiar with the biblical text will understand the synonymous parallelism of the summer’s sunshine and the winter’s rain as God’s seasonal blessing for healthy produce.  Therefore, both the sun and rain are good agricultural gifts. 

In contrast to Lev 26:3-4’s conditional statement, “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit,” Jesus provocatively proclaims that God’s goodness is extended everyday to everyone, no matter their ethical standing (Mt 5:45).  Here, Jesus develops more fully Ecclesiastes’ question of why the wicked can presently thrive (Ecc 7:15).  Jesus explains that with equal amounts of rain and sunshine, God allows both the wicked and the righteous to grow up together and flower in this world.   Yet, in the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus defines this season of God’s generosity as limited; in the world to come, God will make a final decision, separating the good seed from the bad weeds (Mt 13:24-30).

As we watch the bountiful rain come down, it’s worthwhile for us to be reminded of God’s overflowing, available grace.  Just like the rain, His mercy is not a reward for our righteous actions, but a common denominator for all of humanity.  It might be hard to understand why God blesses His enemies with rain, yet we should remember that He is the final judge of everyone’s thoughts and actions.  For that same rain that falls on our enemies falls on us. Therefore, may we be like God, showering graceeven on those whom we might hate (Mt 5:43-48). 


When a Mother is Murdered

By Liz Kopp

Editor’s Note: JCF has continually assisted refugees of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) since the evacuation of Israeli forces from Lebanon in May, 2000.  You might have followed some of the SLA’s personal stories during the last decade through JCF’s charity updates and Christine Sakakibara’s visits.  You may remember as recently as August, 2011, JCF helped a daughter of an SLA family begin her college studies. Tragically, on December 30th, 2011, her father killed her mother.  Liz and Danny Kopp attended the mother’s funeral and helped to bring comfort to their children.

If true religion, as James 1:27 says, is caring for orphans, then eulogizing the young mother, Rosalin, on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Mediterranean was one of religion’s holiest moments.  Unrestrained tears flowed freely, as friends and loved ones gathered in solemn solidarity surrounding Rosalin’s four children, Jessica, George, Jinan, and Joseph, suddenly orphaned in a tragic moment of unimaginable circumstances.

The father, Jean, a former SLA soldier who had served alongside Israeli forces against Hezbollah guerrillas, had been suffering mental distress following the loss of his job due to his battle with cancer.  There had been no history of violence that might have forewarned the unexpected burst of aggression that caused the father to beat the mother to death with a stone.  Thirteen year old Joseph, the youngest of the four children, was the only witness to the tragedy, before escaping from the apartment on that fateful Friday.


Cold, biting rain and piercing winds whipped through the crowd that congregated for the  hour long memorial at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing between Israel and Lebanon.  The stark poignant beauty of the dark cumulus clouds blowing by, above the crashing waves far below, juxtaposed against the relentless unforgiving weather and the heaviness of unspeakable sorrow, created a vision of Dostoyevsky-esque surrealism.  How does one offer comfort to four children huddled over their mother’s blue draped coffin?

A measure of comfort came in the multiple repetitions of the Lord’s prayer, the soulful scriptural dirges softly sung, and the gentle voice of the Maronite priest, warmly calling each child by name.  He wisely petitioned them, in the words of their mother, that when tempted to dwell on the cause of her death, to rather choose to love, and to live their lives loving as she herself had exemplified.

Through your support, JFC will continue to love Rosalin’s children by helping provide for new furniture and appliances in a different apartment not associated with the horrible event.

 

Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Individuals and Families during December 2011 and January 2012

Judy was sent by Israeli social services to help a family with six children all under the age of nine.  Two of the children are part of a special education program. JCF contributed to Judy's implementation of an intensive program to help the parents in working with their children.

Rana is a Christian Arab elementary teacher who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Her husband has a heart condition and has not worked for over 5 years. Most of the salary that Rana makes goes to pay for their teenaged daughter’s schooling.  JCF helped subsidize their rent this month.

Moses is an Ethiopian Messianic believer who is paralyzed, hospitalized, and consequently unemployed.  Erin is also an Ethiopian Messianic believer.   Her mother has passed away and she has nowhere to live.  JCF continues to support the work of the Beit El Ethiopian Messianic Congregation that serves the needs of those, like Moses and Erin, who struggle to make ends meet.

Esther has had a rough past, experiencing physical and emotional neglect throughout her childhood, being sent from one social institution to another. In her teenage years, she was involved with drugs. Despite her rough past, her Sudanese husband and their one-year-old daughter are trying to improve their current situation. She has several debts, some from her past, along with their monthly rent of $600.   Both Esther and her husband are dedicated to their daughter, who is their driving force to change.

 

News: Koine Greek Immersion Workshop
"Jesus in Jerusalem"

Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center's staff recently led a ten day Koine Greek immersion workshop in the Old City of Jerusalem (Dec 28, 2011-Jan 6, 2012).  In total, sixteen facilitators and participants gathered to speak Koine Greek, while reading select New Testament texts associated with Jesus in Jerusalem, and visiting the ancient sites connected with those stories.  For more.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to read the Bible in its original language?  Come study Biblical Hebrew in Israel this summer.  To find out more.

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

Rosalin’s four children: Jessica, George, Jinan, and Joseph, as they cope with the murder of their mother and the imprisonment of their father (see above, When a Mother is Murdered).  Also pray for their refugee situation in Israel, and the struggles that accompany that identity.

Rain in the Region.  May God continue to give His rain in this highly populated land that struggles to maintain a healthy balance of water usage and conservation.

 

During October, Yoni Gerrish is guiding the Foursquare Church’s Global Leadership Training Network during their conference and visit to Israel. These leaders of the Foursquare denomination with more than 8 million members worldwide will be gathering in Israel to pursue strategic opportunities of training and consultation. There is no better place to gain both a local and a global perspective of Scripture than from within the land of the Bible and the Gospel.
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