Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation

Go Home

February 2013

Have You Joined the Kingdom of Heaven?

By GARY ALLEY

In the past century of Western Christianity, it has been quite common to use the labels, “saved,” “believer,” or “born again.”  While salvation, belief, and spiritual rebirth are significant in the New Testament, they were not necessarily how Jesus would most typically preach his message.  We have no examples of Jesus leading people in the “sinner’s prayer”, but we do see him leading them into the kingdom of heaven.

It is good to remember that when Jesus began his ministry, his first words were “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here (Mt 4:17).”  This idea of a kingdom—“kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God”—appears more than 65 times in the words of Jesus.   It is found throughout the life of Jesus within his miracles, parables, and teachings.  Even after his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days further instructing his disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).  Without doubt, “the kingdom” was Jesus’ most emphasized subject. 

But what was the kingdom of heaven?  While there are some allusions within Jesus’ words to a future, coming kingdom, the definitive meaning and impact of his kingdom is immediate (Mt 3:2; Mk 1:15).  With Jesus’ ministry the kingdom of heaven had arrived (Lk 10:11), is growing (Mt 13:33), and is overcoming the stronghold of Satan—sickness and disease (Mt 12:25-29).  The citizens of the kingdom of heaven are the poor, the humble, the broken, and the repentant (Mt 5:3; 18:1-4; 21:31).  Most emphatically, the kingdom’s miraculous healings of the sick and disabled are prophetic signs of God’s power to change lives (Lk 11:20; Mt 4:23; Lk 8:1; Mt 10:7).

This is the “good news” of the kingdom.  When Jesus sent out his disciples proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is here, he gave them power and authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons (Mt 10:5-8; Lk 9:1-2).  The good news of the kingdom is the explosion of God’s goodness and mercy that penetrates people’s hurting lives. 

But God needs us to extend his loving reign.  When we decide to follow Jesus as master and Lord, we join the kingdom of heaven and its obligations of discipleship.  We are drawn to share our lives with the sinner, the sad, the cynic, and the insolvent.  We realize that we are no better than those we are trying to help, but since we have chosen to enter the kingdom of heaven, God promises the Holy Spirit to transform us, strengthen us, and encourage us.

Joseph Frankovic wrote,

The Bible indicates that God remains active among two groups of people: (1) among those who have made him king, and (2) among the poor, the captive, the infirm, and the downtrodden.  A principal objective of the first group is to emulate God, and to emulate our heavenly Father means extending a hand of friendship, assistance, redemption, and love to the second group.  This constitutes the major thrust of the work of the kingdom of heaven.  To those who dedicate themselves to his redemptive agenda and commit to mending a hurting world, God gives his Holy Spirit for empowerment and the ongoing expansion of his kingdom (cf. Lk 4:18-19, Acts 2:38 and 5:32).[1]

Even though Jesus never offered to lead someone in a prayer of salvation, the kingdom of heaven that he preached characterized much of what encompasses the “sinner’s prayer”—repenting of sins, humbly confessing brokenness, choosing now to obey God’s commands, and becoming a disciple of Jesus.  Even more, let us not forget that the kingdom of heaven is about God using us to change and mend our world—especially among the poor, the defenseless, the sick, and the abused—through prayer, healing, and action.


[1] Frankovic, Joseph.  The Kingdom of Heaven.  Jerusalem Bible Class Series.  (Tulsa: HaKesher, Inc, 1998), 35-36.

 

Charity Report:Your Gifts Helped these Individuals, Families, and Ministries during December 2012 and January 2013

The Amsalem family lost their son, Itzik (25), to a Gaza missle that struck their home in Israel during November’s Operation Pillar of Defense.  JCF contributed $500 to the Amsalems.

Beit El is a Messianic Jewish Ethiopian Congregation in Jerusalem with more than 100 members.  Support went to:

Benard, a sick and unemployed man

Trisha, a mother of two who struggles to pay rent

Terry and Mary, with their several children, two of whom are mentally handicapped

Gershom, a young man who just got married

Infant Support, helping young families with diapers, wet wipes, and baby formula

Theresa and Mona are two sisters who live in Bethlehem.  Theresa, a freshman in college, is suffering the effects of a paralyzed arm due to a badly administered injection six months ago.  A recent visit to a specialist has given a ray of hope that Tamara could regain use of her arm within six months.  Please pray that she will regain the use of her arm sooner than expected.  JCF helped cover part of Theresa’s tuition to the Bethlehem University.  Mona is a high school senior and studying hard for her final exams this year.  Pray that she will do well.  There has been much sickness in the family and much of the household work is left to her, yet through it all she has kept a cheerful attitude.

Club for the Blind is an Israeli social service to the blind residents of Tiberias which was dormant before JCF’s involvement. The club has around 30 members and meets three times a week for classes and trips.  This photo is from their Hanukkah party.

House of Light is an Israeli Arab Christian ministry led by Anis and Nawal Barhoum that provides spiritual and social aid to both Jewish and Arab residents. JCF specifically aids House of Light’s prison work, which visits and disciples current and former prisoners. JCF contributed $1000 to HOL’s Christmas Outreach Program to prisoners inside Israeli prisons.  Due to Israeli rules, HOL is only allowed to visit with ethnic Christians, so they were able to minister to Russians, Arabs, and Eritrean refugees.  For more on the plight of Eritrean and other African refugees who attempt crossing the Sinai into Israel, here.

House of Light writes about their prison visits:

It was a very rainy day. Brooks were full, rivers were roaring, and streets flooded. We felt a great joy of having our land watered physically and prayed for it spiritually, especially those who the Lord Jesus had prepared to meet with us that afternoon. Only four of us could join the Christmas visit that day. We had our coats, hats, umbrellas and boots on, to be able to run from the car to the prison’s gate then inside the prison’s premises until we’ve reached the room where inmates from Christian background gathered for the Christmas party—eleven Russian speakers and one Arab.  Anis did his best but wasn’t given the opportunity to go and encourage the fifteen who were late or maybe had not intended to join. It was already the time for counting inmates which they do several times a day, and no one was allowed to wander around.

The meeting started. We sang a couple songs in Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew. Jesus helped the inmates sing. This gave us relief and encouragement.

Anis took the one aside for the Arabic Bible Study and Nicolay ministered to the Russians. The Savior was present in the midst.  After the lesson, they all prayed for salvation and we asked the Lord of Glory, the Christmas Baby, the Redeemer and Savior, to confirm and seal their decision and help lead them into a new life. They gratefully took a Bible, some tracts, and a bag full of snacks and left joyfully to their rooms waving goodbye and making sure we will come again very soon.

--------------

It was raining again, cats and dogs, as King’s Kids youth visited the prison for Eritrean youth. There was no space to bring all the youth together to enjoy the performance and hear the message of salvation with very poor translation.  The police had us in an 11.5 ft x 13 ft room and then started bringing the inmates to us in groups of fifteen. We were told that there were 60 but we met around 45. Almost all of them are Christians. Although even with us explaining, they couldn’t really understand the words of the songs, the music touched their hearts. Some cried. We cried with them. They are so lonely, missing their families and worried about their own future. It all started because they thought could come to Israel, find jobs, and then send money to their families who are suffering from poverty and civil war.

At the next prison, more prisoners than ever were waiting for us. It was worth it to know how privileged and loved they felt. Many of the 120 we met during the two days’ visits accepted Jesus into their hearts. 

--------------------

Some Testimonies of Prisoners:

I’m S, a 25 year old Eritrean, who came to Israel looking for a better life. I found a new society, all different and strange but no work and I became a nowhere man.  And now, I am in prison, struggling with my thoughts and disappointments, feeling bad because of my wrong behavior that has led me to this dark place.

Yet, last night I felt a need for a greater power. Something that is not from this world. That’s when I shouted to the Lord from the depth of my heart and he spoke clearly: “ weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Ps 30:5)”.

I woke up this morning, fresh and enthusiastic, changing my dirty old clothes, feeling this is how I need to start anew. An hour later, I was moved from the old section in Be’er Sheva’s prison to a better section.  Around noon I was visited by a group of believers from the House of Light who led me to the Lord after teaching me about repentance and redemption by the blood of the lamb. I couldn’t hold back my tears of joy on receiving a Bible in my own Tigrinya language to read and grow in grace and in relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ who has forgiven all my sins. He was the One who heard my true cry and came from heaven to my dungeon to rescue me and brighten my life. Praise HIM.

I’m O, a 28 year old. I’m already in prison for the 9th time because of drugs and robberies. I learned this way of life from my family.  My family is very poor and broken without even beds to sleep on or food to eat. I am also rejected by all those who know me. Today, though, is a new day in my life and because the light has shone inside my heart when I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart. I believe, all my sins have been washed away by the blood of the lamb. Yet I need support, mainly in prayers, that I can stick to my word and the promise that I gave to my Lord. I will be released in two months. Where can I go?  Who will accept me?  Who will disciple me? Who can trust me and take me to his home and give me a job?

Anis from House of Light has promised to follow up with O. Please pray for Anis to have the strength and patience from the Lord to do that.


News: Julie and Josh Korn Adopting Baby Leon*

Julie, daughter of Chuck and Liz Kopp, and her husband, Josh Korn, are serving in Niamey, Niger where they are working for Cure International.  Josh is a chaplain and Julie is an art therapist at the Niamey Cure Hospital.  This past December, they began the adoption process for a beautiful infant boy orphaned soon after birth.  Read more about Baby Leon here.

 

Biblical Hebrew Summer Courses

Come study the Language of the Bible in the Land of the Bible!  This summer, Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center will host six weeks of introductory Biblical Hebrew at Kibbutz Tzuba in the beautiful Judean Hills of Israel. 

Course Dates: 

Beginning Biblical Hebrew (4 weeks):
“Jonah”, May 19- June 14, 2013

Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (2 weeks):
“Genesis: In the Beginning”, June 16-28, 2013

For more information on the Summer Hebrew session in Israel, click here.

Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center will also be offering Biblical Language Fluency Workshops in Fresno, California this July.  These workshops run “immersion” style with the entire day taking place in Koine Greek or Biblical Hebrew.  Both full group sessions and small groups led by a team of facilitators provide maximum personal attention and practice. 

Workshop Dates:

Biblical Hebrew Fluency Workshop (July 9-18, 2013) 

Koine Greek Fluency Workshop (July 23-Aug 1, 2013) 

For more information on the Biblical Language Fluency Workshops in Fresno, click here.

 

Did You Know?

New Exhibit on King Herod at the Israel Museum, “The Final Journey of King Herod the Great.”  The exhibit will run from February 12 through the fall. More.

Oil in Israel’s Future?  It is estimated that Israel has nearly 250 billion barrels of untapped oil shale reserves. More.

Israel and Iran: A love story?  When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians ... we [heart] you.”  More.

 

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

Baby Leon Adoption Process—Pray for a clear and straightfoward way towards Julie and Josh Korn's adoption of Baby Leon.  

New Israeli Government—Israel held elections this past month.  Currently, these newly elected officials are organizing the new government.

Struggling Families—While Israel continues to prosper overall, its rate of poverty ironically grows.  Rent prices which particularly affect the poor have reached all time highs.  For more on the economic situation, here and here.

SyriaMore than 60,000 people have died and nearly 500,000 refugees have fled the country during the two year civil war.

Eritrean Prisoners—Pray for prisoners S and O and others like them who are trying to follow the Lord through the ministry of House of Light.

Good News in the Middle East

 

  • New Exhibit on King Herod at the Israel Museum, “The Final Journey of King Herod the Great.”  The exhibit will run from February 12 through the fall. http://www.timesofisrael.com/herod-gets-his-15-minutes/
  • Oil in Israel’s Future?  It is estimated that Israel has nearly 250 billion barrels of untapped oil shale reserves.  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/31/why-israel-will-rule-new-middle-east/
  • Israel and Iran: A love story?  When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians ... we [heart] you.”  http://www.ted.com/talks/israel_and_iran_a_love_story.html

Good News in the Middle East

 

  • New Exhibit on King Herod at the Israel Museum, “The Final Journey of King Herod the Great.”  The exhibit will run from February 12 through the fall. http://www.timesofisrael.com/herod-gets-his-15-minutes/
  • Oil in Israel’s Future?  It is estimated that Israel has nearly 250 billion barrels of untapped oil shale reserves.  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/31/why-israel-will-rule-new-middle-east/
  • Israel and Iran: A love story?  When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians ... we [heart] you.”  http://www.ted.com/talks/israel_and_iran_a_love_story.html