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February 2016

The Way of Wisdom


“There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way that leads to death (Pr 14:12; 16:25).”

Easy answers are cheap and abundant.  They populate the web like gaudy road signs hocking their wares.  Likewise, everyone has an opinion, and with the dawn of social media we get to hear them daily.  The “opinion smog” that pollutes our emails and browsers makes it taxing to filter the internet air.

Wisdom, on the other hand, is expensive and rare.  It takes time and research to crystallize an intelligent thought and a prudent response. Often, it is not simple and quick but is configured from experience, patience, and humility.  In contrast to the clogged, horn-honking highway traffic, wisdom’s way can be slower, bumpier, and lonelier.  Even so, a word of wisdom is worth more than an opus of opinion.  

This idea of “two ways” was known in other ancient literature, but the biblical tradition is its most famous source.  The Didache, an early Christian document from the first century which served as a sort of discipleship manual for new believers, begins its text by emphasizing the disparity between the two ways: 

“There are two ways: one of life and one of death!
And there is a great difference between the two ways (Didache 1:1).”

The Didache builds its “way of life” on Jesus’ affirmation of the two greatest commandments in first century Jewish practice—to love God and neighbor.[1]  Jesus’ daily conduct was founded upon these two biblical principles—“you will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”[2] and “you will love your neighbor as yourself.”[3]  Jesus emphasized that this way to life was not easy or crowded. 

“In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.  Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt 7:12-14).”

Just like the two great commandments, so too, the “way of life” originates in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  There the “way of life” is a choice one makes, a path one takes of loving God by obeying His commandments. 

“Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other.  What I am commanding you today is to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live…(Dt 30:15-16a).”

Ultimately, this “way of life” was equated in the Hebrew Bible with the “way of wisdom.” 

I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths.  When you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; protect it, because it is your life.  Do not enter the path of the wicked or walk in the way of those who are evil (Pr 4:12-14)."

The Hebrew word here for “instruction” is musar (מוסר ) which is “discipline” or “correction” that a parent or a teacher gives to a child or student.  It is often used in connection with God’s punishment of disobedience.[4]  Musar is a “school of hard knocks” where one learns through his or her attempts and failures.  This sometimes painful education hones ability and acumen while procuring hard-earned knowledge, like precious pearls fashioned from life’s stinging sands.  This type of unhurried, step-by-step learning creates space for a humble self-awareness. 

True wisdom understands how little one knows, and yet, instead of giving up and proclaiming the pursuit of knowledge as pointless, the root of wisdom spurs one on to never stop learning.  One of the greatest blights in today’s instant gratification environment is the widespread phenomena of self-acclaimed expertise.  There is a rat race for prestige and recognition among peers, laity, or friends which is not tested by truth and peppered with humility.  In lieu of wisdom, false pride can prowl the halls of the academy, pontificate from the pulpits of churches, and masquerade on our social “status updates.”

Wisdom is not a sledgehammer for our righteous vindication.  Instead, it is a master’s tool that can craft exquisite lines and alluring angles which culminate in a work of art conceived by attentive forethought and focused vision.  Wisdom understands that every circumstance is uniquely set apart and so, wisdom is gentle and careful.

Ray van Leeuwen emphasizes this—“Wisdom behavior is always ‘fitting’ or appropriate to the concrete, particular circumstances. Part of the folly of Job’s ‘friends’ is that they know the general ‘rules’ of theological wisdom, without recognizing that they do not apply to Job’s particular, indeed unique, case. It is possible to speak the truth in ways that are false.[5]

As followers of Jesus, this is the greatest danger in our pursuit of the “way of life” or the “way of wisdom”.  Scripture constantly warns us that we cannot be wise in our own eyes or lean on our own understanding.  Yes, we should point others to the “right way” but how we do that matters more than we realize.  We should remember that love of others is part of this narrow difficult way of wisdom.  It is hard to love others, especially those with whom we disagree.  Yet, how we speak the truth becomes part of the truth we share.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical (Jam 3:13-17).”

[1] Didache 1:2; Mk 12:29-34; Lk 10:25-28; m.Tam 5:1; Testament of Dan 5:3; Testament of Issachar 5:2; Philo Special Law 2.63.

[2] Dt 6:5

[3] Lev 19:18

[4] The Greek word for “discipline” or “correction” in the Septuagint and the New Testament is paideia (παιδεία).  See how Hebrews 12:5-11 develops Proverbs 3:11-12’s idea of God’s fatherly discipline for His children.

[5] Ray van Leeuwen. “Wisdom Literature” in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, pg 849. 

Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Families during January 2016

Shay is an Israeli divorcee who is being evicted out of her deceased mother’s house due to inheritance issues. JCF is helping her with rent for another apartment ($527).

Jessica is a 37 year old Israeli mother with a three year old child. Her husband is in jail for being abusive and she lives from disability payments.  JCF is helping cover one month's rent for Jessica and her daughter ($572).

Kari is an Israeli single mother who has a daughter in prison, while her second daughter passed away a year ago. She has much debt, so JCF is contributing to her electric bill ($181).

Harriet is a Christian Arab who is studying hotel management.  Soon after getting married last year both her and her husband lost their jobs. JCF is helping with her tuition as she changes careers ($500).

News in Israel and the Middle East

  • Ehud Olmert, will be the first former Israeli Prime Minister to serve time in prison, as he begins his punishment for his part in the Holy Land real estate scandal that has dragged on over the past 20 years. More, here.
  • ISIS in the Lands of the Bible.  The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem will be offering a special seminar on Feb 26th on ISIS's destruction of world heritage sites throughout the Middle East.  More here.
  • As the Syrian War rages on, now with Russia fighting alongside the Syrian government forces, a tentative ceasefire is being called for in the coming week."Five years of conflict have killed more than a quarter-million people, created Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II and allowed the Islamic State to carve out its own territory across parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Overall, the United Nations says almost half a million people are besieged in Syria."  More, here.

JCF News: Chuck Kopp Stepping Down as Senior Pastor of Narkis St. Congregation

Dear Jerusalem Cornerstone friends,

After many months of praying and seeking the Lord, I have come to the decision, together with my family and the Narkis Leadership Team, to allow younger leaders to take the reins from me and to start a new chapter.

No one has asked me to resign or put pressure on me to do so. I am doing this of my own volition and I ask you to prayerfully support this development in the days and weeks to come.

I made the announcement public during the Shabbat service of Feb 6, 2016 that we are entering a season of leadership transition, ultimately so that I will be able to step down as Senior Pastor. Liz will remain involved on the leadership team serving in the music ministry and the benevolence outreach and I will continue to be part of the congregation as a father figure, because I firmly believe in the vision of Narkis Street Congregation.

We are deeply grateful to Sarah Lanier who has many years of bountiful worldwide experience and a wealth of knowledge in helping assist in leadership transitioning and have invited her in to help us with this process.

The Leadership Team is committed to ensuring that the congregation continues with the same DNA that has been handed down to us.  That DNA loves God's Word, appreciates the scholarship amongst us, and honors and is willing to be used by the Holy Spirit in multiple ways.

Liz and I have been given the opportunity to visit our daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Josh, and grandson Leon in Niger followed by a stop in Italy to visit our daughter and son-in-law, Sharona and Matt, and grandchildren, Silas, Ronan, and Chiara.  We will be returning to Israel on March 4th.

The leadership team will continue this transition process while we are gone, seeking the Lord for just what the new leadership of the church will look like. I just say, that in the several times our team has met to discuss this, the spirit of unity among us is wonderful.  We know the Lord has His plan for the future of Narkis St. Congregation, and that we will always be a place where He is the Shepherd. 

I will continue to remain committed to my duties to Cornerstone as well as to the other responsibilities that I have serving the believing community as chairman of the Evangelical Alliance Israel and through my growing involvement with government officials on improving relations with Christians in the land via the Christian Government Relations Forum spearheaded by Dr. Mordechai Zaken, Head of Minority Affairs at the Ministry of Public Security.

Many blessings,



Come See the Land of the Bible in 2016 with JCF Biblical Study Tours 

It’s not too late to join a special JCF tour this Novermber 7-22, 2016  when Yoni Gerrish leads "Israel: Through the Wilderness to Restoration" with Dr. Larry Ehrlich  For more information, here.  You can also call inside the United States (920)-267-5330 for more information.


Come Learn Biblical Hebrew in Jerusalem this Summer

The Biblical Language Center (BLC) will be offering a four week session (July 3-29, 2016) for those who want to learn to read their Bible in its original language, Hebrew.  The class is designed specifically for students with little or no background in Biblical Hebrew.  BLC's classroom is a fun and interactive environment with instruction and activities all conducted in Hebrew.  For more information, here.

Prayer Requests

  • The Leadership Transition at Narkis St. Congregation

  • Peace and Security in Israel and the West Bank

  • Iraqi and Syrian refugees who are seeking safety and refuge
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.