“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:1-2,14 (NIV)

(The Sea of Galilee - where Jesus walked on top of the water and where Peter's lack of faith caused him to sink)

 

I said I would write a blog about our experience in Israel, and it’s taken me a few weeks to even start this article.  To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.  I knew the list of places we would most likely visit, and I was prepared to soak up as much of those experiences as possible.  I wasn’t prepared, however, for the beauty of the land, the modernization and westernization of the economy, the commitment to thousands of years of tradition and the extremely close proximity to danger in which Jews and Christians live and work every single day. 

 

During my time there, I posted a few pictures and tried to express just a small portion of what we were experiencing each day.  There was one day, however, that I decided to leave out a very poignant and emotional stop on our tour.  Bethlehem.  And not for the reasons you may suspect.  I posted pictures of our tour through the Shepherds Cave and of the chapel erected and dedicated to that spot.  I collect nativities from all around the world and totally enjoy seeing how different cultures create the same scene of a stable, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the animals.  Depending on the country and culture, they can look extremely different.  What better place to get a nativity than in Bethlehem!  I couldn’t wait to pick one out.  Again, what I thought I was prepared for was far from reality.

 

When we arrived at the Bethlehem border, our bus stopped, and we had to pass up our visa’s showing that we were American tourists.  Our Israeli tour guide was not allowed to cross the border because Bethlehem is under Palestinian control, and Israelis are not allowed inside.  A Palestinian Christian tour guide took over for the day. Once inside, we stopped at a Baptist church.  This was on Saturday morning, so no services were being held, but we were told someone would meet us inside.  We all filed in and sat down in the pews.  The pastor welcomed us and began telling us his life’s story: He was born into a Muslim family, the youngest of ten children.  As a young boy, he found an Old Testament and began reading it in secret.  He was fascinated with the stories and began to determine that they were all pointing to someone.  So, he made it his mission to find a New Testament.  He continued reading and came to the realization that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  He gave his life to Jesus and was so excited about this newfound gift that he ran and told his mother.  She told him he must keep it secret as not to jeopardize the lives of their family.  He agreed.  But after a few days, he said he just couldn’t keep this Good News inside, so he started telling his older brothers and sisters about this Jesus.  Over the next 27 years, he converted his entire family.  He told us that it took his oldest brother the longest, but that he just wouldn’t give up on him.  After this brother became a Christian, he became just as outspoken as his younger brother, so much so that one day he was assaulted and attacked by Muslims, beaten and stabbed to death.  Sometime later, this very pastor was exiting his vehicle in front of his home when he was shot four times in the chest.  His family rushed him to the hospital where they were told by the doctors that he would die.  “But”, the pastor said, “God told me I would live.”  After he recovered, he resumed preaching and telling his community about Jesus and his Gospel. 

 

Shortly thereafter, during his sermons on Sunday evenings, Muslims with loud speakers on the outside of their pickup trucks would drive in front of his church building and broadcast their call to prayer so loudly that his congregation could not hear him talk inside the building.  It was a great deterrent to his members and to him.  He was extremely saddened and prayed to God about what he should do.  He told us, “God said to me, ‘Get bigger speakers’.” So he did.  He put speakers on the outside of his church building and broadcast his sermon up to 1.2 kilometers away!  Talk about boldness!  The next morning he started getting phone calls from the people living within the neighborhood of his church. They were thanking him for his message.  Wow!  He said his congregation started increasing in number, and now they have around 300 members.  His church building has been bombed fourteen times.  He ultimately decided to stop replacing the windows and just bricked over them.  But he never stopped preaching.  His grown son was severely beaten and thrown into a dumpster to die, but someone heard him and rescued him.  Neither one has ever stopped preaching.  In a country with only 1% Christians, this man and his family are making a difference for the Kingdom of God.  And they are not afraid to do it.  They are living one day at a time in service to their King, Jesus the Messiah. 

 

Just a couple more things he told us that helped us to understand this culture: Bethlehem has a 30% unemployment rate.  This congregation’s unemployment rate is 65%.  This is due to the sheer fact that they are professed Christians.  Because of their poverty, not many people have cars, so this church runs a bus ministry.  However, due to so much unrest in the city, sometimes the buses cannot get into certain neighborhoods to pick up their members, so many people go for long periods of time without the support and encouragement from their fellow Christians.  Much of this church’s financial ministry goes to putting food on the table of their own members. 

 

(Our tour group listening to the story of this man's life.)

 

During the first few minutes of his talk, I became very emotional.  I felt much admiration for this man.  He has suffered so much pain and loss, yet he was not being quiet about his love for his Savior.  He could not keep it inside him.  He refuses to do so knowing that the next moment may very well be his last.  By the end of his talk, I felt convicted but energized at the same time.  This man’s actions and love for his fellow citizens made me question my own life.  How can I be afraid of anything?!  I live in a country where I have never been physically attacked for my faith in Jesus Christ.  My children have not been beaten because they love Jesus.  My husband can go to work; we can eat at restaurants; we can travel freely through our city, state and country with no fear of being persecuted because we are Christians.  Yet, how much do I speak of my Savior?  How many people do I tell on a daily basis about the gift of Christ?  Not enough.  Sure, I may get a few hateful comments on my Twitter or Instagram.  But when I compare that to this man’s life, I have no excuse.  None!

 

Please remember this pastor, his family and his congregation.  I was told I could include his name in my posts, but I am just too afraid for him, obviously more afraid for him than he is for himself.  I shouldn’t be afraid to tell anyone about my faith.  I’m NOT afraid to tell anyone about my faith.  I am a child of God.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings.  He is my Lord!  Not because of anything I did.  I am not worthy.  I am nothing.  He is everything. 

 

John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, put it like this in John 3:30, “He must become more; I must become less.” 

 

Referring to the title scripture above, Jesus is God.  He was with God the Father from the very beginning.  He became flesh and lived among humans.  He ate like us, slept like us, made friends and relationships like us, laughed and cried like us.  Yet, he never sinned.  He wasn’t just “a good man”.  He was THE MAN.  He was God.  He IS GOD!  He chose to walk that dark and bloody path being beaten and spit on and tortured.  He could have called all of his angels, the angels that have worshipped him throughout all time.  Don’t you think they were waiting, anticipating, hoping for that precise moment when they would be let loose to come to his rescue?  To release their Master from his anguish?  To slaughter all those who were causing him to suffer?  But Jesus never called them.  He went through all that pain for me.  For you.  For the entire world.  But that isn’t the end to that story.  Praise God that the Father raised Him from the dead!  The tomb was found empty!  He lives today!  And the best part of this story is that He will take me up to heaven to live forever with him! 

 

So much of the culture in Israel does not acknowledge this.  They worship their Father in Heaven.  It’s wonderful to watch their dedication to tradition and commitment to their customs and to their families.  But make no mistake about the Messiah.  He’s real.  He came.  He lived.  He died.  He was buried for 3 days.  And he rose from the dead and lives now!  God delivered his people through his son Jesus.  There is no reason to wait anymore! 

 

John 14:5-7, “Thomas asked, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, then you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

 

I also was not prepared for the longing and love I feel for Israel’s people to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  

 

(Walking beside the Sea of Galilee - where Jesus sat down and taught his disciples in Matthew 5-7)

 

Do you know Jesus?  The book of John is a good place to start getting to know him.  He longs for you to know Him.  His arms are open for you. 

 

Please don’t wait.  The next moment may be your last.

 

(Jase and I have decided to financially help this pastor and the Christian people of Bethlehem.  If you feel led to join us, please go to www.onekingdom.org. Click "Donate".  Choose "Other" from the dropdown menu and write "Bethlehem Baptist Church" to specify.  They will make sure your donation gets to this church.  Thank you!) 

Comments

Naomi Goulart:

Missy, you and your family are beautiful people..your story/ testimony brought me to tears.. God Bless

Aug 12, 2018

Debra :

DONE AND DONE!!! Monthly, along with continual prayers…I haven’t been able to visit Israel physically but I’ve done so multiple times through Facebook, YouTube, and biblically of course. I immediately logged on and donated and will continue monthly. I definitely have taken my life for granted. The courageousness of the people is astounding and shows just how much more I need to be doing in my own life. God bless you for sharing your story, his story, and one thing we can do to help!!!🙏🙏
Love in Christ,
Debra

Aug 10, 2018

Debra :

DONE AND DONE!!! Monthly, along with continual prayers…I haven’t been able to visit Israel physically but I’ve done so multiple times through Facebook, YouTube, and biblically of course. I immediately logged on and donated and will continue monthly. I definitely have taken my life for granted. The courageousness of the people is astounding and shows just how much more I need to be doing in my own life. God bless you for sharing your story, his story, and one thing we can do to help!!!🙏🙏
Love in Christ,
Debra

Aug 10, 2018

Dana Chaffin:

Hey There!

I have huge tear drops dripping from my eyes. It is amazing that in the birth place of our savior where he was born, lived, ministered, preformed miracles, died and rose from the grave and walk among the people and ascended into heaven before their very eyes and yet they still don’t believe! I will give financially to this church and ministry. Thank you for sharing and many blessing to you :)

Dana

Aug 10, 2018

Karen Metzel:

You shared this story beautifully…thank you. I am grateful we can gather In Jesus’s army and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ living and sharing the Gospel in dangerous times and places. ☝️

Aug 09, 2018

Betsy :

What an awesome reminder! Thank you Missy! I so enjoy watching the way God uses the entire Robertson family to further his kingdom, thank you for being so relatable and real! 💜

Aug 09, 2018

Michele:

Thank you for taking time to share this incredible experience, I’ve not cried so hard in a long time , Jesus is my King and I see him at work all the time in my life and I’ll pray for that Pastor, I also pray daily for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have to hide their faith to stay alive , at tax time every year I always give 10% of money I get that is The Lords to start with , this year I know where it’s going, thank you and God bless you Missy and Jase ! I love y’all, send me some information about how tobsend money to this Pastor and his church, again such a beautiful story and great BIG ROBERTSON JESUS LOVING FAMILY 💖🙏

Aug 08, 2018

Michele:

Thank you for sharing your pictures and family vacation, the devotional brought me to tears, I pray my brothers and sisters in Christ for protection, while they are worshiping, I had no idea ? Jesus lived there

Aug 08, 2018

Nancy Lockett:

Hi Missy thank you for your devotional ,I have not been lucky enough to be able go to Israel and Bethlehem as Jade and you but this past March our pastor had invited a minister from Bethlehem and Israel who came to tell his life story of how as not be was Jewish and he was asked why Jewish people don’t want to believe in Christ Jesus as being God he said they don’t want to except that he is real and that he was a lie made to hurt them. The pastor went from being a Jew to Judaism to one day in a old building left by army a bible amongst others was found he read the holy book from beginning to end and God open his eyes he said he he was filled with joy sadness and awe that he secretly told his wife who in tears and joy became in wonder ment a our Lord Jesus Christ the two told his mom who came to him with questions and fear for them but his family members believed in Jesus Christ later and now he has a church in Bethlehem and Israel where he has had unbelievers bomb threat his family members and him and others who attended his church and he travels to other countries to tell his story while doing communion the Jewish way.so as not seeing the holy land as you and Jase and even my pastor has been in my heart soul which belongs to him who Christ Jesus and God our holy father Almighty my family members as your believe in him to and my son Richard is soon to go to ministry colleges to learn all to be a pastor who has learned from our pastor that there is right at this minute that there is pastors out there needing churches and and believers going and attending churches which there getting fat and few between and that in all churches this talk did deture my son he still is going to fallow his calling God is listening and answering our calls to him with open arms and I hope soon others will hear his call again to him.well God bless you and jas e and all Robertson’s Amen .

Yours in God and Christ Jesus and holy ghost : Nancy Lockett..

Aug 08, 2018

Andrea:

Hi Missy,
We’ve never met, but we share the same love for the land and people that call Israel home. Our family travelled to Israel for the first time in Novemver of last year and it changed. Our. Lives.
We came home and believe we’ve been given an idea to tangibly bless Israel by creating jobs and simultaneously dealing with the challenges of litter we found. The condition of the land and people broke our hearts.
My husband, an American attorney, has been put in touch with an Israeli attorney that specializes in setting up ministries there and should be able to help us navigate the system. We are very hopeful and encouraged by the reception we’ve received.
We would love, at some point, to see how we could partner with this church to employ people and see God’s vision come to pass. Please pray about what that might look like.
I’m so thankful for this opportunity to serve and am moved to tears that you and Jase have the same desire to see Israel and the people there know Jesus, the Messiah. Thank you for using your platform to bring attention to the dynamics there that are rarely reported in the news.
I don’t think the doors have ever been open to us in America to have this kind of impact in Israel for the King like they are now! What an exciting season.
Andrea Shishmanian
Olive Branch Restoration

Aug 08, 2018

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