When we first met, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I was 17. That means I've known Rube for 44 years. He conducted our wedding ceremony on January 28, 1969, wearing a Jewish prayer shawl, a Muslim haj and a Colt 45 revolver. Rube always did have a flare for history. We played blues together, committed crimes together, blew our minds together, herded goats together and grew veggies together. Then, when the Lord, in His infinite mercy, stepped on the scene, we discovered the Messiah and He led us both back to our roots as Jewish disciples.

Together with our wives, Connie and Shari, we are "friends forever." In my month long trek across the U.S.A. this summer, I've been heavily blessed by a feast of friendship - renewing ties, looking in the eyes of dear, dear friends. Some of them I've known for more than 40 years, others more recently through the favor of the King.

With Russell and Jane Resnik we sharecropped, irrigated hay fields, almost burned down a national forest (Oops!) and experienced the joys of new faith in Yeshua. With Don and Debby Aaker we celebrated their hippie wedding ceremony, felled forest logs and had our first Bible studies by kerosene lantern. The memories are priceless, but more so the relationships that have endured for decades. When we see each other, it reminds us of the totally amazing grace of God that He rescued us from the pit of our confused desperation. What a cause for rejoicing! It reminds me of a line from a western gospel song we sang in that era: "Hallelujah, I'm saved, saved, saved by the blood of the lamb ..."

Friendship is foundational. Without its prominence in our lives, we cannot faithfully reflect God's image, nor be able to birth His kingdom on earth. When God describes Abraham as "My friend" (Isaiah 41:8), He is making a huge statement about the centrality of intimacy in relationship. This year Connie and I are celebrating 40 years of marriage covenant. The key to our intimacy is not that for those 40 years we have shared the same bed, the key is that for 40 years we have continually grown closer as friends. From our friendship, our four most precious friends have come into our lives - our children: David, Hannah, Avi and Sigal. Now those friendships have been amplified and multiplied by their spouses and their children, our grandchildren.

Do we think friendship is a luxury we haven't time for? Or is the only vehicle for friendship our Facebook account? If so, we need to think again. Yeshua placed such emphasis on friendship that He said "I no longer call you servants ... but I have called you friends." (John 15:13) In the verses that follow the Master presents four traits of loving friendship.

1) Laying down your life for your friends (v. 13)
2) Doing your friends' commands (ie. serious requests - v. 14)
3) Knowing private, intimate things about your friends (v. 15)
4) Bearing the enduring good fruit of friendship (v.16)

The Tents of Mercy vision became a reality through friendship, validating this fourth attribute from John 15. There is no way we would exist and be flourishing as a work of God without the fundamental dimension of friendship. This family of ministries came into being through two modes of friendship: new friends and old. The old Quaker lyric goes: "Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold." When we arrived in Israel God gave me two extraordinary men as friends, Leon and Alek. They were both from the former Soviet Union. We could barely understand one another's Hebrew. Yet we made it through the awkwardness and have served Yeshua together for 15 years. The old and dear friends who joined us in the adventure of pioneering in Israel were the Morrisons (Moshe and Katya) and the Chopinskys (Marc and Leah). Without these stalwart and majorly gifted friends, we could never have pulled it off. Nor would Tents of Mercy bear fruit without your friendship, our supporters and intercessors. The faithfulness you have demonstrated as we serve side by side is of eternal significance. I am not exaggerating.

Friendship is essential in touching a lost world. The Master spoke not only of loving friendship among those "already in the fold." When He was accused of being a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34), He did not deny it. Rather, He immediately encountered the sinful woman anointing His feet with her tears and forgave her, winning yet another forever friend. Although everyone needs friends (God made us that way) so many people today are desperately alone - they are all around you. A small gesture, a sincere inquiry ("Are you OK? Do you need help? How may I pray for you?") can turn into a friendship which becomes a bridge from the heart of Yeshua to the broken, sin-stained heart of that lonely person. This is His priority at the end of the age. For "He is not willing that any perish but that all come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9)

Friendship is Yeshua's brand of love. He said "Love one another." Back in the 60s I thought I knew what love was. Weren't we called the "Love Generation?" But I knew nothing until I saw Yeshua hanging on a tree, tortured for me. That one revelation taught me more about love than everything I'd ever seen or heard. He is our first and foremost friend. Alive in us, through our hearts He is well able to engage in friendship with God, friendship with fellow disciples and fellowship with sinners. So go, be a friend.


Author's Note: Many, many are the additional friends I could mention as those who have sown true friendship into our lives. In writing this article I repeatedly thought of you, our beloved friends. Lack of space in this newsletter prevents me from mentioning each one, including the stalwart servants of Tikkun and of the Tents of Mercy network congregations. In reading what I have written, if your name is not mentioned, please know that you are no less treasured and that we are forever grateful for your friendship.



Teens Talk about Katzir Summer Camp

The 2009 Katzir (Harvest) national Messianic teen summer camp was a strong time of encounter for 85 teens and 20 young adult counselors. In their own words, here are only a few of the many heartfelt testimonies given on the last day of camp. Please know that these changed lives are the fruit of your prayers and gifts:

"The last few years I strayed from the Lord. I forgot how strong God is. From the first night I could feel the power in this room during the praise. It was so special. I grew every day during the camp. With the teaching on the authority of God and His gifts in us, we began to understand better. I didn't see one person who failed to praise God. You, my fellow youth, did it with all your strength. We learned about ourselves and about the Lord. The feeling is impossible to describe."

"How to hear the voice of God - that's what happened here."

"Before, I was scared. I didn't know how to share Yeshua with friends. What could I say? They really need the Lord. I am the only believer in my whole school. Here, I received the tools so that God can use me, to reach out to my not-yet-believing-friends. From birth I am this way ... God healed me in ways this week inside. He said, 'I will heal them too. Use the hands you have.'" (from a young lady with special needs)

"I found the best family ever in you guys. My life is totally changed. I feel that God has a plan for each of us. Big miracles are going to happen. He's using us already. I want to thank everybody, you are all great. You did a wonderful job. Thank you for being my friends." (from a teenage Sudanese refugee)

"I saw areas I need to change. I cried about my relationship with my parents. After this tremendous camp I don't want to lose this heat. I know that God is with me and WILL BE with me."

 

By Eitan Shishkoff


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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: The Family Foundation
Moshe Morrison: Moshe's Messianic Musings
Asher Intrater: Death & Ressurection in all Things
I'm Loving It!