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Several years back, my impression of Israel before seeing it was of an ancient Biblical painting. I would ask an Israeli friend many ridiculous questions such as, "Do you have supermarkets?" and "Are there cars and roads or do you ride camels?"
Now after having lived in the Land for an extended time, I have come to see Israel as a modern cultural hub, and also as the epicenter for faith in the end times. Visiting the land of Israel and the ancient Hebrew people still excites the 'Bible-nerd' in me. I realize that God is not finished with this people or this land. We are participating in a unique time in history. We can stand with the re-born nation of Israel.
During my stay, I studied Hebrew while volunteering on a kibbutz not far from Tents of Mercy. My interaction with the kibbutz members helped me understand more about the country. The director had grown up in the original communal system in which children slept in bunkhouses so parents could be free to work all hours. My house "father" told me about finding his emergency summons to return to his army base, posted on the door of his apartment immediately following the surprise attack on the first day of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. I heard stories of aliyah, war, travel and history. The stories showed each of these Israelis to be as different as their experiences had made them, and yet all with something in common.
When I shared my background with others on the kibbutz, they were surprised. They wanted to know what this Gentile "redneck" from Kentucky was doing in Israel. So I showed them. Daily they saw my passion and desire to be a part of their small community. They could tell there was something different about me. I had peace. When asked the reason, I responded, "I have peace in a faraway land because I know the Prince of Peace." I was able to tell most of my classmates about my faith. It irritated some and intrigued others, but most recognized there was something "to it".
I am not Jewish. My Hebrew is still limited. I am not an Israeli citizen. And a few weeks ago when my visa expired, it was time for me to fly back to the US. But over the last seven months, Tents of Mercy has become my new home. In no other congregation have I ever been more accepted and welcomed, nor have I found a more fully balanced and grounded community. I want to share my experiences and some things that I've learned.
Tents of Mercy in comparison to my Church Experience
I've been to many churches. Growing up, my parents took me to a simple country Baptist church. We sang hymns and read the Bible and learned about Jesus. It was a great place for my family and me.
After some rough years in high school and college, I attended a discipleship program in Tennessee, where we occasionally visited a Methodist church. It had huge cathedral ceilings, brilliant stained glass windows, and a tall pipe organ in gleaming bronze - all proclaiming the greatness and beauty of Almighty Creator God. We had responsive declaration readings of "calling and responding". The order and structure were different but totally legitimate.
|Daniel and a friend from Tents of Mercy|
New Testament congregations tend to follow one of these three methods of worship:
Liturgical - focusing on the order and structure of worshipping God Almighty.
Evangelical - emphasizing learning the Bible and the supremacy of Jesus.
Charismatic - flowing in heart driven service that promotes the Holy Spirit.
These three can seem at times to be in competition with one another. Yet God has used all of them.
Liturgical - Almighty God at Mount Sinai
In Exodus 19 God instructed Moses to "set limits" around the mountain before the giving of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 24 we see "call and response" put into practice as Moses reads the covenant and the people respond in affirmation. God is not a man. He is unlimited, unstoppable power. He has ordered creation and set limits to the land and seas. We are in awe and fear of Almighty God.
Evangelical - Jesus as Rabbi Teaching Among Us
Yeshua is fully God and fully man. John 1:14 tells us He, "became flesh and dwelt among us." We encounter God revealed to us in the flesh as Yeshua preaching and teaching. Now we can be in a relationship with our Father, through Yeshua our mediator, and transformed into His likeness as we grow in our knowledge and experience with Him.
Charismatic - Holy Spirit Empowering Disciples
On the day of Pentecost the Spirit of God powerfully entered a room and filled Yeshua's disciples. Next thing you know, the disciples were proclaiming the Good News in different tongues. And 3,000 were saved! This was the fulfillment of Yeshua's promise to send the Helper to be with us and in us. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit leads us and guides us in the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit.
Never have I seen these three styles of worship combined more fully than at Tents of Mercy. All three were present for the first time in my life. None greater, none lesser; all aspects were honoring and glorifying God in mutual exaltation.
We, in the Western church have much to learn from you about the different ways that God interacts with His people, and you are exemplifying that to us. I pray you will all treasure it, and explore ways that these methods can be employed in each one's personal walk with God.
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