Investing in the spiritual rebirth of the Jewish people

May 2014

Muslim goes to Mecca - and finds Jesus!

Now he wants to help re-unite the sons of Abraham

 
Charles Gardner reports from CMJ-sponsored conference in Jerusalem, May 2014
 
A Turkish Muslim who made a pilgrimage to Mecca in a desperate attempt to get his life back on track returned as a Christian to the great astonishment of his family. Now a pastor, Ali Pektash has been addressing a [CMJ-sponsored] conference in Jerusalem called At the Crossroads, and sees it as part of his mission to help re-unite the sons of Abraham.

Ali, a Kurd, suffered from alcohol addiction when friends persuaded him to make Hajj (pilgrimage) to Islam’s holy city. It was in Saudi Arabia, where liquor is banned, and the religious ritual might cure him, they suggested.

When he got there, he cried out to God for help (if indeed He was there) and fell asleep.

Jesus then appeared to him in a dream and touched him, saying: “You believe in me now; leave this place.”

After taking a shower next morning, he discovered what he thought was dust on the part of his chest Jesus had touched, but in fact the hair on his chest had turned white in the shape of a hand!

At the traditional celebration marking his return from Hajj, he announced to his incredulous family that he had seen Jesus in Mecca and had come back a Christian. He burst out crying in front of his wife and asked forgiveness for the way he had treated her, clearly demonstrating a dramatic change in his life. But for three years he had no access to a Bible and it was seven years before he met another Turkish Christian.

He eventually started a church in Ankara, the capital, which he has recently handed over to trusted elders in order to begin a new work in Eastern Turkey, where he was raised.

Christ Church, JerusalemAt the Crossroads, hosted at Christ Church in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, is aimed at deepening the bonds of reconciliation between Arab Christians and Jewish followers of Jesus and is being attended by delegates from a number of Middle East countries including Iran, Egypt, Cyprus and Jordan.

Speaking in Turkish (translated through headsets for those who needed it), Ali spoke of how Abraham was also his ancestor, and how he saw it as part of his mission to help re-unite the children of Isaac and Ishmael (Abraham’s children by different wives).

Illustrating how family division can cause lasting conflict among the children affected, he said it was no different for the descendants of Abraham who continue to be embroiled in much strife and contention with each other.

But now it was time for reconciliation. “We have a very important ministry – to reconcile the world,” he said.

But it could only be done through Jesus. “Everybody in Turkey says they believe in God,” he said. “But people are persecuting me!”

In a further example of reconciliation, a Palestinian delegate from Hebron (where Abraham is buried) said: “I was one of those who hated the Jews, but Jesus changed my life.”

A number of Israeli pastors responded by laying hands on him in prayer and offering words of encouragement.

Speaking for myself, I was profoundly moved when during a communion service the previous night I was surrounded by a Turk, Egyptian, Iranian, Armenian and an Israeli originally from South Africa.

Although there was a language barrier in some cases, we embraced each other without words during the traditional ‘peace’ greeting that immediately precedes the sharing of bread and wine.

 

The second bi-annual Middle East At The Crossroads conference was held at Christ Church in Jerusalem from May 13-16, featuring worship and sessions in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
 

The Visible from the Invisible

During March, General Motors and Ford produced dueling commercials about hard work and rewards. The GM commercial featured a prosperous executive and his new luxury Cadillac, proof of his success. Ford pushed back with a Focus ad featuring a prosperous 30 something woman whose small business worked to save the environment. It seemed a clear contrast in values, but appearances can deceive. Both campaigns focus on the experience and satisfaction of an individual. The world is viewed through the lens of personal preferences, and personal fulfillment. This consumerist view of reality permeates Western thinking. But it is not the only way to view the world.
 
The Witness of the Jews to God, a recently re-published book of essays about the Jewish people, illustrates a very different understanding of reality.  These essays (written forty years ago) describe reality through the lens of its creator. The place of the Jewish people in the world is one of those issues that is most sensitive to a human centered or a God centered perspective on reality.
 
No issue illustrates it more acutely than the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a topic as current as yesterday’s headlines. The shift from a God-centered to a human-centered perspective dominates most current discussions of the issues surrounding Jewish people, Palestinian Arabs, and the Land.  Those reports and opinions, whether theological or secular, focus on the attributes, rights, and prophecies from the perspective of the consequences for Jewish or Arab people. The arguments presume, sometimes unwittingly, that humanistic concerns are most important. The reason for God (or theology) has far more to do with human rights and preferences than His intentions and will.

One essay, from the pen of Thomas Torrance, former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, sharply illustrates the contrast. In “Vocation and the Destiny of Israel,” he describes Dualism in Western societies, the theological view that if God exists, he is separate from, not involved in, the world. This view quickly leads to the secular conclusion that God is really useless and unnecessary, that the world only works by the cause and effect of human effort and impersonal forces. (p. 101)

Judaism, by contrast, is intrinsically anti-dualist. God is always involved in the world. Faithful Christians are descendants in that faith family, of course, but the way we discuss these issues could cause one to wonder how firmly we believe that God is involved. It seems, without acknowledging it, we have come to believe the secular message that only political solutions will work.

Torrance adds a non-religious, non-political illustration of this involvement of God. He noted that recent discoveries in astrophysical science required understanding the principle of invisible activity, that the source of visible reality lies in the invisible pieces of the universe.

Jewish spiritual thought (thanks to the second commandment) always assumes that God, the source of everything, is imageless—invisible. Therefore, that which we cannot see is the power that creates the reality we can see.  The scientists making these discoveries (from Einstein’s theory of relativity to sub-atomic particles and string theory) are mostly Jews. He states, “…the Jews have taught us once again that the invisible things are not explained by the visible, but that the visible things are to be understood by reference to the invisible.” (p 102)

What a radical idea upon which to base one’s view of the world! Radical, but biblical. These essays assume that view when they discuss several of the issues that pertain to Jewish people and Israel.  Ultimate reality and purpose lies with the invisible Creator of the Jewish people, not simply within their own society. As the people God created and chose, Jews continue to bear the witness he intended, whether through physics or through the re-founding of their nation state. Whether they intend to bear witness to Him, they remain evidence of His power and His involvement in the world.

God declared that Israel will be a “light to the nations,” revealing His character and intentions to the nations. And so it has been, is now, and will be until He brings about the end of the age.

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