Why Easter?

By Bruce Hebel

Why do we celebrate Easter? Most people today have at least a vague understanding of the story line, but do they know why it happened? Why did Jesus choose to be crucified on Friday and then rise from the dead that Resurrection Sunday? The answer is found in the first words Jesus declared while He was on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus died to make it possible for God to forgive the world.

Easter is about forgiveness!

Luke 24:46-47 contains one of the last conversations Jesus had with his disciples before the Ascension. Jesus said, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again on the third day so that…” The “so that” is a purpose clause. This is significant because that which precedes a purpose clause is never the main goal of the clause, it is the means to the main goal. While every believer would agree that the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most significant events in human history, these events weren’t the main goal of the Easter story. They were the means to the main goal. What is the main goal of the Easter story? “… so that repentance for forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.”

Easter is about forgiveness!

The Gospel is simply this: In the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned, not only did man lose a lot, but God lost a lot. We lost the relationship we were designed to have with God. God lost the glory we were designed to give him.

God the Father said,
“I want my kids back and I want my glory back. But there is a sin debt that man is incapable of paying back. Jesus, is there something you’re willing to do about this?”

Jesus responded,
“I have more than enough righteousness in my account to cover the sin debt of the whole world. I’ll take care of it.”

Jesus left heaven, lived 33 and 1/3 years perfectly, stretched his arms out on the cross and declared “It is finished!” What was finished on that good Friday? The payment for the sin debt of the whole world! I John 2:2 tells us that every sin ever committed by anyone, anywhere and anytime, past, present, and future, was paid for by Jesus on the cross. It is finished! The recompense required for forgiveness was fulfilled.

Three days later, when He raised Jesus from the dead the Father declared, “I agree! I receive the blood of my Son as payment for the sins of the world against Me. The debt has been satisfied. Their sins are forgiven.”

Easter is about forgiveness, because forgiveness is at the core of the Gospel.

So as we raise our voices this week in the triumphant old hymns and powerful resurrection choruses, let’s keep in mind that the best way to honor Christ’s death and resurrection is to extend His forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Remember, the blood of Jesus covers all sin, including the ones committed against us!

Easter is about forgiveness!

Every Detail of Your Life Matters

Every Detail of Your Life Matters

By Toni Hebel

I am constantly amazed at how God reveals Himself to me in the details of my life. Experiencing His involvement in the smallest of things is one of the many ways I learn of Him, and there is nothing more joyful to me than that!

Today is March 19, 2018. First thing this morning, as I was writing today’s date at the top of my journal page, I blurted out, “Wow!” I didn’t realize today was the 19th until I began to journal. March 19 is a very special day to me.

  • March 19, 1979: My future husband and I knelt at the altar of our church and together committed our lives fully to God. We asked Him to use us to make an impact for His Kingdom, but only in a way that can be explained by Him—nothing that we managed or created.
  • March 19, 2006: We were in the middle of the most painful situation we had ever experienced. On this day as I stood beside my husband, a pastor friend of ours publicly and unexpectedly washed Bruce’s feet at the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our friend looked Bruce in the eyes and with tears in his own emphatically said, “Don’t quit!” At that time, everything in us wanted to quit, but God clearly spoke through our dear friend. God was reminding us through our friend, “27 years ago you gave Me your lives to do with as I please. Trust Me.”
  • March 19, 2009: A dear mentor confirmed to us that we were to launch Forgiving Forward. As we were on our faces praying, asking God if Forgiving Forward was truly His plan for us, I was reminded in my heart, “God trained Jesus for 30 years before He sent Him into His public ministry.” (Luke 3:23) We had been told that all the pain we had experienced over the years was “training” for what God put us on the planet to do. We then realized that it had been exactly 30 years since we made our covenant with God back at that altar at our college church. Forgiving Forward was born.
  • March 19, 2017: We landed in Jerusalem. It was this trip to Israel that God opened the doors for us to minister for three days to Messianic Jewish leaders and Arab church leaders at the Dead Sea. Forgiveness and Blessing flowed that day at the Dead Sea!

God specializes in the details to reveal His glory. He does it in my life and He does it in yours. We get to open our eyes and look for our magnificent, omnipresent God who finds joy in manifesting His presence to us.

So what does today hold? Believe me, I’m looking! I just got off the phone with a woman who has suffered much pain and has served time in prison. I called to offer her a scholarship to an upcoming coaching training because God put her on my heart yesterday. She didn’t hesitate to receive because just yesterday she was asking God that if there was any way she could go, would He please provide a way? “I want to help women get free. I want to use the pain I have suffered for His glory.” Yes, He did it again… He revealed Himself to me in the details of my daily life and in my new friend’s life too. “I asked God this morning on the way to work if He would reveal Himself to me. I needed a touch from Him. Then He led you to call and offer me this opportunity.”

Look at the details of your day… He is there!

CHRISTMAS IS FOR-GIVING!

Christmas is for giving! This sentiment fills the airways and is drummed into our neurons in every way conceivable this time of year. The message is everywhere. We hear it in the music wherever we go. We see it in the Hallmark movies playing 24/7. The message is shouted at us by the incessant Christmas ads declaring that Christmas will not be Christmas unless we buy this sweater, electronic device, or gift basket. Don’t get me wrong, I love gifts. I love to give gifts. I love to get gifts. You can’t see the bottom third of our tree because of the pile of packages that lay waiting for our family to arrive for the holidays. Christmas is for giving.

And it is!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” Christmas celebrates God giving the greatest gift ever—His Son, Jesus. The Magi brought incredible gifts to Jesus at His birth. Christmas is for giving.

Christmas is for giving because Christmas is Forgiving.

The message of Christmas is the message of forgiveness. In the Garden of Eden, when man sinned, not only did man lose a lot, but God lost a lot. We lost the relationship we were designed to have with God. God lost the glory we were designed to give Him. God said “I want my children back and I want my glory back. But there is a problem.  There is a sin debt that man could never settle. Jesus, is there something that you’re willing to do about this?” Jesus said, “Yes Dad, I have more than enough righteousness in my account to cover their debt.” With this, the eternal forgiveness plan of heaven was set in motion.

The plan was simple. God, the violated One, sent his Son, the Righteous One, into the world to be born of a virgin in order to sacrifice His life to pay in full the sin debt of the violating ones. The Just One died in place of the unjust ones, thus establishing the way to peace. This includes us. This includes everyone else too! Indeed, Christmas is forgiving.

At the first Christmas, God gave Grace to the world and called us to give grace to our world. Forgiveness is why Jesus came into the world. Forgiveness is why we were left in the world. We are called to forgive every wound we’ve ever suffered. Why? Because the blood of Jesus covers all sin… including the ones committed against me, and you.

We must forgive…

our father for abandoning our family
our mother for making us feel like we never measured up
our uncle for molesting us as a child
our spouse for cheating on us
our employer for passing us over for that promotion or for firing us
our… you fill in the blank…

Christmas is for giving because Christmas is forgiving.

“Joy to the world” and “Peace on earth” can only be experienced because Jesus came to make forgiveness possible by His death on the cross. We experience that Joy and Peace only when we honor His sacrifice by applying the blood of Jesus to every wound we ever have or will suffer.

So be generous in your gift giving at Christmas. Go all out! But make sure the top of your list includes forgiveness. It’s the gift we give to someone else that brings us peace.  

Christmas is Forgiving!

Merry Christmas,
Bruce and Toni

Abiding in Christ

Abiding in Christ

By Dr. Bruce Hebel

Recently I was invited be the keynote speaker for the re-launch of a church’s men’s ministry. I was asked to share tools that the men could use to become effective leaders in their homes, church and community. Men love tools! I wrestled with the question, “Given 30 minutes in these men’s lives, what is the one tool I can share with them that will have the greatest impact?”

The answer,  Abide in Christ.

In John 15, Jesus uses the imagery of a Middle Eastern vineyard to teach His disciples about abiding; the new relationship He would have with us in the new covenant.  There are three players in the analogy:

 

  • The Father is the vintner, the owner of the vineyard
  • Jesus is the vine, the life source of the vineyard
  • We are the branches, the ones through which the fruit is produced

 

In learning about our new relationship with Christ, it is crucial to understand each character’s role. The owner is ultimately responsible for the fruitfulness of the vineyard. He is the one who does all the work, not the branches. The Father is the one who is most concerned about the health of the vineyard and diligently works to produce the best harvest possible.  The key principle here is that God the Father is working in us so that we will live fruitful and influential lives. He is the one doing the work.

 

 

The central life of the vineyard is the vine. Jesus is the vine. He is our life source. All of the fruit flows from the vine. The branches simply bear the fruit that the vine produces. All the nutrients are drawn from the soil by the vine.  The nutrients flow through the vine then through the branches where the fruit is produced. Fruit is always consistent with the identity of the plant. We know that a tree is an apple tree because it produces apples. We distinguish a blueberry bush from a blackberry bush because it produces blueberries.  The fruit Jesus refers to in John 15 can be defined as the active expression of Christ’s character in us that nourishes people around us”. People will recognize us as His when they see His life in us. As branches, that’s our job… to simply bear His fruit.

 

How do we bear His fruit? The same way a vine branch does, by abiding. In fact, abiding is the only way the character of Christ is seen in us. How does a branch abide? By staying connected and being totally dependent on the vine. Everything the branch needs it must get from the vine. If you separate the branch from the vine, it will die and never bear fruit. It’s life is only found in the vine. It does no good to put fertilizer directly on the branch because it can only get its nutrients through the vine. The branch must abide to produce anything. The same is true for us. Trying to manage our life on our own is futile. When we abide we bear a lot of fruit, when we don’t abide we bear no fruit.  Abiding is simply staying constantly connected and desperately dependent on Jesus. Everything in our Christian life flows out of abiding.

 

 

Like most homeowners, we have a yard to maintain. In addition to mowing I have to edge it, weed-eat it and blow it.  Instead of buying multiple pieces of equipment, I purchased an all-in-one multi-task tool system which consists of a small engine and interchangeable attachments. Each attachment does a great job as long as it’s connected to the motor. When they’re disconnected they are worthless to me. They are only effective when they’re connected to the power source. The same is true for us. All of the tools at our disposal in the Christian life are useless unless they are connected to the power source.  But when we abide, Jesus does amazing things through us. The secret is staying constantly connected to and desperately dependent on Jesus! Everything God calls us to be and do is accomplished as we abide. Abiding in Christ is the foundational power source of the Christian Life.

Want to learn more about Abiding in Christ? Check out this 5 CD series, Vine Life!

Discovering Life Together at the Dead Sea

Discovering Life Together at the Dead Sea

by Dr. Bruce Hebel

“I’ve been to enough of these conferences. Nothing ever changes afterwards. Why should I come to this one?” The previous “reconciliation” meetings in Israel between Messianic Jews and Believing Arabs had consisted of each side airing their grievances and wanting to know what the other side was going to do to resolve them. Since the resolutions offered were never satisfactory, forgiveness was not ever truly granted. Pastor Tony Sperandeo, who organized the event, responded to this question, asked by both his Arab and Messianic friends alike, “I’ve heard this message. It’s different. Please give it one more chance.”

As a result of Pastor Tony’s faith, on March 22-24, 2017, 85 believers, evenly divided between Arabs and Jews,  gathered at a resort near the Dead Sea. At the beginning, the participants seemed to be “politely guarded”. We sensed an “I’m here, but I am not convinced yet” undercurrent.

As we began to unpack the Forgiving Forward message, we sensed the attitudes shift. The Mandate message always produces a bit of shock and recalibration as people begin to see the harsh consequences of unforgiveness.  Everyone was sober minded as they headed to dinner. During Session 2, as we helped them understand that forgiveness stands apart from reconciliation and that forgiveness is based upon the blood of Jesus, not the offending party, we felt the guardedness begin to fade. We have found that whenever people understand that the question of justice was settled on the Cross, their spirits and hearts tend to relax. The night ended with a call to repentance of the sin of devaluing the Cross through their unforgiveness.

The next morning we taught the Protocols of Forgiveness and released everyone to pair off and help each other forgive.  It was beautiful to watch men help men and women help women to forgive the deep wounds they carry. Many had struggled with deep historical wounds. Some of history’s most horrific events have been perpetrated against these two groups. The shift occurred when the realization began to spread through the room that if forgiveness does not work in the extreme, it doesn’t work in the common. The blood of Jesus is enough for everything. The rest of the day was given to forgiving, testimonies of forgiveness, and Q & A.

The last day was a call to living out the oneness that Jesus has already declared to be true of us. Unity began to break out. There was public repentance of unforgiveness. Heartfelt blessings, prayers and hugs were passed between the two groups. We stood in the back and just wept, amazed at God’s grace in letting us be a part of this historic event.

After the conference, we shared lunch with the key organizers of the event.  One of the leaders said, “What are we going to do to spread this to our congregations?”  So right then and there, the pastors got their calendars out and scheduled a meeting in May when the Arab churches will join a Messianic congregation in Northern Israel for a day of fellowship and unity. To our knowledge this has never happened before. ONLY GOD!

This week we celebrate the truth that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is satisfied with the blood of His Son as payment in full for the sins of the world against Him. What our new friends at the Dead Sea now realize is that God expects us to be satisfied with Jesus’ blood as well. It was in making that choice that they found the way to live together in peace.

Note: In celebration of Resurrection week-end, we are making the Kindle edition of Forgiving Forward available for a FREE download Good Friday through Easter Sunday. Click on the picture below to get your FREE copy.

BLOOD RELATIONS

BLOOD RELATIONS

The Hatfields versus the McCoys. The Capulets versus the Montagues. History is filled with blood feuds – families, tribes, people groups – who hate each other because of an ancestral slight or wound. Blood feuds have led to some of the most tragic events in all of history where millions of people have died.  Eleven million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. Seven and a half million Ukrainians were murdered in the Holodomor of 1932 to 33. Three million Cambodians were slaughtered in the Cambodian genocide of 1975 to 79. One and a half million Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1922 in the Armenian genocide. These blood feuds can last decades and even centuries.

Perhaps the longest running conflict between two families is between the sons of Abraham. The conflict started centuries ago and is recounted for us in the book of Genesis. God calls Abraham to a historic mission in order to establish an eternal covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God promised Abraham that he would have a son, and that through the son a great nation would be formed through which God would fulfill this covenant promise to Abraham. Yet like many of us, Abraham and his wife Sarah were impatient with God’s timing and decided to “help Him out”. Sarah, considering herself beyond childbearing age, insisted that Abraham conceive a child through her servant Hagar. Abraham cooperated with the plan and Ishmael was born. But whenever we try to “help God” it doesn’t solve the problem, it creates more problems.

Man’s interference never thwarts God’s plan, but often complicates it.  Sarah miraculously conceived and gave birth to her promised son, Isaac. As the boys grew, Ishmael mocked and belittled his little brother. In response, Sarah convinced Abraham to force Hagar and Ishmael out of the family and away from the camp. Throughout the account, God was gracious to Hagar and her son. However, a deep wound of rejection was inflicted in Ishmael and the sibling rivalry was born which continues to this day. This rivalry is known to most people as the Middle Eastern conflict between the Arabs and the Jews.

My purpose in this blog is not to sort out the intricacies of all the conflicts involved between these two sons of Abraham and their descendants. My purpose is to point us all to the only workable solution to the conflict between any two groups. Most people, in trying to find a solution to a longstanding conflict, try to rehash the wounds by looking at what started it all, what was reciprocated, and then who needs to fix what. Yet focusing on the cause, as logical as that may seem, never solves the problem. The only solution is finding a way to settle the debt caused by wounds historically inflicted. Which means the only solution is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul talks about how the Jews and the Gentiles, long separated from each other, could find a new relationship with each other because of the Cross. The sons of Ishmael who were long cast out could be restored to relationship not only with God, but also with their Jewish brothers through their relationship in Jesus Christ. Verses 13-18 says:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace and might reconcile them both in one body through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came to preach peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”

How do we deal with the wounds of the past?  Is there a way to settle blood feuds that have gone on for centuries? The answer is an unequivocal YES! The question that drives all blood feuds is this: who’s going to pay for what they did? The simple and eternal answer is Jesus already paid their debt on the Cross. The blood of Jesus truly does cover all sins, including the ones committed against me… and my family… and my people. Forgiveness is the key. Forgiveness is applying the blood of Jesus as payment in full for every wound I have or ever will suffer, including the wounds of my ancestors.

We are on our way to Israel where we will be leading a retreat for Church leaders in Israel; half of them will be from Arab congregations (the sons of Ishmael) and half of them from Messianic congregations (the sons of Isaac). Our goal is to see the cross elevated, the blood of Christ honored, and brothers united in the new covenant of Grace. Our prayer is that Ephesians 2:11-22 will be a practical reality, that Jesus’ High Priestly prayer of John 17:22 will be realized as we meet, and that we will be one in the same way the Father and the Son are one. When we truly are one, imagine the influence God’s people will have in Israel, in the Middle East, and throughout the world!

Will you join in Jesus’ prayer that His people will become one for the power of forgiveness paid for by our Savior on His Cross?

-Bruce Hebel

Black + Blue: Finding Peace in the Insanity

Black and Blue-4

Black and Blue-1
All over the news we see pending chaos as the African-American community and our nation’s police officers are on the verge of an all-out war. The Black community, with historically legitimate concerns, views the police with suspicion, fear and, in some cases, contempt. Recent tragic deaths in the Black community have brought emotions to a fever pitch and have bolstered the belief of many that any action taken by a police officer against a black individual is driven by racism. This has led to protests. While the majority of the recent protests have been peaceful, rhetoric by a very vocal minority has led to violence against law enforcement officers. A sniper assassinated five police officers in Dallas, three officers in Baton Rouge were gunned down, another was killed in Kansas City. This, quite understandably, has caused some of our men and women in blue to become more guarded. Unfortunately, this has led to a few officers overreacting to certain situations resulting in more tragic deaths. Thus the cycle continues.

In response to the Dallas shootings, President Obama said, “We cannot let the actions of a few define all of us.” Yet we are quick to do just that. Former President Bush remarked at the Memorial Service in Dallas, “We tend to judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” So true! Yet the question begs itself: How do we, as individuals and as a nation, navigate our way through the suspicion and the misconceptions to find our way to peace? Simply put; is there a way out of this mess?

For the sake of full disclosure, I am white and I am not a police officer. I have many black friends and have ministered in many African-American churches. I’m an adjunct professor of Carver College, a predominantly black school. I also have friends who are police officers and I served as a temporary police chaplain in the aftermath of in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I have friends who are both black and police officers. More importantly, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a simple enough man to believe that in the Cross of Jesus we find the solution to everything.

Black and Blue-3

As I have taken some time to reflect and ponder the issues underlying the events of the last few weeks, it seems to me that people on both sides are demanding what
they are not willing to give in return. Let’s be clear. It is wrong to look at a black person and assume a mindset or behavior pattern simply because they’re black. It is equally wrong to say that because a police officer stops a black person, he’s a racist. Both of those mindsets are wrong. Yet it’s a typical scenario, isn’t it? Both sides excuse in themselves what they denounce in others. When we do that- when we take that bait, we open ourselves up to the spirit of offense.

The spirit of offense keeps us from seeing the offender as a person. When we dehumanize our offender, our indignation is free to fester and we begin connecting the current circumstances with previous offenses. This always distorts our present reality and provokes us toward an ever-increasing anger, which leads to a desire for vengeance. “Somebody’s gotta pay!” Oh, we know better than to openly call for vengeance, because, well, that’s just not civilized. So instead we sanitize our terminology and cry for “justice”. “I will not be satisfied until the person who did this, or someone associated with them, suffers!” “No Justice! No Peace!” Yet the more we cry for justice, the less peace we actually find. The spirit of offense only leads us to torment, never peace.

No one who receives the justice they demand ever finds peace. Ever! Why? Peace doesn’t come through justice. True peace only comes through the injustice of the Cross. The Cross is where the sinless Son of God was unjustly crucified to receive the death sentence each one of us deserved, so that we, through His resurrection, could have a relationship with God, which none of us deserved. (Reflect on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 5:1-11; Colossians 2:8-19 and 1 Peter 2:13-25.)

The message of the Cross is countercultural.

The culture says: “Focus on what they did to you.”
The Cross says: “Look at what Jesus did for you.”

The culture says: “Focus on the past.
The Cross says: “Focus on Jesus!”

The culture says: “They must pay!”
The Cross says: “Jesus already paid!”

The culture declares: “I demand justice!”
The Cross declares: “Choose to forgive.

So how does this apply to our Black and Blue dilemma? The same way that Jesus applies to all relationships. To the injured, forgive. Choose to apply the blood of Jesus as payment in full for every wound you or those you love have suffered. This includes the atrocities of slavery, the civil rights abuses and the police shootings. When we actively believe that Jesus’ death is satisfactory payment for every sin committed against us, our hearts find peace. Every single time! Nothing is so bad that Jesus hasn’t settled the debt. If His blood doesn’t satisfy you, what will?

To the offenders, repent! If you have viewed people through the prism of racism, change the way you think. The truth is that we are ALL created in the image of our creator and we are ALL called to “honor ALL men.” This includes all races and both genders. Repentance involves radically changing how you view people, moving from the lens of suspicion or hate to the lens of love and honor. In other words, see people through Jesus’ eyes.

Black and Blue-7

If we are honest, most of the time we find ourselves on both sides of the equation, needing to both forgive and repent. Wounded people wound people. The cycle stops when we forgive and repent for our part and entrust the other person’s repentance to God.

We never find peace with each other until we find peace with God—through the Cross of Jesus. Once we find peace with God, we view people differently. When we view each other the way God views us, we find peace.

Nothing else works.

Black and Blue-5

Observations from a Donkey…

“A Most Wondrous Trip”

It has been said that Corrie ten Boom, who was once asked if it was difficult for her to remain humble, responded with, “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?”

What an insightful response! Aren’t we all donkeys?

As we entered Jerusalem this past Palm Sunday, we could only imagine what that day must have been like 2000 years ago. We had the privilege of speaking near the Via Dolorosa in the heart of the Old City to an Arab Christian church. We watched the Palm Sunday parade from the church windows—surreal.

Jerusalem Evangelical Church

 

People by stone wall

Our associate, Ed Kosiba, accompanied us on our trip to Israel. After recently hearing the quote above from Corrie ten Boom, he jokingly called himself a “donkey” during our trip to Israel. He served by: transporting us from place to place, running our book table, listening to countless people share their story and doing odd jobs for anyone that needed a helping hand. His work was invaluable to the Kingdom and to us. When we asked him to share his perspective of the trip, a “donkey’s viewpoint,” this is what he said.

It was a joy, privilege, and honor to escort Dr. Bruce and Toni Hebel to Israel and provide any assistance I could in aiding them proclaim the forgiveness message. The jam packed three week schedule laid out before us took us over 1,100 miles, teaching the Forgiving Forward message twenty one times, accomplishing over fifteen individual coaching sessions with key leaders/individuals, and all this accomplished in various facilities within seven different cities/towns.

Naturally, when traveling that much in three weeks, you experience a great deal of the Holy Land. But that is not what made this trip “a most wondrous trip.” Yes, it was great to see the ruins of Ancient Shiloh, the ruins of Caesarea built by Herod where Paul was imprisoned, and overlooking the Megiddo Valley where Armageddon will take place.

Ed reaching arm out

To walk the very hills our Lord walked on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, and to walk in and by Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin where Jesus accomplished many of His miracles and taught thousands of people only to be rejected by them, was humbling. Yes, it was fantastic to watch a glorious sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, like He must have done many times, and to even take a boat ride on the sea. It was incredible to travel from there to where Jesus was baptized by John just east of Jericho in the Jordan River, and then to continue into the Old City-Jerusalem. It was fantastic to walk the countless streets of Old Jerusalem (and do a little shopping along the way) and walk around the many special areas of this famous city called “home” by three of the worlds’ main religions. It truly is a small world when you even meet friends from back home. It was wonderful to watch the sun set over the city from the Mount of Olives looking on to where our Lord is to enter the city through its East Gate after setting foot on this Mount.
Ed with city behind

It was a somber time when we visited Beer Sheba at the very well built by Abraham, and walking through the cisterns created to collect water for their livelihood. Yes, somber to realize that this was ground zero where Sarah and Hagar, two angry, hate filled mothers split, thus creating, with the evil one’s help, the angst, hatred, and bloodshed being poured throughout history by hundreds of millions of people. No, none of these is not what made this trip, “a most wondrous trip.”

What made this “a most wondrous trip” was:

  • Witnessing a young mom/worship leader get set free from the torment of her unforgiveness thereby allowing her to worship Yeshua in fullness of spirit and to have a husband totally grateful for a new wife.
  • Observing others set free from their bondage and see the clarity and thankfulness in their eyes.
  • Noticing many in spiritual torment, crying, dabbing their eyes, while Bruce taught them how to find the release they were craving—watching them apply the simple Protocols—then witnessing their joy. I am not one for shedding a tear, but in these cases I too was shedding tears of joy!
  • Listening to the pastor, who beforehand had no inkling what this guy named Bruce was going to say on the subject of forgiveness, afterwards profusely thank Bruce for giving him the Key he had been missing.
  • Watching another pastor, while translating for Bruce, stop and say, “Wow!” then proceed with the translation.
  • Hearing others say to Bruce and Toni, “This message is what we have been missing. It’s simple and so important for all people to hear.”
  • Observing a common request to “please translate Forgiving Forward into our language. Please teach this message to Jews, Arabs and Gentiles together!”

Yes, it was indeed “a most wondrous trip.” I was grateful for the fantastic hospitality shown us by those who opened their homes to us and kept us well fed. Finally, I was personally humbled by the deep desire of those we ministered to, to follow Yeshua the Messiah, to help their fellow man, all the while living in a land continuously teetering on the brink of chaos. Oh how soft we have it in these United States!

Ed Kosiba
Board Member ReGenerating Life Ministries

Forgiving Forward Goes To Israel — Easter Weekend in Jerusalem — Days 16-19

Bruce looking at city

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19:41-42)

If you look closely, you can see the Eastern Gate in the wall on the right side of the picture above. The gate is sealed shut and considered by the Muslims to be their exclusive property along with the Temple Mount. But we know from Scripture that Jesus will come to back to Jerusalem, land on the Mount of Olives (the place we are standing) and walk through the Eastern Gate into the Temple area.

Our last few days in Israel was spent mostly in Jerusalem. What a privilege to minister there on Easter Weekend. Bruce spoke twice on Good Friday at Christ Church, the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East. The worship in this acoustic dreamland was breath taking. “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” prepared us all to embrace the message of forgiveness. The impact was far reaching. We have been asked, with great seriousness, to translate our book into Arabic, Russian, German, Turkish, French and Ukrainian.

Bruce teaching at Easter

Cross with thorns

Hand holding thorn

We distributed a total of 442 Forgiving Forward Books (370 in Hebrew, 72 in English), Ten DVD Sets to ten key leaders and other resources. It would have been more had we been able to bring more. We planted seeds throughout the country to His disciples on the ground. We have already received word of how the message is spreading.

Ed talking to couple

On Holy Saturday we traveled to the Tel Aviv area to speak to the Rishon Congregation. They were celebrating Purim—a happy, fun-filled holiday commemorating the salvation of the Jews from the Persian Empire all because of Queen Esther’s sacrificial faith—“for such a time as this.” It was interesting to observe this holiday, where people dressed in costumes and gave gifts, being celebrated at the same time we were commemorating the death of our Savior. What seemed on the surface as a contradiction, was actually a picture to us of the true Purim, where the Second Coming of the Messiah will be regarded as the final fulfillment of Purim. We joined in celebrating with them what only God can do—save His people from destruction. The children performed the story of Esther and we all enjoyed sweet treats.

Boy in red

Toni with treats

On Easter morning, God gave us a special gift. We were able to attend the Easter service at the Garden Tomb. The worship, the atmosphere, the teaching and new friends all made this day too special for words. There were dozens of people that accepted Christ as their Savior in this special place.

Crowd on Easter

Door saying He is Risen

By the time you read this post, we will have arrived back in the United States. There is so much more that took place in Israel that leaves us in awe. Twenty-one speaking opportunities, fifteen individual coaching appointments, accounts of people we trained coaching others and countless hearts changed because of the Cross. If you were sitting in our living room, we could spend hours upon hours telling you the miraculous stories we witnessed—a privilege, an honor, a blessing.

As we continue on to the next assignment God has before us, we will continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem that will only come through salvation Yeshua provides. Will you pray with us?

Pray for Peace saying

 

Forgiving Forward Goes To Israel — Ground Zero — Days 13-15

We have spent the last three days down in the Negev, in Omer (Beersheba) where it all began—Ground Zero for the Hebrew faith, the Abrahamic Covenant and the birth of nation of Israel through which our Savior would be born. What an honor to come together, Jews and Gentiles, in the very place where God spoke to Abraham, Hagar, Jacob and Elijah. This place is a place of roots, where journeys began, where obedience was the first step for significant kingdom purposes.

Ground Zero pic

It was here that God revealed Himself to Hagar in her despair and ministered love and hope to her and her son Ishmael. It was here that Abimilech’s servants took possession of the well Abraham dug. This was no insignificant loss. The Negev is a desert. Water is essential for existence. The well was masterfully built at 85 feet deep and still exists today. Yet Abraham displayed his forgiveness by blessing Abimilech with seven ewe lambs in order to reclaim what was already his.

Isn’t that what Christ has done for us? We were His…He bought us back with His own life…and He builds in each of us a well that will never become dry but will spring up to eternal life—living water.

“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”    John 4:14

Well pic

It is from here that Abraham, in obedience to God, took his only son Isaac up to Mount Moriah as a sacrifice. He said, “yes” to God in this place. He believed God. His obedience has made an impact on the world. Your obedience and our obedience can do the same.

In Omer, we had the privilege of meeting with the leadership team of Streams in the Desert, a ministry to single moms, youth and children. We trained them in the Forgiving Forward message so they could, from Ground Zero, be used to bring living water to the thirsty hearts they minister to. We spoke to their single moms, giving the Gospel, as many do not know Him—yet—and coached a number of key people. Because of confidentiality, we cannot speak of the details of our encounters. But what we witnessed God do was miraculous! God continues to pour out His Spirit on anyone who is open to receive. We are grateful we got to witness Him do just that in the Desert.

 

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