There’s a lot of beautiful scenery in Israel, but it is in her people that its real beauty is found.


Talking to and having real conversations with some of those people was one of the greatest joys of my recent trip there.


In those tests they give to assess one’s gifts, I’m off the charts when it comes to “communication.” My wife will tell you she has spent innumerable hours waiting for me to quit talking to someone so we can go. There are times we have driven separately to the same event because she has somewhere she has to be and does not have time to wait for me to shut up and move on.


Yes, words are my gift and I really wanted to get to know the people of Israel.


But, how does a goofy-looking guy in a Hawaiian shirt start up a conversation with complete strangers in a foreign country?


It took me several days to figure it out, but the answer was this blog.


What I eventually did was very kindly ask passers-by if they had a moment to talk to me. I then explained that I wrote a blog for a Christian radio station in the United States. I added that every Christian brother and sister I knew back home supported Israel, would pray for Israel, and we all knew that our Bibles said that those who blessed Israel would be blessed and all who cursed Israel would be cursed. I would then ask them, “If you could say one thing to the Christians in the United States, what would you say?”


Out of the dozens I spoke to, only two did not have time to talk to me. The responses were all gracious and positive. No one had a negative comment and there were some common themes in the responses.


It wasn’t uncommon for Israelis to voice support for President Trump and the current political climate between our nations. More common were words of appreciation for our support and prayers for Israel.


“We very much appreciate you,” said a lady named Hadar in Tiberias.


A beautiful young couple on the beach in Tel Aviv said, “We are happy that someone cares about us.”


And more than one person urged Americans to come to Israel and visit.


But even more common was the thought that our common humanity, not religion, ought to unite us.


That’s actually a very good comment that opens a door into a conversation about the difference between “religion” and “relationship.”


I had a particularly enjoyable conversation like that with a husband and wife I met near the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Both were intelligent, articulate, and gracious. His name was Aaron and hers was Ayelet.


Aaron said, “I believe the people of the United States were chosen to be the graceful people in the imminent resurrection of the third kingdom of Israel.” He said he believed the USA was a “kingdom of grace.”


These were very kind comments and I thanked Aaron for them.


As our conversation grew deeper, Aaron and Ayelet described themselves as “religious” and  by this I knew they meant they were practicing Jews. It was never my intent to clash with them or anyone else in Israel, so I told Aaron that I had resolved not to argue with any Jew in Israel because, “After all,” I said, “your people are the people who invented how to win an argument.”


(I used this phrase on more than one occasion and every time I did so, the person would smile or outright laugh, as did Aaron.)


I explained that I had read in my Bible how Abraham had argued with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and had successfully “won” that argument.


The three of us went on to have a wonderful, deep, and genuine conversation about morality and God and religion. When it came right down to it, we agreed that we all believed what we believed after much earnest soul-searching and prayer. All three of us were truly seeking God’s heart.


And, in my heart, I loved those two people. Yes, I had only met them perhaps fifteen minutes before, but I looked in their eyes and deeply longed to call them “brother” and “sister.”


I asked, as humbly as I could, if they would pray with me that all three of us would spend eternity in heaven praising God. 


They agreed, and there in the night beside the Sea of Galilee, we prayed that prayer together. I tried to remember as I prayed that practicing Jews do not speak the name of God out of reverence but instead use “Hashem” (which means “The Name”) or “Adonai.” (Which means, “the Master.”) 


As we all said, “Amen” together, I trusted that the Holy Spirit would work out if and how that would come to be.


Today’s Praise

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

Romans 10:20 (ESV)

(Photo by Jennifer Albright, used with permission.)


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