News from Israel
Since December 2005 we have been undergoing major changes and facing new challenges. On December 31st 2005 I completed 32 years of service with Christian Witness to Israel. Since then I have been serving the church and those of the publications programs assumed by the church when I left CWI. A good deal of time has been devoted to the third volume of the Modern Hebrew Bible, an edition of the Bible in Modern Hebrew and aimed at youth. My role in this project is that of an editor, which primarily involves going over the text with a fine toothcomb and then lengthy, detailed and highly informative sessions with the translator. There is a possibility that, by the time the project is completed, I will know his Bible. Volumes 1 and 2 (the Pentateuch and the Historical books) have been produced. The next volume scheduled is that of the Prophets, due in the later months of 2007. We have already commenced work on the Hagiographa, scheduled some two years later. The fifth and final volume will be that of the NT.
The church has not yet finalized the manner in which it will conduct and oversee this work, as well as that of other publications. This is part of the process we are presently undergoing. A sizeable part of the church came from very different theological and cultural backgrounds. When they first arrived, they imbibed the differences with fascinated relish. But (to-be-expected) reaction has set in. It is now time to review all we are doing, how and why, and to improve or confirm patterns and assumptions established. Nothing but the word of God and the truth of the Reformed Faith is taken for granted. This is a slow and painful process, especially in the light of the different realities we face today compared to those in the past. Much of our practice was formulated in response to a situation which was then relevant: little Reformed understanding, pressures to take different theological and practical routes, the lack of a broad leadership…Now the situation has changed. We agree on the principles and the leadership is much broader. Are we right to continue to hold as tight a rein as was then deemed necessary? How much of a change should be implemented? What kind? WHY?! By way of an example, in the past we premeditatedly hedged the Lord’s Table during Communion in an overt manner. Is it still necessary to be as overt? Whatever our answer, what is the reason for that answer? How do we implement whatever view we choose to adopt on the matter? How to deal with dissent on the issue among the Elders in a respectful, practical and worthy manner?
Semper Reformanda is not an easy principle to follow, however valid, however valuable. It means turmoil, self-examination and a measure of uncertainty. It also gives valuable but discomforting rise to the exposure of differences, of retrograde tendencies, of ulterior motives which come into play and need to be handled with aplomb that we do not always have. There have been times when it looked like we would lose one of more of the Elders. Personal tensions arose and much-loved principles and practices were called into question as well as our respective performance in the application of those principles or the conducting of those practices. We have not yet completed the process, but God has enabled us to continue in unity without the compromise of principle, and we trust him for the future of the process.
The Dollar has dropped in relation to Israeli currency by some 20%, raising the cost of living as well as the dollar costs of construction. We have had to innovate while seeking to make maximum progress with our limited funds. We are still unable to occupy the building, although slow and steady progress is being made.
I have preached through Obadiah and Jonah, having completed the series on God and His World (Creation and Providence) and am soon to embark onto a new series on Man and his Sin (Anthropology and Hamartiology). I also completed a Bible study series on Judges with the Young Adults, now followed by Selections from the Psalms.
Eitan has joined the Eldership and is proving a boon to our labours and to the church. We are on the lookout for others we could try and train but, at this stage, identify none such. A number of baptisms, weddings and one act of excommunication further marked the year, with evidences of God’s blessing. On the other hand, our efforts to identify a likely candidate to replace me when the time comes have not yet been successful and the Search Committee has decided to review its work, the profile and the means we have so far employed in seeking for such a candidate.
In short, 2006 was a well-laden year, full of opportunity for us to grow and to seek to serve the Lord more faithfully.
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