A new Christian fellowship in northern Israel is facing the threat of arson if they do not vacate the building they rent. As some readers know, our son-in-law Michael Nissim is the co-pastor of a church in Nahariya, six miles from the border with Lebanon. The church rented a small industrial unit next to a supermarket last spring. Now a demand has come that the church must move out or the unit will be torched.
This threat has not come from muslims. It is heart breaking to have to tell you that the threat comes from religious Jews, people who should be our brothers.
We were in Nahariya visiting the family last spring when Michael and his co-pastor David Mistele were getting the rented unit ready for the opening meeting of Nahariya Messianic* Fellowship.
It was a very exciting time. Some young volunteers came up from Haifa to paint the walls, Michael and David organized some chairs, and lots of cleaning and clearing out had to be done.
The unit itself is nothing fancy, just an industrial space with one toilet and a sink in the corner for a kitchen. There is a mezzanine floor which is perfect for Sunday School.
A Chinese family donated a beautiful piano, and the first meeting was a joyful time of praising the Lord for His wonderful provision.
The unit is owned by a woman who was warned by Michael that she could come under a lot of pressure if she rented it to the church. She bravely went ahead and they signed a two year contract.
All went well for several months, and the new church decided to put up a sign over the door. There is a fish symbol on the sign along with these words in three languages (Hebrew, Russian, and Arabic):
‘Jesus said: I am the way, the truth, and the life.’
Some Russians started attending, plus some Spanish speaking Jews from South America. A few weeks ago there was great joy as 52 people crowded into the unit.
The sermons are translated into three languages: English, Russian, and Spanish.
Something tells me that this little fellowship is very dear to the heart of our Savior, a beacon of light in His land. But some would put that light out.
The police have been informed about the arson threat. Please pray.
*Footnote: ’Messianic’ is the term for a Jew who believes that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. In Israel they avoid the term ‘Christian’ because for many Jews that evokes the time of the Crusaders, who rampaged through Israel murdering Jews, even burning many alive.
Contrary to what many western Christians believe, the Crusaders were not Christians! They were Catholics, and although some Catholics today are real Christians, the Crusaders were not. Christians do not rampage around murdering helpless people. Catholics were also murdering evangelical Christians and banned the Bible for hundreds of years. This horrible history is now almost forgotten, airbrushed away.
As for threatening to burn a church out, that is a criminal act and we hope the Israeli police will take care of this.
And did the Lord Jesus give us any word of advice about such a situation? Yes, in Luke chapter 6 verse 22 and 23:
‘Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.
‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.’
It is also in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:10. 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'