Tag Archives: Jesus

Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ´God with us´.”

(Matthew 1:23)

The Forbidden Chapter in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible)

This extraordinary video is a production of the ministry www.TreeofLifeIsrael.org
There is also a Spanish version translated with the support of Towards Excellence. It is available in our Spanish site www.hacialaexcelencia.org

We kindly invite you to share this wonderful message of hope worldwide!

Bringing Back The Light!

This revival will turn the whole Israeli society around, and Israel will fulfill their calling, ´For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem´”

 

Ariel and Shayla Hyde

Ariel, Shayla and their daughters, Anayah and Amalyah.

Ariel, Shayla and their daughters, Anayah and Amalyah.

Ariel and Shayla come from backgrounds rich in ministry experience, having served the Lord with their families in the U.S., Germany, Thailand, and Israel. Today, they are serving in full-time ministry in Haifa, Israel as part of Tree of Life (www.TreeofLifeIsrael.org), and are actively part of Carmel and Kerem El Messianic congregations.

Ariel, a graduate of Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL), served in the Israel Defense Forces, representing Israel to international organizations and embassies. The Lord has opened up doors for him to share the Gospel with Jewish people online through websites and videos, on the streets of Israel, and at special outreach events. He leads an evangelistic media team, and also teaches evangelism seminars to equip and inspire Israeli believers to share the Gospel more often and effectively.

Shayla completed a bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Southeastern University (Lakeland, FL), while being mentored for three years in Collegiate Master’s Corps, an intensive ministry training program. She has taught music, led worship and served in ministry to children in the U.S., Thailand, and Israel.

What times is Israel living right now concerning the Word of God and concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?

We believe we’re in more exciting times now that any other time in history. Why? We are witnessing the miraculous fulfillment of many prophecies concerning Israel and the Jewish people that are all preparing the way for the return of Jesus.

God promised over 60 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) that He would scatter the Jewish people all around the world, but ultimately bring them back to the land of Israel (see for example Ezekiel 11:17, Jeremiah 32:37-41), and we have seen and are seeing this fulfilled in our day. He said the nation of Israel would be reborn in a day (Isaiah 66:7-8), and it happened.

He said the land would be desolate and a desert until the Jewish people returned, and then it would blossom (Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 36; Isaiah 35:1) – and that’s exactly what happened.

He said the nations around Israel would seek to destroy them once they returned, but that He would supernaturally deliver them (Micah 4:11-13). Again, this happened in the wars in 1948 and 1967 and others – where Israel was outnumbered, out-armed, and out-trained and yet somehow still won.

There are many other prophecies about Israel and the end times that have been fulfilled in our day. Ariel actually wrote a booklet together with his father about how God has miraculously fulfilled His promises to the Jewish people, called “Supernatural or just Remarkable?” It can be found here: http://www.treeoflifeisrael.org/supernatural-or-just-remarkable/. It’s proven to be an effective outreach tool to many secular Jewish people who don’t believe in God, showing them God’s faithfulness and love and showing them that the Bible is indeed inspired. It’s also been a great encouragement to Christians, who can see how God has been faithful to His promises to Israel and therefore will be faithful to His promises to all of us!

Isn´t Israel the chosen land /people of God? In your experience, how receptive are currently Jews to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there any difference between younger and older generations?

Yes, Israel and the Jewish people are God’s chosen land and people. But the Scriptures tell us that God actually blinded the eyes of many Jewish people so that they wouldn’t recognize their own Messiah (Romans 11:7-8). But the result is that the Gospel ended up going to the rest of the world (Romans 11:11-12). Paul says that once the Jewish people turn to Jesus, it will bring “greater riches” to the rest of the world (Romans 11:12) and will even be as “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15).

In fact, this is another crucial prophecy concerning Israel and Jesus’ return. Jesus said that He would not return to Jerusalem until the Jewish people welcome Him in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:37-39).
And what’s exciting to see is that there is now an incredibly rapid increase in how receptive Jewish people in Israel are to the Gospel. There were only a handful of Messianic congregations (of Jews who believe in Jesus) in Israel 30 years ago, but today there are around 200.

Ariel, Shayla, and daughter Anayah playing Boaz, Ruth, and Obed in an outreach event with 120 non-believing Jewish people present.

Ariel, Shayla, and daughter Anayah playing Boaz, Ruth, and Obed in an outreach event with 120 non-believing Jewish people present.

At outreach events in the past, if we could get 5-10 non-believing Jewish people to attend, it was great. But over the last year or so, we’ve had several events where 120 and even 150 non-believing Jewish people attended and we had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with them and seeing many turn to Jesus. This was totally unprecedented a few years ago.

The younger generation is definitely more open as a whole to the Gospel than the older generation, but God is softening the hearts of many older people as well. God said that once the Jewish people would return to Israel, He would remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh and pour out His Spirit on them (Ezekiel 36:24-28), and that is exactly what we’re seeing happening today.

What does it exactly mean when the Scripture says “All Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:26)? Will all Jews eventually accept Jesus as their Messiah? What about previous generations?

This is one of many glorious promises of a national revival in Israel at the end of days – it is our goal and our vision! This can’t possibly include all previous generations, because many have died in rebellion against God and/or against Jesus (think of Judas Iscariot, for example). However, God has been merciful and opened the eyes of quite a few Jewish people throughout history to receive Jesus as their Messiah even on their deathbed.

But now He is opening their eyes to “look upon Me whom their pierced” (Zechariah 12:10), mourn in repentance, and live for Him the rest of their lives. This revival will turn the whole Israeli society around, and Israel will fulfill their calling, “For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). It will be as “life from the dead” for the rest of the world (Romans 11:15).

Tell us briefly about your evangelistic projects in Israel. Please, include your amazing experience as you filmed the “Isaiah 53 Video.”

We share the Gospel in lots of different ways in Israel – from outreach events at the holidays to sharing on the streets to media evangelism. We have a Hebrew evangelistic website that has testimonies of Israeli believers sharing how they met their Messiah. We’ve also been going out on the streets and interviewing Israelis about different topics, sharing the Gospel with them, and making videos out of the interviews.

Ariel interviews Israelis on the street, sharing the Gospel with them and making videos out of the interviews.

Ariel interviews Israelis on the street, sharing the Gospel with them and making videos out of the interviews.

Our most recent video about was Isaiah 53, “The Forbidden Chapter.” This chapter, which is a powerful prophecy about the Messiah fulfilled by Jesus, was removed from the weekly readings in the synagogues, and so most Jewish people have never read it before.

So we read this chapter with Israelis on the street, and had some incredible responses both on the street and from the people who have watched the video. We’ve now had over 1.4 million views and thousands of Israelis writing in about it!

Here are just a few out of thousands of responses:

  • Liat: “Amazing!… Could we have missed the Messiah???”
  • Moti: “Where are they reading from?? The New Testament???” (We answered him that we only read from Isaiah 53!)
  • Boris, an immigrant from Belarus, wrote us after going through a state of confusion about the claims of the rabbis and of Jesus. After watching our video and talking with us, he said, “I definitely believe that Jesus is the Messiah.” We’re helping him connect with other believers who can disciple him.

We’ve had in-depth conversations with quite a few interested Israelis. Many others have asked to meet with us in person or on the phone. A number of them have ordered the New Testament or other evangelistic materials. Praise God for this great harvest!

We’d greatly appreciate your prayers and support for us and for the work that God is doing in Israel today! You can find out more here: www.TreeofLifeIsrael.org

The English version ofThe Forbidden Chapter” (Isaiah 53) video is below. There is also a Spanish version translated with the support of Towards Excellence. It is available in our Spanish site  www.hacialaexcelencia.org

 

ISRAEL, LAND OF THE MESIAH!

“This is the land of Jesus, the Anointed One who preached the Gospel to the poor, gave sight to the blind, set free the oppressed.”

 

Israel, the land of the patriarchs and prophets, the land of the apostles, and the land of Jesus according to the Bible accounts, is located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Lebanon. This small territory lies at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.

Here, at the junction of these continents, historically worthy Israel arises majestically and full of mystery.

In my recent journey to Israel, as I looked out over its capital, the old city of Jerusalem, the most

A view of the old city of Jerusalem

A view of the old city of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock

predominant landmark was indeed the Dome of the Rock, as many have pointed out. It rests on the very place where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, on Mount Moriah. This piece of land was later bought by King David in order to build the Temple, actually built by his son Solomon. That was the first glorious temple!

This first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians but after 70 years of the captivity of the Jews, they returned and rebuilt it. King Herod refurbished the temple, so 1,000 Levites were trained as builders,

because no laity could enter certain parts of the building.

Today, the Temple Mount is undoubtedly the symbol of “religious freedom” in Israel because it has been used by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Muslim praying at the Temple Mount

Muslim praying at the Temple Mount

In fact, 75% of the Israeli population is Jewish. Within this group, one may find secular Jews, modern

Ultra-orthodox Jewish

Ultra-orthodox Jewish

Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, and Reform or Messianic Judaism.

On the other hand, 17.5% are Muslims, 2% are Christians, 1.6% Druze, and 3.9% are not specified (CIA, 2013). This is quite evident as one walks along the streets of Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth as well as many other towns and interacts with people whose cultural and religious background is so diverse.

Jewish women praying at Wailing Wall

Jewish women praying at the Wailing Wall

But Israel´s diversity is not only present in the religious and cultural aspects of its population but also in its geography. Although small in size, Israel is surrounded by different topographical features ranging from forested highlands to desert landscapes and from the coastal plain to the semitropical Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee – It reminds us of a great event when Jesus calmed the storm!

Yes, this is the splendid Promised Land, the land of milk and honey that God promised to Abraham and his descendants! The land where Moses and Joshua led the Israelites on the exodus out of Egypt!

Moreover, this land embraces unique scenarios such as Masada, situated above the Dead Sea and one of the fortresses built by Herod the Great. This was a refuge for Jews who escaped from the Roman legions after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Qumran, on the western shore of the Dead Sea, is also

One of the Qumran caves in the Judaean Desert

One of the Qumran caves in the Judaean Desert

well-known for the most stunning biblical archaeological find in 1947, the discovery of the scrolls and manuscripts which are such a magnificent legacy for Christianity.

And of course, Israel is also well-known for the places where Jesus, the Messiah was born, grew up, taught and proclaimed the “Kingdom of God.” The beauty and peacefulness of the Sea of Galilee and its surroundings truly bring to mind the sweetness and loveliness of the powerful and everlasting teachings of Jesus such as the “Sermon of the Mount.” This is the land of Jesus, the Anointed One who preached the

The Gospel Trail or the JesusTrail begins on the southern outskirts of Nazareth at Mt. Precipice towards Chapharnaum

The Gospel Trail or the JesusTrail begins on the southern outskirts of Nazareth at Mt. Precipice towards Capharnaum, at the seashore of Galilee where Jesus´ministry started

Gospel to the poor, gave sight to the blind, set free the oppressed. Jesus is the Son of God who was sent to die on the cross in order to give us eternal life.

As one reads the prophecy of Isaiah 53, he / she cannot help but recognize that this word was fulfilled in the life of our Lord Jesus, as it is recorded in the Gospel account (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19).

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
(Isaiah 53:4-6)

Isn’t this amazing? This land is indeed the Holy Land, but sadly, it is also a divided land that has been in permanent conflict and spiritual blindness, because its people have not acknowledged the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Israel and very especially its capital Jerusalem have been synonymous with conflict, wars and battles throughout history, even from Biblical times.

The Wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem!

The Wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem!

A controversial land in the sight of the world, but surely the chosen land in the sight of God.

Indeed, God has had His eyes on Israel, and His prophets have predicted its restoration. Jeremiah declared that God will restore the Israelites by bringing them together from all the nations. Ezekiel said that Israel would come to know the Lord. And Isaiah declared that Israel would still be a light to the nations and that Jew and Gentile would dwell together in peace through the Messiah.

Yes, God has His eyes on Israel, and so must we. Let us commit ourselves to pray for the restoration and salvation of Israel. Let us make as our own promise what David said:

The Korean church praying for Israel and  Palestine (Peace March 2005)

The Korean church praying for Israel and Palestine (Peace March 2005)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper!”
(Psalm 122:6 NLT)

 

To conclude, this year 2015, this country is celebrating its 67th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. So, let me invite you to watch a very interesting film that I found about this land, produced by National Geographic.

This is how Israel is seen by the world. Enjoy the film and come to your own conclusions!

Shalom!  Peace be with you!

 

A Call for Excellence and Perseverance!

“Perseverance is a key for Christian living, perseverance in spite of difficult struggles in life, perseverance in faith and perseverance in the promises of the Lord.”

 

Tania Mendes

Tania Mara Alves Pereira Mendes. She was born in São Paulo, Brazil. She has been married for 30 years but is thankful to God for what seems a short time because the marriage has been so good. Her husband, Wlademir, is an obstretician/gynecologist. Their son, Tiago Rafael, is another blessing from God. He’s a chemistry researcher and is married to an American girl, Danielle, who is an event manager and yet another blessing in their lives.Brazil-Tania

Tania has a graduate degrees in Theology and Journalism as well as a post-graduate degree in scientific journalism. She is planning to start work on a master’s degree program in communication soon. She has been working for Compassion Brazil for 10 years as a Program Communications Manager and says it has been a privilege to work for God using her professional skills. She has seen many children living below the poverty line who have a new perspective on life and can hope for a better future because they have been transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tania attends a Baptist church in Campinas, a large city an hour and a half from São Paulo, the state capital. Some of the subjects she has taught in Sunday School are New Testament, Proverbs and Biblical Geography. She has also given talks on communication between couples in other churches in other cities.

Tania, you recently returned to your country after a Haggai Seminar. Tell us how this Advanced Leadership Seminar impacted your personal and professional life. And what are your challenges now?

I came back from Chiang Mai, Thailand, in July 2014. I attended a 25-day intensive course on Advanced Leadership there. It was a blessing –a gift from God. Actually, I had waited for about 10 years to be able to attend this course. It was a long wait, but well worth it. I even had to postpone it 3 times because of conflicting schedules. However, I’m sure that God had His proper time and I had the opportunity to go two months ago. I was able to see God acting in my life and in the lives of the 55 women from 22 different countries who attended. This kind of gathering left me with a wonderful feeling, and I understood better how wonderful it will be in Heaven with God and His people from every nation and tribe. There are no words to describe this! It’s really amazing to see people who come from different countries and cultures but who have the same God, the same Savior and the same Holy Spirit! Only God can put all of us together and unite us in spite of our differences.

The Haggai Seminar made an impact on me personally, making me more sensitive and aware of the need to pray more. I need to pray more and Christians need to pray more. There’s a lot of work to be accomplished and we need God’s grace to fulfill the mission. We need His grace and favor to be able to go out and preach the Gospel with the power of the Holy Spirit –to preach a relevant, contextualized message without ever changing its essence.

With regard to my professional life, God reinforced my idea of doing everything with excellence because He is perfection. I know that I am not, but I can improve and can always count on Him to help me. He has given me gifts, so I need to use them and do my best to glorify Him and bring others to His feet. The key word is excellence. Than means doing everything with that in mind!

Tania Mendes, Journalist & Bible Teacher

Tania Mendes, Journalist & Bible Teacher

Lord willing, I’ll give a course for leaders in my church next year. My pastor supports this idea. I want to share with these people the importnce of being a leader who is committed to God and His mission of preaching the Gospel wherever they are and making a difference in their community. We’re preparing material for at least 10 meetings which will be scheduled on Saturdays or Sundays in March and May.

As a Christian journalist, perhaps one of those challenges is also “spreading the Gospel through media successfully.” Along that line of thought, what would you recommend to your collegues around the world so the message of the Gospel may be more effectively divulged through the media and the social networks?

First of all, it’s good to remember that the core values of the Gospel are not negotiable and that we’re committed to a Holy God who never changes. This idea needs to be very clear to every Christian, no matter what his or her profession is. I think people know that the media and social networks are powerful tools. So people who want to use these tools need to be good examples of Christianity by “living the extraordinary in an ordinary way.” This means being very connected to God and understanding and doing his will in a practical way daily. I truly believe that only God has the power of changing a person by giving him not only eternal life, but also a purposeful life on Earth. Heaven starts here when a person receives Jesus as Savior and Lord and begins to care about others and share the “good news” of salvation. People are definitely watching us as we make both big and small decisions, and many times our actions have the power to speak louder than our words.
The media and the social networks are good tools for spreading the Gospel, but we really need to use them wisely. We need to be faithful to the Word of God and be careful in the way we speak and live.

Tania, you have embraced the Christian faith for 36 years. You have probably experienced many “ups and downs” during all these years -many joyful moments, but also many distasteful and even heartbreaking ones. What has kept you faithful to Christianity? Is there true hope in this faith?

Thanks to God, I haven’t experienced “ups and downs” during these years. I certainly have experienced heartbreak. However, I’ve held one Bible verse very close to my heart. It’s Hebrews 12:2 and it says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.” If you do that in spite of people or circumstances in life that can harm you, you can be sure there is hope, because Jesus will never disappoint you and He always fulfills His promises.

Romans 5:8 says that “God has shown us how much He loves us: it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!” The Bible tells us that God is perfect and holy, and it also tells us that humans are sinners and selfish. We have hope because God is good and loves and forgives us, and He draws us close to Him through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

And now, your final message to anyone who might be reading this interview, especially to women who may be facing serious struggles and have lost all hope in life.

Dear readers -and especially dear women: Keep looking to Jesus. He loves you so much and has promised to be with you until the end. Also remember that our help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121, and as the Apostle Paul says, take the armor of God and remain steadfast! (Ephesians 6:13) Remember that Romans 8:28-39 says that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are children of God and each one of us is very special to Him!

So to conclude, let me close with a personal testimony. I was almost 18 when I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I grew up in a Catholic church and I used to be very sincere in my faith, but I really didn’t understand that I needed to recognize Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord. It was not easy for me to deal with this reality, I fought it, but God had His plans.

I also had to deal with conflicts at home. My father even made me leave home four times after he found out I had made this decision of faith, because he couldn’t understand that I had received Jesus because I was a sinner and I needed to do that. For him, a sinner was only a person who stole or killed, a criminal. He refused to speak to me for 4 years. Those were very difficult times, but I prayed and asked God to help me.

God made it possible for me to stay at home until I got married, and now my father has started reading the Bible and attending church. Only God knows his heart. I praise the Lord because He has shown me His mercy as He says in His Word (Lamentations 3.23) and He has also strengthened me (Isaiah 40.31).

So perseverance is a key for Christian living, perseverance in spite of difficult struggles in life, perseverance in faith and perseverance in the promises of the Lord. And all you need is to learn His Holy Word and meditate on it daily!

A Man of God whose Influence Touches Millions around the Globe

“I feel sorry for anybody who’s trying to make a mark and doesn’t know the Lord [Jesus]…Who is changing lives today? Is Buddha? No. Is Krishna? No. Is Mohammed? No. I’m talking about transforming lives to give them joy.”

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                          John Edmund Haggai

Dr. John Edmund Haggai

Dr. John Edmund Haggai

The founder and chairman of Haggai Institute for Advanced Leadership is truly a Christian world statesman. In more than 70 years of public service, he has pastored four churches, held evangelistic campaigns around the world and has established an advanced leadership program with over 93,500 alumni in 186 countries. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Furman University, Dr. Haggai has also received honorary doctorates on both sides of the Pacific. In spite of an intensive travel schedule — including more than 100 round-the-world trips and scores of intercontinental trips — he is a prolific author. His first book, How to Win Over Worry, has sold millions of copies in 19 languages.

 

Unfortunately, our world is surrounded by hopelessness. Could you briefly share with us an event in your life when you lost all hope and maybe even doubted if God was able to help? What did you learn from this experience?

Well, I’ll sound like a goody-two-shoes, but I really can’t remember a time in my life when I was without hope. I did have an experience when I was in Chicago as a student. I was born into a Christian family. I wondered what I’d be if I had been born in a Buddhist family or a Hindu family or an atheist family, so I started studying, and it didn’t take me long. I went to the Newberry Library in Chicago and started doing some studying when I was a student at Moody. I didn’t tell anybody, but it didn’t take a week for me to find out that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a pivotal point, and that settled it for me. No other religion has anything like that. Buddha is dead, Krishna is dead; they’re all dead. Jesus is alive! And He’s still changing lives. They’re not changing lives. So that was the only time. It lasted maybe a week.

How can leaders revitalize a God-given vision when they have probably been praying for a long time and the vision seems not to be becoming real?

I’ve always taken very serious steps. First of all, write out the vision in detail. The Lord told Habakkuk, “Write the vision and make it plain” (Habbakuk 2:2).

Write it in detail. I find that for most people, it’s not a vision, it’s a wish, and it’s amorphous. It’s not detailed.

What is the vision? Why do you think it honors the Lord? Write that out.

Why would anybody be opposed to it? Write that out. And how will you deal with those who are in opposition to it? Write that out.

I’m a strong believer in writing. A French philosopher said, “How do I know what I think until I read what I wrote?” So writing clarifies your thinking. Francis Bacon said, “Writing makes an exact man.” So, write it out.

And then, what steps are you going to take? If you drive from here [Atlanta] to New York City, you’re not going to do it in one hour. You’re not going to say, “That’s a fine looking road, I think I’ll go that way.” No. What are the steps, the action steps?

Write specific goals with rock-solid action steps.

For me to do what we did here as a ministry, everybody was opposed to it, because nobody had ever done it. Nobody had ever done this. My denomination was opposed to it. Some of the most famous evangelists were opposed to it — good men, godly men. The head of the National Association of Evangelicals (he’s now with the Lord, a dear friend of my family, a fellow pastor of my father in Massachusetts) went around the world saying, “Young Haggai is setting missions back 50 years.”

So don’t be arrogant, but don’t be timid — and smile.

What I would do was say, “Do you understand what the vision is? Tell me. Tell me what it is.” Well, they couldn’t do it. I’d say, “How can you be opposed to something you don’t even understand?”

And then you have to go over it every single day.

I can show how I have everything written out, and I go over it. You have to go over it repeatedly. If a man marries a woman and never tells her he loves her, their marriage is in trouble after a short period of time. The guy says, “You know I love you.” No, he’s supposed to tell her that.

So on this vision matter, if it seems that it’s not working, what steps have you taken? If you have a vision to build a great congregation and you don’t even have a church, well what steps have you taken? Why don’t you get some folks into a Bible study? Dr. Johnny Hunt started with just a handful of people and now he has 7,000, but that didn’t just happen. He had a vision, but he put legs to the vision.

So you’ve got to take action every day, and if a person’s taking action every day, he won’t get discouraged. That’s my view. Of course, I have no time for discouragement. Discourage means absence of courage, “dis-courage.” I have two secretaries working for me for years who came to me and asked, “Are you ever down?” I said, “Have you ever seen me down?” They said, “No.” I said, “Down is for losers.” Of course, I’m not down. Why should I be down? God is my Father. The Lord Jesus is my Savior, the Holy Spirit is my abiding Comforter, Heaven is my home. Why should I be down? It doesn’t even make sense. So that is the way I move ahead. If a vision’s not coming about, my thought is what are you doing to bring it about?

Haggai Institute is celebrating 45 years of ministry, training leaders from all over the world and you yourself are celebrating 90 years of age. Although it might be almost impossible, can you summarize or define all these years? What has been your greatest satisfaction as the founder of this ministry?

Well, the greatest satisfaction has been for the people who have been through the training to go back and have such an amazing response. For instance, one of our alumni is Eddie Villanueva in Manila. He has preached to as many as a million people on a weekend. Well, that is satisfaction. We’ve had some who’ve founded hospitals, some who’ve started churches — all that is satisfaction.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint one particular one. Every time I go overseas and see what they’re doing, it’s so far bigger than anything I’d ever dreamed. I could not have imagined it. I think that’s the biggest satisfaction, seeing what they’re accomplishing.

You just mentioned one or two examples, but could you think of a person doing the work the Lord has been allowing that person to do who has really touched your heart, that has even made you weep because of the transformation that is coming to any nation or any land?

I don’t know that I can point to one. My emotions run deep. I wish I could weep. I don’t weep outwardly; I weep inwardly. Of course, what’s going on in China — we have alumni in every province, including Tibet. Now that really moves me. Some of them have huge churches, much larger than many of the churches that we have here.

Or what’s going on in Indonesia. I just had an e-mail. Money is always a challenge since you have to be very quiet. The reason we have to be quiet is that it could endanger some of our alumni in the terrorist nations where there are suicide bombers and everything else, and so we keep quiet for their sake. Well, to raise millions of dollars for a secret is pretty much a challenge, but I got an e-mail recently from a man in Indonesia and he said, “In honor of your 90th birthday, I’m sending you US$500,000.” Well, that brought tears to my heart. Why the Lord touched him at this time, I don’t know.

Most probably, some readers of the Towards Excellence Blog who are not necessarily committed to the Christian faith will be reading this interview. What would you like to say to them? What do they need in order to live life to the full, to live a truly successful life?

The question is, “What components of your life today that you have carried out for whatever years the Lord gives you — 20, 30, 40, 50 — will make you happy at the end?” And you can say, “Well, that was something I’m very grateful for. I’m glad that my children are going to be the beneficiaries of this.” If you can’t point to something like that, there’s something radically wrong.

Cecilia Yepez during the interview with                Dr. John E. Haggai

Cecilia Yepez during the interview with Dr. John E. Haggai

Have you ever heard of “Pascal’s Wager”? Blaise Pascal, the 17th century mathematician and philosopher, said either there’s a God or there isn’t. If you assume that there is not a God, then of course, you have no hope at all. If you assume there is a God, you have everything to gain, and even if there isn’t, you’ve not lost anything. That’s roughly stated. Anybody can Google “Pascal’s Wager.” It’s really quite good.

I feel sorry for anybody who’s trying to make a mark and doesn’t know the Lord. I’m not talking about being a Baptist or a Presbyterian or a particular denomination. I’m talking about a personal relationship with Jesus, the Person. How anyone can study His life and deny that He was different than any other leader, I do not know.

Who is changing lives today? Is Buddha? No. Is Krishna? No. Is Mohammed? No. I’m talking about transforming lives to give them joy. A lot of these folks are very vigorous or they’ll take vigorous action, but they don’t give evidence of having really great joy in their families.

So I would say to just study, read up on this and find out why some of the great leaders found it entirely consistent to be children of God. Ask why John D. Rockefeller was a child of God. Ask why Dr. Howard Kelly of Johns Hopkins found it consistent to be a scientist, medical doctor and a follower of Jesus Christ. Ask why Dr. William Lyon Phelps of Yale said if he had to choose between a college education and a knowledge of the Bible, he would say a knowledge of the Bible. Why did he say that? And then come to your own conclusions.

What has made you happy then?

The knowledge that I am His and that I have all the resources I need for whatever comes. We had a son who was brutalized by a drunken doctor. The veteran nurse supervisor said, “I’ll put my 23 years on the line and testify, if you want to sue him.”

I said, “No, I’m not litigious. Why do I want to sue him? I’m sure he’s shaken.” It’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I’ll tell you why. There were six repetitions of that, and he finally murdered his wife, murdered the doctor who was taking action to bar him from practice and then he committed suicide. All of that would have been spared if I had taken action, but I don’t believe in sawing sawdust or crying over spilt milk. God knows my heart and that was it.

To see Johnny spastic — he could not walk or talk, but he had a brilliant mind… Dr. Eugene Spitz of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School said he had no doubt that if he could speak and we gave him a normal IQ test, he would have an IQ over 170. But you just say, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” And all these things will be taken care of when we get to Glory.

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(*) “I thoroughly believe in a university education for both men and women; but I believe a knowledge of the Bible without a college course is more valuable than a college course without the Bible.”

                                                                                                                         William Lyon Phelps

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What Happens when the Lights Go out?

A couple weeks ago, because of the work I do in communications, I visited a public school in a marginal urban sector of a city on the coast of my country.

I had the opportunity to have a brief time of sharing with a group of little boys and girls, about 30 of them. They were all friendly and playful. Some had mischievous looks about them and others a look of total innocence. But there were a few who couldn’t hide deep anguish and their faces reflected frustration, annoyance and sadness in spite of their young age. When our work and interaction with these little ones finished, on a more informal note I decided to ask them, “What do we celebrate at Christmas?” Can you imagine their answers? Well, here are a few:

– “It’s a party time!”
– “Santa comes at Christmas!”
– “Christmas is happiness!”
– “We get gifts!”
– “It’s Santa Claus’ party!”

When I was about to give up waiting for another kind of answer, one little girl shyly raised her hand and said, “We celebrate the Baby Jesus at Christmas.”

And now as the year is almost at its end, our city is clad in lights and expensive decorations. People are out shopping, preparing big dinners, hiding gifts under the Christmas tree and telling the little ones they must be good so Santa Claus will bring them Christmas presents.

Now it’s not a bad thing to dress up for a party, to share special food with family and friends or to take part in a wholesome celebration –there’s nothing really bad about any of that.  What is really sad is that during this special time of the year, “everybody gets crazy,” as I heard someone say. Traffic is terrible, stores stay open long hours and it seems they aren’t able to accommodate so many people, and social obligations pile up. It seems that all the stress of an entire year accumulates into just two days while people search for the “right gift” for each obligation.

Sadly enough, these little children only about 7 years old that I had the opportunity to meet just recently are the clear reflection of our society. For them, Christmas is a time of lights, decorations, gifts and a fantastic story that with a little luck might come true for them.

Only one in a group of thirty seemed to have a slight idea of the true meaning of Christmas. One in thirty seemed to understand that the “best gift” a person can give a loved one –or even themselves- is “Jesus,” who more than two thousand years ago came to this world as a sweet baby. Yes, Emmanuel  -God with us- came with the only purpose of giving His life as a sacrifice for humankind, for those of us who have faith to believe at least three important things:

– That we are sinners. That there is not even one righteous person in this world.
– That we can do absolutely nothing for ourselves to cleanse our sin. Not even the best works can wipe away the smallest or most hidden sin we have.
– That only the precious blood of Jesus Christ poured out in sacrifice on the cross can cleanse us of all evil and all sin.

This is possible if we have faith to open our heart to Jesus, the only true God, and invite Him to be the Savior and Lord of our lives.

When the lights go out after the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and all the nonsense begins to return to normal and people have to begin to worry about the oversized debts they have acquired during this season and get back to the normal stress of daily life, there is one light that will stay on throughout the year. Just one single light that will shine in the darkness. Just one single light that will glow in the darkness of society’s stress, suffering, fear, weariness, hatred, frustration and loneliness. Just one single light… That light has been, is and will be Jesus Christ, who said of Himself,

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  (John 8:12)

Do you want to walk in the light in 2014? I urge you to do so, to choose to walk in the light. Choose to turn off the artificial lights of vain celebrations and trivialities and decide for Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Putting Jesus in charge of your life is the best and most important decision you can make. When you decide for Christ, His light will wash the darkness from your life and the radiance of the all-powerful God will light your path during this New Year.

May Jesus Christ, the Giver of Life and the Light of the World shine on you during 2014!

Towards Excellence recommends the following link if you want to know more about Jesus, the Light of the World:  http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/