Jeff Fisher's Monthly Update
August 29, 2005

Greetings!

I pray this letter finds you well and walking with the Lord.  It has nearly been a month now since we left Tel Aviv, Israel, and I thought it time to update you on all that has been transpiring.  The church in Tel Aviv is doing well under the leadership group led by Yacov and Natasha.  Some fantastic things have occurred since we left--the newest baptized brother has found a friend at his work that he has been reaching out to that turned out to be a former Church of Christ member (that's a rare find in the Middle East!).  A disconnected sister has come back to the meetings and is even encouraging another who was weak.  The fellowship continues to meet in Yacov's house, worshipping God and seeking His direction.  We are so proud of the Tel Aviv group and miss them already.  We are confident that God will continue to do great things through them as they dream and plan for the future of God's movement in their city.  Jerusalem and Bethlehem are doing great, too.  After the conference that was held there during the month of July, many studies were added to the church and they had their first married lady get baptized as a result.  God is good....I have attached Aziz's letter at the bottom of this one for more of an update of what is going on there. [Here's a link to Aziz's letter, instead.--Ed.]

Davene and I are doing well.  Our family has been enjoying the last few weeks staying in California with my mom and sister and other family members while visiting the disciples here.  I have had the privilege to speak in a few of the services and share some of the things God has done for us during our time in Israel.  It surely has been interesting being back here in the States....there have been blessings and surprises....some surprises a bit confusing and hurtful to watch.  We now realize we were a bit sheltered in the Middle East from some of the division, unforgiveness, bitterness, and confusion that has been attacking the brothers and sisters here in the US.  God is faithful though, and I feel He has set us a perfect example in Christ of how to react (or not react in such times).  I will share a bit of what He has been teaching us. 

When Jesus chose his disciples, he chose a diverse bunch.  For example, Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector, and thus fit nicely with the sect of Jews called the Herodians, but he also chose Simon, the Zealot, who according to Josephus, was part of a group strictly opposed to the Herodians.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew;
James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax
collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed
him.(Matthew 10:2-4)

Only Jesus, in his supreme wisdom, knew how to gather followers from groups that were nearly opposites of one another.  The Zealots were those who were violently opposed to the control or influence of the Roman rule, even to the point of organizing a group of men called the Sicarii (named after the blade they secretly hid in their cloaks that was pulled out to slay unsuspecting Roman soldiers when they were found alone.) The Zealots felt that any surrender to Rome was disobedient to the Theocratic government that God had chosen for the Jews.  The Herodians, on the other hand, were those who submitted to Roman rule, feeling that their disobedience to God had led the nation under foreign control as a form of punishment from God and that the bondage of such rule would not be relieved until the Messiah came. 

Two very different opinions, yet Jesus chose men from both sides.  How did he do it without taking a side?  The Pharisees saw this apparent "flaw" of opposing sides in the men that Jesus had chosen for the 12 and sought to trap him by getting him to show favoritism to one side's view over the other.  Consider this passage in Matthew 22:15-22:

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him
along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach
the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention
to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the
coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this?
And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

The dark side tried hard that day to divide Jesus and his disciples...to get them to fall prey to arguing sides, splitting his followers down the middle with issues that, for Jesus, only distracted from winning the lost. 

This is something God showed me a long time ago when I was being prepared for my time in Israel by a brother who once lived there and knew that the land was full of divisive sides and opinions even unto this day.  He warned to be wary of laying down lines that would divide souls that could be saved otherwise.  I never realized that that advice would not be just applicable in the middle of the Israeli conflict, but also applicable among my brothers and sisters here in the US.  There is a higher road, one that Jesus found, that is above slinging slander with words that will only be regretted.  A road that if we look into the Gospels, Jesus often had to travel by....so many questions Jesus refused to answer because he did not want to be entrapped by party lines that would limit his outreach.  A dying world is bleeding out there, and we are distracted with our internal quarrels instead of rescuing the lost.

As Jesus asked Peter so long ago..."Do you love me?"....."Then feed my sheep!"

The sheep starve while the shepherds argue.  God made Himself clear long ago in Ezekiel 34:22:

I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.

As hard as we may let our carnal man try, we will not be able to take away God's role in being Judge.  So, why try?  We have work to do!  Let's stop being distracted and get busy!

With all my love and utmost prayers,

Jeff Fisher


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