Jerusalem, Israel – A historic convention of The Foursquare Church, hosted at the Jerusalem International Convention Center in Israel, continues today focused on the theme, “On Earth as it Is in Heaven,” bringing together Foursquare delegates from around the world. Following the spiritual directive of the movement’s president, Pastor Jack Hayford, the day began with personal prayer and intercession that filled the convention auditorium from early this morning.
As the congregation gathered, prayers became praise as featured musical guest Ken Medema led the earnest delegates in worship. With obvious prophetic gifting, Medema shared a dramatic musical offering that retold the story of the deliverance of the demoniac as related in the New Testament Gospels. Upon completion of the song/story, the congregation rose to their feet in celebration and joined Medema in sustained worship to Jesus Christ.
Mike Larkin, vice president/director of global operations and missions of The Foursquare Church, introduced missionary Sam to the convention body and asked him to share his experience and call to ministry. Winters shared from his childhood recollections how his parents read stories to him about missionaries and their service to God and the world. At 8, he said God clearly spoke to him about a call to serve the Lord in Israel.
Although he was called to Israel as a child, Winters said the process took 28 years before finding the place of ministry God had promised him as an 8-year-old. He spoke of determination and faithfulness as he trained for ministry at Life Pacific College and in various countries far removed from the Middle East. Now that he and his family live and minister here, he shared of the positive results of the ministry in Israel, driven by the compassion of the Holy Spirit. The ministry focuses on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through practical outreach of medical care, education and bringing unity among the people of extreme diversity.
Following Sam's testimony, Jim Scott, vice president/church operations of The Foursquare Church, and El Clark, corporate counsel, presented proposed by-law amendments related to establishment of the Foursquare Association. Sam reflected on the 47 different venues in which the Foursquare Association has been discussed and vetted, including meetings of virtually every Foursquare leader via a special Web site established for this purpose. He opened the floor for discussion and clarification of the relevant by-law changes, which will be among items voted on in Tuesday morning’s session. With affirmation of the convention body, he thanked the Lord in prayer for His blessing and covering on the decision process that will take place on Tuesday.
In a fitting transition of worship, Ken Medema shared a song asking God to open the windows and doors that have previously been closed in order to reach the world for Christ. Medema’s gift of music, anointed of the Holy Spirit, invited the people of the Foursquare family to welcome the guidance of the Lord as “we go places we have never gone before.”
Pastor Jack introduced the first speaker of the morning, Ari Sorko-Ram, director of Maoz Israel Ministries, Tel Aviv, Israel. The ministry Sorko-Ram leads plants second generation, Hebrew-speaking, indigenous Messianic congregations; prints Christian (Messianic) books and resources in Hebrew; and provides compassionate ministries for Israelis victimized by terrorism.
The message he brought to the convention body challenged Christian leaders to reflect on spiritual principles originally given to Israel and how those principles affect the harvest of our lives and ministries. He related the principle of first fruits, described throughout the Old Testament, to the destiny of every person from the time of his or her birth.
The people of Israel were instructed to make a commitment, he explained. He reflected on the instruction of God to count their first fruits, to care for the crop and the harvest, and to set aside the best of the harvest as the offering to the Lord during the Feast of Pentecost. He went on to explain that the Lord was not interested in vegetables or fruit, but that He wants the commitment of a person’s time and energy. God is interested in people making an investment of themselves to the ministry, he said.
A principle from Romans 9 referred to by Asher Intrater during his keynote address on Sunday evening took on extra significance in Sorko-Ram’s message this morning. He quoted from the apostle Paul’s epistle that God’s plan has always been to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Jew first and then with the Gentile. In a play on words, he said it is not to the Jew better, but to the Jew first. He mentioned the belief of some that God has forsaken the people of Israel because of their role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He challenged that notion and explained that rather than turning His back on His people, God has actually instructed Christians to provoke His chosen ones to return to the God of their Fathers.
A personal story helped drive home the point: He told of an encounter with his young son in which the boy was pouting and refused to accompany his father to the ice cream store. His 3-year-old daughter willingly accepted her father’s invitation to go with him to the store. The little girl pleaded with her brother to accept the father’s invitation to join them, but his pride got in the way. Finally, in desperation, the daughter said to her brother, “If you tell Abba you are sorry, I think he will let you go with us to the ice cream store.” The little boy changed his mind and asked forgiveness for his stubbornness, and the father willingly received his son. Together the father, his son and daughter enjoyed the blessing of ice cream together.
The speaker related this story to the present-day relationship of the Jews and the Gentiles. He pointed out the Father’s heart to take both of His children to the store for ice cream, but one refused. So, the Father went to the other child with the same offer. When she received the invitation, she had a decision to make—would she enjoy the ice cream alone or attempt to take her brother with her. The little girl loved her brother so much she pleaded for a change of heart so that he too might enjoy the blessing she was about to partake of with their Father.
An audible consensus from the congregation affirmed that the message had been received. The prophetic instruction of the Lord followed exhorting Christians to consider their attitudes about the nation of Israel and the church’s present-day role in ministering to the world and to the Jewish people in particular. Mike Larkin sealed the first session of the morning in a declaration of prayer.
Following a brief break, Tommy Walker and his band led the congregation to a commitment in music to take the healing message of God from Jerusalem to the people of the world. The song reminded Christians of our responsibility in Jesus’ name to share what we have received with all of God’s creation. The worship concluded with one of Walker’s most familiar songs of praise, called “We Will Remember.”
Mike Larkin invited Ishan Ozbek, Foursquare national leader in Turkey, to join him in the pulpit. Ozbek was born into a secular Muslim family and later became a religious Muslim, then an atheist, and eventually made a personal commitment to serve Christ. He spoke of his childhood practice of praying to Allah and the frustration he felt when he received no response.
One day, while in a crowded bus, Ozbek experienced a vision of light and cloud, and in the midst of the vision, he heard a voice that said, “I am God!” Ozbek said he realized immediately that this God was not his Allah, and he began a process of seeking the God who would speak to him. When he began reading the New Testament (for evangelical purposes, he said), he discovered that Jesus impressed him as a very nice man. Upon reading Romans 5, Ozbek said, he realized this book was for him.
Pastor Jack joined Mike at the pulpit, and together the convention body agreed in prayer for protection and God’s anointing over the Ozbek family. This intercession was particularly poignant in light of persecution faced by this family in their city following the highly publicized martyrdom of two Christian missionaries. Ozbek preached the funeral message for the martyrs, and the world watched with awe as only days following the death of these men, their widows publicly forgave the murderers.
Karen Davis, who along with her husband, David, pastor Kehilat Ha Carmel (Carmel Assembly) in Mount Carmel, Israel, presented a compassionate song in Hebrew that called Jews and Arabs to join in peaceful purpose. David Davis then directed the conventioneers to Zechariah 4 and noted the phrase, “sons of new oil,” a declaration that he said applies to all those who will respond to the call of God for their lives.
In his message, Davis focused on the fact that although Jews are considered the “true olive tree,” and Gentiles are grafted in to that tree, God desires Jews and Gentiles finally become one “olive tree.” He said that God’s heart is moved when Jews and Gentiles work together, minister together and serve together.
He concluded the message by explaining the significance of the lighting of the menorah and invited his wife to the platform to help him light the candles. To demonstrate the spiritual significance of Jew and Gentile coming together, he also asked Pastor Jack’s wife, Anna, to help light the candles. Karen lit three candles, and Anna lit three. Then, together, the two women lit the last candle.
The morning session of day two concluded with a prayer of agreement, and the conventioneers left the auditorium with anticipation both because of what they just experienced, and also because most of the delegates would participate in tours of Jerusalem throughout the afternoon.
Tonight’s session began with a video greeting from Dr. Elias Malki, founder and president of Middle East Gospel Outreach and graduate of Life Bible College (today called Life Pacific College). In the video, Malki welcomed the convention body to the Middle East and encouraged the delegates with testimonies of how God is releasing powerful ministry in the region.
He challenged the leaders attending this convention to take the message of Shalom from the heart of Jerusalem back to the places where they minister and see the peace of Jesus Christ extend to the world. Following the video greeting, Mike Larkin accompanied Elias Malki to the platform and asked the convention body to agree in prayer for this vibrant leader whose life and ministry continues to be a blessing among the nations of the Middle East.
Glenn Burris Jr., vice president/general supervisor of The Foursquare Church, opened the evening session with a proclamation from the book of Deuteronomy and encouraged the congregation to join with ancient Israel in declaration of God’s praise today. Tommy Walker and his band, accompanied by praise choir, powerfully led the congregation into the presence of the Lord in dynamic and Spirit-filled worship.
The Ministry of Tourism of Israel honored Tommy Walker with a request many composers would covet. He was asked to compose a song that would be used in promotional videos for Christians considering visiting the Holy Land. Delegates to the Foursquare convention were among the first to hear the composition, and he performed the song during this evening’s service. The message of the song is that God’s blessings to the world flow from Israel. It concludes with a commitment that Christians throughout the world will pray for the peace of Israel and affirms that the love and favor of the Lord will rest upon the people of the land.
Following worship, Glenn Burris Jr. returned to the podium with Linda Olmert, director of strategic planning for Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. Burris asked Olmert to greet the convention body. Today is very significant, she began, because Jews the world over begin a corporate fast today in memory of the dispersion of the people of Israel from their homeland some 1,938 years ago. It was at this time that the second temple in Jerusalem fell at the hands of the Romans. The literal fall of the city of Jerusalem nearly two millennia ago brought about the worst era of continuous and sustained persecution that world has ever known.
Olmert spoke of those faithful Jews who remained true to their faith despite an almost worldwide attempt to snuff out the Jewish people and the covenant they have with God. She talked about the torture, the persecution, and eventually the gas chambers of the Holocaust and the millions of Jews whose lives were taken during those years. Her own family suffered the loss of dozens of relatives during those years, and Olmert recounted her personal struggle at being one who survived and is alive today. One of the most difficult memories for her is the reality that most of the persecution befalling her ancestors came at the hand of people calling themselves Christians.
Olmert celebrated with the convention body that today, almost 2,000 years later, as her native people remember the loss of the temple and so many lives, that finally, Jews and Christians can come together in peace and unity. She expressed gratitude that this convention body selected Jerusalem as their site, and she was overwhelmed by the response of the congregation – a standing ovation in clear receptivity to her candor and sincerity.
Pedro Eustache is an accomplished flautist whose artistry has been heard in such well known films as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. In spite of his success and significant achievement, Eustache believes his greatest accomplishment is to be a worshiper of Jesus Christ every day of his life. He owns over 500 instruments, most of which he made himself, and has blessed this convention by playing with Tommy Walker’s band this week during corporate worship. In a performance at once pensive and celebratory, he played “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” the beloved Christmas hymn, and in his rendition, the ministers and leaders attending the convention were both spellbound and inspired.
Pastor Jack brought the keynote message tonight, ministering on the theme, “On Earth as it Is in Heaven.” The message affirmed pastoral and ministerial leaders in their calling and encouraged each person to pray with expectation for fresh anointing of God’s Spirit. He shared of the struggles ministry leaders face and of the profound and sensitive ministry of the Holy Spirit that God promises to those who wait on the Lord. Pastor Jack drew from the Psalms and exhorted the Foursquare family to receive the new oil that was available both figuratively, by the Holy Spirit, and literally, as volunteers distributed vials of oil for anointing and to carry with them as a reminder of God’s promise for His continued presence whatever the season requires.
The evening session concluded with a prayer service and anointing with oil as the Holy Spirit confirmed the Word of the Lord to many who were blessed and encouraged during this evening’s service.
The convention will continue through noon on Wednesday, July 25.