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By: David Zadok
ICC Copenhagen 15th Anniversary
Dear Pastor Ravi and Lillian, ICC members, guests from Denmark and abroad, and the honorable Israeli Ambassador in Demark: Mr. Baruch Binah,
It is truly an honor for Eti and me to be present with you on this very special day as you celebrate 15 years of God’s faithfulness and the fruit of your ministry. I bring warm greetings from our congregation, Grace and Truth, and our HaGefen Publishing staff.
A truly international church is present here in Denmark. The fruit of your ministry is evident in the many international representatives from around the world. Our world has certainly become a village. We can easily learn just about anything through Mr. Google and can travel easily from any corner of the world to the other, but this has brought about many challenges as well as opportunities. Cities in the world, including Copenhagen, have become metropolitan centers of immigrants from many countries, far and near. ICC has certainly taken advantage of this by becoming a light and also a home church for many from various ethnicities, cultures, and languages.
God often uses small things to establish great things. Jesus spoke about the mustard seed to be the smallest of seeds, yet when it grows it becomes larger than all the garden plants. The beginning of ICC with Pastor Ravi and Lilian is such an example. They took a huge step of faith 15 years ago and began the first interdenominational international congregation in Denmark and called it the “International Christian Community” – known as ICC. They bought a microphone, a mixer, and two speakers. A projector was donated. It was a small beginning and a leap of faith because there was no salary and funds only for the first three months of rent for the hall. From that small beginning 15 years later, the church now thrives and reaches out to many in the area and beyond the borders of Denmark. In the past decade and a half, hundreds of people have passed through the doors of ICC studying, and/or working in various diplomatic areas and missions and then resettling in their own countries. Others have established similar community churches in their own land.
A few days ago, Eti and I left Israel on the 69th Independence Day of the State of Israel, a very special and unique time in Israel and its history. But only a week before our Independence Day, we remembered Holocaust Memorial Day and the six million of our people who were brutally and systematically murdered because of their ethnicity and religion. At that point in history, many believed the “final solution” would bring an end to Jewish existence. It reminds us of Psalm 83:4 “They say, ‘Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!’ “(ESV) But God’s plan is not man’s, neither are his thoughts man’s thoughts. Out of the ashes of Auschwitz and other death camps, God in his timing and sovereignty gave new birth to the Jewish people by opening the gates of hope for the desperate and broken Jews both in Europe and many Middle East countries. Thus, 69 years ago the State of Israel was born.
The day before our Independence Day, we had a memorial service for the fallen soldiers and civilians killed in action and murdered by acts of terror. This year, that number reached 23,554. And yet today, Israel is standing taller than ever, and the country has not only survived but is thriving. Israel was one of the first nations in the world to come to the aid of stricken lands and places where man-made and natural disasters had taken a toll on the people and their infrastructure. The Israeli advances in water preservation and recycling and its water dripping innovational systems are saving many lives in many dry areas of Africa and the Sahara. Israeli companies are saving energy even in places like California through their solar system plants. In addition, Israeli medical ingenuity is saving lives in many lands, making life more bearable for people with various diseases. And finally, being on the edge of technology in many areas, various Israeli companies are making life safer and information more accessible.
I believe that there is a parallel between the State of Israel and the church at large, and particularly with ICC. Earlier, I mentioned small beginnings. Israel started with a small beginning. New immigrants came from many countries in which they had to leave forcefully with no possessions. Many were survivors of World War II in Europe. They came beaten and broken, yet with great motivation, and some with a strong belief in the God of Israel. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read about the returning Jews from the Babylonian exile who began to rebuild Jerusalem and the second temple. They often had to build with one hand and carry arms in the other – building and protecting at the same time. In the same way, fledgling Jews returning to the land after some 2,000 years in the late 1940’s, had to do the same. The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 brought war. And once again, the people had to build and to protect. So from that small and difficult beginning, we see how Israel is now contributing to the welfare of the world, in some cases from places from which they left originally.
In the same way, ICC has supported mission work in many countries in which people came from to Denmark where they became part of the ICC family. ICC has already contributed more than 1,000,000 Danish Krone towards missions work internationally, and several representatives of these missions are present here with us today.
There is another parallel far more important between Israel and ICC in terms of their contribution to the welfare of the world. As Rabbi Shaul, Paul of Tarsus puts it in these words in Romans 9:1-5: “I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (ESV). Paul is telling us that the church has been blessed through the Jewish nation as the faith in the living God, his covenants, his law and the Messiah, have come to us from the Jewish race. That is a great blessing that cannot be measured by anything tangible; it is spiritual and eternal. And indeed, we can see how the promise that God made to Abraham, the patriarch that Paul refers to, has been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham and commissions him to leave his homeland and go to a place that he will show him. In that promise and covenant, God blesses him and makes him a blessing to the nations. Later in Genesis 22, the famous Parasha, – a portion of the Torah, the Law, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and God reiterates the covenant with him. In verse 18 he says to Abraham, “and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” The word offspring or seed is in the singular, and we know that it refers to the Messiah who is from the seed of Abraham and the tribe of Judah. In fact, the very first verse in the New Testament opens up with these words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” And from Abraham to David and to Jesus, the Messiah, blessings have been given to the nations by God in and through Abraham … a very small beginning, a mustard seed that has turned into huge, innumerable branches in all corners of the world.
The gospel, that started with a Jewish carpenter and his 12 disciples has reached not only the four corners of the earth but has followers in every country of the world. Places like China and Albania, Africa and South America have seen ever increasing numbers of Christian converts. And even in the Middle East, Muslims are converting to faith to the Jewish Messiah. The ICC program today demonstrates that in a very clear way. In its 15 years of existence, ICC has developed a network of churches around the world, and many of those representatives were at some point part of the ICC family here in Copenhagen. Those you have hosted from many continents and countries of the world are now ministering in the same way in their respective countries. What they received here, they are paying back – extending God’s promise to Abraham that he would make him a blessing and that in him the nations would be blessed. ICC has become a blessing to the nations by equipping and sending out men and women to go to the nations and bring the good news of the gospel – the Messiah has come and His name is Jesus.
Many years ago, while I was studying for my Master’s degree in San Diego, California, there was a TV commercial by the AT&T phone company. Back then, smart phones didn’t exist, only regular touch phones. The ad showed a person picking up the phone, and in the background, you could hear the words “Reach out and touch someone.” ICC has been doing that … reaching out to the people and touching them with the good news of the gospel, helping them in their walk and journey of faith with Christ. That is the great commission that Jesus commanded in his last words recorded in the gospel of Matthew.
In addition, ICC through its “Get Involved” program has provided a platform by which people can put to good use their God given talents. Whether you are gifted working with children or in hospitality, or you are technically gifted as a sound technician or preparing power points, or in many other areas, you can put these gifts to use. You can serve others and at the same time, grow in your talents. It is all about getting involved and becoming part of the community. This was of course how Jesus taught his disciples. He was involved in their lives and whether he sent them out to preach or heal or feed others, he got them involved with people and in this way prepared them for the greater tasks yet ahead of them.
I began by saying what a great honor it is for Eti and me to be here today with the ICC family on its 15th anniversary. In ending, I want to wish you much more such celebrations and that many that will yet walk through these doors will find everlasting life and be blessed by all that they see, hear and do and in turn will become a blessing to others.
Thank you, Pastor Ravi and Lilian for spending 30 years of your lives in the ministry and half of that time here at ICC. Thank you for your faithful service to God and for your leadership throughout these years. And I would like to thanks also the many who at the ICC who serve in various capacities and make the ICC into an international family.
I would like to end with the Aaronic blessing found in Numbers 6: 23-26, and being here at ICC I’d like to do it in Hebrew!
יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ
יָאֵ֙ר יְהוָ֧ה פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ
יִשָּׂ֙א יְהוָ֤ה פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם