A Renewed Focus on Evangelizing and Discipling Jewish People

God really does work in mysterious ways.

I still remember receiving a phone call from Scott Brown, who was leading one of our most successful Chosen People Ministries Messianic congregations at that time, located in the greater Washington, DC, area. He asked if he could speak with me about a new ministry that he and his wife Margie were excited about pursuing.

I traveled to Washington, DC from New York City and watched as Scott drove up on a Harley-Davidson to the restaurant where we were meeting for breakfast. As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew that I was speaking to someone who had received a clear calling and vision from the Lord.

I could hear the excitement in his voice as he described this exhilarating new evangelistic venture. I respect and admire Scott, so I would have agreed to his doing almost anything, as long as it fulfilled our mission to reach Jewish people with the gospel. However, when he mentioned moving to New Zealand—that was a “faith-stretch” for me. Traditionally, very few Jewish people live in New Zealand!

It might be best to have Scott share the rest of this story about how God turned a burden for reaching young Israelis into one of our most effective ministries to the Jewish people. Before you read what Scott is going to share, let me tell you that young secular Israelis are probably one of the toughest and hardest-to-reach groups among the 15.5 million Jewish people alive today. But nothing is impossible—with God!

As you will see, the Lord gave Scott and Margie, Lawrence Hirsch (our leader in Australia), myself, and hundreds of others in New Zealand a heart for bringing hard-to-reach young Israelis the gospel at the right moment, in the right place, and even at the right time of their lives.

Scott writes,

My wife and I stumbled upon the idea of a “backpacker ministry” while motorcycling throughout New Zealand’s wild and wonderful South Island. Every night, we stayed at “backpackers” hostel-like facilities that are designed to create community among their guests. We were shocked and delighted to find these places filled with young seekers from around the world (including Israelis!) who were eager to discuss spiritual topics. It was a candy store for missionaries! And given the fact that Margie and I have a sweet tooth for missions, we moved to the South Island the very next year, purchased a very remote riverside campground and went straight to work!

The original story about Israelites wandering in the wilderness doesn’t end particularly well, but the many stories of Israelis wandering into our wilderness campground are replete with joy and redemption! Take, for example, the story of Shira, a pre-med student who lit up with excitement when I told her that the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed just a few minutes away. Shira turned to her traveling partner Naomi and recounted how her mother had read her the entire Chronicles of Narnia series when she was a little girl.

I asked Shira to describe Aslan (the character depicting Jesus) to her friend, and to explain what Aslan did to prove his love for his kingdom. After she passionately (and unwittingly) shared the gospel with Naomi, I asked Shira, “Are you aware that you just perfectly described what God has done to demonstrate His love for us?” Shira seemed to have previously reflected on Aslan’s symbolism because I could hear the “click” of the light turning on! I then told her that there is a chapter in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that reveals Aslan’s true identity and gave her the book, Isaiah 53 Explained. I wish you could have seen how excited she was to receive it!

God brought 2,300 young Israelis to our campground, most of whom received Hebrew New Testaments, gospel literature, and a close encounter with an unashamed Jewish follower of Jesus—me! But if you know the God who does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) you won’t be surprised to learn that He has done so much more! To date, our outreaches have touched the hearts and minds of well over 10,000 Israeli guests in our multiple facilities, as well as many hundreds of backpackers from Europe, South America, and Asia.

In the years prior to March 2020, when the pandemic closed New Zealand’s borders to tourists, our facilities were brimming with young Israelis who were exposed to the gospel daily by means of our dedicated staff and volunteers.

Countless gospel seeds were planted in Jewish minds and hearts, seeds that will burst forth in glorious regeneration in days to come!

After returning home from their New Zealand adventure, an Israeli couple wrote this to our staff at one of our backpacker facilities:

“You taught us the lesson of love that we will continue to learn and to teach others. We learned about Christians who love Israel and love us, and who are completely different from those we knew before. We learned about Jews who live among us that we never knew existed [Jewish believers in Jesus]. We are thankful for the lessons we learned. We wish that you continue to have blessings from God . . .”

Scott concludes, “What a privilege to be part of a kingdom initiative that is moving Israelis, one by one, closer to the King Messiah, Yeshua!”

BACK TO BASICS ’22 CAMPAIGN

I am sure this story of God’s redemptive power has already captured your heart and thrilled your soul. What started out as an off-the-beaten-path vision for Jewish evangelism has now resulted in thousands of young Israelis hearing about Jesus in an absolutely wonderful, beautiful, and loving setting.

I want to let you know that we have prayerfully developed a series of outreach goals for 2022–2023. We have learned a lot during the pandemic, and not simply because of the difficulties of this period. It also allowed us time to reflect upon our ministries for the Lord.

I believe the Lord wants us to refocus on the very same ministries we have been doing for longer than a century. I can boil it down to two strategic efforts: The first is direct evangelism and the other is discipling and training those we reach for Jesus. These goals are in sync with some of the last words of Jesus before He ascended to the right hand of the Father:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

During the next year, we plan to focus on reaching Jewish people who are traditionally “hard-to-reach,” like young secular Israelis. This also includes secular Jewish urbanites, the ultra-religious Jewish people around the globe, especially in the greater New York area and Israel, and many others as well.

We believe this “remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11:5) is spread throughout the global Jewish community, and over the next few years we hope to locate and reach them for Jesus. Of course, once reached, we will disciple and train them one on one and through our new Chosen People Bible Institute online. We will also plant them in growing messianic congregations and enable them to study at our Charles Feinberg Center in Brooklyn or online.

We are training the next generation of leaders in the field of Jewish missions.

Who knows? Maybe some of these next-generation leaders will be from among those who were formerly “hard-to-reach.” Through your prayers, generous giving, and the sacrificial work of our missionaries, we will see a movement of next-generation Messianic Jewish leaders prepared for the work of global Jewish evangelism. That is my hope and prayer!

It would be a blessing to know you share this vision for our Back to Basics Campaign. Right now, I do not think anything is more important for Your Mission to the Jewish People than focusing on evangelism and discipleship in preparation for the Lord’s return.

I believe this will be a powerful step forward for the Lord and the Jewish people in a post-pandemic world!

PARTNERS IN THE GOSPEL

On behalf of our entire global staff, I want to thank you for your prayers and faithful support. We are partners in the gospel and in bringing the message of Messiah Jesus to the Jew first and also to the Gentile! We cannot allow Jewish evangelism to become the great omission of the Great Commission.

Our Back to Basics Campaign for 2022 will also include equipping members of local evangelical churches and Messianic congregations around the world to serve the Jewish people alongside us by providing encouragement, new and exciting tools, and in-person and web-based training.

Thanks so much for caring and again, Happy New Year! I hope 2022 will be a year filled with His presence and even some unexpected ways to serve Him through the year.

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A New Year of Ministry

I love this time of year as we reflect upon God’s goodness and grace. I hope you had a joy-filled Christmas and were able to give more thought to the dozens of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament. Last month, I highlighted a number of these prophecies that have impacted the messianic expectations of my Jewish forefathers. I am excited to share more with you about some of them.

One of my favorite prophecies describes the promise of God to David through Nathan the prophet:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:12–13, 16–17)

We know the baby born in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 5:2, would be the promised Davidic King and sit on his throne forever. But those meant to be His subjects—my Jewish ancestors—did not accept Him. As John wrote, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

As a Jewish person, I wish my Jewish ancestors had accepted Him as Messiah.

We will not realize the complete establishment of His glorious kingdom until my people—the Jewish people, His chosen people—declare their loyalty to the one true Messianic King of Israel. Paul wrote of that day, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

I believe that day is coming. According to the word of God, the emergence of this glorious and literal Davidic kingdom is unstoppable! As sure as He came once, so He will come again! Luke wrote:

And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11)

Maybe we will see Him face to face in 2022!

FIRST TO DIE

Jesus fulfilled a hidden and more mysterious element of messianic prophecy in His first coming as His journey to the Davidic throne included suffering and dying for our sins.

Isaiah wrote in chapter 53:4–5, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”

I recognize that this rejection by many first-century Jewish leaders was part of God’s plan as it would lead to His death for our sins. We understand that the Son of God was born to die so that the sons of men might become the children of God—through His finished work at Calvary.

But this is not the end of the story.

He would also rise in triumph by resurrecting from the dead and then, one day, taking His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of the nations.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:2–5, “. . . which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.”

We pray that God will use you and our 127-year-old mission to reach today the remnant of Jewish people who will come to faith in the promised Messiah.

We also believe the calling of Chosen People Ministries is to stir the hearts of our Jewish people to prepare them for their end-times turning to Jesus, which will initiate the final series of prophecies related to His return. Again, the apostle wrote in Romans 11:25–26, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved.”

Jesus promised this end-of-days turning of the Jewish people to Himself when He spoke to the Jewish leaders during a pivotal point of His ministry, “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39).

I take great comfort in knowing that the day will come when the Jewish people will welcome Him, and He will reign forever. This eternal reign is our biblical hope.

UNTIL THEN . . .

In the meantime, we will work tirelessly to bring the message of the King to the Jewish people. As I think about all the Lord accomplished during 2021, and what He is doing today, my heart is encouraged, but we need your prayers and partnership more today than ever before! We hope and pray that Chosen People Ministries will emerge from the pandemic strong as we draw closer and closer to the day of His return.

Allow me to share some of the blessings of this past year and some hopes for the future:

  • In Israel, we recently took about two dozen Holocaust survivors to Haifa on a retreat, which was a first over the last eighteen months. We prayerfully hope the landscape will change in the coming months in Israel, allowing us to fully reopen our Ramat Gan and Jerusalem Centers to meet in person without restriction.
  • Last month, we took forty young Israelis for a retreat in the desert for fellowship, and several seekers joined us for the trip.
  • Our Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies initiated our first virtual class in Israel through Zoom! Dr. Gregg Hagg taught Hermeneutics and Bible Study Methods. This addition to our seminary program is an exciting step forward in making disciples in the Land!
  • We are developing a brand-new and innovative website in Hebrew to reach younger Israelis. This site will cover many of the challenges that younger and more secular Israelis face regarding relationships, education, the stress of serving in the Israeli army, and other emotional issues like loneliness.
  • We are also getting ready to begin our new “Hosting Israelis” network in the United States and other countries where Christians can invite Israelis traveling after their army service to spend a few days in their home. This network will give Israelis an opportunity to see what a Christian family is like and it will provide our hosts the opportunity to talk to these precious young people about the Lord.
  • We are developing other digital media tools for evangelism, including a new animated “gospel tract” for Facebook and other social media platforms.
  • We had great success with our online Hanukkah and Christmas outreach as thousands responded and requested our booklet, The Gospel according to Hanukkah!

ADVANCING TOWARD HIS GLORIOUS FUTURE

By God’s grace, we have certainly experienced the Lord’s blessings throughout 2021, but I believe 2022 will be a year of more incredible progress in sharing the gospel with the Jewish people. We plan to continue our advancement strategy focused on three areas: training a new generation of Chosen People Ministries staff; expanding our ministry through social media, videos, and websites; and growing our exciting work in the Holy Land as we continue to add new young staff members.

I so appreciate your help, prayers, and generous support throughout 2021 and hope you will continue to stand with us in 2022.

The encouragement and trust you have shown me and our staff reflect your heart for this ministry and your continued commitment to making the gospel known among God’s chosen people.

Please pray for our efforts in working with hundreds of local churches by marking January 16, 2022, as “To the Jew First Sunday.” We have provided videos, various books and booklets, and other resources to make this a special Sunday for God’s work among the Jewish people. For more information on “To the Jew First Sunday,” please visit chosenpeople.com/priorityinfo.

May the Lord fill your heart and home with great joy during this new year. Zhava and I and the Chosen People Ministries worldwide staff wish you a happy and hopeful New Year.

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Messiah, Son of David

Merry Christmas! I hope and pray you will find this wonderful season of the year to be filled with the presence of the Lord.

How does a Jewish person come to faith in Jesus the Messiah? In my case, it was by discovering the ways Jesus fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, I would have never imagined the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Jesus. It would never have even occurred to me that such a thing was even possible!

Yet God can reach even the least likely person, in a most unlikely way. One day, I found a New Testament in a phone booth in the middle of the Redwood Forest in Northern California. I was nineteen years old and asked God earlier that day to show me the truth—especially if Jesus really was the promised Messiah. Two of my best friends had recently become believers, and during my efforts to talk them out of it, I became intensely interested in finding out if Jesus was the Messiah of Israel.

The Son of David

My favorite Bible hero growing up was King David. I admired David but never gave much thought of him as the great…great-grandfather of the Messiah. Though raised a modern Orthodox Jew, I was still very secular. I could read the Bible in Hebrew by the time I was ten years old, but I did not really know what I was reading!

I still remember reading the New Testament I found and was simply stunned by the first verse of the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Immediately, the New Testament, which I thought was a book for Gentiles, warmed my heart. When I read about Jesus’ relationship to King David, I was encouraged to keep reading. Linking Old Testament prophecies with what I saw in the Gospels eventually helped me come to accept the Lord.

I cannot overstate the importance of this connection. It is essential to show Jewish people how Jesus fulfills the Messianic promises of the Hebrew Scriptures as they demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah to a Jewish person who is sincerely seeking. Without the reassurance of this Jewish connection, even the most indifferent Jew will hesitate and turn away.

The Davidic Covenant

The covenant God made with my hero David, including the promise of the Messiah, has come to mean a lot to me over the years. It all hinges on that frequently misunderstood title, “Messiah.” Let’s unpack it a bit and trace the connection between David, Jesus, and the role of Messiah.

The writers of the New Testament clearly believed that the Old Testament spoke of a Messiah who would save Israel from her enemies. Not only that—they taught that Jesus is that Savior. He rescues all who believe in Him from sin and judgment!

“Messiah” and “Christ” are the same term. The Hebrew word Messiah literally means anointed and refers to the process of oil being poured over the heads of key leaders within the nation of Israel as a symbol of God’s Spirit empowering them for their ministry. Christ, our English term, is derived from the Greek term christos, which is actually the Greek word for Messiah.

The Hebrew Scriptures describe three anointed offices in Israel: prophets, priests, and kings. In our understanding, the Messiah is the one who combines all three offices in one anointed person.

That is, the Messiah is God’s prophet, priest, and king, and we proclaim that Jesus fulfilled each of these anointed offices. He spoke for God as His prophet, He is the high priest interceding for us, as well as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, and He is also our king, both today and tomorrow.

We read in 2 Samuel 7:12–16 the following prophecy of King David’s eternal kingdom described by Nathan the prophet,

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.

Often, covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures are delivered as prophecies. For example, in Genesis 12:1–3, what is usually known as the Abrahamic Covenant, God promises that the patriarch and his descendants would become a nation, inherit a land, have a relationship with the God who chose them, and be a blessing to the world. It is a prophecy and also a covenant, and God is the one who makes sure these wonderful promises come to pass.

The promises in 2 Samuel are usually referred to as the Davidic Covenant. It is a prophecy and a covenant promising David a son who will be the future king of Israel and reign forever.

In the past, the Jewish people demanded a king, and God allowed them to anoint Saul as their first regent. Yet this choice came to the children of Israel without God’s blessing. Israel failed in following their chosen king, and the king failed to lead his people. He disobeyed God’s instructions regarding proper worship and lost his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:13–14).

God then chose a shepherd boy to be the king of Israel. Unqualified according to the standards of the world, He was nonetheless qualified in God’s sight and was also from the promised royal tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and born in Bethlehem, the city of David.

God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, promised that the kingdom of David would endure in perpetuity! The Lord assures King David that his dynasty would last forever. Even if David’s sons were disobedient, as was Solomon, the dynasty would still endure.

The Davidic Covenant falls into a category of covenants that are described as unconditional.

In Isaiah 9:6–7, we read about this coming Davidic King in majestic terms, spoken by the prophet Isaiah.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

The predicted names of this child reveal that He would be God in the flesh. Only Jesus the God-Man and King could fulfill this prophecy; He is the ultimate and eternal Davidic king.

These prophecies came to pass and provide a powerful rationale for our faith.

As a Jewish believer, I could not believe Jesus is the Messiah unless I was convinced that all He did was consistent with what was predicted in the Hebrew Bible. I was . . . and still am, more than ever!

Our Message of Hope for the Jewish People

I am privileged to be the seventh president of Chosen People Ministries. Our Mission was founded in 1894 by a rabbi who left Hungary to find freedom on the golden shores of our great country. Leopold Cohn found far more than he expected. He found Jesus, who provides true freedom and joy. We want our Jewish people, family, and friends to find that same peace, so we will continue to proclaim His love for all—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile—until the Son of David returns to set up His throne.

But we cannot do this without you. We are partners in this ministry to the Jewish people. Whether we are reaching Jewish people in the United States, Israel, France, Argentina, or the other countries where we serve, our message is the same. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, and when we place our trust in Him, we receive the glorious gift of eternal life.

Thank you for your prayers and generosity. Have a Merry Christmas, knowing that the promised Son of David has come and will come again to fulfill every last detail of the promise to King David.

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Serving in the Land of Yeshua’s Birth

I am writing to you at a time when Israel is again battling against the new coronavirus variants, shutting down Ben Gurion Airport to visitors and restricting various everyday activities for all Israelis.

The pandemic hit Holocaust survivors in Israel harder than most as they are physically vulnerable and already some of the most emotionally traumatized people on the planet.

We all know the pandemic made life difficult for everybody, in every country, every community, and household. But imagine what it would be like if you were an eighty-six-year-old Holocaust survivor living in a cramped apartment for a year and a half without a computer or knowing how to use modern technology.

Israel went into lockdown because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, which resulted in the closing of the state-funded social clubs for Holocaust survivors in an effort to protect them from the spread of the disease. This created an opportunity for our staff at Chosen People Ministries—Israel to show His love by serving the survivors. Our staff received special permission from the government to visit these precious souls in their homes and provide them with food and other supplies. But almost more importantly, these visits provided personal connection, prayer, and comfort as our staff was able to share the good news of the Messiah with those who were open.

Our team sprang into action, and we taught dozens of Holocaust survivors how to use computers and even Zoom for virtual meetings. From Bible studies to live online concerts with worship music and teachings from Scripture, we provided a steady stream of hope and personal contact through Zoom events designed for those unable to leave their apartments. We must also remember that, during some of this time, the survivors lived in terror as missiles from Gaza were regularly flying overhead, and some of the rockets that were not stopped by the Iron Dome hit the ground near their apartments, which are very close to the border.

Maxim Katz, who leads our ministry to Holocaust survivors in Israel, described to me the ways in which hardship opened doors for ministry among hundreds of elderly Holocaust survivors and their families.

I am sorry to say that many Holocaust survivors whom Maxim and his team served, approximately seventy in total, passed away during the last year. To make matters worse, Maxim recalls that none of our staff were able to attend the funerals as only a few close family members were permitted to attend. This brought us to tears.

ANSWERS TO PRAYER

What encouraged us the most during this season were the hundreds of phone calls we received from Holocaust survivors and their curious, unbelieving family members asking for prayer. We spent hours upon hours talking with and praying for people over the phone.

One sweet ninety-year-old lady called Maxim and asked for prayer for her grandchildren, who are now in the army. The next day, Maxim received a phone call from an officer in the military who was this lady’s grandson. “My grandmother said you prayed for me,” he remarked. “Who are you, and why are you praying with and helping my grandmother?” he added. Maxim shared openly that he was a Jewish believer in Jesus and told him about our ongoing work among Holocaust survivors. Maxim’s testimony touched the man, and days later, he received a message from this officer saying he—an unbeliever—wanted to support the ministry financially! Not only that, but he continues to call Maxim to this day, asking questions about faith and sharing about his own spiritual journey.

Another precious lady in her late eighties called and asked us to pray for healing from cancer. Maxim and the team prayed for her and offered practical help as well because she had no family in Israel. She accepted Jesus as a result of our prayers and practical support. It was a beautiful picture of Jesus’ words: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

CHANGE AND ENCOURAGEMENT

Recently, an eighty-six-year-old man asked Maxim, “How did you come to the faith? How did God find you? Because you weren’t born a Christian. So, what happened?” After two hours of Maxim and even some other survivors sharing their testimonies, the man came to faith in Jesus!

Pray for these precious Holocaust survivors. We try to help them spiritually and practically, but we are also fighting the clock as many, especially during the pandemic, have passed away. Please pray that God will continue to open the hearts of the survivors and that He will send additional laborers to serve on our team who can especially help with home visits. It requires a lot of time to make these personal visits as the survivors are often so lonely.

The harvest is plentiful in Israel among Holocaust survivors! But the time is short. Matthew wrote, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (Matt 9:37–38).

So, please pray for new laborers and think about sharing financially in this urgent ministry so that we can take on some new workers for this effort…again, the time is short.

You can help us in this wonderful ministry through your prayers and support of new workers!

MAXIM’S TESTIMONY

Maxim was born in Siberia, Russia, in 1976 to a traditional Jewish family. Due to a problem at birth, he could not walk until he was nine years old, which made his childhood very difficult, especially making friends with other children. When he reached adulthood, he became very attracted to the world.

After some time, Maxim decided to move to Israel under the Law of Return, which allows Jewish people to immigrate to the Holy Land. He settled in the resort city of Eilat in the south of Israel with other immigrants from Siberia. But instead of finding a new life, he quickly became attracted to alcohol and chose the wrong kind of friends who were also heading down a path to nowhere!

But the Lord had His holy hand on Maxim and began drawing him to the Savior. He met some godly believers in Eilat and began to understand that there was a God who loved him. Going nowhere on his own, he prayed and asked for God’s help. Still, life became more difficult, and he ended up on the streets. Then, one day, Maxim called out to God for help as he knew that Jesus alone was the answer to ALL of his problems.

Eventually, God called Maxim to serve Him full-time, and he has been serving with Chosen People Ministries since 2002, teaching Bible studies, assisting the director of the work in Israel, and sharing the good news of Messiah with all who are willing to hear.

The Lord also brought Maxim a beautiful wife, Slavna, and together they minister for the Messiah in Israel among Holocaust survivors and among children as Maxim also leads our very fruitful camp programs.

THE ISRAEL PROJECT

Your Mission to the Jewish People has more than twenty staff members in the Holy Land serving the Messiah among His chosen people. Our Centers in Jerusalem and in the greater Tel Aviv area are again up and running, and Maxim and our other staff members are busy reaching Jewish people in Israel: Holocaust survivors, young adults, children, soldiers, and many others!

During this season of the year, when we think deeply about His miraculous birth and generosity toward us (Romans 5:8), please join me in prayer for the work of Chosen People Ministries in Israel.

Merry Christmas, and may He be glorified in all things!

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The Story of Hanukkah

Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the entire Chosen People Ministries global family! I hope you will be able to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal with your loved ones! If you lost a friend or family member during the last year or two, I also pray the Lord will fill your heart with heavenly comfort and peace.

I am very thankful to God for you and the ways you have stood with Your Mission to the Jewish People this year. Your prayers and support mean so much to us!

We have so much to be grateful for in spite of the circumstances, as our staff continues to reach Jewish people with the gospel both in person and online.

Our outreach has even increased this past year as so many Jewish people are looking heavenward for answers.

Our work among elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel has increased as the need has been overwhelming. Chosen People Ministries—Israel has provided love and company for the lonely, food for the hungry, and of course, the good news of Jesus to these precious Jewish souls. Many young Israelis also attend our online ministry events when we cannot meet in person. We need your prayers as we resume in-person outreaches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and throughout this country of almost seven million Jewish people.

In New York City, we recently commemorated the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 by honoring our heroes and reminding Americans of our unbreakable bond with Israel in combating terrorism. More than 40,000 people joined us for the event online and in person.

We thank God for all He has done in our 127th year of faithful ministry, and we are looking forward to the greater things He will do through you and our global staff in our 128th year (John 14:12). We are focusing on reaching Israelis in Israel and wherever they travel after the army with the gospel, expanding our outreach through videos, podcasts, and social media, and preparing our next generation for leadership in Jewish ministry through our Brooklyn-based and now online Charles L. Feinberg seminary program!

We have so much to be grateful for in Jesus, our Messiah. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The Story of Hanukkah

I also wish you an early Happy Hanukkah, which is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, I loved each day of this eight-day festival because my parents gave us presents every night as we lit the beautiful Hanukkah candles.

We also eat wonderful foods like potato pancakes (called latkes) smothered in applesauce or sour cream. In Israel, delicious jelly donuts are also a Hanukkah staple. OK… so it is not the healthiest of Jewish holidays! We make our Hanukkah foods with lots of oil as both oil and light illustrate two of the great themes of the holiday.

Let me explain.

The story of Hanukkah takes place during the biblical “silent years”—the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. In 168 BC, the Jewish people rebelled against the Syrian-Greek General, Antiochus the Fourth, whom the Jewish people called “Antiochus the Madman.” This evil Seleucid king took the name “Epiphanes,” which means “God manifest,” as he believed he was the manifestation of one of the Greek gods. Antiochus wanted the Jewish people to worship him rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was at the heart of the reason for Israel’s resistance.

A priestly family called the Maccabees led the rebellion. They lived in a town called Modi’in, which is just a few miles

from Jerusalem. As the story goes, the representative of Antiochus entered the village and demanded that the Jewish people in Modi’in bow down and worship a statue of Antiochus, upon pain of death. In doing so, they would affirm belief in the gods of the Greeks, loyalty to the madman, and rejection of the God of the Hebrews.

This godly family waged guerrilla warfare against the mighty Greek-Syrian army and managed to defeat Antiochus. This victory was a miracle as once again, Israel beat the odds and defeated a much larger and more powerful enemy. Jewish people traditionally view this as God’s blessing upon the Maccabees for their faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After their victory, they traveled to the Holy City of Jerusalem to rededicate the Temple. The victorious band of priestly guerrillas was horrified as they entered the Temple.

They discovered that Antiochus had sacrificed a pig on the altar, signaling the Syrian Greeks’ contempt for the Jewish people. The Maccabees tore down the stones of the altar as it was deemed beyond cleansing. According to Jewish tradition found in the books of Maccabees (1 Macc 4:36–59; 2 Macc 10:1–8), the Maccabees set the defiled altar stones aside until “a prophet” comes, who would tell them what to do with the stones (1 Macc 4:45–46).

Then, according to tradition, they discovered the eternal light in the Temple had only enough oil to last for one day. So they immediately began to make fresh olive oil to keep the eternal light from being extinguished. According to tradition, even though it usually takes eight days to complete and cure the oil, the one day’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight!

We do not know whether the story is true or not. However, I was raised in a very traditional Jewish home and taught to believe it was true! Either way, the victory of Hanukkah is one of the great stories of both Jewish heroism and God’s loyalty to His chosen people. For these reasons and more, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.

The festival is far more than an opportunity to enjoy the

beauty of family gatherings, Hanukkah parties, or even giving presents. The holiday is more than a wonderful time of playing games with our families, like spinning little tops called dreidels and singing some of the most moving songs within our Jewish tradition.

Jesus & Hanukkah

My wife and children love the holiday as it beautifully connects to our Messiah Jesus in so many ways. After all, Yeshua, Jesus, is the Jewish Messiah. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), so there is nothing like the lights of the Hanukkah candles to remind us that Jesus the Messiah is the true light that illuminates mankind.

But there is more! Hanukkah is recorded as observed by the Jewish people in the New Testament—not in the Old! John wrote that Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication, a title that commemorates the rededication of the Temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes.

In John 10:22–30, we read:

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give

eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

In the midst of this moment of intense and heated debate with the Jewish leaders of the day, Jesus makes one of the most remarkable declarations about His person found in the entire Bible.

He is not only the light of the world, but He is God in the flesh!

This message of His incarnation, light, and the deliverance He offers humanity through His death and resurrection is the message we hope to bring to every Jewish soul.

So please pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People—that the Lord will fill us with His Spirit, enabling us to continue our ministry to the Jewish people in Israel, the United States, and throughout the world.

The Future of the Middle East

I am also grateful for the Abraham Accords and other movements bringing peace and hope to a new and changing Middle East! But even more, I look forward to the reshaping of the Middle East when Jesus returns to reign as King!

We are grateful for your faithful partnership. Have a Jesus-centered and joyful Thanksgiving and a Happy Hanukkah!

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Thankful for Israel and the New Middle East!

We are living in exciting but not unexpected days. I am grateful for the ways in which God has demonstrated His power through the survival and restoration of the Jewish nation! Let me list a few specific reasons why I am grateful:

1. Israel is back in the land promised to the chosen people by God Himself in Genesis and throughout various passages in the Old Testament.

2. The Hebrew language has become an everyday modern language—a linguistic testimony to the faithfulness and power of our covenant-keeping God.

3. There are now almost seven million Jewish people living in Israel, out of a total population of nine million. With 14.7 million Jewish people in the world today, a shade less than 50 percent live in Israel.

4. Israel has survived four major wars and a multitude of smaller but deadly wars.

5. Israel is developing peaceful relations with former enemy states in the Middle East, which began in 1979 with Egypt, then Jordan in 1994, and more recently the Abraham Accords.

Imagine what our forefather Abraham would have thought had he known the above amazing achievements when God told Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation! The entire history of the Jewish people—from Abraham to the modern State of Israel—is a series of survival miracles testifying to the greatness of God who created the nation to be used for His holy purposes!

Remember the well-known but fundamental promise God made to Abraham and his descendants:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3)

A CONVERSATION WITH JOEL C. ROSENBERG

I recently had the joy of sitting down with Joel C. Rosenberg, my friend and a best-selling author. He has spent considerable time meeting with Arab and Israeli leaders while researching his new and excellent nonfiction book, Enemies and Allies. When I told Joel that I loved his thriller novels but was eager to read his nonfiction work, Joel said that I might find his new book as much of a thriller as his novels—and he was right! It is an incredible story, and you can see the hand of God on the alignment of nations in the Middle East, which is the subject of many biblical prophecies as well. The nations of the Middle East and even Africa were a favorite topic in the book of Isaiah! The prophet specifically mentions that one day there will be peace among the nations of the Middle East, but only when the Jewish king sits on His rightful throne in His promised capital city—Jerusalem!

Isaiah wrote, “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’” (Isa 19:24–25).

I find that passages and promises like the above give me hope and a vision for a brighter future. Perhaps some of what we are seeing today points to this peaceful future. Admittedly, we might see many challenges to peace in the days ahead, but at least Isaiah gives us an idea of what the Lord’s ultimate victory might look like, and we can have this in mind as we observe the shifting relationships of nations especially in the Middle East regarding Israel.

Here is a brief portion of my conversation with Joel that was part of our recent conference entitled “9/11 and the New Middle East” held in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the heroes who selflessly sacrificed themselves for our benefit.

We will be forever grateful for their heroism!

THE CONVERSATION WITH JOEL

DR. MITCH GLASER

Can you share a bit about your developing relationship with the King of Jordan?

JOEL C. ROSENBERG

I wrote a novel and decided to have ISIS capture a cache of chemical weapons in Syria and then try to cause attacks against multiple enemies over the next few books. The first objective is to assassinate King Abdullah, the king of Jordan.

King Abdullah in real life is a fascinating man. He is a direct descendant of Muhammad. He is a former special forces commando. He rose to be the head of all special forces in Jordan. He never thought he was going to be the king. His uncle was the crown prince. His father was the king, but three days before King Hussein died of cancer, he named Abdullah his heir. He was already an action hero and a moderate, so I thought, I am going to make him a character. I am going to make him the king that ISIS is trying to kill.

It turns out that King Abdullah read the novel. One of his advisors stumbled upon it in an airport, read it, brought it to the king, and said, “Your majesty, you have to read this.” The king said, “Why?” He said, “Because you are in it, you are a central character in the book.”

As it happens, the king read The Third Target. Rather than banning me from his kingdom forever, he invited me and my wife to come and visit him for five days, and we accepted.

The first day we were there, he sent a car, brought us to the palace, and he said, “Joel, it is nice to meet you. I was trying to think where it would be fun to meet you for the first time. I thought, well, you did blow up my palace. This is the palace. I thought you ought to see the actual palace that you fictionally blew up.” I said, “It is lovely, sir, your majesty. I did not mean any harm. I wanted to show people a worst-case scenario.” And he said, “If I thought you meant harm, I would not have invited you.”

Then he said, “I see that you made me a character, but my staff, my advisors, these are all fictional names, but I can see who is who. So, I bought copies of your book, and I gave them to my staff. I would say, ‘Here, this is you on page thirty-four. You do not make it through the terrorist attack. You might want to read that.’ Sense of humor.”

Over the next five days, we spent time with a person that very few people get to meet. At the end of it, he invited us to a private dinner at his private palace with just a few of his personal friends. Following a two- or two-and-a-half-hour evening, I said, “Your majesty, I hope you know that I had great respect for you when I wrote the series, but spending time with you, that has been deepened. I’m just curious. I think that other evangelicals would be fascinated to meet you—not someone like you—you. Very few people get a chance to meet a moderate Muslim monarch who is a descendant of Muhammad. Would you ever have any interest?”

He said, “Joel, why don’t we put a delegation together, and you bring over a group of leaders that you think would benefit from this.” That set into motion five meetings with him, five meetings with President el-Sisi in Egypt, two meetings with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, one meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and meetings with the leaders of Bahrain. Those meetings become the stories that I tell in Enemies and Allies.

DR. MITCH GLASER

This is almost as exciting as one of your fiction thrillers! But hopefully more fruitful, since one of Israel’s neighbors, with whom they are at peace today, might be open to learning more about what followers of Jesus believe. We are all praying for you, that God will give you wisdom and grace as you befriend various Arab leaders and encourage them to think more kindly about Israel and, of course, about the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.

There is a whole lot more to our discussion, and you can watch the full version of the interview at 911theconference.com.

A SIXTH POINT OF PRAISE

Lastly, I am so very thankful for the great work our staff is doing in Israel. Despite wars, missiles, pandemics, and political tensions, the Chosen People Ministries—Israel staff continues to reach Jewish Israelis for the Lord unswervingly! We are a national ministry in Israel, with work established throughout the country in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, the Galilee, and the Golan Heights. We continue to grow and expand as many Israelis are open to the Lord. Your partnership is strategic as we serve the Savior in the land of His birth and the place of His return!

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Hope in Suffering

Everyone from the angelic-voiced Mahalia Jackson to the great Louis Armstrong sang the traditional African-American spiritual entitled, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” The lyrics are worth noting:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory Hallelujah

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory Hallelujah

This great song poignantly expresses the loneliness and heart-rending nature of suffering. Have you ever tried to tell your story of personal pain to another individual, especially someone who is not very close to you? Have ever you felt like your story sounds hollow and trite as soon as you begin to recount it to someone else, even though the experience was deeply agonizing for you? If you have, then you know the feeling of emptiness when you realize the other person simply cannot appreciate your pain.

In moments like these, when the gap in understanding is so deep and wide, we might just decide to give up explaining and suffer in silence to avoid trying to give good reasons for why we are hurting. Nobody likes having their suffering minimized by someone else’s inability to empathize and feel their pain. We should never be put in the position where we need to justify why life hurts.

The moving lyrics of this old spiritual and its haunting melody breathes authenticity into its testimony of pain. We know it grew out of the bitterness of slavery and a desire to rise above that hateful circumstance and turn our hearts to God who alone understands life’s trials. It is sad but realistic as it seems the only time our hearts reach out to heaven is when life’s solutions are elusive or shrouded in darkness, and we have come to the end of our proverbial rope.

Everyone suffers, but the history of the Jewish people is best understood only through the lens of national suffering. The saying, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”—always mentioned with a wry smile—is tender, touching, and true. So much of Jewish life tells the story of survival, celebration, and remembrance. “Never Again”—declared in remembrance of the Holocaust—is a mantra that befits the Jewish experience and helps us seize the future with defiance and hope.

Our Jewish people have been enslaved, persecuted, oppressed, and virtually destroyed during the Holocaust. The prayers, poems, and songs of our people encourage us to turn toward God who is above and beyond all and gives meaning to the pain and suffering that would otherwise be meaningless.

The Shehechiyanu prayer expresses our corporate gratitude and acceptance of the destiny God allows. Along with heartfelt mourning, our tradition reminds us to be thankful that we are still alive! This sentiment is captured in one of our most familiar prayers when we recite,

Baruch Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha’olam, shehechiyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to arrive in this moment.

This traditional Jewish response to good times and bad, to suffering and celebration, is prayed at almost every Jewish holiday. Recognizing God’s hand of protection upon the Jewish people as we have lived to enter another year’s holiday season, it speaks of the faithfulness of God. He is the rock in the midst of our suffering.

The Mourner’s Kaddish, another well-known prayer, is prayed at perhaps our greatest times of suffering as we come face to face with the death of a loved one.

There is nothing like death to make us appreciate life.

The Mourner’s Kaddish is a magnificent, eloquent, and hopeful prayer that is mistakenly understood as a prayer for the dead. The opposite is true. It is a prayer of praise to God for life itself. The Kaddish is life-affirming, and it is at the heart of the Jewish response to suffering and death. The Kaddish lifts our hearts as the words we say glorify God and extol the virtues of His divine perfections. The prayer gives voice to our suffering by reaffirming our acceptance of His plan for us personally and as a people. This acknowledgment enables us to be thankful to God in the face of great loss and the worst of human pain.

The ability to recite the prayer in a heartfelt and sincere way is in itself a victory over the potential emptiness of suffering that can consume us. Although the Mourner’s Kaddish is only recited once at the end of synagogue services, versions of the Kaddish are repeated throughout. At the heart of every variation of the prayer is the following statement about the character of God:

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored, elevated, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He—above and beyond any blessings and hymns, praises, and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen.

When we pray these words together as a family and community, it becomes easier to accept the isolation and desolation of suffering.

I believe this Jewish approach to hope is found in the Bible—in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The well-worn words of Job, the master of theodicy, enable us to walk into the “whirlwind” of distress with faith and hope in the character of a good and gracious God. Job, in a perfect illustration of submission to God’s will, said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

We might understand suffering today in deeper and more profound ways than ever before. COVID-19 has shattered many of our lives in so many ways. Some of us have unfortunately lost loved ones. We have also recently witnessed terrible floods, earthquakes, fires, and wars we thought we would never have to fight again.

Yet, we can have hope in the midst of suffering!

Bitterness, hopelessness, and anger are self-destructive options , but there is a whole range of life-affirming choices we can make as well. We might never quite understand the why of our pain, but we can still find peace in suffering when we entrust our souls to the God who made us.

The story of Jesus as told in the four Gospels is worth reading as you will see how the God of the universe chose to suffer on our behalf and repair the damage brought about by sin. In fact, He clothed Himself with humanity and endured pain and loss and injustice, just like we experience. He did even more for us. He died for our sins and rose from the grave to pave a new way into the presence of God. His suffering is the ultimate solace for our suffering! Once healed, this new and personal relationship with God through Yeshua the Messiah will become your greatest source of joy and give meaning to your suffering.

As the venerable rabbi and apostle Paul wrote so many years ago,

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)

Like most of us, you are probably suffering in one way or another today. How can you avoid it? You do not have to be a weak person to suffer—we all have our limits. Loss and disappointment are a part of life, and we desperately need to find ways to cope. I and so many others affirm that knowing God intimately and personally, through Jesus the Messiah, is not only true—it will transform you!

I was searching and quietly suffering when I read the following for the very first time. Growing up in a Jewish home, we did not read the New Testament, of course! Jesus said,

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

These words were so comforting, although at first, I did not even know who said them! I hope and pray you will discover what the Messiah promised to be true for you as well.

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New Opportunities in the Jewish New Year!

Shalom and happy Jewish New Year! Fall is an important time of year for your Jewish friends and for Your Mission to the Jewish People. More Jewish people think about atonement and forgiveness of sin during this season than at any other time of the year.

We recently enjoyed a very fruitful season of high holiday services during which we introduced Jesus to Jewish people as the fulfillment of these great festivals. I believe the holy days are biblical types predicting the atoning death of our Messiah, especially the holiday of Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus chapter 16 and further detailed in Isaiah chapter 53!

We held services both online and in person and had thousands attend. Please pray for the follow-up to these evangelistic events—that many Jewish people who do not know the Lord will hear the gospel and find salvation! We have now found a way to link seekers together through a series of online small Bible study groups that have been very effective. We praise God for the Jewish people who gave their hearts to Jesus through these online Bible studies!

EXCITING NEWS

Recently, Mr. Woods, one of our loyal supporters, sold the home he and his wife lived in for many years and—in honor of his wife’s wishes and upon her passing into the presence of the Lord—donated the proceeds to Chosen People Ministries. This enabled us to establish a Challenge Grant fund, which increases the finances available to be used for ministry among the Jewish people. What a great gift in memory of his wife, their commitment to the Lord, and love for the Jewish people.

Initially, we plan to use a total of $100,000 ($25,000 per project) from this fund to move four key ministry projects forward during the next twelve months. 

The Charles L. Feinberg New Missionary Training Fund

We plan to use up to $25,000 this year to subsidize students attending our Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies in Brooklyn and globally online. 

The Israel New Missionary Fund

We will provide another $25,000 from the Challenge Grant fund to support new missionaries in Israel who are unable to raise support for themselves, especially during these days when many local churches are not yet scheduling speaking engagements. 

The Twenty-First Century Evangelism Fund

We are working on new websites, videos, evangelistic podcasts, digital outreach booklets, and much more. I am especially excited about the new evangelistic Hebrew website we are developing. I cannot tell you how much

we need to reach younger Israelis, and this is an excellent way. Digital evangelism is the future! 

The Mission Support Fund

We find it takes one worker behind the scenes to support every three missionaries on the field. We simply could not get the work of evangelism and discipleship done without those who handle the “back office” work in New York City, Jerusalem, and around the globe. We have some major infrastructure projects planned, like upgrading our infotech systems that uphold our church, missionary, finance, and administrative ministries.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE NEW YEAR AND A NEW CENTURY

It is my hope to continue moving Chosen People Ministries ahead in the twenty-first century in the power of the Holy Spirit using all the tools these new times make available to preach the gospel. We wholeheartedly believe the everlasting, glorious, unchanging good news—that the Messiah has come, that His name is Jesus, that He died and rose for the sins of Jews and Gentiles, and that by believing in Him we will receive the gift of eternal life!

I am so appreciative of you and your love, prayers, and support of our 127-year-old ministry to God’s chosen people.

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Forgiven

Shalom and Happy Jewish New Year! I am greeting you with a Happy New Year because Jewish people around the globe recently celebrated the Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashanah. This month, we begin the Hebrew year 5782. Jewish tradition dates the new year from when creation is believed to have taken place.

I was born into a very traditional Jewish home in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Queens. I am not quite old enough to be a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but I became a Mets fan, which is almost mandatory if you grew up in Queens!

I spent my childhood in a tightly knit Jewish community. I had a large and loving extended Jewish family surrounding me, and almost all my friends were Jewish, as were most of the kids at school.

I had my Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen, as is usual for most Jewish boys. I studied at Hebrew school for five years in preparation for this major event and rite of passage. As part of our training, we read through the Bible, studied Hebrew and the Jewish traditions, and celebrated all the Jewish holidays at synagogue and at home.

The Time Has Come—Again!

The Jewish New Year is not like the secular New Year. In Leviticus 23:24-25, you will not find the words “new year” used to describe the festival; instead the Bible describes the day as the blowing of the trumpet. On this day, according to the rabbis, God opens the books of life and death. Jewish people have ten days to get right with God, so the Jewish New Year begins a sobering and serious season of reflection. The trumpet blown on Rosh Hashanah is called a shofar (a ram’s horn) in Hebrew, and it is sounded to call the Jewish people to repentance before the Day of Atonement, the most sacred day of the Jewish year that follows ten days later.

According to Leviticus chapter sixteen, the high priest offered sacrifices of a bull and a goat on the altar. He then sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat to make atonement for sins not previously atoned for because of disobedience or ignorance. It was only on this day of Yom Kippur that the high priest stepped into the Holy of Holies, beyond the veil, and did what human beings could never do for themselves. The Hebrew Scriptures clearly teach that none of us can do anything to merit forgiveness of sin. The “making of atonement” is always done by someone other than ourselves.

The Ten Days of Awe

At the end of these ten days of repentance (known as the Days of Awe), we sound the shofar once again. Tradition tells us that God shuts the books of life and death as His last act on the Day of Atonement. At that moment, the fate of every Jewish person is sealed for the coming year. If we performed an adequate number of good works and thoroughly repented of our sins, then we will have a good year and find favor with God. If not, we will experience some type of judgment during that year. The results of our efforts—repentance, prayer, and fasting—last only a year as the process must be repeated annually.

However, as believers in Messiah Jesus, we have complete confidence that Messiah died for our sins “once for all,” according to Hebrews 7:27. We are forgiven! That is the reason I wish my believing friends a Happy New Year and Day of Atonement.

The psalmist promised that one day God would remove our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). In Jeremiah 31:31–34, the prophet told us that the day is coming when the Lord will write His law on our hearts and forgive our sins. This hope of forgiveness caused the Jewish people to look forward to this great day of redemption throughout the darkest periods of Jewish life.

The Prophecy of the Binding of Isaac

The binding of Isaac in Genesis chapter twenty-two presents a beautiful prophetic portrait of this predicted hope of an ultimate sacrifice for sin. In this chapter, which is read every year in synagogues on Rosh Hashanah, God asked Abraham to climb Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Abraham and Isaac began walking toward the mountain. On the third day, Isaac innocently asked his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” What a haunting question! Abraham responded that “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:7–8).

Upon their arrival, Abraham bound his son and laid him on the altar. At that moment, I am sure Isaac thought his question was answered and that he was the sacrifice. But when the patriarch raised his knife, the angel of God stopped him!

The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
(Gen. 22:11–12)

Abraham looked toward the bushes and saw a ram caught in the thicket by his horns, and he sacrificed the ram instead of Isaac (Gen. 22:13). The horns that trapped the ram are why in traditional Judaism we sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Hearing the sound from the ram’s horn reminds us that God provides the sacrifice.

We also understand that the Temple, the holy place where God ordained sacrifices to be made, was built on this same Mount Moriah. “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1).

My heart of faith wholeheartedly believes that Genesis chapter twenty-two points to Jesus. He is the beloved Son of the Father, just as Isaac was Abraham’s promised beloved son. Jesus was willing to lay down His life, but unlike Isaac, who was spared, Jesus was slain. Ultimately, He was crucified and died on this same mountain range within eyesight of the Temple Mount where many thousands of animals were sacrificed between the almost-death of Isaac and the atoning death of our Messiah Jesus.

Abraham named the sacred site, as described in verse fourteen, “Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.’” He identified God Himself as the provider of the one sacrifice that really counts! In the fullness of time, God allowed His Son to die on a cross made of unhewn wood to accomplish what neither the potential sacrifice of Isaac nor the blood of bulls and goats for centuries could ever achieve. It was on Mount Moriah where God provided the gift of His only beloved Son, and it is through His shed blood that, by faith, we find everlasting atonement for our sins. We have peace with God through the death of Jesus, who died and rose for our sins.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

He did not stop there, though. The rabbi from Tarsus continued:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:6–9)

Having embraced this great salvation through the Messiah Jesus when I was nineteen years old, I can tell you that it is true, and this decision changed the way I have observed the Jewish high holidays for all these years. I personally know the joy of forgiveness, and I hope you do as well!

Please pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People as we proclaim the glorious message of Yeshua’s atoning work as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. I also hope this will help you pray for your Jewish friends. Please pray, as we share the message of salvation through the “greater” son of Abraham during the rest of this month. Finally, please pray the Lord will open the eyes of our beloved Jewish people to see that He is the true Messiah for all.

Thank you for your prayers and support of our 127-year-old ministry among the Jewish people. Your partnership is deeply appreciated.

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Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians

Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

The fall is an exciting time of ministry for us, especially because we have the opportunity to present the gospel through the Jewish fall festivals. The first of these festivals is the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the second is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the third is the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Each one predicts the person and work of the Messiah in such beautiful ways. I call these holy days a Roadmap to Redemption since these significant events are prophetic and point to greater fulfillment in the Messiah.

Your prayers for our staff during the high holiday season are deeply appreciated as I have seen more Jewish people come to faith during this season than at any other time of the year.

OUR 9/11 AND THE NEW MIDDLE EAST CONFERENCE

We are about to begin a conference honoring the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. We have entitled the event 9/11 and the New Middle East. 

Zhava and I will be your hosts for the evening, along with Tom and JoAnn Doyle of Uncharted Ministries. Our speakers include Anne Graham Lotz, Joel C. Rosenberg, Dr. Darrell Bock, and Dr. Michael Rydelnik. We will also hear testimonies from those who served and survived the 9/11 tragedy, including representatives of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, and local pastors who gave up their regular ministries to care for the survivors of the fallen.

Marty Goetz and his daughter, Misha, will lead the music and worship.

I experienced the 9/11 tragedy firsthand, so this conference will be very personal for me as that day was a spiritual turning point in our ministry among the Jewish people of New York City. I have many stories to tell, but thought I would introduce you to Darlene Line, a dear friend and Chosen People Ministries staff member who was working for the United States government at the time. Allow me to share some of Darlene’s testimony in her own words.

DARLENE

On June 2, 1991, I was baptized and entrusted my life to the Lord. However, my turning point toward full-time service is linked to the egregious acts of September 11, 2001.

Throughout my career, I have been in numerous situations that required conflict and crisis management. Nothing could have prepared me to be emotionally ready to handle the recovery assignments of 9/11. While working amidst the tragic remains at both the World Trade Center (WTC) Ground Zero and the Staten Island New York Landfill, I and other fellow law enforcement officials and first responders (firefighters, medical personnel, and construction workers) struggled through that horrific tragedy. The overwhelming desire to help, to do more, was paramount. I recall looking beyond the malodorous smoke into the deep crater called the “atrium” where the twin towers once stood. I was reminded that my Lord God is Sovereign, and He prevails. Psalm 18:30, “As for God, His Way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”

This atrium later became known as “God’s House,” marked by bold, orange letters on a lonely façade where 6 WTC once stood. “God’s House” became a place where many visited to cry, pray, and encourage one another. It was an area where individuals acknowledged God, and there was a sense of unity amongst the rescue crews. It gave credence to the adage, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” A particular cross was in the center of all the devastation in the atrium. It bore a resemblance to the cross at Calvary, and many who labored at Ground Zero signed their names on it. This cross was pictured in many periodicals and kept as a remembrance at the site. It is now in the World Trade Center Museum.

Darlene has served faithfully with Your Mission to the Jewish People for more than a decade, and God has used her to reach more Jewish people than I can count. I am sad that 9/11 happened, but in Darlene, we see just one incredible example of the power of God touching the life of one person who made a kingdom difference for so many.

I love this lesson Darlene learned through the experience:

During this time, Jesus again proved Himself faithful to me. When a situation appears to be beyond our control, it is not beyond God’s. I prayed with confidence that God would act according to His character and with infinite power. He responded to my petitions. I felt helpless, but, praise God, I was not hopeless because of the power of His Holy Spirit.

HONORING OUR HEROES

Darlene would never think of herself as a hero. She was humbly doing her duty for the country and ultimately for the Lord, who used this terrible circumstance to grab hold of her heart for His divine purposes.

One of the ways you can join me in honoring Darlene and others who risked their lives in serving at Ground Zero is to pray for our first responders—for those who served at the World Trade Center and the many who have been faithfully working through the recent pandemic. They are still doing what they can to keep us healthy and safe.

I also hope you will be able to attend the conference, either in person or online. You can register for either venue by going to 911theconference.com. Or you can call our main number in New York City, 212-223-2252. You can also respond on the attached reply card. I know the conference will bless you.

By the way, you can also involve your entire church or Bible study group by becoming a satellite site. There is no cost to you or your church to host the conference locally. You can find additional information that you can even download for your pastor by visiting 911theconference.com/satellite.

WHY IS CHOSEN PEOPLE MINISTRIES SPONSORING THIS EVENT?

In many ways, the attacks on 9/11 created a deeper bond between New York City and Jerusalem, two world-class cities and global symbols of modern Jewish life. Chosen People Ministries is a ministry born in New York City, and we love this city. Our Mission also has tremendous ties in Israel, with a staff of twenty-five people. We maintain centers in the greater Tel Aviv area, in Jerusalem, and throughout the country.

Though very different and far from each other, I have friends and family in both metro areas. We cannot think about what happened on 9/11 without also thinking of the many ways Israel is vulnerable to the same acts of terrorism reflected in the events of September 11, 2001.

Those horrific acts forged a new union between the United States and Israel as, more than ever, we joined forces for the sake of freedom, standing against global terrorism, and creating a deeper alliance between our countries.

We pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for all who live in Israel. We also pray for the peace and restoration of New York City and the millions of Jewish people who live here.

We also pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who loves all people, will make peace in Israel and the Middle East, ending terrorism, and bringing restoration and peace to each one of us.

AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE

Jesus promised a bright and glorious future for His kinsmen according to the flesh when He told a group of His fellow Jewish people that He loved them even though they rejected Him as the Messiah:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
(Matthew 23:37–39)

The good news is that any rejection was temporary as a day will come when Jewish people turn to Jesus, and He will return. WOW! What a glorious event it will be! This sure encourages my heart and hopefully yours too.

Darlene and so many other transformed Jewish and Gentile believers who serve with Chosen People Ministries are committed to bringing the message of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to the Jewish people first and also to the Gentiles.

So, what can we do today? We can let the world know that Jesus died, rose, and will return to reclaim the world He created. Your Mission to the Jewish People is ready to do its part. We have missionaries strategically in cities with critical concentrations of Jewish people, and we will continue this great work because of your care, your sacrifice, and your support for our work through your prayers, finances, and love.

Thank you for caring and praying!

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Filed under evangelism, Jews and Christians, New York City