Category Archives: Israel

Giving Thanks to the Lord for He Is Good

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday that does not come from the Bible. It actually has “Jewish” origins, as many of the Pilgrims viewed themselves as the “children of Israel fleeing ‘Egypt’ (England), crossing the ‘Red Sea’ (the Atlantic Ocean), and emerging from this ‘Exodus’ to their own ‘promised land’ (New England).”1

The Pilgrims believed their role in God’s plan was similar to the purpose God gave to Abraham and his descendants: to be a blessing to the nations. These British religious refugees to the New World eventually led to the Puritan movement, which profoundly influenced the growth of the gospel in what would become the United States of America.

One of the great Puritan preachers, Cotton Mather, published a well-known sermon about thanksgiving in 1689. I especially appreciate his comment:

To praise God, is to Acknowledge in Him something Excellent, as ‘tis said in Psal. 148.13. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His Name alone is Excellent; thus, when we Acknowledge an Excellency in all those Manifestations which God maketh of Himself; then ‘tis that we praise Him. Now the Praises owing to the God of Heaven from us, are obliged not only by what He Is, but also by what He Does: indeed by what He Does it is that we come to Learn what He is. We ought to Acknowledge an Excellency in the Nature of God; which is to Ascribe Glory to Him.2

Ever since I came to faith in Jesus at age nineteen, I have believed that it was better to focus on who God is rather than what He does for us. One great temptation in giving thanks is to focus on what He has done rather than who He is. God’s character and glorious nature never change, but His works can change daily as the Lord is intimately involved in all aspects of our daily lives.

We understand God’s character through the Bible. One of my favorite passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that describes the character of God is in Exodus chapters 33 and 34. If you recall, God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, then hid him in the cleft of a rock, passing by him while declaring the glorious attributes of His nature. This action was in response to Moses’ request, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (Exod 33:18).

God answered, 

“You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exod 33:20–23)

It is well worth reflecting on the following passage where His attributes are listed:

Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exod 34:6–7)

This monumental event on Mount Sinai—the manifestation of God’s attributes—became an important prayer within Judaism known as the Thirteen Attributes of God.

I genuinely believe the best way to thank God is to show our gratitude for His unchanging character. This lesson is what God taught Moses on top of Mount Sinai. Likewise, the Puritan leader Cotton Mather discovered this same truth.

Therefore, we, too, should begin our prayers of thanksgiving by first acknowledging His glorious character and the magnificence of His attributes. Then, we should continue praising and thanking Him for all He has done.

His good works proceed from His good character, and I believe this order in our prayers of thanksgiving is also critical.

WE ARE GRATEFUL

This Thanksgiving holiday, Your Mission to the Jewish People has so much to be thankful for as a ministry among the Jewish people. Our hearts are overflowing with the simple joy of knowing a good and benevolent God who created, loved, and redeemed us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

I am sure you will enjoy the testimonies we have compiled for this newsletter, and please rejoice with us for what the Lord has done! Let me list a few points of praise for your encouragement.

AN INCREASE IN CONGREGATIONS AND JEWISH BELIEVERS IN ISRAEL

When I first traveled to Israel as a believer in 1976, fewer than 500 Messianic Jews may have lived in the land. Some Jewish believers had survived the Holocaust, and a few had moved from North Africa to Israel. Most were not native Israelis and had come to Israel as believers from other parts of the globe. Some came to be part of the great Israel experiment, and others came to serve the Lord in the land. Now, more than seventy years later, there are probably between 20,000 and 30,000 Messianic Jews in the Holy Land, most of whom came to faith in Israel.

I believe we are now in a second-generation and even third-generation outpouring of the Spirit, transforming the national Israeli Messianic body.

This movement of the Spirit has also transformed our ministry as we continue to reach younger generations of Israelis along with the hundreds of elderly Holocaust survivors who we have been serving these past twenty-plus years. We now have our first generation of Jewish believers born in Israel, speaking Hebrew as their native language, attending Israeli schools, and serving in the Israeli army.

These Israeli believers are young, bold, and willing to give their all for Jesus the Messiah!

That is why we have rented a facility in the greater Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Gan where we organize Sabbath outreach dinners, concerts, café nights, Bible studies, reading groups for moms and children, and so much more each month. We can do this because the Lord is working within a new generation of Israelis.

We are in the thick of this outpouring of the Spirit—discipling and nurturing new believers and this new generation of young Israeli leaders!

The future of the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel is bright, and I hope you will want to participate in this work of the Spirit through Your Mission to the Jewish People.

We do need more worship space!

NEW MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES WITH TRAVELING ISRAELIS

We are reaching Israelis by meeting adventurous post-army young adults in places like the Upper West Side of New York City, the South Island of New Zealand, India, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. We are also about to open up ministry stations in Brazil and Japan to reach these wandering Israelis. Our short-term and permanent teams are sharing the gospel with them as they enjoy hikes, BBQs, hummus nights, or a lovely meal of traditional Chinese food!

The Israeli traveler community is a cultural phenomenon and a growing trend that enables us to speak to young Israelis in areas where there is less pressure to conform. In these contexts, they allow themselves to search outside of their usual choices for ways to have happy and meaningful lives and are open to new ways to have a relationship with the God of Israel.

In addition, we are creating a hosting network within the United States, and if you would like to host young Israeli people just out of the army in your home, please let us know! We are now beginning to look for American hosts for the new year.

AN INCREASE IN PRO-JESUS SENTIMENT AMONG YOUNGER GENERATIONS OF JEWISH PEOPLE

We are surprised by the large number of young Jewish people from all over the world responding to our social media, Facebook ads, our new campus outreaches, and the congregations we plant. A recent Barna survey has revealed that Jewish millennials are more open than their parents to the gospel and even to the possibility that Jesus is both Messiah and God in the flesh. We find this astounding! In addition, young people are the majority of the more than 10,000 Jewish non-believers we have met online through our digital outreach campaigns over the last few years, including our Isaiah 53 Explained eBook offer and our “I Found Shalom” video testimonies.

I am also very excited about resuming our residential outreach ministry (House of Living Waters) at New York University (NYU),which has the largest concentration of Jewish students in the United States. We have two young men living in an apartment across the street from the NYU campus and a young woman living in Brooklyn. They are all actively engaged in sharing the gospel with Jewish students.

Again, these opportunities and the openheartedness of the younger generations give me incredible hope for the future of God’s work in bringing the Jewish remnant to Himself in these last days (Romans 11:25–29).

Happy Thanksgiving—and remember to save room for pumpkin pie!

1 Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 127.

2 Cotton Mather, “A Sermon Preached to the Honourable Convention of the Governour, Council, and Representatives of the Massachuset-Colony in New-England on May 23, 1689,” https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A50176.0001.001/1:5?rgn=div1;view=fulltext.

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Filed under Brooklyn, evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, New York City, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

We are thankful for you!

I am grateful to God for you and how He uses the Chosen People Ministries global family to serve in nineteen countries worldwide.

I also want you to know how grateful I am for your love, prayers, and support. We are a faith mission, which means that our missionaries, including myself, are responsible for raising our support. After almost fifty years of personally raising my own support, I think I can translate what this means for you. Simply put, we trust the Lord for His provision for our lives and ministry through the generosity and sacrifice of believers like you and local congregations who believe in our mission to reach Jewish people with the gospel.

I have spent my adult life trying to ensure that Jewish evangelism does not become the great omission of the Great Commission. Jewish evangelism is not one of the side jobs of the church; it should be, according to the Bible, one of its main concerns.

A well-known theologian, Jakob Jocz, who has an amazing testimony, firmly believed in Jewish evangelism. Jakob grew up in a Jewish home. His father became a believer some years later and entered full-time missionary service. Jakob, who would become a leading Messianic Jewish theologian, wrote The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, a must-read for every believer. In another book, The Spiritual History of Israel, Jocz wrote: “If the Church has no Gospel for the Jews, it has no Gospel for the world.”1

Jewish evangelism is essential because of the Jewish people’s role in God’s plan and purposes! In one critical passage in Romans, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, tells us that the path to world redemption includes bringing the gospel to the Jewish people. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

We need to take this passage seriously and literally. It is written in the present tense and implies an ongoing action. Paul was not suggesting that the gospel was to go to the Jews first and then cease going to the Jewish people in order to turn to the Gentiles. Instead, this biblical principle of evangelizing the Jewish people is, for all ages, a priority of heart for all believers in Jesus.

God chose the Jewish people as His bridge of redemption to a dark and broken world. His people received, transmitted, and preserved the Scriptures. Jesus Himself was born of a Jewish virgin (as promised), many Jewish people throughout the ages continued to believe in Jesus’ messiahship, and the Jewish people will play a significant role in the second coming when, as a nation, the Jewish community will recognize the promised Messiah (Matthew 23:39).

Our calling is to make disciples because time is short, and the next great event on God’s timetable is the salvation of the Jewish people. The Gentiles have a pivotal role to play in the redemption of the Jewish people today and tomorrow: God calls upon the Gentiles—initially reached by the Jewish disciples—to bring the message back to the original messengers (Romans 11:11)!

Based upon the teaching of the New Testament, I believe every Christian should be, in one way or another, supporting missions to the Jews, either through prayer, giving, or other means of love, support, and encouragement. We are partners in this great work, and I hope this Thanksgiving you will consider joining us in this great work of reaching the Jewish people.

So, please allow me to tell you what God is doing through our staff and your support. 

Around the United States

We are so grateful for our many missionaries serving among the almost six million Jewish people across the United States. Through our Foundations ’22 campaign, we emphasize the work of direct and personal evangelism, discipleship, and training. We are actively building a new generation of missionaries to the Jewish people. Our Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies is now a hybrid program—in person, in Brooklyn, and online.

New York City

We had a great summer outreach in New York City, where we brought a few dozen volunteers and staff for a week of reaching out to both religious and non-religious Jewish people.

We are beginning to do more work among the ultra-Orthodox and would appreciate your prayers for this ministry. It is difficult but so rewarding and worthwhile. We are praying that God will open the hearts of the most religious in our community.

Around the Globe

Last month, we observed the Jewish fall festivals, which include the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). All these festivals, in one way or another, point to Jesus. We had a fruitful season reaching out to our beloved Jewish people worldwide through our services, Bible studies, and various outreach ministries.

We held services in Argentina at our beautiful center in Buenos Aires, home to more than a quarter million Jewish people. In Australia, we observed the holidays and spoke to many Jewish people about the Lord at our new congregational and ministry center that recently opened in Melbourne. We were able to do the same in London through the congregation we launched in the heart of Jewish North London.

Please pray for our global missionaries as they press on to reach God’s chosen people everywhere.

Ministry to Holocaust Survivors

One of our most incredible ministries in Israel is reaching elderly Holocaust survivors, who are becoming fewer and fewer each day. There is not much time left to reach them for the Messiah! Yet, we continue to have an excellent entry point into their hearts and souls as we provide comfort, companionship, food, medical care, and, as the Lord enables, conversations about Jesus. We hope to continue this ministry until the last Holocaust survivor has heard the gospel.

Children’s Ministries

We have several camps in the United States and Israel, and it is a joy to be back in person, bringing the love of our Messiah to American and Israeli children. Over the last few months, we had more than one hundred children attend our camps across the globe, and by God’s grace, some of these young people came to faith in Jesus and were baptized. But, of course, we do this all with parental permission, and some of the parents are not yet believers.

During our recent camp in Israel, we discovered quite a few children from immigrant families recently came to Israel from war-torn Ukraine. Please pray for these newcomers, especially the children, as they learn Hebrew, grow in the Messiah, and settle in a new country.

Young Adults

This past summer, we had the joy of mentoring young adults through our Living Waters mentoring retreat in Israel. I taught about leadership to encourage this next generation of leaders working tirelessly in their local congregations and with a considerable amount of spiritual responsibility. We also invited spouses and kids to this retreat so that we could minister to the whole family.

Again, we could not minister in these ways without your prayers and support.

Ministry in Ukraine and to Russian-speaking Jewish people

We recently sponsored a conference in Berlin, Germany, attended by more than eighty leaders from Russian and Ukrainian Messianic ministries and congregations. It was challenging as both Russian and Ukrainian believers who got along well before the war had to work out their unity in the Lord during the week. But it was worth it as they worshiped together, studied God’s Word, and collaborated on how to be more effective in reaching Ukrainian and Russian Jewish people in their countries and in Israel, as many have immigrated to the Holy Land.

Please pray for them as we expect a harsh winter in Ukraine. We will do everything we can in partnership with other ministries to bring relief and comfort to those who have lost their homes, jobs, congregations, and so much more. Thank you for supporting this effort and for your generous gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving! We are so thankful for you!

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10–11, emphasis added)

1 Jakob Jocz, Spiritual History of Israel (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961), 160.

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Can I Be Jewish and Believe in Jesus?

Why is it difficult and, at times, even volatile to invite a Jewish person to consider whether Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel? After all, those extending the invitation usually mean well! But oftentimes, our kindest and best efforts to share the good news with a Jewish friend or loved one seems to upset the person we love and care about. I know this from personal experience as I am a Jewish believer in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) and love my family and friends. Yet, many of my family members are unwilling to hear about the one who dramatically changed my life, and a few have even become antagonistic. Again, the question is why.

Maybe you are Jewish and do not believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel. I hope you will continue reading and maybe have the opportunity to explain to your Christian friends why the Jewish people they speak with might not respond well to conversations about Jesus.

A Quick and Personal Answer

Many Jewish people, including members of my own family, think that if they acknowledge the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah, they will no longer be Jewish. I fully understand this objection as it is exactly the way I felt years ago before I came to believe the Jewish Messiah had already come. I grew up in a traditional Jewish home in New York City and was taught—more by osmosis than in a classroom—that Jewish people simply are not supposed to believe in Jesus and that being Jewish and belief in Jesus are two irreconcilable truths. 

Indeed, I remember the day I accepted that Yeshua was the Messiah. I went to bed that night thinking I may wake up the next morning as a non-Jew! I realize this does not seem rational, but this is how I and many Jewish people are raised. We are taught that there is a massive, invisible chasm separating Jesus and his fellow Jews today, especially after two thousand years of negative history between Jews and Christians. That was why, in my mind, accepting Jesus as my Messiah was tantamount to identity suicide. Yet, I was willing to sacrifice my community, heritage, and all to follow him because I was so convinced he was our promised Messiah!

Now, for any Jewish readers, before your blood pressure rises to new levels, please do not think that being Jewish was meaningless to me. My Jewish identity has always been precious to me. Most of my relatives from Europe died in the Shoah! Yet, I was ready to be viewed as a non-Jew for the sake of following Jesus whom I believed was the Messiah. I believed it would be a sacrifice well worth the price! I was willing to accept the Jewish community’s rejection for his sake.

To my relief, I woke up the next morning after making the decision that Jesus was the Messiah and felt as Jewish as ever! The good news is that I came to realize that I not only did not have to cease being Jewish but, in many ways, I felt more Jewish than ever before. I know a host of other Messianic Jews who feel the same way. When we first came to believe, many of us thought we were the only Jewish people in the world who believed in Jesus, and then we discovered one another. Believe me, there is a growing community of Jews who think Yeshua is the Messiah—in the United States, in Israel, and around the globe. The apostle Paul (also known as Saul) even wrote about this in his letter to the Roman believers in the New Testament (Romans 11:5).

Not that truth is measured by a majority vote, but it does not hurt to recognize that you are not alone as a believer in Yeshua and that you are loyal to the Jewish people. There are tens of thousands of Jewish people, like me, who believe Jesus is the Messiah and strongly identify as Jewish.

Jewish Identity Strengthened

The Hebrew Scriptures began to mean more to me after I became a follower of Jesus. I also recognized that the New Testament is a Jewish book as almost all of the authors are Jewish. The idea of a personal Messiah is very Jewish and an ideal I was raised with but never took seriously until the day I met Yeshua! I felt very much at home believing that the Messiah had come. I was raised to expect he would! Most of all, I renewed my faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I believed in the God of Israel through the Messiah of Israel because I knew, in the depths of my heart, it was true.

My newfound relationship with God through the Messiah gave me a new sense of spiritual, emotional, and internal intimacy with God. If you follow him, then you know what I mean. If you do not and are seeking a closer relationship with God, then I hope you will take the chance to explore the Messiah and discover what I and so many others are saying is true. Allow me to quote a famous verse from the New Testament penned by John (Yochanan in Hebrew) the apostle: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Yeshua was speaking with one of Israel’s first-century spiritual leaders when he said this. I finally understood that being Jewish was not an accident of birth and that God’s goal in creating and calling the Jewish people into miraculous existence was to be known by His chosen people in the deepest way possible. I recognized that my being Jewish is important to God and therefore should be important to me. God made me Jewish, and He miraculously created the Jewish people from two elderly Semites (Abraham and Sarah) who could no longer bear children. And God gave the Jewish people—the chosen people—a divine purpose: to be a light to the nations and the vehicle of His eternal truth, both through the Scriptures and ultimately through the Jewish Messiah, whom to know is life everlasting.

I do not feel less Jewish; in fact, I feel more Jewish than ever before. It makes the suffering and the difficulties that Jewish people have faced through the centuries worthwhile. We belong to God, and we have been created for a holy purpose. I am a part of His grand design for all humanity as He created and chose the Jewish people to bless the nations of the world. As God said to our father Abram, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). I share in that Jewish calling now more than ever through Jesus the Messiah and will continue to live my life for a greater purpose: to share His love and light through the Messiah with a dark and broken world.

As Jews, we have a concept called Tikkun Olam, literally “the repairing of the world.” The Jewish people are called to be His servants and a bridge of messianic redemption to the world. But this is only possible through the Messiah. We cannot bring true shalom to the world without the Messiah, as he is called “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6–7).

Believing in and proclaiming the good news that the Messiah has come is everything God created us to do. I can barely articulate the joy I have in knowing the Messiah and in fulfilling his purposes for my life. I do hope and pray this will be true for you as well!

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The Tabernacle: A Portrait of Redemption

Let me tell you how excited I am about a new Bible teaching project we have been working on these past several months! We are partnering with a wonderful Christian production company to create a virtual three-dimensional model and tour of the Tabernacle, which was the “portable Temple” where God dwelt during the Israelites’ journeys on the way to the promised land. The Hebrew for “tabernacle” is mishkan, which means dwelling place.

In Exodus 25:1–27:19, Moses outlined the plan for the Tabernacle, which God revealed to him on Mount Sinai. In many ways, the Tabernacle is a biblical type that points to the person and work of Messiah Jesus. That is one reason why I believe it is crucial that we understand the Tabernacle! Within this incredible structure, we find the “spiritual essentials” we need to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Once done, we hope our 3D model will help you experience the Tabernacle in a fresh and deeper way. You will find several images of the model in this newsletter.

Now, allow me to give you a “sneak peek” by examining the Tabernacle’s components and showing why they are important for anyone who wants to live for the Lord.

THE ALTAR (מִזְבֵּחַ)—mizbeiach

One of the major roles of the priests was to offer sacrifices to God on the altar (Exodus 27:1–8) in the Tabernacle (and eventually the Temple). One cannot underestimate the importance of the required sacrifices for atonement. We read in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”

Yeshua was the lamb of God who offered Himself as a sacrifice, and His death atoned for the sins of Israel and the entire world (John 1:29). We are grateful for God’s sacrifice of His Son for our salvation. As followers of the Messiah, we also offer ourselves in sacrificial service, which is our spiritual duty (Romans 12:1–2).

THE LAVER (כִּיּוֹר)—kiyor

The priests were commanded to cleanse themselves in the laver, or basin, before offering sacrifices (Exodus 30:17–20). This law teaches us a key lesson, as there must be purity before we are able to worship. The laver teaches us the importance of purity and cleansing in our spiritual lives. In fact, the cleansing that Israel and the world needs is not produced by bathing in water, but rather we are washed and purified through the blood of Jesus. The laver points to the perfect cleansing we experience by faith through His sacrifice for our sins.

I believe the Lord had the death of the Messiah Jesus in mind when the prophet wrote, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).

This end-time cleansing will take place when the Jewish people turn to Him who was pierced (Zechariah 12:10). For those of us who already know the Lord, we understand God forgives and cleanses us each day as we confess our sins and re-experience the full power of His atoning blood (1 John 1:9).

THE LAMPSTAND (מְנוֹרָה)—menorah

God instructed Israel to make a lampstand with six branches (Exodus 25:31–40). Light is an integral theme in the Bible and a key element of our walk with God. His light guides us. His word is a lamp to our feet and a light that keeps us from stumbling (Psalm 119:105). The Lord chose Israel to be a light to the nations, yet His Son Yeshua, Himself an Israelite, shines this light more brightly than any individual or nation.

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

The Ner Tamid, the eternal light, in today’s synagogue is a reminder of the menorah that burned in the Temple. God told Israel to burn a lamp continually in the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:20–21). This eternal light points to God’s eternal, glorious, and holy character. God is unchanging in His attributes and nature. The ever-present light reminds us that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob exists from everlasting to everlasting and that His Son shares the same nature. Therefore, Micah wrote that the Messiah’s “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic 5:2).

THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE (לֶחֶם פָּנִים)—lechem panim

In the ancient Middle East and even today, a meal is the ultimate expression of intimacy and friendship between individuals. The bread of the Presence refers to a meal we can share with God that speaks of this potential depth of intimacy and friendship with the King of kings. Israel was to always have bread on a table in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:23–30; Leviticus 24:5–6).

Yeshua has made a way for us to enter into and enjoy this relationship with the Lord. We are forgiven friends of the almighty and holy God of the universe through the sacrifice of Yeshua (John 15:15). In Him, we are free to fellowship with God like friends sharing a meal. We also joyfully await the marriage supper of the Lamb when the Messiah will dine with His bride (Revelation 19:9).

The laver and the altar prepare our hearts for the beauty of this eternal fellowship with the Lord and Creator of all things.

THE ALTAR OF INCENSE (מִזְבַּח הַקּטֹרֶת)—mizbach ha-ketoret

Prayers of intercession were another special responsibility of the priests. God instructed them to continually burn incense in the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:1–10) to symbolize their prayers wafting between earth and heaven.

Prayer is, of course, critical to our spiritual life. It is the line of communication between us and the Lord. We may pray liturgically or spontaneously—with or without a formula. Just as the priests were to burn incense constantly, we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

THE DIVIDING VEIL (פָּרֹכֶת)—parochet

This veil was a curtain that divided the holy place and the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31–33). Once a year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) sacrifice (Leviticus 16).

The moment Yeshua died on Golgotha, the veil in the Temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51) as a sign that all who believe now have access to the Holy of Holies through faith in the justifying work of Yeshua on the cross (Romans 5:1–2; Hebrews 10:19–20). One of the critical components of a healthy spiritual life is recognizing the access we have to God through the Messiah. Nothing can stand between us and God. We simply need to take advantage of this marvelous and privileged access to the presence of God, nurtured through prayer, reading Scripture, fellowship, meditation, and obedience for those cleansed by His atoning blood.

THE ARK (אָרוֹן)—aron

In Exodus 25:10–22, God told the Israelites how to build the ark. He commanded them to place several important items in the ark, including the two stone tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 10:1–5), Aaron’s blooming rod (Numbers 17:1–11), and a pot of manna (Exodus 16:33–34). All these items testified to God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people. These reminders of God’s word, the miracle of His transforming power, and His provision were important, and they reminded the high priest of why his obligations to the rest of the nation were so critical.

Yeshua is represented by each of the three items within the ark. As to the manna, He said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven” (John 6:51). Aaron’s rod was a definitive symbol of God’s power, representing how Jesus was God on earth; “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Finally, the word of God, represented by the stone tablets, finds its greatest fulfillment in the Messiah, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

THE MERCY SEAT (כַפֹּרֶת)—kaporet

The mercy seat is the piece of Tabernacle furniture that was most significant for the ancient Israelites. The mercy seat covered the ark in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 25:17–22). One might think of the mercy seat as atonement central. It was where the high priest sprinkled blood when he entered the Holy of Holies once a year to seek atonement for the whole nation of Israel (Leviticus 16:14–15).

Yeshua died once for all, for all humanity, and His one sacrifice suffices for all time (Hebrews 9:11–14). His blood fully cleanses all who believe. Yet, that is not the end of His work as our perfect High Priest, as Jesus continually intercedes for us in heaven. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25). 

He is our everlasting High Priest!

In Conclusion

As you can see, the Tabernacle gives us much to consider as this mobile Temple reveals so many of the essential building blocks that shape our spiritual lives. The Tabernacle pointed to Jesus our Messiah who fulfills every intricate feature of the Tabernacle. The shadows match the substance. I hope this brief guide to the Tabernacle encourages you to more deeply appreciate the atonement Jesus made for us.

Thanks to Him and Him alone, we can draw near to the Lord each and every moment of our lives!

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Win & Disciple a New Generation of Believers in Israel

I recently returned from Israel, and what I saw was immensely encouraging! It is incredible how much Israel’s Messianic community has grown and changed since my first trip to the land back in 1976!

There are many more Israeli believers now than there were five or even three decades ago. Since then, so much has changed amidst the growing body of believers in the Holy Land!

For so long, most of those who came to faith in Israel were older immigrants from the former Soviet Union. However, many of today’s Messianic leaders in Israel are younger and grew up within the Messianic Israeli community. Many of them are also the grandchildren of those Russian-speaking immigrants in the post-Perestroika era.

Many of these young Messianic leaders’ kids have followed a similar path to that of their parents and grandparents. They had godly parents, were raised attending solid Messianic congregations from childhood, served in the Israeli military, traveled the world, studied at universities, entered the workplace, and now serve in their local congregations. Many of these men and women have also married and are now raising children of their own.

Partnering with and equipping these dynamic young leaders is my passion and priority. As a result, we introduced Living Waters almost a decade ago—an annual three-day mentoring retreat in Israel for the whole family. This discipleship effort allows young Israeli believers to meet one another and develop friendships for the future, as this generation will lead the Messianic community in Israel during the twenty-first century. It is an incredible privilege for Your Mission to the Jewish People to invest in this next generation and beyond (as we also disciple their children)!

Living Waters has fostered alliances among these young leaders, their congregations, and their ministries, resulting in even greater efforts to reach Israelis for Jesus. These alliances allow for deeper fellowship and for the participants to learn more about each other’s skills and gifts. Through teaching, worship, prayer, and many great discussions, we are advancing the general Bible knowledge of these young adults and addressing practical training issues, including leadership, counseling, and biblical ethics.

We have excellent Bible teachers training the Living Waters community. There are also some professors, business people, and others who know what it is like to stand for Jesus amid a challenging and sometimes hostile environment. Over the years, Living Waters has helped create a sense of unity in the Messianic body in Israel and has also offered the participants meaningful fellowship with believers throughout this small country.

This past June, Zhava and I were delighted to speak at Living Waters 2022. It was an honor to encourage these young leaders, but their passion for serving the Lord wherever He places them also profoundly inspired us. Here is what some of the participants had to say about their time at the retreat last month:

“Thank you so much for your work and love! I think there was a lot of honesty at the conference, and that is something that was important for me to experience and hear from young believers.”

“It is encouraging to see so many young people living out their faith, especially in this country.”

“Living in Israel is so hard and often exhausting, especially as believers. Having a ministry that just feeds into and loves on you for an entire weekend is such a blessing and an encouragement. I also really love the opportunity to meet so many other believers at a similar stage of life from around the country that we otherwise would not easily get to meet or know (particularly for us, being from the North).”

“We both felt so refreshed, encouraged, and more determined to do God’s work here in Jerusalem.”

We are in the midst of a second-generation Messianic Jewish movement within Israel and doing all we can to invest in their discipleship training for the Lord. We believe that what they learn through the teaching, personal conversations, and one another will serve them well as leaders in the growing Israeli Messianic movement as they bring the good news of the Messiah to fellow Israelis.

We believe that, along with Living Waters, many of our other activities at our center in greater Tel Aviv, such as our monthly Sabbath dinners, our weekly Bible classes, and outreach concerts, all contribute to serving this growing younger group of believing families and to equipping them to tell their own generation about the Lord.

God is at work in Israel, the Middle East, and the world. The passion and energy of this generation of Israeli believers are powerful evidence of God’s faithfulness. Now is an exciting time to be involved in Jewish ministry, especially in Israel!

I look forward to seeing how God will work through today’s Israeli Messianic community. Those in our Living Waters program, I have no doubt, will play an influential role.

What can you do to help us win and disciple a new generation of younger Israelis?

Your prayers are essential as the enemy of our souls is also doing all he can to stop this movement. We often have anti-missionaries trying to disrupt our activities in the greater Tel Aviv area. However, we are hoping to see some future “apostle Pauls” among them as the Lord reverses the hostility of the ultra-Orthodox and others who come against the good news and opens their hearts to receive the gospel message. We have already seen some openness among those who oppose us.

Thank you so much for caring! I am so hopeful for the future! I am already looking toward what God will do among this now-growing third generation (post-1948) of kids. They will grow up loving the Lord, speaking perfect Hebrew, and following the path blazed by their parents, who also attended Israeli schools, served in the army, and walked faithfully with their Messiah.

Many blessings, and may the Lord prepare our hearts for the great coming day that the apostle wrote about in Romans 11:25–26, when “all Israel will be saved”—through Yeshua the Messiah, of course.

I feel like we are on our way!

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Building Chosen People Ministries for the Future

How can we possibly have hope in a world filled with despair, war, disease, and poverty?

As always, we find the answer in the Bible!

Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy, and told him how to find hope in a disappointing world.

“It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Tim 4:9–10, emphasis added).

We can have hope when we grab hold of the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

OUR HOPE IS ROOTED IN THE CHARACTER AND PROMISES OF GOD

Psalm 42 is one of my favorite psalms. In this song to the Lord, the psalmist is in painful despair, and this psalm captures his conversations with God as he journeys from darkness to light—from grief to praise. Finally, at the conclusion, the psalmist summarizes and sings,

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Ps 42:11).

Somehow, the psalmist escaped his despair and despondence and found hope in the Lord.

The psalmist wrote, “Hope in God.” In Hebrew, this phrase is הוֹחִילִי לֵאלֹהִים (hochili lelohim); the root word is yachal ( יחַָל ), which can be translated as “hope” or “to wait with expectation.”1 The word “countenance” literally means “face.” I believe hope transforms us from the inside out and is most visible in the face of someone who smiles when hopeful. You can see hope in the cheekbones of the hopeful!

The journey to hope is difficult for most of us and especially challenging in times of hardship. But finding hope is critical for the soul’s survival. Moreover, it is at the core of our witness to those who do not yet believe. So, where should we look for hope?

We find the most soul-satisfying sense of hope when we strip away all the standard props of dependence upon people, material things, and circumstances, and we recognize that the only hope we have is in God Himself.

OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD

Our hope in God rests upon His character, His promises, and, to some degree, His people. But it is always in Him, through Him, and about Him.

We have a forever-hope because our God is eternal. He is the living God. Therefore, we can live today in light of the glorious future He promised us, guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When we have this hope and allow it to fill our souls, then we need not despair as we—through the Messiah—are eternal heirs of His grace and will live with the living God for all eternity.

Paul wrote so poignantly and powerfully, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

A BIT OF HISTORY

Before I share with you some of our hopes and dreams for the next twelve months, let me take a quick moment to look back. Zhava and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth year of leading Chosen People Ministries, and it might be a blessing to you to read how we came to where we are today. I often joke that Chosen People Ministries is now in its 128th year—but I am not the founder! The Lord has led Zhava and me to this place for this season of twenty-five years. Knowing this makes the future all the brighter and more hopeful for us.

Zhava and I began this phase of our relationship with Chosen People Ministries on May 1, 1997. However, our Chosen People Ministries story goes back quite a few years to when Zhava became a believer as a young teenager. At that time, Chosen People Ministries was called the American Board of Missions to the Jews (ABMJ), and she came to faith at Fairfax High School in a very Jewish area of Los Angeles.

She came to the Lord through the witness of some Gentile Christian young people at her high school. While this was happening, I came to faith as a nineteen-year-old Jewish hippie in San Francisco. I met the Northern California representative of Chosen People Ministries, who encouraged me to go to Bible college back in New Jersey, which I did because I wanted to witness to my parents, who were living there at the time.

Zhava and I met after I graduated from Bible college. At the time, I had begun my graduate studies at the Talbot School of Theology and had been working with Jews for Jesus, which used to be the San Francisco branch of the ABMJ but had broken away. Zhava and I met at an ABMJ young adult outreach held at Pat Boone’s pool house. The rest is history!

When I left Jews for Jesus, I knew I wanted to stay in New York City and continue in Jewish ministry, but I did not know if I would serve with another organization or start something myself. It took about a month after I left Jews for Jesus for Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries to contact me and ask if I wanted to serve with that mission. We thought and prayed about it for a little while and decided to do it. So I worked with Ariel Ministries from January 1996 until April 1997, when the Lord gave me the joy and privilege of becoming president of Chosen People Ministries. After a few months, our Chosen People Ministries director of communications left, and Zhava took that position. She has been full-time with Chosen People Ministries ever since. She currently teaches Jewish studies and Hebrew at the Feinberg program and directs our department of information technology.

NOW FOR A SPOOKY BUT TRUE STORY!

A couple of months before Chosen People Ministries approached me, I was praying and asking God for His leading for our future. Somehow, I got the impression while praying that God was going to call me to lead Chosen People Ministries. So, I told Zhava that I believed God might have been leading us to be part of Chosen People Ministries—to become the president even! She, of course, asked me if anybody from Chosen People Ministries had talked to me about it, and I said no. She then said, “Wow . . . you think highly of yourself!” It was my fault for marrying an outspoken Jewish girl!

But I was pretty confident it was God’s voice, so I was not overly shocked when a Chosen People Ministries board member called and asked me to have dinner with her a couple of weeks later. At dinner, she asked me if I was interested in the position of president of Chosen People Ministries. Of course, in light of what God had spoken to my heart, how could I say no?

So, there we were, in Brooklyn, where Chosen People Ministries had started in 1894. Our little office on Ocean Parkway—the gateway to Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn—became our new Chosen People Ministries New York headquarters.

After some time in Brooklyn, we bought a building in Manhattan with some of our leftover reserve money that was quickly running out. Then, after we sold our headquarters building in Charlotte, North Carolina, we bought a facility in Florida. The Lord has blessed our ministry and expansion ever since!

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE MINISTRIES OF THE FUTURE

So, where are we going as a ministry in the days and years ahead?

I believe the future will probably be much like the past; Chosen People Ministries should not change too much! We will remain faithful to Scripture and Leopold Cohn’s vision to reach Jewish people for Jesus and help others do the same. Our priorities, as expressed in our mission statement, will continue:

Chosen People Ministries exists to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same.

We will continue what we are doing but also innovate as the Lord leads. We have the capable staff to lead us forward! Let me articulate some of our goals and direction for this fiscal year (July through June).

  • We will wrap the gospel message in appropriate, creative, and compelling ways for our distinct audiences—religious, culturally-committed-but-secular Jewish people, and the vast streams of faith marking the church in our generation.
  • Our ministry to the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) will grow and become more significant in the days ahead.
  • We will focus on the land of Israel and continue to make people and resources available for God to use in the Holy Land. This ministry also includes an intensive effort to reach Israelis wherever they live or travel and to build a global hosting network for traveling Israelis in the days ahead.
  • We are praying about buying a facility for our work in Tel Aviv.
  • We are committed to discipleship and training and will seek to find opportunities to invest in the lives of individuals and communities.
  • We hope to encourage Jewish believers in their walk and witness and to be faithful to their historical and covenantal identity as Jews.

May our hope be fueled by faith, ever ready to embrace the destiny God has prepared for each one of us and for our ministry.

1 William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, 12. corr. impr. 1991, reprinted (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 133.

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Building the Future of Chosen People Ministries for a New Day

I hope and pray this letter finds you rejoicing in His grace and that you are experiencing a fruitful summer. We are getting ready for Shalom New York, our summer outreach program where dozens of staff and volunteers from all over the United States come and witness to Jewish people in the parks and on the streets and beaches of New York City, home of two million Jewish people.

This outreach is a significant step forward in restoring our in-person ministries. It is also part of Foundations ’22—our year-long effort focused on returning to doing what we have done best for more than one hundred years. Your Mission to the Jewish People was founded on the principles of personal evangelism and discipleship of Jewish people and training our brothers and sisters in the church to be more effective in reaching their Jewish family and friends for the Lord.

A QUICK UPDATE ON THE LORD’S WORK IN THE HOLY LAND

I just returned from my second trip to Israel in the last few months—making up for lost time! After spending three days with a group of young Israeli Messianic Jewish leaders and then with our Chosen People Ministries—Israel staff, their spouses, and kids at a staff retreat, I am still on overdrive. I wish you had been there with me to hear the firsthand reports of all the Lord is doing in Israel today. The Holy Spirit is moving powerfully among a new generation of Messianic Jewish believers.

Most of these young Israeli believers:

  • Grew up in a Messianic Jewish Israeli home
  • Served in the Israeli military for the mandatory years of service—three for men and two for women
  • Spent some months traveling the world after the army
  • Returned to Israel to go to school or get a job
  • Married, had kids, and now serve the Lord through a local congregation in Israel

While there are exceptions to this usual pattern, the younger generation of believers takes this typical path, including some of our staff. This season of life is a busy time for these wonderful young people, many who work, go to school, serve in their congregations and ministries, and are raising children. Offering them the opportunity to go on a three-day retreat is an excellent way to support them.

The army experience is often where Israeli believers come to grips with their personal relationship with the Lord. Military service presents a very challenging time for these young, believing soldiers. Thank God there are some army programs offered by various ministries in Israel today that help believers prepare for the challenges ahead and remain steadfast in the Lord throughout their army years.

SOME HISTORY OF THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT IN ISRAEL

I still remember the days when there were very few Messianic Jewish believers in Israel and, therefore, no second or third generation of believers. Today, many next-generation Israeli believers were raised by believing parents, grew up in dynamic and growing Israeli congregations, and are finding the Lord in the Land. They are also active in sharing the good news with their friends, schoolmates, and fellow soldiers.

There is debate as to how many Israelis are Messianic Jews, but I can tell you that it is a whole lot more than my first trip to Israel back when I was still in seminary in 1976! Our best and most recent estimates say there are between 15,000 and 30,000 Messianic Jewish believers and between 200 and 300 Messianic congregations throughout Israel.

God has done an extraordinary work, but I also feel like we have just begun (Romans 11:25ff.).

LIVING WATERS MENTORING RETREAT

By the time you receive this letter, we will have completed a young adult retreat with about thirty-five mostly post-army young adult Israeli believers. We used to hold this event each year before the pandemic, and it is wonderful to be back in person. Most of the participants either work in a secular or ministry job, go to school, or continue to serve in the army. They are eager to experience spiritual renewal and improve their skills to serve the Lord in the Holy Land more effectively.

This year, we invited Pastor Greg Stone, a Jewish pastor serving at Gateway Church in Texas, to be our guest speaker. He taught these young Israelis how to use the Psalms in personal ministry among those they are discipling and serving.

THE POWER OF GOD REVEALED IN THE HOLY LAND

I want to thank you for your prayers for our growing Israel staff. We have relaunched all our in-person programs, including ministries to Holocaust survivors, personal evangelism, congregational meetings, outreach concerts, and Sabbath dinners. We gather dozens of young people, serve great Israeli food, and preach the Word. Of course, lots of non-believers attend all these events as well.

I am also thrilled to tell you about some of our staff’s new ministries in Israel.

Michael and his family moved to the Golan Heights and are starting house churches in this relatively remote part of Israel. Right now, they are getting to know their neighbors and making friends.

Moti and his wife are part of our Tel Aviv team, and Moti is now a well-known “gamer.” He has a following of thousands of younger Israelis who he reaches through their interest in video games. In addition, he has more than 50,000 Israelis who are part of his online TikTok audience.

Our teams are still very involved in reaching Ukrainian Jewish immigrants and even some new immigrants from Russia fleeing the war zones and moving to Israel. We are helping them adjust to Israel, learn Hebrew, find jobs, and get their kids in school. We express God’s love to them in practical ways, and they are always interested to know why we are willing to help.

I thank God for the dedicated and creative team we have in Israel and again ask you to pray for their ministries.

We are also reigniting our ministries around the globe to traveling Israelis. After the army, young Israelis travel to some pretty exotic spots, including New Zealand, China, Brazil, India, and more.

We send combined teams of Israelis and short-term mission workers from North America and Europe to reach these wandering young Israelis. They are more open to the gospel as they travel when they are free to make their own choices. The environment also causes them to be more open to new ideas and religious beliefs, including learning more about Jesus the Messiah.

LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD

Over the past 128 years, Chosen People Ministries has faced some major world events, including:

  • the mass immigration of Jewish people to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century
  • rising antisemitism in the United States during the pre-World War I period
  • World War I
  • the Spanish flu
  • the Great Depression
  • World War II
  • the Holocaust
  • the founding of the State of Israel and the wars related to it
  • the fall of the Soviet Union
  • massive Russian Jewish immigration to the West and Israel throughout the 1990s

More recently, we were challenged with the COVID-19 pandemic and the current war between Russia and Ukraine. Yet, all these world events affected the everyday work of our historic Mission to the Jewish People.

These influential events with global impact caused us to pause, reflect on our ministry, and consider new perspectives and ways of sharing the gospel. It has also challenged us to be flexible enough to adapt to the changes thrust upon us.

A TURNING POINT

I believe Chosen People Ministries is experiencing another historic turning point. The dark times of the pandemic seem to be passing, but the days ahead are not without new challenges.

We do not know the future, of course, but we know the One who not only knows the future but shapes the future with His wisdom, power, and love. We have our marching orders: to preach the gospel, baptize, and disciple those who respond to our proclamation of the good news. Our particular field of service is in reaching Jewish people, and we take Paul’s mandate in Romans 1:16 seriously—to bring the gospel to the Jewish people first. This passage guides us and undergirds all our ministry activities.

The Jewish community around the world is more open to the gospel today than in previous years. Jewish people are ready to discover the love and healing available through a relationship with God the Father through the Prince of Peace!

We are excited about the future and the new opportunities to share the Lord person to person and heart to heart with the Jewish people!

Thanks for joining us in the journey through your prayers and support!

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Gog and Magog: Will Russia Attack Israel?

ARE WE THERE YET? 

Shalom in His grace! Thank you for giving me a few moments to address a question that so many of us are asking at this critical point in time.

Do you recall in the Gospel of Matthew when the disciples were sitting on the Temple steps? They simply could not contain their curiosity about the coming of the kingdom. So they asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3).

At this point, He had not yet been crucified nor raised from the dead, and, of course, He had not yet ascended to the right hand of the Father. But they were so eager for the establishment of the Davidic kingdom that they could not muster the patience needed to join Jesus on His journey to the cross and beyond.

We have the great advantage of looking back at these events. After a couple of thousand years of waiting, we have either developed the godly virtue of patience or perhaps, sadly, grown complacent about God’s coming kingdom. We might also have become too attached to a world that is passing away and tempted to try to hold on to what we have.

When I was a new believer, all I could think about was the return of Jesus. I was so eager for His appearing. But time can slowly diminish your hope until the burdens of this life suddenly awaken a more urgent desire to know when He will return: it could be sickness, the loss of a loved one, or a bitter disappointment. Yet, our faith teaches us that the Lord is gracious and uses the trials of life to remind us that something far better is coming!

Then again, God can also remind us of His return through His Word. The passage in Matthew commonly known as the Olivet Discourse reminds us that, as the return of the Lord grows near, we will see signs of increasing intensity, likened to childbirth. According to Matt 24:5–13 (as well as Luke 21 and Mark 13), these signs will include:

  • False prophets and messiahs
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • Nation rising against nation
  • Kingdom against kingdom
  • Famines
  • Earthquakes
  • Other types of plagues and natural disasters

But all these signs are merely the beginning. As believers, we will be persecuted, killed, hated, and tempted to fall away. We may even betray our fellow followers of Yeshua! Lawlessness will increase, love will grow cold, and soon after that, the end will come!

The Gospel writers record Jesus telling His disciples much more, as the Lord answers with far more detail than they might have expected. For example, Jesus told His disciples that He expected them to pay attention to the signs of the times (Matthew 16:2–4) but that no one, not even He, knew the exact date of His return.1

ROAD SIGNS TOWARD THE FUTURE

We might not be there just yet, but the signs are beginning to look like we are getting close!

Here are some of the most widely accepted indicators of the Second Coming that believers today hold:

  • The Jewish people will return to the land of Israel in unbelief before Jesus returns (Ezekiel 36:22–24).
  • All the nations of the earth will threaten Israel and gather to destroy her at the very end of days (Zechariah 12:3, 9–10).
  • The end-time remnant of the Jewish people will accept Jesus (Zechariah 12, 19; Romans 11:25–29).

There are multiple other prophetic issues to discuss, including the timing of the rapture of believers (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Godly and faithful believers take various positions as to when this event will occur—before, during, or after the Great Tribulation (Jeremiah 30:7). Other believers affirm a general resurrection, but not the concept of the rapture. The literalness of the kingdom described in the Hebrew Scriptures and the book of Revelation (Rev 20:1–3, 7) is also highly controversial. Chosen People Ministries’ staff affirm that God will fulfill His promises to Israel, but we also consider the evangelization and discipleship of Jewish people to be our mission’s priority.

GOG AND MAGOG: WHO, WHEN, AND WHERE?

Many also ask me today, and for good reason, if I believe the war that Russia initiated with Ukraine will one day bleed over to Israel and be the fulfillment of the biblically expected war between Gog and Magog?

Again, this is a fair and reasonable question. As mentioned, Jesus wants us to study the Bible and determine the signs of the times to ready ourselves for His return and be passionate about finishing the task of world evangelization. If He is coming soon, we need to follow His final marching orders to each of us: to make disciples of the nations—to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles (Matthew 28:19; Romans 1:16).

His coming should motivate us to make the Great Commission our life’s greatest priority!

The text inspiring the question of whether the war between Russia and Ukraine may lead to the final battle between Gog and Magog and Israel is in Ezekiel chapters 38–39.

And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia [Cush] and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you.”’”
(Ezek 38:1–6, emphasis added.)

The other passage that is relevant to our search is Revelation 20:7–8: “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.”

I believe this war to end all wars is coming! I am not sure we can prove that Rosh (“head” in Hebrew) is Russia, as we must work through entirely different languages to come to this conclusion. We know that Persia, or Iran, is an ancient and current enemy of Israel. Cush refers to Ethiopia, which is not currently an enemy. However, Put, which is Libya, could very well become more of an enemy in the days ahead. The Bible refers to territories that are north of Israel, which could include Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq—traditional enemies of the modern State of Israel. Russia has not been an outright enemy of Israel, although Vladimir Putin has sided with Syria and claimed some months ago that Israel stole the Golan Heights from Syria and should return it.

One point that makes me seriously think that this war will one day turn against Israel is the description of Israel’s security measures in Ezekiel 38:8 and 11: “After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. . . . And you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates.’”

One only needs to visit Israel today to see that it requires some of the most obvious and intensive security measures of any nation in the world. All you need to do is count the young soldiers on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

So, is it possible that this war is coming soon? Perhaps. But it seems to me that the table is not yet fully set.

I am sorry that I cannot provide a more definitive answer for you; I can pray that the Lord leads you to a deeper understanding of a complex biblical truth and offer a few suggestions for your personal study. I hope these suggestions help you on your journey:

Identify the key players by starting with a good Bible dictionary and an ancient world map.

  • Read through Ezekiel 35–39 slowly, carefully, and at least a half dozen times to get the complete picture of what God is doing in these last days. Then do the same with Revelation 20. 
  • Draw a timeline for yourself and see if you can plot the various events of these days.
  • Read through Zechariah 12–14, Romans 11, and Matthew 23:37–39 to see if these passages shed some light on the topic.

So, are we there yet? Only God knows, but the road signs indicate we are getting close! As Jesus said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32–33).

1 Matthew 24:36, 42, 44, 25:13; Mark 13:32–37; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–2.

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Reaching Secular Jewish People for the Messiah

Thank you for your prayers and support! Chosen People Ministries’ staff could not do this great work of reaching Jewish people for Jesus in these last days without your partnership. Allow me to bring you up to date on what God is doing through our committed staff members in answer to your prayers.

We continue to work among Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Germany, and Israel, as well as with those who remain in Ukraine by choice or necessity. Our hearts break to see the displacement, devastation, and destruction of cities, families, and lives.

Your Mission to the Jewish People is also continuing to implement our Foundations ’22 campaign. We are reaching out to Jewish people and focusing on personal evangelism, discipleship, and training those who come to faith to be lifelong, fruitful followers of the Lord.

MY PERSONAL JEWISH STORY

My family is from eastern Europe, which is why I identify with Ukrainian Jewish people today. We have Ukrainian Jewish roots. My grandparents left eastern Europe during the rapidly deteriorating dark days of pre-Holocaust Europe. Persecution of the Jewish people was on the rise, and many were fleeing to places like Israel, South America, and the United States, where they found peace, opportunity, and freedom.

My father’s parents were from Ukraine. My grandfather was loving and kind and wanted nothing more than to assimilate into American life. He was proud to be part of a nation that cherished freedom and believed all men and women were equal in the eyes of God and the state.

While he was not religious, he instilled a love for the Jewish people in his sons. They also had a concern for continuing those cultural and family-based values and traditions woven into the fabric of the Jewish soul.

My maternal grandparents came to the United States a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (1917–1923). My grandfather was the son of an upper-middle-class manufacturer who lived in Minsk, Belarus. My grandmother was from a similar Jewish social circle. Unlike my paternal grandparents, they were far more religious and practiced Orthodox Judaism. They ate kosher food, observed the Sabbath, attended synagogue as often as they could, practiced Jewish rituals daily, and spoke Yiddish1 at home.

They had hoped the rest of their family would follow and join them in the United States, but they did not. Eventually, they would all perish in concentration camps when Hitler destroyed the Jewish community in Minsk. Again, my grandparents tried to scrupulously keep the Torah as they understood it. But the culture of the new world and its philosophy of assimilation resulted in none of their children becoming observant Jews. I am sure this was heartbreaking for them, but all their children—including my mom—still proudly affirmed their Jewishness, celebrated the holidays, and participated in the Jewish community.

BEING RELIGIOUS IS ONLY ONE SLICE OF BEING JEWISH

For my family and so many others, Judaism is not always about God or theology. Being Jewish is more often about focusing on family values, tradition, and the need to provide Jewish education and continuity for our children.

The religious side of Jewish life for so many Jewish people today has become watered down. The Jewish community and its leaders know this, and so should you. So when a Jewish friend says, “You know so much more about my Bible [the Old Testament] than I do,” it should not surprise you. This sentiment will be common, and it might amaze your Jewish friend that you know more about the Hebrew Scriptures than they do! That is a positive testimony!

On the other hand, it should not surprise you if your Jewish friend feels somewhat threatened when you speak to them about Jesus. Even secular Jewish people will generally feel a need to defend Judaism when approached with the gospel. You might think, “If they are not religious, why are they responding so negatively?” It is partly because of the tragic history of interactions between Jews and Christians and because you might have inadvertently threatened their lack of religious knowledge about Judaism. When they think others view their faith as deficient, they often feel helpless to respond.

THE BELIEFS AND VALUES OF SECULAR JEWISH PEOPLE

One could describe secular Jews as “culturally Jewish.” Secular Jews often do not understand their religious heritage and the values and laws given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Though detached from its divine origins, our culture is deeply ingrained in our hearts and minds. For example, many Jewish people are very concerned about civil rights and fight for the rights of the marginalized. Is this because we were or are an oppressed people? Partly. But, it is also the message of the Old Testament that we are to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and those displaced within society. For this reason, Jewish people are also often generous philanthropists, concerned with education, and divinely wired for healing others.

You see, being Jewish is not as much a function of belief as it is a matter of community identity. A person could retain that identity as long as they do not cross certain lines. However, if you breach one of these unseen parameters, you could easily cross over and out of the Jewish community. Believing in Jesus is one of those lines, perhaps the boldest of the lines, and once you cross over, you cannot return unless you renounce those beliefs.

The Jewish people you meet and those to whom you witness will be resistant to the gospel far more because of their fear of community sanctions than because of a theological disagreement over the identity of the Messiah.

You can help Jewish believers in Jesus by providing friendship and support, as the Lord can use you to ease the pain of community rejection that is sure to follow their acceptance of the Messiah.

We are eager to help you reach your Jewish friends!

Recently, I presented “Messiah in the Passover” at a local Baptist church. A delightful Christian approached me to ask for help in witnessing to her Jewish friend. She wanted to know if giving her friend my book, Isaiah 53 Explained, would offend him. She really loves her friend, who is in his 90s, and prays for him each day. I suggested giving him the book, encouraging him to review it from a Jewish perspective, and then asking him to let her know what he thinks.

Our staff have dozens of conversations like this each month, and we want to help you share the good news with a Jewish friend. Equipping you is a significant part of our Foundations ‘22 annual campaign.

SUPPORTING FOUNDATIONS ’22

We are reaching many different types of Jewish people around the globe: Israelis, religious Jewish people, elderly Holocaust survivors, displaced Ukrainian Jewish people, and more!

Your generous support enables us to produce websites and printed materials, maintain facilities, employ staff across the globe, and allow our missionaries to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and training.

Thanks for caring!

In our Messiah,

Mitch

1A mixture of German, Hebrew, and Slavic languages. Yiddish was the primary language of the Jewish

people in Europe for centuries.

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Sharing Messiah in the Promised Land

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3–4, which I will quote the way I memorized it from the King James Version. Although I usually use the New American Standard Bible, this verse just sounds so much better in the King James! “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

The great hope we have in the Lord is sometimes made cloudy by the fog of war, pandemics, and every form of human crisis. His powerful presence is revealed to us even in the midst of the whirlwind (Job 38:1), and as we learn from Paul, “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5)!

Yet, our world today is facing great danger on so many fronts! The Russian onslaught in Ukraine has made this painfully obvious. The horrors of an unjust war remind us that there is no end to human suffering and that innocent men, women, and children will experience hardship and even death because of the evil of others.

Our hearts and prayers go out to those suffering such overwhelming loss.

Thankfully, one day, this sinful world will give way to a new creation filled with the glorious presence of the Lord. There will be no more suffering, no more death, and God will wipe every tear away from our crying eyes. The apostle Paul wrote so poignantly about our future hope:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 
(Romans 8:18–21)

This sure hope is why we can have peace in the midst of tribulation. Jesus Himself said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace is always possible through the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Messiah. He overcame the evil of this world through His atoning death and resurrection, and He enables us to live without fear in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Bringing His Peace to Others

We cannot keep this peace and confidence in God’s promise of a glorious future to ourselves. He calls us to help others experience His shalom now and forever. Your Mission to the Jewish People is assisting others to experience His peace by helping Jewish Ukrainian refugees, especially those moving to Israel.

The common term for this process of moving to Israel is aliyah, which in Hebrew means “to go up,” as Jerusalem is in the Judean hills and one always travels up to Jerusalem. As we read in Isaiah 2:3, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.”

The Israeli government offers full citizenship to those who can demonstrate they have at least one Jewish grandparent. Israel also provides many benefits to those making this move—from tax breaks to initial funding for food, housing, and Hebrew lessons! However, in a usual year, the number of Jewish people making aliyah is around 25,000 people.1 Some are expecting there to be between 50,000 and 100,000 Ukrainian Jewish people making aliyah over the next year due to the war and their need to resettle someplace other than Ukraine.

Many Ukrainian Jewish refugees have relatives in Israel. About 1.4 million Russian-speaking Jewish people moved to Israel after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. This large movement of Russian-speaking Jewish people took place over twenty years. Most of those who came to Israel from parts of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Ukraine, and other now-independent nations as younger men and women, have served in the Israeli army, attended Israeli school, speak fluent Hebrew, and play a vibrant part in Israeli society. The Russian-speaking influence in Israel today is extensive!

Project Promised Land

Allow me a moment to explain how we plan to help this new wave of Ukrainian Jewish people now moving to Israel.

We plan to provide housing, basic language skills, job counseling, friendship, and whatever else is needed to help them resettle in Israel as the Israeli government will not be able to absorb so many people quickly.

We are calling this effort Project Promised Land!

This new effort is the suggestion of our Israel director, Michael Zinn, a Jewish man from Ukraine who made aliyah about thirty years ago. He and his wife Natalie found the Lord after they moved to Israel. Michael told me a little bit about his story, and I would like to share this with you!

Before his bar mitzvah, (a ceremony celebrating a young man’s official passage to manhood at age thirteen), Michael’s father told him he could believe in anything—except Jesus. Michael started reading the New Testament anyway. In his thirties, he moved to Israel with his wife. While studying Hebrew, they met an American couple who were extraordinarily loving toward them. After Michael poured out his heart to this couple, the man said, “I cannot help you. There is only one who can help you. His name is Yeshua.” After some time and ongoing conversations, both Michael and Natalie placed their trust in the Messiah Jesus.

The Plan for Project Promised Land

We have already done a lot to help Jews and non-Jews within Ukraine, particularly on the western border in Poland but also in Germany and other parts of Europe. That was phase one of our efforts to help many survive the ravages of war, and these ministries are ongoing! Our next step is to focus on two or three families per month by placing them in apartments in Jerusalem and the greater Tel Aviv area. We will give these precious new immigrants places to live and the personal help they need but cannot readily receive from the Israeli government, which is overwhelmed by the massive wave of new immigrants making aliyah.

We are providing low-cost housing, food, companionship, vocational counseling, childcare, and so much more so they can stand on their own two feet in their new country. Israel is not just any country; these Ukrainian Jews have returned to the land God promised them thousands of years ago. We hope that they will meet the God who promised to love and care for His chosen people.

The annual budget for this project is $75,000. Already, even some of our staff are contributing to Project Promised Land. We also received a grant from a faithful supporter who went to be with the Lord and provided funds to help Jewish people make aliyah.

If we raise more than the requested amount, then we might be able to open more housing for the new immigrants as need arises and funds are available. We have the staff who speak Russian, Ukrainian, and Hebrew.

How Long, O Lord?

The psalmist asked this question in Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Ps 13:1–2)

How long will it take for Ukraine to get back to normal? How long will it take to rebuild the country? Who knows whether the war will be over by the time you read this entry? How long will we need to continue to supply relief for those struggling in Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and other parts of the globe where the refugees move? How long will we need to provide help and housing through Project Promised Land? We simply do not know the answers to these questions. But we do know that His love never runs out. As long as we can show love and care to those suffering, we will do our best to continue the project.

We have signed a year’s lease for our apartment rentals, so we expect this need to continue for at least twelve months. However, the time may come when Project Promised Land is no longer needed to serve Ukrainian Jews making aliyah. In that case, we might find others making aliyah from other countries who need this level of personal help when they arrive in Israel.

We pray that those we help will look past us and see the risen Messiah of Israel as the One who is wrapping His loving arms around their families and providing for their needs.

That is my hope and prayer.

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