Category Archives: Jews and Christians

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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Filed under evangelism, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Messianic Jewish

Relief for Refugees from Ukraine

Shalom in His grace. I appreciate the opportunity each month to tell you about the good work God is doing through Your Mission to the Jewish People. With the post-COVID reopening of the United States and so many other countries where Chosen People Ministries serves, there is more happening in our efforts to reach Jewish people with the gospel than I can describe.

As you know, we have initiated a three-part campaign called Foundations ’22, in which we are “going back to the basics” of personal evangelism, discipleship, and deeper training for Jewish believers and our Christian friends reaching their Jewish friends and family. This campaign has progressed rapidly as the opportunities now abound. We had a tremendous month of Passover outreach. Our presentations of Messiah in the Passover online and in person in churches across the nation enabled hundreds of Jewish people to hear the gospel and be introduced to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Yet with all this excitement, I still cannot escape the heartbreak of what is happening to the people of Ukraine, including hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who live there, as the countries of the former Soviet Union still have large numbers of Jewish people within their borders. The Ukrainians have suffered the attempted destruction of their country, without mercy on the part of Putin and his minions.

The tragedy of war fills me with sadness, and I am sure you feel the same way. We are doing all we can to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainians. It is especially terrible to watch as a generation of younger male leaders die defending their homes. Women and children are doing their best to get out of the country and escape to Poland and other nearby countries or eventually to Israel. This tragedy especially impacts children, as so many lost one or both parents or had to flee, leaving their father behind.

Mariupol, a city on the eastern border, was reduced from 450,000 people to less than 100,000, and most of their schools, apartments, and shopping areas were reduced to rubble. For years, we served a couple of Messianic congregations in this once-beautiful city, but now the Jewish believers have scattered. Yet, by God’s grace, many have found one another using WhatsApp, Telegram, and other social media tools. Along with Messianic Jews from other parts of Ukraine, they have regathered in western Ukraine in a safer city and have rebuilt a small community of believers. Some of the funds you have so sacrificially given enables them to survive, and our team also uses funds we provide to help non-believers as part of their ongoing outreach.

RELIEF IN JESUS’ NAME

We are focusing our ministries of relief and care on nations bordering Ukraine like Poland, Hungary, Romania, as well as on other European countries that have welcomed refugees. Much of our efforts are within Poland and Germany where a combined few million Ukrainian refugees have fled. We are working through our Chosen People Ministries staff and volunteers in these countries to support ministries in campgrounds, congregational facilities, and the homes of Christians. We are helping the refugees find safe housing and meeting some of their basic needs. We even brought in teams of Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking believers from Israel to help the refugees.

We are also assisting Ukrainian Jews wanting to move to Israel by renting some apartments in the Holy Land to temporarily house these new immigrants. During the last twenty-five years, God has done a wonderful work among Russian-speaking Jewish people. About 60 percent of the believers in Israel today speak Russian or Ukrainian as their primary language. Our staff in Israel have benefited from this movement of the Holy Spirit, and we have an abundance of Russian-speaking staff who can minister to these refugees.

So many of those moving to Israel are coming without husbands, sons, and brothers, as the men could not get out of Ukraine, where they are fighting the Russian invaders. Many of the men do not want to leave, choosing rather to stay and fight.

In the past, Chosen People Ministries has served the community of single mothers in Israel. Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus helping those on the margins of society, and the Scriptures strongly encourage believers to help widows and orphans specifically (James 1:27).

One of my favorite passages is in Matthew chapter 9, in which we see our beloved Messiah focusing on the physical and spiritual needs of those who did not receive a lot of help from the rest of society. Matthew wrote:

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 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 9:35–38, emphasis added)

We are trying, by God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to follow the example of the Messiah Jesus and minister to those in need, especially those who others might not be able or willing to help.

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD

Since the beginning of the war, we have received daily updates from our staff on the ground in Europe and Israel. Most of the emails are from Boris Goldin, who is coordinating our Chosen People Ministries work in Ukraine, and Maxim Katz, who is based in Israel but is currently working extensively with our Chosen People Ministries team in Poland. Please pray for them!

We also thank God for our German partners, Beit Sar Shalom (House of the Prince of Peace) and their director, Vladimir Pikman, who along with his wife, Inna, became believers through the congregation we planted in Kiev during the early 1990s. The teams in Germany are working day and night to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Germany and have attracted dozens of displaced Ukrainian Jewish believers who are now attending their congregations across Germany.

The email below from Maxim to our Israel director, Michael Z., is one example of the needs described during the early days of the conflict that encouraged Your Mission to the Jewish People to take action!

Misha shalom,

In connection with the war in Ukraine, I would like to inform you of what we are doing. Miraculously, the Lord opened up possibilities that we could not even imagine. A few days ago, the Sochnut1 turned to Ostróda (the place where we hold camps2 in Poland) to request to accept Jews from Ukraine. Today they contacted us through them, and together, we are coordinating the arrival of a group of Jews to Ostróda. I contacted my friend from the transport company, and the bus went to the Polish border to pick up 15 families. These are Israelis and new immigrants. They will be able to fly to Israel only after March 10. Until that time, they will live in Ostróda.

We were also asked for help in finding a place for 200 children from the Beit Chabad orphanage in Odessa. They are now in Romania and are looking for a place for a week. They are ready to stay at a Christian place but have asked to use as little symbolism as possible and to help with kosher food. I spoke with Dorin and his brother in Romania who is ready to help. I gave his coordinates to Sochnut and they already spoke. I hope everything will work out.

Misha, I think if you let me fly to Poland . . . and serve on site, I think it will be a fruitful help and ministry.

Thanks,

Maxim

Your prayers and support are so important to us, and I pray the Lord will guide you to support these efforts to bring the love of the Messiah to those suffering the ravages of war. I am praying about the rebuilding of the Ukrainian Messianic community throughout the globe, and your gifts of support will help in these rebuilding efforts wherever they will take place…Ukraine, Israel, Poland, Germany, as the Lord leads and allows.

I will send further updates as the Lord enables.

Your brother in Messiah,

Mitch

P.S. I was able to see the crisis firsthand during a recent trip to Poland, and my heart is just broken. Again, your prayers and financial support enable us to do more to help both Jews and Gentiles suffering in what can only be described as a modern humanitarian disaster. Thank you for your love and partnership.

1 The Jewish Agency, which coordinates the aliyah of Jewish people around the globe

2 Camps for children from Israel and Holocaust survivors

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Filed under evangelism, Holocaust Survivors, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Kiev, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized

The Power of God through Plagues

I love Passover. It is my favorite Jewish holiday and by far the most delicious. The array of traditional Passover dishes is magnificent. I wish you could have tasted my grandmother’s chicken and matzah ball soup—not to mention her homemade gefilte (stuffed) fish. (By the way, do not ever ask a Jewish person what parts of the fish they used! That would be a big mistake.)

As a Messianic Jew, I have found Passover more meaningful now than I did before coming to know the Lord. As you know, the Lord’s Supper—one of our most cherished spiritual ceremonies—grew out of the Passover Seder. You can find all the intricate details by going to our website and reading further or buying one of our Passover books listed on the back of this newsletter. Each book includes a Messianic Passover Haggadah (Passover guide) with Jesus at the center of the service—and some wonderful recipes.

If you want to observe the Passover as fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God, you can this year! Passover lasts an entire week. Though we usually celebrate the Seder on the first two nights, any night during that week will do. I know it would be a wonderful experience for you, your children, Sunday school class, or small group.

It will also further prepare your hearts for Good Friday and Resurrection Day, especially since the first night of Passover and Good Friday coincide this year!

Each year at this time, I try to address a Passover-related topic in detail. This year, it will not surprise you that I would like to help us better understand the role that plagues play in the plan of God, especially during Passover.

THE TEN PASSOVER PLAGUES

The recitation of the ten plagues is a central part of the Passover Seder and one of the most memorable moments during the Seder for Jewish children. Traditionally, we dip our little finger or a spoon into a glass of red wine and put the drop of liquid onto our plates while loudly reciting the name of each plague. We call out the plagues in English and Hebrew: blood (dam), frogs (ts’fardei’a), vermin (kinim), flies (arov), pestilence (dever), boils, (sh’chin), hail (barad), locusts (arbe), darkness (choshech), and death of the firstborn (makat bechorot).

The recitation of the plagues is not an isolated moment in the Seder. It is part of the overall recounting of the story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. There are two reasons why we drop the wine on our plates. One reason is that it more dramatically portrays the plagues as judgments falling upon the Egyptian slavemasters. The other is because Jewish tradition tells us to reduce our joy (symbolized by the sweet wine) by one drop for each plague that fell upon the Egyptians.

The lesson here is clear: even though the Egyptians enslaved us, we recognize they are fellow human beings and God’s creation. Therefore, our rabbis teach us we should not rejoice in their judgment but rather remember God’s love for all peoples and nations.

We will now look briefly at the three primary purposes for the plagues. First, God uses plagues to bring judgment upon the ungodly. Through the plagues, He also reveals His power and character. Lastly, they fulfill prophetic events.

JUDGMENT

The great German theologians and early twentieth-century biblical scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch coined the term “penal miracles” in their well-read commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. In other words, there were plagues, or miracles, that also served as judgments and punishments upon the disobedient.

Each plague brought judgment upon the Egyptians, who were otherwise unwilling to allow the Jewish people to leave Egypt and worship the one true God. This chastisement is an excellent reminder that God is loving but also righteous and holy and takes offense at human sin. At times, He brings about temporal judgment upon humanity. He did so with the flood, the plagues, and even the captivity of the Jewish people by pagan nations.

REVELATION

Jewish people understand that God brought the plagues upon the Egyptians as divine judgments designed to move both the Egyptians and Jewish people into action. Biblical plagues are purposeful. While they bring terrible consequences upon the disobedient and rebellious, God often mysteriously uses them for purposes beyond punishment.

Take note of Uzziah, Naaman, and even Miriam, Moses’ sister. God struck each of them with leprosy to accomplish His divine purposes. Like the healing of the blind man in John chapter nine, plagues fell upon individuals for the glory of God and the good of mankind. “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:3).

God used the plagues to judge the Egyptians and reveal His power, holiness, and presence in human history. Still, God’s will and works are always for repentance and a turning away from sin to the one true God.

Exodus 7:1–7 shows Moses speaking of plagues as signs and wonders. Throughout the Scriptures, signs and wonders usually describe the miraculous, but in Exodus 7, the words are interchangeable with the word for judgment:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” So Moses and Aaron did it; as the Lord commanded them, thus they did. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh. (Exod 7:1–7, emphasis added)

FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY

God sometimes uses plagues to fulfill prophecy, as when He promised to deliver the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and return them to their land of promise. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst” (Exodus 7:5, emphasis added).

Ezekiel 36:23 parallels Exodus 7:5 and refers to another day of deliverance and restoration for Israel and the Jewish people: “‘I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight’” (Ezek 36:23).

Both passages show that one of God’s great purposes in bringing the Jewish people out of captivity and back to the land of promise was for them to be a sign to the nations testifying that the God of Israel is true and all-powerful. In effect, the Jewish people’s deliverance through the ten plagues and their return to the land of Israel reveals the prophetic fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12:1–3. Moses predicted this result in chapter six of the book of Exodus:

Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.” (Exodus 6:6–8)

We must view the exodus, including the plagues, as one means by which God fulfilled His promises to Israel and, as we later see in the book of Revelation, His future judgment upon mankind.

WHERE DOES THE PANDEMIC FIT IN GOD’S PLAN?

It would be appropriate at this moment to compare COVID-19 to the plagues and try to understand where this pandemic might fit in with the purposes of God. I am not suggesting that God directly imposed COVID-19. There have been many terrible plagues throughout history that have devastated humanity. Although the coronavirus was exceptionally destructive, we have no reason to believe that the spread of this virus is the result of God’s direct judgment.

We must tether our understanding of the divine purpose of plagues, world wars, and the greatest tragedies of human history to Scripture. But, of course, the Bible does not speak about the coronavirus, the Black Plague, or the Spanish Flu. Therefore, the adage, “Where the Bible is silent, so am I,” is appropriate here. We must avoid conjecture and not speak for God before He has spoken to us.

On the other hand, we cannot deny that God used plagues as judgments and will do so again in the future. COVID-19 has awakened us to the possibility that plagues, along with other signs, will take place in the end times before the second coming of the Messiah. This view of plagues is also traditional Jewish teaching. Bible-believing Christians, Messianic Jews, and religious Jewish people would agree that “pestilence” or plagues are signs of the coming of the Messiah and will take place in the “last days.” The Messiah Himself declared this to be true during the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:10–11): “Then He continued by saying to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.’”

Hopefully, one day, we will look back and see the good our heavenly Father accomplished through this global trial. We pray that somehow blessings will come for all through this time of pain and suffering (Romans 8:28). We also pray that we will remember in the light the lessons we learned in the darkness. Perhaps these lessons will even prepare us in some way for the future.

Let us pray the Lord will use the experiences and losses of the last few years to shape our character, reorder our priorities, and draw us closer to Him. May the pandemic remind us all that the Lord is coming soon and that we need to prepare. And what better way to get ready for His return than to continue doing what He told us to do by committing ourselves to evangelism, discipleship, and training a new generation of disciples until He returns! (Matthew 28:19–20).

Stay faithful, vigilant, and filled with His Spirit. The Lord is coming soon—Maranatha!

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Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Passover

Pray for Ukraine

I am writing with an urgent plea for prayer for the people of Ukraine, including many who are Jewish and who Chosen People Ministries currently serves.

Unfortunately, Russia and Ukraine have entered into a regrettable time of war. This conflict may have devastating effects on the people we love and to whom we minister as well as on their families, their friends, and their congregations.

Since the 1990s, 1.5 million Jewish people from the former Soviet Union have emigrated to Israel from their countries of origin. We have also seen an incredible movement of the Holy Spirit that has impacted the Jewish people and has opened ministry opportunities in Israel, Ukraine, and Russia.

Over the years, our staff team has provided leadership to a network of Messianic congregations in multiple cities in Ukraine. The first congregation in Kyiv, Beit El-Gibor, planted by Chosen People Ministries, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.

Through these congregations, we work with youth, children in orphanages, families, prisoners, substance-abuse victims, and elderly people, including Holocaust survivors. Presently, we also have more than two dozen Ukrainian- and Russian-born missionaries on our staff serving across the globe.

Many Chosen People Ministries staff members still have family in Ukraine. They also have many friends and ministry leaders there with whom they have worked over many years.

Our hearts break for those now in the midst of the tragedy of war, which we hope and pray will be short-lived.

In addition to praying for God’s wisdom upon Ukrainian leadership and for protection for all people—especially in targeted areas—please join us in praying specifically for the Lord’s safeguarding of the roughly 200,000 Jewish people in Ukraine and for the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is also Jewish and subject to the violence of war.

Please also continue to pray for peace in Ukraine, safety for those we have been serving, and that God’s hand of mercy will permeate the region.

We have just established a relief fund for Jewish victims of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

We will use a portion of the funds to help with food, housing, and transportation for those fleeing to the western part of Ukraine. We even hope to help some of these precious war-torn souls find their way to Israel. The needs abound, especially among the elderly, those who have young children, and others who cannot access their limited bank accounts.

We are especially heartbroken and burdened for those who are part of the small Messianic congregations we have been helping in eastern Ukraine. They need our prayers and support immediately!

If the conflict ends quickly, whatever we do not use from this fund will help our ministries among aging Holocaust survivors in Israel.

Thank you so much for your sacrifice, prayers, and generosity.

Most of all, please join us in praying for this tragic situation TODAY.

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Filed under evangelism, Holocaust Survivors, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Kiev, Messianic Jewish

Afghanistan and the Story of Purim

The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan last year brought conflicts to the surface that surprised most of us! We thought we had made more progress in our relationship with the Afghan people, but to our disappointment, we had not. Tribalism, radical Islam, and anti-Western sympathies were boiling below the surface of this nation of almost forty million people. The Taliban was waiting patiently for the United States to leave to make their next move and take over the country, which is similar to what happened in Iran some years previously. We once again learned not to underestimate the power of radical Islam over its adherents. Indeed, the only force powerful enough to break the hold of fierce Islamist belief and nationalism is the gospel.

Americans realized this disturbing reality for the first time in 2001 when four hijacked planes undertook a deadly mission to terrorize our country. Last fall, we honored the heroes and the fallen at our Chosen People Ministries-sponsored event in New York City, 9/11 and the New Middle East. I hope you will take some time to view the conference, which is available on our website, 911theconference.com.

Afghanistan in the Bible

People often ask me if the United States appears in the end times. I do not see any special mention of our nation in biblical prophecy. However, some of the more general statements about the absence of godliness in the last days and the events Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse apply to all people—especially the moral and spiritual decline intensifying as we approach the Second Coming. I am sorry to say we see this in our own country. One would have to don blinders not to see how our world is once again embracing the lifestyles prevalent during the days of Noah, which God’s judgment ultimately submerged.

We can also ask this same question about Afghanistan. Is this nation mentioned in the Bible, and what does the future hold for Afghanistan according to the Scriptures? Regarding this topic, we have more to say than we do about our own country, as Afghanistan is mentioned most intriguingly in the Bible and is part of a critical story describing Israel’s survival.

Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire from the sixth century to the fourth century ʙᴄ, although the Bible does not use the proper name for the modern nation. However, you can quickly identify the geographic region when you understand the geography and alignment of countries in the ancient world.

For example, Daniel’s vision in Daniel 2:31–45 predicts the Babylonian and Medo-Persian domination of Israel, ultimately giving way to Greece and Rome—a prophecy detailed in chapters two, ten, and eleven. Eventually, all these powerful ancient kingdoms who were hostile to the Jewish people, along with one future pagan nation, will be crushed by the stone cut without hands as Daniel predicted:

In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy. (Daniel 2:44–45)

Ultimately, all human governments, including Persia and Afghanistan, are temporary and will fall in weakness and humility at the feet of the One and only true Creator and King!

Afghanistan and the Persian Empire

This month, we are thinking quite a bit about Persia as we observe the Jewish holiday of Purim that was initiated in the book of Esther. Most Bible students know that the Persian Empire played a significant role in the history of Israel and appears many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Persia is mentioned 240 times in the Bible. The great Persian kings, including Cyrus, Darius, and Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes), are identified many times as well.1

However, what is not usually known is that the area comprising modern Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire for centuries during a critical period of the biblical story. Though Iran and Afghanistan are two distinct and unique modern nations, a few remaining historical ties still unite both countries. For example, the Persian dialect of Dari is one of Afghanistan’s official languages. Also, many Afghan people speak Farsi and celebrate the Persian New Year.

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 ʙᴄ)

The period when the region encompassing modern Afghanistan was part of the great Persian Empire spanned two hundred years—from the ascension of Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) in 550 ʙᴄ until Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 330 ʙᴄ. After Alexander’s death, the conquered kingdoms of the Macedonian leader were divided into four sections.

Most ancient historians would agree with this statement by the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding the scope of Alexander’s Empire: “The Achaemenid Persian empire was the largest that the ancient world had seen, extending from Anatolia and Egypt across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia.”2

Cyrus, the “anointed ruler,” created a vast empire including Israel and Afghanistan. The prophet Isaiah predicted his rise to power almost 150 years before he became king: “Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut” (Isa 45:1).

Cyrus the Great played a critical role in restoring Jerusalem as Jeremiah predicted (Jer 25:11, 29:10), and Daniel confirmed (Dan 9:24–27). He gave Zerubbabel permission to return from exile and rebuild the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:20–23; Ezra 1:1–11; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1–7). This move was consistent with Cyrus’ view on ruling disparate cultures with varying religious beliefs. He allowed diversity, unlike other ancient rulers. The Lord used Cyrus’ philosophy of inclusion and cultural expression for the good of the Israelites, whom the Babylonians had conquered. The Babylonians also destroyed the Temple, took many Israelites into exile, and forced them to adopt Babylonian religious practices, as the book of Daniel describes.

Esther might be the most significant book of the Bible written during this period of the great Persian Empire.

In Esther 1:1, the author details the geographic expanse of Ahasuerus’ kingdom. “Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces.”

Ahasuerus was mentioned in Ezra 4:6 because he ruled during this period, “Now in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” The context is that Israel’s local enemies were trying to stop the rebuilding of the Temple and were antagonizing Israel’s rebuilders from the reign of Cyrus until the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:4–5).

From the boundaries mentioned in Esther, the identification of Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes, 485–465 ʙᴄ), and the extent of his kingdom, the events of the book of Esther took place during the reign of this Persian king. Therefore, the nation of modern Afghanistan was a part of the extended Persian Empire.

So, when we think about biblical Afghanistan, we should consider that whatever we read of Persia is also true of what is now Afghanistan. Unlike Isaiah’s specific prophecies regarding Assyria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon (modern Iraq), Arabia, Edom, Philistia, the city of Damascus, and other identifiable nations or geographic areas, whatever the Bible tells us about Persia should include the country Afghanistan.

As a result, we learn quite a bit about the future of Persia and Afghanistan.

Lessons for Today for Afghanistan

As we know from the text, Haman tried to destroy the Jewish people and failed! As a result, the Jewish people were allowed to punish their enemies in Susa, the capital, and throughout the provinces of Persia, which would have included lands that are part of today’s modern Afghanistan.

Esther chapter nine mentions the results of Haman’s failure: “Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them” (Esth 9:5). Additionally, the Jewish people killed 75,000 of their enemies throughout the provinces: “Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder” (Esth 9:16).

By God’s grace, the Jewish people and the promises of God remained alive because the Lord Himself intervened to save His people. As promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, those who cursed the Jewish people were cursed. The entire book of Esther should be viewed as the unfolding of God’s covenant with Abraham and His promises to bless those who bless Israel and to curse those who curse her. His plan to bless the world through the Jewish people was far from over at the time of Esther. The Bible was still to be completed, the Messiah was to come, and the future repentance of Israel that would initiate the Second Coming were all ahead. Therefore, no one could have destroyed the Jewish people (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37–39; Romans 11:25ff.).

New Hamans Arise in Every Generation

There are new Hamans on the world scene today seeking the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel is under attack, and antisemitism is on the rise worldwide. We understand that all forms of Islamic extremism seek the destruction of Israel. Indeed, almost every manifestation of Islam opposes the existence of the modern State of Israel, though various brands of Islam express this antipathy in different ways. Some are more violent than others. We see Hezbollah and Hamas nestled on the very borders of Israel, perched and ready to attack when they are able. This everyday threat is difficult for Israel and the Jewish people. In these instances, the threat to the Jewish people is more than a person—a modern-day Haman—it is in the ideology, nationalism, and religious fervor of many throughout the Middle East.

We hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not tolerate terrorism against the West and Israel the way they have in the past. Indeed, those who perpetrated the events of 9/11 twenty years ago found safe harbor in Afghanistan.

According to an article that the website Breaking Defense published in the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan:

Israeli officials are nervously watching the situation in Afghanistan, believing that the collapse of the government over the weekend will enable Al-Qaida to renew its efforts to perform terror attacks against both American and Israeli targets around the world. Defense sources here say that the feeling among the Taliban and Al-Qaida is that after defeating the US in Afghanistan, the “gate is wide open” to launch terror attacks from inside Afghanistan. One source added that the US should get ready [for] Al-Qaida [to] attempt to perform terror acts against American “interests” in the very near future. “There is no doubt that Al-Qaida will take advantage of the situation in Afghanistan to recruit more people and plan terror attacks” one of the sources said . . . . “The situation is bad, very bad,” [Mordechai Kedar, a senior Israeli analyst on Islamic issues] said, adding that while Iran and the Taliban are not allies, certain Islamic groups in both countries may find common ground in targeting non-Islamic nations.3

The rise of global antisemitism has begun to permeate our society and is often subtly wrapped in the guise of anti-Israelism. We see this virulent form of anti-Jewish behavior growing more prevalent on our campuses today. Unfortunately, an anti-Israel position is usually wed to an anti-Jewish sentiment in today’s world.

As followers of Jesus the Jewish Messiah, we should be sympathetic to the Jewish cause. Historically, most faithful Christians have been pro-Israel and pro-Jewish without being anti-anyone else. But today, the winds of change are in the air. Therefore, re-reading what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people is essential. Unfortunately, we see a growing disinterest in Israel within the church today that concerns us.

God Is Faithful to His Promises

The promises in Jeremiah 31:35–38 rest upon the foundational passage in Genesis in which God promised Abram that He would bless those who bless the Jewish people and curse those who curse the Jewish people and that through them He would bring blessings to the entire earth (Gen 12:3). God created the Jewish people to be a bridge of blessings and revelation to the nations.

The Lord will not allow anyone to destroy His chosen people—the Jewish people. He promised that the land of Israel would belong to the descendants of Jacob, and we can expect God to keep His promises and bring “curses” upon those that seek the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Future of Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s future is in the hands of new leadership. We know that individuals and nations who mistreat the Jewish people are touching the apple of God’s eye. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for this behavior. Attacks against Israel and the Jewish people will one day be met with God’s judgment. The book of Esther and the price Haman and his followers paid stand as witnesses through the ages of God’s desire to protect His chosen people.

Modern-day Iran has been hostile to modern Israel—we hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not follow suit. Perhaps the example of Cyrus will inspire the leaders of both Iran and Afghanistan to cherish the freedom of religion once again and establish policies that show respect for the vast differences among their citizenry. It would be an excellent beginning for peace that we know only a relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus, can fully satisfy! Until then, we follow the words of the Prince of Peace, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Peace begins with prayer! It now appears that the new Middle East will not be as friendly to the nation of Israel as we previously hoped, as it is still only a minority of Arab nations that have joined in the Abraham Accords. Therefore, we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for God’s shalom to reign in Afghanistan, Iran, and throughout the new Middle East. Let us also pray for our troops and their families, the Afghan people who are suffering under the Taliban, and the nation of Israel.

1 Our Daily Bread, “Iran in the Bible: The Forgotten Story,” January 24, 2020, documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mURWJfSpS7k. This excellent video on the biblical history of Persia is worth viewing.

2 Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, “The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 ʙᴄ),” October 2004, under “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,” https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acha/hd_acha.htm [accessed August 30, 2021].

3 Arie Egozi, “Israel Braces for Renewed Terrorism Coming from Taliban-Led Afghanistan,” Breaking Defense, August 16, 2021, under “Global,” https://breakingdefense.com/2021/08/israel-braces-for-renewed-terrorism-coming-from-taliban-led-afghanistan/ [accessed August 30, 2021].

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Esther: The Right Place at the Right Time

Your Mission to the Jewish People will soon celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim. This holiday is one of the most joyous on the Jewish calendar. I am sure you know the story, but please allow me to summarize these critical events in Jewish and biblical history and share a few thoughts and lessons we can learn from them.

INTRODUCTION

During this festival, Jewish communities read the entire background of Purim in the book of Esther. The story describes the Jewish people’s deliverance from certain destruction at the hand of Haman, a leader in the Medo-Persian Empire during the reign of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). Ahasuerus ruled from 486 to 465 bc.

In the story, lots (or purim in Hebrew) were cast in the presence of Haman to help select the date for him to carry out his plan to destroy the Jewish people. Hence the name of the holiday, Purim, comes from the Hebrew word for “lots.”

It is important to recognize the tale’s heroes and how God used them to deliver the Jewish people from Haman’s wicked plan. By God’s providence, Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his new queen through a national beauty contest. She replaced Queen Vashti, who had refused the king’s command to appear at a banquet celebration. The other hero is Mordechai, Esther’s cousin (Esther 2:7), who raised her and played a critical role.

But the true hero of the story is God Himself, who sovereignly arranged all the events to work toward the good of the Jewish people. The name of God never appears in the book of Esther, but His presence and providence are evident throughout the book.

He is not silent! We hear His voice through the actions of Esther and Mordechai!

JEWISH PURIM TRADITIONS

Jewish people celebrate the deliverance from Haman’s evil plot by reading the book of Esther, shaking groggers (noise-makers), and yelling out “boo!” every time the reader mentions the name of Haman and “yay!” when we hear the names Esther and Mordechai. During Purim, we also eat hamantaschen, cookies shaped to resemble Haman’s hat or ears. Children celebrate by dressing up in fun, colorful, and creative costumes and by putting on plays that re-tell the story of Esther (yay!) and her triumph over wicked Haman (boo!).

In Israel, people flood the streets in costume to celebrate, and some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men drink alcoholic beverages until they cannot tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman.

THE MAJOR THEMES OF PURIM

During this time, we center on God’s power to orchestrate the events of life while remaining behind the scenes! Purim shows us how the hidden hand of God guides, empowers, protects, and accomplishes His divine purposes on earth.

The festival of Purim focuses on God’s covenantal faithfulness. It celebrates the deliverance of God’s chosen people and shows the Lord’s faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “. . . 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.” (Gen 12:1–3)

The promises of this magnificent covenant play out through the story of Purim—the destruction of Israel’s enemies, the exaltation of the nation’s heroes, and the blessing upon those who bless Israel, like King Ahasuerus.

THE RIGHT PERSON IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

One of the great lessons of Purim and the book of Esther is that God puts His children in the right place at the right time to do His will. The first puzzle piece is that the king chose Esther as queen and put her in the right place at the right time.

The God of Esther is still putting His people in the right place at the right time today! Revisiting the book of Esther during Purim greatly encourages us to accept the places where God puts us as well as the people He puts in our lives!

Mordechai also saved the king’s life by being in the right place at the right time to hear the plot of the two assassins who had lost their jobs in the palace (Esther 2:21–23). Of course, Esther was in the right place at the right time to receive the information from Mordechai to save the king’s life. Ahasuerus was also the right “pagan” king for the right moment—another king might not have ultimately listened to his wife!

The story reaches its zenith with Mordechai telling Esther, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). As a result, Esther took the challenge and approached the king even though she could have died for visiting uninvited!

The Lord went before Esther, and she received a favorable outcome to her request to save the Jewish people. So, the Lord switched the lots. Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he prepared for Mordechai, and the king permitted the Jews to fight back and destroy their enemies. So, Mordechai became the king’s most valuable advisor instead of Haman.

Purim is a reminder that God’s all-powerful and invisible hands hold and guide us during difficult times. The Lord is always good and has a purpose for our lives, just as He did for the Jewish people. Indeed, He often allows us to experience suffering so that we may become more and more like His Son.

HEROES FOR THE MESSIAH

Esther was a heroine and was willing to die for her people. Yeshua also loved His people and was ready to perish for them. The history of the Jewish people, the church, and Chosen People Ministries is filled with stories of brave and godly women who served the Lord faithfully, who faced dire and challenging circumstances, and even risked their lives to bring the gospel to the Jewish people.

Allow me to introduce you to one of these godly ladies, a founder and early pioneer without whom Chosen People Ministries would not exist today. Her name was Augusta Sussdorff.

Born in 1867 to German immigrants, Augusta Sussdorff was one of the Mission’s earliest workers. Rabbi Leopold Cohn spoke at her youth group at Hope Baptist Church and invited people to come and sing at the Mission. Augusta and a friend volunteered. Their presence drew more Jewish women and girls to the ministry. Previously, the Mission’s audience was primarily male. Rabbi Cohn was passionate about women studying Scripture and encouraged Augusta to join the Mission full time, which she did around 1912.

She conducted many programs at the Brooklyn headquarters, including mothers’ meetings, sewing school, and Bible classes. Augusta also made home visits, greeted people at the medical clinic, brought clothing to the poor, helped English-speaking immigrants find jobs, and served on the board of Chosen People Ministries when this was quite unusual within Christian work.

She served with the Mission for more than fifty years and continued volunteering long after her retirement.

Ms. Sussdorff was incredibly dedicated to faithfully serving the Jewish people so that they would experience the love of Jesus and hear the message of salvation. To honor Augusta Sussdorff, we are creating a scholarship in her name for women in the United States, Israel, and around the globe who are serving with Chosen People Ministries but have trouble raising their missionary support.

This scholarship is part of our Foundations ’22 campaign, as encouraging godly women to serve the Lord with Chosen People Ministries is a part of who we are. We are praying that more and more women will join the ranks of Chosen People Ministries as missionaries, students at our Feinberg program, volunteers in our VIP program, and so much more.

What better way to re-affirm our back-to-basics approach to 2022—refocusing on evangelism, discipleship, and training—than to help future Augusta Sussdorffs give their all for the salvation of Israel!

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A Renewed Focus on Personal Evangelism and Discipleship

Chosen People Ministries, now in our 128th year of ministry, will continue to build on the solid foundation laid by our founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, and the hundreds of missionaries and servants of the Lord who preceded today’s staff family.

Jesus emphasized this need for a firm foundation when speaking to His disciples after giving the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt 7:24).

Jesus is the foundation and cornerstone of our faith!

The psalmist pointed to the One who, though rejected, would be the cornerstone of the kingdom: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps 118:22–23).

Chosen People Ministries is built upon the foundation of Jesus the Messiah and the Bible—the word of God. Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus about this foundation:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:19–22, emphasis added)

We learn a lot from the Apostle Paul about building a solid foundation for the Lord’s work. He was an experienced ministry builder and wrote quite a bit about the importance of a solid foundation.

Wherever Chosen People Ministries staff have gone and whatever we have done throughout the years to build the Lord’s work among the Jewish people, the foundation is always the same—the Lord Himself and the Bible. We make Jesus known for all He is and what He did, and we teach and preach the Bible to those with genuine spiritual hunger.

The Great Commission also never changes. We are called to proclaim the gospel, lead others to faith in the Messiah, and make disciples of all who believe (Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 1:8). This foundation includes the importance and priority God places on Jewish evangelism (Romans 1:16), if one takes the words of Paul literally!

The Goal of the Foundations ’22 Campaign

Our goal for the Foundations ’22 campaign is to build Chosen People Ministries for the future—until the Lord returns! To do this, we need to return to and embrace the very foundation of our ministry and reaffirm the basic elements of our work.

This clarion call to evangelize, disciple, and train others to do the same grows out of the Great Commission: “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, emphasis added).

The task never changes!

The opportunities and circumstances of the day might influence how we carry out the commission and the tools we use. But our message and work is always the same!

For example, Chosen People Ministries has confronted two world wars, various global economic disasters, the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the multiple wars in the aftermath of 1948 (i.e., 1967, 1973, its Lebanon Wars, and two intifadas). These challenges impacted the ways in which we carried out our Jewish gospel mandate and led to creating new tools to reach and serve the Jewish people. God used our staff, particularly in the aftermath of the Holocaust, to help Jewish people who survived the Holocaust re-settle in Europe and Israel and feed the poor survivors as they returned home to their European communities.

We have helped immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom were Holocaust survivors as children, but today, of course, are elderly and have so many needs. The greatest of these needs is hearing about Jesus, and over the last two decades, we have served these dear people and have shared the message of hope through Jesus with hundreds. By God’s grace, many Holocaust survivors have given their hearts to the Lord.

The recent pandemic also required us to shift strategies as so much of our effort was focused online, which was the best way for Chosen People Ministries to enter the homes and lives of Jewish nonbelievers and believers alike. We needed to limit our usual method of meeting with people in person during the pandemic, but we were still able to carry out our ministry goals.

Now, it is time to get back to in-person meetings and to even greater involvement in the lives of those we serve.

This year, we will strengthen our ministry in three areas, which should come as no surprise. First, we will emphasize direct personal evangelism as we are able. We will also disciple those who come to faith and help them grow in their faith and become part of congregations. Additionally, we will train the next generation of Jewish and Gentile believers to serve the Lord with greater depth and expertise.

Your Partnership in the Foundations ’22 Campaign

You can partner with Chosen People Ministries through prayer and personal involvement.

Prayer

Please pray that Chosen People Ministries missionaries remain faithful and effective in proclaiming the gospel of the Jewish Messiah.

Pray that the seeds of the gospel land on good soil and produce much fruit.

Finally, pray that the Lord raises up more Jewish and Gentile believers from the next generation to minister to future Jewish not-yet believers!

Personal Involvement

1. Introduce us to your not-yet-believing Jewish friend. 

We need your help identifying Jewish people we can talk to about Jesus. Use the enclosed card to provide their information, and we will be happy to send your friend a free copy of my book, Isaiah 53 Explained, and ask if they would like personal contact with one of our ministers.

2. Connect us to Jewish believers you know. 

We would like to reach out to Jewish believers you know and encourage them with the various growth and service opportunities available to them through Chosen People Ministries. We have materials, retreats, mentors, and so much more to help Jewish believers grow in their faith. You can also help us identify those called to full-time Jewish ministry as missionaries or as support staff, such as writers, graphic designers, and administrators.

3. Join us in training for Jewish ministry.

We have many training opportunities available that you can be part of and also promote these to your congregation, church, or Bible study groups. For example, you might know those who would appreciate our short-term mission trips or consider taking a course through our new online video-based Bible institute, which begins soon. Our Charles Feinberg seminary program is also available in person and online for those who want graduate-level training for credit and are more serious about either joining the staff of Chosen People Ministries or serving in their local community as a volunteer.

As I mentioned, we will describe some of the specifics of the Foundations ’22 campaign in the months ahead. I will begin by sharing vital information and fuel for your prayer life about some of the hard-to-reach Jewish communities with whom we are already engaged and hope to serve even more effectively in the future as part of our Foundations ’22 campaign.

Thanks for caring, praying, getting more involved, and supporting our ministry among the Jewish people.

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We are going back to basics!

One of our generous and faithful supporters recently asked, “Mitch, what are your priorities for 2022?” What a great question!

The answer is simple. We plan to re-affirm our basic priorities in 2022—focusing on evangelism, discipleship, and training.

I am excited by the ministry possibilities in 2022!

COVID-19 has separated us from individuals, and the best way to move Chosen People Ministries forward in 2022 is to focus on sharing the gospel with Jewish people in person—one on one.

We will continue our online ministries, congregational work, and conferences, but we will prioritize our efforts to meet Jewish people face to face and speak to them about the Lord.

I find the words of Paul encouraging at this time, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Paul, who knew hardship up close and personal, wrote these comforting words, which most of us have “worn out” during the pandemic!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Lord has accomplished so much through our staff during hard times, which He often uses to transform our character and build our faith. We are ready for whatever the Lord calls us to do in 2022!

FOUNDATIONS ’22—BACK TO BASICS

By God’s grace, we hope to recapture what has worked so well for Your Mission to the Jewish People for more than a century.

So, we are launching a new campaign—Foundations ’22.

To understand why, please allow me to share some background on the history of Chosen People Ministries.

Our founder, Leopold Cohn, came to the Lord on the Lower East Side of Manhattan through the preaching of a Polish Presbyterian missionary to the Jewish people in New York City. This missionary led Rabbi Cohn to the Lord, personally discipled him, and sent him to a seminary in Scotland for training.

Now, more than 127 years later, Your Mission to the Jewish People serves in nineteen countries and two dozen cities across America—and we continue to grow! Throughout the years, our missionaries have led thousands of Jewish people to the Lord, discipled and trained them, and witnessed the joy of seeing those we have mentored lead and disciple others!

Chosen People Ministries has planted dozens of Messianic congregations, conducted major conferences on Jewish evangelism and prophecy, held Jewish holiday services that proclaimed Jesus to thousands, and preached the Word of God in more than 100,000 churches throughout our history! We had more people attend our online events during the past two years than ever before! We thank God that more than 40,000 people attended our event commemorating the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 last fall!

We are also in the process of initiating some new projects for 2022:

  • A Hebrew website and social media campaign for young, secular Israelis
  • An animated gospel tract for social media based on my book Isaiah 53 Explained
  • An extensive hosting network for Israeli travelers visiting the United States to complement all we are doing in New Zealand, parts of Asia, and Israel

But, as you can see, these new projects are all designed to further our time-tested strategy—to witness, disciple, and train believers for a lifetime of service! I will share more about these in the months ahead.

WIN-DISCIPLE-TRAIN

I am the seventh president of a ministry that has endured two world wars, the Holocaust, the Great Depression, massive immigration of Jewish people to the US from Eastern Europe, the Spanish flu . . .and now COVID-19! Yet, by God’s inescapable and magnificent grace, we are still here—focused on the same goal—bringing the Messiah to His own people!

A “win-disciple-train” strategy is the core of the Great Commission.

Focusing on the basics is the best way to counter the fog and disruptions this pandemic has brought upon us! After all, the gospel is still the same, Jesus is the same, and our mission, according to Matthew 28:19–20 and Romans 1:16, also remains the same.

I became a believer and was personally discipled by a Chosen People Ministries missionary serving in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time. My wife had a similar experience. She came to the Lord through other teenagers at her predominantly Jewish high school in Los Angeles. Again, a Chosen People Ministries missionary trained these young people to share the gospel with Jewish high school students! That missionary also discipled my wife and hired her for her first ministry job—with Chosen People Ministries.

Eventually, Chosen People Ministries paid my way through Bible college and helped me again when I began seminary at the Talbot School of Theology (part of Biola University). Chosen People Ministries now partners with Talbot to offer a master of divinity in Messianic Jewish Studies at our Brooklyn-based Charles L. Feinberg Center. This degree trains Jewish and Gentile believers called to serve the chosen people.

My wife and I are the fruit of Chosen People Ministries’ missionary outreach. After coming to faith, we were discipled and further trained for ministry by this wonderful and historic Mission to the Jewish People that I have now had the joy of leading for just a few months shy of twenty-five years!

PRIORITIZING PERSONAL MINISTRY

We will emphasize in-person evangelism of Jewish people, discipleship through personal care, prayer, and Bible study. We will also offer further training so that these new Jewish disciples can grow, mature, and become Jewish evangelists themselves.

We are already in the process of developing an online, video-based Messianic lay Bible institute to further our training goals. These courses will be available to you too!

Our evangelistic goals include reaching some of the most difficult-to-reach Jewish people in the world. Some of these precious Jewish people are the most gospel-resistant among the gospel-resistant! So please pray, give, and when you are able, join us in reaching these Jewish people through short-term missions and various training opportunities!

REACHING YOUNG, SECULAR ISRAELIS

Today, as Israel opens up, we are beginning to see excitement grow among younger Israelis who want to meet together again in person. So we are doubling our efforts to reach young, secular Israelis—especially those who travel worldwide after the army.

Robin, one of our leaders in Israel and a Jewish believer who came to faith through Chosen People Ministries workers, writes the following:

Reaching Israelis outside Israel is a short-term ministry initially but becomes a long-term opportunity. The Israelis who hear about Jesus in New Zealand, India, South America, and Hong Kong return to Israel after some months. Our Israeli staff and volunteers follow up one to one and through New Zealand and India reunion events.

Through the follow-up, relationships are deepened and built, and they hear more about Yeshua, meet other Israelis who believe in Yeshua, and have a contact for any questions they have; praise God! Two young women we met in India on outreach trips came to faith a year ago through this type of follow-up, and we are studying through the Gospels now. We are also developing a new website to be a further step in both outreach and follow-up. We will continue to find new creative ways to disciple and train young Israeli believers.

These ministries are valuable for evangelism, ongoing discipleship, and training! Robin adds,

Our outreach to Israelis outside Israel serves two great purposes: We bring the gospel to Israelis, and we mentor and disciple young adult Israeli followers of Jesus by sending young Israeli believers to volunteer in our backpacker/youth hostels in New Zealand, India, and elsewhere. There, our local staff and team leaders invest in their training through personal Bible studies and walking alongside them in the ministry. Then, on returning to Israel, many say they grew in their faith and understanding of the Word of God and feel more confident in sharing Jesus with their peers.

Thank you for your prayers and your generous support.

May you have a fruitful 2022 for the Lord!

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Filed under Digital Media, evangelism, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Messianic Jewish, New York City

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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Filed under Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Messianic Jewish

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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Filed under evangelism, Holocaust Survivors, Israel, Jews and Christians, Messianic Jewish