Category Archives: Uncategorized

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 Mystery of Romans 11 and You

You might want to get a cup of coffee or tea and take out your Bible as we reflect on one of the great doxologies in Scripture, a praise to God in Romans 11:33–36.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?

Paul then triumphantly declared in verse 36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

God knows the beginning, middle, and end of our pilgrimage on earth. He knows what is next, and all things are unfolding according to His plan. We should be comforted by this glorious truth—He knows everything and is never surprised by what we go through in this life. Therefore, we can trust Him fully as we walk through challenging and sometimes dark days.

GOD IS FAITHFUL TO HIS PROMISES

All human history is marching toward a Romans 11 future, which will be to the praise of His glory! Israel and the Jewish people, who are so critical to God’s grand plan of redemption, are part of that bright and glorious future. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:25, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery.”

We really need to understand the mystery!

The apostle explained it:

A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The deliverer will come from Zion…. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25b–27).

The mystery to be revealed is that all Israel will be saved one day, demonstrating God’s faithfulness. Israel’s salvation answers the question Paul asked earlier, “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).

God cannot renege on a promise! Paul’s salvation is evidence that God will keep His promises to the patriarchs. One day in the future, the Jewish people, as a nation, will turn to Jesus.

He added in Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Paul understood that God did not remove the Jewish people from His purposes for all time; it was only temporary. The Jewish people still had—and have—a role to play in the drama of world redemption.

THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE

Zechariah describes the day of Israel’s turning to the Lord. On that day, God will “pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10). Zechariah envisions the Lord’s feet standing on the Mount of Olives, which will split in half, and afterwards, He will judge His enemies (14:2–3).

On that day, the Jewish people will cry out, Baruch haba b’shem Adonai, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). At that moment, the Lord will save the Jewish people, conquer His enemies, and establish His throne in Jerusalem.

Paul was familiar with Isaiah 53 and may well have remembered that the prophet predicted a state of temporary national unbelief on the part of the Jewish people toward Messiah and that God would eventually open their eyes to Jesus.

Isaiah wrote:

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 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. (Isaiah 53:3–5)

This passage points to a day when Israel would recognize that her Messiah died for her sins! I know this is true, as I am a Jewish believer, and that day came for me almost fifty years ago when I embraced the Jewish Messiah. One day, what happened to me will happen to the nation of Israel because God is faithful to His promises.

OUR HOPE FOR TOMORROW MOTIVATES OUR MISSIONARIES TODAY

The day will come when the Jewish people in Israel, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, West Palm Beach, and all around the globe will recognize that He is Lord! It is this hope and understanding of the future that guides our work at Chosen People Ministries today. We serve the Jewish people considering what is to come. As Paul wrote:

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:14–15)

Your Mission to the Jewish People exists to plant seeds of faith in the hearts of Jewish people today through the proclamation of the gospel. Some of these seeds will bear fruit today, while others will blossom in the future when God moves upon the nation of Israel and turns the hearts of the Jewish people to Himself.

SPIRITUAL FRUIT IN THE MIDST OF WAR

As you know, Israel has gone through a tough time recently with COVID-19, unsettling elections, and an eleven-day war with Gaza. Some of those who suffered the most are the elderly Holocaust survivors who live in the border towns next to Gaza. We have served this community for many years and are beginning to see great fruit for our labors.

I recently received an inspiring letter from Maxim Katz after he took a group of Holocaust survivors on a retreat, after the shelling from Gaza stopped.

Maxim writes,

“We spoke on various topics from Scripture and offered words of support and encouragement that the Lord speaks to all of us through the prophets. Everyone was very interested because it was a real live dialogue. Many asked pressing questions, sometimes unexpected ones. Several people approached us with a request to pray for them. We prayed together for all those who wished to pray. We also joked and laughed a lot. It was a wonderful time!

Finally, I want to share the words of one person who has been battling cancer for the past three years. It was his first trip anywhere other than a hospital during this time. At one of the meetings, while we were reading and pondering the Bible, he said in front of everyone: ‘I was like a dry tree, but today, thanks to you and God, thanks to this trip and fellowship, I am revived as if they poured water on me, and I can breathe and come to life! How great is our God, Jesus!’”

PARTNERS IN THE GOSPEL!

Thank you for your prayers for the Jewish people. We continue to see Jewish people coming to faith. We are excited about the opportunities we have, both digitally and in person.

Thank you for caring!

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

Making Disciples…in Hard Places!

But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.”
(2 Corinthians 6:4–7)

I recently rediscovered this powerful and well-known passage penned by the Apostle Paul, which describes the insurmountable difficulties he faced in bringing the gospel “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). 

Paul’s life was in constant danger. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. His evenings were undoubtedly not spent at a five-star hotel. 

Paul challenged the believers in Corinth to follow him as he followed the Lord (1 Cor. 11:1). Most of us would not welcome the kind of opposition and suffering Paul met throughout his ministry. The world teaches us to avoid unnecessary hardship, and yet, the apostle embraced life’s difficulties and sorrows for the Lord. He wrote from a Philippian jail, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). Yet, in all things, he found the victory through the Messiah Jesus—and so can we! 

Jesus endured life’s hardships and even bore the pain of the cross, burying our sins and crushing the power of the grave! Jesus lived through an eternal moment of separation from His Father—whom He loved for all eternity and who loved Him—so that you and I would not suffer a moment of separation from our Creator. 

Think of all the apostle endured for the sake of those he served and sought to bring into fellowship with the Father through the Son. Then consider all that Jesus, our beloved Messiah, gave up and suffered on our behalf. This might help us to gain a new perspective on all we endured, especially over the last year and a half. 

Suffering teaches us lessons we could never learn in any other way. Our character is shaped far more in the schoolroom of suffering than when surrounded by those we love, the niceties of life, and even success. We often learn more through failure and pain than we do through success. 

We all have our stories, of course, of how we experienced hardship for the Lord. 

Many years ago, I was part of a messianic singing group invited to go to Northern Ireland by an Irish Christian who had a tremendous burden for his people. We ministered through messianic music and preaching in and around Belfast. The year was 1976, and bombs were exploding virtually every day in beautiful, lush, green, and very unsafe Northern Ireland. 

At the time of this trip, I was a seminary student and a newlywed. Was I frightened? You bet I was! And my fear was justified! We all wrote notes to our unsaved Jewish families, sharing our faith and telling our loved ones why we were doing what we did. We were all ready to die for Jesus. Or so we hoped. 

I remember one day we had an engagement at Queens University Belfast. We set up our sound equipment and began our music ministry. Hosts of students came and listened and interacted with us regarding the gospel. We started our final song but were interrupted by a loud boom. Within moments, shreds of charred paper began floating down from the sky like falling snow. A bomb had gone off close by, and we, along with the hundreds of students, were frightened because we had no idea whether the next bomb would explode closer to us. 

Another day, we were singing in downtown Londonderry. We had to move from our original location as the establishment owner told us he no longer wanted us in front of his store. We were disappointed but continued our musical ministry two or three blocks away. We were not even halfway through our set of messianic music when we heard a loud explosion. You could feel the glass windows of the store imploding. The bomb went off at the very spot where we were supposed to sing but were asked to leave. To this day, I do not know if someone warned the owner of that retail store that a bomb would go off, and he told us to leave to keep us safe. All I know is that Romans 8:28 took on an entirely new meaning to me and our team! 

I could also tell you about incidents where someone angry about my preaching the gospel physically attacked me. To this day, I believe those hostile encounters were small change compared to the price He paid for me on Calvary. 

I love our Chosen People Ministries staff. 

They suffer without complaint and trust the Lord through the most difficult of circumstances. 

You will read about what our staff in Israel recently endured during the eleven-day war with Gaza. Most of our Chosen People Ministries workers in Israel are Jewish and made Aliyah because they love the Lord and want to live for Him in the Holy Land. But, unfortunately, they have endured a lack of acceptance, persecution by some religious Jews, and the everyday threat of terrorism and war. 

Before going to Northern Ireland for the first time, the president of Biola University (I was attending graduate school there at the time), Dr. Clyde Cook, offered to pray with our group before the trip. I will never forget his prayer: “Lord, teach Mitch and his team that safety is not the absence of danger but the presence of the Lord.” I will never forget those words. 

I pray that prayer today for our staff ministering in hard places. They endure rejection, threats, and difficulties that are all part of the worthy effort to share God’s love with our Jewish people, whom we love dearly. 

Many Jewish people react and oppose us strongly because of centuries of persecution by misguided and mostly nominal Christians creating an almost impassable gap between the Jewish community and Jesus. Right now, our staff ministers in Israel, Argentina, New York, Russia, the United Kingdom, and so many other critical and strategic places where large numbers of Jewish people live. These busy urban areas are loud, unsafe, and expensive. Yet, our workers endure all these challenges for the sake of the gospel. 

We need your prayers and generous support to share the gospel with Jewish people living in difficult places. We know we could move to someplace nicer, greener, and less expensive, but we choose to be where our Jewish people live, work, and raise their families. 

One way I encourage our staff serving in difficult places is to remind them of the vast number of like-minded believers who pray for them and support their ministries. 

You are so important to us but especially important to those who serve in hard places. 

Why do we do this? Why do we choose to endure such hardship and difficulties? Why do we ask our spouses and children to live in places that are difficult and even dangerous? 

Sometimes I ask myself this question, as I have lived in Brooklyn now for more than three decades, serving among one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. I chose to raise my children in this intense and often very hostile environment. But I have never looked back because of all the Lord has done for me. I know that our staff serving the Lord under challenging conditions feel the same way. 

It is tough at times, but always—and I mean always— worth it! 

What Dr. Cook prayed is so true, as safety and peace (shalom) are always available to us through the Prince of Peace who is with us and dwells within us. Paul gave us a rationale for the joy we can experience day in and day out as we share the gospel with Jews and Gentiles—even while suffering or working in difficult places. 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
(2 Corinthians 5:20–6:1) 

And I can assure you that our staff feels this way. We know that what we do for Jesus is eternally worthwhile because what He did for each of us will endure forever. 

On behalf of our staff serving in difficult places, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, partnership, prayers, and sacrificial support!

Thanks for helping me love our staff!

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Evangelism in Israel: A Golden Moment of Opportunity


Today, my heart is burdened for our beloved nation of Israel!

This past year has been challenging—especially the past few months—for every citizen of the Holy Land. COVID-19 ripped through Israel, killing thousands, especially within the Orthodox Jewish community; yet, today, Israel stands as an example of recovery from this dreaded disease. Thank God, the number of those infected is now almost nil on the Israeli side and decreasing among the Palestinians. We are beginning to see a restoration to life in person, including all of our ministries in Israel.

We have more than twenty staff members throughout Israel, with centers in Jerusalem and the Greater Tel Aviv area. We are already back to in-person Bible studies, events for elderly Holocaust survivors, outreach dinners, and ministry to younger Israelis, mainly through our outstanding work in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

THE RECENT ELECTIONS

The recent elections again revealed the deep divisions within Israel. A coalition of religious Zionists led by Naftali Bennett and a more left-of-center group led by Yair Lapid replaced long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Efraim Goldstein, one of our long-term Chosen People Ministries staff members in Israel, summarized the recent election as follows:

The nation of Israel is establishing a new coalition government without Benjamin Netanyahu. The new leaders are a new generation of native-born Israelis.

Naftali Bennett leads the Yamina party and will be the new prime minister in a coalition agreement. As a former aide and cabinet minister for Netanyahu, he is determined to serve the nation of Israel. Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party is a staunch right-wing supporter.

Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid was a journalist and is committed to reforming Israeli politics. For the past ten years, he has labored to gain credibility as a viable leader. Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and he is currently the defense minister. This coalition will also be the first time that the United Arab List (Ra’am), led by Mansour Abbas, will vote to support a new government even though they will not have cabinet positions.

The breadth of views within the new government is wide! We will see if they can hold together and provide decisive leadership for Israel as they try to weather the fractious regional relationships throughout the Middle East.

THE GAZA WAR

Israel was regaining a sense of normalcy from COVID-19 when war broke out with Gaza in May. I was in close touch with our Israeli staff throughout the war and its aftermath. Let me share some of what our workers experienced in their own words.

Our Israeli director, Michael Zinn, writes,

We just had the war, and today we are already trying to forget about it. Israel suffered from the terrible terrorist organization Hamas’ attacks with more than 4,500 missiles launched within ten days! They killed twelve people, wounded hundreds, and caused millions of dollars worth of property damage. Hospitals treated many hundreds after panic attacks. On top of that, thousands of Arabs within Israel rioted, destroying Jewish properties, burning down synagogues, lynching Jews, and attacking police. Add to this picture the ongoing sound of the sirens and traces of the Israeli defense antimissiles in the sky. By this description, you can probably get some understanding of what we have experienced here recently. It was very difficult to remain calm when my daughter called me from Tel Aviv and told me there were hundreds of missiles in the air, and I heard the sound of them over the phone!

David Trubek, who serves at our Ramat Gan Center, adds,

During the recent conflict here in the Holy Land, we found ourselves back in a wartime routine. Hamas launched massive rockets targeted at our civilian populace. Arab Israelis rioted, looted, burned public buildings, and violently attacked their Jewish neighbors. Unfortunately, a small segment of our Jewish population also committed violence against the Arabs. Our outreach center is in the Tel Aviv district—an area bombarded with missiles. For days, we had to run for shelter several times a day. We had to get up in the middle of the night each time the sirens sounded, get the children, and run to the shelter.

On top of ensuring the safety of ourselves and our children, we asked God how He would use us to shine His light on people around us. During our time in the shelter, we had conversations with people about the love of God, the sin that destroys the world, the message of Yeshua, and the love He brings into this world. We decided with our congregation to meet on Zoom for prayer meetings. I felt in my heart the urgency to reach out to our local Arab brothers and ask them to join and pray together with us in unity for peace in the land of Israel.

Our staff deeply cares for their families and their fellow Israelis who need the Lord during this time of turmoil! They have a ministry of comfort, especially among the elderly Holocaust survivors they reach in the areas closest to Gaza.

Maxim Katz, serving in Jerusalem, writes,

We hope that in July and August we will be able to hold children’s camps. We had planned a vacation camp in May, but we had to cancel it due to the Gaza conflict. It breaks my heart because we could not gather our children together for almost two years. I see teenagers for whom the camps were an anchor of faith now living in the world. We pray that the Lord would give us wisdom and the opportunity to bring these young people back to Him.

When we sent the invitation to come to the camp in May, seventy children signed up in twenty minutes, and we had to turn more away. The Lord showed me again how important this ministry is. The kids were distraught when we canceled everything, and we are waiting for the summer with the hope that camp will happen. Today, we have almost a hundred applicants for the summer camps.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

We know that war and general instability bring opportunities to share the gospel of peace. Many Israelis are seeking the Lord, which is why we believe we need to intensify our efforts in the Holy Land right now. The need TODAY is urgent.

The openness we are sensing is, without a doubt, growing among next-generation Israelis! This is why we are working intensively to develop new tools to reach Israelis through some of our new websites and social media efforts and, of course, through in-person ministry as the country re-opens post-COVID-19.

We are creating a website that addresses the thorny questions Israeli young adults are asking. Our new site and social media campaigns will speak to heart issues like loneliness, broken relationships, gender confusion, and other life issues that we know only a personal relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah can address!

We will continue to reach elderly Holocaust survivors for the Lord, intensify our family-oriented strategies by ministering to both parents and children, develop new congregations, and much more!

Clearly, the recent elections show that young Israelis are looking for new ideas, new leadership, and for many, a new way—other than Jewish Orthodoxy—to draw closer to God. We believe it is critical at this moment in Israel’s history to reach this younger generation.

THE CHALLENGE OF WEAKENING EVANGELICAL SUPPORT

Unfortunately, we have a problem within the American church as support for Israel is waning among younger
evangelicals. According to a recent survey that Chosen People Ministries helped sponsor, support from younger evangelicals for the nation of Israel has dropped from 75 percent to 33 percent since 2018. We find that a lack of support for Israel often leads to lessened interest in Jewish evangelism.

However, there is a silver lining, as more than 40 percent of evangelical young people are undecided concerning their views on Israel. This indecision allows Your Mission to the Jewish People to educate the future leaders of the American church!

In light of the survey results, which Chosen People Ministries helped sponsor, we hope to create materials and conduct conferences in seminaries and local churches that encourage younger evangelicals to love Israel and support our efforts to reach Jewish people with the gospel.

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Blessings in the Midst of the Pandemic

Shalom in the great and powerful name of Jesus our Messiah!

One of my favorite Bible passages has continually proven to be true throughout this challenging time. The Apostle Paul wrote, “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).

Now, this passage does not mean bad things that happen are outside of God’s foresight and knowledge because God is omniscient and omnipresent; He is the beginning, middle, and end of all things, and nothing can take him by surprise. One of my favorite pastors, John Piper, puts it this way:

When the King James says, “all things work together for good,” it does not mean, they work that way on their own, or by some power of fate. It means that God makes all things work together for good. So God is the one working…and what he is bringing about is good, and what he is bringing good out of is “all things.” Paul is not saying all things are good. He is saying all things are turned by God for good.1

I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Piper. The Lord has taken the terrible and used it for good for our 127-year-old ministry among our Jewish people! The last fourteen months have been challenging but incredibly fruitful for the gospel!

To give you the whole story, I would like to rewind to March of last year and walk you through our 2020 year—scary, I know, but hang on, you will see how God miraculously provided, often in the eleventh hour.

On the Heels of Our 125th Anniversary

For me, it is important to remember that the pandemic erupted right after the wonderful and joyful celebrations of our 125th year of ministry in 2019. We were jubilant! We held numerous events across the country. There was a fantastic concluding banquet with Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, as our keynote speaker. We ended 2019 with a conference on the history of Chosen People Ministries’ founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, which was held at the Feinberg Messianic Center in Brooklyn. Out of that conference, we produced a book about Rabbi Cohn called A Rabbi’s Vision Continues. In early February 2020, we had another unique event, the Borough Park Symposium, which included a lineup of several noteworthy, mainstream Jewish scholars—a rare opportunity for the Messianic Jewish community.

We planned an advancement campaign that was to kick off in January 2020. Chosen People Ministries was growing, both domestically and overseas. Our centers, congregations, Feinberg program, and short-term ministries were driving forward, and we had finally moved back into our beautifully renovated Manhattan headquarters. The renovations were costly, and though it took a while to recover financially from the expenditure, we continue operating without debt, even up until today— thanks be to God! All our programs were growing, and we were getting ready to launch new ministries—especially to Israelis traveling around the world and in the United States. We were hopeful, with great vision and excitement about the future.

Enter March 2020

Then it hit! Let me share how I came face to face with the pandemic. I flew up to Toronto for a Canadian Chosen People Ministries board meeting on Friday, February 28, 2020. For some reason, my usual way of entering the country through the preferred traveler program was closed, and I had to stand in line for more than two hours to pass through customs to enter Canada. I was used to some people from various countries wearing face masks, but now it was almost everyone but me, which made me think that I was really missing something and that maybe the virus we were beginning to hear about was getting worse!

I knew that there was a coronavirus outbreak in China and that a few people in Seattle had already contracted the disease. I was supposed to return to Canada the following week for a Bible conference in Vancouver. From there, I was expecting to fly from Seattle to England and then Israel. During that week, news of the virus began heating up, and there were reports of the first deaths in—of all places—Seattle.

Some of our Israeli staff told me that I might have to quarantine if I did come to Israel. There was even a possibility that the government would not allow me into the country at all. All of this was fast-breaking news. I canceled the trip and did the Vancouver Bible conference by Zoom, though I dislike canceling anything!

We shut down our Manhattan headquarters office on March 16, 2020 and the Brooklyn and Florida offices soon after.

We set up a system for our mail to be transferred daily from New York City to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, where our mail was opened and sorted at a firm owned by a friend of one of our board members. All our staff began working from home, and we started meeting every morning at 8:30AM for prayer via Zoom and at 4:45 PM to end the workday.

From that point on, life became very different. Our ministry became primarily digital; our direct ministries, services, and Bible studies went online, primarily through Zoom. We initiated a host of additional online ministries as we already had a strong digital media department and a bunch of outreach websites. We were very engaged in bringing the gospel through the use of social media.

But little did we know that life and ministry would not get back to anything close to what we would consider normal for more than a year.

Time to Pivot

We are all very aware of what has transpired this year, and thank God, even though quite a few of our staff had COVID-19, no one died. Almost everyone has recovered. Many of us, however, lost friends and family to the disease. Unfortunately, we are not yet finished with COVID-19 as some staff members even contracted the disease over the last couple of weeks. We will probably still see other cases, I am sorry to say, though hopefully not among our staff. We especially need to pray for India and,specifically, Andrew and Levanya Yelchuri, our staff members in Goa, India, whose ministry is to reach the hundreds of Israelis traveling through India after their army service. Of course, this is now halted, but we pray the Israeli young people will return when the pandemic lifts in India.

In many ways, it was especially difficult for us as Your Mission to the Jewish People is focused on large and heavily populated urban areas where the majority of Jewish people live. Some of our congregations, Bible studies, and ministries are already meeting in person, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

At this moment, we sense the Lord powerfully at work and leading us toward a better and brighter gospel future. I thank God that our staff stayed close to one another and never lost hope in the Lord. We knew He would make a way for us through this season of darkness.

The future is as bright as the promises of God, and it is time for us to look forward and seize the future for His glory.

I hope and pray you are well and that the Lord has preserved you and your loved ones through the pandemic. I am especially sorry if you lost a friend or loved one to the disease. May He wrap His all-powerful arms around you and bring the comfort that only comes from our risen, powerful, and faithful Savior.

So, join me as we look back for a moment and reflect on the good things He has done this past year and peek ahead at some of our advancement plans for the future!

In Messiah Jesus,
Mitch

1 John Piper, “All Things for Good Part 1,” Desiring God (blog), June 9, 2002, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/all-things-for-good-part-1.

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Training Tomorrow’s Messianic Leaders

Shalom in His peace.

Chosen People Ministries is committed to training up the next generation of leaders for ministry among the Jewish people and to fulfilling our mission: to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same. Fourteen years ago, Chosen People Ministries and Talbot School of Theology at Biola University jointly established the Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies. This unique Feinberg educational program offers an accredited Master of Divinity degree and a graduate certificate with a concentration in Messianic Jewish Studies. These courses of study are designed to address the tremendous need for advanced biblical and theological training for those serving among the Jewish people.

Chosen People Ministries owns a strategically located building in the heart of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. It houses the Feinberg program and accommodates classrooms, student housing, faculty offices, a 12,000-volume library, a dining room and a kitchen, as well as a sanctuary that is used for seminars, worship, and a Messianic congregation where students participate in services and receive fieldwork experience.

The Feinberg program trains future leaders who believe God has called them to serve in Jewish ministry.

OUR GRADUATES ARE OUR TESTIMONY!
Since its inception, more than thirty individuals have graduated from our Feinberg program. Our Feinberg alumni have gone on to serve in leadership capacities in ministries and organizations around the world. Currently, 85 percent of our Feinberg graduates are engaged in Jewish outreach, many with Chosen People Ministries. Some serve as congregational teachers, elders, or deacons, while others engage in planting congregations and centers among the Jewish people.

Some Feinberg graduates work for Christian non-profit ministries. One alumnus is on staff with CRU in London, serving as a spiritual resource to members of Parliament and other international leaders. Another individual oversees a gospel-focused sports ministry in Israel and other places alongside many Jewish people. Four graduates are presently pursuing PhD degrees, and one graduate will soon earn a Doctor of Ministry in Apologetics and has launched our Messianic apologetics website.

We have already had three international students who enrolled and moved to New York to pursue their education at the Feinberg Center. One of our recent graduates from Ukraine moved to Germany after graduation to help lead a new educational ministry that trains Europeans for Jewish outreach. Other international students are from Brazil, England, India, and South Korea.
Some of our leaders with the most potential to take Chosen People Ministries into the twenty-first century, including the editor of this publication, were trained at the Feinberg Center.

AT LONG LAST: FEINBERG IS ONLINE
We now plan to expand beyond the traditional classroom and offer online options for students who cannot move to Brooklyn to take in-person courses. This new opportunity for virtual learning—a result of the pandemic in many ways—will enable us to serve various Jewish mission fields, including Israel, where Chosen People Ministries continues to reach Jewish Israelis and the growing body of Israeli believers.

Since the 1930s, Chosen People Ministries has served in Israel and currently employs twenty-six people, primarily resident missionaries, through an Israeli non-profit named Beth Sar Shalom (House of the Prince of Peace). We have also established two Messianic Centers, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where we regularly conduct evangelistic ministries, including short-term mission trips from the United States. Our Jerusalem Messianic Center, established in 2006, serves as our main headquarters in Israel.

There are enough prospective students in Israel interested in the Feinberg program to introduce our courses to them remotely, along with motivated individuals living in other countries or different parts of the United States. Many would qualify for remote study in the Feinberg program or benefit from special seminars or programs offered by professors and special speakers.

We plan to begin offering Feinberg courses remotely, leading to a graduate certificate in Messianic Jewish Studies in Israel, which will enable students who are working and already deeply involved with their congregations and ministries to study without interrupting their lives and families. We believe this is an essential step to continue equipping the next generation for the vital work of Jewish evangelism.

NOT JUST CLASSROOM TRAINING— FIELD WORK IN ISRAEL
Training seminary students in Israel would have the added benefit of helping us further our outreach in the suburb of Ramat Gan and the greater Tel Aviv area. Our Israeli Feinberg students would have fieldwork requirements. Our Greater Tel Aviv Messianic Center, before the pandemic, was already teeming with activities designed for one-on-one interactions with Israeli unbelievers. Each week’s usual schedule of events included a weekly cafe outreach with live music, Bible studies, seminars for young people and families, leadership training programs, and even a mothers-of-preschoolers program in Hebrew. These activities will provide many opportunities for seminary students to learn ministry tools.

As at the Feinberg Center, mentors would oversee fieldwork experience in Israel, enabling students the opportunity to interact with non-believing Israelis under the guidance of an experienced Chosen People Ministries staff member. A further benefit is that Israeli graduates from the Feinberg program will likely serve as missionaries and become leaders within their congregations and beyond.

THE FUTURE IS NOW
For this 2021–2022 academic year, we already have eighteen full- and part-time students enrolled in the Feinberg program. Because of the pandemic, we had only a limited number of students living at the Feinberg Center in Brooklyn during the first half of 2021, with the majority are participating online. We plan to re-initiate in-person classes this fall and to expand to include those taking courses online.

A PLEA AND PRAYER FOR PARTNERSHIP
The Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies is marked by a committed and called student body and a dedicated and highly qualified faculty. Its strength comes from a time-tested partnership between the Talbot School of Theology and Chosen People Ministries.

Your partnership in helping us train a new generation of leaders for Jewish ministry—in the United States, Israel, and worldwide—is deeply appreciated. Here are a couple of specific ways you can help at this critical moment in history:

  1. Please pray for all our students and professors. I will be teaching a course on Jewish evangelism this fall, and my wife, Dr. Zhava Glaser, will be teaching one on Jewish history. We would personally appreciate your prayers.
  2. If you know others who might be interested in joining the Feinberg program or have a calling to Jewish ministry, please pass this letter along so they can find out more about becoming students at the Feinberg Center— either in person or online.

In our Messiah,

Mitch

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A Brief History of the Modern Messianic Movement

Shalom, dear friend!

You might remember the iconic evil shark, Bruce, from the film Jaws. The movie terrorized many of us and made us think twice about spending a lovely day at the beach! Perhaps this is why the sequel coined one of the most memorable tag lines ever attached to a movie, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….” Which one of us does not hear the two-tone Jaws theme and experience a brief moment of fear and anxiety in the pit of our stomach as we try to get back to some type of post-pandemic normal?

Most of us are trying to figure out  if it is once again “safe to go back into the waters” of normal life. We hope and pray this will be true and that the threat we have lived with for so many months will dissipate.

Is it safe to send our kids to in-person school every day, enjoy a dinner party with friends and family, return to the office, or take that long-overdue vacation? As believers, we trust the Lord and remain hopeful because we know He never loses control of our circumstances.

A mentor of mine once prayed for me before I faced a challenging set of ministry circumstances that could have led to severe physical harm. He said, “Teach Mitch that safety is not the absence of danger, but the presence of the Lord.” I have never forgotten that prayer. We can—and should—do all we need to do to keep ourselves and our families safe, but we know that, ultimately, only the Lord can protect us from harm.

I love what the psalmist wrote, “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.…He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:3). We are in His capable, loving, all-powerful, nail-pierced hands, and He will protect us on the journey from this life to the next! He never fails. We should not avoid getting back into the water because, as always, He is awake in the boat!

Looking Backward to Move Forward

Knowing that we can trust the Lord enables us to look forward to better days and a brighter future. We can grab onto hope as a child grasps for the brass ring on the merry-go-round. To seize the future, we need to reflect upon the past. When it comes to Chosen People Ministries, this could take a while, as we are 127 years old! So, let us travel back a few decades to remember what God has done in these recent years in turning the hearts of so many Jewish people to Jesus the Messiah.

A Brief History of the Modern Messianic Movement

We can trace the modern Messianic Jewish movement1 back to the remarkable work of the Holy Spirit among young people in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I experienced it first-hand as I was one of them! I am a child of the Jesus movement—spiritually-speaking.

The modern Messianic movement began during a season of unrest and uncertainty. Those with a more romantic view of the “end times” might identify 1967, the year Jerusalem was reunited, as the beginning point for the modern movement. Undoubtedly, the birth of the modern Messianic movement is evidence of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Many view it as a sign of the Second Coming, which is why I and many others believe the modern Messianic movement is indicative of our living in the last days.

Yet, we also recognize that there were other reasons why the number of Jewish believers in Jesus increased during the late 1960s and why young people like me desired a deeper connection to God and our Jewish heritage.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Jewish world was beginning to recover from the Holocaust, and Jewish social and religious organizations were gaining new strength. Meanwhile, the modern State of Israel was rapidly becoming the global glue holding Jewish communities together.

The shift of the center of Jewish life from Europe to the United States and Israel, post-Holocaust, also significantly impacted the dynamic growth of the modern Messianic movement. The number of Jewish believers living in Europe before the Holocaust was in the hundreds of thousands, but most were either killed or moved to other parts of the globe. This change created a twenty-plus-year decline in the Messianic movement.

The geographic change in the center of Jewish life and culture also caused the movement to take on a uniquely North American and non-European character.2 The Messianic movement in America did not express its faith in Yiddish as it did in Eastern Europe. Instead, the modern movement primarily communicated in English and, in the last couple of decades, in both Russian and Hebrew as the Lord brought thousands of Russian Jews and Israelis to Himself.

Trends within the broader church also had a profound impact on the modern Messianic movement. The growth of many churches and Christian ministries, such as Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, and the Evangelical Missions movements, was reflected in organizations like Operation Mobilization and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism (LCWE), which would later become the Lausanne Movement. The growth of the Charismatic movement, Calvary Chapels, Vineyards, and various new styles of churches during the last forty years have helped shape the development, theology, worship style, and culture of the modern Messianic community. These swirling trends within the Christian and Jewish communities and the yearning for a more profound Jewish experience would all become part of the new landscape that we call the modern-day Messianic community!

Revival was in the air. It created new institutions and breathed new life into older ones, including the Messianic movement. The two older and most influential organizations changed their names. The American Hebrew Christian Alliance became the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America in 1975, and its international umbrella, the International Hebrew Christian Alliance, eventually changed to the International Messianic Jewish Alliance.

This renewal deeply impacted Chosen People Ministries and the heroic efforts of great missionaries to the Jewish people serving with Your Mission to the Jewish People. Pioneers such as Eliezer Urbach, Ruth Wardell, and others who led many Jewish people to the Lord were responsible for training many of the leaders of the modern Messianic community.

The Jewish missions agencies had extensive roles in rescue and relief during the Holocaust and post-Holocaust period. They also grew, expanding vision, and reaching out to the Jewish people living in North and South America, the former Soviet Union and ultimately to Israel.

New ministries emerged during this post-Holocaust period and included Messianic congregations and associations of congregations, new mission agencies, publishing houses, media-based ministries, and much more! The expansion of the Messianic community reflects the growth of the post-Holocaust Messianic movement and continues to do so today. Simply put, thousands upon thousands of Jewish people started believing in Jesus from the late 1960s until our present day…and the movement continues to grow!

The number of Jewish believers, congregations, properties owned, funds raised, trained ministry leaders, books produced, academic programs and institutions, conferences, and the prominence of Messianic Jewish leaders are all telltale signs of the growth of the community.

Today, we find ourselves amidst a flourishing and dynamic Messianic Jewish community that accounts for hundreds of thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus across the globe. Congregations, ministries, and missions like Chosen People Ministries are thriving and seeing fruit from their labor.

But this is just the beginning, as we know the Lord has great plans for His chosen people in the days ahead. As my good friend Joel Rosenberg says, “We are headed toward a Romans 11:25–29 future.” I agree and believe that more and more Jewish people around the world will come to the Lord as we draw closer to His Second Coming! As Paul wrote,

“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” (Romans 11:25–26).

Thanks for your support and prayers!

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch

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The Great Objection

Shalom, dear friend!

I still remember the day when I led an outreach team to support a concert by a Messianic singing group on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus. The school had (and still has) one of the largest Jewish student populations in California, and Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States.

It was a beautiful, sunny California day. We were setting up the sound equipment and getting ready for the concert when I noticed a few yellow school buses pulling up close to the stage. Out from the buses came almost one hundred teenagers wearing yarmulkes, white shirts, and black pants, with fringes extending from under their shirts, and at least a dozen rabbis or schoolteachers milled about. They turned out to be from the largest Orthodox yeshiva (Jewish parochial school) in the Los Angeles area. It seemed that some ultra-Orthodox rabbis wanted to bring classes of their young men to observe the concert.

I had the opportunity to speak with some of the teachers and rabbis who told me that they came to protest the concert by making their presence known. They wanted to show the Jewish UCLA students there was an alternative to what Messianic Jews believe, and even hoped to persuade some to become more religious.

The music started, and lots of UCLA students gathered. Then, all of a sudden, a couple of other adults from the crowd who were not part of the Orthodox Jewish group began shouting and causing a ruckus. It turned out that I knew a few of these men; they belonged to the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a radical organization started by Rabbi Meir Kahane in Brooklyn that uses violence to protect the Jewish people from antisemitism. They were planning to do whatever they could to disrupt the concert.

In the middle of the event, one of the JDL members shouted, “Believing in Jesus is like eating a ham and cheese sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah!” That statement grabbed my attention, and though it made me smile, I took it very seriously! It shows just how wide the chasm between Jewish people and Jesus really is in the minds of many Jewish people.

They caused some further mischief during the performance, but the presentation of the gospel through music still went pretty well. We had some great personal conversations with UCLA students. I also continued my discussions with a few of the teachers and rabbis from the Orthodox yeshiva while dozens of their young students surrounded us and heard what I had to say about Jesus.

That concert—and statement about the ham sandwich—were important character- and strategy-shaping events in my young missionary career. They reminded me that even though most Jewish people who are religious oppose our faith in Jesus, there are others who are seeking, and some who are curious. Sometimes the gospel goes out with greater power in the face of opposition!

THE GREAT OBJECTION

If there were one central objection to belief in Jesus held by most Jewish people, it is the common misunderstanding that when a Jewish person believes in Jesus, he or she is no longer Jewish.

This objection to the gospel is serious and not quickly answered through an intelligently written tract, book, or winsome answer. A response to this accusation is impossible without showing living proof that the charge is false.

My parents raised me to believe the Great Objection—Jesus is not for the Jews!

The basic theological challenges keeping Jewish people from believing in Jesus are difficult enough to answer. For example, Jewish people do not believe in God’s triune nature or incarnation; Judaism teaches that, as God is spirit, it is impossible for Him to clothe Himself in physical form. This teaching ignores prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures such as Isaiah 7:14. We have good answers to these questions, but these types of conversations usually come later in the relationship. The real challenge is getting the conversation started.

After two thousand years of bad history between Christians and Jews, my people are taught to stay away from the gospel and avoid or ignore Jesus. Most of my fellow Jewish people are also encouraged to reject Jewish people like me who believe He is the promised Messiah.

YOU CAN BE JEWISH AND BELIEVE IN JESUS

So, what can we do to alleviate the Jewish community’s fears about Jesus? How can we help Jewish people understand that Jewish believers in Jesus appreciate their Jewishness as fulfilled in the Messiah?

The Apostle Paul, one of the most well-known Jewish believers in history, certainly appreciated his Jewishness. He wrote to the Roman believers and told them that he was Jewish and believed in Jesus. “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Rom. 11:1).

Our founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, who came from a Hungarian Orthodox Jewish background, kept the festivals of Israel and believed that tradition was positive as long as it did not distract from the purity of the gospel message. Rabbi Cohn demonstrated that you can be 100 percent Jewish and 100 percent a follower of Jesus the Messiah!

Your Mission to the Jewish People continues this powerful pattern. We celebrate the holidays (especially as they point to Jesus), plant Messianic congregations, and encourage Jewish believers to do all they can to remain Jewish and keep good relationships with their families and the Jewish community. It is our goal to live among our Jewish people and to invalidate the accusation, “If you believe in Jesus, you are no longer Jewish.”

As Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised” (1 Cor. 7:18). Jewish followers of Jesus are still part of the Jewish community. In one way or another, we need to find ways to identify with our fellow Jewish people. Otherwise, we inadvertently confirm the message of our critics that Jews who believe in Jesus are no longer Jewish.

Our lives are the best argument against the Great Objection!

But you can help too by showing the Jewish community that true Christians love the Jewish people because they love the God of the Bible and recognize that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Most Jewish people do not know how supportive Christians are of Israel.

We can help you in your ministry if you know Jewish believers in Jesus. Take a look at the website http://www.ifoundshalom.com, and you will discover the testimonies of more than one hundred Messianic Jews. You will laugh, cry, and be encouraged by their courageous faith!

I hope you will encourage the Jewish believers you know to be like Paul and remain actively Jewish.

Your understanding of our ministry and your prayers and love mean so much to us! Thank you for letting me share a little more about the ways in which we serve the Lord among the Jewish people.

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch

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Seeing God in the Darkness of Plagues

Shalom and greetings in the Messiah.

I pray this newsletter finds you hopeful in the Lord. Although the coronavirus still plagues us, we patiently await God’s help and healing.

In the darkness, the Light of the World continues to shine brightly. As David wrote in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” I cannot imagine a more comforting word in the entire Bible for these days.

I hope you have sensed the Lord’s presence with you even amid profound difficulties and loss. I have been reading the Sermon on the Mount in my quiet time, and the second beatitude has impacted me significantly, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). If you are mourning, may the Lord comfort you.

Passover Is Around the Corner

We will be observing Passover at the end of this month. Since plagues will be on the minds of Jewish people and Christians who study the Hebrew Scriptures, I thought I would share some thoughts about the ten plagues.

There are many sparkling gems of truth to be found in studying the plagues. Even the Hebrew terms for the various plagues are meaningful. Although the actual Hebrew word for “plague” is only found once in the book of Exodus, the variety of terms used helps us understand their nature.

A Brief Summary of the Terms for Plagues and their Meaning

The plagues narrative begins in Exodus 7:1–5. There are five different references to the coming plagues in this passage.

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.”

The Bible refers to the miraculous and revelatory nature of the plagues along with their punitive purposes. Through the plagues, God revealed both His power and character to the Egyptians and the Hebrews.

Some of the terms, such as “signs” and “wonders,” are almost always associated in the Hebrew Bible with the release of God’s power designed to turn unbelievers toward Him in repentance and faith. Similarly, God used the plagues to reveal His holiness, justice, and love, especially toward His chosen people. Have you ever thought of the plagues themselves as evangelistic in nature?

Ezekiel 36, a prophecy we see partially fulfilled today as the Jewish people are back in the Land in unbelief, parallels Exodus 7:5. Moses predicts a future 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. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land’” (Ezekiel 36:23–24).

Both passages make it clear that one of God’s purposes in bringing the Jewish people out of captivity to the Promised Land was to be a miraculous sign of God’s faithfulness. The regathering of the Jewish people to the Holy Land is an obvious miracle that should help the Gentile nations see what God has done and turn in faith to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Ten Big Ones!

The recitation of the ten plagues is an integral part of the Passover Seder and one of the most memorable moments of the meal. As a child, I always looked forward to reciting the plagues. Traditionally, Jewish people dip their pinky finger into a glass of sweet red wine and place a drop of it onto their plates as they shout the name of each of the ten plagues.

The recalling of the plagues is a way to remember the story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. One traditional reason for why we drop the wine on our plates is that the drops represent the reduction of our joy, symbolized by the sweet wine—one drop for each plague that fell upon the Egyptians. Therefore, we do not rejoice in the judgment of the Egyptians, as Jewish tradition teaches mercy, but rather we should reduce our joy because of their suffering.

This unique part of the Seder reminds the Jewish people that God brought plagues upon others in mysterious harmony with His will. He used plagues to move both the Egyptians and Jewish people to action. Biblical plagues are purposeful, and, while causing terrible suffering, they are used by God for His divine purposes.

There are many biblical examples of plagues besides the ten in Exodus. God heaped affliction upon Job, the prophets, and many others. Sometimes, God caused the plagues, and other times He allowed them to happen for His divine purposes. For example, Naaman and Miriam (Moses’ sister) were both plagued with leprosy for God’s holy purposes and His glory.

Plagues, however, are not always punitive. “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). Like the healing of the blind man in John chapter nine, plagues and disease afford God opportunities to reveal His glory, goodness, and redemptive power.

COVID-19 and the Ten Plagues

Now, let us explore some ways we might better understand the role of the current COVID-19 pandemic in the plan of God. I am not suggesting that this virus was imposed directly by God as were the plagues in Exodus. Pharaoh hardened his heart, and God brought the ten plagues upon the Egyptians because of their leader’s misconduct. However, there is no reason to believe that the spread of the coronavirus is a divine punishment. The Bible never mentions the coronavirus, the Black Plague, or the Spanish Flu. Therefore, I believe the adage, “Where the Bible is silent, so am I.”

On the other hand, we cannot deny that God used plagues in biblical history as judgments and promises to do so in the future. Most believers would agree that plagues are signs of Jesus’ Second Coming. Luke wrote, “Then [Jesus] 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’” (Luke 21:10–11).

COVID-19 awakens us to the real possibility that plagues, along with other signs, will be part of a future season of endtime judgment before Jesus’ return. Plagues upon humanity are also part of the traditional Jewish view of the end times. This shared belief has caused some openness to Jesus on the part of ultra-religious Jewish people around the globe.

We can only hope and pray that our broken and sinful world might look beyond the suffering of today to see and believe that God longs to redeem us from the plagues of life. He is gracious and keeps His promises but is also serious about the judgment to come. While we need to proclaim the good news, we should not forget that there is also bad news for those who do not turn to the Messiah. Many Jewish people recognize this reality today, and we have, by His grace, seen quite a few Jewish people turn to Jesus during the pandemic.

Hopefully, we will look back one day and see more clearly the greater good our heavenly Father accomplished through this epidemiological trial. We pray that blessings will come for everyone throughout this time of pain and suffering (Romans 8:28) and that we will remember lessons learned in darkness when we return to the light.

I pray that the Lord will use this experience to shape our character, reorder our priorities, and draw us closer to Him.

Thank you for your love and prayers. I know you will enjoy reading about all the good the Lord has done in our midst during this difficult time. His miracles shine even brighter in dark times!

Blessings and Happy Passover,
Mitch

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The Christmas-Hanukkah Connection

Shalom,

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! I love this season of the year: lights, joy, lots of presents, and the ability to freely focus on our faith in Jesus—the reason for the season. When I say the reason for the season, I am including Hanukkah, not just Christmas!

There is an amazing connection between the two holidays. It is a bit hidden, but I am sure that, once you see it, you will be as thrilled about it as I am. We find this extraordinary link in John 10:30, where Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

We know from the gospel that the events in John chapter ten occurred during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22–23), also called Hanukkah. The Hebrew word hanukkah means “dedication.” It is still the most often used name for this great holiday.

Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah!

Curiously, the only biblical mention of Hanukkah is in the New Testament. The origin of Hanukkah is in the intertestamental literature, particularly in the First and Second books of Maccabees, which many people consider significant records of Jewish history.

The story of Hanukkah serves as the stunning backdrop to the words of Jesus, particularly in John chapter ten and especially in verse thirty.

The saga begins with a well-known historical figure—Alexander the Great.

Upon his death in 323 BC, Alexander’s kingdom was divided among four of his generals. Eventually, the lands that included Israel came under the control of Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC. His name alone tells the story—the word epiphanes means “revealed” or “manifestation” and refers to the Greek gods who often took on human form. In this instance, Antiochus probably had Zeus in mind as he desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing to Zeus (1 Maccabees 1:54; 2 Maccabees 6:2).

Antiochus demanded loyalty from the Jewish people to Greek culture and the Greek gods. He sent his emissaries with a statue of himself to each village in Israel and made them bow down to it. According to Jewish tradition, the emissaries entered the town of Modi’in and demanded that the Jewish people bow down and worship the Greek gods and their representative, Antiochus.

But a family of Levitical priests was living there. Mattathias and his five sons refused to bow and began a revolt. Mattathias cried out, “Let everyone who has zeal for the Law and who stands by the covenant follow me!” (1 Maccabees 2:7). His call is one of the grand statements of loyalty and unity that every young Jewish child learns at his mother’s knee.

His family and followers fled to the Judean foothills and waged guerrilla warfare against the Syrian Greeks for the next three years, between 167–164 BC. When Mattathias died, Judah became the leader of the rebel forces.

During that time, Antiochus perpetrated one of the most heinous acts against the Jewish people recorded in all of history. After defeating Antiochius, the Maccabees discovered that he had sacrificed a pig on the altar in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Israel. The Maccabees retook Jerusalem and wanted to cleanse the Temple. However, when they realized that a pig’s blood had defiled the altar, they took it apart and stacked the stones off to one side. In a very intriguing tradition recorded in 1 Maccabees, they left the rocks for someone more powerful to do the cleansing (1 Maccabees 4:46).

They built a new altar, and according to Jewish tradition, only had one day of oil left in the Temple’s eternal light (the seven-branched menorah), although it took eight days to cure olive oil to keep the light shining. The miracle that took place, according to tradition, was that the oil lasted for eight days, which allowed the Maccabees to prepare the oil needed and prevented them from being extinguished.

This legend provides the rationale for why we celebrate Hanukkah over eight days and why the symbol of light is so important. It reminds us that the ner tamid, the ceremonial light that shone in the Temple, must never be extinguished. Of course, the physical Temple was destroyed in AD 70 when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. Many Jewish people fled, and the Romans took the remaining Jewish people as captives. The menorah and other holy implements were looted and brought to Rome by the armies of Titus. To celebrate the victory, the Romans engraved these historical events inside the Arch of Titus, which you can still see today in the Roman Forum, near the Roman Colosseum.

The Declaration of Divinity

Jesus made His declaration of divinity in John 10:30 amid the grand traditions observed during the magnificent Hanukkah celebrations at the Second Temple. These traditions are described in the Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic commentaries on the Bible.

The story of Hanukkah, which would have taken place fewer than two hundred years earlier, was well-known by the Jewish people at that time. The average Jewish person living in Israel would have known that Antiochus Epiphanes, also called “Antiochus the Madman,” had declared himself to be a god. The Jewish people were commanded not to have any other gods but the Lord and were forbidden to worship idols (Exodus 20:3–4).

Indeed, the order to bow down and worship a statue would have been especially repugnant to the Jewish people. To this day, Jewish resistance to incarnation is rooted in the Jewish rejection of idolatry and the belief that God cannot be corporeal.

Resisting the claim that Jesus is God in the flesh has been viewed as a testimony of Jewish loyalty throughout the centuries. The fact that any Jewish person can overcome thousands of years of Jewish faith and tradition and accept Yeshua’s deity is a miracle.

The Deity of the Messiah Is Rooted in the Hebrew Bible

I was raised in a modern Orthodox Jewish home and taught to reject this possibility out of hand, not only for Jesus but for anyone.

I remember when I was thinking about becoming a believer in Jesus and was confronted with the idea that Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh. After reading the Gospels and seeing the way Jesus acted and spoke, I concluded that if anybody was God in the flesh—it would be Him. I am so glad that the Lord worked in my heart and enabled me to accept this glorious and fundamental truth—that Jesus is God, fully divine and fully human.

If Jesus was just a very bright and articulate itinerant Jewish rabbi, then you and I are still walking in our sins and face judgment on the last day. But because He is God in the flesh, His death provides a perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins, allowing you and me to receive forgiveness of sins and stand in the presence of the Lord forever.

I came to realize that the Hebrew Scriptures actually did teach that God could appear in the flesh. Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6–7, and several other prophetic passages in the Old Testament teach that God would take on flesh one day.

I understand why the Incarnation rubs Jewish people the wrong way. We were raised celebrating Hanukkah and taught that bowing to any corporeal God is idolatry.

I would agree that the Bible teaches against idolatry. Isaiah wrote with a combination of anger and humor, it seems, concerning how idolators worship:

Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”
(Isaiah 44:16–17)

Yet, we do not worship a God made of wood or stone but one who became a man while fully retaining His divine nature—a glorious mystery!

There is no stipulation against the true God taking on flesh. Without the Incarnation, Jesus would not fulfill the Messiah’s prophetic description and qualify as the Savior of the world. There is no other way to be the Messiah as no human being could accomplish what the Bible prophesied the Messiah would achieve. The deity of the Messiah is essential to His Messianic role in the story of redemption.

With this background, we understand that Jesus’ declaration that He and the Father are one was a declaration that He is God in the flesh. There is no other. Antiochus Epiphanes was a fraud; the statue was merely an image that was eventually destroyed.

Jesus is not an idol made of wood or stone, nor is He just a man or a great rabbi or miracle-worker. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that teach us that the true Messiah and Savior of the world would be God in the flesh.

Dear friend, it is the Incarnation that forms the magnificent bridge between the holidays. I cannot tell you how happy I am that our Messiah Jesus chose Hanukkah to declare Himself God in the flesh. What could be more appropriate? What could be more Jewish?

I hope you enjoy the additional teaching on this great topic in this newsletter.

We are so grateful for your prayers!

Blessings and Merry Christmas,
Mitch

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