Tag Archives: Jesus

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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Messiah, Son of David

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

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

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

The Son of David

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

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

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

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

The Davidic Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Message of Hope for the Jewish People

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

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

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

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Serving in the Land of Yeshua’s Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANSWERS TO PRAYER

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

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

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

CHANGE AND ENCOURAGEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

MAXIM’S TESTIMONY

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

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

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

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

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

THE ISRAEL PROJECT

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

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

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

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

Forgiven

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

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

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

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

The Time Has Come—Again!

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

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

The Ten Days of Awe

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

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

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

The Prophecy of the Binding of Isaac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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The Context of Pentecost Matters

by Pastor Greg Denham

While many believers today are praying for a “Jesus Movement”—an incredible work of the gospel—in our generation, to truly grasp what it means to be a Jesus follower, we need to understand the first believers, and it all begins at Pentecost. The impact of Pentecost is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago in the upper room. Pentecost began the Jesus Revolution. One might say that we must go backward to go forward, so let us journey back in time and learn how the context of Pentecost matters.

Following His resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples in Acts 1:4 to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. We now know that He had a specific day in mind for that promise to be revealed—the day of Pentecost, which is one of the three pilgrim festivals required by the Lord (Exodus 23:14–17; 34:18–24; Deuteronomy 16:16–17). Pentecost comes from the Greek word penteconta (πεντήκοντα), which means fifty. The number fifty refers to the fifty days of counting the harvest, which began immediately after Passover.

The Hebrew name is Shavuot (שָׁבוּעוֹת), which means “weeks” and comes from the Hebrew word for “seven.” Shavuot is a harvest festival celebrating the end of the barley harvest and the first fruits of the wheat harvest. Yet, on the minds of the hundreds of thousands in Jerusalem for the Shavuot (Pentecost) festival was the belief that the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) had been given on Shavuot 1,300 years earlier. The Jewish tradition is called Z’man Matan Torah, “the season of the giving of the Law,” when the Lord separated His people from Egypt and drew them into a relationship with Him. It is when the earth shook with flashes of lightning, and God spoke in thunder!

Fifty days after Jesus gave His life on the cross was “when the day of Pentecost had fully come” (Acts 2:1). The events that follow reveal that the parallels between the giving of the Law and the giving of the Spirit—the beginning of the Jesus Revolution—are unmistakable. God manifested His presence atop Mount Sinai; 1,300 years later, He began the Jesus Revolution and inaugurated the New Covenant atop Mount Zion when He revealed His presence, power, and purpose to one hundred twenty Jewish believers. On Mount Sinai, God gave His commandments, written with His finger on tablets of stone; but at Pentecost in Jerusalem, He sent His Spirit to write His commandments on human hearts. At Mount Sinai, God judged three thousand for idolatry; but on the top of Mount Zion, three thousand people came to faith in Messiah Jesus!

In essence, the knowledge of God was exploding through the faithful remnant of Israel in the one hundred twenty followers of Jesus in the upper room! They were the remnant that was publicly and divinely identified by the tongues of fire above their heads and given the gift of tongues to communicate the wonderful works of God to an international gathering from fifteen different geographical locations with a variety of languages (Acts 2:3; 5–11). Peter declared, after being empowered and gifted by the Spirit, that Jesus, in His death, resurrection, and ascension, was creating all things new in Himself and would return to establish His kingdom on the earth in the city of Jerusalem! The New Covenant, inaugurated by Jesus’ blood on the cross at Passover, was now transforming three thousand Jewish people who had repented (Acts 2:37–41) and in whom now dwelt the Spirit of God. Now, the nations of the world could enter the New Covenant given to Israel, and could now experience the outpouring of God’s Spirit, too. (Acts 2:16-21; 39)

God’s plan, clearly revealed in His Word, has always been unstoppable! In that light, it is not surprising that both Passover and Pentecost frame God’s redemption narrative and point us to Jesus, the Messiah, who completes it.

Years ago, the apologist and Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer was asked, “What is the greatest obstacle to the modern church?” His answer was fascinating. He did not say that the major problems were the “-isms” in culture: atheism, materialism, relativism, etc. Instead, he said, “The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”[1]

Rediscovering the beginning of the Jesus Revolution in the first century—in its original context—can renew and even reorient to God’s intended course and mission for the Church!

For example, the context of Pentecost tells us that we can only accomplish God’s purposes for our lives in His strength! Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit’s work is comprehensive. He indwells the believer and gives assurance of being a child of God (Romans 8:16). He brings a believer into fellowship with “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit comes upon the believer to empower with divine gifting for a divine mission. Zechariah 4:6 reads, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” The Spirit of God is the source of our strength in all areas of our life. We need to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) daily!

The context of Pentecost also tells us that Peter was addressing a specific audience in Acts 2:22, namely, the Jewish pilgrims who went to the Temple to give their offerings. In principle, it speaks of the often overlooked priority of Jewish evangelism. In Romans 1:16, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul wrote this in the present tense, which means that if the gospel is still the power of God “for” salvation and is still for “everyone who believes,” then the gospel is still “to the Jew first.” The term “first” does not merely speak of sequence, but priority.[2]

Later, the Apostle Peter underscored an eschatological link to Jewish evangelism by saying,

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3:19–21)

Peter’s statement is consistent with Jesus saying, “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). Additionally, Revelation 1:7 reads, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” The reality is that before the world sees Him, Jerusalem will turn to Him! (Zechariah 12:10), “And so all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:26).

You can see that there is a tremendous spiritual battle regarding evangelism, of which we must be aware. “If Jerusalem will not see Him until she welcomes Him back, then no eye will see Him until Jerusalem receives Him!”[3] The origin of the Jesus Revolution at Pentecost reminds us that we cannot allow Jewish evangelism to become the “great omission” of the Great Commission.[4]

Pentecost reveals that the bullseye of the Church’s mission and preaching is the Person and work of Jesus! Peter proclaimed, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene…” (Acts 2:22). Keep the focus on Jesus, His death on the cross that bridged the gap between God and man, and His resurrection. Jesus demonstrates by rising from the dead that He is creating all things new in Himself. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Acts 4:12 reads, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” There is only one reason why a person has eternal life in a right relationship with God; it is by making the right decision to follow Jesus (John 14:6; Romans 10:13; Acts 4:12; John 3:16)!

The context reveals the importance of repentance! On the day of Pentecost, the people were “pierced to the heart” and said, “‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37–38).

The Greek word translated as repentance is metanoia[5] (μετάνοια), which means to change the way one thinks. Such a change leads to a lifestyle change from a self-centered life in rebellion to God to a complete allegiance to Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior. The call to repent and the promise to receive the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins remains today! In fact, God commands everyone to repent! The Apostle Paul said,

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31).

The great evangelist D. L. Moody put it this way “Repentance is getting out of one train and getting into the other. You are in the wrong train; you are in the broad path that takes you down to the pit of hell. Get out of it to-night. Right-about-face!”[6]

Finally, the context of Pentecost reminds us that God’s plan unfolded in a Jewish environment. This perspective is essential for deepening one’s understanding of the Scriptures! We need great teachers today, we need great evangelists today, and we need a Church grounded in the truth and making Jesus known by the power of the Holy Spirit! The Jewish context is the basis for the accurate exegesis of Scripture, expository preaching, evangelism, and gospel contextualization in our twenty-first-century global audience.


Greg Denham is the pastor of Rise Church in San Marcos, California. Greg is a dear friend of Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries. Greg loves the Lord, the Jewish roots of the faith, and is an active student of all biblical matters related to Israel and the Jewish people.

To contact Greg, or visit Rise Church online, click here.


Footnotes:

[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Introduction by Udo Middlemann) (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2003), 66.

[2] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. and rev. W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, second rev. F. W. Gingrich and F. W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 726; Wilhelm Michaelis, “proton,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 6:869.

[3] Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People, revised & expanded ed. (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2019), 226.

[4] Mitch Glaser, (lecture, Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, CA).

[5] Metanoia literally means a change of mind. The Greek verb translated as “Repent!” is related to μετάνοια. The second-person plural imperative form of the verb μετανοέω (metanoeō) is mετανοήσατε, which is the word Peter used in Acts 2:38.

[6] W. H. Daniels, D. L. Moody and His Work (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1876), 471.

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Passover and the Resurrection of Jesus

Shalom in the wonderful name of Jesus, our Messiah!

This Passover/Easter time of year has undoubtedly been the most challenging, and yet in some ways, the most meaningful holiday season my wife, Zhava, and I have ever experienced. As I am sure you know, the Passover Seder is the foundation for the Lord’s Supper and fulfilled all that the Passover foreshadowed in the Book of Exodus regarding redemption and salvation.

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus, our Messiah, celebrated His last supper, which was, in fact, a Passover Seder—His final one. He demonstrated to His Jewish disciples that He was the fulfillment of all the longings and dreams the Jewish people had imagined about the ultimate deliverance promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. On that night, Jesus declared Himself to be the bread of life as He identified His body with the middle piece of matzo—usually broken, hidden, wrapped, and brought back, which is part of the traditional Passover Seder.

He portrayed Himself as the lamb of God, whose shed blood redeems those who put their faith in His death on the cross. The entire message of redemption is presented in type in the Passover and fulfilled by Jesus in the Last Supper. It is as if God sketched the Book of Exodus in black and white, and painted the Gospel of Luke in brilliant color.

Luke writes,

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19–20)

Jesus is unquestionably the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the One whom Isaiah described when he wrote, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

I observed Passover with many friends of Chosen People Ministries via video on Tuesday night and with my Jewish family on Thursday night. There were forty of us on a Zoom call, reading through the Passover Haggadah, which tells the story of the exodus. Of course, my family does not yet believe that Jesus is the rest of the story, so please continue to pray that they might see that Jesus is our Passover.

We also had a beautiful Passover Seder, with all of its Messianic fulfillment, with my daughter and son-in-law, his parents, and my youngest daughter, as well—each one in their own home, but all of us together via the Internet. It was quite something until we tried singing one of the well-known Passover songs, Dayenu. It is not possible to have forty people on a Zoom call singing anything together. But it was still a beautiful and joy-filled experience.

The Chosen People Ministries staff are all working remotely in the United States and around the globe. We are having amazing conversations, Bible studies, and web-based outreach campaigns. People are home, available, and open to spiritual solutions to the overwhelming problems we face today.

I also wanted to let you know that Zhava and I are well, and our kids are all safe and sound. We continue to be healthy even though thousands around us in the greater New York area are sick and perishing. It just breaks my heart!

This morning, I awoke to a beautiful and sunny Resurrection Day to discover that the United States had crossed the threshold of 20,000 deaths due to the coronavirus and that the New York area accounts for almost half of this number. The state of New York recorded just under 800 deaths again yesterday. It is challenging to hold on to the rescue rope of social distancing and the various mitigation measures we have taken as a nation—as crucial as this is!

For those of us who believe in Jesus, Easter offers a better hope—a superior hope—as our greatest hope does not lie in our attachment to this world but to our relationship with the One who has conquered death and disease. He is the Great Physician who heals both body and soul and will one day remove the curse of sin from our world and wipe away every tear from our eyes.

If there is one thing we can learn from resurrection Sunday, it is that life goes on. The disciples who approached the empty tomb saw that the stone was rolled away but did not immediately believe Jesus had risen from the grave. They questioned the story told by Mary and the other women for a short time until He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and the rest of the disciples later on.

The truth is, Jesus rose from the grave and conquered death. It looked like His life had ended and with it any hope that He would establish the Davidic Kingdom at that time. Even though it now seemed to the disciples that they were alone in this world, without their Savior and Lord, whose mission seemingly failed, the truth was quite different. Jesus had not failed and, though He died, He had risen and was now alive—as He had promised!

The resurrection is the testimony that the work of salvation was completed on Calvary, that the promise of the Holy Spirit to be with us throughout our lives would be fulfilled, and that, one day, He would gloriously return.

This is why the Apostle Paul, at the conclusion of his first letter to the congregation in Corinth, wrote so eloquently, “…but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57–58).

This passage guides and strengthens my life. It has kept me going in the face of family and community opposition, through tough times and difficulties, and now even a pandemic. It is this confidence in His resurrection and glorious return that puts a smile on my face today and every day, as I hope it does for you.

Thank you for your prayers and your generous and very faithful support.

I pray that this Resurrection Day will remind you of the great hope we have today and tomorrow, as HE HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD.

He is Risen,

Mitch

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