Tag Archives: Messiah

Outreach in Tel Aviv

Chosen People Ministries began a dynamic ministry among Israelis in the greater Tel Aviv area in 2017. This outreach focuses on presenting the gospel to younger Israelis—most of whom recently served in the military. These young adults are the sons and daughters of Israeli believers who came to faith in the past twenty to thirty years. 

What is amazing about this ministry is we now have a second-generation movement of the Holy Spirit; previously, we barely had a first! Godly parents raised godly children, and these young adults are at the core of our ministry. More than this—they are the FUTURE. These young people are enthusiastic, bold, and willing to tell their friends about the Lord. 

The programs at our current rented center in Tel Aviv are thriving! We sponsor up to four special events each month. Some of these include concerts, Sabbath dinners, and evangelistic lectures. In addition, we host regular Bible studies and much more throughout the month. 

At the moment, we are able to accommodate between fifty and sixty young adults at our events. These “on fire” young people are joining these events and bringing their not-yet-believing friends . . . and we are running out of room! 

To keep up with this growing move of the Spirit, we need a larger facility in Tel Aviv—a place where we can serve the Jewish people in this highest-populated area in Israel for many more years to come. Additional space will allow us to continue to fulfill the Chosen People Ministries mission statement: to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same.

We found a permanent facility with the potential to meet the needs of our growing ministry. The new space is a 4,000-square-foot space in a mixed commercial and residential building with ninety condominiums. 

Next door, two new large properties are being built with apartments for another 200 families. We will be surrounded by Israelis who have never heard the gospel message! 

We are very grateful for this opportunity because it will give us a presence among Israelis in this important community. God opened this door, and we invite you to come alongside us on this journey to expand His work in Israel.

We Found a Permanent Facility!

The Tel Aviv Messianic Center (“the Center”) will be the hub of Chosen People Ministries’ mission efforts in the greater Tel Aviv area. It will include space for a Messianic congregation, a gospel café, concerts, and young adult outreach gatherings. Additionally, we will host Bible studies, children’s events, public lectures on a wide variety of topics, and ministries to elderly Holocaust survivors. Most importantly, this new space will allow us to develop our community-based activities designed to demonstrate the love of the Messiah Jesus to Israelis. 

This facility is only a seven-minute walk from the border of downtown Tel Aviv, and over the next half dozen light rail stops there are about a million Israelis with no place to hear the gospel, meet believers, or comfortably explore questions of faith. 

Our experience over the past six years of ministry at our now-outgrown rented center confirms our conviction: this area is ideal!

The Importance of Messianic Centers

Owning property in Tel Aviv raises our visibility and makes our statement to the public more powerful: Jesus is Jewish! He is the Messiah, and there are multiple thousands of Jewish followers of Jesus in the Holy Land today. 

There are additional advantages to owning our own property. Permanence is essential for Chosen People Ministries to develop longer-term relationships with the Jewish community. Jewish people will view us as a stable part of their neighborhood. A permanent place for our ministry in Tel Aviv strengthens the idea that Messianic Jews are part of a substantial Jewish movement and should be taken seriously. Building lasting relationships with the Jewish community is critical for evangelism, discipleship, and congregational life. 

Additionally, Messianic believers and ministries in Israel often experience opposition. In fact, the religious Jewish community asked our current landlord to stop renting to us. He has supported us thus far but explained to our Tel Aviv staff how he will be in a difficult situation if the resistance keeps us. He has other businesses, which can be impacted by the unfriendliness. This scenario would be true anywhere we rent in the greater Tel Aviv area. So, you can see, if we want to build a lasting testimony in a particular place, it would be far better to own than to rent as we will be less vulnerable to conflict.

Timeline

Since the facility is raw space, we anticipate the buildout will take twelve months from the time we begin construction. Delays in Israel can come about for various reasons, including social unrest, difficulty in securing materials and workers, as well as the possibility of opposition to our gospel efforts by religious groups trying to prevent our work.

Chosen People Ministries—Israel

Israel is the centerpiece of our global strategy in reaching Jewish people with the gospel! There is only one Israel—the heart of Jewish identity, hopes, and dreams throughout the centuries. Today, more than seven million Jewish people live in the Holy Land. Our Tel Aviv Messianic Center will serve an area where more than 50 percent of Israelis live, work, and raise their families. 

Chosen People Ministries began serving in Israel in the 1930s under the name Beit Sar Shalom (the House of the Prince of Peace, from Isaiah 9:6). Over the past thirty years, we have grown and now have more than two dozen staff members serving with Chosen People Ministries in Israel—and have planted several congregations. We serve the aging Holocaust survivor community of almost 200,000 Jewish people. We conduct children’s camps throughout the year, and we are active in personal evangelism and discipleship as well as digital/web-based evangelism. 

In 2006, we purchased and dedicated our Jerusalem Messianic Center, which serves as Beit Sar Shalom’s headquarters in Israel and is constantly busy with a wide variety of outreach gospel activities.

Our currently rented outreach center in Ramat Gan is home base of an amazing movement of the Spirit among young adults through concerts, dinners, evangelistic lectures, and ministry to children and entire families. By God’s grace, we will now be able to move this already-thriving ministry across the street to a new and more permanent Tel Aviv Messianic Center, doubling our ministry space for an exciting new phase to expand God’s work. 

Local Partnerships

There are very few places for larger groups of Jewish believers to gather in Israel, and our center will provide space for other ministries to use for their outreaches in the greater Tel Aviv area. We plan to make the facility available to the body of Messiah in Tel Aviv for their use as well.

In Israel today, we are not simply reaching Jewish people for Jesus—we are helping build a national body of believers. The church in Israel is growing like never before. This larger and more permanent facility presents us with a perfect opportunity to expand our outreach in the greater Tel Aviv area and to enable like-minded ministries to do the same.

Together We Will Rise and Build

Nehemiah told those opposing his plan to rebuild the walls of the ancient city: “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build” (Neh 2:20). 

This challenge transcends the centuries and remains relevant today. 

Please join us in our vision to build the Tel Aviv Messianic Center. 

We value your prayers, enthusiasm, and financial support. 

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

Helping Suffering Ukrainians

We are celebrating our 129th year of proclaiming the gospel among the Jewish people worldwide! For me, it is a great honor to lead this historic mission to the Jewish people started by Rabbi Leopold Cohn in 1894. 

Chosen People Ministries means so much to me and Zhava. My wife came to faith through young adults trained to witness to Jewish people by a Chosen People Ministries missionary at the very Jewish high school in Los Angeles she attended. I will be forever grateful for this Chosen People missionary and the young evangelists he trained! 

In so many wonderful ways, I am a debtor to the Lord and to Chosen People Ministries! Paul understood this great biblical truth so well when he wrote, 

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise” (Romans 1:14, NKJV). 

As a young man, barely 19 years old and as a brand-new believer, Chosen People Ministries paid my way through Bible College. The missionaries who were part of the New York area work at that time helped disciple me in the Word of God, and I am thankful for their personal and devoted care for me and my walk with God. Especially as at the time my family did not understand my newfound faith and I desperately needed the support of more mature believers . . . Chosen People Ministries provided all this for me at a crucial time in my life. 

It is a privilege to do the same for so many others in more than twenty-five cities in the United States and Canada and in twenty-one countries around the globe. I am so glad we can continue the Rabbi’s vision of bringing the gospel to the Jewish people—my people—in so many new and relevant ways without changing the eternal message of the gospel. I cannot tell you how many thousands of people, even millions, have watched the Messianic Jewish testimonies found on http://www.ifoundshalom. com. If you have not seen them, please watch and make sure you view my testimony on the site. It will help you appreciate what I write when you see the power of God’s deliverance in my life! 

Helping Suffering Ukrainians 

I am excited about all God is doing through Your Mission to the Jewish People today. Yet, at the same time, it grieves me when I remember the plight of war-torn Ukrainian families—especially in the midst of a dramatically cold and severe winter. 

During January, we like to remember the words of the great Jewish apostle who 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” (Romans 1:16). 

We believe the gospel is “to the Jew first” and also to the Gentiles. This ministry strategy is of great practical importance to our mission, especially during these terrible and tragic days of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. We are doing all we can, especially during this deadly winter, to bring food, warmth, and spiritual hope to thousands who are suffering. 

This crisis has been ongoing for about a year, with no clear end in sight. Your generosity enables us to invest thousands of dollars in relief work each month in Ukraine and other places refugees have fled, like Poland, Germany, and Israel. 

Let me summarize what we have been able to do because of your prayers and generosity. 

Every month since the war began, we have sent aid to a network of Messianic Jewish congregations in Ukraine. We have served these congregations for more than thirty years! They are dependable, hardworking people whose lives are war shattered. Without our help, some of these dear brothers and sisters and their children would barely be making it. Knowing how winter, with freezing temperatures and shorter days, greatly exacerbates the hardship of life in Ukraine, we organized a winter relief fund some months ago to prepare for these harder times. 

These resources help our Ukrainian brothers and sisters receive everyday necessities like flashlights, winter clothing, heaters, generators, and sleeping bags. Due to Russian attacks, electricity is unreliable throughout the country. Heating and water are also scarce, especially in eastern Ukraine. In addition to winter supplies, we continue to provide funds for basics like rent, food, and medicine. 

One of our Russian-speaking Israeli staff members visits Ukraine and Poland several times a year to aid the relief efforts. He recently helped a church in western Ukraine organize a three-day retreat for refugees from Mariupol, a city hit hard by the fighting. The program includes walking in the mountains, playing games with the kids, relaxing, and studying the Bible. One man who attended went four days without drinking alcohol and just told us he has decided to quit drinking! He needs to take the next step and receive Jesus as His Savior, which will bring unimaginable healing to his heart, soul, and family. 

Project Promised Land 

More than 30,000 Ukrainians immigrated to Israel since the war began. Israel also received tens of thousands of immigrants from Russia, who oppose the war and Putin’s increasingly restrictive regime. Many of these newcomers arrive with little more than the clothing on their backs. 

Through Project Promised Land, our staff in Israel are hard at work helping the new arrivals settle into Israeli life. We distributed gift cards totaling thousands of dollars for groceries and other essentials. We also serve these refugees by assisting with government paperwork and organizing free tours of biblical sites. Hundreds of people participated in these tours. A few have come to faith and have since connected with local Israeli churches. 

Our staff hosted a three-day conference for families who recently arrived from Ukraine and Russia. The time together greatly encouraged these children and families who endured so much. We also regularly welcome these immigrants to Sabbath meetings and other events at our Jerusalem and Tel Aviv centers. Through these programs, our team embodies the love and compassion of Jesus, which leads to opportunities to proclaim the gospel. 

The Difference You Made 

I want you to know how much your support means to the thousands of Ukrainian lives we touched over this difficult year. There are so many stories I could tell, but here are two brief testimonies from the leaders of Ukrainian Messianic congregations we are helping: 

We are a Jewish Messianic Community in the city of Zhytomyr [near Kyiv]. We are grateful to God and Chosen People Ministries, as well as to our brothers and sisters who have raised finances to buy warm clothes and everything we need to get through winter. We are grateful to the ministry for having been able to send the funds necessary to help in this difficult time. May God bless and cover the needs of your hearts for the riches of His glory. Amen. 

Another congregational leader in Kharkiv writes: 

We want to thank Chosen People Ministries for monthly financial support during this difficult moment of life in Ukraine. We thank God for your work, prayers, special attention, and understanding of the whole situation! 

Unfortunately, the crisis is not over. No resolution is yet in sight, and we are still in the early days of winter. The coming months will be difficult with scarce heating and unreliable electricity throughout Ukraine. 

We request your prayers as we seek to tell Ukrainians about the healing work of Yeshua. Thank you, again, so much for your partnership. We could not do our work without you! 

And now some late breaking news! 

We are also purchasing a building in Tel Aviv. This property will provide more than twice the space as our current rental for our gospel events designed for both young and old. Since the new building was bare, we are now in the thick of renovating the property so it will be ready for our ministry programs. In the coming weeks, we will tell you much more about our exciting plans for our new Tel Aviv Messianic Center and how you can support the creation of a Messianic Center in Tel Aviv. 

Thanks for investing in the salvation of Jewish people in Israel, Ukraine, and around the globe! 

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

Why we are excited for 2023

We are excited about all God is doing at the start of 2023—especially in the Land of Israel.

Your prayers and sacrificial support are critically important as it is impossible to find local funding enabling our Israeli team to preach the gospel in the Holy Land! One day we hope the work of the gospel by native Israeli evangelists will be self-supporting, but we are simply not there yet.

Israel has very few local congregations and less than 1 percent of Israelis are followers of Jesus . . . but we are making progress!

A New Messianic Center in Tel Aviv

We are especially excited to tell you we are purchasing a facility in Tel Aviv! The activities and events at our current Tel Aviv center are overflowing—mostly with younger Israelis who love to hear the word of God preached and are looking for a safe and attractive venue to bring their not yet saved friends and loved ones!

May I encourage you as the Lord leads to pray for and contribute to this growing ministry in Tel Aviv? At this moment, we are bursting at the seams! Just imagine how much more we could do with a space two-and-a-half times the size of our current rented facility!

Together, we can be part of the future predicted by Paul in Romans 11!

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; just as it is written: “The Deliverer will come from of Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25–26)

I believe we are moving quickly toward this great day of redemption, and the salvation of Israelis is a major step in preparation for His return. Clearly, the remnant Paul describes in Romans 11:5 will increase as we draw closer to the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Costs for the New Tel Aviv Center

The total cost for this new facility is $6.5 million. This figure includes the build-out, as the property is bare. By God’s grace, we currently have raised $3 million to be used for the purchase and development of the new center.

We need an additional $3.5 million.

I will keep you posted on our progress toward the $3.5 million goal in the months ahead.

So, how do you eat the proverbial elephant (who by the way is unkosher!)? One bite at a time. Your gift, whatever size and however long you take to give it over the next twelve months, will make all the difference in the world and help us own the new Center without debt so we can use all future funding directly for the day-to-day ministry and operational expenses of the Tel Aviv Messianic Center.

The Enthusiasm of Our Israeli Staff

Our staff serving in Tel Aviv are enthusiastic! This one testimony says it all!

A couple of months ago, a young believer brought a not-yet-believing friend to one of our events in Ramat Gan. Though he had met believers many times, he was resistant to prayer. This day, however, was different. One of our staff noticed that he seemed upset. So, she approached the young man and offered to pray for him in Yeshua’s name. He gratefully accepted. Shortly afterward, another staff member—who did not know someone had already prayed for him—came over to him. This staff likewise spoke with him and prayed with him. Later, while the young man was sitting outside, a third staff member made the same offer of prayer. At one event, three people on our team independently prayed with this person about three distinct concerns. His joyful acceptance of prayer is a significant step for him. He has been to a few Messianic events and services, so our team prays he will soon recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Grateful for Your Partnership

Thanks for caring, and we look forward to all the Lord will do in the future to bring His chosen people, in His chosen land, to His chosen Messiah . . . for all!

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

The Light of the World Is Born

Shalom in the name of our glorious Messiah!

On behalf of the Chosen People Ministries global family, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

For many of my fellow Jewish people, the very idea of linking these two holidays together is awkward. It still feels a little strange to me, even after being a Jesus follower for the past fifty years. Yet, I realize that having one without the other is impossible.

Let me explain. The story of Hanukkah describes the ways God protected and preserved His chosen people. If Antiochus Epiphanes destroyed the Jewish people, then how would Mary have given birth to the Jewish Messiah, Jesus? In other words, “Without Hanukkah—there would be no Christmas!”

I continue to reflect upon the similarities and differences between Christmas and Hanukkah. The similarities include the theme of lights, giving gifts, families gathering, and viewing the God of Israel as the deliverer of His people. Yet, the differences between the holidays loom large because there is no other time of year when Christians think more about the incarnation—God becoming human—than on Christmas.

HE IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!

It is still astounding to me, and largely unknown by my Jewish people, how the only mention of Hanukkah in the Bible is found in the Gospel of John chapter 10. But, of course, if you have read our newsletter for a while or spent time on our website, you know Jewish people do not accept the New Testament as God’s Word. I do, as does all our staff, but again, this is not a typical Jewish view.

The traditional Jewish view of the New Testament is one of the most difficult challenges we face in bringing the gospel to the Jewish people.

I still remember the day I realized Jesus was the Messiah. It happened after I read the New Testament and understood Jesus was Jewish and celebrated the Jewish holidays—including Hanukkah! Then, as I continued reading, I realized the New Testament, especially the Gospels, seemed like part two of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the Old Testament, we read about the promises of God to the Jewish people and the nations of the world. In the New Testament, we see how those promises are fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, tells one magnificent and seamless story of God’s plan for redemption.

GOD IN THE FLESH

This incredible story, told through both testaments, made perfect sense to me. Even more importantly, I fell in love with the Messiah Jesus and believed He was indeed God wrapped in human flesh!

Yet, accepting His deity is difficult for most Jewish people, as we are raised to believe God has no physical form. Jewish people expect the Messiah to be a religious, political, and military leader, not God in the flesh.

Modern Judaism considers the first two commandments—to have no other gods before us nor to create graven images of God—the reason why the very idea of an incarnation is unacceptable.

The Christmas/Hanukkah season intensifies these differences as it is increasingly difficult for Jewish people to avoid the issue of Jesus’ deity! Every nativity scene reminds us of the New Testament teaching about how God became a man. As believers, we know the Messiah’s deity is true and fulfills God’s promises to the Jewish people found in Isaiah 7:14 and again in chapter 9, verses 6 and 7.

In Micah 5:2, we learn this leader in Israel, the Messiah, was to be born in Bethlehem, whose “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

The Hebrew Scriptures present unshakable evidence for the deity of the Messiah throughout its pages, yet most Jewish people do not recognize or accept it. This conflict over the deity of Jesus is at the heart and core of Christmas and Hanukkah.

It was during the celebration of Hanukkah when Jesus made one of the clearest statements about His deity. We also see how the Jewish people of His day took exception to His declaration of divinity:

“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, “. . . If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. (John 10:30–39, emphasis added)

Have you ever wondered why the Jewish leaders had such a strong reaction to Jesus’ pronouncement? It seems to stretch far beyond theological disagreement as, after all, they wanted to stone Him! It is impossible to understand the reaction of the Jewish leaders without knowing the background of Hanukkah.

THE HANUKKAH STORY

So, I hope you do not mind me telling you the Hanukkah story. It is always a blessing for me.

You will not find the story of Hanukkah in the Bible. Instead, it appears in the books of the Maccabees, which are part of the Apocrypha, writings outside the canon of Scripture. Jewish people view these books as historical documents but not divinely inspired Scripture.

Again, please allow me to summarize the story of Hanukkah in my own words.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a Seleucid king who reigned from 175–164 BCE over part of the Greek Empire, which Alexander the Great’s four generals divided among themselves upon his death. Antiochus bore the title Epiphanes (God manifest), implying his “incarnation” of the Greek god Zeus. Jewish people called Antiochus the madman (Epimanes) because of his cruel and erratic behavior.

This polytheistic madman wanted the Jewish people to follow Hellenistic ways and periodically outlawed Jewish worship and practices. Finally, he sent his emissaries throughout Israel along with a portable statue of himself and demanded the Jewish people bow down and worship him as a Greek god incarnate. But those faithful among the Jewish community could not stomach idolatry and would not bow to the statue of Antiochus Epiphanes!

The Jewish people who lived in a small town called Modi’in led a grassroots rebellion against the Syrian Greeks from 167–160 BCE under the leadership of Mattathias, a Levitical priest, along with his son Judah.

The Maccabees fought hard for seven years and in 160 BCE defeated the Syrian Greeks, retaking Jerusalem and the Temple. But their joy turned quickly to horror when they discovered that Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the Temple altar.

The Maccabees dismantled the holy altar and removed the stones, which they believed to be beyond cleansing. Jewish tradition tells us they heaped the stones into a pile in the Temple area where they would await the coming of a great prophet to cleanse them. Then, they built a new altar.

JEWISH LOYALTY TO THE ONE TRUE GOD

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of faithfulness over idolatry—more specifically, worshiping the image of a man who believed he was the incarnation of a false god. In this instance, it was Antiochus. Jewish spiritual loyalty resisted idolatry and refused to worship the image of a man claiming to be god.

May I speculate? I believe this spiritual loyalty and resistance to the idea of an incarnation was a strategy the devil used to repel the Jewish people from the actual incarnation of God as predicted by the prophets of Israel. Who can blame the Jewish leaders for resisting what, in their understanding, was an idolatrous statement by Jesus in declaring His oneness with the Father (John 10)? The religious loyalty of the Jewish leaders blinded them. They did not recognize God was fulfilling the promises of Scripture through taking on flesh and dying for the sins of the Jewish people and the world (Isaiah 9:6–7, 53:1–12; Micah 5:2, etc.)!

I cannot blame my people for resisting idolatry. However, the leaders already observed a Messiah who healed, performed miracles, and claimed to fulfill the prophecy of the One who was indeed God in the flesh. He opened the eyes of the blind, fed multitudes miraculously, cast out demons, and fulfilled the messianic qualifications peppered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

My prayer is for both Jews and Gentiles who have not yet concluded that Jesus is God in the flesh. Understanding this and coming to know the One who is the reason for the season, the son of David, and the Savior of the world is life changing! I pray the Lord will lead each of us to make the truth of His deity known among both Jews and Gentiles in the days ahead.

Thank you so much for your prayers and sacrificial support of Your Mission to the Jewish People. We have some incredible outreach projects on the horizon, which I will tell you about in the future. Meanwhile, I pray your love for the Messiah will grow more profound as you reflect upon the miracle of the incarnation!

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized

Sharing the Light of Jesus

This season of the year reminds me of the beautiful passage in the book of Psalms in which David declares, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).

It is a joy to follow the Light of the World, Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah. John pointed to the true light who enlightens all who believe:

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. (John 1:4–9)

The Scriptures teach us Jesus is the Incarnate Word (John 1:14)—God in the flesh—who is the ultimate light of God and reflects the glory once seen resting upon the mercy seat in the Temple.

Jesus let His disciples know that He is the Light of the World: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12).

As His disciples, He calls us to reflect His light as instruments dispelling the darkness of our broken and sinful world. 

THE LIGHT SHINES AMONG UKRAINIANS AND RUSSIANS SUFFERING THE RAVAGES OF WAR

I recently received a note from Maxim, one of our Israeli staff members who is shining the light of the Lord among his fellow Russian speakers as they immigrate to Israel from Ukraine and Russia. So many Russian Jewish people are trying to escape the forced draft and general oppression of the Russian leadership, and we are doing all we can to reach them. We are engaged with this growing group of almost one hundred thousand, and more enter Israel daily. Many have arrived with just the clothes on their backs, and some receive help from the Israeli government.

Let me allow Maxim to speak for himself!

Shalom. 

I hope you have a blessed holiday. I want to share with you about our first family conference and thank you for this opportunity, especially for the financial support. The idea for this project was brewing for several years. While leading children’s camps, it occurred to me it would be good to do something for families with children. In connection with the war in Ukraine and the arrival of new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia to Israel, we decided the time had come for a family conference. At our children’s camp last summer, many kids who attended were new immigrants with overwhelming needs we tried to meet with the love of Jesus! 

We held the family conference last month in Haifa. We booked thirty-four rooms, and there were more than eighty of us. Most of the invitees were new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia, and many of them were non-believers. We also invited families from local congregations to get to know the newly arrived immigrants. The theme of the conference was “Our Family Starts with Me.” 

Everyone arrived on a Thursday afternoon, and then, after supper, we gathered together for the first meeting, where we joined together for worship and a Bible lesson. After the meeting, we took the children on a night safari to the Haifa Zoo. On Friday, we celebrated with a beautiful Sabbath dinner, played exciting games, and everyone enjoyed themselves. We had meetings twice a day for an hour and a half. 

One of our Ukrainian Jewish missionaries did an excellent job of leading worship. I prepared lessons, which were more like conversations, during which participants could express their opinions and raise pressing issues. There was a lot of free time for families to talk among themselves and with each other. The kids had the best time playing ping-pong, during which we had many conversations. 

The most important part of the retreat was our time with the parents. They are receptive to the gospel and our love for many reasons, especially because they are hurting. I thank God for this opportunity and the newly opened doors. 

Thank you again for your support, prayers, and participation. 

Please pray for our upcoming trip to the country of Georgia with a group of twenty-two elderly Russian and Ukrainian Holocaust survivors. 

Blessings during this holiday season, and remember to pray for us! 

Maxim 

HIS LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS

The Lord has been so generous to each one of us. Without your partnership, we could never provide the funding that Maxim needs to be a light to the new immigrants to Israel who are escaping a hellish war in Ukraine. It is going to be a harsh winter in Ukraine, and Your Mission to the Jewish People is there on the ground, bringing heating devices, food, medicine, and various emergency services in partnership with other ministries to help Ukrainians survive the aggression of the Russian military. 

May I also ask you to pray for our ministries among the very religious Jewish community? I never thought I would see the breakthroughs we are witnessing today. In Israel, New York City, the United Kingdom, and online, we receive requests from ultra-Orthodox Jewish people who want to learn more about Jesus. I cannot provide further details, but I am asking you to pray. We are confident now quite a few among the very devout are seeking the Lord. We must find and nurture them; what we have planned should help. I am sorry to be so vague, but there are considerable community consequences when ultra-religious Jewish people come to believe in Jesus. 

I am praying the light of the Messiah will shine brightly in the hearts of religious Jewish people who recognize He died for their sins, rose from the grave, and provides abundant life now and forever. 

Would you join me in praying for the most religious of all the Jewish community? These folks could one day make up 50 percent or more of the Jewish population worldwide. We talked about these precious people in the past, but now is the time for us to take further loving and sensitive action to make the Light of the World known in every corner of the religious Jewish community. 

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Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Kiev, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized

Giving Thanks to the Lord for He Is Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

God answered, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE ARE GRATEFUL

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

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

AN INCREASE IN CONGREGATIONS AND JEWISH BELIEVERS IN ISRAEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We do need more worship space!

NEW MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES WITH TRAVELING ISRAELIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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