A Personal Testimony

(Published in The Vineyard magazine, November 2013)

I was born and raised in a Conservative Jewish American home in which our Jewish identity was accepted, and belief in Jesus Christ was (is) not, at least not for Jews.  I came to terms with my own primary identity as a Jew at the age of 17 during the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and the Arab states.  Following my university studies (Political Science), I sought “to make things right” through the secular political system.  My faith was centered in Man.  After marrying a secular Christian woman, I continued my search for Truth, having no expectation that It would be Jesus.  Later on this vain faith was stripped away, and, thankfully, God was there to meet me at this time of crisis.  Through another man’s witness I finally listened to God’s good news concerning the truth of the Bible and Jesus Christ.  By God’s grace, I was prepared to listen and to believe from my heart and with my mind that Jesus is God’s Son and Messiah, that He IS LORD!

For many years, especially beginning with my more independent life away at university, I took a liberal, or so-called humanitarian, approach to the problems and existence in the world and life.  I believed that Man was responsible, if not accountable, for coming to terms with human needs in the world — peace, righteousness and justice, dignity — having to somehow come together and allow the world to live in peace.  I hoped, but was unsure, about the existence of a real God; and if there were one, then what that really meant.  As a Jew, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob was the true God . . .if there was God.

The Judeo-Christian principles upon which America and Western civilization were based I accepted as the “right” foundation, but I did not really have any firm basis for believing that.  It just seemed right for a Jewish boy in a Christian country!

I began to become more aware of my identity as a Jew and of our role in history, but without any understanding of that perception.  I came to Israel twice as an unbeliever, but it was not ‘home’:  important, but not home.  Books I read began to turn my thinking away from some common, current theories about evolution and other prevailing notions in the world.  I also began to realize that the authors I respected the most held Christian principles as a motivating force in their own attitudes towards life and the condition of man.  Jesus as a person was someone I acknowledged as one of several persons in history whose ideas helped to shape my own, but I was always defensive about saying that His teachings were possible of being the ones from which all other “good” persons’ personal philosophies came.

During a bicycle trip after our wedding, my faith in Man — or in any institution or agency of Man — was brought to a complete and seemingly hopeless end.  It just became very apparent that no matter what I or anyone else did or has done or would do was going to make the world better for everyone, and for all time.

At that crucial moment when hope was gone, a man with whom I had become acquainted (at a temporary job) as a reasonable, intelligent man, asked me what was wrong, and I told him.  It was then that he began telling me that the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ had a plan that was going to make things right.  After satisfying my need for understanding this as a person generally and as a Jew specifically, I realized in my mind and heart that Jesus must be who I had always heard He was but never believed in because I wasn’t supposed to!

At the moment I acknowledged this — that Jesus is the Truth — God washed over and within me with His Spirit to confirm it.  I became a new person!  I was free and saw that truly everything would be fine according to God’s perfect way.  Life is full of eternal hope now, and because of knowing and believing in the truth — repenting from faith in lies — I know that all things are purposeful and that it will be far better than I had ever conceived of when “trying to make the world better”.

The Holy Spirit convicted me of my own personal need of repentance with respect to my thoughts and ways, and that the truth of Jesus/Yeshua also included that I myself was a sinner for whom He had to die to bring me home to my Father in Heaven.  I was baptized a week later with my wife, Randi, who responded to the work of the living God in me, and we immigrated to Israel seven months later in obedience with faith to the Word of the LORD spoken to me:  “Go to Israel!”.  Jesus made Israel ‘home’ on Earth, bringing me back to the land which God promised to our Fathers and to their descendants.  Ezekiel 36 was my haftarah (prophetic portion) reading for my Bar-Mitzva when I was 13!

We were led by the Lord to choose to live in Beer Sheva, where we have been now for about 32 years.  The local fellowship was not fully developed here when we arrived.  We have from the outset been active in Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation and have both seen and been part of its development.  Due to the circumstances here, I became involved early on in Bible study teaching and later preaching.  I have served as treasurer, deacon, elder, and now in full-time pastoral ministry.  My training has been “on-the-job” in the school of Messiah, with some Godly men as examples, but without specific role models and training for the pastorate and the greater expectation attached to that.  God has been faithful to be strong in my weakness for His own purposes and the honor of the name of His Son.  Praise God for His grace and truth!

The gospel goes out to all people until the end of the age; bringing the born-again believers to full spiritual maturity until the harvest continues within the Body of Messiah; the ministry of reconciliation which all believers in Yeshua/Jesus have received is on-going until the prayer of the Lord in John 17 is fully answered. 

Our living and blessed hope since our new birth by the Holy Spirit is the coming again of the Lord Yeshua/Jesus, with the resurrection and rapture of believers, and the re-establishment forever of the Kingdom of God over Israel and the nations.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Record December Storm – 15 Dec 2013

Today in Beer Sheva we woke up to a bright sunny day, with clear blue skies, clean from all the wind, rain, hail, snow, and cold which hit the entire country from last Tuesday night till yesterday (Sat.) afternoon.  There has not been a major storm of this magnitude to hit Israel (and the rest of the countries round-about:  it even snowed in Cairo and parts of Saudi Arabia!) in the early part of December since records have been kept.  The last storm of this intensity and duration was in 1897.  It may be that we will see more record-breaking weather more frequently as the end-times progress with its troubles.  This storm even received a name — Alexa — perhaps hinting of its source in Siberia.

“In the 24 hours from Wednesday, [Dec 11], at 8 a.m. to Thursday at 8 a.m., the largest amounts of rain – between 60 and 100 millimeters – fell in the hills of Judea, Gush Etzion, the southern Coastal Plain and the northern Negev, according to IMS data.  The IMS station recorded 113 millimeters for this time period, while Beersheba measured 71 millimeters, the greatest amount of daily rainfall recorded there since 1921.”   Beer Sheva received more than 3-times the normal amount of rainfall for the whole month of December in the 4-day period.  “Out of all the water drenched regions, the Western Negev received the greatest quantities, at approximately 200 millimeters, the Water Authority said.”  “Out of all the water drenched regions, the Western Negev received the greatest quantities, at approximately 200 millimeters, the Water Authority said.  The rains also led to strong flows in the Shikma, Lachish, Basor and Ayalon streams. At Nahal Shikma, located in the Western Negev, such strong flow occurs only once every 25 years, the Water Authority said.”
http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Temperatures-remain-low-as-weekend-storm-blows-over-335049

Here is a great NASA satellite photo from today showing the snow on the mountains and cities of Israel, and round-about:
http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/satellite-photo-of-the-snow/2013/12/15/

And in the flurry of all this both wonderful and damaging weather system, our first grandson experienced his first full week of life which God gave him!

Sign Spoken Against #2: Anti-Yeshua

During the two weeks of November 10-22, the evangelism organization, Jews for Jesus, conducted a campaign in the southern cities of Israel, focused in the largest city of Beer Sheva.  Beer Sheva and Arad have seen their share of opposition to the gospel over the years, and this campaign awakened some of that antagonism.   One of the campaigners was arrested just two days before the end of the campaign, the first time in eight such campaigns around Israel that this has happened.  He was released on bail after spending four days in a prison, and expelled from the country last week on Dec. 3.  This expulsion order (which is less serious than a deportation)  is being contested by JFJ through legal channels.  We hope that the outcome will not bring a further hindrance to the Great Commission in the land, and among the people, where it was first commanded.

In the wake of the campaign, once again around the Hanukkah holiday, ultra-orthodox Jewish young men (teens, overseen by an adult rabbi), spray-painted blasphemous graffiti on the walls of the meeting place of Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation.  The police have not yet taken any decisive action, despite the perpetrators being photographed by security cameras.  And on Nov. 27, Yo-Yakim Figueras, the pastor of Hasdey Yeshua in Arad, was interviewed on Radio Darom (Southern Radio), along with a religious political leader who is also on the Beer Sheva mayor’s council.  The calm, Holy Spirit-controlled spirit of Yo-Yakim stood in stark contrast to the livid outbursts by the other.   The interview can be heard here, but without translation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k4mOelzHKA  We thank the Lord for the opportunity given to Yo-Yakim, who says,  “In the interview, the (name of political party) member was outraged for the fact I was given a stage. On the other hand, I tried to challenge the people to check for themselves the biblical prophecies and decide who Yeshua is.”

YHVH God still speaks through His servant, Simeon, a righteous and devout Israeli Jew waiting for the consolation of Israel, who knew that He would see the Lord’s Messiah (Anointed One; Christ) before He would die.  Simeon spoke these words more than 2000 years ago by the Holy Spirit to Mary/Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, not long after the Lord’s birth:  “Behold, this [child] is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed”. (Lk 2:25-35)

Here are some links to articles related to the evangelism campaign and reactions against it:

http://roshpinaproject.com/2013/11/21/the-jews-for-jesus-negev-1-british-jews-for-jesus-campaigner-arrested-in-israel/

http://www.israeltoday.co.il/Default.aspx?tabid=178&nid=24278

http://www.charismanews.com/world/42024-israel-releases-jews-for-jesus-evangelist-on-bail

Although Israel is still an enemy of the gospel so that more Gentiles can still be saved before all Israel is saved, she also remains beloved for the fathers’ sakes, that He may have mercy upon all. (Rom 11:25-36)  Such is the wisdom and sovereignty of the one true God!

Sign Spoken Against #1: Anti-Israel

At the beginning of the Summer/Winter of this year (2013), Israel and Australia jointly issued two stamps commemorating the part of the ANZAC and the Australian Lighthorse in the historical development leading up to the re-establishment of the Jewish people back in the promised and holy land.  The stamps remember the victory over the Turks in Beer Sheva in the famous Beer Sheva Charge on October 31, 1917, in WW1.

In the Bible, YHVH God speaks through His servant, the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 11:11-12, saying that He would set up a banner/ensign for the nations, and would assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the Earth.  This He is presently doing, and He has ‘showed His hand’ for nearly 120 years now.

Here is a link which gives the raw intensity against this miraculous sign for our day, which is modern-day Israel, expressed against the issue of these stamps:

http://www.israellycool.com/2013/06/21/australians-for-palestine-pushing-the-envelope-with-their-propaganda/