Something is Happening for God in Israel!
Chosen People Ministries is expanding ministries in Tel Aviv!
Sensing a need to focus on reaching younger and more secular Israelis, we now have three trained staff members dedicated to serving this ever-growing community. We have also rented a facility for Bible studies and outreach, and we are praying the Lord will provide a few more workers who have a passion to reach Israeli young adults…and their young families!
Our staff is following up on those who have responded (more than 200 Israelis) to our Hebrew language Isaiah 53 web-based campaign—most of whom live in the greater Tel Aviv area. This campaign, which is scheduled to intensify in the spring, is one of our primary means of discovering Israelis who are open to the Gospel
The rented space in the northern downtown area of Tel Aviv also provides a home for the growing Russian/Hebrew-language congregation planted by Chosen People Ministries. The Joy of Jesus Congregation (Simchat Yeshua) has ministries among Russian Jewish immigrants and their children and a special ministry to the “down and out,” as well as those afflicted with drug addiction.
We continue our efforts to reach elderly Russian Jews and Holocaust survivors with the Gospel, offering practical aid and benevolence to this needy community. And I assure you that our new ministries will not replace what we have been doing and what God has already been blessing. As I said, “We are expanding!”
Let me share a quick story with you of what the Lord has been doing through Your Mission to the Jewish People among elderly Holocaust survivors, a community of 200,000+ dying at a rate of 30,000 precious people per year.
One of our staff members reported,
Larisa* is a 76-year-old Holocaust survivor we have been ministering to for several years. Larisa was born in Central Europe and was sent to a concentration camp as a young child.
Larisa is full of energy and joy. She attends all our events for Holocaust survivors, volunteers at one of our food distribution centers, and attends a weekly Bible study run by a member of our staff. This week, there were two happy events in Larisa’s life. At the beginning of the week, her son and daughter-in-law had a baby boy. Yesterday, Larisa was baptized! Praise the Lord! Several of our staff members had the privilege of being present at the baptism. Afterwards, Larisa said to me, “I feel different. I feel like a weight has been lifted off me.”
I can’t help but think about how the birth of the grandson of a Holocaust survivor is a victory over human evil, while her baptism is a victory over spiritual evil. Please pray for Larisa and for her walk with the Lord.
Why Tel Aviv?
Our hearts break for these elderly Holocaust survivors and we will do all we can to reach them before they pass from this world. Yet, we must turn our eyes towards the future as well! This is why I am writing to you and hoping that you will pray about helping us make a difference in the future of Jewish ministry in Israel. Tel Aviv is the perfect place for us to focus as we seek to reach a new generation of younger and more secular Israelis for the Lord.
The Tel Aviv municipality has about 500,000 people and was founded in 1909 by secular Jews. But, if you include the suburbs and outer ring of smaller towns, knows as Gush Dan—the greater Tel Aviv area has a population of 3.4 million people—which is 42% of Israel’s total population.
The area includes cities like Petach Tikvah, Herzliya, and Rishon Lezion. Many of the people who live in Gush Dan are involved in business, commerce, technology, education and medical professions. They are younger and more secular in general than those who live in Jerusalem or Haifa. Tel Aviv is also Israel’s economic hub and the nexus of culture, nightlife and growing younger families.
Tel Aviv has beautiful beaches, is very modern and forward thinking and a large majority of the people who live in Tel Aviv are in their 20s and 30s. In fact, the opportunities for creative ministries among younger adults—singles and families—are wide open!
However, in my experience speaking to this younger crowd in the Tel Aviv area, I have found that many are searching for the deeper meaning to life and a more authentic, “non-Orthodox” spirituality. So many of these young people, having traveled the world after their service in the army, dabbling in Eastern religions and drugs, also recognize that these things do not satisfy their souls. When given the opportunity to talk about spiritual matters, and even about Jesus, many open up willingly and ask questions about God and listen to the answers we provide. Many are searching for authentic answers, but simply do not identify with “organized religion.”
This is one reason there is a growing attraction among these young adults to the reality of the Gospel in the lives of our staff and the believers they meet in Tel Aviv. It is why the testimonies on the Hebrew Isaiah 53 website are so powerful. Stories are so convincing!
Connecting with Young Israelis
Our Tel Aviv team leader, who is one of our most experienced staff members, has been in charge of the teams we send out to reach young Israelis traveling to very exotic places after the army! Some travel to Latin America and hike along the Amazon River. Others travel to India and live on the beaches or backpack through the mountains of New Zealand. The Israeli army provides some funding for these trips for those who have served in the Israeli military after completing high school (three years for men and two years for women). During these travels, young Israelis tend to be very open to the Gospel. It is also easier for them to have initial conversations about Jesus outside of, rather than within, the Holy Land.
We believe the time has come to focus on these young people and follow up more intensively with those whose lives were touched outside of Israel. We’ve already seen this strategy at work!
Let me share a brief report from our Tel Aviv team leader:
I’ve already “accidentally” bumped into a couple of Israelis I met in Argentina and New Zealand. One immediately shared that she is still reading the New Testament and it still makes her happy. We will meet for coffee later this week when I’m back in Jerusalem (she is at Hebrew University). I’ve gotten together with some Israelis that lived in New York, and through them met a number of young Parisian Jews who moved here fleeing French antisemitism.
Let’s Reach Israelis for Jesus Together!
Through our Isaiah 53 Online Evangelistic Campaign, we have not only distributed a couple hundred books to Israelis who requested them, but more than 225,000 Israelis have watched the testimony of a young Israeli believer on our Isaiah 53 Hebrew website. The average time this testimony was viewed was 5½ minutes—an extraordinarily long amount of time for online activity. What’s even more important to me is that over 90% of those watching the video are from the Tel Aviv area. So I know that these young Israelis are open to the Lord.
We have very ambitious plans for the work in Tel Aviv. Every time I travel to Israel—and I just returned—the vision grows stronger and larger! So would you help us begin this ministry by helping to provide $100,000 during this next year for staff housing in Tel Aviv, which is very expensive, as well as some additional funds to help continue the Isaiah 53 Campaign? We have staff in place—so your gift will be used immediately to help those who are already doing great work.
The Gift of Life
Speaking to a group of Jewish people, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Did you know that the number 18 means a lot to Jewish people? Before the revival of Hebrew as a modern language, there were no numbers as we know them. Combinations of the Hebrew letters of the alphabet served as numbers! But this ancient way of forming numbers lingers on to this day. The Hebrew word chai, which is two letters, equals 18. And this word means LIFE. So would you help us give the gift of life to secular, young Israelis and their families in Tel Aviv by sending a gift that might be a multiple of 18?
Perhaps you can only give $18, but then again you might be able to provide $180 or $1,800! Whatever you give right now will help build the foundation for our future ministries among secular, younger Israelis and their families. This is the future! And we cannot do it without you.
Thanks so much for giving sacrificially to make the Good News of Jesus the Messiah known in the land of His birth.
Happy New Year and blessings in our risen Messiah,
Beginning in Jerusalem
President's Prayer Letter, January 2015
Dear friend in the Messiah,
Shalom and Happy New Year. Thanks so much for your prayers and support in 2014. It was a wonderful year of opportunity and blessing. So, thank you for helping us bring the Gospel to Jewish people around the globe.
We look forward to our continued partnership in the New Year!
A Bright Future
I would like to share some exciting plans we have for 2015 that I believe will impact the lives of Jewish people for Jesus our Messiah.
As you know, we have been conducting an Isaiah 53 Evangelistic Campaign in many different nations and cities over the last three years. As a result, thousands of Jewish people have heard about the Lord, some have come to faith and many Christians have had quality opportunities to share the Gospel with their Jewish friends.
Additionally, Your Mission to the Jewish People has learned a lot about proclaiming the Good News to Jewish people—online!
This would include using websites, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and many other forms of social media. This is the new marketplace of ideas and if the Apostle Paul were around—he would be blogging, posting and preaching!
Let me tell you a quick story that will encourage your heart.
Our Isaiah 53 Hebrew website offers the opportunity to view testimonies of Jewish believers from Israel. Of course, the site and the testimonies are all in Hebrew. We began advertising one of the testimonies early last year and have had over 200,000 Israelis watch the video! This is remarkable, but what is even more incredible is that the average time people have watched this video is 5 and a half minutes.
I asked one of my coworkers in Israel, “When was the last time you spoke to over 200,000 Israelis about Jesus for 5 and a half minutes?” We both smiled and praised the Lord for these new opportunities to let our Jewish people know about the Lord.
A few months ago, an Israeli young man who watched the video on the site contacted the brother who gave the testimony. After some conversations, this young, secular Israeli in Tel Aviv prayed to receive Jesus. Now the brother who gave the testimony is discipling this new believer.
And this is just one story among many!
We have also given away over 200 copies of the evangelistic book, Isaiah 53 Explained, in Hebrew to Israelis who requested it by visiting the site.
When we began these efforts in online evangelism, I had no idea where the Lord might take us. But the vision He has given to our staff and me for moving forward in reaching Jewish people through these wonderful new tools is becoming clearer.
Back in the USA
Let me tell you what we did over the last couple of months in the United States. We recorded 35 video testimonies of Jewish believers in Jesus. They came from every walk of life—men and women, young and old, newer believers and those who have known the Lord for many years. There is no doubt in my mind that these stories will be powerful tools for the proclamation of the Gospel.
People love listening to other people’s stories! And how do you really argue with another individual’s story of what happened to them…you cannot!
We are now editing these testimonies and creating multiple new websites to ensure that as many people as possible will view and hear the Good News through those transformed by the power of the Gospel.
By the way, one of the reasons online Jewish evangelism works so well is because Jewish people want to consider Jesus in privacy, as it is still a very sensitive issue in the Jewish community. The Jewish person does not want their mother, father, husband or wife looking over their shoulder to see what they are watching or thinking about. And so the anonymity of the web, which is so often used for evil, can also be used for good in the lives of Jewish people who want to consider the Gospel.
We have also translated the Isaiah 53 Explained book into French, as France has more than 700,000 Jewish people, and also into Spanish, as there are more than a half million Spanish-speaking Jews in the world. The book has also been produced in Russian and we are working on the Russian website as well!
I cannot tell you how much I believe in the potential of proclaiming the Gospel online and then linking those whose lives are touched with real life, flesh and blood missionaries and local congregations who can do personal follow up.
The Daniel Project—Using New Media to Reach Jewish People for Jesus
This is why we are developing a “new media team” in New York City that will include videographers, web developers, photographers, writers and those who want to use their God-given creative abilities to proclaim the Gospel through digital media.
We have named this effort, The Daniel Project, as the angel Gabriel told the Jewish prophet about a day in the future when knowledge would increase.
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase
This certainly describes today’s culture because of the internet! Further, I believe the passage indicates that this increase in knowledge will take place near the end of days preceding the second coming of Jesus. I believe the time is NOW and The Daniel Project will be one of God’s critical tools for preaching the Gospel to the Jewish people so that they might “look to the One who was pierced” and be saved (Zech. 12:10)!
I hope you will partner with us in The Daniel Project. We will need to develop video studios, buy equipment and employ a team of young people for this task. I have dedicated quite a bit of our resources already to do this, so I am hoping that you will help us make this a reality this year.
This budget will be a step of faith for us. But unless we get started immediately, we will miss opportunities to make Jesus known to thousands of Jewish people each day!
I hope the Lord has stirred your heart as He has mine. We can only advance this ministry with your enthusiasm, prayers and financial support.
Our first year budget is $300,000. Would you prayerfully consider getting us started in this New Year with a founding grant so that we can make The Daniel Project a reality in 2015?
Dear friend, you know it’s not easy being a 121-year-old mission to the Jewish people, as the bones can get a little creaky at times. But, because of what the Lord is doing in our midst, I feel like Chosen People Ministries is acting like a spiritual teenager! Our staff is, on average, younger than it ever has been in recent years and our vision is overflowing with excitement and joy for using these new tools to preach the Gospel. Would you join us in the adventure?
Again, we need your help to seize the future but of course we will always continue our personal one-to-one ministry, as well as our ministry to Holocaust survivors and others in Israel and around the world!
The future begins today!
Happy New Year! May 2015 bring great spiritual blessing to you and your family.
English-Speaking Messianic Congregation Launches in Brooklyn
Beth Sar Shalom (House of the Prince of Peace) in Brooklyn is up and running! Our first service was at the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Congregational leader Rich Flashman preached the timely message on the Akedah (the Binding of Isaac) taken from Genesis 22, stressing the trust and obedience of Abraham as a challenge to the quality of our own trust and obedience. Rich writes, “It was a great evening with about 65 people in attendance at our new facility.
A number of people told us they had been praying and waiting a long time for an English-speaking Messianic congregation to be established in Brooklyn. It is humbling to be part of God’s answer to their prayers.”
Jewish Women Make Faith Decisions in Scottsdale, Arizona
Cathy Wilson has been faithfully serving the Lord among senior citizens in Scottsdale for a number of years and takes special delight in celebrating the Jewish holidays with her friends there. This year, during the High Holy Days, two Jewish women received the Lord. At the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) Bible study at the Scottsdale retirement community, Helene,* a Jewish woman from South Africa who works as a caregiver at the facility, was given The Jesus Storybook. Later on in the afternoon, she approached Cathy and asked, “Can we meet next week and talk about Jesus?” Helene said that she couldn’t stop reading the book. After further conversation, Cathy asked Helene if there was anything standing in the way of her receiving Jesus as her Messiah. She blurted out, “No!” Helene prayed, confessing her sin and placing her trust in Jesus. She then asked, “How can I share Jesus with my religious son?”
Cathy also invited Bernice,* an 80-year-old Jewish woman, to one of the Fall Feasts celebrations. During that conversation on the phone, Cathy rejoiced that she was able to pray with Bernice to receive the Lord.
Parking Lot Encounter Leads to Gospel Witness
Michael Cohen, one of our gifted missionaries in Southern California, was just wrapping up a planning meeting over lunch with one of his volunteers. As Michael entered the parking lot, a woman came up to him out of the blue and asked him what the verse, “With God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) meant. She had seen a bumper sticker with this verse, and it had stuck in her mind. Michael was more than a little surprised. It turned out that the woman was Jewish and she had spotted Michael’s Bible. She explained that she was searching. Of course, Michael shared his personal testimony of being Jewish and believing that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Please pray that she will continue the conversation and come to accept the Lord.
South Koreans on Board with Jewish Evangelism
Chosen People Ministries’ first ever, full-blown evangelism conference in Seoul, South Korea, enabled a team of speakers, including Dr. Mitch Glaser, Dr. Rich Freeman and internationally-known author Joel C. Rosenberg, to reach thousands of Korean Christians with the message that the Gospel is indeed still intended for Jewish people. During the course of the conference, the team attended an event at the Korean Israeli Cultural Center where they met the Ambassador from Israel to Korea and had the opportunity to share some of our Gospel literature with him. Dr. Glaser writes, “We hope to return to Korea and fan the flames of love for Israel and the Jewish people in the hearts of this very powerful evangelical force for the Lord in Asia and throughout the Korean community around the world.”
Alabama vs. Auburn
During a Mission speaking tour a few weeks ago, veteran staff member Ben Alpert found himself on not one, but two college campuses—and storied football rivals at that. He shares, “I had the privilege to be at the University of Alabama and Auburn University. However I was not there for football. The Lord arranged for me to be involved in book table outreaches on both campuses. We were blessed to share 180 copies of the book Isaiah 53 Explained! Please pray for each person who took a book and that it would be passed on to many more people.”
*Names have been changed
Jewish Expectation for the Messiah
Jesus Christ is a name that is known throughout the world. For many, however, “Christ” is Jesus’ last name and not a title that is actually a Greek translation of the Hebrew word we know as “Messiah.” Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the King of Israel (Jn. 4:25-26; Lk. 23:2). But what does this actually mean?
Messiah – the “Anointed One”
The concept of a Messiah develops from the Hebrew verb meaning “to smear or to anoint.” God instructs Israel to anoint certain individuals for sacred tasks, particularly to serve as either a priest or king (Ex. 28:41; 1 Sam. 10:1). Therefore, the practice of anointing an individual for a special position led to the concept of an “anointed one,” or Messiah (1 Sam. 26:23; Ps. 2:2).
By the first century, the Jewish longing for the Messiah reflected the biblical tradition of a Davidic descendent, who would reign over Israel forever (2 Sam. 7:13; 22:51; Ps. 89:4). The Jewish community expected the Messiah to defeat the Romans and reestablish David’s throne. Longing for the arrival of the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel, prompted crowds to gather along the road leading up to Jerusalem to announce Jesus’ entrance to the city (Matt. 21:1-11). These crowds likely expected Jesus to enter the city, defeat the Romans and reestablish peace over Israel.
Jesus did not overthrow the Roman Empire and reestablish David’s throne over Israel in the manner the nation hoped; therefore, many within the Jewish community did not believe. While hope for a messianic deliverer reached its pinnacle during the first century, belief in a coming Messiah has remained a consistent part of Jewish belief. Both rabbinic literature and Jewish tradition formulate the foundation of the Jewish concept for the Messiah and his kingdom.
Jewish Messianic Hope Today
One of the central elements to the daily Jewish liturgy is the Shemoneh Esrei (Eighteen Benedictions), a nineteen-hundred-year-old prayer. The fifteenth blessing asks God to, “allow the branch of David, your servant to swiftly flourish and may his horn be exalted through your deliverance.”
The Hebrew Scriptures also convey the hope that Messiah will inaugurate a time of unprecedented, universal peace (Isa. 2:1-4). During this time of peace, the Messiah will reign from Jerusalem and produce the liberation of Israel (Zech. 14). Many Christians are familiar with these and other Messianic passages from the Old Testament.
Less familiar to Christians is the Talmud, the vast compilation of Jewish faith and practice, where the hope for a Messiah is ultimately the longing for an idealized world (b. Ketub 111b). Rabbinic literature continues the biblical tradition by describing key events leading up to the arrival of the Messiah at the end of the age. This includes significant battles against the nations, with a cataclysmic battle against Gog and Magog (m. Eduyot 2.10; b. Shabb 118b). In addition to these battles, there will also be a significant time of sorrows preceding the Messianic Era (m. Sot. 9.15; b. Sanh 98b). This period of grief will lead to the arrival of the Messiah, who will usher in an era of great prosperity and peace (b. Sanh 97a; b. Ketub 111b; 2 Bar 29).
The Coming of Messiah in Jewish Expectation
While belief in the coming Messiah is a foundational element to Jewish thought, descriptions of the Messiah and his arrival in rabbinic literature are rather limited. Additionally, differing views within rabbinic tradition developed due to the apparent contradictory depictions of both a victorious and afflicted Messiah.
This disparity has led to the concept of two separate Messiahs: Messiah Son of David, the victorious one, and Messiah Son of Joseph, the suffering or slain one (b. Sukk 52a). Some ancient rabbis referred to this Messiah as the Leper Scholar (Isa. 53:4; b. Sanh 993b). The rabbis sensed the paradox between a victorious and afflicted Messiah, but they could not reconcile the differences in one person. Is it possible for us to do so?
Two Messianic Roles Combined in One Person
The Jewish community today, as in the first century, continues to hope for the Messiah. Since Jesus did not arrive in the kingly or triumphant manner expected, many Jewish people did not recognize Him as the Messiah. How then can Jewish and non-Jewish believers proclaim that Jesus is truly, nonetheless, the Messiah?
Matthew considers Jesus’ birth the fulfillment of this Jewish expectation for the Messiah of Israel (Matt. 1:1). The suffering Messiah Jesus arrived 2,000 years ago when He inaugurated peace between God and humanity, but He promises to return to earth to establish universal peace when He reigns from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Perhaps Matthew best depicts the paradox when he describes the trek of the Magi across the desert to worship the infant “King of the Jews” in the remote village of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:2). Jesus is the Messiah the Jewish people have always anticipated.