The Ten Days of Awe

We are in the midst of the Ten Days Awe which began with the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.  The other name for this season is the Ten Days of Repentance as the traditional Jewish belief for this season is that God will judge our hearts and actions during this period of time and determine our future.  The culmination of the ten days is the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which begins this coming Friday evening.

I have written a series of devotionals on the themes of atonement and forgiveness and hope you will read them.  The following is the text of the first devotional…

We are about to observe the Civil Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which literally means, the “Head of the Year.” The festival is one of the seven great festivals, appointed by God to be celebrated on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, Tishrei. All seven of these Holy Days are found in the Bible in Leviticus chapter 23, as well as in a number of other passages in the Pentateuch/Torah. There is also a vast amount of rabbinic material describing the festivals and how they should be observed.

The Holy Days are prophetic in nature and over the course of the year provide a roadmap to redemption; Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, the New Year, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles. The holidays are similar as each one involves a rest from labor, worship, offerings and usually a reminder of a great event in the history of Israel. Oftentimes a holiday is also tied to the agricultural season and in one way or another is connected to the harvest.

It is important to note the Hebrew word translated as “holiday” in Leviticus 23 is better when understood as “appointments.” God asks Israel to remember what He did for them in history over 150 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. He set up these “appointments” (or “appointed times”) to help His people commune with Him and “remember” His good works in their history. Each of these Holy Days was established by God and revealed to the children of Israel by Moses, who received the calendar as part of the Sinai revelation.

I also believe that every one of these festivals (“appointed times”) was fulfilled in the person of Jesus the Messiah and, along with many scholars, believe the first four Spring festivals pointed to His first coming and the latter three in the Fall are related to His second coming.

These holidays have a variety of themes and customs and are observed in a similar manner by most Jewish people, whether they be Ashkenazic (Eastern European decent) or Sephardic (primarily from Spain and North Africa)—New Yorkers, Brooklynites or Israelis. The major themes of the Jewish New Year are Kingship, Remembrance and the Blowing of the Shofar.

Over the centuries, our rabbis and sages have complied a book entitled the Machzor, which is used in the synagogue as the prayer book and service guide for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (See Leviticus 23: 23- 25; Numbers 10: 10; 29: 16 for the biblical details).

Rosh Hashanah is the first of three great festivals to be celebrated in the Fall. The other two are Yom Kippur, (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).

The great theme of Rosh Hashanah is repentance and the overarching theme of the High Holiday season is forgiveness. In fact, the first day of Rosh Hashanah begins a season of ten days of repentance, often called the Ten Days of Awe by the Jewish people. The observance of the Day of Atonement concludes these ten days. It is understood by most Jewish people that repentance is the path that leads to salvation and the forgiveness of sin, which is secured at the closing moments of Yom Kippur.

Though it is difficult to explain the difference, forgiveness is stressed in the Jewish community far more than personal salvation, especially as understood by most Christians. Jewish people are not as apt to think about personal salvation or a secured future beyond the grave in the same way Christians do.

However, Jewish people do think about forgiveness during this time of year and are usually eager to repent before God and reconcile with whomever they may have offended as well. But, forgiveness is viewed as temporal, needing annual renewal and received on the basis of God’s grace as well as our repentance and willingness to be obedient to His Law found in the Five Books of Moses. At least this is the traditional Jewish teaching on the subject.

The Ten Days of Awe or the Ten Days of Repentance are observed during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Jewish tradition calls upon us to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others as one vital part of receiving God’s forgiveness at the conclusion of the ten-day period.

The Purpose for the Devotionals:

During the Ten Days of Repentance, we will be providing our readers with ten devotions, one for each day.

These devotional thoughts will hopefully be a blessing to you and help sensitize you to what your Jewish family and friends are observing as well. We also will present a passage or two from the Bible for you to meditate upon and will allow the Lord to speak to you through His word during this important season of the year.

The Apostle Paul suggests the importance of understanding and even experiencing the Jewish festivals in his letter to Timothy. He writes,

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Scripture Meditation:

I have found the above verses to be very helpful and practical in understanding the role of the festivals in the lives of believers in Jesus the Messiah.

In using the term Scripture, Paul is referring to the entirety of the Old Testament. Certainly, we can infer that this is also true of the New Testament, but specifically Paul has the Hebrew Scriptures in mind. Every part of the Bible is useful to us in the process of growing to spiritual maturity. This would include the Jewish holidays.

Paul is not suggesting that we must keep these festivals in any particular way nor is he suggesting that we are under obligation to keep them! Rather, he tells us that every verse in every one of the 39 books of the Old Testament is helpful and may be utilized for spiritual benefit. This would be true of the festivals outlined in Leviticus 23 and would include the three Fall events; the New Year, the Day of Atonement and Tabernacles.

Therefore, learning more about these “Feasts” is helpful for your spiritual journey. And for me, the emphases of the first two holidays on repentance and forgiveness create a magnificent backdrop for understanding the work of Jesus the Messiah, who died that I might live.

To read the rest of the devotional go to:

http://www.chosenpeople.com/main/index.php/holidays-and-festivals/836-ten-days-of-awe-devotionals

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pray for those who persecute you

Shalom from the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn, where I have been part of a prayer meeting with our staff at the new Charles Feinberg Messianic Center. As you will see from the attached article, the religious Jewish community is well aware of our presence in the community, and they are responding in a variety of ways.

One group sent out a video opposing our work, and this same group rented space nearby in order to counter our efforts. Another group, we recently discovered, also rented space across the street from our Center in order to oppose our efforts to tell Jewish people about our beloved Messiah Jesus.

This is to be expected!

So, how do we feel about this intense and very public opposition?

I believe the words of Jesus speak loudest in this instance, as He told us,

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

We are blessed, and our burden has deepened for our fellow Jewish people to open their hearts to the Messiah. We understand that our people do not really understand the message of Jesus.

It is hard for most Jewish people to distinguish between the historic bad behavior of nominal “Christians” who treated the Jewish people so poorly throughout the ages and authentic Gentile Christians who love the Jewish Messiah and the Jewish people. My people simply do not know the difference between the two.

And more importantly, they do not understand that Jesus is Jewish, His earliest disciples were Jewish and that believing in Jesus as the Messiah is not only acceptable for a Jewish person, but the right thing to do!

The question I want many people to think about is not whether it is permissible to be Jewish and believe in Jesus – but whether or not Jesus is the true Messiah of Israel. If my fellow Jews come to this conclusion, then they will choose to follow Him – as I did.

So, please pray for the Jewish people with us!

We are not upset or angry or feeling competitive as described in the article. There is only one Messiah, and we believe with all our hearts that it is Jesus and that He is the One sent from heaven to save us from our sins. My hope and prayer is that my people will be drawn to this loving, forgiving Messiah and find salvation in Him.

We are about to begin the Jewish High Holidays, starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) beginning Wednesday evening. Please pray with us that during this time, when the Jewish people think seriously about atonement and forgiveness, that the Lord would open the hearts of our Jewish people – especially those who oppose us – and reveal to them that Jesus is the promised Messiah for both Jews and Gentiles.

Please read the article, which we feel is balanced and accurate in describing the situation… but of course not a true reflection of our heart and motives for establishing the Charles Feinberg Center in the heart of Brooklyn.

16 Comments

Filed under Brooklyn, New York City

A Cease-Fire in Israel

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:6-9)

The Hebrew word Shalom, which is commonly translated “peace,” is used about 250 times in the Old Testament. The King James Bible translates Shalom as peace almost two hundred times, and the remaining usages are translated in different ways. Any good Bible dictionary will provide quite a bit of information on the use of Shalom in the Bible; it is a significant term for those who love the Word of God.

I find the basic meaning of Shalom to be fascinating. The term speaks of completion, wholeness, unity and of restored relationships. The word actually presumes that something was previously fractured, divided and broken – and then, for one reason or another, put back together. This gives me a better understanding of Shalom – the repairing or fusing together of that which was broken apart.

Aside from the above Psalm, one of the classic uses of Shalom in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24- 26) where God commanded Moses to pronounce a blessing on Aaron and his sons – the final blessing invoking Shalom.

The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.

I must admit, though, that my favorite use of the Hebrew word Shalom in the Old Testament is found in Isaiah chapter 9:6-7, where the promised Messiah and Son of David is given a litany of prophetic names: wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father and the Prince of Peace (Shalom). Additionally, the prophet adds the following statement, which clearly identifies this individual as the Messianic son of David:

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.

I love this passage because it speaks of the very nature of our Messiah – that He is the Prince of Peace. This promise, encapsulated in a name, also reminds me that God’s ultimate goal for our very fractured, broken, divided and sinful world is Shalom.

We are a microcosmic example of God’s ultimate goal for the world. The Shalom He creates in our hearts gives us hope for the greater Peace to come.

I still remember waking up the morning after I received Jesus as my Messiah. Like many people, I thought that the day I accepted Jesus that there would be trumpets and the sun would burst through the clouds (I was in North California!) And I also imagined that from that moment on, I would have complete rest and peace in my heart; that I would no longer be tempted by sin and my new life would be glorious! But that was not quite the case.

I quickly realized that though I had been forgiven and saved from sin, that perfect peace would elude me all the days of my life – until the Lord returns and establishes His kingdom. Yet I did sense a tremendous difference in my soul. I knew that God loved me and my sins were forgiven through the death and resurrection of my Jewish Messiah – the Prince of Peace. I was filled with joy and strength to live righteously as never before.

I know that using words like peace, joy, love and others of this nature might seem trite and pedantic. It is hard to describe what happens when we receive the Lord. But Jesus saved me completely and transformed my life, and I am still at a loss for words to adequately describe what He has done for me.

I know that Shalom I have in my soul today is just a taste of the true Shalom that our loving God has prepared for this fractured world. I know this ultimate Shalom is coming, but today we can experience His Shalom to a limited degree today by receiving Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. This partial Shalom we experience when we accept Yeshua points us to something greater.

I am sure you have heard it said that there will be No Peace in the Middle East – or anywhere else on earth – until Jesus, the Prince of Peace returns to rule on his rightful throne. I believe this with all my heart, and I know it is true because in part this is what happened in my life. I am only one person among billions and one Jewish person among almost 14,000,000 – so I am well aware of my own personal insignificance. But this only makes what Jesus did for me so much more magnificent and beautiful.

Although I am small and insignificant and certainly unworthy of His mercy in every aspect of my life, the Prince of Peace came to this broken world and died for me (and for you, too!) Today He sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting for just the right moment to return, visibly and physically and in all His heavenly glory, to reclaim His sin-cursed creation.

The Current Israel/Gaza Cease-Fire

The current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza will of course be imperfect. It may or may not last. And peace will never bring back the lives that were lost, nor undo the damage that was done to families, properties, businesses and to individual relationships between Jews and Palestinians (see stats from the war). It is certainly going to be a long road to what will hopefully be a more lasting peace, and the cease-fire is perhaps just the beginning.

We do need to be realistic about the prospects for an enduring peace. And we do need to do what the Psalmist declared, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

May I offer two suggestions about how to do this?

First of all, let’s try not to be cynical about these first baby steps towards a cessation of hostilities. We all understand that there are deeper underlying issues that might never be solved in our lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime – but we must still pray for peace. Every Palestinian mother and every Jewish mother wants the same thing for their children: a good life, family, education, prosperity and so much more. Try not to let the insidious agendas of Hamas and other radical, militant jihadists discourage you from praying for peace – and, where possible, to work towards it.

Secondly, pray that both Israelis and Palestinians and even the most radical members of Hamas might find spiritual peace by receiving Jesus as their Messiah. It is only when we accept the Prince of Peace as Lord of our lives that we understand that true and lasting Shalom is possible.

This is a peace that begins one person at a time, and it not political, but rather spiritual. We need to pray for and support the efforts of those sharing the good news of Jesus the Messiah in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, and throughout the war-torn trouble spots in the Middle East – especially at this time in history.

It is only when we know the peace of the Messiah in our hearts that we have faith to believe that greater peace is possible. We understand that lasting peace will never come through the hand of man, and we can learn to live with this. But knowing that one day we will live in a world absolutely filled with Shalom might encourage us to try and make the peace man provides last just a little longer.

Shalom, as elusive as it seems right now, is our divine destiny.

11 Comments

Filed under Israel, Middle East

Let’s Keep the Discussion Going

I am grateful for all of you have commented on the recent blog where I respond to the religious Jewish people establishing the Kiruv Center near our new Charles Feinberg Messianic Center on Coney Island Avenue and Avenue P in Brooklyn. There was quite a bit of interest in the topic and a willingness to discuss the issues.

The dialogue has been excellent, but there are so many responses I really cannot answer each one. Let me try and summarize some of the key issues that seem to be under discussion.

1. Can you be Jewish and believe that Jesus is the Messiah and God in the flesh?

2. Is there a good case for Jesus begin the Messiah predicted in the Tenach? (the Old Testament for those who are not Jewish)

3. In what ways can you express yourself as a Jew if you believe in Jesus? Can/should you do this religiously and if so in what tradition of religious Judaism? How do we combine belief in Jesus with being Jewish?

4. Did Yeshua call upon Jeiwsh believers to abandon the Torah?

5. Can Jewish people who believe in Yeshua and those who do not, find non-acrimoniuos ways to relate to one another and even help one another where responding to mutual concerns; Israel, anti-Semitism etc.?

6. Can you be forgiven of sin without an atoning sacrifice?

7. What is the difference between the Jewish view of salvation and that of Messianic Jews or Christians?

For these and other questions please take the discussions to http://isaiah53.com/forums. This will be a better venue for our ongoing discussions.

Thanks!

1 Comment

Filed under Brooklyn, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, New York City

Orthodox Jewish Group Opposes Chosen People Ministries’ Brooklyn Messianic Center.

A new website has just been posted entitled The Missionary Threat. It is sponsored by an Orthodox Jewish group that is trying to counter our efforts to share the Gospel with Jewish people, as well as for their own aim of trying to influence more secular Jewish people to become Orthodox.

They have posted a video that focuses on the ministry of our new Charles Feinberg Center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn:

This is not the first time that this group has leveraged our efforts to bring the Gospel to the Jewish people in Brooklyn to enhance their fundraising drives. I cannot blame them – in fact, I think it is quite entrepreneurial!

The last time this happened, I wrote to the leader of this group, which is located only a few blocks from our new center, and invited him to meet with me so that at least he would see the face of his alleged enemy. I never received a response back, and can only assume that it’s a lot easier for people to attack an unknown person rather than someone they have met and might even grow to like as a person – though disagreeing with their message and perspective.

How I feel about this?

In fact, I think I am the Jewish person who is alluded to in the video.

First of all, I’m actually not really upset at all. I find it easy to love and appreciate these folks who are so dedicated to their task that they feel part of what they must do is oppose us as we bring the Gospel to the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn. They are simply doing what they believe the God of Israel is calling them to do! After all, I feel the same way.

However, I do not want to minimize the seriousness of the matter. Chosen People Ministries believes that no man or woman, Jew or Gentile, can go to heaven or have an abundant relationship with God outside of believing that Jesus (Yeshua) is the promised Messiah. It is through His death and resurrection for our sin and believing in Him that we can enter into a deep and personal relationship with God. These are the eternal issues that are at stake – and it is no joke!

Perhaps it’s easier to see the black-and-white issues when you are involved with reaching Jewish people for Jesus, especially those who are more Orthodox. You see, Orthodox Jewish people believe in the God of Israel as revealed in the Bible. They accept the Bible as God’s word, and most are very sincere about keeping the Law and pleasing God.

Orthodox Jews usually have wonderful families, good ethics and share many of the same values as true followers of Jesus. In many ways, we are in the same trenches together with the Orthodox Jewish community when it comes to fighting against the growing decadence and secularism of our modern culture and calling for people to draw close to the Lord!

In fact, I will keep praying that the Lord would create some bridges of friendship and fellowship between ourselves and those who have chosen to oppose us, because we have so much in common. Please pray that we might even be able to work together with these folks in areas of common concern both within the Jewish community and in society.

I knew that the Lord was leading us to establish this Center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn. Our “opponents” are correct in reporting how expensive the project was, and how I and many others within the Chosen People Ministries family believe in the profound importance of shining the light of Messiah in the midst of this intense concentration of religious Jewish people – perhaps one of the largest in the world.

I hope that you will watch the video and pray for our Orthodox Jewish friends. Their efforts remind me of the ways in which Paul describes some of his fellow religious Jewish enthusiasts when he wrote in the book of Romans,

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Messiah is the end (the fulfillment) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:1-4).

A few of our very wise and experienced staff members asked me to reconsider sending out this website and video. The reason is that they were concerned that our Gentile Christian friends would in some way get a negative view of Jewish people, especially Orthodox Jewish people, as a result of this video.

I understand that some who are reading this letter may not know many Jewish people personally, but I want to assure you that if you did know some of the Jewish people who are opposing us – you would really like them. They are good people, but they simply need to know that Jesus is the Messiah. I hope you’ll think positively of them and that you will join us in prayer.

It’s important to remember that Jewish people have had some very bad experiences with Christianity. From the Crusades, the Pogroms and ultimately the Holocaust, Jewish people have developed a mentality that Christianity is antagonistic towards the Jewish people. And quite frankly, when describing “institutional and more nominal Christianity,” this is not far from the truth.

This means that we have to demonstrate through our lives and action that true Christians love the Jewish people. We must make sure our Jewish friends understand that we do not want anyone to change religion, but to follow a person – Jesus the Messiah. We are preaching a relationship, not a religion. This is so important for Jewish people to understand – and for you to try and help your Jewish friends comprehend.

The basic and most fundamental reason why Jewish people do not believe in Jesus is because of the fear that once a Jewish person starts believing in Jesus, he or she gives up being a Jew. This is not true (Romans11:1), but it’s up to us to communicate this to our Jewish friends, relatives and neighbors.

Now, since the founders of this center did such a great job of encouraging others to fund their work of bringing Jews back to Orthodox Judaism, let me return the favor. It is obvious to me that we are doing the right thing, and I hope that you will support us and in particular support the work of our Messianic Jewish center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn.

Please write Charles Feinberg Center in the “Special Designation” field

We not only need your financial support, but we are desperate for your prayers – as what we want most in life cannot be accomplished with money. We want the God of Israel to open the hearts of our Jewish friends and family so that they too will believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Your brother,

Mitch

69 Comments

Filed under Brooklyn, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, New York City

Another Look at Zionism

It is not often I offer an article from a newspaper as a blog. But, I want as many people as possible to read this piece by Michael Oren that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The piece is a passionate, reasonable and well-articulated appeal to those who might find themselves swayed by the current war with Hamas to either question or even denounce the fundamental validity of the Zionist movement.

I usually try to “stick” with the more biblical aspects of the issue but this time, I simply had to send this out. I was personally moved by Oren’s recounting of the rationale for Zionism and his basic theory that the best argument for Zionism is that it has worked! And he does an excellent job of explaining why.

Today many will say they support Israel but try as much as possible to separate support for the modern state of Israel with the term and “philosophy” of Zionism. Even some Christians and Messianic Jews who believe Israel has a divine right to the Land sometimes want to distance themselves today from the term Zionism. Over the years the term Zionism has been battered about and linked with racism in United Nations statements , which was later revoked by UMN resolution 46/86 in 1991. It has become a synonym for Middle East imperialism, racial intolerance and hatred for all Palestinians. Oren will convince you to reconsider if for some reason you are beginning to believe these things.

Unfortunately the problem has deepened, especially in parts of Europe and the Middle East as the line between anti-Zionism and anti anti-Semitism has been blurred leading to anti Jewish violence. Dr. Michael Brown develops this abhorrent shift from politics to racism in an excellent opinion piece written a few days ago. I suggest you read this as well.

So, for once I am not going to develop a line of theological argumentation that establishes the fundamental and biblical “right to the Land of Israel”, though I believe this is part of the overall story of Scripture. I understand that godly believers interpret the Bible differently and choose to respect and love one another and we do need to constantly learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Though this is easier for us to say living safely in the US than for those of our brethren suffering in the midst of the conflict in Israel and other parts of the Middle East – like Mosul!

As you will read in Oren’s article there are some very sound “non-biblical reasons” for people, especially Christians in the West (allow me to be self centered for a moment!) to wince when confronted with the array of Zionist negativity so passionately argued today. I believe Oren provides provides critical information to help us stay balanced in the midst of the current anti Zionist onslaught that is beginning to seriously impact the viewpoint and actions of followers of Jesus.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/in-defense-of-zionism-1406918952?KEYWORDS=zionism

Pass the article along as well and remember that when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem we are praying for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land. (Psalm 122:6)

See: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35.
And: http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/the-fine-line-between-anti-zionism-and-anti-semitism/

Leave a comment

Filed under Anti-Semitism, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Israel, Jews and Christians, Middle East, Palestinian

The Ground War Has Begun

The ground war in Israel is raging! We were of course hoping and praying that it would not happen, but Israel had little choice but to “move in” to Gaza and destroy the maze of Hamas tunnels and remaining rocket launch sites. Already thirteen Israeli soldier has been killed, and more will likely follow – the longer the war continues.

There are many news sites that you can utilize to get information, and one that I personally appreciate is JPost, the online version of the Jerusalem Post.

Another little-known source for news on Israel is www.dailyalert.org. This is a site that gathers information from many news sources.

We have also asked our Chosen People Ministries staff to keep us informed of all that is happening in Israel from an insider’s perspective and to make sure we have current prayer requests so that we can uphold the Chosen People Ministries team and various ministries in Israel during this difficult time. We will provide regular updates to keep you posted and praying! Just click here to see the latest news.

You can also listen to the recording of the teleconference we held this week with our leaders in Israel. I am sure you will learn a lot and be better able to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the work of Chosen People Ministries during this time – especially among some of the elderly Holocaust survivors who live in Sderot and other towns in the South that have been under incredible duress.

Click here to listen to the recording of the teleconference.

Please feel free to tweet the link so that others can learn more about what is happening in Israel today, and listen to our recent teleconference with our Chosen People Ministries staff on the ground in Israel.

Thanks for praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

Mitch

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel, Middle East, Palestinian