Making Disciples…in Hard Places!

But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.”
(2 Corinthians 6:4–7)

I recently rediscovered this powerful and well-known passage penned by the Apostle Paul, which describes the insurmountable difficulties he faced in bringing the gospel “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). 

Paul’s life was in constant danger. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. His evenings were undoubtedly not spent at a five-star hotel. 

Paul challenged the believers in Corinth to follow him as he followed the Lord (1 Cor. 11:1). Most of us would not welcome the kind of opposition and suffering Paul met throughout his ministry. The world teaches us to avoid unnecessary hardship, and yet, the apostle embraced life’s difficulties and sorrows for the Lord. He wrote from a Philippian jail, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). Yet, in all things, he found the victory through the Messiah Jesus—and so can we! 

Jesus endured life’s hardships and even bore the pain of the cross, burying our sins and crushing the power of the grave! Jesus lived through an eternal moment of separation from His Father—whom He loved for all eternity and who loved Him—so that you and I would not suffer a moment of separation from our Creator. 

Think of all the apostle endured for the sake of those he served and sought to bring into fellowship with the Father through the Son. Then consider all that Jesus, our beloved Messiah, gave up and suffered on our behalf. This might help us to gain a new perspective on all we endured, especially over the last year and a half. 

Suffering teaches us lessons we could never learn in any other way. Our character is shaped far more in the schoolroom of suffering than when surrounded by those we love, the niceties of life, and even success. We often learn more through failure and pain than we do through success. 

We all have our stories, of course, of how we experienced hardship for the Lord. 

Many years ago, I was part of a messianic singing group invited to go to Northern Ireland by an Irish Christian who had a tremendous burden for his people. We ministered through messianic music and preaching in and around Belfast. The year was 1976, and bombs were exploding virtually every day in beautiful, lush, green, and very unsafe Northern Ireland. 

At the time of this trip, I was a seminary student and a newlywed. Was I frightened? You bet I was! And my fear was justified! We all wrote notes to our unsaved Jewish families, sharing our faith and telling our loved ones why we were doing what we did. We were all ready to die for Jesus. Or so we hoped. 

I remember one day we had an engagement at Queens University Belfast. We set up our sound equipment and began our music ministry. Hosts of students came and listened and interacted with us regarding the gospel. We started our final song but were interrupted by a loud boom. Within moments, shreds of charred paper began floating down from the sky like falling snow. A bomb had gone off close by, and we, along with the hundreds of students, were frightened because we had no idea whether the next bomb would explode closer to us. 

Another day, we were singing in downtown Londonderry. We had to move from our original location as the establishment owner told us he no longer wanted us in front of his store. We were disappointed but continued our musical ministry two or three blocks away. We were not even halfway through our set of messianic music when we heard a loud explosion. You could feel the glass windows of the store imploding. The bomb went off at the very spot where we were supposed to sing but were asked to leave. To this day, I do not know if someone warned the owner of that retail store that a bomb would go off, and he told us to leave to keep us safe. All I know is that Romans 8:28 took on an entirely new meaning to me and our team! 

I could also tell you about incidents where someone angry about my preaching the gospel physically attacked me. To this day, I believe those hostile encounters were small change compared to the price He paid for me on Calvary. 

I love our Chosen People Ministries staff. 

They suffer without complaint and trust the Lord through the most difficult of circumstances. 

You will read about what our staff in Israel recently endured during the eleven-day war with Gaza. Most of our Chosen People Ministries workers in Israel are Jewish and made Aliyah because they love the Lord and want to live for Him in the Holy Land. But, unfortunately, they have endured a lack of acceptance, persecution by some religious Jews, and the everyday threat of terrorism and war. 

Before going to Northern Ireland for the first time, the president of Biola University (I was attending graduate school there at the time), Dr. Clyde Cook, offered to pray with our group before the trip. I will never forget his prayer: “Lord, teach Mitch and his team that safety is not the absence of danger but the presence of the Lord.” I will never forget those words. 

I pray that prayer today for our staff ministering in hard places. They endure rejection, threats, and difficulties that are all part of the worthy effort to share God’s love with our Jewish people, whom we love dearly. 

Many Jewish people react and oppose us strongly because of centuries of persecution by misguided and mostly nominal Christians creating an almost impassable gap between the Jewish community and Jesus. Right now, our staff ministers in Israel, Argentina, New York, Russia, the United Kingdom, and so many other critical and strategic places where large numbers of Jewish people live. These busy urban areas are loud, unsafe, and expensive. Yet, our workers endure all these challenges for the sake of the gospel. 

We need your prayers and generous support to share the gospel with Jewish people living in difficult places. We know we could move to someplace nicer, greener, and less expensive, but we choose to be where our Jewish people live, work, and raise their families. 

One way I encourage our staff serving in difficult places is to remind them of the vast number of like-minded believers who pray for them and support their ministries. 

You are so important to us but especially important to those who serve in hard places. 

Why do we do this? Why do we choose to endure such hardship and difficulties? Why do we ask our spouses and children to live in places that are difficult and even dangerous? 

Sometimes I ask myself this question, as I have lived in Brooklyn now for more than three decades, serving among one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. I chose to raise my children in this intense and often very hostile environment. But I have never looked back because of all the Lord has done for me. I know that our staff serving the Lord under challenging conditions feel the same way. 

It is tough at times, but always—and I mean always— worth it! 

What Dr. Cook prayed is so true, as safety and peace (shalom) are always available to us through the Prince of Peace who is with us and dwells within us. Paul gave us a rationale for the joy we can experience day in and day out as we share the gospel with Jews and Gentiles—even while suffering or working in difficult places. 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
(2 Corinthians 5:20–6:1) 

And I can assure you that our staff feels this way. We know that what we do for Jesus is eternally worthwhile because what He did for each of us will endure forever. 

On behalf of our staff serving in difficult places, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, partnership, prayers, and sacrificial support!

Thanks for helping me love our staff!

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Evangelism in Israel: A Golden Moment of Opportunity


Today, my heart is burdened for our beloved nation of Israel!

This past year has been challenging—especially the past few months—for every citizen of the Holy Land. COVID-19 ripped through Israel, killing thousands, especially within the Orthodox Jewish community; yet, today, Israel stands as an example of recovery from this dreaded disease. Thank God, the number of those infected is now almost nil on the Israeli side and decreasing among the Palestinians. We are beginning to see a restoration to life in person, including all of our ministries in Israel.

We have more than twenty staff members throughout Israel, with centers in Jerusalem and the Greater Tel Aviv area. We are already back to in-person Bible studies, events for elderly Holocaust survivors, outreach dinners, and ministry to younger Israelis, mainly through our outstanding work in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

THE RECENT ELECTIONS

The recent elections again revealed the deep divisions within Israel. A coalition of religious Zionists led by Naftali Bennett and a more left-of-center group led by Yair Lapid replaced long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Efraim Goldstein, one of our long-term Chosen People Ministries staff members in Israel, summarized the recent election as follows:

The nation of Israel is establishing a new coalition government without Benjamin Netanyahu. The new leaders are a new generation of native-born Israelis.

Naftali Bennett leads the Yamina party and will be the new prime minister in a coalition agreement. As a former aide and cabinet minister for Netanyahu, he is determined to serve the nation of Israel. Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party is a staunch right-wing supporter.

Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid was a journalist and is committed to reforming Israeli politics. For the past ten years, he has labored to gain credibility as a viable leader. Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and he is currently the defense minister. This coalition will also be the first time that the United Arab List (Ra’am), led by Mansour Abbas, will vote to support a new government even though they will not have cabinet positions.

The breadth of views within the new government is wide! We will see if they can hold together and provide decisive leadership for Israel as they try to weather the fractious regional relationships throughout the Middle East.

THE GAZA WAR

Israel was regaining a sense of normalcy from COVID-19 when war broke out with Gaza in May. I was in close touch with our Israeli staff throughout the war and its aftermath. Let me share some of what our workers experienced in their own words.

Our Israeli director, Michael Zinn, writes,

We just had the war, and today we are already trying to forget about it. Israel suffered from the terrible terrorist organization Hamas’ attacks with more than 4,500 missiles launched within ten days! They killed twelve people, wounded hundreds, and caused millions of dollars worth of property damage. Hospitals treated many hundreds after panic attacks. On top of that, thousands of Arabs within Israel rioted, destroying Jewish properties, burning down synagogues, lynching Jews, and attacking police. Add to this picture the ongoing sound of the sirens and traces of the Israeli defense antimissiles in the sky. By this description, you can probably get some understanding of what we have experienced here recently. It was very difficult to remain calm when my daughter called me from Tel Aviv and told me there were hundreds of missiles in the air, and I heard the sound of them over the phone!

David Trubek, who serves at our Ramat Gan Center, adds,

During the recent conflict here in the Holy Land, we found ourselves back in a wartime routine. Hamas launched massive rockets targeted at our civilian populace. Arab Israelis rioted, looted, burned public buildings, and violently attacked their Jewish neighbors. Unfortunately, a small segment of our Jewish population also committed violence against the Arabs. Our outreach center is in the Tel Aviv district—an area bombarded with missiles. For days, we had to run for shelter several times a day. We had to get up in the middle of the night each time the sirens sounded, get the children, and run to the shelter.

On top of ensuring the safety of ourselves and our children, we asked God how He would use us to shine His light on people around us. During our time in the shelter, we had conversations with people about the love of God, the sin that destroys the world, the message of Yeshua, and the love He brings into this world. We decided with our congregation to meet on Zoom for prayer meetings. I felt in my heart the urgency to reach out to our local Arab brothers and ask them to join and pray together with us in unity for peace in the land of Israel.

Our staff deeply cares for their families and their fellow Israelis who need the Lord during this time of turmoil! They have a ministry of comfort, especially among the elderly Holocaust survivors they reach in the areas closest to Gaza.

Maxim Katz, serving in Jerusalem, writes,

We hope that in July and August we will be able to hold children’s camps. We had planned a vacation camp in May, but we had to cancel it due to the Gaza conflict. It breaks my heart because we could not gather our children together for almost two years. I see teenagers for whom the camps were an anchor of faith now living in the world. We pray that the Lord would give us wisdom and the opportunity to bring these young people back to Him.

When we sent the invitation to come to the camp in May, seventy children signed up in twenty minutes, and we had to turn more away. The Lord showed me again how important this ministry is. The kids were distraught when we canceled everything, and we are waiting for the summer with the hope that camp will happen. Today, we have almost a hundred applicants for the summer camps.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

We know that war and general instability bring opportunities to share the gospel of peace. Many Israelis are seeking the Lord, which is why we believe we need to intensify our efforts in the Holy Land right now. The need TODAY is urgent.

The openness we are sensing is, without a doubt, growing among next-generation Israelis! This is why we are working intensively to develop new tools to reach Israelis through some of our new websites and social media efforts and, of course, through in-person ministry as the country re-opens post-COVID-19.

We are creating a website that addresses the thorny questions Israeli young adults are asking. Our new site and social media campaigns will speak to heart issues like loneliness, broken relationships, gender confusion, and other life issues that we know only a personal relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah can address!

We will continue to reach elderly Holocaust survivors for the Lord, intensify our family-oriented strategies by ministering to both parents and children, develop new congregations, and much more!

Clearly, the recent elections show that young Israelis are looking for new ideas, new leadership, and for many, a new way—other than Jewish Orthodoxy—to draw closer to God. We believe it is critical at this moment in Israel’s history to reach this younger generation.

THE CHALLENGE OF WEAKENING EVANGELICAL SUPPORT

Unfortunately, we have a problem within the American church as support for Israel is waning among younger
evangelicals. According to a recent survey that Chosen People Ministries helped sponsor, support from younger evangelicals for the nation of Israel has dropped from 75 percent to 33 percent since 2018. We find that a lack of support for Israel often leads to lessened interest in Jewish evangelism.

However, there is a silver lining, as more than 40 percent of evangelical young people are undecided concerning their views on Israel. This indecision allows Your Mission to the Jewish People to educate the future leaders of the American church!

In light of the survey results, which Chosen People Ministries helped sponsor, we hope to create materials and conduct conferences in seminaries and local churches that encourage younger evangelicals to love Israel and support our efforts to reach Jewish people with the gospel.

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Blessings in the Midst of the Pandemic

Shalom in the great and powerful name of Jesus our Messiah!

One of my favorite Bible passages has continually proven to be true throughout this challenging time. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Now, this passage does not mean bad things that happen are outside of God’s foresight and knowledge because God is omniscient and omnipresent; He is the beginning, middle, and end of all things, and nothing can take him by surprise. One of my favorite pastors, John Piper, puts it this way:

When the King James says, “all things work together for good,” it does not mean, they work that way on their own, or by some power of fate. It means that God makes all things work together for good. So God is the one working…and what he is bringing about is good, and what he is bringing good out of is “all things.” Paul is not saying all things are good. He is saying all things are turned by God for good.1

I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Piper. The Lord has taken the terrible and used it for good for our 127-year-old ministry among our Jewish people! The last fourteen months have been challenging but incredibly fruitful for the gospel!

To give you the whole story, I would like to rewind to March of last year and walk you through our 2020 year—scary, I know, but hang on, you will see how God miraculously provided, often in the eleventh hour.

On the Heels of Our 125th Anniversary

For me, it is important to remember that the pandemic erupted right after the wonderful and joyful celebrations of our 125th year of ministry in 2019. We were jubilant! We held numerous events across the country. There was a fantastic concluding banquet with Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, as our keynote speaker. We ended 2019 with a conference on the history of Chosen People Ministries’ founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, which was held at the Feinberg Messianic Center in Brooklyn. Out of that conference, we produced a book about Rabbi Cohn called A Rabbi’s Vision Continues. In early February 2020, we had another unique event, the Borough Park Symposium, which included a lineup of several noteworthy, mainstream Jewish scholars—a rare opportunity for the Messianic Jewish community.

We planned an advancement campaign that was to kick off in January 2020. Chosen People Ministries was growing, both domestically and overseas. Our centers, congregations, Feinberg program, and short-term ministries were driving forward, and we had finally moved back into our beautifully renovated Manhattan headquarters. The renovations were costly, and though it took a while to recover financially from the expenditure, we continue operating without debt, even up until today— thanks be to God! All our programs were growing, and we were getting ready to launch new ministries—especially to Israelis traveling around the world and in the United States. We were hopeful, with great vision and excitement about the future.

Enter March 2020

Then it hit! Let me share how I came face to face with the pandemic. I flew up to Toronto for a Canadian Chosen People Ministries board meeting on Friday, February 28, 2020. For some reason, my usual way of entering the country through the preferred traveler program was closed, and I had to stand in line for more than two hours to pass through customs to enter Canada. I was used to some people from various countries wearing face masks, but now it was almost everyone but me, which made me think that I was really missing something and that maybe the virus we were beginning to hear about was getting worse!

I knew that there was a coronavirus outbreak in China and that a few people in Seattle had already contracted the disease. I was supposed to return to Canada the following week for a Bible conference in Vancouver. From there, I was expecting to fly from Seattle to England and then Israel. During that week, news of the virus began heating up, and there were reports of the first deaths in—of all places—Seattle.

Some of our Israeli staff told me that I might have to quarantine if I did come to Israel. There was even a possibility that the government would not allow me into the country at all. All of this was fast-breaking news. I canceled the trip and did the Vancouver Bible conference by Zoom, though I dislike canceling anything!

We shut down our Manhattan headquarters office on March 16, 2020 and the Brooklyn and Florida offices soon after.

We set up a system for our mail to be transferred daily from New York City to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, where our mail was opened and sorted at a firm owned by a friend of one of our board members. All our staff began working from home, and we started meeting every morning at 8:30AM for prayer via Zoom and at 4:45 PM to end the workday.

From that point on, life became very different. Our ministry became primarily digital; our direct ministries, services, and Bible studies went online, primarily through Zoom. We initiated a host of additional online ministries as we already had a strong digital media department and a bunch of outreach websites. We were very engaged in bringing the gospel through the use of social media.

But little did we know that life and ministry would not get back to anything close to what we would consider normal for more than a year.

Time to Pivot

We are all very aware of what has transpired this year, and thank God, even though quite a few of our staff had COVID-19, no one died. Almost everyone has recovered. Many of us, however, lost friends and family to the disease. Unfortunately, we are not yet finished with COVID-19 as some staff members even contracted the disease over the last couple of weeks. We will probably still see other cases, I am sorry to say, though hopefully not among our staff. We especially need to pray for India and,specifically, Andrew and Levanya Yelchuri, our staff members in Goa, India, whose ministry is to reach the hundreds of Israelis traveling through India after their army service. Of course, this is now halted, but we pray the Israeli young people will return when the pandemic lifts in India.

In many ways, it was especially difficult for us as Your Mission to the Jewish People is focused on large and heavily populated urban areas where the majority of Jewish people live. Some of our congregations, Bible studies, and ministries are already meeting in person, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

At this moment, we sense the Lord powerfully at work and leading us toward a better and brighter gospel future. I thank God that our staff stayed close to one another and never lost hope in the Lord. We knew He would make a way for us through this season of darkness.

The future is as bright as the promises of God, and it is time for us to look forward and seize the future for His glory.

I hope and pray you are well and that the Lord has preserved you and your loved ones through the pandemic. I am especially sorry if you lost a friend or loved one to the disease. May He wrap His all-powerful arms around you and bring the comfort that only comes from our risen, powerful, and faithful Savior.

So, join me as we look back for a moment and reflect on the good things He has done this past year and peek ahead at some of our advancement plans for the future!

In Messiah Jesus,
Mitch

1 John Piper, “All Things for Good Part 1,” Desiring God (blog), June 9, 2002, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/all-things-for-good-part-1.

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Training Tomorrow’s Messianic Leaders

Shalom in His peace.

Chosen People Ministries is committed to training up the next generation of leaders for ministry among the Jewish people and to fulfilling our mission: to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same. Fourteen years ago, Chosen People Ministries and Talbot School of Theology at Biola University jointly established the Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies. This unique Feinberg educational program offers an accredited Master of Divinity degree and a graduate certificate with a concentration in Messianic Jewish Studies. These courses of study are designed to address the tremendous need for advanced biblical and theological training for those serving among the Jewish people.

Chosen People Ministries owns a strategically located building in the heart of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. It houses the Feinberg program and accommodates classrooms, student housing, faculty offices, a 12,000-volume library, a dining room and a kitchen, as well as a sanctuary that is used for seminars, worship, and a Messianic congregation where students participate in services and receive fieldwork experience.

The Feinberg program trains future leaders who believe God has called them to serve in Jewish ministry.

OUR GRADUATES ARE OUR TESTIMONY!
Since its inception, more than thirty individuals have graduated from our Feinberg program. Our Feinberg alumni have gone on to serve in leadership capacities in ministries and organizations around the world. Currently, 85 percent of our Feinberg graduates are engaged in Jewish outreach, many with Chosen People Ministries. Some serve as congregational teachers, elders, or deacons, while others engage in planting congregations and centers among the Jewish people.

Some Feinberg graduates work for Christian non-profit ministries. One alumnus is on staff with CRU in London, serving as a spiritual resource to members of Parliament and other international leaders. Another individual oversees a gospel-focused sports ministry in Israel and other places alongside many Jewish people. Four graduates are presently pursuing PhD degrees, and one graduate will soon earn a Doctor of Ministry in Apologetics and has launched our Messianic apologetics website.

We have already had three international students who enrolled and moved to New York to pursue their education at the Feinberg Center. One of our recent graduates from Ukraine moved to Germany after graduation to help lead a new educational ministry that trains Europeans for Jewish outreach. Other international students are from Brazil, England, India, and South Korea.
Some of our leaders with the most potential to take Chosen People Ministries into the twenty-first century, including the editor of this publication, were trained at the Feinberg Center.

AT LONG LAST: FEINBERG IS ONLINE
We now plan to expand beyond the traditional classroom and offer online options for students who cannot move to Brooklyn to take in-person courses. This new opportunity for virtual learning—a result of the pandemic in many ways—will enable us to serve various Jewish mission fields, including Israel, where Chosen People Ministries continues to reach Jewish Israelis and the growing body of Israeli believers.

Since the 1930s, Chosen People Ministries has served in Israel and currently employs twenty-six people, primarily resident missionaries, through an Israeli non-profit named Beth Sar Shalom (House of the Prince of Peace). We have also established two Messianic Centers, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where we regularly conduct evangelistic ministries, including short-term mission trips from the United States. Our Jerusalem Messianic Center, established in 2006, serves as our main headquarters in Israel.

There are enough prospective students in Israel interested in the Feinberg program to introduce our courses to them remotely, along with motivated individuals living in other countries or different parts of the United States. Many would qualify for remote study in the Feinberg program or benefit from special seminars or programs offered by professors and special speakers.

We plan to begin offering Feinberg courses remotely, leading to a graduate certificate in Messianic Jewish Studies in Israel, which will enable students who are working and already deeply involved with their congregations and ministries to study without interrupting their lives and families. We believe this is an essential step to continue equipping the next generation for the vital work of Jewish evangelism.

NOT JUST CLASSROOM TRAINING— FIELD WORK IN ISRAEL
Training seminary students in Israel would have the added benefit of helping us further our outreach in the suburb of Ramat Gan and the greater Tel Aviv area. Our Israeli Feinberg students would have fieldwork requirements. Our Greater Tel Aviv Messianic Center, before the pandemic, was already teeming with activities designed for one-on-one interactions with Israeli unbelievers. Each week’s usual schedule of events included a weekly cafe outreach with live music, Bible studies, seminars for young people and families, leadership training programs, and even a mothers-of-preschoolers program in Hebrew. These activities will provide many opportunities for seminary students to learn ministry tools.

As at the Feinberg Center, mentors would oversee fieldwork experience in Israel, enabling students the opportunity to interact with non-believing Israelis under the guidance of an experienced Chosen People Ministries staff member. A further benefit is that Israeli graduates from the Feinberg program will likely serve as missionaries and become leaders within their congregations and beyond.

THE FUTURE IS NOW
For this 2021–2022 academic year, we already have eighteen full- and part-time students enrolled in the Feinberg program. Because of the pandemic, we had only a limited number of students living at the Feinberg Center in Brooklyn during the first half of 2021, with the majority are participating online. We plan to re-initiate in-person classes this fall and to expand to include those taking courses online.

A PLEA AND PRAYER FOR PARTNERSHIP
The Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies is marked by a committed and called student body and a dedicated and highly qualified faculty. Its strength comes from a time-tested partnership between the Talbot School of Theology and Chosen People Ministries.

Your partnership in helping us train a new generation of leaders for Jewish ministry—in the United States, Israel, and worldwide—is deeply appreciated. Here are a couple of specific ways you can help at this critical moment in history:

  1. Please pray for all our students and professors. I will be teaching a course on Jewish evangelism this fall, and my wife, Dr. Zhava Glaser, will be teaching one on Jewish history. We would personally appreciate your prayers.
  2. If you know others who might be interested in joining the Feinberg program or have a calling to Jewish ministry, please pass this letter along so they can find out more about becoming students at the Feinberg Center— either in person or online.

In our Messiah,

Mitch

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A Brief History of the Modern Messianic Movement

Shalom, dear friend!

You might remember the iconic evil shark, Bruce, from the film Jaws. The movie terrorized many of us and made us think twice about spending a lovely day at the beach! Perhaps this is why the sequel coined one of the most memorable tag lines ever attached to a movie, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….” Which one of us does not hear the two-tone Jaws theme and experience a brief moment of fear and anxiety in the pit of our stomach as we try to get back to some type of post-pandemic normal?

Most of us are trying to figure out  if it is once again “safe to go back into the waters” of normal life. We hope and pray this will be true and that the threat we have lived with for so many months will dissipate.

Is it safe to send our kids to in-person school every day, enjoy a dinner party with friends and family, return to the office, or take that long-overdue vacation? As believers, we trust the Lord and remain hopeful because we know He never loses control of our circumstances.

A mentor of mine once prayed for me before I faced a challenging set of ministry circumstances that could have led to severe physical harm. He said, “Teach Mitch that safety is not the absence of danger, but the presence of the Lord.” I have never forgotten that prayer. We can—and should—do all we need to do to keep ourselves and our families safe, but we know that, ultimately, only the Lord can protect us from harm.

I love what the psalmist wrote, “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.…He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:3). We are in His capable, loving, all-powerful, nail-pierced hands, and He will protect us on the journey from this life to the next! He never fails. We should not avoid getting back into the water because, as always, He is awake in the boat!

Looking Backward to Move Forward

Knowing that we can trust the Lord enables us to look forward to better days and a brighter future. We can grab onto hope as a child grasps for the brass ring on the merry-go-round. To seize the future, we need to reflect upon the past. When it comes to Chosen People Ministries, this could take a while, as we are 127 years old! So, let us travel back a few decades to remember what God has done in these recent years in turning the hearts of so many Jewish people to Jesus the Messiah.

A Brief History of the Modern Messianic Movement

We can trace the modern Messianic Jewish movement1 back to the remarkable work of the Holy Spirit among young people in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I experienced it first-hand as I was one of them! I am a child of the Jesus movement—spiritually-speaking.

The modern Messianic movement began during a season of unrest and uncertainty. Those with a more romantic view of the “end times” might identify 1967, the year Jerusalem was reunited, as the beginning point for the modern movement. Undoubtedly, the birth of the modern Messianic movement is evidence of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Many view it as a sign of the Second Coming, which is why I and many others believe the modern Messianic movement is indicative of our living in the last days.

Yet, we also recognize that there were other reasons why the number of Jewish believers in Jesus increased during the late 1960s and why young people like me desired a deeper connection to God and our Jewish heritage.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Jewish world was beginning to recover from the Holocaust, and Jewish social and religious organizations were gaining new strength. Meanwhile, the modern State of Israel was rapidly becoming the global glue holding Jewish communities together.

The shift of the center of Jewish life from Europe to the United States and Israel, post-Holocaust, also significantly impacted the dynamic growth of the modern Messianic movement. The number of Jewish believers living in Europe before the Holocaust was in the hundreds of thousands, but most were either killed or moved to other parts of the globe. This change created a twenty-plus-year decline in the Messianic movement.

The geographic change in the center of Jewish life and culture also caused the movement to take on a uniquely North American and non-European character.2 The Messianic movement in America did not express its faith in Yiddish as it did in Eastern Europe. Instead, the modern movement primarily communicated in English and, in the last couple of decades, in both Russian and Hebrew as the Lord brought thousands of Russian Jews and Israelis to Himself.

Trends within the broader church also had a profound impact on the modern Messianic movement. The growth of many churches and Christian ministries, such as Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, and the Evangelical Missions movements, was reflected in organizations like Operation Mobilization and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism (LCWE), which would later become the Lausanne Movement. The growth of the Charismatic movement, Calvary Chapels, Vineyards, and various new styles of churches during the last forty years have helped shape the development, theology, worship style, and culture of the modern Messianic community. These swirling trends within the Christian and Jewish communities and the yearning for a more profound Jewish experience would all become part of the new landscape that we call the modern-day Messianic community!

Revival was in the air. It created new institutions and breathed new life into older ones, including the Messianic movement. The two older and most influential organizations changed their names. The American Hebrew Christian Alliance became the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America in 1975, and its international umbrella, the International Hebrew Christian Alliance, eventually changed to the International Messianic Jewish Alliance.

This renewal deeply impacted Chosen People Ministries and the heroic efforts of great missionaries to the Jewish people serving with Your Mission to the Jewish People. Pioneers such as Eliezer Urbach, Ruth Wardell, and others who led many Jewish people to the Lord were responsible for training many of the leaders of the modern Messianic community.

The Jewish missions agencies had extensive roles in rescue and relief during the Holocaust and post-Holocaust period. They also grew, expanding vision, and reaching out to the Jewish people living in North and South America, the former Soviet Union and ultimately to Israel.

New ministries emerged during this post-Holocaust period and included Messianic congregations and associations of congregations, new mission agencies, publishing houses, media-based ministries, and much more! The expansion of the Messianic community reflects the growth of the post-Holocaust Messianic movement and continues to do so today. Simply put, thousands upon thousands of Jewish people started believing in Jesus from the late 1960s until our present day…and the movement continues to grow!

The number of Jewish believers, congregations, properties owned, funds raised, trained ministry leaders, books produced, academic programs and institutions, conferences, and the prominence of Messianic Jewish leaders are all telltale signs of the growth of the community.

Today, we find ourselves amidst a flourishing and dynamic Messianic Jewish community that accounts for hundreds of thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus across the globe. Congregations, ministries, and missions like Chosen People Ministries are thriving and seeing fruit from their labor.

But this is just the beginning, as we know the Lord has great plans for His chosen people in the days ahead. As my good friend Joel Rosenberg says, “We are headed toward a Romans 11:25–29 future.” I agree and believe that more and more Jewish people around the world will come to the Lord as we draw closer to His Second Coming! As Paul wrote,

“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” (Romans 11:25–26).

Thanks for your support and prayers!

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch

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The Great Objection

Shalom, dear friend!

I still remember the day when I led an outreach team to support a concert by a Messianic singing group on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus. The school had (and still has) one of the largest Jewish student populations in California, and Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States.

It was a beautiful, sunny California day. We were setting up the sound equipment and getting ready for the concert when I noticed a few yellow school buses pulling up close to the stage. Out from the buses came almost one hundred teenagers wearing yarmulkes, white shirts, and black pants, with fringes extending from under their shirts, and at least a dozen rabbis or schoolteachers milled about. They turned out to be from the largest Orthodox yeshiva (Jewish parochial school) in the Los Angeles area. It seemed that some ultra-Orthodox rabbis wanted to bring classes of their young men to observe the concert.

I had the opportunity to speak with some of the teachers and rabbis who told me that they came to protest the concert by making their presence known. They wanted to show the Jewish UCLA students there was an alternative to what Messianic Jews believe, and even hoped to persuade some to become more religious.

The music started, and lots of UCLA students gathered. Then, all of a sudden, a couple of other adults from the crowd who were not part of the Orthodox Jewish group began shouting and causing a ruckus. It turned out that I knew a few of these men; they belonged to the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a radical organization started by Rabbi Meir Kahane in Brooklyn that uses violence to protect the Jewish people from antisemitism. They were planning to do whatever they could to disrupt the concert.

In the middle of the event, one of the JDL members shouted, “Believing in Jesus is like eating a ham and cheese sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah!” That statement grabbed my attention, and though it made me smile, I took it very seriously! It shows just how wide the chasm between Jewish people and Jesus really is in the minds of many Jewish people.

They caused some further mischief during the performance, but the presentation of the gospel through music still went pretty well. We had some great personal conversations with UCLA students. I also continued my discussions with a few of the teachers and rabbis from the Orthodox yeshiva while dozens of their young students surrounded us and heard what I had to say about Jesus.

That concert—and statement about the ham sandwich—were important character- and strategy-shaping events in my young missionary career. They reminded me that even though most Jewish people who are religious oppose our faith in Jesus, there are others who are seeking, and some who are curious. Sometimes the gospel goes out with greater power in the face of opposition!

THE GREAT OBJECTION

If there were one central objection to belief in Jesus held by most Jewish people, it is the common misunderstanding that when a Jewish person believes in Jesus, he or she is no longer Jewish.

This objection to the gospel is serious and not quickly answered through an intelligently written tract, book, or winsome answer. A response to this accusation is impossible without showing living proof that the charge is false.

My parents raised me to believe the Great Objection—Jesus is not for the Jews!

The basic theological challenges keeping Jewish people from believing in Jesus are difficult enough to answer. For example, Jewish people do not believe in God’s triune nature or incarnation; Judaism teaches that, as God is spirit, it is impossible for Him to clothe Himself in physical form. This teaching ignores prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures such as Isaiah 7:14. We have good answers to these questions, but these types of conversations usually come later in the relationship. The real challenge is getting the conversation started.

After two thousand years of bad history between Christians and Jews, my people are taught to stay away from the gospel and avoid or ignore Jesus. Most of my fellow Jewish people are also encouraged to reject Jewish people like me who believe He is the promised Messiah.

YOU CAN BE JEWISH AND BELIEVE IN JESUS

So, what can we do to alleviate the Jewish community’s fears about Jesus? How can we help Jewish people understand that Jewish believers in Jesus appreciate their Jewishness as fulfilled in the Messiah?

The Apostle Paul, one of the most well-known Jewish believers in history, certainly appreciated his Jewishness. He wrote to the Roman believers and told them that he was Jewish and believed in Jesus. “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Rom. 11:1).

Our founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, who came from a Hungarian Orthodox Jewish background, kept the festivals of Israel and believed that tradition was positive as long as it did not distract from the purity of the gospel message. Rabbi Cohn demonstrated that you can be 100 percent Jewish and 100 percent a follower of Jesus the Messiah!

Your Mission to the Jewish People continues this powerful pattern. We celebrate the holidays (especially as they point to Jesus), plant Messianic congregations, and encourage Jewish believers to do all they can to remain Jewish and keep good relationships with their families and the Jewish community. It is our goal to live among our Jewish people and to invalidate the accusation, “If you believe in Jesus, you are no longer Jewish.”

As Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised” (1 Cor. 7:18). Jewish followers of Jesus are still part of the Jewish community. In one way or another, we need to find ways to identify with our fellow Jewish people. Otherwise, we inadvertently confirm the message of our critics that Jews who believe in Jesus are no longer Jewish.

Our lives are the best argument against the Great Objection!

But you can help too by showing the Jewish community that true Christians love the Jewish people because they love the God of the Bible and recognize that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Most Jewish people do not know how supportive Christians are of Israel.

We can help you in your ministry if you know Jewish believers in Jesus. Take a look at the website http://www.ifoundshalom.com, and you will discover the testimonies of more than one hundred Messianic Jews. You will laugh, cry, and be encouraged by their courageous faith!

I hope you will encourage the Jewish believers you know to be like Paul and remain actively Jewish.

Your understanding of our ministry and your prayers and love mean so much to us! Thank you for letting me share a little more about the ways in which we serve the Lord among the Jewish people.

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch

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What is Next for Israel?

Dear friend of God’s chosen people,

It is my joy to introduce you to Dr. Michael Rydelnik, the director of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the radio host for Open Line on Moody Radio, which airs every Saturday at 9:00 am. Chosen People Ministries has enjoyed the service of dozens of Moody Jewish Studies graduates working on our staff in the United States, Israel, and worldwide!

Michael is a dear friend of mine who came to know the Lord through Chosen People Ministries. His wife, Eva, has served on the Chosen People Ministries staff for multiple decades.

I asked Michael if we could share his article, which focuses on why Israel is evidence of the reality of God and the truth of the Scriptures! Scripture often calls Israel a “witness” or a “light to the nations.” These names capture Israel’s fundamental calling to bring blessings to the world. This call is clearly depicted in Genesis 12:1–3 when God told Abraham that it would be through Israel that all the world’s nations would be blessed. Jesus relayed something similar to the woman at the well when He said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

Today, Israel is blessing others as the “vaccine nation,” leading the world in the percentage of citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 and providing invaluable information about the vaccine. Israel is often a shining example in some unexpected ways!

I know Dr. Rydelnik’s teaching will spiritually enrich you! And as always, thank you for your faithful prayers, love, and support for YOUR Mission to the Jewish People.

Your brother in Messiah,

Mitch

Is the Modern State of Israel the Fulfillment of Prophecy?

by Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Even if we concede for the moment that the Jewish people’s continuing presence is evidence for the reliability of the Bible, we are well within our rights to raise other concerns. What, for example, is the connection between the Jewish people and the highly contested real estate in the Middle East that makes up modern-day Israel? For some, the relationship between God’s covenant promise to preserve the Jewish people and the equally emphasized “Promised Land” is highly problematic. Today even some committed Jews and Christians may wonder what relationship the present day State of Israel has with the land it sits on. In 1948, varying numbers of Orthodox Jews were horrified that anyone could even consider a Jewish state based upon modern notions of nationality in place of a kingdom under the Messiah’s reign. This sentiment persists today.

Yet, politics aside, it cannot be denied that not only have the children of Israel endured despite the harsh treatment they have received, but against all odds, after 2,000 years of exile, the Jewish people have once again returned to the Land of Israel as the biblical prophets promised they would. The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when God would draw His people back to Israel. Although centuries of dispersion caused this aspiration to retreat into the far background of Jewish life, it never fully disappeared. If nothing else, the hope that is voiced every year during Passover—“Next year in Jerusalem!”— serves as an annual reminder of the Jewish people’s lost heritage.

So unlikely did a realistic restoration of the Jews to their Land seem that throughout church history, Christians, for the most part, could not conceive of a literal fulfillment of this promise. Therefore, many believers in Jesus interpreted these prophecies figuratively or historically—if they thought of them at all. However, some believers in the nineteenth century did indeed take the promise of a return literally and began to anticipate a Jewish return to the Land of Israel. Thus, you could say that what has become known as Christian or biblical Zionism was birthed at the same time or even earlier than rising Jewish aspirations for modern statehood promoted by Theodore Herzl.

Statehood and the Promise of the Bible

Is the existence of the modern State of Israel a further validation of Scripture’s reliability along the same lines as that of the Jewish people’s continuing presence in the world? Consider the following conditions set out in the scriptural record.

First of all, a national spiritual regeneration by turning to Jesus is not a biblical prerequisite for a major movement of Jewish people returning to and possessing the Land of Israel. In fact, the prophet Zechariah indicated the Jewish people would turn to God, through the Messiah, only after returning to Israel (Zech.12:10; 13:1). Likewise, the prophet Ezekiel stated God’s promise, “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24). The passage continues, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean…. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:25–26). Note that the spiritual regeneration of Israel follows the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land. Thus regathered, Israel will, as a nation, turn in faith toward the promised Messiah.

Second, the Bible predicts Israel would return to the Land in stages. Ezekiel 37 contains the stark and unforgettable vision of a valley of dry bones. The bones come to life in stages: first sinews on the bones, then flesh, then skin, and finally, the breath of life (Ezek. 37:6–10). Then God tells Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezek. 37:11). This vivid depiction of the Jewish people’s restoration to their Promised Land is well in keeping with what is actually occurring. The regathering does not occur instantaneously; rather, it is a process culminating when the nation as a whole receives the Messiah according to Jewish expectation.

The dry bones represent Israel in exile, without hope. The process of the bones coming together with sinew, flesh, and skin refers to the successive waves of returning Jews before Israel’s rebirth. This is, in fact, how the Jewish people have returned to the Land. There were five separate aliyot (immigration waves) from 1881 to 1939, returning Jewish people from Europe to the Promised Land. After Israel’s birth in 1948, an estimated one million European Jewish survivors of the Holocaust came to Israel, followed by a majority of the 800,000 Jewish people driven from their homes in Arab countries. More recently, 1.5 million Jewish people fled the Former Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel. These immigration waves show how the Jewish people have returned in stages. The body without breath represents unbelieving Israel, restored but not yet regenerated. Finally, according to this passage, God breathes life into these bodies, representing the day when all Israel turns to the Messiah.

Third, the Bible predicts Israel would return to her Land through persecution. The Hebrew Scripture says of Israel, “For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers” (Jer. 16:15). God will use “fishermen” and “hunters” to pursue His people back to Israel (Jer. 16:16). This metaphor for persecution has been literally fulfilled in Israel’s rebirth. Since the birth of modern Zionism, the primary motivation for return to the Land of Israel has been anti-Jewish persecution. In the last hundred years, Czarist pogroms, Polish economic discrimination, Nazi genocide, Arab hatred, Soviet repression, and more recently, an alarming rise in European and North American antisemitism have driven Jewish people back to their homeland.

Fourth, the Bible predicts that, after a period of exile, the children of Israel would return to reestablish national identity, thus setting the stage for the arrival of the Messiah and the consummation of history as we know it. At that time, the Messiah will deliver Israel from her enemies (Zech. 14:3).

Ask yourself, do the facts of history—particularly the emergence of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East—line up sufficiently with the predictions of the Hebrew Bible to form a credible connection? Since Israel has returned in unbelief, in stages, through persecution, the establishment of the modern State of Israel likely fulfills the predictions of the ancient Hebrew prophets and sets the stage for events yet to come.

The return to Zion is powerful evidence of the truth of Scripture. It is beyond remarkable that God would restore a dispersed and persecuted people to their Land after two thousand years of exile. Given the relationship between these events and the predictions of the Bible, would you say it is more or less likely that this has truly come about by the hand of God?

And if the above is true—what impact should this have on our lives? Certainly, we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)! Also, if the return of Jesus is linked to the Jewish people turning to Him, then how should we view Jewish evangelism today? This question is answered by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:11–29! As God’s people, we must do all we can to reach Jewish people with the message of the gospel!

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Renewing Our Hope in Jewish Evangelism

Dear friend in the Messiah,

Shalom in His grace!

Your Mission to the Jewish People recently enjoyed a fruitful Passover season. The last few weeks have been filled with opportunities to share the message about the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Thousands attended our Messiah in the Passover digital event on March 30.

We have also been in the midst of a Messiah in the Passover online campaign and have met tens of thousands of people interested in Jewish evangelism. Hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish people requested our free booklet, Passover: A Time for Redemption.

We have also created an online series of small-group evangelistic Bible studies, which are going well. By God’s grace, we have seen Jewish people come to faith through these studies.

We could not do any of this without your faithful prayers and generous support. On behalf of our staff family across North America and in nineteen countries worldwide—THANK YOU!

You are such an important part of our mission to bring Jewish people to Jesus.

WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE?

I know that some of you are new to Chosen People Ministries. It is important to me to make sure you understand why we share the gospel with Jewish people day in and day out.

The Apostle Paul recounted his struggle to understand why his fellow Jewish people did not embrace Jesus as their Messiah. For example, in Romans 9, we learn of Paul’s burden for the Jewish people:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever, Amen. (Romans 9:1–5)

Paul said that he was, in essence, willing to go to hell so that Jewish people might go to heaven. He had an immense burden for his own people. In Romans 10:1, we learn about Paul’s desire to pray for the Jewish people. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”

In chapter eleven, Paul concluded that God had not rejected the Jewish people. There is hope for their salvation in the present age and in the age to come. Paul declared in Romans 11:1 that he himself was a Jew. Paul was living evidence of a faithful remnant!

Paul reminded his readers that God did not reject Israel and that there is a remnant of Jewish people who believe and will believe in Jesus. God preserves a remnant in every generation. This remnant doctrine is fundamental in Scripture and is mentioned from Genesis through Revelation.

The idea of a remnant reaches back to the Hebrew Scriptures. Noah is a biblical type of remnant when God preserved him and his family from the flood. Also, in the negotiations between God and Abraham, we learn that God was willing to preserve a city, Sodom, for the sake of the remnant.

When Elijah thought he was the last man to stand up for righteousness, God showed Elijah that he was not alone because God had preserved a remnant, 7,000 men who had not bowed the knee to Ba’al.

This remnant theology is still true today! I, too, am a Jewish believer in Jesus, and there is a remnant of Jews today who are accepting the gift of salvation through our various ministries.

Jewish believers in Jesus are the modern-day remnant.

Here are five key ideas drawn from Romans chapters nine through eleven:

1. God will be faithful to the Jewish people who have been given the gifts of the law, the covenants, the promises, and from whom came the Messiah (Romans 9:1–5).

2. There is no way of salvation outside of accepting Jesus the Messiah for either Jew or Gentile (Romans 10:1–4).

3. God will save a remnant of Jewish people in every age who will be faithful to His Word. Jewish followers of God and His Messiah will always be in the minority until the very end of the age (Romans 11:1–5).

4. The turning of the Jewish people to Jesus will be a sign of His imminent return (Romans 11:25).

5. Israel’s future is bright as God will keep His promises to Abraham and save His people, establish His kingdom in the land of promise, and reveal the Messiah to Israel (Romans 11:28–29).

The Apostle Paul looked toward a future remnant and added, “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 Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25–27).

Sharing Messiah with Jewish people ought to be an evangelistic priority today, just as it was for Paul, not a second thought.

Jewish evangelism must never become the great omission of the Great Commission.

WHAT DID PAUL MEAN WHEN HE SAID: “MAKE JEWISH PEOPLE JEALOUS?”

Paul calls upon the Church to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy:

I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. (Romans 11:11)

Believers, and especially Gentile followers of Jesus, are called by God to bring the good news of the Jewish Messiah to the Jewish people.

Paul affirmed that, through Israel’s national rejection of her Messiah, salvation had come to the Gentiles to make Jewish people jealous. This is true today as God wants to use the faithful witness of everyday Gentile believers to lead Jewish people to faith in Jesus the Messiah.

So, dear friend in the Messiah, how can a Gentile believer make a Jewish person jealous? There are several ways to do this, but I believe that the most powerful testimony a believer can have to a Jewish person is by demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit.

When Gentile believers display a combination of the fruit of the Spirit and an understanding of God’s covenant love for Israel, Jewish people will be more likely to become jealous of the relationship Gentile believers have with God through Jesus the Messiah.

PUTTING ROMANS 1:16 INTO PRACTICE

For many Christians, the keystone verse about Jewish evangelism is Romans 1:16: “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.” It is the clarion call for Jewish evangelism. This passage is clear!

As followers of the Jewish Messiah, we should intentionally seek out Jewish people to befriend and reach for Jesus. This is for the benefit of our Jewish family and friends and because we want to participate in God’s plan for the ages.

After all, the Bible teaches that when Jewish people turn to Jesus, then Jesus will return (Matthew 23:37–39, Zechariah 12:10)!

Chosen People Ministries—Your Mission to the Jewish People—can help you reach the Jewish people:

1. We can visit your church and speak on topics related to Jewish people and Jewish evangelism. Please tell your pastor about us.

2. We can provide books, tracts, and online materials to help train and inspire you to reach Jewish people for Jesus and for you to pass along to your Jewish friends and coworkers.

3. We can meet your Jewish friends through Zoom, in person, and by email, if you wish.

4. You can pray for us as we share the gospel in Israel, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many other cities across our great country.

May the Lord fill you with joy and the hope of His coming when we will hear the blowing of the trumpet and cry of the Jewish remnant, “Blessed is He who comes in the name the Lord” (Matthew 23:37–39).

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch

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Seeing God in the Darkness of Plagues

Shalom and greetings in the Messiah.

I pray this newsletter finds you hopeful in the Lord. Although the coronavirus still plagues us, we patiently await God’s help and healing.

In the darkness, the Light of the World continues to shine brightly. As David wrote in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” I cannot imagine a more comforting word in the entire Bible for these days.

I hope you have sensed the Lord’s presence with you even amid profound difficulties and loss. I have been reading the Sermon on the Mount in my quiet time, and the second beatitude has impacted me significantly, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). If you are mourning, may the Lord comfort you.

Passover Is Around the Corner

We will be observing Passover at the end of this month. Since plagues will be on the minds of Jewish people and Christians who study the Hebrew Scriptures, I thought I would share some thoughts about the ten plagues.

There are many sparkling gems of truth to be found in studying the plagues. Even the Hebrew terms for the various plagues are meaningful. Although the actual Hebrew word for “plague” is only found once in the book of Exodus, the variety of terms used helps us understand their nature.

A Brief Summary of the Terms for Plagues and their Meaning

The plagues narrative begins in Exodus 7:1–5. There are five different references to the coming plagues in this passage.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”

The Bible refers to the miraculous and revelatory nature of the plagues along with their punitive purposes. Through the plagues, God revealed both His power and character to the Egyptians and the Hebrews.

Some of the terms, such as “signs” and “wonders,” are almost always associated in the Hebrew Bible with the release of God’s power designed to turn unbelievers toward Him in repentance and faith. Similarly, God used the plagues to reveal His holiness, justice, and love, especially toward His chosen people. Have you ever thought of the plagues themselves as evangelistic in nature?

Ezekiel 36, a prophecy we see partially fulfilled today as the Jewish people are back in the Land in unbelief, parallels Exodus 7:5. Moses predicts a future day of deliverance and restoration for Israel and the Jewish people: “‘I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land’” (Ezekiel 36:23–24).

Both passages make it clear that one of God’s purposes in bringing the Jewish people out of captivity to the Promised Land was to be a miraculous sign of God’s faithfulness. The regathering of the Jewish people to the Holy Land is an obvious miracle that should help the Gentile nations see what God has done and turn in faith to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Ten Big Ones!

The recitation of the ten plagues is an integral part of the Passover Seder and one of the most memorable moments of the meal. As a child, I always looked forward to reciting the plagues. Traditionally, Jewish people dip their pinky finger into a glass of sweet red wine and place a drop of it onto their plates as they shout the name of each of the ten plagues.

The recalling of the plagues is a way to remember the story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. One traditional reason for why we drop the wine on our plates is that the drops represent the reduction of our joy, symbolized by the sweet wine—one drop for each plague that fell upon the Egyptians. Therefore, we do not rejoice in the judgment of the Egyptians, as Jewish tradition teaches mercy, but rather we should reduce our joy because of their suffering.

This unique part of the Seder reminds the Jewish people that God brought plagues upon others in mysterious harmony with His will. He used plagues to move both the Egyptians and Jewish people to action. Biblical plagues are purposeful, and, while causing terrible suffering, they are used by God for His divine purposes.

There are many biblical examples of plagues besides the ten in Exodus. God heaped affliction upon Job, the prophets, and many others. Sometimes, God caused the plagues, and other times He allowed them to happen for His divine purposes. For example, Naaman and Miriam (Moses’ sister) were both plagued with leprosy for God’s holy purposes and His glory.

Plagues, however, are not always punitive. “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:3). Like the healing of the blind man in John chapter nine, plagues and disease afford God opportunities to reveal His glory, goodness, and redemptive power.

COVID-19 and the Ten Plagues

Now, let us explore some ways we might better understand the role of the current COVID-19 pandemic in the plan of God. I am not suggesting that this virus was imposed directly by God as were the plagues in Exodus. Pharaoh hardened his heart, and God brought the ten plagues upon the Egyptians because of their leader’s misconduct. However, there is no reason to believe that the spread of the coronavirus is a divine punishment. The Bible never mentions the coronavirus, the Black Plague, or the Spanish Flu. Therefore, I believe the adage, “Where the Bible is silent, so am I.”

On the other hand, we cannot deny that God used plagues in biblical history as judgments and promises to do so in the future. Most believers would agree that plagues are signs of Jesus’ Second Coming. Luke wrote, “Then [Jesus] continued by saying to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven’” (Luke 21:10–11).

COVID-19 awakens us to the real possibility that plagues, along with other signs, will be part of a future season of endtime judgment before Jesus’ return. Plagues upon humanity are also part of the traditional Jewish view of the end times. This shared belief has caused some openness to Jesus on the part of ultra-religious Jewish people around the globe.

We can only hope and pray that our broken and sinful world might look beyond the suffering of today to see and believe that God longs to redeem us from the plagues of life. He is gracious and keeps His promises but is also serious about the judgment to come. While we need to proclaim the good news, we should not forget that there is also bad news for those who do not turn to the Messiah. Many Jewish people recognize this reality today, and we have, by His grace, seen quite a few Jewish people turn to Jesus during the pandemic.

Hopefully, we will look back one day and see more clearly the greater good our heavenly Father accomplished through this epidemiological trial. We pray that blessings will come for everyone throughout this time of pain and suffering (Romans 8:28) and that we will remember lessons learned in darkness when we return to the light.

I pray that the Lord will use this experience to shape our character, reorder our priorities, and draw us closer to Him.

Thank you for your love and prayers. I know you will enjoy reading about all the good the Lord has done in our midst during this difficult time. His miracles shine even brighter in dark times!

Blessings and Happy Passover,
Mitch

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Filed under Holidays & Festivals, Passover, Uncategorized

Ministry to the Next Generation

Dear Friends,

Shalom in His wonderful grace. I hope this note finds you healthy, safe, and filled with His joy! Your Mission to the Jewish People is doing well, and God is blessing our ministries among God’s chosen people worldwide. We are so grateful for your partnership!

I am greatly encouraged by the gifted and dedicated next-generation leaders God has given to Chosen People Ministries. We have done all we can to intentionally recruit, disciple, and train a younger generation of missionaries to the Jewish people.

These efforts offer a full range of ministries to children and younger adults. Chosen People Ministries has a long legacy of reaching the next generation. Our founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, was a diligent evangelist and teacher, and a caring father to his children. His love of youth prompted him to begin summer camps for boys and girls in upstate New York and Connecticut.

As a young man, I was blessed by Chosen People Ministries when I came to the Lord at nineteen. God used the Mission to disciple me as a young believer from a very Jewish home. They even paid my way through Bible college. Missionaries from Chosen People Ministries also discipled a Jewish, believing teenage girl who later became my wife! We are both forever grateful for the missionaries and programs that enabled us to grow in our faith and give the rest of our lives to serving Him among our people!

We want to pass these opportunities along to future generations.

Today, our mission reaches children, teenagers, and young adults worldwide in many ways!

YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY—A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

MUCHAN (MOO-KHAN)

Chosen People Ministries’ most extensive young adult outreach is called Muchan, which in Hebrew means “ready.” Muchan is an international conference for Messianic Jewish and Gentile believers ages eighteen to thirty-five. Muchan lasts five days, and past locations have included Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Prague, and Rome. Barring a pandemic, we hold these conferences every other year. About one hundred fifty young adults attend. Last time, we had about forty young adults from Israel and many others who could not easily afford this opportunity. We underwrite quite a bit of the expenses, but it is worth it!

LIVING WATERS

The Living Waters program is a retreat for Israeli young adults that has been going strong for fifteen years and counting. The retreat, which usually has fifteen to twenty congregations represented, includes Bible teaching and plenty of fellowship and worship. We also offer instruction on evangelism and apologetics, biblical financial management, and pastoral counseling. We put a hold on bringing Living Waters USA into fruition in 2020, but we hope to schedule the summer event in 2022 and are already planning for our next Living Waters when Israel is out from under its serious lockdowns. Once again, we provide funding for this disciple-making event.

THE ZULA LODGE

Located on the South Island of New Zealand, Israelis find out about this program by word of mouth and various websites, especially Facebook. Most of the Israelis we host at this facility come after their army service (22–24 years old). Last season, Zula Lodge logged more than 5,000 bed nights for Israelis, and every one of them heard the gospel.

Israeli believers also volunteer at the Zula Lodge. We choose a number of young Israelis who have completed their time in the Israel Defense Forces and are mature in their faith. They live in New Zealand for three months to serve at the Zula Lodge and have the opportunity to minister to traveling Israelis and learn the basics of backpacker ministry.

We have the joy of also sending short-term mission teams from Israel to spend time at Zula Lodge where they spend their days serving and talking to fellow younger Israelis about the Lord!

THE CHARLES L. FEINBERG CENTER FOR MESSIANIC JEWISH STUDIES

This graduate program offers an accredited Master of Divinity degree in Messianic Jewish Studies. We designed the curriculum to train those called to fulltime Jewish ministry. This dynamic program is a joint venture between Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and Chosen People Ministries.

The degree focuses on the biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek), exegesis of the Scriptures, and courses to help students better understand Jewish people. Students address essential matters of theology and Jewish practice through intensive study of the Torah (Jewish law), culture, and practical methods of reaching Jewish people with the gospel. The program is based in Brooklyn, and students are directly involved with Jewish evangelism throughout their educational program. We believe in learning by doing!

We now have thirty graduates serving the Lord among the Jewish people! The Feinberg Center is one of our most effective and fruitful investments in the future of Jewish evangelism.

Currently, we have students from five nations around the world studying to be missionaries to the Jewish people back in their home countries. We underwrite much of this program, including housing for young families in Brooklyn. Your help for the Feinberg program is critical.

UNIVERSITY AND STUDENT PROGRAMS

HOUSE OF LIVING WATERS

The first House of Living Waters began in 2019 in the East Village near New York University (NYU), which has the largest number of Jewish students in the United States. Four young men moved into a rented apartment to build a Messianic Jewish presence on campus by hosting book tables, weekly Bible studies, and Sabbath dinners.

Unfortunately, the program ended early in May 2020 due to COVID-19. Despite its short duration, the House of Living Waters has already proven to be fruitful.

We are eager to relaunch and even expand it as an ongoing ministry! Many Jewish students have heard the gospel through these young people, and we look forward to starting again this fall. Thank God, a foundation with a great vision for this work has helped considerably with the funding. However, we still need your help to cover the additional expenses.

OUTREACH ISRAEL & EXPERIENCE ISRAEL (SHORT-TERM MISSIONS)

Outreach Israel is a three-week service-based program in the Holy Land led by our staff in Israel. A dozen young college students usually participate, primarily from the United States.

Experience Israel is for young adults who are typically post-college up to age thirty-five. The participants share the gospel with younger Israelis through beach ministry, camping programs, and more.

COLLEGE INTERNSHIPS

Summer internships are available in various ministry areas, including evangelism, digital media, videography or photography, and finance. Our interns typically come to us with a specific area of Jewish interest, but we also offer a wide range of field experience for those who are unsure or want it all!

CHILDREN’S CAMPS

CAMP KESHER

Kesher is the Hebrew word for “connection,” which is what Camp Kesher is all about. Connecting youth to Jesus, each other, and the larger Messianic Jewish community is our utmost priority. We currently host Camp Kesher on the East and West Coasts, as well as a winter camp in Maryland called “Kesher Ice.” Many camp counselors are Jewish Studies students at our Feinberg Center or Moody Bible Institute and are often members of Chosen People Ministries congregations. We canceled last year’s camps because of COVID-19, but we did have some great online programs for young people. We are already planning to try and restart in-person camping as we are able this summer, and we (and the kids) are excited!

CHILDREN’S CAMP ISRAEL/KESHER ISRAEL

We had more than six hundred children attend our Israeli summer camps in 2019. Many of these children come from Russian Jewish Israeli families and are not yet believers. Alexi’s (not his real name) story illustrates the organic flow within our various youth programs. He was ten years old when he began attending Kesher Israel. As a teenager, he became a helper and then a counselor. He went on to help lead our camps, and then in 2019, he came to New York City to be part of the House of Living Waters program. He is currently attending Moody Bible Institute for Jewish Studies and is on part-time staff with Chosen People Ministries. Alexi plans to become a full-time staff member in Israel. He is a beautiful example of how we strengthen the future of Jewish ministry by investing in the future of children and teens for the Lord. 

We ask Israeli parents to help pay for their kids’ camping programs, but many are from poor homes, especially some of the Russian immigrants. Your help for our Israeli camping ministries is deeply appreciated!

THE NEXT GENERATION AND YOU

As always, your prayers are essential to sustaining and prospering our outreach to the next generation!

Thank you for your faithful concern and care for the children, teenagers, and young adults who are the future men and women at the forefront of Jewish evangelism in the twenty-first century.

Yours in Messiah,
Mitch

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Filed under Christian University, evangelism, Israel, Messianic Jewish, New York City