Is Jesus everything? by David Brickner, executive director God told Abraham, “Also I give to specific promises that are being hat is grey and furry “ spiritualized: the promised preservation you and your descendants after you and has a long bushy tail W and beady little eyes?” A long pause in the Sunday school class was finally broken as one child volunteered, “I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.” of the Jewish people (ethnic Israel) as God’s chosen people, and the promise of a specific land as an inheritance for the people of Israel. You may have heard that the promise to preserve ethnic Israel is fulfilled because Jesus is That child’s answer illustrates an important truth. Jesus is central to all of God’s purposes in our world today. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises concerning the coming of Messiah. In Him all the typology of the Feasts of the Lord come together. Without the coming of Christ, God’s salvation story would have no beginning, middle or end. As Paul tells us: “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell” (Colossians 1:19). All these things are true. And yet. ALSO I GIVE TO YOU AND YOUR DESCENDANTS AFTER YOU THE LAND IN WHICH YOU ARE A STRANGER, ALL THE LAND OF CANAAN, AS AN EVERLASTING POSSESSION; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD. The all-important reality of Jesus does not make Him “everything.” That is to say, a squirrel is a squirrel. The point? Israel is Israel, and the promises made to Israel pertain to Israel. I say this because some Bible teachers, theologians and pastors teach that God’s specific promises regarding physical places and physical people should now be seen as spiritual promises that have been fulfilled in Jesus. This view is increasingly popular concerning two important and very GENESIS 17:8 the true Israel. Likewise, the promise of a specific land inheritance for Israel is completely fulfilled because Jesus is also the Land of Israel. I beg to differ and I want to point out that when it comes to God’s promises to Israel, “it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.” the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8). This is one of numerous times God promised the biblical land of Canaan, Israel, to Abraham and his descendants as “an everlasting possession.” Yet one popular New Testament professor at Wheaton College teaches: “The New Testament locates in Christ all the expectations once held for Sinai and Zion, Bethel and Jerusalem. For a Christian to return to a Jewish territoriality is to deny fundamentally what has transpired in the incarnation.”(Gary M. Burge: Jesus and the Land, p.129) I find it incredible that God’s everlasting promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are herein reduced to “Jewish territoriality.” This is not only dismissive toward Jewish people, but more importantly it implies that God never intended to fulfill His original promises. Burge’s reinterpretation shifts the goal posts entirely with the coming of Christ, as though this had been God’s purpose all along. It bothers me that many of my own Jewish people attribute Israel’s return to the ancient homeland to human effort rather than divine intervention. I’m even more troubled that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ see modern Israel as nothing more than “Jewish territoriality” and no testimony at all to God’s faithfulness. By denying the viability of modern Israel as a fulfillment of God’s promises, they unknowingly rob God of His glory and undermine confidence in His faithfulness. And yet one of the most prolific and popular Christian theologians today, N.T. Wright, has done just that in his book Paul and the Faithfulness of God. It is difficult to summarize an argument that N.T. Wright takes literally a thousand pages to make, but in the end he is saying that Jesus has replaced the people of Israel by fulfilling the task God gave to the nation, hence only those who follow Jesus are the true Jews and collectively the new Israel in Him. Wright may argue that this approach is not the same thing as supersessionism or “replacement theology,” but he winds up in exactly the same place: there is no longer a place in God’s plan for ethnic Israel. Wright relies heavily on Paul’s statement: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:28–9). But as theologian Ben Witherington states in response to Wright’s argument: “To my view, when Paul refers to Jews he means Jews, and when he refers to “Israel” he means his fellow Jews in their identity before God.” (j.mp/wrightbk) In other words, Paul isn’t announcing a change in God’s promise or plan; He is saying that his own Jewish people’s ethnicity is not enough to make them true followers of God. To see it otherwise is to ignore verses such as Romans 9:3–4: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.” Those promises Paul refers to include the following: “Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar.” (The Lord of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:35–7). God’s promises are not and will not be circumvented or reinterpreted regarding Jews and Israel any more than the sun, the moon and the stars will cease to exist. Only when we get this straight in our minds and hearts can we all be certain that His promises to each of us are yes and amen. If we accept the reinterpretations of God’s promises, we undermine the very basis for our confidence in the faithfulness of God.* The Scriptures never identify the Messiah as replacing the people of Israel, but rather as fulfilling the task God gave His people to be a light to the nations. There is a big difference. This is so extremely important. Despite dark clouds that loom on the horizon, despite efforts of evil men who lead Hamas and ISIS, God’s promises for a future and a hope for Israel and for all of us will be fulfilled. Let us redouble our confidence and faith in Him and in His Scriptures. No, Jesus isn’t everything, but because of Him, everything God has promised us will surely come to pass. David Brickner is also an author, public speaker and avid hiker. For more about David, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church, see jewsforjesus.org/david-brickner *Please see David’s article, “Trading Spouses” to dig deeper into this reality: j4j.co/spouses We exist to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide. Jews for Jesus international headquarters: 60 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-5895; phone: (415) 864-2600; email: [email protected]; web: jewsforjesus.org; also working in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom; editor: Ruth Rosen; art director: Paige Saunders; design and illustration: David Yapp; ISSN 0740-5901 Volume 3:5775, November 2014; ©2014 onlinextras This month’s online edition at j4j.co/extras1114 includes: • downloadable gospel literature to share in November and December • videos and fun facts about our new trainees • hyperlink to take advantage of free shipping on Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged • our regular bonus features, “Hello Israel” and “So What” RECOMMENDED R E ADI N G We highly recommend Barry Horner’s Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged; it’s an important work on this critical topic. This month we are offering free shipping (through November 30, 2014); go to j4j.co/israelbook From all of us at Jews for Jesus, have a Happy Thanksgiving and please know that we are thanking God for you and your part in our ministry! A time sensitive opportunity! Invite your church congregation to experience the powerful redemption story of Christ within the Jewish tradition of Passover! We are currently filling calendar dates for our missionary speakers to deliver “Christ in the Passover” demonstrations in our annual nationwide tour beginning in March. Share this wonderful experience with your church family and start your own Passover tradition! Call us to schedule a missionary speaker (800) 366-5521 (M–F 8 A.M.–5 P.M. PST) or email: [email protected] prayer prompters Please pray for: salvation for Lynn, Jerry and Tina in Long Island; Shlomie in Sydney; Sandy and the others in David’s meet-up group in Washington, DC; Nelya, Arkady and Mila in Essen (pp. 4–5) grace and strength for new Jewish believer Meir in Tel Aviv, and that God enables the unnamed young man from the Orthodox community to believe and follow Yeshua as he has prayed to do, despite the certain opposition he will face (pp. 4–5) our new missionary trainees (pp. 6–7) a fruitful time of extra street outreach between Thanksgiving and the New Year God’s blessing as we invest in the next generation of Jews for Jesus wisdom in planning the next Behold Your God Israel outreach This month's banner photo is associate staff member Shmuel Abramson, who works part time with us while attending Bible school. (Photo by Karen Myers) “We are looking into the possibility of forming our own Meet-Up as well. Pray for God’s guidance as we continue to look into this avenue. Most of all, pray for many opportunities to share Messiah.” Long Island Susan Mendelson reports, “A Jewish-Gentile couple stopped by my literature table at a concert series called ‘Music Under the Stars.’ Neither was born again, though the Jewish husband has been playing gospel music in a band. When I asked him what he thought about Jesus, he admitted, ‘I don’t know’—and it sounded like he’s been thinking about it! The three of us spoke about getting together for coffee. PHOTO ©JEWS FOR JESUS/RACHEL FRIEDLANDER “As part of our exploration of the ‘Meet-Up’ world, I attended a group that is going through Amy Jill Levine’s book titled, The Misunderstood Jew. Levine, a Jewish New Testament scholar (from a non-Messianic perspective), attempts to help both Christians and Jews understand the Jewishness of Jesus. When I arrived, four others were in attendance, two of whom were Jewish non-believers. Sandy* (the “The nature of the Meet-Up made it quite natural to share my perspective on Jesus’ role in fulfilling the Jewish faith. Initially, my connection with Jews for Jesus stirred up a bit of controversy, but I had good opportunities to share with the group. Please keep these sessions in your prayers, and pray that God grant me discernment and boldness. Pray also that Sandy and the others would be drawn to the truth of Messiah as we read, and discuss Levine’s The Misunderstood Jew, along with her annotated version of the New Testament. May all those in attendance who do not yet understand come to know the One who has for so long been misunderstood. David moderator) explained that though Jewish, she has been fascinated with Jesus for a long time and was quite interested to read Levine’s work. It was exciting to be present as the group is focusing in on the person of Jesus. 4 “That same night a Jewish woman named Lynn stopped to take some literature and give me her phone number. Please pray that I can meet bits from the BRANCHES with her as well, and that she, Jerry and Tina all will continue to journey toward Him and come to a saving faith.” Editor’s note: Did you know that we have a website as a resource especially for Jewish-Gentile couples? If you or someone you know is interested, go to: jewishgentilecouples.com Sydney Jesse Townsend (who schedules our missionary speakers in Australia) reports, “Today a young man named Shlomie walked into our bookshop and remarked, ‘I’ve walked past your shop a thousand times and just felt like checking it out today.’ He was telling me about serving in the Israeli army, and how he and his partner were saved from enemy forces by a vision in the desert. Just then, a passing cyclist spat at the Israeli flag hanging in our window. Shlomie finished his story and was willing to hear about Yeshua (though he is not a believer . . . yet). Please be praying for both Shlomie and the cyclist, that the Lord will lead them to salvation.” Essen Dina Markova reports, “I called Nelya, a Jewish woman who said she didn’t want to talk about Jesus or the New Testament. But when I asked if she was interested in a Jewish calendar with weekly Torah portions, she said yes, and agreed to meet with me. “On Saturday we read Exodus 15:1–2, ‘The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation,’ I explained the connection between the Hebrew word “salvation” and the person of Yeshua (Jesus). I asked Nelya who she thought Yeshua was. She answered, ‘I can’t tell you exactly who he is, but maybe he’s the Messiah.’ By the end of our get-together, Nelya’s distrust of the New Testament was gone. “At another visit I sat down and read Exodus 10:1–13, 16 with Arkady, a Jewish man, and his wife, Mila. We agreed that the passage talked about the salvation of the Jewish first-born sons, and of the Jewish people’s redemption from Egypt—thanks to the sacrificial lamb’s blood on the doorposts. I pointed out that salvation takes place through sacrifice. I also mentioned that there is a “secret” haftorah portion, Isaiah 53, which used to be read in synagogues during the three-year reading cycle. Now there is only a one-year cycle and this passage has been cut from it. “I suggested Mila read Isaiah 53 aloud and asked who they thought it was describing. Mila said, ‘Do you want to say that this is Jesus?’ I answered, ‘There were rabbis, who didn’t doubt that it was about the Messiah.’ “Arkady said, ‘If something is “secret,” it is something they don’t want to talk about, and if that’s the case, I want to know about that “secret.”’ He didn’t have questions before, but now he wondered, ‘Maybe Yeshua is really the Messiah of Israel?’ “Please pray that God would continue to open the hearts of Nelya, Arkady, and Mila.” old, called and asked: “Do you believe that Yeshua is only Messiah, or also God?” I explained our faith and he said that he’s been reading the New Testament. He wanted more information but he couldn’t give an email address, so I directed him to our website. “A few hours later he called back to thank me. He had been to our website and read a lot of the information there. He added that he believes that Yeshua is the Messiah, and that He is Tel Aviv Igal Vender (one of our interns) reports, “I sent Meir the New Testament and the book, Y’shua, the Jewish way to say Jesus. When I called back and asked if he’d read them, he said that he’d read a few books from the New Testament. He also confessed that he and his neighbor had an argument that Avigail turned into a fight that resulted in him going to the hospital. I told him God. ‘What should I do?’ he asked, that when we call on Jesus and but was afraid even to tell me his surrender our hearts to Him, Jesus full name because of his religious gives us new life and new heart. I told background. I asked if he had prayed him that Jesus gives us inner peace to receive Jesus as his personal Savior and a relationship with God. It and Lord. He answered no, and was touched his heart and when I asked if eager to do so. I led him in prayer and he would like to receive Jesus, he then explained the importance of agreed and we prayed together. attending a believing congregation, Please pray for Meir, that our Lord will prayer, and Bible reading. I gave him bless and strengthen him.” my phone number and invited him to our congregation, but again he Avigail Rantanen reports, “I was answered that it is difficult to come on making phone calls and had tried Shabbat since he lived in a religious many people, but either people neighborhood. Please pray for this were not home or did not want to young man to become completely free talk. A bit discouraged, I asked my to have fellowship with believers and husband Markus to pray for me to to follow Yeshua.” have good conversations. Then *not their real names suddenly a religious man, 23 years PHOTO ©JEWS FOR JESUS Washington, DC David Liebman reports, “All of us here at the DC branch have been praying for renewed boldness and creativity in reaching the Jewish community of the greater Washington area. We have been participating in Jewish community centers, Hebrew language courses, Jewish learning classes and more. It seems that momentum is building, especially as we participate in Meet-Up groups. Meet-Up is an online networking group that brings people with common interests together. 55 We are excited about this year’s class of missionary trainees! This is your opportunity to meet them . . . and to hear how they’d like you to be praying for them. Melissa Weinisch You may remember, we introduced Melissa in January 2012 as an associate staff member . . . she was attending San Francisco State University at the time, and now that she’s graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications she’s joining us full-time! Melissa grew up in a Messianic Jewish home (her parents, Stewart and Shoshannah, serve with our New York branch) and came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) at the age of five. After high school, she toured with the Liberated Wailing Wall; she wrote as well as performed some of the songs on our Never Forget recording. Not long after her tour, Melissa moved to Los Angeles to work with the Jews for Jesus young adult ministry. There Melissa realized that her real passion was to see younger children experience God’s heart and love. “When I was little, my dad was a camp director, so I went with him to camp as early as I can remember. I LOVED camp. Literally, I believe I was made for camp. As I got older, I had the thought, ‘Oh I could do this for a living. I love it! But who does that? Whose job is it to do camp? That’s not real life.’” 6 But in November of 2010, Melissa was offered a position as a Children’s and Youth Worker, overseeing our West Coast Camp Gilgal program. She says, “It was like God placed my dream job in my lap! I am a second-generation believer who has a strong Jewish identity and has had to figure out what that means and doesn’t mean in relation to my faith in Jesus. I have a heart for these kids as they go through these things because I have been there. Please pray as I go through our missionary training, that whatever I gain I’ll be able to invest in the kids and families God has called me to serve.” Doug Drake Doug grew up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the son of a pastor. He was very involved in the Christian education classes at his father’s church and also in the church’s youth group. He attended Christian Life College in Mt. Prospect, IL and earned a degree in pastoral studies. Doug served as a youth pastor for a time, and also worked in hotel management. Heather Blecher, then a missionary with our Chicago branch, came into Doug’s life in the fall of 2011; they met at an arts festival in Rogers Park. Through Heather, Doug was introduced to the Messianic Jewish community and the mission of reaching Jewish people with the news of Messiah Yeshua. Doug and Heather were married in April of 2012. Doug began to help with the local Jews for Jesus young adult ministry and was accepted as a vocational missionary with Jews for Jesus in May of 2014. The Drakes are part of our South Florida branch, as Doug is receiving general missionary training from branch leader Robyn Wilk and Heather is ministering to Jewish college students from Miami to Palm Beach. Doug says, “I’m very excited about what Jesus has done in my life. His commission to us all is to be witnesses to His glory and that is why I am so glad to be a missionary with Jews for Jesus. Since I’m not Jewish, I have much to learn and retain over the next several months. It would be great if you would pray with me for perseverance and endurance as I learn all I can to fulfill my calling.” Eryn and Elizabeth Black Eryn grew up in a believing home near Baltimore, MD, with a Gentile father and Jewish mother. He was saved at an early age, and his family became very involved in local Messianic congregations. He grew up confident in his Jewish heritage and his faith in Jesus. In high school, Eryn was very active in his youth group. He went on to study film at the University of Maryland. After his first year, Eryn realized that the Lord was leading him elsewhere; after much prayer, he started attending Washington Bible College, where he graduated with a BA in theology. There he met Elizabeth who, while not Jewish, was absolutely passionate about Jewish evangelism. Elizabeth has also known the Lord since childhood; she grew up with many Jewish friends and so frequented synagogues, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and other traditional events. She made it a priority to share the news of the Messiah with her Jewish friends, and learned a great deal about Jewish culture and religion. In college, she attended Friday night services at a local synagogue and also went on mission trips to Israel. It was Elizabeth who challenged Eryn to consider a career in Jewish ministry. They graduated in 2008 and were married in 2009. They served with another Jewish ministry for three years before they applied and were both accepted on our staff in 2014. Eryn says, “For years, I was so sure that I wanted to be a director. I wanted to make movies. In just a few months, the Lord completely changed the desires of my heart. I’ve always felt a real concern for the spiritual well-being of my Jewish brothers and sisters, but it took time for me to truly connect this with God’s will for my life. Over the past decade, God has impressed upon me a deep desire to see my people come to know their Messiah. The situation is dire. The need is urgent. “As new missionary trainees with Jews for Jesus, my wife and I have entered a wonderful and challenging new part of our lives and ministries. Having worked in Jewish evangelism for three years, I am already meeting with several unsaved Jewish people on a regular basis. Please keep these young men in your prayers. “I would also greatly appreciate your prayers for our family. Our son, Jude, is almost three. Thank you for your prayers: they are the fuel that helps run the engine of evangelism!” Elizabeth adds, “I am extremely excited to be serving with Jews for Jesus. The undeniable need for Jewish people to know their Messiah has fueled a passion to do whatever it takes to tell every Jewish person I can about Jesus. As a missionary in training, I pray that the Lord will continue to grow that calling He has placed in my life, and equip me to become a better minister of the gospel. Please pray that He will give me grace as I balance my training with caring for our son.” Jen Gage Like many of her friends, both Jen’s parents were believers in Jesus; unlike most of her Christian friends, Jen’s mother was Jewish. Jen grew up attending a Messianic congregation, celebrating Shabbat, keeping the holidays, and she had a Messianic Bat Mitzvah. She loved her culture and the traditions that came with it, but Jen always knew that Jesus was the completion of her Jewishness. And she always felt a little bit different for it. Jen started attending Camp Gilgal, part of the Children and Youth Ministry of Jews for Jesus, when she was ten years old. When she grew too old to be a camper, she served as staff. Jen says, “Camp Gilgal played a huge role in my development as a believer and overall, as a person.” Jen graduated from SUNY Oswego where she majored in childhood education and received her NY State teaching certification. She loves children and teaching, but never saw herself as a classroom teacher. Following an internship in Jews for Jesus’ Children and Youth work in New York, Jen became a full-time Children and Youth worker. Jen says, “I’ve always felt a burden to work with children at a time in life when ideas, values and identity are being formed. If kids’ roots in Messiah are deep, they’re less likely to fall over when a storm comes. I’m very excited to have the privilege of speaking into the lives of the next generation. Please join me in praying that I can prioritize my time and have joy in all of the new things that I will be learning.” Find out more about our new trainees and see videos of their testimonies, using our onlinextras link on p. 3. Banner photos (excluding second from the left) by Rachel Freidlander. Inset photos left to right by Rachel Freidlander, David Yapp and Paige Saunders. 7 How and why Where and when For what? Words in Scripture Old Testament New Testament todah* Hebrew for thanksgiving or a thank offering eucharisteo, Greek verb, to thank eucharistia, Greek noun, thanksgiving l’hodot, Hebrew verb, to thank eucharistos, Greek adjective, thankful Note the similarity to Eucharist, the word many churches use for communion or the Lord’s Supper.** Thanks is offered for God Himself and His character (1 Chron. 16:34; 2 Chron. 7:3, 6; 20:21); or for His deliverance (1 Chr. 16:35). Certain psalms especially focus on thanksgiving. Many thank God for His righteousness (7:17; 106:1; 107 and 136 throughout) and for His great deeds (9:1; 26:7; 75:1). Jesus and especially Paul thank God for a wide variety of things, including God’s revelation (Mt. 11:25, Lk. 10:21); God’s hearing Jesus at the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41); God’s provision of fellow believers (Acts 28:15; Rom. 16:4); God’s work in the lives of believers in many churches (Rom. 1:8, among many others); leaders, including the secular rulers (1 Tim. 2:1). We also see numerous examples of giving thanks at meals, for example, Luke 22:19, John 6:23 and Acts 27:35. Most thanksgiving takes place in the context of communal worship, though sometimes it takes place individually (Jonah 2:9—Jonah could hardly have had community in the belly of a fish!). The Psalms include examples of both. Worship included the thank offering (Leviticus 7:12; 22:29–30), which ended with a meal for family and friends. Israelites continued to bring thank offerings to the Temple until its destruction in 70 A.D. Paul mentions thanksgiving within the worship service, 1 Cor. 14:16–17. Thanking God is a part of worship and reminds His people of why we can trust Him and rejoice. Thanksgiving in the Old Testament is shown by example and by exhortation, while the New Testament rounds out a “theology of thanks.” In Paul’s letters, thanksgiving is closely connected with peace rather than anxiety (Phil. 4:6, Col. 3:15), with living in all we do for the Lord (Col. 3:17) and with godly behavior (Eph. 5:4). Ephesians 6:18 encourages prayer “at all times,” whereby we are meant to cultivate a spirit of thanks in all situations, rather than a spirit of criticism or despair. Hebrews 13:15 describes thanksgiving as a sacrifice, perhaps because to properly thank God we need to give up something, be it time, convenience, or focus on ourselves and our problems. In Jewish tradition Before meals, we bless and thank God for His good gifts with set blessings for certain foods, and a catch-all for the rest. Want to bless God before eating an omelette or Reese’s Pieces? Say, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, by Whose word everything came into being.” A prayer called the Birkat Hamazon is recited after meals; after all, how much more thankful can we be once we know how good the meal was? Actually the practice is in accordance with Deuteronomy 8:10: “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.” This reminder when we are full and content, prevents us from forgetting that the food comes from God (see Deuteronomy 8:11–14). Upon arising in the morning, traditional Jews recite a prayer called Modeh Ani, “I give thanks.” This simple prayer thanks God for restoring our lives for yet another day and is one of the first prayers that young children are taught. A prayer called the Shehecheyanu is often recited when a Jewish holiday begins or when someone observes a Jewish ritual for the first time: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, and has sustained us, and has enabled us to reach this season.” * Todah also means “thank you” in modern Hebrew. **The term thereby emphasizes that the congregation is giving thanks for what God has done in Christ.
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