I grew up in a church-going Lutheran family because my mom was raised Lutheran –– a Lutheran church was across the road from my grandparent’s home so that’s where they went to church. Her father (my grandfather) was raised Mennonite as well as her mother. My grandmother, who died before I was born, was named Beatrice (Kauffman) and with two sisters named Beulah and Miriam. I have always wondered about the deeper roots of my heritage.
My dad was not a believer even though he attended church every Sunday. He was an usher, a member of the church council, sang in choirs and taught both adult and children’s Sunday school. My mother was a believer though she never spoke about her faith. I only learned after her death, from her best friend, that she was born again. My mother had taken this friend to a Billy Graham Crusade and her friend was saved there. My mother was an indelible part of the social activities at the church and was in charge of many money-making projects for the women’s group.
I loved the social aspect of going to church, but I did not like sitting through church services. They were drudgery and I often thought “if this is heaven, I sure don’t want to go.” When I was older and joined the choir, I would sit in the choir loft and watch the feet of the organist play the foot keyboard. It was a little better than drawing on communion cards or tracing my finger around the circle and cross symbol on the hymnal cover millions of times.
In about first or second grade, I remember my Sunday school teacher telling my parents that I had a heart for God. I had no idea what she meant; I just thought I was good in Sunday school. When I was in third grade, I was given my first Bible. It had a hard blue cover with gold letters on the front that read, “Holy Bible.” The day was momentous in my life; I had waited and waited to have a Bible of my own. Though my name written inside on the special dedication page was misspelled, I spent a lot of time reading that Bible because it was mine. Reading the thin and crisp pages made me feel important. I didn’t really understand what I was reading, but I knew the words were written just for me when I rubbed my fingers over the raised ink letters. When I didn’t understand something I read, I would ask my mom. Most of the time she had good answers (she had attended a Bible-based college), but the one question she never adequately answered: “Why are there no Jews in our church when the Bible is full of Jewish people?”
When I was in fifth grade, we attended a Brethren church for one year. The Brethren church is a less strict version of the Mennonite church. In this church I used the Bible that I had been given two years earlier. Even though the Lutheran church handed out Bibles, no one every really used them or taught us how to use them. The Lutheran hymnal had the outline of the service and though some parts are taken from the Bible, there are no Scripture references. Because the Lutheran church is an off-shoot of the Catholic church, all of the recitations are the same every week and eventually they are memorized so no one actually needs the hymnal –– everything was rote. There was always the Old Testament, Gospel and Epistle very short readings, but everything was pre-printed making a Bible unnecessary.
One Sunday in the Brethren church, my fifth grade Sunday school teacher handed out strips of paper with verses on them. Mine was Isaiah 40:8. My teacher told me to open my Bible in half to find the Psalms and then I could find Isaiah. When I found the verse, I was asked to read it aloud to the class. I was nervous especially when I was asked to stand.
“The grass withers and the flower falls, but the Word of our God stands forever.”
After I read the verse, the teacher asked me, “What does that verse mean to you?” I do not remember if I understood what I read at that moment, but I do remember her explaining to me about how grass dries up and returns every spring; she used the word perennial. I had never really noticed as a child that the grass died and came back to life. She further explained that God’s Word is not like the grass. It never dies; it stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8 was the best, first verse any child could ever be given, especially a child who loved the Bible. From that point, my blue-hard-covered “Holy Bible” became the most important book in my life. I kept that sliver of paper as a bookmark in my Bible until I gave it to my daughter when she turned 12.
I grew up in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. The New Age Movement may have have started elsewhere, but I had no knowledge of eastern religions when I witnessed to my friend’s mother. She was an adult and I was a child about 10 years old. It was a Sunday afternoon and our family had just returned from church. This particular day I asked her, who for some reason was in our driveway at the time, why she wasn’t in church. She responded that she didn’t believe Jesus was the only way to God. She believed that Jesus ‘appeared’ as savior to people in many different cultures. She said Jesus was actually Buddha or Hari Krishna or Allah or the leader of whatever religion you were following. She said something like, “His name for the Jews was Jesus, but his name for the Buddists is Buddha.”
I honestly had no understanding of what she was saying, but I knew in my heart she was wrong. I told her that Jesus was Jewish and came to the Jewish people so that the Jewish people would bring him to the world. I told her that I did not believe that Jesus had different names in different cultures. He is the only person who died and rose for each one of us. It was the first time of many hundreds to come that I would have to defend what I had been reading in my Bible regarding the Jewishness of Jesus and his being salvation for the entire world. Ironically, this same woman told my friend that she should say the Lord’s Prayer every day and today my friend is a woman of strong faith.
When I entered junior high, I became part of a singing group called the “West Berks Lutheran Singers”. We learned and perfected two folk musicals: “Tell It Like It Is” and “Life.” With pianos, electric guitars, bases, drums, and some dancing, we traveled all over the northern east coast singing about the love of Christ and how to be ‘born again’ in rock music style. I do not believe that any of us in the group were really born again or knew what it was. Perhaps the the leader had a personal relationship with God, but I tend to doubt the salvation of the other adults involved. They were all good people, but none of them ever talked about God or Jesus or faith.
As part of WBLS, I performed in churches, prisons, colleges, and nursing homes. I sang over and over about ‘telling it like it is’, being ‘born again like a seed in the ground’, ‘it’s a thing that grows and grows and grows’, and ‘pass it on.’ Our performances made such a local impression that we were invited to the 1982 Lutheran Church in America national convention in Dallas, Texas.
At this convention while we were in the audience singing an encore of “Pass It On,” a huge black man with tears in his eyes hugged me and said, “God bless you girl.” We always did this encore and there were always tears, but this was different. Coming from an all-white small town, I looked into the eyes of this linebacker-sized man and knew he heard something that had changed his heart. I did not know what it was, but he had ‘passed it on’ to me. I hugged him back and have never forgotten that moment.
The singing group began to fall apart when the leader decided to write his own musical. He wanted to include a song about putting new wine in old wineskins. Parents became outraged questioning the use of wine and alcohol in a song. The leader tried desperately to explain the parable of Jesus, but no one listened. It became a moment of decision for each one of us. Were we going to allow the new wine of Jesus to fill our lives or settle for the old wineskins? The old wineskins won out.
I missed the practices and performances with the singing group so I tried a new route in life. I became a cheerleader. My activities slowly left the confines of the church setting and became more focused on social events in school. I still went to church as it was a requirement of my parents, but I really considered it boring and painful. I was a typical teenager in a typical high school trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in and church attendance was not part of my mindset.
In my junior year, Lent arrived as it did every year with ‘required’ Wednesday evening Lenten services. I was so tired of going to church that on one particular Wednesday evening I decided that I wasn’t going. I politely told my parents that I was staying home that evening. My dad told me that I didn’t have a choice and they were leaving in 15 minutes and I needed to be ready. Anger welled up and I began yelling at my parents –– something I had never done before. I told them I no longer believed in God or anything that the church stood for. My mom looked shocked and stunned.
I ran to my room crying. I looked for my Bible. It was on my desk. I threw it on the floor and began jumping on it and screaming, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.” When I was done, I picked up my Bible, put it back on the desk and went rebelliously with my family to the service. For some reason instead of entering the sanctuary and sitting down as usual, we all stood in the back waiting to enter as a group. A paper with a Psalm written on it given to each of us and we were to read it aloud in unison before taking our seats.
I read the Psalm with everyone else. I could barely get through it. It contained the very words that were in my heart. I knew that God had heard my cry only 1/2 hour before and was speaking directly to ME. He knew exactly where I was and what I was feeling. He had David write Psalm 143 just for me.
Soon after the Lent event, I was given an assignment in my English class to do a research paper on any subject I chose. I decided to research the question I had asked my mom many years earlier. My paper was entitled: “A Comparison between Judaism and Christianity.” I wanted to understand why there was a separation between Jews and and the ‘church’ when my Bible clearly didn’t seem to show it. My teacher was a Roman catholic; my grade and her comments reflected her feelings about my paper and Judaism; however, I was not deterred.
By the time I went to college, I made the decision that I would not go to church. I was an adult and I could make my own way. I had tired of the repetition and the religious games people played. I did, however, take a Bible with me. It wasn’t my “Holy Bible” from third grade, it was my mother’s “Living Bible.” My Bible had become worn out from overuse that I wanted to start with fresh pages. With multi-colored highlighter pens, I had a wonderful time reading and noting those verses that talked to me about life situations.
During my second year of college, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia. Over the next two years as my mom’s life withered away, I realized I had to begin to take responsibility for my life. God was always a part of my life and He suddenly became even more central. Church members came out of the woodwork to support my dad and our family. On July 2, 1979 when I was 20 years old, my mother passed away and entered the eternal Kingdom of God.
After I graduated from college, I moved to Westminster, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. I attended a Lutheran church for a short time. At my apartment complex, I met a woman who changed my life. On October 17, 1981, while she and I were driving to a mall, she began talking about Jesus and having a personal relationship with him. I was very defensive as I had always gone to church and believed I understood God better than she did. She told me that God wasn’t some entity that was far away, but wanted a close personal relationship with me through Jesus. I listened, but had church pride in my heart.
She explained how Jesus was going to return and protect those who are his from a time of great trouble on the earth. During the years of the Viet Nam War when I was a young child, my parents would have friends over to play cards. They would talk about the ‘end of the world’ and how horrible it would be. I remember overhearing their conversations and becoming so scared that I would have nightmares about the ‘end of the world.’ Now someone was telling me that Jesus could keep me from the ‘end of the world,’ and he did not want me to be scared.
I had never known that Jesus cared about the ‘end of the world’ nor did I know that he cared about me at the ‘end of the world.‘ I cried uncontrollable tears. My friend explained that I needed to be born again. I remembered singing about being born again, but I had no idea what they meant. I wiped the tears from my eyes, but I could not wipe her words from my mind.
That evening as I showered, I began asking God questions about the born again conversation. I told Him that I didn’t want to be led astray, but I also didn’t want to miss something if her words were true. So, I simply said, “If what my friend says is true, then do to me whatever it is you need to do; otherwise, just forget about all of this.”
I finished my shower, went into my bedroom, and decided to read my Bible. For the first time, words began to jump out on the page. I skipped from one book to another and I saw things I had never seen before. I thought it was strange, but then considered that maybe something happened in the shower with water pouring down over me.
Two weeks later was October 31. I was looking forward to celebrating the holiday with all the people I knew at a Denver club. I walked in the door and headed toward the dance floor just like always. The music thumped with familiar songs and the place was crowded, but something was different about the people. Though many were dressed for Halloween, there were spirits in that place -– ugly demon creatures hanging on people, sitting on their shoulders or walking by their sides laughing and mocking. I had never seen anything so freakish in my entire life! No one else seemed to notice the demons, especially the people on whom the demons sat. I told my friend what I was seeing and that I needed to get out of that place. We decided to go to a different club we had passed down the street. When I got out of the car at the second club, I wasn’t as excited as I had been earlier. Halloween had suddenly taken on a new dimension for me; it was suddenly spiritually dark. I began walking up the ramp to the door and prepared myself for what I might see. The darkness and the evil was so penetrating that I just walked through the entrance door and out the exit door.
When I was a child, I watched a television show called “Dark Shadows.” It was filled with vampires, witches, voodoo, and ghosts. A neighbor and I had used an Ouija board many times. We would call up spirits or ‘things’. Though we were mildly successful, I had never experienced demons or spirits like that Halloween night. It wasn’t until years later when I learned about the gifts of the Spirit that I understood that I had been given a gift of discerning spirits in a spiritual war that not everyone can see. It was confirmation that I was born again and had received the Spirit in the shower.
As a new believer I had the zeal of a new Christian. Reading my Bible became my daily bread. I began attending LIFE Fellowship in Northglenn, Colorado which was very different than my Lutheran upbringing. I started to raise my hands during worship –– which made me feel like I was in a cult. I was being taught the Word of God and building my faith on a relationship with Jesus.
During this time, I met my future husband where I worked. With the recession of the early 1980s, the company went through a time of financial problems and we lost our jobs. In order to survive, we put our unemployment checks together, moved into the same house, and began a ‘life of sin.’ I was still attending LIFE every week leaving my boyfriend sleeping in bed. Every week it seemed the pastor would preach about living together or being unequally yoked with an unbeliever. Every week I would go to church; every week I would come home feeling more guilty than when I went. Finally, one Sunday I decided not to go to church. I didn’t want the conviction and I needed a break. When the alarm went off, I turned it off and rolled over. My boyfriend asked, “You’re not going to church today?”
“Why?” I asked.
He responded, “Well I was going to go with you.”
Soon after John started going to church with me, he proposed. I suggested we go to the LIFE Fellowship’s pre-marriage counseling classes and he agreed. I hoped that perhaps he would hear something at the class and ‘get saved.’ I also knew that because the church met in a movie theater that the only way for this pastor to marry us where we wanted to be married was to go to the class. I felt the whole two-hour experience went very well until the pastor’s final words: “I will not marry any couple who is living together or if one of you is a believer and the other is not.” I was devastated. I had the two-punch hit. I was living with an unbeliever! I went out into the parking lot and screamed at God. John watched silently as his crazy fiancé acted out her rage!
The next morning John went to work. To remove one punch would have him move out, but that was nearly impossible with our financial situation. The other punch: I talk to John about separating sexually for the next three months until we were married. I mulled over that idea all day coming to the conclusion that separating was the only way, but I was afraid John would end the relationship. When he got home, we both knew we needed to talk. I told him to go first.
He told me how he thought about the past 24 hours while at work. Recently, he had heard something in the “Jesus” movie I had watched several weeks earlier. I had no idea he was even paying attention. He had been challenged regarding his perceptions of Jesus. Until we were married, he wanted to remain apart sexually.
We found a little church in the foothills of Boulder where we wanted to be married. We also found a place to live in the small community. We were married on May 7, 1984 and began our life together with dedicated believers who taught us about living in a community with love and bearing one another’s burdens.
In August of 1984, my husband and I, in a nearly dry Fourmile Creek, made our public statement of faith with a group of believing friends. I had no idea that when I went under the water that I would come up different. Something changed and I couldn’t stop weeping.
From 1981 until 1991, my faith walk went from Lutheran, to LIFE Fellowship to Little Church in the Pines to Rocky Mountain Christian Fellowship. During these 10 years I was taught the deception of psychology, that the community of faith is invaluable, and the Word of God needs to be taught as literal.
The hardest part was sharing my faith. Though pastors would tell us that people needed to hear the ‘good news,’ I didn’t know how to approach people. I believed the rejection I received was persecution, but in reality it was a lack of knowing and understanding the fullness of the Scriptures and the Jesus presented in them.
I had had little introductions to Jewish ‘roots’ of my faith –– after all it is called Judeo Christian even though there was very little Judeo. I was given a small book entitled “Y’Shua” by Moshe Rosen of Jews for Jesus. I learned a little Hebrew dancing. I attended a Passover in someone’s home. In 1987 while at home with my first child, I began listening to Sid Roth every morning. I became more aware of the unanswered question I had as a child, researched as a teen, and still asked as an adult: “Where are the Jews in the church?”
I did not attend Bible studies when my children were young. They were my first responsibility and ministry. Many churches, however, have a way of making a person feel guilty not participating so I attended one women’s Bible study. If I had some observation or insight different from the printed answers, I would receive dirty looks or snide remarks. I finally gave up on the whole idea and took the advice of a single woman who suggested that I ‘snack on the Word’ by keeping my Bible open all day and just reading whatever was there in front of me. That is best advice I have ever received from anyone. Snacking began to open my eyes to Scriptures I would never have been exposed to in any Bible study, church service, or planned message.
One of the most life-changing ‘snacks’ was 1 Corinthians 11 which outlines the woman’s head covering. I did not understand what it was though I had an understanding of why it was: praying and prophesying and because of the angels. I began to ask various women and wives of church leaders about the verses only to receive the responses of ‘it’s not for today’ or ‘I grew up catholic and wore a doily on my head’ or I’m not doing that now’ or ‘I tried a hat once, but felt stupid.’ Those responses did not satisfy my desire to know the truth and why it was written in my Bible –– even in the highly revered New Testament! Didn’t women still talk to God? Didn’t they also talk about God?
I decided to ask my pastor for advice. He responded: “All we need is Jesus.” For some reason I knew that response was not the answer. Jesus is the beginning and the end, but what happens in the middle? What about building on the foundation with precious stones? Jesus is only one of the beautiful things of God along with His glory, His covenants, His Promises, and His Temple.
Two friends invited my husband and I to go to a concert somewhere in Denver that sounded fun. They didn’t know where it was. They had never heard of the group. We decided to take the plunge with them. After driving through an incredible snowstorm from Boulder to south Denver, we walked into Roeh Israel, a Messianic Jewish Congregation. In a split second, the music of Lamb, the dancing, the head coverings on the women, and the obvious reality of Jew and gentile worshiping together changed my walk of faith forever. God had heard my childhood question and answered it on January 19, 1991.
When the concert was over, I turned around to ask the woman behind me who was wearing a lace head covering why she wore it. She said it was to honor her husband who was sitting next to her. Through our conversation I learned he was a Jewish believer in Jesus. I asked him, “What is it like to be a converted Jew?” His response, “What is it like to be grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel?”
Armed with a new question that needed an answer, I went to find my husband who was in the little Judaica shop. When I tapped him on the shoulder, he turned around holding two head coverings. He asked, “Which color do you want?” I felt like a queen wearing my purple head covering. I felt the blessing of the Lord and I knew He was with me in a new and different way. My walk as part of the Olive Tree of Israel began.
Though Roeh Israel was the congregation my heart desired to attend, we didn’t live close enough to go often. We continued to attend our regular church and went Roeh Israel whenever we could on Sabbath. The first time I heard the pastor of Roeh Israel say, ‘the children of Israel,’ the words seemed surreal. I was sitting in a room with THE children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of Jacob whose name had been changed to Israel! These people were Jesus’ literal brothers and sisters. I was sitting with them as an adopted family member! I was also taught from the Old Testament and began to receive the other part of my foundation of faith. I already had the Apostles, but now I was building on the Prophets that included the words given to Moses in the Torah. I learned Jesus’ Hebrew name is Yeshua and it means ‘salvation.’
Ten years earlier in the shower, I was born again. On January 19, 1991, I received the circumcision of my heart. I was no longer a foreigner or stranger to God’s covenants of promise, without hope and without God. Through the DNA of Messiah Yeshua’s blood and a ‘cutting from the Spirit’, I had become a member of God’s household. As His adopted child, like any adopted child, I needed to learn how to live in this new family of Jews and gentiles together as ‘one new man’. I couldn’t contain my excitement as the new living water flowed into my heart and soul.
Only a few short weeks after the Lamb concert, we returned to Roeh Israel with our two young children, ages 4 and 16 months, for our first Passover celebrated with Messianic Jews. Though it was hours and hours and hours long, it was the most remarkable event in my life as I was was together with Yeshua’s Jewish brothers and sisters. Several months later, we returned to for the Feast of Trumpets. We listened to Eliezer Urbach, a Holocaust survivor, blow the shofar hundreds of times. It was amazing he didn’t pass out! My husband had played trumpet in junior high so he bought a shofar and learned how to blow it. As time went on, we began keeping the Sabbath, Hanukkah, Feast of Tabernacles, Shavuot, and Purim. After meeting two amazing women, Sylvia Yellin and Sandy Miller (both now deceased), I was encouraged to leave the warm fuzzies of unBiblical holidays behind and begin to embrace those of the Lord and join the Commonwealth of Israel.
As we grew in faith by adding precept upon precept, our children grew as well. For the most part, we walked alone in our new understanding of the Scriptures. The gentile churches we attended had no concept of what it meant to be grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel and we swam upstream against preconceived ideas and false ideologies. At the time we didn’t understand the contentions we encountered were really ignorance and arrogance, both of which Paul warns gentiles about in the book of Romans.
Many Christians we knew believed that the Feasts of the Lord were Jewish and only for the Jews. They didn’t realize that these anti-semitic views were birthed in the catholic church, grew over the centuries through anti-semitic church fathers, and had been swallowed by every Christian denomination creating a new wall of partition between Jews and gentiles. The mystery of the gospel found in Ephesians 3:6 is the gentiles joining Israel and being heirs together with them –– not the other way around. Though many Christians would say they ‘loved Israel’, they equated Biblical things with Judaism or Jewish legalism and refused to ‘look Jewish’. To hear our Christian friends say they loved Israel, but wanted nothing of being part of the Commonwealth of Israel and to worship God of Israel and follow after the King of the Jews was a strange phenomena indeed.
We learned that only after we obey a command are we given the Spirit of Truth about it. If we think we need to know the reason before we obey the command, we will never obey anything. Just as the Israelites had to step into the Jordan River before it would separate, we learned we had to obey first and then spiritual understanding would follow.
It was only after we began to celebrate the Feasts of the LORD that we learned how much God hates the mixing of the holy and the profane. We saw that mixing the birth of Yeshua with the pagan catholic holiday of Christmas was nothing more than building our own golden calf. Unholy roots produced unholy branches and we wanted to be ‘set apart and holy for the Lord.’
We also learned that when God writes His commandments on our hearts through His Spirit, He directs our paths even when we are clueless. For one Sabbath dinner I made a pork roast as the main course. As we sat down to eat, my husband comments, “For some reason, this seems wrong to have pork on Sabbath.” I didn’t know what he was talking about and he didn’t quite know how to explain it either. Several weeks later during his Bible time, he was reading in Leviticus 11 and came across God’s list of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals. He showed it to me and said, “I think this is why I felt the pork roast was weird on Sabbath. We’re not to be eating foods that are scavengers and pigs are the worst!” From that day on, we no longer ate anything that was not created as food and most especially the flesh of swine. It had nothing to do with being ‘under the law’, but God had shown us by His Spirit and His Word how he desired us to eat.
Soon we had a third child, a son. As my husband and I had discussed the issue of circumcision years before with the birth of our first son, circumcision was not up for discussion. However, the issue for our second son was about the timing. The command in Scripture was to circumcise a son on his eighth day of life. We didn’t go to any church that did such a thing (nor would have encouraged it) so we just decided to allow our pediatrician to do the procedure when our son turned eight days old. When the pediatrician asked me about circumcision, I told him that we wanted it done on the eighth day. He asked, “Who is going to do it?” He was Jewish and his name was Dr. Cohen. In Hebrew, cohen means ‘priest’. So, on the eighth day of our son’s life, he was circumcised by a priest and we named him Jacob.
With my first two children, the goal of every new mother in the Christian church was to see how quickly she could give birth and then return church as if she would win a trophy. I no longer wanted to play the Wonder Woman game. I wanted to do what God commanded and learn His purpose for the time of purification. My body had been through a lot of tough situations (four miscarriages and a molar pregnancy) and I wanted true healing from the One who knew my body better than anyone and was the Healer. For a son, the time of purification was six weeks. I obeyed by faith and stayed home for six weeks. As a gift from my husband, I did all my grocery shopping online and he would bring it home. I didn’t leave my house for the entire six weeks except for my son’s day of circumcision.
That six weeks was the best six weeks of my child-bearing years. I bonded with my son in a way that I never bonded with any of my other children. I didn’t have to worry about sickness from people at church, in the grocery store, or wherever I supposedly had to go to prove I was back at the old grindstone. I didn’t have issues of stress with an infant who was overstimulated or hungry at the wrong moment or in the wrong place. I had all the time in the world to just love on him and enjoy his first six weeks of life. He learned his own routine and at six weeks was ready to meet the world and so was I.
As each of our children turned 12 years old, we would Bar/Bat Mitzvah them. For us this was their ‘rite of passage’ into their own personal walk of faith while still under our guidance. Since we didn’t attend a church that would encourage this (again), we created our own traditions. They each chose godly men or women whose lives blessed them. I wrote a letter to each person explaining what we were doing with our example as Yeshua at the Temple Yeshua when he was 12 years old. I asked if they would write a letter of encouragement to our child. We would then put the letters in a book so that over the next six years of their lives, they could read and re-read each testimony, prophecy, encouragement, blessing. Each child responded with a thank you note sharing their personal testimony thus far and ask for prayer from the individual who sent something. In spite of several condemnatory letters of ‘falling from grace’ or letters leading us to salvation in Jesus, each of our children have beautiful memorial books of their becoming a son/daughter of the commandments.
Over the years our family planted many seeds in spite of contentious spirits. Many people who were cruel and unkind with their words soon began to understand their Biblical heritage and roots. They came to us rejoicing in their new found love of the Word and shared how their spiritual lives were changing. We always rejoiced with them because we knew it was part of the fulfillment of the gentiles that will bring life from the dead and salvation to all Israel.
For one year, I prayed for a church we attended that was searching for a new pastor. My prayer each week as I kneaded their communion bread was that the new pastor would be a Messianic Jew. My prayer was answered and Pastor Gene Binder now leads Cornerstone of Boulder. The first year he was pastor, a young woman I knew from the church called and wanted to come to my house. She was very excited about something and she waited to tell me until she arrived. The church was going to celebrate a Passover seder. The pastor had asked her to light the candles and recite the Hebrew blessing. He also wanted her to teach a couple of simple dances. She only had two hours to learn whatever it was that I could teach her. As she scooted out the door, she asked me for a head covering.
Yeshua instructs his disciples to go and make disciples teaching them to obey everything he has commanded. I would be remiss if I did not include in my testimony, Dawnita Carlson, who discipled me for years. Without her Biblical guidance, I don’t know where I would be today, but she was used magnanimously by the Holy Spirit to challenge me into a deeper walk. She would explain new concepts that overwhelmed my mind and then the Spirit would take the next weeks or months to show me the Truth. She was faithful to answer my questions even when they were stupid and redundant. As part of her discipleship, she encouraged me to become part of her outreach ministry, Inner Court Dancers.
As I look back over my life, I see how the Father knew me from the foundations of the world. He put questions in my heart about the Jewish people and the church so I would seek Him for the answers. He was faithful and showed me the reason. Jewish people do not have to convert to another religious system called Christianity –– after all the entire New Testament was written by Jews! Like me they need to be born again into God’s Kingdom through His Son, Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. It’s important that Jews receive their own Messiah on the terms that God revealed to them in their Scriptures. It is not the Jews who are foreigners, it is the gentiles. Instead of holding onto anti-semitic traditions of the church fathers that excluded the chosen people of God, gentiles need to truly do some history and soul searching.
I decided to re-read my high school term paper (yes I kept it). I laughed at all the footnotes for words and expressions that had at one time been completely strange and foreign to me. Today, they are a normal part of understanding the Scriptures and my identity in the Messiah of Israel.
Without Yeshua, I would not be the person I am today. I would have nothing and be nothing. He has set me free from the law of sin and death. He has set me free from the spirit of fear. He has given me the Spirit of God that has circumcised my heart and brought me into the rich spiritual heritage of Israel. As the Rabbi of Rabbis, Yeshua has taught me the Scriptures in the way his Father intended them to be understood. Through Yeshua, I have come to know my heavenly Father in a more personal, intimate way.
Yes, all I needed was Jesus, but more importantly I needed the Jewish Jesus whose real name is Yeshua.