Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning when the Jewish people remember the destruction of both the first and second temples. Tradition holds that the temples were destroyed some 656 years apart but on the same date. This year, Tisha B'Av begins on the eve of July 29 and ends at nightfall on July 30.
Traditionally, it is also believed that many other tragic events occurred on the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av): read more
No matter how good your explanation is of the gospel, and no matter how well you know the Bible, if your Jewish neighbor doesn't trust you, your witness will fail. But what makes a person trustworthy?
In my 35 years of talking to my people about the Messiah, I've found that the first step in gaining someone's trust is honesty. This is especially true between Christians and Jews.
All Jewish people know that during the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition vast numbers of Jews were killed "in the name of Christ." Even more so, many Nazis gassed Jews and went to church on Sunday. Many Jewish people have negative feelings about Christians, because of 2,000 years of anti-Semitism from those who named the name of Jesus. read more
To Christians, death is the doorway to eternal life with God, where troubles cease and peace abounds. To others, it represents uncertainty. But Christ offers salvation through His death, and Jews and gentiles alike can know for certain where we go when we die.
I was privileged to sit beside him on a flight home from Israel last year—that is, with the obligatory empty seat separating us. Jewish tradition holds that a rabbi is forbidden to sit next to a woman. I asked him his name. He smiled and answered, "Gavriel."
What a passionate young rabbi he was! We freely discussed the Scriptures from our different perspectives as well as the promised redemption of Israel and the coming of Messiah.
Three months later, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his young, pregnant wife, Rivka, 28, were dead, savagely tortured in the Chabad House in Mumbai, India, by Islamic extremists.
I cannot adequately express my initial disbelief on hearing the news and my subsequent grief and outrage. Those few hours together on the plane with Gavriel had marked me.
This was not an isolated incident. Every day across Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world, Jewish schools and synagogues are firebombed and cemeteries desecrated. Jewish people, regardless of age or sex, are beaten by neo-Nazi and Islamic extremists.
Now a virulent anti-Semitism is fomenting in the United States. Last December, a coalition of far-left Muslim and Arab groups organized demonstrations in 30 U.S. cities to denounce the Gaza War. More rallies were held in January. The participating groups touted the events as a response to Israel's "massacre of Palestinians." Speeches and placards were rife with slogans such as "Death to the Jews and the State of Israel."
Given the upsurge of Islam in the U.S., a biased, liberal media, and a president who courts Israel's enemies and surrounds himself with anti-Israel cabinet members and advisers, it is only a matter of time until Israel's friend, the United States, joins the infamous ranks of all nations that Zechariah prophesied would stand against the Jewish nation (see Zech. 12:3; 14:2).
As Isaiah the prophet foresaw, Jewish immigrants are flooding home to Israel in record numbers. Soon we will hear his words pronounced in our day: "This place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell"(Is. 49:20, NKJV).
Those in the body of Christ who think they understand the times and seasons and yet do not actively stand with Israel and the Jewish people grieve me. They tend to ignore what the Spirit is saying to the church regarding Israel: "Comfort, yes, comfort My people!" (Is. 40:1).
Now is not the time for the church to become apathetic. Old Testament prophets clearly foretold this end-time regathering of the Jews and the church's responsibility to them. Isaiah prophesied that we are to cry out to God day and night until Jerusalem becomes a praise in the earth; that we are to remove the stones and prepare a highway for God's people to return to Him; to declare to them the words of hope, "Surely your Salvation is coming!" (see Is. 62:1,10-11).
The end-time church is to be engaged in extending our Lord's heart and hands to His Jewish brethren: proclaiming good news, healing the brokenhearted, setting captives free, comforting those who mourn, declaring the coming of Messiah to a weary and despised people (see Is. 61:1-3).
Today I plead with pastors: Adopt a ministry in Israel. Partner with a ministry run by those who live among the Jewish people and know individual families' needs. I beseech Christians: Give to anointed ministries in Israel that are the Lord's hands extended to His people. No longer give offerings indiscriminately to every cause that has "Israel" or "Jewish" attached to it. Connect directly with the land today!
Jesus made it clear while He ministered near the Galilee and in Jerusalem that He came to minister first to the house of Israel. This was His first charge by the Father. He carried the message of the kingdom of God to the Jew first. We have the same commission Jesus had, but many of us have forgotten to go to the Jew with the liberating message of the gospel. Paul in this passage reminds us of our commission to the Jew first (v. 16).
Over the years I have seen many Jewish people completed in their faith when they have heard the good news of the kingdom. It seems that Jewish people who come to know Jesus as their Messiah are more zealous than the Gentiles who have known Jesus for years.
When we were in Russia at a festival designed to reach out with the message of the gospel to Jewish people, I heard the testimonies of many completed Jews. They all searched for a relationship with God deeper than they had in their Judaism. In Judaism they knew God as the King of the universe, but now through their belief in Yeshua, they received the spirit of adoption whereby they now could call God "Abba," which means "daddy" in Hebrew.
Jesus came to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, which is something everyone who exists on earth desires. The gospel of the kingdom of God is simply the good news that on earth if we accept the King of this kingdom by faith, we can enter into His domain or dominion of peace, joy and right standing with God the Father. I have not met anyone who did not desire to have peace of mind and heart, joy and a feeling of rightness about themselves.
I believe that preaching the kingdom of God is the way to reach the Jewish people today. We need to ask them if they want continual peace and joy in their lives, and the response will always be yes. Then we need to share with them that we know about a kingdom they can live in here on earth where they will always experience peace and joy no matter what circumstances they are encountering. This should peak their curiosity, and then we can share about not only the King of the universe, but also the King of this kingdom.
Jesus said, "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it" (Luke 16:16).
Some Jewish people are familiar with the Law and the prophets, but now they need to know about the kingdom of God so they can press into it. Are you willing to reach out to God's chosen people with this message?
Lord, forgive me for keeping this good news to myself. I need to share it with Jewish people and with all those You place in my path. Open doors for me to share with Your chosen people. Amen.
God makes it clear in His Word that He will bring into judgment any nation, America included, that forces the division of the land of Israel, including the division of Jerusalem.
Joel 3:2 says: "I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, they have also divided up My land."
The Washington Post recently published an editorial titled "Israel's New Government." The commentary emphasized what the Israeli's must give up if they want the continued support of the U.S.
What was lacking in the article was what Israel's neighbors must do to have the backing of Israel and the U.S. for a two-state solution. Pressure should not be put on Israel alone, as the editorial attempted to do.
For a two-state solution to become a reality, Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip must recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. They must also renounce terrorism and understand that they cannot use terrorism as a negotiating tool to achieve their statehood.
The Palestinians must also agree to abide by all previous agreements signed by their leadership.
Peace will not come in the Middle East by pressuring Israel to make unilateral concessions in return for worthless promises on worthless pieces of paper.
Now is the time for people to stand up and speak up for the peace of Jerusalem.
Following a lengthy legal battle, Israel's Supreme Court on June 29 ordered the Chief Orthodox Rabbinate to grant kashrut certification to an Ashdod bakery owned by a Messianic Jew, a decision likely to spark further confrontation between the nation's highest legal arbiter and the ultra-Orthodox community.
In its verdict, the court ruled that the 51-year-old Yemenite baker's belief that Jesus was the Messiah did not make her baked goods unkosher.
Furthermore, the court found that the Chief Rabbinate Council had exceeded the authority granted them by the Kashrut Law when they demanded that the bakery meet special conditions such as promising not to engage in missionary activity and turning the keys to the bakery over to a kashrut supervisor, conditions demanded solely because the owner is a Messianic Jew.
The owner, Pnina Conforty, who became a believer while working in Ohio for an evangelical Christian family, enjoyed impressive business success after returning to Israel and opening the bakery in 2002. Conforty, however, quickly saw a sharp decline in sales after her faith was publicized in an article in a Messianic Jewish magazine.
She suffered from demonstrations outside her bakery and posters with her picture distributed throughout the city warning that she was a missionary.
"Finally I won. This is my baby," said Conforty after giving credit to the Ohio family that led her to Christ. "God arranged it that I arrived at a place where there were Christians who love Israel more than most Jews do. Their love and faith were so different from the religion I learned at home that was based on fear. I was never taught to serve God out of love until then."
Source: International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, icej.org read more
In my book, You Bring the Bagels; I'll Bring the Gospel: Sharing the Messiah with Your Jewish Neighbor, I used a standard communication model to organize all the material into four sections: You, The Gentile Christian; Your Message, the "Jewish" Gospel; Your Audience (Your Jewish neighbor) and The Feedback: Barriers to Belief.
In the first section, I made the point that to effectively communicate a message, the messenger must have credibility, and that one of the key aspects of credibility is "identification." In order to reach his own people, Paul explained, "With the Jews I put myself in the position of the Jews in order to win Jews" (I Cor 9:20).
He identified with his people, not in a false way, but in a sincere way. Clearly, when he was in Rome, he did (some) of what the Romans do, getting into philosophical dialogue. But with his own people, since he felt at home, he emphasized his Jewishness.
In order to share with your Jewish neighbor, you too need to identify with the person to have credibility. That will make you a more effective communicator. As one gentile member of my congregation here in Maryland said to me recently: "We need to make Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation a place where Jewish people feel comfortable." He got it right. Messianic congregations need to create "Jewish space" for visitors, space with which they can identify.
Christians, too, need to identify with Jewish people, especially since the One they follow is a Jew and came "only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Even Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, told the Roman believers "to provoke the Jewish people (the natural branches) to jealousy for their own Messiah (Romans 11:11).
This is the Gentile Great Commission and it's not being fulfilled very well. Christians need to identify with Jewish people to have more credibility, thus winning them to Messiah. But how can Christians do this?
One way is by participating in Jewish community activities. When there are movies on Jewish themes or talks by Israeli speakers, attend and let your Jewish neighbor know you are sincerely interested in them and the Jewish people.
You might even suggest that you and your Jewish neighbor go together and discuss what you heard. Discussion (even arguing) is a very Jewish thing to do. You will be identifying and also learning about matters near to the heart of God. However, from my experience, there are several problems non-Jews have with identification, which affects their credibility, and their witness.
The first is that, in their zeal to identify, some Christians misuse Jewish symbols. For example, instead of following the centuries old custom of lighting two Sabbath candles on Friday night, they light three, to affirm their Trinitarian theology, while expecting to identify by lighting these candles. Christians are free to create any sort of image to help their faith, but when they invite a Jewish person to dinner, and light three Shabbat candles, that is misusing a Jewish symbol and is offensive.
The second, over-identifying with Jewish people, i.e. being more "Jewish" than most Jews, can backfire. Well-meaning Christians may learn how to speak Hebrew fluently, but since most American Jews don't, it can make them feel inadequate, at least initially. Unless a person knows you, and trusts your sincerity, it might breed suspicion. Of course, discernment is called for.
A gentile believer in my congregation has been wearing a kippah (a yarmulke or skull cap) ever since I've known him. I asked him if he might be over-identifying, risking offending Jewish people. His response was that he wore a kippah for the same reasons Jews do: to show reverence to God. I've never asked him about it again. He was not over-identifying. He was sincerely identifying.
Refusing to Adjust
A third challenge in the identification issue is refusing to adjust. The congregant who said we should make our congregation a place where Jewish people would feel comfortable was surprised when I pointed out that at our oneg (lunch after morning services), someone brought delicious corned beef, but no rye bread.
Whoever brought the corned beef (very Jewish) didn't know that you just "couldn't" eat a corned beef sandwich on any bread other than rye bread—along with good mustard (not mayonnaise). He didn't know that, but because he wants to identify with my people, he was willing to adjust. He'll enjoy his next corned beef sandwich, like the Jewish people who come to services. This is unlike someone who used to be in my congregation and just refused to adjust.
Several years ago, when I was explaining identification to my congregation, I mentioned the Miracle Whip/Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise controversy. For the most part, Jews do not use Miracle Whip, rather preferring Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise. It's not that Miracle Whip isn't tasty, it's just not one of those foods that Jews eat, and I'm not sure why. One woman got so incensed, that she left the congregation, never to return. I guess she just liked her Miracle Whip so much she refused to adjust, although she undoubtedly had other issues, too.
So, in terms of reaching out to Jewish people, Christians need to think about credibility, specifically identification, not misusing Jewish symbols, not over-identifying, and being willing to adjust. Knowing the heart of Paul, an observant rabbi, toward his people, identifying with his people will enable you to be the most effective messenger you can, and truly "provoke the Jews to jealousy" for the faith you have. You just need to step into Jewish space, which, by the way, is a wonderful place to be.
Rabbi Baruch Rubin is president of Messianic Jewish Communications (www.messianicjewish.net) and Rabbi of Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation www.godwithus.org both of Clarksville, Maryland.
One of the most fascinating demonstrations of God's unmatched power is the biblical account of the parting of the Red Sea. Today this vast body of water is home to all types of living creatures and coral reefs, and is a hot spot for divers and marine scientists. But do you know why some archaeologists call it the Reed Sea?
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is headed back to the nation's capital for its fourth annual Washington Summit July 20-22. Some 31 leaders from across the country will address issues critical to the Holy Land and give updates on recent developments in Israel, the Middle East and Washington, D.C.
CUFI founder John Hagee and Dennis Prager will host a Night to Honor Israel service during the event, and attendees will meet with members of Congress to discuss their support for the embattled country.
With Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making constant threats to "wipe Israel off the map," organizers say Christians must unite together.
"There is no time to waste. The enemies of Israel are the enemies of America. They are the enemies of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These enemies have drawn the battle line. If a line has to be drawn, then draw that line around both Christians and Jews."
To register for the Washington Summit or to get information about the event, click here.