January 1987 Newsletter (5747:3)

Michael is a Jewish man from the Chicago area. Several years ago he sold his apartment to a couple who were Jewish believers in Jesus. Since Michael had financed the apartment for this couple, they sent their mortgage payments directly to him each month. Printed on each check were the words Jesus Is the Jewish Messiah.

Apparently because of that, Michael became interested in the gospel—interested enough to visit a local church where he studied the Scriptures with the pastor. Then one summer, while Michael was visiting the Taste of Chicago, a huge food festival attended by several million people each year, he received a Jews for Jesus broadside called Junk Food."

Michael read the broadside but did not stop to talk with the campaigner who had given it to him. However, a couple of days later he did call the number on the back of the broadside. Through that call, he ended up meeting with David Brickner, one of our missionaries who now heads the Chicago branch. The seed had been planted long before. Over the years it had been watered by several others, and now it was ready to bring forth fruit. David had the joy of leading Michael in prayer to receive Christ as his Savior.

QUESTION: Exactly what is Jews for Jesus?

ANSWER: Strictly speaking, Jews for Jesus is an organization of some 100 workers who are involved in communicating the message to the Jewish community that Jesus—or to use his Hebrew name, Y'shua—is the Messiah of Israel.

Generically, however, Jews for Jesus" refers to the growing movement among Jewish people who have come to this same faith. Conservative estimates of the number of Jews in America who believe in Y'shua range from twenty to fifty thousand, though Jewish believers are also found in substantial numbers in other countries such as England, France and Israel.

Our backgrounds mirror the varied nature of Jewish experience. Some of us were Orthodox or Conservative; others were atheists or Marxists. A few were alienated from their Jewish heritage, while others were very involved in being Jews. It is difficult to find one common intellectual, emotional, sociological or cultural factor that led to our conversions. However, we do share the collective spiritual consensus that humanity is morally culpable and estranged from a holy God, and that Y'shua is God's gracious and only way of rectifying that estrangement for us all.

Actually, Jews for Jesus is not a recent phenomenon. We are nearly 2,000 years old! That is because the first followers of Jesus were Jews. Throughout the centuries there always have been some Jews who have come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. In recent years the number of Jewish believers has increased dramatically, so that today the number of "Jews for Jesus" is proportionately larger than at any other time since the first century.

We Jews who have come to believe in Jesus do not consider ourselves as having given up our Jewish heritage. On the contrary, we seek to actively explore and live out our faith as Jewish followers of Jesus. We regard ourselves as Jews and as part of the Jewish community, but the Jewish community has made us outcasts as we have tried to tell our fellow Jews about the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.

College campuses are not what they used to be. When I was in junior high and high school, I would hear about student revolutionaries holding sit-ins at state universities, rallying against social injustice and inequality, and fighting for human rights and free speech issues. I looked forward to the day when I would be able to join the ranks of those I saw as the soldiers on the frontlines of the battle to improve the quality of human life on our planet. By the time I got to college, the Vietnam War banner had been replaced by Solidarity placards, and ecological issues had been set aside for the No-Nukes movement. Like everyone else, I found that my priorities also had shifted, and my personal concern was for my grades and how to enjoy my hours off campus. I fell into the general apathy and self-absorption that characterizes most college campuses today. How I wished there was a cause worth really caring about—worth wholeheartedly throwing myself into!

Since graduating from college, I have become a follower of the Messiah. Now I find myself back on campuses, from Texas to California, handing out Jews for Jesus tracts, postering, staging debates and generally creating a stir as I lift up the name of Jesus. Finally I have found a cause truly worth defending, proclaiming the Good News of salvation in Y'shua to my Jewish brothers and sisters. Though anti-war and anti-establishment protests are a thing of the past, there is still one issue to which my people respond, and that is Jews believing in Jesus.

You can't be both Jewish and Christian!" shouted someone as I was handing out tracts at UCLA.

"What do you mean?" I called after him, but he was gone.

"Guess he didn't like my literature," I shrugged to an onlooker. "Like one?"

"Sure," she replied, and took one.

"Hey, these are great!" exclaimed a voice behind me. I turned around.

"Would you like one?" I asked.

"Well, I think the artwork is great, and it makes some good points, "he replied.

"Do you think it might be true that Jesus is the Messiah?" I asked.

"Maybe," he said, but he would not agree to read anything more about Y'shua. His name was Michael, and he was a Jewish graduate student. I felt hopeful that the Lord was dealing with his heart.

A group of people walked by and ignored me. I looked down, wiggled my toes, and saw with relief that I really was still there. Within the next 10 minutes I spoke with two Jewish atheists while another Jewish believer watched and prayed. Then I recognized a Jewish man I had spoken with the week before.

"Hi," I smiled. "How are you doing?"

"Fine, thanks," he replied. "Oh, would it be possible to write you a letter and ask you some questions?" I gave him my name, and then from my right I heard, "Jesus made you kosher? That's great!" A middle-aged woman, Jane, stopped to marvel at the message on my T-shirt.

"Yes, it is great!" I replied. "What do you think about Jesus?" She said that she had not thought much about it, but she would like to hear how I became a believer in the Messiah. We exchanged phone numbers.

As I was walking off the campus, handing out my last few tracts, a Gentile believer, Dana, stopped me. I began to tell her a little about Jews for Jesus.

"This is really funny," she said. "I'm not a student, but I happened to be on campus today, and I have this Jewish friend who has been asking me questions about Jesus. A few days ago I was praying that God would send just the right person into my life who could share the gospel with her from a Jewish perspective!" We exchanged phone numbers, and I promised to call her soon.

College campuses may not be what they used to be, and political and social causes may not excite as many students anymore. But bringing to the campus the message that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah is guaranteed to produce lively interaction and confrontation that hopefully will open the hearts of many. Would you join with me in praying for the UCLA campus and for our Jews for Jesus outreach there, that many of my people would be won to the Messiah?

I first saw Stoney Burke at the University of California Berkeley campus where I was handing out broadside tracts. He had drawn a large standing crowd. About 150 students had circled around him, while about 50 more stood on the nearby steps, all straining to see this madman's" antics. I watched him for a few moments. He made radical statements about every major issue of the day. As he spoke, he made sudden jerking motions and paused now and then to shout profanities before continuing his speech. A self-appointed prophet of this modern age, he was sharing his world view with the "future of America."

At first I was merely offended at his coarse manner and language, but in a few minutes I found myself amused by his strange antics. I marveled at the attention he was receiving from the usually apathetic students. They listened and laughed and commented to him as he asked for their response.

The next time I saw Stoney, he was at San Francisco State College doing a similar "performance." Always topical, he jeered and slandered the local and national leaders. In between "acts" he walked past me and noticed my jacket with Y'SHUA boldly painted across the back. He took one of my tracts and did a double take at the Jews for Jesus logo. I could almost see the gears going around in his head. Twenty minutes later I knew what he had been thinking.

He was standing on a bench, surrounded by 200 or more students, and he was reading my tract out loud. Of course, he did add his own comments here and there. I was looking at him when he turned and saw me. He smiled a big smile that seemed to say, "Pretty funny, huh?" I smiled too at the free publicity, and I continued to hand out my literature.

The next time I saw Stoney, he saw me first. I was on the Berkeley campus again, wearing my old denim jacket with Y'SHUA painted across the back. He walked past me and did a double take. "You again? You sure get around," he said. "I guess I do," I responded, and continued broadsiding.

I watched Stoney for weeks after that. Weeks turned into semesters, and semesters turned into two years. He always drew large crowds, and eventually my amusement turned into jealousy. Yes, I was jealous of Stoney's ability to draw and hold a crowd. Our Jews for Jesus staff goes regularly to San Francisco State College and to the Berkeley campus. We have done street theater and parabolic street testimonies there, but I never saw a crowd gather as large as those that Stoney drew.

Each week when I went back to the campus, Stoney saw me and I saw him. I did what I had to do, and he did what he had to do. Not much changed in those two years, except my reaction to him. It went from offense to amusement to jealousy, and finally to fear. It struck me that I was preaching to an "Israel" that just was not listening, while Stoney was tickling itching ears. I recalled II Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but, after their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

I was transferred from our San Francisco branch, and now I am a missionary with our Los Angeles branch. One day I was at UCLA (the University of California at Los Angeles) distributing gospel literature. I had just finished handing out my broadsides and had slung my empty tract bag across my denim jacket when suddenly a familiar voice came drifting past me. It was Stoney Burke. He was there—but so was I! Yes, Stoney would probably keep on doing what he was doing, but I knew that as long as I had life and breath, I would keep on doing what I was doing, too.

Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein was curious when he saw one of the teachers in his school reading a small book printed in German. When he asked about it the teacher handed it to him. Casually Rabbi Lichtenstein leafed through the pages until his gaze fell upon the name Jesus Christ. Realizing that the book was a New Testament, he sternly rebuked the teacher for having it in his possession and furiously cast it across the room. It fell behind some other books on a shelf and lay forgotten for nearly 30 years.

Some years later when intense anti-Jewish persecution broke out in Rabbi Lichtenstein's native Hungary, he was not surprised that the attacks were carried out in the name of Christianity. Then, in the midst of the pogroms, he was startled by the writings of men who, in the name of Christ, sternly denounced the anti-Semites and defended the Jews. Among those writers were prominent figures such as the honored biblical scholar Franz Delitzsch, professor at the University of Leipzig. Rabbi Lichtenstein was further intrigued by statements that spoke of the message of Christ as one of love and life to all people.

At this time he found the little New Testament, flung in anger into a dusty corner years earlier. For the aging rabbi it had been a closed and hated book which he had regarded as the source of venom aimed at his people. Was it really what he had supposed? He opened its pages and began to read.

Later Rabbi Lichtenstein described the experience in Two Letters, or What I Really Wish:

I had thought the New Testament to be impure, a source of pride, of overweening selfishness, of hatred, of the worst kind of violence, but as I opened it, I felt myself peculiarly and wonderfully taken possession of. A sudden glory, a light, flashed through my soul. I looked for thorns and gathered roses; I discovered pearls instead of pebbles; instead of hatred, love; instead of vengeance, forgiveness; instead of bondage, freedom; instead of pride, humility, conciliation; instead of death, life, salvation, resurrection, heavenly treasure."

A Closed Book

The story of Rabbi Lichtenstein epitomizes two poles of experience by Jewish people regarding the New Testament. For the majority, the New Testament is a closed and unfamiliar book identified with the age-long persecution of the Jewish people in the name of Christianity. Because most Jews believe that the New Testament promotes anti-Semitism, they think there could be nothing in it that could sustain Jewish life and values.

Thus, the common Jewish assessment of the New Testament is formed by a preconditioned impression. In many ways Jewish experience seems to support this assessment, and the majority of Jewish people do not feel inclined to verify it by investigating the New Testament itself.

Yet a growing number of Jews, like Rabbi Lichtenstein, have been prompted to investigate seriously what the New Testament actually contains. This writer is among them. We have come to recognize through careful investigation that the New Testament is something different than we had first supposed.

The Message is Jewish

The authorship and cultural background of the New Testament are Jewish. The beginning scenes are centered in the land of Israel at the time of the Second Temple. Even as the focus widens from the original setting, the action takes place primarily among Jewish communities in the Diaspora. The New Testament writers, with perhaps the exception of Luke, are all Jews. The early apostles and followers of Jesus are also Jewish.

Fulfillment of the Jewish Hope

The basic theme of the New Testament is uniquely Jewish: the fulfillment of the messianic hope. This expectation was peculiarly the possession of Israel. A passage early in the Gospel of Matthew portrays Gentile wise men recognizing that the promised deliverer is to be King of the Jews. In the early spreading of the good news that Messiah had come, it was only Jews and those Gentiles under the influence of Judaism who were prepared to receive and understand the message. The primary centers for the initial preaching of the message were the synagogues in the communities of the Diaspora.

In page after page of the New Testament, by direct quote, by free paraphrase and by allusion, there is one primary literary treasure that is invested with supreme authority: the Hebrew Scriptures. When Jesus or the New Testament preachers intone, "It is written," or "Thus saith the Lord," they rest upon Jewish Holy Writ as the final court of appeal. Jesus challenges the religious leaders with "Search the scriptures…they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). Peter proclaims to the Jewish throng, "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days" (Acts 3:24). The initial New Testament proclamations are laced with passages from Moses and the prophets, indicating that what is taking place is the fulfillment of the Jewish hope.

As we investigate the general content of the New Testament, if we are at all acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures we find ourselves in familiar territory. Angelic communications remind us of the experiences of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and many other ancient Hebrews. Supernatural births recall the nativity of the patriarch Isaac. Miracles represent God's confirming activity as he reveals himself, even as they did in the days of the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets and the kings of Israel. They are not capricious acts of arbitrary power, as in pagan mythology. Rather, they bear profound moral connections through which God trains his people in the ways of faith. Also, as in the Hebrew Scriptures, there is prophetic activity and inspired preaching when the Spirit of God enables men to speak his message. None of these occurrences is strange to the spiritual life and heritage of Israel.

The great themes of the New Testament are the same as those of the Hebrew Scriptures: God's holiness, righteousness and mercy; man's alienation and estrangement from God through disobedience; God's seeking love, forgiveness and reconciliation. There are also the great themes of faith, sacrifice, redemption, hope, love, peace, joy, the ultimate triumph of God's Kingdom and his judgment and reward. There is nothing presented in the former that is not unfolded in the latter. Only the perspective differs. In the Old Covenant the emphasis is upon promise; in the New Covenant the emphasis is upon fulfillment. One stresses preparation and the other consummation.

A Suffering Messiah

At this point some might object that there are non-Jewish themes central to the New Testament. Many contend that the idea of a suffering, dying and resurrected Messiah who is at the same time divine is alien to Jewish belief. It is supposedly traced to pagan Egyptian and Greek sources. In addition, it is alleged that the manner in which the New Testament traces the rise and spread of the messianic community remolds it into a Gentile phenomenon, ripping it from the Jewish context.

The ancient rabbis wrestled with evidence in the Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures) that Messiah was both to suffer and die and to reign as a triumphant and glorious king. Because of this problem, they developed the idea that there would be two messiahs—Ben Joseph who would suffer and die, and Ben David who would triumph and reign. In the Talmud (Sukkah 52, a and b) there is the suggestion that the passage in Zechariah 12:10 which speaks of a pierced one gave rise to this explanation.

The Jewish Musaf prayer service for the Day of Atonement contains an ancient section that refers to Messiah our Righteousness who is wounded for our transgressions. The concept of a suffering and dying Messiah is not strange to Jewish lore.

While the resurrection of the Messiah, as declared in the New Testament, seemed to take everyone by surprise, there are passages in Holy Writ which are seen as promising Messiah's resurrection. Psalm 16:10 declares that God will not abandon his Holy One to the grave. Isaiah 53:10, 12 portrays the Lord as prolonging the days of the Suffering Servant and causing God's good pleasure to prosper in his hand because he has willingly poured out his soul unto death.

There are passages in the prophetic writings that give evidence that the Messiah is to be divine. In Isaiah 9:6, the messianic King is called by the awesome names: "Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." In Jeremiah 23:6 the Righteous Branch to be raised to David is called "The Lord Our Righteousness." In Micah 5:2, which announces Messiah's birthplace, he is spoken of as coming from eternity. In Daniel 7:13-14, Messiah is seen coming in the clouds of heaven and receiving an eternal dominion over all peoples. Observing these and other passages, the rabbis who developed mystical lore, such as the Zohar, speculated that the Messiah was to be divine.

Though Jesus himself declared that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), he also declared that other sheep not of the Jewish fold would be added to the flock of the messianic Shepherd (John 10:16). This vision is not strange to Jewish expectation. God declared through Isaiah (49:6) that Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles, and his salvation would spread to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 60:1-3 proclaims that Gentiles shall come to the light that spreads from Israel through the Messiah.

We see then that the New Testament vision is not a Gentile aberration. Rather, it is the vision of the ancient Hebrew prophets who proclaimed that God would bring the Gentiles into the blessings of Israel through the Messiah.

In all of these ways, we Jews who have been prompted to investigate the New Testament carefully have come to recognize its basically Jewish character. But we have also discovered something else. Upon closer investigation, those passages which allegedly promote anti-Jewish sentiment are not really anti-Jewish at all.

Family Dispute

There is conflict in the New Testament over the messianic claims of Jesus, but it is mainly conflict between Jews who accept those claims and Jews who do not. In other words, it is a family dispute. If we examine the ways in which the term "the Jews" is used, especially in the Gospel of John, as well as in other New Testament writings, we can see that it is often used to represent the coalition among the Jewish leadership that had purposed to oppose Jesus. In passages where this conflict is in view, the term refers to these opposing leaders. The New Testament reveals that Jesus was so popular with the common Jewish people that his opposers had to operate in secret. This clearly indicates that the term "the Jews" did not refer to the general populace.

Certain harsh statements pronounced by Jesus and the New Testament preachers are not vindictive but prophetic rebukes, in the same vein as the words of Isaiah when he calls Israel "a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters" (Isaiah 1:4). Though anti-Semites who professed to be Christians have used those seemingly harsh statements as a pretext to persecute Jews, they did so in contradiction to the express teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem and lamented her coming destruction at the hands of the Romans, which he announced prophetically (Matthew 23:37-39). He taught his followers to love those who opposed them and to pray for those who shamefully treated them (Matthew 5:43-44).

The writings of Paul are often cited to show the anti-Semitic nature of the New Testament. How can this be, in light of the fact that Paul taught Gentile believers at Rome that though many Jews opposed the gospel, they were loved by God for the sake of the forefathers (Romans 11:28)? Believers are not to be boastful or arrogant against the natural branches (the Jewish people), but they are to make them envious of the messianic blessings by showing them compassion and kindness (Romans 11:11-12, 17-18, 30-31). Jesus taught that only the merciful were to receive mercy, that only the forgiving could expect forgiveness and that love would be the hallmark of his true disciples.

Is It True?

We see nothing in the New Testament that is non-Jewish or anti-Jewish. To the contrary, it is interwoven with Jewish hope and prophetic promise. If one can accept the revelation of Moses and the prophets with utter seriousness, there should be nothing really strange in the New Testament. The real challenge of the New Testament, as we see it, is not about Jewishness, but about faith. It is not a question of "Is it Jewish?" We believe that careful investigation will verify its Jewishness. The real question is, "Is it true?" That is really a question of faith, and it holds a challenge for all people, Jewish and Gentile alike.


Revised from ISSUES Volume 1:3.

After one of our Liberated Wailing Wall presentations at a church in Vancouver, B.C., a woman approached me at the sales table. Can you come and talk to my friend? She needs to talk to you," she said. I saw her friend standing behind her. She looked as though she had been crying. Turning the sales table over to capable hands, I walked over to meet Stephanie. We found a quiet place where we could talk.

Stephanie, a young woman from an Orthodox Jewish family, had come to our presentation of Jewish gospel music with her boyfriend, a Gentile believer. In her soft British accent, she told me her family had moved to Vancouver from London. They had little knowledge of her recent visits to church with her boyfriend.

When I asked what had moved Stephanie to talk to me, she replied that she needed to see another Jewish person like herself who could relate to what she was experiencing as she considered Y'shua. She said something in my testimony that evening had touched her with a sense of common experience. She thought perhaps I could understand what she was feeling and why she was so afraid to ask Jesus into her heart and life.

I did know exactly what she meant. I, too, had been told about Y'shua by a Gentile believer who was my boyfriend. I had begun to think about it when I was teaching in my synagogue Sunday school. In my small class of eight children, one of them had asked at Hanukkah time (which was also Christmastime), "Who is Jesus?" It was a question I could not answer, but one I could not lay aside, either.

About six months later my boyfriend Dan and I agreed to debate the truths of Judaism versus Christianity. We would use only the Scriptures as a reference. As I prepared for the debate, I found myself losing my grip on my position. That made me cling to it even more, until the day of the debate, when I read of the coming Messiah in the Book of Isaiah. At that point I saw for the first time who Y'shua really is.

Now Stephanie was at that same threshold. She was crying and afraid to believe that what she had been told all her life could not be true. At the same time, she realized that it was indeed true—that Y'shua really is Israel's Redeemer. Our circumstances were so similar. Ten years earlier I had stood just where Stephanie was standing—on the brink of discovering the greatest love I have ever known. I knew the bitterness of her tears and the depth of her fear as she contemplated the foreseeable shocked and angry reaction of her family. I also knew the great joy that awaited her.

Together we looked at the Scriptures. We saw Y'shua, crushed and pierced for our transgressions, first through the eyes of the Prophet Isaiah, and then through the New Testament accounts of the disciples who were actually there. We read Y'shua's words of promise and encouragement for us to come and lay our burdens at his feet, and that he would never leave nor forsake us. Then, even as the Scriptures promise that perfect love casts out fear, Stephanie responded. In the knowledge of Y'shua's love for her, she was freed from the fear that had kept her so long from making a commitment. She prayed and asked Y'shua to come into her heart and be her Messiah and Redeemer.

After she prayed, Stephanie looked at me with shining eyes. She described the peace she now felt as she was at last free from the burden of her struggle. We rejoiced together as sisters in our Messiah, and she went to tell her friends about her decision. Please remember our new sister as she grows in the Lord and reaches out to touch her family with the truth and Good News—that Messiah has come!

Spending as many hours as we do in Jews for Jesus distributing literature and proclaiming the gospel, we are afforded many opportunities to talk to people about Jesus. When we are out on the streets, we never know whom the Lord is going to bring across our paths. Most of the time we find ourselves talking to little Jewish grandmothers out shopping, businessmen and women on their lunch breaks, commuters hurrying to get their trains on time or travelers about to catch a flight. But occasionally the Lord opens the door for us to communicate to someone who is better known, even famous. He gave me that kind of opportunity one day while I was on campaign in New York City.

Handing out broadside tracts one evening at a corner of Times Square, I noticed a crowd gathering across the street. Flashbulbs were popping and people were shouting, so I knew that something was happening. It seemed like a great opportunity to distribute a large quantity of broadsides, so I hurried over. There in the midst of all the commotion was the cause of it—Mohammed Ali, who was signing autographs!

The Lord brought to mind a show I had seen on Christian television about George Foreman, who had fought Mohammed Ali. After that fight Foreman had become a believer in Jesus, and at the time of the interview was pastoring a small church in the South. He spoke of Ali and said that he had witnessed to him. He was praying that Ali would come to know Jesus.

As I stood there looking at the former heavyweight champion, I vividly remembered George Foreman's words. Ali looked tired, overweight and merely a shell of the man he used to be. I felt I had to tell him that Jesus loved him.

I tried to make my way through the crowd to talk to him, but I was unable to get through. I decided I would get one of my co-workers, who was nearby. Together we could broadside the large crowd, and maybe get the opportunity to talk to Ali after all.

By the time my co-worker Jeanne and I got back to the crowd, it had grown to somewhere between 250 and 300 people. Everyone wanted Mohammed Ali's autograph, but there was one problem. No one had any paper—that is, no one except us. We had hundreds of tracts. Suddenly everyone was clamoring to get our literature. It was quite an experience to see people pushing through the crowd with our broadsides in hand and getting Mohammed Ali to sign them. We were sure those tracts would not get thrown away!

At last I was able to make it through the crowd to Ali. He was expressionless, and didn't say a word. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, Ali, Jesus loves you. You need Jesus. Listen to Foreman." He looked at me briefly and continued to sign autographs, but I knew he had heard me. My partner Jeanne gave Ali a tract. She also gave one to one of Ali's bodyguards, saying, "Make sure Ali reads this." We distributed more broadsides and then made our way back to the Jews for Jesus office.

Since that evening I have thought much about the incidents surrounding our witness to Mohammed Ali. God had prepared me in advance by allowing me to see that television show about George Foreman. Because of it, I had known that Ali had already received a witness about Jesus and that many others who also had seen that show must be praying for him. That had encouraged me to water the seeds that had already been planted.

I was also struck by my observation of the man himself—a colossus I used to watch fight, who could "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." Ali is probably the greatest heavyweight fighter who ever lived. He used to call himself "the greatest." He isn't so great any more. To me he looked sick, expressionless and empty. I was saddened to see him in such bad condition. As the crowd chanted, "Ali, Ali, Ali, "they were exalting a mortal man with many problems—problems that only Y'shua can heal.

The Lord used that night in my life. He not only gave me the opportunity to water some gospel seeds, he showed me the mortality of even the great. Kings will come and kings will go. Great ones will arise, and great ones will fall; but the Lord our God shall reign forever and ever. His greatness is eternal!

Late last summer something happened at Easneye, a small quiet London suburb, that will undoubtedly leave its mark on the destiny and direction of Jewish evangelism. Nearly 160 participants from 17 nations met at All Nations Christian College, a missionary training institution, for the Third International Consultation of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE). The nine-day conference was the largest international gathering of its kind since a similar meeting in Warsaw, Poland, in 1927.

The LCJE traces its beginnings to the 1980 conference in Pattaya, Thailand, which was sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. One of the chief purposes of the LCJE is to raise the voice of concern" for reaching Jewish people with the gospel. It publishes a quarterly bulletin about issues and methods in Jewish evangelism.

The 1986 LCJE meeting attracted more than three times the number of delegates who attended the second conference in Newmarket, England, in 1983. Conference participants included missionaries who work among the Jewish people, directors and board members of Jewish evangelism agencies, scholars, denominational executives and pastors of Jewish-Christian congregations. More than half of the participants were themselves Jewish Christians. Several members of our Jews for Jesus staff and board of directors were able to attend.

Participants attended workshops and seminars on various subjects, including missionary ethics, evangelistic literature, answering the anti-missionary and handling hostility. Case studies in Jewish evangelism were presented, and national and regional reports were received on the status of Jewish Christian concerns in various parts of the world, including Argentina, France, Eastern Europe, Israel and New Zealand.

In the opening address Mitch Glaser, Jews for Jesus director of recruitment and training, cited the phrase "to the Jew first" used by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans. "The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Great Commission of Matthew 28…inspired the Jewish priority emphasized in Romans," Glaser pointed out. "Jewish evangelism has become the Great Omission of the Church."

While delegates agreed on the need to make Jewish evangelism a priority, they also emphasized the importance of reaching the rest of the world. "To the Jew first, yes—but then to all nations and peoples, including Arabs and Muslims," said Martin Goldsmith, noted author and lecturer in missionary studies.

Rev. David Harley, principal of All Nations Christian College and international coordinator of the consultation, said, "We are not meeting for the sake of meeting, but to call the Jewish people to their Messiah, Jesus Christ." He told the delegates, "One cannot be consistent with Scripture and neglect the evangelization of the Jewish people." Acknowledging that Christians cannot talk about evangelizing the Jews without addressing the issue of Christian theology and the Holocaust, he added, "It is not the Cross that should be reexamined in the light of the Holocaust, but the Holocaust in the light of the Cross."

In a move that may surprise some evangelical Protestant Christians, the consultation came out in support of dialogue with the Jewish people, albeit within carefully defined parameters. Asserting that dialogue is "valuable and essential," delegates expressed "regret that Jewish Christians have often been excluded from current Jewish-Christian dialogue." They called on the churches to insist that Jewish Christians be invited to enter into the dialogue, but maintained that such participation is not a substitute for active Christian witness to the Jewish community.

Rev. Walter Riggans, former pastor and teacher in Israel and now a lecturer in Hebrew and Semitic Studies at All Nations Christian College, said, "Increasingly we find Jewish partners in the dialogue demanding that Christians formally renounce any desire or intention to see Jewish people accept Jesus as Messiah. The Church must bear witness to Jewish people, and our message must be unashamedly Christocentric in content."

The consultation expressed solidarity with "the plight of Soviet Jewry and of Jewish minorities in other countries where their freedom is limited." It urged the Church to pray and act responsibly to secure their freedom.

One of the regional reports brought before the conference the plight of the Falashas, a tribe of Jewish Ethiopians who number 25,000. Of these, 12,000 have migrated to Israel via the Sudan because of the ongoing famine in Ethiopia. Many are in "absorption centers" in Israel, and initial contact shows that "sizeable numbers" are Christians, though accurate figures are unavailable.

As one of the U.S. delegates, Jews for Jesus staffer Susan Perlman brought a report on the Y'shua Campaign as an example of using a negative situation as a spur for positive outreach. She pointed out that this media ministry was launched after the name of Jesus Christ was desecrated on the outside wall of the San Francisco headquarters building. "We took that desecration and turned it around to glorify God," she said. "Every Christmas since 1982 we have placed fullpage advertisements in major newspapers and magazines around the U.S.A., including such publications as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek. In 1982 the ads reached a readership of some 13 million. By 1986 that figure topped 50 million. Since the media campaign began, Jews for Jesus has handled nearly 15,000 inquiries from Jews and some 17,000 from unbelieving non-Jews."

The conference issued a statement urging "the Church to uphold the legitimacy of Christian witness to the Jewish community." The statement, in the form of an open letter to the Church, called for continuing evangelistic outreach. While expressing grief over the "discrimination and suffering which have been inflicted on the Jewish people in the name of Jesus Christ," it added that past history cannot be used "to silence the Church in her witness to the Jewish people."

The closing address was delivered by Bishop Jack Dain of Sydney, Australia. He said that he was "impressed by the tremendous scholarship represented here which provides a solid theological basis for the consultation." He applauded the "wide-ranging decisions to network, which will lead to an interchange of ideas, materials and programs for Jewish evangelism."

I have a New Year's greeting for all my friends—one I know they will not receive from anyone else:

In this coming year may you have as much joy, prosperity and happiness as you can contain, and may you have only enough trouble to produce in you the quality of life God desires.

That may sound like a curse instead of a blessing, but it's not. I want 1987 to be the best year you have ever had, but my greeting stems from the recognition of what it takes to make a truly good life. Others who do not recognize that truth would wish you a year totally devoid of even one sorrowful moment, or that you would never experience anything that might cause you alarm. My prayer for you for 1987 is different.

I am trying to bless you according to the biblical understanding of life. The Bible teaches that our present life, out of necessity, must include some trouble and sorrow. That's right—trouble is necessary! It is essential for the development of character. To ignore that fact leaves us unprepared and ill-equipped to confront the real world. That real world contains more pain than pleasure, more sickness than health and more poverty than prosperity. Only the childishly minded can hope to avoid the soul-racking pain of normal, everyday reality, but beyond this regular reality lies a greater reality. I call it redemptive reality.

In order to recognize that redemptive reality, we must lift our vision above the earthly horizon to the heavenly horizon. Redemptive reality does not minimize the fact of painful human existence. Redemptive reality gives meaning to the pain we suffer.

Think of the words of Y'shua to his followers: In the world ye shall have tribulation [troubles]: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Surely the disciples must have been confounded by the fact that although Jesus was perfection personified, earthly existence for them—and for him—seemed as bad as ever. The ameliorating aspect of Y'shua's statement—the balm for that painful prediction—lies in that last phrase: "…be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." If he is in us and we are in him, we can be optimistic. We can even be cheerful. Though we are undergoing the pain of a present battle, Y'shua has already won the war! In him we are eventually and ultimately winners. In him we cannot lose, although we may suffer setbacks and incur casualties. So why worry over a war that we have already won?

We worry and fret because no one likes pain; yet pain seems to be the way of this life. But what if there were no pain? That would be dangerous. We see this in the physical realm. Some illnesses do not cause pain. They actually keep a person from feeling pain, and that is what makes them so dangerous. Hansen's Disease, better known as leprosy, is one of those illnesses. Most of us have a mental image of a leper. The victim has stumpy, fingerless hands and hobbles about on feet with missing toes or, even more grotesque, has a face without a nose. But leprosy itself does not cause those terrible disfigurements. Leprosy damages the nervous system, depriving a person of the sensation of pain. Lepers lose fingers, toes and noses because they feel no pain in those extremities when they are damaged by fire, infection or fracture. They do not react to dangers that can destroy tissue. Physical pain is a God-given warning to prevent such damage.

In much the same way, the pain and suffering of this life can work for our good. Life's sorrows can produce the resolve and repentance that enable us to turn from the soul-deadening effects of living in our godless society. The pain of sorrow is often the warning signal that redemptive reality beckons. It calls upon us to transcend our surface existence, to rise above our present circumstances and to set our hearts on that which is above.

Conversely, happy events can work as an anesthetic. They can serve to fix us in our present circumstances to the point where we lack motivation to seek the higher life. Too many believers are complacent when things are going well. They become satisfied with what they have and what they can get out of this world—until some tragedy strikes. Then the pain reminds them of the transitory nature of this temporal life.

The spiritually-minded believer knows that this life is only the process that will bring us to our eternal destiny. If we know that we are here temporarily for the purpose of accomplishing God's will, we can be comforted by life's pain rather than confounded by it. We are in a transitory state that ultimately will lead us to perfection. That process is outlined in Romans 5, which tells us that we ought to rejoice ("glory") in troubles.

At the outset that certainly sounds illogical. Trouble causes despair. To rejoice in trouble seems a direct reversal of what appears to be an appropriate and acceptable reaction. But Paul goes on to explain that we glory in troubles because they produce patience. Then patience enables us to endure, so we can perceive the true meaning of life and experience redemptive reality. The knowledge of redemptive reality gives us reason to hope, so that the adverse events of this life will not devastate us. Even in adversity we perceive and receive the love of God through Christ. Trouble produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and the strengthening of our character enables us to grasp hope and utilize it to see into eternity itself. That knowledge of eternity with God brings security. His love fills our hearts, and we experience joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Pain is part of God's perfecting process. Its purpose is not to defeat us, but to enable us to move forward. Trouble's darkness that envelopes like fog does not come to bewilder, but to enable us to see the beacon of God's love. It functions as a directional beam that enables us to move ahead in safety. The darkness of sorrow makes the yielded believer bright—a contrasting ray of God's redemptive reality.

None of us knows what troubles we will encounter next week, next month or during the coming year. It's a good thing that we do not. If we were seers and had absolute knowledge of impending sorrows and the troublous events that lay ahead, we might live with such a sense of dread that we would not see that joys also awaited us. The certain knowledge of both the pain and the good would probably prevent us from enjoying the good.

God has promised that he will not allow any trial or temptation that is beyond our ability to endure, but will provide the means for us to bear the trial, to pass the test, whatever it may be (I Corinthians 10:13). God allows us to encounter troubles to make us strong. He is not trying to make us victims of our own sin, or victims of the sinful world around us. It is the victimization of Y'shua at Calvary that enables us who believe to be victors—now in this present life and for all eternity.

As we encounter troubles, it is enough to know that those trials serve the purpose of perfecting or completing our characters, enabling us to live in the realm of redemptive reality. Every knock can be the impetus or impulse for a boost upward or a plunge into despair. It depends on whether we are headed up or down. If our gaze is upward, toward God, he will propel us upward through every circumstance.

So then, rather than a trouble-free existence in 1987, I wish for my friends something more: the grinding, the polishing, the perfecting and the upward propelling of our heavenly Father. May you receive from his caring hand all that you need to make you more beautiful in his sight and to cause you to shine as the stars of heaven, a beacon of God's love and grace to those around you.

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