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Continuing our Outreach to the Forgotten Jews of Far East Russia PDF Print E-mail

FAR

In a small house synagogue about 8000 kilometres east of Moscow a group of poor Jewish people sit together around a long table celebrating a Shabbat dinner. The town of Birobidzhan is an unlikely place for a Jewish community, just north of the Chinese border, further east than Siberia and further east than Mongolia.

This area called the Jewish Autonomous Region was created by Joseph Stalin in April 1928 and began to be settled by Jews from Belarus and Ukraine in the 1930s. It was Stalin's version of Zion – a homeland for the Jewish people. Since the fall of communism in the early 1990s many Jewish people left to make "aliyah" (return) to Israel. But due to ongoing conflict in the Middle East, this has slowed.

Today the combined Jewish population of the cities of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Birobidzhan total around 70,000.

The Jews of Birobidzhan originally came as free people in the 1920s and 30s, however, hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to the gulags around Magadan and other remote areas across the region. An estimated 17 million people died in Stalin's gulags, up to three million of them Jewish.

It's been our vision for the past 14 years to reach these forgotten Jews scattered across the Far East with the Gospel of Messiah.

Outreach Began in 2004

In September 2004, Celebrate Messiah took a missions team to Vladivostok, then on to Khabarovsk and finally to Birobidzhan. During that first visit we identified key people for future messianic ministry in the region and made significant contacts with prominent people in the Jewish community.

We have planted Messianic congregations in Birobidzhan and Artyom and are encouraging two Jewish families in Khabarovsk and Vladivostok to start home fellowships in those cities. We are praying that in time these will also develop into Messianic congregations.

Next month, Celebrate Messiah Executive Director Lawrence Hirsch will be part of a team with Rita and Fay to share the Gospel with scattered Jews in the region, to build up relationships with church pastors and Jewish leaders, and plan for the fifth year of Messianic conferences in August.

At last year's Streams of Living Water conference in Artyom and Birobidzhan a total of 160 people attended, including 70 children. Twenty one adults went through a Messianic mikveh (baptism) and eight people made a first time commitment to follow Messiah Yeshua.

When the team are in Far East Russia next month ministering in temperatures of up to 20 below zero, they'll be warmed by your prayers and financial support.

Please consider making an online donation towards this vital ministry.

Itinerary

04 April – Leaving Melbourne, Tullamarine

05 April – Arriving to Vladivostok – meeting with our Pastors Nikolay and Natasha

05 April – Pastors Meeting – (Lawrence Hirsch speaking) at Artyom and

Visiting Camp site

06 April - Eve of Shabbat Service at Dom Missi'ee, Artyom

07 April - Shabbat Service in the morning and the afternoon (Lawrence Hirsch speaking)

Visiting Jewish families who live below the line of poverty

08 April - Lawrence Hirsch - speaking at a church in Vladivostok

08 April - late evening flying out to Khabarovsk

09 April - Meeting at 3 pm in Khabarovsk's synagogue with the Jewish community

Lawrence Hirsch Speaking at 7 pm at a Church in Khabarovsk

10 April - Meeting with a Messianic family as well as other Jewish people.

11 April - Travelling to Birobidzhan from Khabarovsk – meeting with our outreach workers Eugene and Irena. During the day visiting Orphanages

12 April - Visiting Jewish Families also visiting Simcha Camp Site

Lawrence Hirsch speaking at 7.00 pm in a church.

13 April - Erev Shabbat service in Dom Missi'ee

14 April - Morning Shabbat service as well as afternoon service at Dom Missee

15 April - Travelling from Birobidzhan to Khabarovsk

Lawrence Hirsch speaking at a church in Khabarovsk

15 April - Late evening flying from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok

16 April - Flying back home to Melbourne, Australia

 Prayer points

 1. Please pray for our families whilst we are away

2. Please pray for our travelling mercies for Lawrence Hirsch, Rita Ivenskis and Fay Matov

3. Please pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and may the Lord open up the spiritual eyes and hearts of the Jewish people towards Yeshua

4. Please pray for the outpouring of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to the churches in order to bring them towards the right relationship with the God of Israel as well as give love towards Jewish people

5. Please pray against the spirit of anti-semitism as well as replacement theology

6. Please also pray for miracles, healing, creative miracles as well as wonders in the heavenly realm

7. Please pray for reconciliation between the churches and Israel

8. Please pray for the Will of God at all times regarding this trip

 

 
Why Jewish Evangelism? PDF Print E-mail

Why Jewish Evangelism?

I am often asked why we believe Jewish evangelism is so important. This is a great question to which I love to respond.

Our motivation for Jewish evangelism begins with thanksgiving to God who chose the Jewish people.

As Yeshua Himself said, "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22).

Without the Jewish people, we would not have the Bible or the Messiah Himself! This is quite fundamental and basic, but there are many clear passages in Scripture that support the case for the importance of Jewish evangelism.

Romans 1:16: To the Jew First

Paul, also a Jewish believer in Yeshua, writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

Although Paul was considered the "apostle to the Gentiles," he still carried a great burden for his own people...and he practiced what he wrote. In fact, wherever Paul traveled during his ministry among the Gentiles, he first preached the Gospel to the Jewish people who lived in that area (Acts 13:13–52; 14:1–5; 18:7–11; 19:8–10).

We should ask ourselves why the Apostle Paul made Jewish evangelism such a priority in his own life. The Apostle Paul's argument may be summarised as follows: "If Jewish people are successfully evangelised, then Yeshua the Messiah will return." There was a sense of end-times urgency in his preaching, which is why Paul encouraged the Roman believers, and us, to prioritise the evangelisation of the Jewish people.

Matthew 23:37–39

Matthew 23 is a pivotal passage in understanding the logic of the argument:

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Matthew 23:37-39)

Throughout His earthly ministry, Yeshua took every opportunity to turn the hearts of His Jewish people to Himself, but was thwarted by the Jewish leaders who rejected His person and message. Finally, the Savior came to the heartbreaking conclusion that He was going to be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3, John 1:11). Matthew 23 should be viewed as a lament, reflecting the love of the Messiah for His people. He portrays Himself as a hen wanting to gather her chicks under her wings, which is a very moving image of the Savior's love for His chosen people.

Yet, He was unwilling to reject the Jewish people because they rejected Him. On the contrary, He added a promise: The Jewish people will not see Yeshua again until they believe He is the promised Messiah and cry out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."

Some suggest that this declaration is reminiscent of the statement made by rabbis at weddings when the groom approaches his wedding canopy to receive his bride. Therefore, by saying, "Baruch haba bashem Adonai," Israel, the bride, is portrayed as recognising Yeshua as her true bridegroom, linking the repentance of the Jewish people with the second coming of Yeshua.

Another Old Testament passage which teaches this idea is Zechariah 12:10. In this passage, we learn that one day the Jewish people will look to the One who was pierced and then mourn for Him like one mourns for an only son.

Romans 11:11–29

Another important passage is found in Romans chapter 11, where the Apostle Paul argues that God has not cast off His people, Israel, despite their national rejection of Yeshua as their Messiah. Paul argues that God is not finished with Israel, because one day "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25–27).

He writes in Romans 11:15, "For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" The Lord will not reject His people because He is always faithful to His promises (Romans 11:29). In fact, the very existence of the Jewish people today is a powerful argument for the truth of the Bible and evidence for the existence and power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The great day of salvation for the Jewish people will bring about the return of the Lord and God's blessing upon the world because, in that day, Yeshua will sit on the promised throne of David, as predicted in Isaiah 9:6-7 and 11:9-10.

The Bible teaches that the Jewish people will turn to Yeshua in the last days and only then will the Lord return. This is why reaching Jewish people with the Gospel must become a priority for all Christians. The salvation of the future remnant of Israel described by Paul is the final step in the chain of events preceding Yeshua's second coming and culmination of the Abrahamic blessings promised to the world (Genesis 12:1-3).

There is a remnant today of Messianic Jews, and I am so glad to be included among them. However, a great movement of Jewish people who will believe in Yeshua, is coming, and this is the hope that really motivates us.

What Is Our Role Today?

The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are God's instruments in preparing the hearts of those who will come to faith today, and even those who will be a part of the remnant of tomorrow. He writes, "I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous" (Romans 11:11).

The salvation of the Jewish people will come about because of the power of God, but He wants to use us – especially non-Jews – to share the Good News with the Jewish people. Through your prayers, giving, and witnessing to your Jewish friends and family, the plan of God will go forth in power!

I pray the Lord will burden all of us to reach Jewish people for Yeshua. Remember, it all begins with our thankfulness to God for all He has done through the Jewish people and through the greatest Jew who ever walked the earth – Yeshua the Messiah!

Our best estimate is that less than one percent of the worldwide Jewish community believes that Yeshua is the Messiah. This gives us plenty of opportunity to preach the Gospel to the remnant today and prepare for the great outpouring of His Spirit upon the Jewish people tomorrow.

Please consider a generous gift today to help us continue our ministries. We cannot do all of what God has called us to do without your partnership.

May blessings and joy fill your life in 2018.

Your brother in the Messiah,

Lawrence

 
Shalom and blessings to you in Yeshua our Messiah! PDF Print E-mail

I believe that the number one reason why Jewish people do not believe in Jesus is because they believe they would no longer be Jewish if they accept Jesus. Of course, nothing can be further from the truth! When a Jewish person becomes a believer in Jesus, he or she is simply embracing the Messiah, for whom we've been waiting thousands of years. How could it NOT be a "Jewish" thing to do – to believe in the Messiah? Our Scriptures and tradition teach us that every Jewish person in the world should follow Him when He comes.

Our yearly evangelistic newsletter is designed for you to read, enjoy and learn and then hopefully give away to your not-yet-believing Jewish or Gentile friend. You can download a PDF version here. The newsletter is packed full of great Messianic Jewish apologetics explaining why we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, including web related links and offers to receive more information. We hope that you will take this opportunity to prayerfully reach out to Jewish people that you know, and help us "Bring the Message to the Original Messengers." Please pray that many Jewish people will receive these newsletters, as well as our online version, with a spiritually open and enquiring heart.

We also invite you to prayerfully share in the harvest with us through your financial support as we continue to reach out to Jewish people here in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Israel, and in 14 other countries around the world. We are doing as much as we can in these urgent times to share the Good News of Yeshua with our Jewish people. Every gift, large or small, helps us fulfil our mission. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

Yours together for Israel's salvation,

Lawrence Hirsch

Executive Director, Celebrate Messiah

 
Jewish Objections Answered - You Can't Be Jewish and Believe In Jesus PDF Print E-mail

I was raised to believe that Jews can't believe in Jesus and remain Jews. The vast majority of Jewish people would call this a "no brainer!" But how did this type of thinking come about?

The historical facts of the case would actually lead to the opposite conclusion. Jesus Himself was Jewish! Also, His disciples and nearly all the writers of the New Testament were Jewish. One of the very first controversies discussed by Yeshua's followers was whether non-Jews could believe in Jesus the Messiah and be viewed as equal citizens in the kingdom of God! The answer, of course, was a heartfelt and resounding "Yes!"

As these early Jewish Jesus-followers shared the message of His death and resurrection, Gentiles began to embrace the message in far greater numbers than Jewish people. Within two centuries, the communities of Yeshua's followers lost their Jewish character, as Gentiles became the dominant force within the community. Increased polarisation on both sides fueled the belief that Jews cannot believe in Jesus and that Jewish people who did believe must abandon Jewish customs. These positions became matters of Jewish and Christian law (in the Talmud, Roman Law, and Canon Law), leading to today's status quo.

Nevertheless, some Jewish people did believe and continue to believe in Yeshua while remaining Jewish. They celebrate the Jewish holidays, identify with the Jewish past, present, and future, and keep many of the Jewish traditions that remain consistent with both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament message. Whether we speak of rabbis like Rabbi Cohn, or politicians like British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, or Messianic Jews in Israel, North America or Australia, we find that it is indeed possible for Jewish people to believe in Jesus. There are also hundreds of Messianic Jewish congregations around the globe, and they are growing in number and vitality, without abandoning their Jewish identity.

From the New Testament until today, Jewish people have believed in Jesus while maintaining their Jewish heritage. They believe despite the pressure of a growing secular culture, where neither being Jewish nor following Jesus is very popular. When asked why they believe in the Jewish Messiah, most of today's Jewish followers of Yeshua would simply say it's because Jesus fulfills the Messianic prophecies found in the Hebrew Scriptures. And even more so, these Messianic Jews have experienced God in ways they never had before they embraced Yeshua as their Messiah. It is hard to argue with another person's experience!

 

1711 Kotel w flag

By Bruce Kleinberg, A Messianic Jew from Dallas, Texas

 
Jewish Objections Answered - If Jesus is the Messiah, Why Isn't There Peace in the World? PDF Print E-mail

If the Messiah snaps his fingers and, "poof," world peace is suddenly here, how long do you think it would last? Probably not too long based upon thousands of years of human experience. Ask yourself, "How quickly would the bickering start? How long would it take for wars, even small interpersonal ones, to heat up?" Clearly, humans are not naturally inclined toward maintaining shalom (peace).

What good would this finger-snapping messiah have really done in the long run? What is the point, if he had only quelled a few skirmishes, but left the human heart unchanged? As the great Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote,

"...And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (Isaiah 2:4)

How will this transformation happen? The only hope for sustainable world peace is to change the hearts and the spirits of individuals and communities; not by solving all of the world's political disputes in an instant, because instants are over instantaneously! This is why the idea of two comings of the Messiah makes sense. The Messiah will bring inner peace to human hearts through His death and resurrection and then will come again to bring external peace. The heart of an individual must be changed before the global community can be transformed.

The idea of two comings lines up with the biblical hope of the Messiah who comes to die for sin, rise from the dead to give power to change, and will return again to judge the nations and transform the world. True peace comes one heart at a time, and it starts with you and me.

1711 Israeli soldiers

By Eric Mattson, a Messianic Jew from Atlanta, Georgia

 
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