Showing posts by: David Sviontek

About David Sviontek

Jewish Feasts & Holidays

By on July 28th, 2017
Posted in Zealous Magazine

When the children of Israel were delivered out of Egyptian slavery, God instituted special feasts, or “appointed times” throughout the agricultural year to celebrate, remember, repent, and give thanks. The Jewish calendar is based on these feasts which are set on a lunar cycle. It was well established by the time of the Babylonian captivity and predates by centuries the universally-accepted solar-based Gregorian (or civil) calendar finalized in the 1500’s. Because the Jewish calendar is “shorter” in days than the Gregorian, the feast dates change from year-to-year on commonly used western calendars.

There are seven “appointed feasts” mentioned in the Torah. The first are in the autumn, referred to as the High Holidays, and include the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShana), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Feast of Booths (Sukkot). The spring begins with Passover (Pesach), including the Feast of Unleavened Bread and First Fruits, and ends with the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot or Pentecost). The Lord also set aside the seventh day, or Sabbath, of each week as a holy, designated day of rest. Over the years, other minor holidays were add- ed to commemorate important events in the Jewish calendar. These include Purim in early spring, Tisha B’Av in the summer, Simchat Torah in the fall, and Hanukkah in the winter.

The Jewish feasts are ripe with prophetic meaning and fulfillment by Yeshua. Further study and/or observance of these “forever statutes” can bring great dimension and abun- dant life to a “grafted in” believer. For more information on the scriptural basis, traditions, and recipes pertaining to the Jewish Feasts, please go to our website: and select “Jewish Holidays.”


Why the Rabbis Don’t Understand Rosh HaShanah

By on July 27th, 2017
Posted in Zealous Magazine

Every year Jewish people do the strangest thing. We celebrate a new year in the middle of the year. It is called Rosh HaShanah, and it is not in the Bible. Well, not explicitly.

The scriptures tell us:

On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets” (Numbers 29:1). We also have this: “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts” (Leviticus 23:24-25).

You may have noticed that not only does it not mention “Rosh” (head) “HaShanah” (of the year), but comes on the “first day of the seventh month.” In Hebrew this is called the Day of Trumpeting. So, the supposed Jewish New Year is actually a day in which we are to blast trumpets as a memorial.

A memorial for what? It doesn’t say. There is no specific reason given for the blowing of the trumpets. Now doesn’t it seem strange that God would leave that out? Unless, there is a meaning that would be revealed in the future.

It is commonly believed that this blowing of the trumpets is a call to repentance, as Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—is only ten days later. In the Scripture, the shofar, or trumpet, had many meanings. Numbers 10 speaks of the silver trumpets being a way to call people to assemble or the Israelites to battle. The ram’s horn was sounded at the New Moon festivals each month as we see in Psalm 81:3.

However, I think that the greatest fulfillment of this holiday is in expectation of the Messiah: “Then the Lord will appear over them; His arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; He will march in the storms of the south” (Zechariah 9:14).

The revelation is further revealed in the New Covenant:

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:41).

“In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

I believe that because the rabbis were blinded to the revelation of Yeshua, they were also blinded to the true meaning of Yom Teruah—the Feast of Trumpets. They needed to beef-it-up and give it more meaning, and thus decided that creation took place on the first day of the seventh month. And now it is accepted as gospel truth (pun intended) without a shred of evidence.

There is more. The seventh month in Hebrew is called Tishrei, which really isn’t Hebrew. In Hebrew the months are simply recognized by their order—the first month, the third month, etc.* While exiled in Babylon, we took on the Babylonian names of the months like Nisan and Tishrei.

The Babylonians took their celebrations quite seriously, where as in the Scriptures, it is never emphasized as a holiday. Tishrei was their New Year, and it is possible that the rabbis embraced this—as it was already a holiday and thus easy to incorporate without causing friction with their captors. They could celebrate Yom Teruah as a New Year.

Of course this is merely a hypothesis. The most important point here is to discover its true meaning of the Feast of Trumpets—a day to look toward the coming of Messiah when he subdues the enemies of Israel (Zechariah 14:3-4) and sets up His Millennial kingdom. As believers, we can join in by taking extra time on this day to pray that Messiah’s return will be hastened.

(*There are four exceptions: Aviv, Ziv, Etanim and Bul)

Ron Cantor is the GOD TV Israel Regional Director and host of the daily TV program, “Out of Zion.” He also serves on the leadership team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. Ron and his family moved to Odessa, Ukraine, to work for MJBI in 1996 before eventually moving to Israel in 2003, where they now reside.

Focused on the Goal Line

By on July 27th, 2017
Posted in Zealous Magazine

I have a humiliating confession. Though I am one of the most die-hard Texans many of you may ever meet, I did not grow up a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

In October 1989, when I was about to turn 7 years old, I was proudly wearing the Purple and Gold of the Minnesota Vikings. Growing up in rural Minnesota, I loved football. In fact, my hometown team – the Tigers – had finished runner-up in the state championship in 1988 and were undefeated deep into the 1989 state playoffs in the fall of that year. Football was on everyone’s mind in my little hometown.

The biggest football news that year, however, was the infamous Herschel Walker trade between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings received a soon-to-be irrelevant Herschel Walker and the Cowboys received a major handful of draft picks. One of those draft picks ended up being a young man from Florida, Emmitt Smith.

For most of us, the rest is history: Three-time Super Bowl champion, eight-time Pro Bowler, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and Hall of Famer. Yet Emmitt’s achievements did not come easily. He was frequently criticized for being too small, not strong enough, and too slow. What was it, then, that made him the greatest rusher in NFL history?

Emmitt Smith is constantly referred to as one of the best second-effort runners in the history of the game of football. Another way of putting this is that Emmitt Smith was determined.

Clip after clip of Emmitt’s career shows him smashing into a defender, then driving forward with focused vision to gain even more yards before being brought to the ground. You can see the determination in his eyes as he focused down field on the goal line ahead of him.

Though he was never the biggest, fastest or strongest, his determined will to succeed drove him to record heights on the football field. And the same vision and determined focus are now driving him as a successful businessman.

As a staff, we at MJBI feel many similarities to Emmitt Smith. We’re not out to win a Super Bowl, but we have a task before us that is even more challenging – to see all Israel saved, which will lead to a revival in the nations of the earth (Romans 11:15)! We’re not the biggest, strongest, or even the smartest. But we understand the specific mission that God has given us to raise up and train leaders for this great revival, and we’re determined to carry our mission out to completion.

In Hebrews 12:1-2, we find some of the most famous Bible verses used by believing athletes from all over the world. The Message version puts it so plainly:

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it… start running—and never quit!… Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God!”

The Holy Spirit spoke these verses to us as a team as we were praying over our strategy at MJBI earlier this year. The Lord was reminding us that now is the time to go forward, with eyes focused on Jesus, who will show us how to press on to complete this great mission He has given to us.

Our history is a hall of fame story of faithful leaders who have blazed the way for MJBI to be where we are today – active in nine countries around the world, training hundreds of leaders for Jewish ministry every year. But now it is our turn to move with determined focus toward that “exhilarating finish with God” and see the ancient plan of Israel’s restoration and redemption fulfilled!

We have an aggressive vision to pioneer college-level Messianic education on the five major continents around the world. Currently, this only exists in two – North America (U.S.) and Asia (Israel). By 2020, we are aiming to be the first-ever provider of collegiate Messianic Jewish Theology in South America, Africa, and Europe. We have already co-launched the North American option for this program through The King’s University, and we’re actively moving to complete our vision in these other locations even as you read this.

As I mentioned in my opening letter in this issue of “Zealous,” in the first six months of 2017, I traveled to all five of these continents, and 13 countries throughout all of them. I am determined to move this “20/20 Vision” into reality, to see the vision and mission of the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute fulfilled.

And just like Emmitt Smith, we at MJBI need fans. We need people to cheer us on, to support us, and to help motivate us when we’re weary from the challenging mission given to us. We can be as determined as we want, but we will not go far if we do not go with you and your support.

On September 14, 2017, we will gather with Emmitt Smith at the Arlington Convention Center for our annual D/FW banquet. As you can likely tell by now, the clear theme for our event this year is “Determined,” with an emphasis on the Word the Lord spoke to us from Hebrews 12:1-2.

We would be delighted if you could join us on September 14. Emmitt will share his experience, insight, and passionate wisdom with us as we run toward this great vision God has given us to reach, train, and bless the Jewish people. This will truly be a banquet unlike any other we have had in a very long time.

Until we see you in September, may you be inspired with a new determined faith of your own to carry out the mission that God has given you. We’re praying for you, and grateful for your friendship in every way!

Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeister Signature
Gratefully, Nic Lesmeister – President and CEO

Emmit James Smith III is a former college and professional American football running back who became the National Football League’s all-time leading rusher through his fifteen seasons in the league during the 1990s and 2000s.

Dallas Cowboys Emmitt Smith (22) in action, rushing vs Washington Redskins at Texas Stadium. Irving, TX (1994)

Credit: Al Tielemans (Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

For Zions Sake | Summer 2017

By on July 27th, 2017
Posted in Zealous Magazine

Late in 2016, I began feeling an urgent stirring in my heart for the forthcoming year. The elections were over, Dr. Wayne Wilks and I had completed our transitional year as I took over the role of President & CEO, and MJBI had moved into new offices.

As I set my heart on the Lord in reflection, I felt Him saying, “Let’s Go!” Immediately, I knew that an intense pace of ministry was ahead of us at MJBI in the beginning of 2017.

In the first six months of 2017, I traveled to 13 countries and five continents. From Japan to Israel, and South Africa to Poland, I became good friends with American Airlines.

With each trip, I increasingly felt a new emotion rising in my spirit. Through the strength of the Lord, I was becoming more and more DETERMINED. Determined to press into the expanding ministry opportunities the Lord was bringing us to train new leaders for Jewish ministry. Determined to faithfully carry the flame the Wilks family passed on to Tabatha and I. And ultimately, determined to see Yeshua glorified all over the world.

In this issue of “Zealous”, we are unveiling the details of our annual banquet event. I am beyond excited about this year’s special guest, former Dallas Cowboy Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.

Ron Cantor, long-time MJBI friend, shares a compelling insight on the fall holiday of Rosh HaShanah. We will introduce you to a new member of the MJBI team, and you will hear from another Israeli friend of mine who directs an incredible Jerusalem-based ministry in our “Life From the Land” feature.

I hope that by the end of reading this issue of “Zealous” you will be as excited as I am about the ministry MJBI is being called to around the world in the days ahead. Without your partnership, it would be impossible to carry out our God-given mission. We sincerely thank you!

Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeister Signature
Gratefully, Nic Lesmeister – President and CEO


By on July 27th, 2017
Posted in Zealous Magazine

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you MJBI’s new Strategic Partnership Coordinator, Pastor Kevin Bentley. Since 2011, I have had the privilege of knowing Kevin, his lovely wife of 21 years, Mindi, and their beautiful daughter Lauren.

Kevin was the Director of Johnson County for Israel, an initiative through the Christian Heritage Foundation (CHF), a dear friend of MJBI and partner in ministry, located in Cleburne, Texas. In his role at CHF, Kevin facilitated relationships between pastors in the U.S. and Israel. This was a natural fit for Kevin as he grew up a preacher’s kid and also pastored a church for 20 years.

The Lord has placed within Kevin a talent and energy for connecting and bringing together people of all backgrounds and occupations to maximize kingdom work. When we began discussing the need for someone to foster our church and organizational relationships, it was providential to make Kevin part of the MJBI team.

Kevin also serves as business pastor for DMI corporation in Cedar Hill. He and his family make their home in Cleburne, TX.

Welcome to the team, Kevin!

Life from the Land

By on July 27th, 2017
Posted in Zealous Magazine

Hatikva Project is a Jerusalem-based Messianic ministry working to see the Israeli Body of Messiah built up and serving needy Israelis in the name of Yeshua. We believe the Lord has called the local, Israeli believers to step boldly into areas of public influence to provide value to our nation in many different areas while operating with excellence. In this way, we bring the name of Yeshua into day-to-day conversations in a way that brings blessing that cannot be easily ignored.

The ministry of HaTikva Project is expressed through three departments:


Through HaTikva Aid, we provide direct financial support to Israeli believers who are experiencing financial crisis. We meet the day-to-day needs of widows, single mothers, and families experiencing extreme financial hardship throughout the nation of Israel. By pairing our financial aid with the support of local congregations and financial counselors, we are able to see breakthrough in the lives of many believers.


Dental care is one of the greatest needs in Israel as it is not covered under the national insurance policy. We operate the first and only Messianic Jewish dental clinic in Israel where we boldly treat patients in the name of Yeshua. We are the only clinic in the nation providing a full range of dental services to the needy and are the preferred clinic of referral for government agencies in Jerusalem. We are currently developing a network of clinics throughout the nation and providing scholarships for believers to study dentistry. In this way, we meet a critical need with excellence while making the name of Yeshua famous through dentistry.


This is a new initiative that we are excited to launch! We believe that caring for “unwanted” and orphaned children is one of the highest expressions of the Gospel. Our aim is to encourage and equip the Israeli Body of Messiah to take a leading role in caring for such children in Israel. We will recruit and equip couples and families to host, foster, and adopt through conferences, seminars, and public education. We will work with various agencies to promote the benefits of Messianic Jewish families adopting Israeli children. As well, we provide financial support to help with the associated expenses.

We are blessed to be serving the Lord in these critical ways as we work toward the spiritual restoration of Israel.

Evan Levine is the Executive Director of HaTikva Project. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Elisa, and their three children. Evan also serves as a shamash (deacon) and worship director at Ahavat Yeshua, a Hebrew speaking Messianic congregation in Jerusalem.

Find out more about this dynamic ministry at

From Slavery to Freedom

By on March 26th, 2017
Posted in Featured Articles

“I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their slave masters, for I know their pains. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…” Exodus 3:7, TLV

Are you under the bondage of slavery? ADONAI has made the way!

Jacob and his sons fled from a great famine to the land of Egypt. They settled in Egypt under the protection of Joseph, Pharaoh’s second-in-command. Eventually, a new Pharaoh came to power who did not remember Joseph. This Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews.

ADONAI enlisted Moses as His representative in order to deliver the people of Israel from the yoke of Egyptian slavery. Moses petitioned Pharaoh, “Let My people go,” to offer sacrifices in the wilderness to ADONAI. Pharaoh refused. Therefore, ADONAI performed ten miracles/plagues in an attempt to persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. The plagues concluded with the death of every firstborn.

ADONAI instructed Moses and the people to slaughter a lamb without blemish at twilight in order to spread the blood on the doorposts and on the cross beams (Exodus 12). The blood on the doors would be a sign to G-d, causing Him to pass over their houses so that they would escape the judgment of death. This perfect lamb was the sacrifice that stayed ADONAI’s hand of judgment from coming against anyone who placed his or her faith in the promise of ADONAI. God instructed the people to consume all of the roasted lamb and to leave none until morning. If a lamb was too big for one family, they were to invite their neighbors to partake.

ADONAI instructed His people Israel to celebrate this day as an annual and eternal ordinance (Exodus 13:14). This is generally done in the Jewish community by having a Passover seder (an ordered service), which consists of retelling the story of Israel’s deliverance while eating a meal together. The lamb was to be eaten with bitter herbs and matzah (unleavened bread). During a seder, these elements would be present to recall the time of slavery in Egypt and the subsequent deliverance of ADONAI.

Yeshua can be seen throughout the Passover story. He is the Lamb that was pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53) and when His blood is applied to our hearts it will be a sign that we have been purchased for redemption. The penalty of our sins is death, but judgment shall pass over us and ADONAI will lead us out of bondage to sin into a freedom where we can wholeheartedly worship and serve Him.

The format of the seder has remained relatively constant over time. During each Passover, we tell the story to our children of how we were delivered out of slavery in Egypt. This corporate solidarity makes the miracle real in our own lives.

At a Passover seder a few years ago, we participated in a new addition to the seder. An additional cup of wine to celebrate the State of Israel witnessed to the great works and miracles of ADONAI in our own generation. The birth of the modern State of Israel opened a heavenly door of return to the Land of our forefathers – the Land that G-d promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants forever.

ADONAI has provided Yeshua the Lamb for our own deliverance from the bondage of slavery to sin. He has released us into a world to share this Good News with everyone, Jew and Gentile (Romans 1:16). We have not been delivered out of slavery and into freedom to simply enjoy our freedom. We have been delivered with the purpose of worshiping and serving ADONAI as in the times of the Exodus. The people were to go into the wilderness and worship/serve ADONAI. Since we have been delivered from bondage to sin, let’s leave our slavery and go serve ADONAI by making Him known throughout the entire world.

Rabbi Ari Waldman
Ari Waldman is a rabbi on staff at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s degree in Messianic Jewish Studies from The King’s University. Ari is married to Brittany and has two beautiful daughters. (

For an authentic Purim recipe from Yiddish Mama’s Kitchen, click here: Yiddish Mama’s Kitchen

Where is God? Where are You?

By on February 26th, 2017
Posted in Featured Articles
Purim 5777

Where is God?

That’s a question that has occupied the minds of theologians, philosophers, and everyday people for ages. It’s also a question that confronts us when we read the biblical Book of Esther. The events described there serve as the backdrop to the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

In short, the story goes like this. In Susa, the capitol city of the vast Persian Empire, a king known as Xerxes (Ahasuerus in Hebrew) selected a young Jewish woman named Esther (Hadassah in Hebrew; Esther 2:5-18) to be his new queen. Meanwhile, a chief minister of the king named Haman had become angry at Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, because Mordecai, a Jewish man, refused to bow down and pay homage to Haman. Haman determined that he would release his anger not only upon Mordecai, but upon all of Mordecai’s people, the Jewish people, who lived within the empire. Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jewish people was set in motion (Esther 3:1-15).

In response, Mordecai encouraged Queen Esther to utilize her influence by petitioning the king to put a stop to Haman’s plan. This was a dangerous strategy because no one was permitted to simply approach the king without being officially summoned by him (Esther 4:1-17). After calling upon the Jewish community to fast on her behalf prior to approaching the king, Esther entered the king’s chambers and the king received her favorably (Esther 5:1-5).

When the time was right, Esther revealed to the king that she was Jewish and that Haman had sold her and her people to destruction (Esther 7:1-6). King Xerxes responded by sending Haman to his death on the gallows that Haman had ironically built for Mordecai. The king also granted the Jewish community the right to rise up and defend themselves against their enemies (Esther 7:7-8:14).

Not only were the Jewish people spared, but they emerged victorious (Esther 9:1-19)!

Because what was to be a day of annihilation became a day of salvation and triumph, the Jewish community of Susa instituted the annual holiday called Purim (Esther 9:20-32). Purim means “lots,” because lots had been cast in order to determine the day on which Haman’s evil plan would be executed.

Since at least the middle ages, Jewish people all over the world celebrate the joyous holiday of Purim by publicly reading the Book of Esther, traditionally called “the Megillah” (that is, the Scroll [of Esther]). The reading is performed in a spirited way with great cheering for the heroine (Esther) and hero (Mordecai), but boos and hisses (often with the aid of noisemakers called “groggers”) for the villain (Haman).

Sometimes the story is acted out, often in a whimsical manner, in the form of a play, traditionally called a “Purim Schpiel.” Purim partygoers frequently don costumes to enhance the levity of the day. They enjoy traditional pastries called hamantaschen, triangular-shaped cookies with a sweet filling, which serve as a reminder of Haman’s failure to destroy the Jewish people. Celebrants also exchange gifts with one another, and donate to charity, as an expression of peace and goodwill toward neighbors—a great contrast with the hate and violence that Haman sought to direct their way.

Notice that in my synopsis of Esther above, I never mentioned God. That is because the Book of Esther itself never makes reference to God. In fact, it is the only book in the entire Bible in which you will never find the mention of God.

This has not gone unnoticed by traditional Jewish commentators, who find a wordplay between the name “Esther” and the similar-sounding Hebrew word “hestir,” which means “hidden.” They say that although God is never mentioned in Esther, God is at work behind the scenes. Surely there are no coincidences here. Every twist and turn in the book leaves no doubt that there is an answer to our initial question, “Where is God?” God is ever-present. Even if we don’t see God, feel God, hear or say God’s name, God is there. And, God is working, sometimes below the surface of our own understanding, toward making good on His promises and establishing His ultimate plans.

But, there is another question that confronts us through the Book of Esther during Purim; namely, where are you?

In the Book of Esther, God works through people, most notably Esther herself. The well-known verse emphasizes this: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place… . And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). In other words, Mordecai poses the question to Esther: where are you on the challenge of standing up for God’s promises and people? What choice will you make?

That question surfaces rather frequently in the Bible in different forms. God’s first question to humanity was, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Yeshua asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). In other words, “Where are you in your heart concerning me?”

Where are you?

That’s the question each one of us would do well to consider at this season. The Book of Esther may implicitly answer the question, “where is God?” but the book can’t answer the question, “where are you?” That is a question we have to answer for ourselves continually along the journey of our walk with God through our Messiah Yeshua. Are we on that journey? Are we following closely behind Yeshua, our guide?

There is a lot that God is doing today that he wants to accomplish through us. God wants to radically reshape conventional understanding about Yeshua’s rightful place among his own Jewish people. God is working to equip a new generation of Messianic leaders to teach and shepherd the people of Israel within the sheepfold of faith in Yeshua, the great Shepherd.

God wants to reveal himself to your friend, with whom you have considered sharing the hope that is in you. He wants to show his love to his underprivileged children: Holocaust survivors, orphans, and widows in Israel who do not know where they will get their next meal; children in under resourced communities at home or abroad who do not have adequate access to education, health care, justice, or even clean water. The list goes on.

So, where are you?

What does God want to do about these great needs through you? To apply to our lives the timeless challenge that confronted Esther: who knows whether you have not been equipped and inspired in your particular context, with your distinctive personality, giftings, callings, and influence, for such a time as this!

Nic Lesmeister
Seth N. Klayman, Ph.D., is rabbi of Congregation Sha’arei Shalom (“Gates of Peace”), a Messianic Jewish synagogue community, located in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, and adjunct professor of Jewish Studies at The King’s University in Southlake, Texas. Seth lives in Cary, North Carolina, with his wife, Rachael, and their three children. He can be reached at

For an authentic Purim recipe from Yiddish Mama’s Kitchen, click here: Yiddish Mama’s Kitchen

Israel Needs You This Month

By on January 2nd, 2017
Posted in Featured Articles

While we in America were joyously celebrating a brand new year earlier this month, our friends in Israel were feeling anything but joy. The last days of 2016 were quite difficult for those living in the Jewish state.

The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334 with a 14-0 vote. It states that Israeli communities and cities in Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the West Bank) have no legal validity and are a flagrant violation of international law. This also includes Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

The United States abstained from voting in Resolution 2334, even though we had the power to veto the resolution.

Thankfully, there are no real immediate legal ramifications for Israel. However, this puts yet another brick in the wall of the diplomatic efforts the United Nations continues to use to discredit Israel internationally.

Within just weeks of this resolution passing, a 28-year old radical Palestinian terrorist drove a truck into a group of young IDF soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four and wounding ten. This happened just one block from the United Nations compound in Jerusalem.

Tragically, each of the victims who died was under the age of 23. Four beautiful, innocent young lives lost.

Perhaps the leaders of our government are willing to abstain while the nations of the earth rage against the Jewish people, but we will not!

These events remind us that we must be willing to courageously stand with the Jewish people at all times. Though there may be seasons of peace in Israel, the war against her is surely not over.  The Scriptures remind us why in Psalm 2:

“Why are the nations so angry? …The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord.”

And what is God’s response?

“But the One who rules in heaven laughs! …in anger He rebukes them, terrifying them with His fierce fury. For the Lord declares, ‘I have placed My chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on My holy mountain.’”

The LORD is the defender of Israel, and the protector of Jerusalem. We must join Him in this great defense of the Jewish people—today!

2017 is off to an ominous start in Israel, but I know that we – as believers in Yeshua (Jesus) – will shine His great light on the Jewish people, to encourage them and give them hope. Around the world, MJBI is doing just that in many Jewish communities.

Would you consider a financial gift to help us continue in this great ministry God has called us to? 

Your prayers and gifts are making a difference in eternity.

May the God of Israel bless and defend you, as you defend His beloved!

Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeister Signature
Gratefully, Nic Lesmeister – President and CEO

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

By on December 14th, 2016
Posted in Featured Articles

As if 2016 has not already been an amazing year, I am actually writing this letter to you as I sit on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There is a thunderstorm moving across the water toward our hotel, and lightning is lighting up the sky while the waves crash soothingly on the shore.

The holiday season is upon us – both Hanukkah and Christmas on the same date this year!  All over Israel, bakeries are readying their traditional Hanukkah food – sufganyiot (essentially, a jelly-filled donut).

It is truly a season of great joy, hope and light!  Sweet and satisfying food is just one of many reminders of this.  Extended time with our families, giving gifts, and serving others add to the special nature of these holidays.

All of us at MJBI are reflecting on the greatness of our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).  Just as He once lived and walked the shores of the Galilee outside our window, this season of Hanukkah and Christmas remind us that His light still burns brightly for the world to know that He is Lord over all!

On behalf of Wayne and Bonnie, who are also here with Tabatha and me in Israel, I want to personally thank you for helping us spread this great light of Yeshua around the world to all Israel.  You have made great sacrifices by supporting our ministry, and we are genuinely thankful.

This Hanukkah and Christmas season, may the Light of Yeshua warm your heart, mind, and soul with His unlimited grace!

Wishing a very Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeister Signature
Gratefully, Nic Lesmeister – President and CEO

The “Ner Tamid”

By on December 10th, 2016
Posted in Featured Articles

Then came Hanukkah, it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the temple around Solomon’s colonnade. Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, ‘How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!'” John 10:22-23.

Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication, the Festival of Light, the Feast of Lights, means different things to different people. To Jewish children, it means a gift every night for the eight nights of Hanukkah. To the Jew, it can mean a similar holiday as to Christmas with its commercialism. However, to the believer in Yeshua Jesus, the holiday has a special meaning.

The word Hanukkah is found in the following Bible verses. It appears in Proverbs 22:6 “to train;” it appears as the word “dedication” in Nehemiah 12:27, 2 Chronicles 7:9, and Ezra 6:16. The word is best known in reference to the altar rededication mentioned in 1 & 2 Maccabees from the Apocrypha. An interesting fact about Hanukkah is that it occurred during the inter-testamental times, the silent years between the closing of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Covenant.

Hanukkah always occurs on Kislev 25. This holiday has one of the most remarkable backgrounds and one of the most vivid histories to be found in all biblical and historical texts. We begin with Alexander, born in 356 BC, son of Philip II who is king of Macedonia. From an early age, Alexander displayed tremendous military talent. He was made commander of his father’s army at the age of 18 and when his father was assassinated, he became king in 336 BC at the age of 20. Two years later, he invaded the Persian Empire.

Alexander had a burning desire to make Greek the official language of all of the nations of the world. He succeeded and brought the civilized world Greek customs, literature, architecture, language. When Greek culture merged with the culture of the Middle East, it created a new cultural hybrid – Hellenism.

Hellenism’s influence on the Roman Empire, Christianity, and the West was monumental. But it is the interaction between the Jews and the Greeks that is most interesting.

The initial interactions seemed positive. To the Jews, the Greeks were a new and exotic culture from the west. They produced philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Their love of wisdom, art, science and architecture set them apart from other cultures with which the Jews had interacted. The Greek language was considered so beautiful that the Talmud called it the most beautiful of all languages. The rabbis decreed that a Torah scroll could even be written in Greek (the Septuagint).

The Greeks had never met anyone like the Jews, the world’s only monotheistic nation, who had a unique concept of a loving God. The Jews had profound and complex legal and philosophical traditions. They had literacy rates and social welfare unheard of in the ancient world. When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome, he did not write it in Latin, he wrote it in Greek.

Back to Alexander. The passion that fueled him to spread the Greek culture also fueled in the hearts of his generals who served him. When he died, he left no heir. His empire was divided into four parts and was given to four generals: Cassandra took Greece and Macedonia; Lysimachus took Asia Minor; Seleucius took Syria, and Ptolemy took Egypt. Seleucius’ father was named Antiochus. Seleucius built the capital and named it Antiochus, in honor of his father. Antiochus is also known as Antioch.

Antioch was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Building it so was very wise because it became the third most important city back in the Roman Empire. Rome was first, Alexandria was second and Antioch was third. While much of the upper echelon of Jewish society and the Mediterranean world embraced Hellenism (even to the point of denouncing their Judaism by not circumcising their children, not keeping the kosher dietary laws, and not keeping the Sabbath), the vast number of Jews remained loyal.

This rejection of the Hellenistic lifestyle was viewed with great hostility by many Greeks and was seen as a form of rebellion. The exotic differences that attracted one to another now served as a tinderbox of fires for war. Since Israel was in between the warring Seleucid Syria and the Ptolemy Egypt, the Jews who refuse to assimilate were caught in the crossfire.

In 175 BC Antiochus IV came to power. He called himself Theos Epiphanes, God manifest. It is thought that he is extensively presented in prophecy in Daniel 8 and 11, as he is described as the proto-type of the ultimate final antichrist. In 168 BC, Antiochus went to war against Ptolemy in Egypt and conquered him and his army. This was a very important and strategic victory because Antiochus took control of Egypt.

Back then, Egypt supplied much of the grain for the entire region (remember Joseph?). So Rome sent an army down to Egypt to confront Antiochus. They told him to take his armies back to Syria or face war with Rome. With this ultimatum, Antiochus hesitated and asked for more time to consider. Rome would not relent; they demanded an immediate answer. Antiochus was forced to retreat but in his return to Antioch, passing through Israel, he vented his anger, vengeance, frustration and hatred upon the nation. He waited until the Sabbath when he knew that the Jews would refuse to bear arms.

He turned his army loose to conduct a massacre upon Jerusalem. He took an idol of Jupiter and placed it in the Holy of Holies and offered a pig on the sacred altar. From its juice, he desecrated all of the holy vessels in the temple. He called for harlots and had an orgy in the temple (I Maccabees 1:14-15, 40-50, 60-64) and forced every Jew to conform to Greek idolatry and customs.

In 167 BC, Antiochus sent an officer to Modi’in, a city in Northwest Israel. There was an aged priest, Mattathias Maccabee, who had five sons.  The Maccabee family headed up the insurgency against Antiochus. In 166 BC Antiochus tried to crush the Maccabees. But Judah, Mattathias’ son, overwhelmed this group with a much smaller army. So Antiochus, in 165 BC, entered Israel with a great army. However, in Emmaus (Luke 24) Judah surprised Antiochus at night and almost defeated him (I Maccabees 3:43-60, 4:8-11, 19-25). Antiochus retreated, only to return to Israel later. He invaded Israel and Judah totally defeated him.

So Judah and his army and the people came to Jerusalem to re-consecrate and re-dedicate the temple. We are told in I Maccabees that because the sacred altar had been desecrated, the old stones were set aside until a prophet could tell them what to do with them. The small group began to rebuild the altar, stone by stone.

They desired to rededicate the Temple back to God and needed oil. Someone found a small amount, and although it was just enough for one day, they lit the oil anyway. A sentry trip to get more oil would take eight days: four days out to get the oil, four days to return. They had no choice. They needed oil, so the sentry departed.

The oil burned for an entire day, then two days, miraculously for three, four, five six, seven, eight days! The sentry returned and the oil was still burning, a miracle of light. That’s the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Dedication, the Festival of Consecration! (No oil meant no “Eternal Light” also known as the Ner Tamid.  In every synagogue, even today, one light is left burning, the Ner Tamid, the “Eternal Light.”)

Hanukkah celebrates dedication and consecration and even anointing with the beautiful burning of oil. In order to get oil, the olives are pressed. From pressure comes beauty. Oil in the Bible, shemen in Hebrew, means “to shine or be glossy.” Oil on wood makes it shine. When one anoints something, it shines. Our Messiah, Yeshua Jesus, shines! He is the Anointed One!

The great Jewish prophet Hillel once said that one must ascend in matters of holiness and not descend. With that in mind, the Hanukkah menorah is lit and an additional light/candle added every night during the eight day holiday. If one travels to Jerusalem, there is light everywhere as the city is filled with lights from the many Hanukkiahs shown in windows.

So here we are in Israel. In John 10:22, we see Yeshua Jesus. The verse notes that it is winter; it is dark, yet the light of the world is in Jerusalem. It is interesting because Hanukkah is not in the Old Testament feasts like all of the others mentioned in Leviticus. It is not one of the big three: Pesach, Shavuot or Sukkot. But Hanukkah was the last great deliverance that the Jews had experienced, and there was no prophet in the land from the close of the Old Testament to John the Baptist.

Yet we see Jesus, we see Yeshua in Jerusalem, in the winter, in the Temple portico, surrounded by light. Here, in their midst, is Jesus. He is the Lord of Light in the Festival of Light. He declares his Messiahship here during the Festival of Light.

This wondrous holiday dedicates our wondrous Lord.  Look at all of the lights at Christmas time – lights on buildings, homes, trees, businesses, windows, balconies, and storefronts. Light celebrates Jesus. He is the Light of the world, the Or HaOlam, the Hope of the world. The festival of Hanukkah celebrates His light and deliverance. Deliverance from death and the grave. Deliverance from darkness to light, from the profane to the sacred.

Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the Light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” John 8:12.

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Cor 4:18. 

Yeshua Jesus is the light of the world! He is glorious; He is eternal; He is the Ner Tamid, the Eternal Hanukkiah Light!

Barri Cae Mallin Seif is an instructor, author, and theologian. Her experience has led her through opportunities in corporate sales, Sunday school education, travel, Bible college instruction, authoring, conference speaking, and twice-annual trips to Israel as President of Maasay Yahdav, a charity that brings humanitarian aid to Israel twice yearly.

Barri holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Trinity Theological Seminary. Her focus was the Exegetical study of Romans 10:4. She earned an MBA from Amberton University with concentration in General Management. She earned a BA in Psychology at Stephens College.

Her published works include three devotionals, “Intimate Moments with the Hebrew Names of God,” Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1999. “The Name – HaShem Daily Devotional Worship,” CreateSpace Publishers, 2010. “There’s Just Something about That Name,” Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2011.

Our Big News for 2017

By on December 6th, 2016
Posted in Featured Articles

I am filled with gratitude for our 20th Anniversary banquet on Nov. 10. Wow, what a night! And wow, what a 20-year ride! To God be the glory.

It is hard to believe that we are beginning our 21st year, a “Sabbath” year of sorts. We expect newness from God as we rest in Him.

I am so proud of Nic Lesmeister, the young man God called to serve as my Joshua in this next season of MJBI’s history. I hope you will take the time to see our video testimony at God’s ways are amazing, and the sovereign leading of the Holy Spirit brings surprises to our lives.

Nic is full of vision, and I am his chief cheerleader. May God continue to fulfill His purposes through the MJBI in these next 20 years.

On January 1, 2017, I will become President Emeritus as Nic takes the helm. I will still be engaged weekly with Nic as well as serving with Jonathan Bernis, Olen Griffing, Marty Waldman and others on the MJBI Board. But my main task at the MJBI will be to see Nic advance as he rolls up his sleeves and steps into my former position. I will also continue to expand my role as Executive Pastor of Jewish Ministry at Gateway Church where I am privileged to serve my friend and pastor, Robert Morris.

Please pray for Nic and his family, and for my family and me, as we enter this time of transition.

Nic and I both feel honored to be called by God to serve the Jewish people. May we be carried by His grace as we fulfill our assignments in this special season of history.

Thank you for your friendship. We need your continued prayers and gifts of financial support to advance the MJBI vision.

Wayne Wilkes, Jr., Ph.D.
With much love and appreciation, Wayne Wilkes, Jr., Ph.D. – President

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