Showing posts by: Jarrod Whitley

About Jarrod Whitley

How 2016 Will Be Our Biggest Year Yet!

By on January 28th, 2016
Posted in Featured Articles

Growing up in rural Minnesota, January was always one of my least favorite months. The days were short, the temperatures below freezing, and the snow seemed to fall endlessly. As the oldest son, I was tasked to brave those freezing temperatures and shovel the snow!

As I have aged, my appreciation for January has grown. I now join with much of the western world in looking forward to the new beginnings offered by a brand new year. The power of an annual reset on the calendar inspires us to make fresh resolutions for the year ahead. For many it is choosing healthier lifestyles, for some taking new risks in our professional lives. Still for others, perhaps, it is spending more time with family and friends. A fresh start brings new energy, new life, and new vision.

When we connect the start of a new year with the truth of God’s word, we set ourselves up for a truly hopeful season ahead. “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation! The old has passed away, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Similarly, Lamentations 3:23 declares that God’s “mercies begin afresh each morning!”

It is these daily, monthly, and yearly outpourings of new life from the Father that drive us to new heights at the MJBI. We have long begun planning for an exciting and fruitful 2016. Hundreds of new students will begin classes in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Hungary, Russia, and beyond.

MJBI’s media team will begin new projects that will launch throughout 2016 to bring more education and awareness of God’s eternal love for Israel. Regional events will gather interested people to hear more about the prophetic ministry God has given MJBI. To cap it off, we are planning on launching our first ever bachelor’s level program in Africa – a historic achievement for our ministry!

I cannot remember a time that I was so eager to ring in a new year. My energy comes not only from the vision God has given the MJBI team, but also from you! Your prayers, financial support, and friendship propel us forward.

Would you take the time to ask the Lord how you could be more resolved to bless the people of Israel in 2016? Your gift in God’s hands will go far and bear much fruit!

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

Hanukkah and the Greatest Miracle of Our Day

By on December 2nd, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

Feast – Hanukkah, The Feast of Dedication, The Festival of Lights

Biblical References
For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37, TLV).

Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. The Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will you hold us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us outright!” (John 10:22-24, TLV).

Summary
In the second century BC, the Jewish population in Jerusalem was under the rule of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. By 165 BC, Antiochus had looted, defiled, and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The apex of the desolation came with the sacrifice of swine on the altar in the Temple. A large-scale Jewish revolt was sparked against the Seleucids with the intention of the liberation and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Once the Temple had been retaken, Judah Maccabee ordered its cleansing. However, those tasked with the purification duties only found one vessel of consecrated anointing oil for the Temple Menorah. The oil on hand was only enough to keep the Menorah lit for one day. Doing what they could, they used the oil they had. Miraculously, the Menorah kept burning for eight days, the exact amount of time it would take to prepare more oil. Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, became an eight-day celebration to commemorate the miracle of the oil that kept burning for the purification of the Temple.

Devotional Thought
The Hanukkah miracle was such a standout miracle in the history of the Jewish people that Hanukkah remains a worldwide annual event. Unashamedly, the Jewish people proclaim, year after year, that God is a miracle-working God. His reputation as a doer of the impossible has been told and retold for generations. The fact that we have an entire festival every year for the purpose of commemorating a great miracle that God performed over 2,000 years ago is amazing.

I personally take great encouragement from the Feast of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah reminds me that God has been performing miracles for thousands of years. It reminds me that He has been operating in the supernatural, and doing signs and wonders long before I came on the scene. History records that He was delivering his people from the hand of oppression back in the 2nd century BC; and I wholeheartedly trust today that He is still able to do the impossible and bring about deliverance.

Hanukkah is a feast of many fun traditions. We give gifts, light lights, eat sweets, and play Dreidel. When you play Dreidel, you not only get to play a game, you also get to win chocolate, which is a win-win all the way around! A dreidel is a spinning top with four sides. On each side a Hebrew letter is imprinted, each with its own meaning.

The four letters are נ(nun), ג (gimel), ה (heh), and ש (shin).

Each letter represents a Hebrew word, and when you put the words together you get the phrase, “Nes (miracle) Gadol (great) Hayah (happened) Sham (there).” “A great miracle happened there.” The “great miracle” is the oil that burned for eight days, and the word “there” refers to the location of where the miracle took place – Israel.

However, if you play the game while in Israel, some dreidels substitute the fourth letter ש, for a פ(peh), which stands for the Hebrew word “Poh” which means “here.” So instead of saying, “a great miracle happened there,” since you are in Israel you say, “a great miracle happened here!”

Great Miracles Have Always Surrounded Israel

Even the non-religious have been known to acknowledge that miracles occur in Israel. It is widely known that even David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, remarked that in order to be a realist in Israel, one must believe in miracles! How else could a reasonable explanation be made for the fledgling nation to not only survive, but to have thrived against all odds?

Hanukkah is a time to commemorate a great miracle that God performed on behalf of his people. And while it is important to remember what God has done in the past, it is also important to celebrate the miracles God is continuing to do today.

One of the greatest miracles today is the Messianic movement. It is one of the clearest and most glaring examples of a Nes Gadol in our time. The thousands of reports of Jewish men and women coming to faith in Yeshua as their Messiah all over the world is nothing short of incredible.

I sometimes wonder if we adequately grasp the awe of our days. To hear of the numbers of Jewish people coming to faith today is truly a marvel. These reports would have been unheard of only one hundred years ago.

To partner with the Messianic movement and join in on the declaration of Yeshua as the Messiah to the Jewish people is one of the greatest occasions to witness the miraculous in human history.

There is an Opportunity Before Us

So this year I wish you a very hearty “Happy Hanukkah!” May Hanukkah be more than just the commemoration of a great miracle that happened there and then, but may it also be the affirmation of a renewed partnership with God’s purposes on the earth for the Jewish people, and may we see Nessim Gadolim (great miracles) continue to happen here and now.
______________________

By Mark Anthony, Ministry Coordinator in Equipping at Gateway Church, Southlake Campus. Mark was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel, and holds an M.Div. from Baylor University. Mark is also an adjunct professor of Hebrew at The King’s University. Mark and his family make their home in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.


Sukkot 5776: God’s Big Party

By on September 23rd, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

What’s the biggest holiday of your year? Your anniversary? A birthday? In the Bible, it is Tabernacles (Sukkot) which is often just called “The Feast.” How big is it? More animals were sacrificed on Sukkot than on all the other Feasts combined and tripled!

Sukkot is the Feast that joyfully celebrates Israel’s humble beginnings with the promise of a glorious hope.

I. HUMILITY

Israel’s Humble Past

God gave Sukkot to Israel so that she would always remember that God carried her through the 40 years in the desert. Sukkot is a 7-day feast that has an 8th day for a “closing assembly.” The 8th day reminds us that God promises an end to hard times.

God told Israel to live in booths (sukkot) for seven days every year as reminder of the 40 years (Lev. 23:41-43). Sukkot were shaky, temporary booths. The roofs were made of slats that were placed closely to one another and thatched with branches. Sunlight and rain peaked through, but the roof provided more shelter than sky. The occupant could look up through the slatted roof toward the One who provided protection and stability that a temporary sukkah could not provide. As they looked up through the roof at the clouds in the sky, Israel would be reminded of the glory cloud that led Israel through the wilderness. Jews still build sukkot today.

Yeshua’s Humble Past

Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness. Similarly, Yeshua fasted 40 days in the wilderness. Before those 40 days, Yeshua submitted Himself to a greater humbling. He left the throne in heaven. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (Jn. 1:14, ISV).

Paul describes it. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8, NKJV).

Your Humble Past

Sukkot reminds you that God has carried you through the challenges of your past, and He will continue to carry you. He works all things together for your good (Rom. 8:28), and for the good of those that you can reach for Him (2 Cor. 1:4).

The Lord can even use the sin of your past to propel you. When I was young, I dropped out of college because of a drug addiction. Then I joined the military. It was there that I met Yeshua and my wife. Today, we have five children and 11 grandchildren. God also restored my educational pursuits beyond my imagination. None of that would have happened had I not become an addict. He used my past. He will use yours, too.

Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2, NKJV).

 

II. HAPPINESS

Israel’s Festival of Joy

Israel calls Sukkot “the season of our joy.” The work of the harvest was over. The celebration included a Levitical procession with singing, torches and dancing. Four candelabras stood 75-feet lighting up Jerusalem. It was during Sukkot that Yeshua proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” (Jn. 8:12). Israel had a joyful water ceremony. The Talmud says, “Who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the water-drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.” It was at the water ceremony that Yeshua challenged all who were thirsty to come to Him (Jn. 7:37-39).

Your Happiness

Israel poured water out rejoicing in their deliverance from 40 years of a dry desert for they were now in the Promised Land. Sukkot is God’s big party! It reminds us to take time to celebrate the goodness of God for He has brought us out of our desert experiences. What has God brought you out of? What can you celebrate today?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give God thanks “in all circumstances.” Beyond that, Ephesians 5:20 challenges us to give God thanks “for all things.” Yeshua modeled thankfulness when He gave thanks over the bread saying, “This is my body broken for you.” How will God use your suffering to bless your future?

Recently, I was challenged to be thankful when I tore my rotator cuff in a painful accident requiring surgery. Simultaneously, someone I love was also suffering from another malady. We reminded each other to not wish the hard days away, for Moses described the person who is under a curse as always wishing that the present be put behind them: “In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’” (Deut. 28:67). That is living under the curse!

No matter what you are struggling with today, recognize that you will only live so many days. Wise people know this (Ps. 90:12). If you trust God, you will make the most of every day and set yourself up for the most joyful future.

 

III. HOPE

Israel’s Future

Sukkot has the promise of a glorious future. The Bible shows this by the sacrifices. Bulls are sacrificed in a countdown fashion: thirteen on the first day, twelve on the second day…until the seventh day when seven were offered. A total of seventy bulls were offered over the seven days representing the 70 nations in the Table of Nations (Gen. 10). Sukkotpoints to the final harvest of the nations. On the Closing Eighth Day, one bull was sacrificed pointing to the fulfillment of God’s plan for the ages. Israel will have completed her mission to be a light to the nations (Isa. 60:1-6).

Your Future

One day you will have completed your mission. You will leave the shaky tabernacle called a “human body.” You will enter God’s eternal Tabernacle. And, you will look upon the face of God.

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. …They shall see His face” (Rev. 21:3 & 22:4, NKJV).

Just imagine that day when God and you tabernacle together! What do think that first moment will be like? If there were one thing you wanted to do before you saw God face-to-face, what would it be? Why not get started today?

Dr. Greg Stone
by Dr. Greg Stone, Associate Pastor of Jewish Ministries, Gateway Church, Southlake, Texas. Raised as a Conservative Jew, he received Yeshua as Israel’s promised Messiah when he was 24 years old. After pastoring for 20 years, he received a Doctorate in Messianic Leadership from The King’s University.

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


How Will You Stand Resolute?

By on September 2nd, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

RESOLUTE: Unwavering, firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion; characterized by firmness and determination.

Each year the MJBI fall event is considered a relevant barometer for critical issues within the Messianic community as well as in our nation and around the globe. In 2015 we find our world in what seems to be in a constant state of chaos. Lawlessness and violence are on the increase and fear is found in the hearts of people. We all pray for our nation and for the will of God to be done—but what are the practical solutions?

To start, it takes leaders who exemplify strength of character and who understand the issues of the day and the importance of fighting for faith and freedom. Standing resolute against the negative forces attacking and transforming the nation they love are Lt. General Jerry Boykin and Jay Sekulow, our honored guests at RESOLUTE, held this year on Tuesday, October 27, at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas.

Lt. General Jerry Boykin (Ret.) has been a front-line witness to the conflicts America has faced for over 30 years. He was a founding member of Delta Force and later became Commander of the United States Special Forces. He commanded all the Army’s Green Berets as well as the Special Warfare Center and School. His life reads like a block-buster, action-packed movie. Boykin leaned on his strong faith throughout his military career and it sustained him through many bloody battles. What Lt. General Boykin has seen in his fight for freedom has left him deeply concerned about America’s future. He has chosen to stand firm against the dangers confronting our freedoms and constitutional rights in America.

Today, General Boykin is the Executive Vice President of the Washington-based Family Research Council, a position he took because he “wanted to restore the values that made America a great nation and preserve the future of his grandchildren.” He is a regular guest on Fox and Friends and Fox News. As a writer he has authored several books, one of the most popular being Never Surrender: A Solder’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom. He is an ordained minister with a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and encouraging Christians to become warriors in God’s Kingdom.

Born into an observant Brooklyn, New York Jewish family, Jay Sekulow accepted Jesus as his Messiah in college and now considers himself a Messianic Jew. He was identified by the American Lawyer’s Public Sector 45 as one of the most dedicated legal public servants making an impact in their corresponding fields. Today he serves as Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and the European Centre for Law and Justice.

As an international expert on religious liberty and an acclaimed and distinguished broadcaster, Jay Sekulow is a frequent commentator on Fox News. A renowned constitutional attorney, Sekulow is an accomplished Supreme Court advocate in the defense of constitutional freedoms, especially those involving religious liberty. Twice The National Law Journal has named him one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. His most recent book, Rise of Isis, reached number one on the New York Times best seller list.

Jay is a passionate advocate for protecting religious and constitutional freedoms with an impressive track record of success. His steadfast determination and commitment to protecting these freedoms is expansive with his work resulting in a lasting impact across America and around the world.

We are also so delighted to have Pastor Tim Ross of Embassy City Church as our emcee for the evening. Before starting Embassy City, Tim was an executive pastor at Gateway Church and was young adult pastor at The Potter’s House in Dallas. Tim is one of the most sought after Christian speakers today, both nationally and internationally, impacting and strengthening hundreds of thousands of people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In order to be RESOLUTE we must be informed, convicted and inspired. I am confident when you hear Lt. General Jerry Boykin and Jay Sekulow speak October 27 you will be inspired to fulfill your own role to accomplish God’s purpose in our day. RESOLUTE.MJBI.org

By Alisa Stephenson, Director of MJBI Partner Relations


For the Next Season, You Will Need These Three Things.

By on August 24th, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

I love the dictionary’s explanation of the word “resolute”: unwavering, firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion; characterized by firmness and determination.

It is so appropriate for the season, especially as the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute’s annual banquet draws near. Each year our fall event is considered a relevant barometer for critical issues within the Messianic community and our nation.

Today we find our world in a state of upheaval. Lawlessness and violence are on the increase. We pray for our nation and for the will of God to be done—but what are the practical solutions?

To start, it takes leaders who exemplify strength of character and who understand the issues of the day—the importance of fighting for faith and freedom. Standing resolute against the negative forces attacking and transforming the nation they love are Lt. General Jerry Boykin and Jay Sekulow, our honored guests at RESOLUTE, held this year on Tuesday, October 27, at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas.

Lt. General Jerry Boykin (Ret.) has been a front-line witness to the conflicts America has faced for over 30 years. He was a founding member of Delta Force and later became Commander of the United States Special Forces. Boykin leaned on his strong faith throughout his military career, and it sustained him through many bloody battles.

Today, General Boykin is the Executive Vice President of the Washington-based

Family Research Council. He is a regular guest on “Fox and Friends” and Fox News. As a writer he has authored several books, one of the most popular being Never Surrender: A Solder’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom.

Born into an observant Brooklyn, New York, Jewish family, Jay Sekulow accepted Jesus as his Messiah in college and is a Messianic Jew. He was identified by The American Lawyer’s Public Sector 45 as one of the most dedicated legal public servants making an impact in their corresponding fields. Today he serves as Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and the European Centre for Law and Justice.

A renowned constitutional attorney, Sekulow is an accomplished Supreme Court advocate in the defense of constitutional freedoms, especially those involving religious liberty. Twice The National Law Journal has named him one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. His most recent book, Rise of Isis, reached number one on the New York Times best seller list.

We are also so delighted to have Pastor Tim Ross, an executive pastor at Gateway Church. Tim is one of the most sought after Christian speakers today impacting and strengthening many with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Please join us for this special event! To be resolute we must be three things: informed, convicted, and inspired. I am confident that you will be inspired to fulfill your own role to accomplish God’s purpose in our day. RESOLUTE.MJBI.org

Please take the time to send a gift today in the enclosed envelope. Your generosity translates into Jewish lives with stories of salvation. Thank you for standing “resolute” with us in our mandate to teach, train, and touch lives!

For Zion’s sake,

Alisa Stephenson
Director of Partner Relations & Events


This Ancient Promise is Happening in Ethiopia Today

By on July 29th, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

The LORD your God will make you the head and not the tail—placing you above and not beneath—if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I’m giving you today to keep and observe” (Deuteronomy 28:13).

This ancient promise to the Jewish people is happening today in Ethiopia as the God of Israel redeems His seed. The Jewish community in that country has been the lowest of the low for centuries, but with the recent outreaches of Jewish Voice and the training of the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, the esteem of these communities continues to grow by God’s grace.

The Beta Israel, Gafat, and Beta Abraham Jewish communities are now forming a Messianic Congregational Alliance that will also be recognized by the Evangelical Alliance of Ethiopia (EAE), the largest and most influential Christian Evangelical body in Ethiopia. The EAE represents 60,000 churches totaling 20 million people. One in five persons in Ethiopia is Evangelical.

Recently, Pastor Jon Dunn from Gateway Church and I had a great trip to Ethiopia. We attended three MJBI graduations as follows: 84 Graduates in Gondar in the Beta Israel Community, 200 Graduates in Hosanna in the Gafat Jewish Community, and 99 Graduates in Woliso in the Gafat Jewish Community. Pastor Jon and I encouraged some of the key pastors and MJBI coordinators.

There is a congregational movement via Jewish Voice Ministries International occurring here, and schools are multiplying to equip leaders. I discussed our educational strategy with these leaders as we begin six schools in September via MJBI DVD materials, each facilitated by a coordinator. These Talmid (Disciple) courses will run from September to August each year, with leaders coming in monthly for three days for teaching.

In September 2016, we will begin the Kadima (Forward) program that is a full-blown Bachelor’s degree program with possible blended credit for Master’s credit as well. We need to upgrade our local faculty with Master’s Degrees. With our recent Texas Recognition by the State Higher Education Board, this is a positive step. We are also working to develop strategic relationships with Ethiopian Seminaries.

Dr. Ray Gannon and Jonathan Gannon are working hard on Kadima now. While it will be ready to begin in January, it seems that September 2016 will be a better date to launch.

The Jews of Ethiopia were once the outcasts of society, but now they are gaining respect in society and becoming the “head and not the tail” as prophesied in the Torah. You are a wonderful friend and partner to me and the outreaches and ministries of the MJBI. We could never accomplish such things around the world without you! Thank you.

Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God” (Psalm 68:31).

Now is the time for Ethiopia! Would you consider a generous gift today enabling us to continue this important end-time work among the Jews of Africa?

Wayne Wilks, Jr., Ph.D.
For Zion’s Sake, Wayne Wilks, Jr., Ph.D. – President

Far from the Warm Fuzzies of Church

By on June 30th, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

Our first winter was one of the coldest in 25 years. We went often without heat, electricity, and water. For pampered Americans, it was a rough beginning.

It all began in an old, Communist, youth indoctrination camp located in a small fishing village, called Myaki, about 50 kilometers outside of Odessa, Ukraine. The first Messianic Jewish Bible Institute boasted in nothing, only small and humble beginnings. Located at the end of an unpaved road and lined with mud-brick homes and thatched roofs, the village resembled something out of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The events of one morning left a lasting memory. The heat and electricity were out, so my daughter and I were in the kitchen bundled up in winter coats. Julia worked on her home-schooling for the day, while I endeavored to cook an egg for breakfast. Not entirely surprisingly, the stove went cold too!

I told Julia that she could not have an egg and offered cold cereal instead. Suddenly she sprang up from her schoolwork at the kitchen table and broke into tears. Only eight-years-old at the time, she had been very courageous through the rough transition, but this caused an emotional outburst.

Finally between sobs she said, “Mama, I feel like I am losing my life.” I ran to her and threw my arms around her neck. I sobbed too. After a couple of minutes, I said, “Julia, we both are losing our lives. Jesus has granted us the privilege of suffering. Something dies in us, so that something can live in others.”

We talked about the life of Yeshua – that Indescribable Gift that was given to us by God long ago—so we could experience new life. That was a hard moment, but one filled with life. I would not trade it for all the memories of Julia’s childhood. It was a lesson learned in living color about embracing the irony of God’s kingdom—give to receive and die to live. Those moments paved the way for things that God had prepared for us and the MJBI.

We stayed in Myaki for the first MJBI school year. I recall it now as the sweetest year of my life. God’s grace lifted and carried us. It was full of contradictions like the stark difference between the warm fuzzies you feel at the church altar when you respond to an emotional call to the mission field, and the cold reality of living life alone in a foreign place.

I would have given up and gone home, but somehow God graced me to stay. I would have turned back and said, “Forget it. It is too hard.” But God just wouldn’t let me do that.

God’s plans were for our good and to bless others. He saw a hungry Jewish generation who had to know Him as Messiah. He gave us the courage to make the right choices. Now there is an online School of Messianic Theology connected with The Kings University, schools, correspondence courses, and affiliates in over 11 countries. God alone receives the glory!

As a believer, you understand, along with me, that the will of God may take you far from the warm fuzzies of the familiar church community. Making a choice to lose your life in order to gain life is not easy, but it is the pathway to true blessing in this world and the world to come. Yeshua, your prime example, comes to strengthen your journey.

Will you please prayerfully consider a generous gift this month? To walk with Yeshua, there is a call for every believer to lay down his life. But be at peace. Your afflictions and sacrifices, for the sake of the kingdom of God and the Jewish people, will shine in eternity and outlast this fading, lackluster world.

Bonnie Saul Wilks
For Zion’s sake, Bonnie Saul Wilks – Senior Writer

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


Shavuot 5775: Serve With Milk!

By on May 5th, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

A Messianic Study of the Jewish Feasts and Holidays

“In addition to the Sabbath, these are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the official days for holy assembly that are to be celebrated at their proper times each year” (Leviticus 23:4 NLT).
Feast – Shavuot or Pentecost

Summary – Shavuot falls on the Jewish calendar fifty days after Passover Sabbath. It is the second of three major feasts unto the Lord and holds both great agricultural and historical significance. Sandwiched in between Passover and Sukkot (or Feast of Booths), its historical background commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. On Passover, the Jewish people were delivered from Egyptian slavery, and on Shavuot they received the Torah. Shavuot’s agricultural significance is connected with the harvesting of the first fruits that were brought to the Temple annually.

Christians commemorate Pentecost, coinciding exactly with Shavuot. They remember the miraculous falling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples after the ascension of Yeshua. As the 120 waited in Jerusalem for this great gift of fire and embodiment, their hearts grew desperate for a visitation from the One they loved.

Read – Leviticus 23:15-17 and Exodus 34:22

Hebrew Words— Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew, and the Jewish spring feast is called “Feast of Weeks.” Christians call this holiday “Pentecost” which means “fifty” in Greek, from counting fifty days after the Passover Sabbath to figure the celebration day of Shavuot. It was on that day after the death and resurrection of Yeshua that the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit fell upon those who waited on God for boldness and power in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. This is considered to be the birth of the Church or the Body of Messiah (Acts 2). According to Jewish tradition, the Torah in Hebrew (the first five books of the Bible), also called the Pentateuch in Greek, was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai during Shavuot. The Hebrew word for “milk” is chalav, and for “honey” is devash.

Devotional Thought – To fully understand Shavuot, it is necessary to grasp the relationship between Passover and Shavuot. Passover marks Israel’s physical deliverance from the slavery of Egypt (Exodus 12:7). During the week of Passover, according to Exodus 12:20, “bread without yeast” was commanded by God to be eaten by the Israelites. Lamb’s blood slathered on the doorposts was the redeeming symbol on the historic first Passover meal so many years ago. To reinforce this significant event, lambs were sacrificed every Passover until Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Later the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Messiah our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.” Those who embraced Yeshua were instructed to keep the Passover of the New Covenant or the Lord’s Supper “not with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Corinthian 5:7-8).

Shavuot or Pentecost contrasted the rituals of Passover. Israelites were instructed to prepare and present “two loaves of bread baked with yeast,” made from the first fruits of the wheat harvest which comes ripe at the first of Shavuot. These yeast loaves are waved before the LORD in thanksgiving with a grateful heart (Leviticus 23:15-20).

Leavening was a symbol of humankind’s sinful nature. Traditionally Jewish rabbis taught on the yezer ha-ra or the proclivity to do evil that resides in man and woman from the time of birth. Paul teaches us to get rid of the leaven of “malice and wickedness.”

The two yeasty loaves presented at Shavuot stood as a symbol of sinful man – both Jew and Gentile (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:9-10, 23). But on the first Pentecost a promise in prophecy was fulfilled as the priests waved these two loaves in the Temple. Prophets of old, centuries earlier, foretold of the sending of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel proclaimed that God would “pour out His Spirit upon the house of Israel (Ezekiel 39:39), and that He would give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them, removing the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

Zechariah spoke of how Messiah Yeshua would be of the royal House of David and would die for our sins and pour out a spirit of grace and supplication on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that they would gaze upon Him whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 22:16; John 20:37).

Joel foretold the “outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh,” and this became a hope for all believers in all nations (Joel 3:1). During Yeshua’s ministry on earth, He confirmed His Father’s promise to His disciples: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name will teach you all things and guide you into all truth” (John 14:26).

At the ascension of Yeshua, He stated again to those who watched Him ascend into heaven to His Father, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Act 1:4-8).

I have experienced and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit numerous times in my life. The outpouring of Toronto, Canada, attracted thousands for many years. The same for the visitation in Brownsville, Florida. My home church in Texas had years of revival. I saw children at their academy filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesy, and see visions over a two-week period after a period of repentance (Joel 2:28).

In an Ethiopian courtyard, a group of about 20 were unexpectedly overcome by an encounter with the Holy Spirit after an elderly Jewish man told us his story of persecution and the martyrdom of other believing Jews.

These are the days the prophets foresaw! As we celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost, let us cry out for the manifest presence of God in our private lives and in our corporate worship services. The Holy Spirit is a sign to the world that God is real among us and powerful to move miraculously in our midst.

Prayer – Dear Lord, I welcome the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as in the book of Acts that descended upon all those who waited with great expectation. I desire to receive boldness and power to proclaim that Yeshua is “Lord of all and that at His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord.”

Holiday Celebrations and Traditions: Jewish tradition tells us that it is customary to enjoy one or more dairy meals during Shavuot. Some say this tradition serves as a reminder of God’s promise to bring the Israelites, who wandered in the desert, to a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). Another good reason to enjoy milk products abundantly is that the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, and Jews were to receive its words as newborns receive “milk” that nourishes their bodies. The “milk” of the Torah nourishes the spirit and soul. Every day of life should be served with the milk of God’s Word!

Bonnie Saul Wilks
For Zion’s sake, Bonnie Saul Wilks – Senior Writer

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


A Bombing on Purim

By on April 20th, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

On the morning of Purim, March 5 in Odessa, Ukraine, a Russian radical group bombed a Ukrainian nationalistic volunteer office. It was the biggest bombing yet by radicals in Odessa. The targeted volunteer office was actually upstairs, but the dissidents bombed the downstairs apartment by mistake.

Currently it is used by members of Or Hamashiah (Light of Messiah) Congregation, led by Valentin Sviontek, who oversees the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute in Ukraine. This ministry reaches out to street children, which are many in Odessa. About 20 kids are being touched through their efforts.

A Canadian woman who attends Or Hamashiah is leading this children’s ministry with much help from eager volunteers from the congregation. Many of the kids they reach have mental problems. They are brought to the congregation regularly for services and are loved, included, and served by the generous members. Six boys and a volunteer were sleeping there when the bomb exploded in a back bedroom. Thankfully, none were injured, but the trauma emotionally has been great for these kids.

Oddly, the bombing took place on the day of Purim, and Val—an MJBI field worker in Odessa—was the one directly affected as well as the innocent children. I don’t think it was an accident in Satan’s mind. Truly what the devil meant for evil God will use for good.

A very old Jewish question is echoing again around the world, “Do you have a bag packed?” The stereotypical nickname for God’s ancient people, “wandering Jew,” holds more than a grain of truth. Unjust persecution, hatred, threats, and death itself drove the Jewish people to live with a “bag packed” for safety and peace of mind.

I found two recent and very compelling articles on the subject of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism. “Is it Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” in The Atlantic (theatlantic.com) by Jeffrey Goldberg, and “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” by David Brooks in the New York Times.

These authors state that thousands of Jews are fleeing Europe and cite a myriad of recent incidents: a Jewish French principal who watched the execution of his 8-year old daughter in a school yard, a Swedish rabbi who has had over 150 anti-Semitic attacks ranging from spitting to ramming his car, and Jewish kids who are terrified to go to school because of chants like “Dirty Jew” and “I want to kill you.”

Jeffrey Goldberg writes, “Yet last year, according to the French Interior Ministry, 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews. The statistics in other countries, including Great Britain, are similarly dismal. In 2014, Jews in Europe were murdered, raped, beaten, stalked, chased, harassed, spat on, and insulted for being Jewish. Sale Juif—’dirty Jew’—rang in the streets, as did ‘Death to the Jews,’ and ‘Jews to the gas.’”

As the Jewish community in Europe and the former Soviet Union is unsettled, God is at work. We believe God has raised up the MJBI as one of the harvesting instruments to bless the Jewish people and bring the Good News of Yeshua. The MJBI funds staff in Ukraine, Russia, and Hungary as well as provides numerous training and support to these Messianic communities.

There is unprecedented spiritual hunger now. Please pick up the enclosed envelope and give generously for the critical work before us. We rejoice with joy unspeakable because we know that where darkness abounds grace and light abound even more!

Wayne Wilks, Jr., Ph.D.
Thank you, Wayne Wilks, Jr., Ph.D. – President

Purim 5775: Clues that lead to Deliverance

By on February 20th, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

The Jewish holiday of Purim is commemorated annually on the 14th day of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, the Jewish holiday of Purim will fall on our calendar this year on March 5th and according to tradition celebrations will commence the evening of the 4th.

The Scroll of Esther details the poignant yet ironic Purim story of rescue through an engaging tale of secrets and revelations. Hiddenness is a prevailing theme as evil plots and the redemptive plans of God come to light. Haman, an evil advisor of King Ahasueras of Persia, cast lots to set a date when all the Jews of the kingdom would be killed. Mordecai discovered his plans and persuaded his adopted daughter, Queen Esther, to go before the king unannounced and plead for the lives of her people. Moved by the valiant Jewish queen’s plea, the mighty king nullified the edict, and the conspiracy was spoiled.

Jewish people around the world honor this day of deliverance with feasting, merriment, and celebration. The walled-city of Jerusalem celebrates Shushan Purim on the 15th day of the month, because fighting continued through the 14th.

Read The Scroll of Esther

Hebrew Words Purim is the plural Hebrew form of the word pur which means “lot.” The holiday is called “lots” or Purim referring to the historical account of Haman who cast lots to see which day the Jews would be killed in Persia. Ironically, this vile villain was killed instead of his enemy, Mordechai, when King Ahasueras became aware of his evil plans.

Hester is the Hebrew word meaning “hidden.” Within that word, the root letters “s-t-r” are found and are the same root letters for the Hebrew proper name “Esther.” One of the core themes of Esther is hiddenness.

Hester Panim – Hebrew for the “hidden face of God.”

Megillat Ester is Hebrew for “Scroll of Esther.” Jewish people read this rich story of deliverance from the Scroll of Esther rather than the Book of Esther. Hidden within the word megillah is the Hebrew root “g-l-h” which means to reveal. An alternative meaning of Megillat Ester could be “The Revealing of the Hidden.”

Kol D’mamah Dakah – Hebrew for “still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12).

Devotional Thought “And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of gentle stillness and a still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12 AMP).

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV).

The name of the Almighty does not appear in the Megillat Ester. The face of God is hidden (Hester Panim), and this is such irony considering the great peril of the storyline. The Jewish people faced complete annihilation of their nation by an evil enemy. And there is no mention of God in the historic text of this happening. Where was the Covenant Maker when the Jewish people were in real trouble?

Yet Adonai’s plan and presence are tangible. Behind the scenes, He chose and prepared a young Jewish woman and her uncle. The Lord filled their hearts with faith to be silent when it was appropriate, and courage to act when the time became critical. Although God is not center-stage or even named—-Esther and Mordechai carry the plot—-they are not the champions of the story of great deliverance. God Himself rescues the Jewish nation. And rightly so, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made covenant with them from the beginning, and never plans on breaking His promises (Genesis 12:1).

In the beautiful story of Esther, the Holy One was there all the time in the still small voice, during ordinary days, and through the actions of common folks. He was orchestrating and ever-mindful that the Chosen People remain the apple of His eye and that they have a call to be a light to the nations.

Today in current events the whole world, along with the Jewish people, may be shaking their fists at God and demanding, “Where are You?” Anti-Semitism is rising, economic stability is illusive, innocents are succumbing to brutal and unthinkable deaths, and no person seems able to escape the shaking. No face emerges as defender and rescuer.

As world citizens who are not Muslims—Jews and Gentiles alike—we share a common enemy. He may wear the mask of terrorism; but he is the same, old contender against God—Lucifer who fought to be equal with the Almighty. That adversary is not to be feared. Scripture admonishes: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NIV). It also reminds us that our true rivals are not flesh and blood, but the powers of this age (Ephesians 6:12).

In all this the Deliverer of Israel is ever-present, in the still small voice, in the “happenstance” occurrences of life, orchestrating victory (I Kings 19:12). We must find the clues of God for He is leaving a trail of His sweet presence in the midst of threat and upheaval. The Lord is pleading to be recognized and found (Isaiah 55:6). Not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), the Redeemer’s arm of salvation is not short nor His ear deaf toward you (Isaiah 59:1). God is actively providing a way of escape for those who are tuned in to His clues.

Never has the story of Purim been so current and poignant as now. We take great hope in our lives as we live unto Him, although His face is unseen (Hester Panim) or masked and not recognizable. The Great Deliverer is working to bring salvation and eternal purpose in your life. You cannot see Him, but find His clues. Yeshua is near. Remember victory is, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV).

Prayer I thank you, Yeshua, that You are working behind the scenes for my good. That even when I cannot see Your face in my circumstances clearly, You are in charge and ordering my steps. I am so grateful that there is no place that I can hide from You, even when You seem hidden from me. Help me to recognize your presence in my circumstances and to hear your still, small voice orchestrating behind the scenes.

Purim Celebrations and Traditions Purim is one of the most festive Jewish celebrations on the Hebrew calendar. Both children and adults dress in masquerade to demonstrate the “unseen” presence of God in the story of Esther and throughout Jewish history. He is always in the background drawing people to Himself.

Often children put on a Purim play and recount the story with modern, humorous twists. When the Megillat Ester is read, noisemakers are sounded to blot out the name of Haman. Hamantaschen or Oznei-Haman is baked, a special poppy seed, sweet pastry. Families attend parties, parties, parties; and in Jerusalem they dress in costume and party for two days instead of one, remembering Sushan Purim.

Bonnie Saul Wilks
For Zion’s sake, Bonnie Saul Wilks – Senior Writer

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


SMT: Your Partnership in 2014

By on February 2nd, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Rom. 1:16.

What started as an English initiative, through your partnership with the MJBI, has now been taken worldwide. These flags represent all current or past students of our online School of Messianic Theology (SMT). The course work has now been translated and launched into Russian and is currently being translated into Amharic (Ethiopia), Hungarian (Hungary), and partially in the Zimbabwe Shona language.

While these people groups may seem obscure, our God sees, knows, and desires to reach each individual. Let’s continue to partner together and see what the Father has planned for 2015.

Blessings from the MJBI!

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gen. 12:2-3.

By Frank Lugenheim, Director of Operations


The Marrano Revival

By on February 2nd, 2015
Posted in Featured Articles

A new phenomenon has struck like lightning across the entire Spanish-speaking world as thousands are thundering out bold proclamations of their Jewish heritage. Who are these Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Pentecostals who claim “Jewish DNA” in the 21st-Century?

These assert they are descendants of Spanish Jews who formally converted to Roman Catholicism centuries ago. In darker Spanish times, these Jewish conversos were called “New Christians” and “Marranos” (pigs). Desiring to perpetuate their Jewish heritage even as Roman Catholics, they were held in political suspicion and were vulnerable to a series of Church-sponsored attacks especially during seasons of political upheaval, e.g., 1391 and 1492.

The ultimate expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 found the converso Jews migrating to points across Christianized southern Europe and throughout the House of Islam—from Turkey, south to Egypt, and west across North Africa. Yet other Marranos who left Spain for northern cities like London, Antwerp, and Amsterdam were fathers to many who migrated to the Spanish-speaking regions of the new world.

The apostle Paul registered his intention to get to Spain (Romans 15:24, 28). Paul would have preached in the localized synagogues in Barcelona “to the Jew first.” The Jewish community was well established in Spain by year 300 and enjoyed the rights of Roman citizenship. When the Visigoths (German tribes) began to settle in 378 and finally conquered Spain by 412, the Visigoths’ Arian Christianity did not militate against Jewish status. Jewish circumstance continued to fare well and became highly favored during the sixth century. But when the Visigoths converted from Arianism to Roman Catholicism in 589, Roman clerical anti-Jewish legislation was implemented to persuade Rome of new-found Visigothic Catholic loyalties. By 616 open display of Jewish religious practice was outlawed. Jewish children were sometimes seized and raised as Catholics.

The net result of this religious nationalizing of Spain was the majority of Spanish Jews adopted Roman Catholicism while quietly perpetuating Jewish culture at home. By the climax of the 7th-century, Spanish religious imperialism had generated broad cultural discontent among many Jewish people and some left the country. But the Arab conquest of Spain in 711 cast off most of the Christian-based social barriers against Jewish religious expression. Many Jewish people who had vacated Spain now relocated there to enjoy the greater Jewish liberties under Moorish Islamic rule.

What has been called the Jewish “Golden Age” in Spain was largely from 900 to 1200 C.E. The more culturally and academically compatible Jews and Muslims of Spain shared common interests in science, poetry, and philosophy. Jews climbed the economic and political ladders, and became esteemed social agents of culture, literature, science, and grammars in multiple languages. Many liturgical pieces crafted by Hebrew literary experts and religious poets during this period are still included in today’s Siddur (daily and Shabbat prayer book) and Machzor (prayers used for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

Political vulnerabilities developed over time within Islamic Spain. Consequent military attack ensued from competitive Muslim groups and Christians still dominate in northern sections of Spain. Newer victors sometimes demand religious conformity to effect consolidation and cohesion in the interests of political and social agendas. Christian kingdoms fighting to drive Muslim forces out of Spain engendered anti-Semitic episodes suffered first by “New (Jewish) Christians” but ultimately by the larger Jewish society.

There can never be justification for threats of execution for clinging to one’s religious heritage or forced conversions of the Gospel-resistant. The papal-assigned Dominican and Franciscan orders engaged in an Inquisition against “New Christians” in cooperation with Ferdinand and Isabella to foster a Christianized national Spain in 1492 was shameful, a travesty, and without excuse. But it should also be fairly pointed out that tens of thousands of Jewish people converted to Roman Catholicism over many centuries out of genuine conviction.

There were actually many reasons for ongoing Jewish readiness to embrace Roman Catholicism. Jewish life had its imperfections. Jewish religious piety in Spain was not universal as many Jews doubted the ongoing relevance of rabbinical Judaism in a Christianized society. Contemporary counterparts of the Hebrew prophets were vehemently protesting a shockingly wide range of socially accepted Jewish sin.

The focus of Jewish historical metanarrative regarding Jewish Spanish conversion centers around the negatives of coercion, martyrdom and exile. Jewish Catholics are explained by suggesting that these Jews were either opportunists seeking social advantage, or simply chose baptism over exile or death. The metanarrative contends all conversion was either selfish or mandated by authorities or both. Curiously, the narrative continues that even willingly baptized Christians secretly practiced Judaism at home.

Probably the vast majority of “New Christians” converted to Roman Catholicism out of pure conviction and intellectual integrity, and wanted to witness to their faith. Yet later many diaspora “Marranos” went “underground” and refused to allow their Jewishness to be known even to their children until on their deathbed since many feared Christian persecution of “New Christians.” In these days, as more hidden Marranos are discovered, MJBI welcomes the privilege of assisting those in South America and elsewhere as they sort out their Jewish identity as believers in Yeshua.


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