Showing posts by: Mike Nicholson

About Mike Nicholson

Five Fast Purim Facts

By on December 3rd, 2017
Posted in Jewish Holidays
Purim Jewish Holiday

Here’s some interesting trivia you may not know about Purim, one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish Calendar!

1. Purim celebrations include masquerading with masks and costumes, but no one knows why. Speculation abounds, but some popular theories claim:
a) Jews have had to hide their faith at certain times, just as Esther did from King Xerxes.
b) Because God’s name was never included in the story line, a mask is worn to represent His choice to “mask” Himself in the Book of Esther. While His name isn’t mentioned, His hand, character and heart are evident throughout.
c) Some have attributed the wearing of masks to the influence of the Roman Catholic carnival (Mardi Gras) tradition that began in the 14th century; it usually coincides with Purim.

2. The Book of Esther was the last book in the Jewish Tanach to be canonized by the Great Assembly of rabbis around 200 BCE.

3. Ever heard of the word “spiel”? It has its origins in Purim. It is a comical, satirical performance that tells the story of Esther. So as long as it’s funny, it can be a spiel!

4. Purim is considered more of a minor “national” holiday as opposed to a “religious” one, which is why business transactions take place on this day.

5. The story of Esther, or “The Megillah,” is read out loud in its entirety during special synagogue services on the holiday.

It Happened One Night: A Purim Devotional

By on December 2nd, 2017
Posted in Jewish Holidays

“On that night, the king could not sleep; and he ordered that the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, be brought, and they were read before the king…” Esther 6:1

For most of my life I’ve been a night owl. My inner clock seems to tick better, and my energy and creativity seem to peak later in the day and evening. Whether by choice or by insomnia, quiet late-night sessions of inspiration or solitude still occasionally lure me, whether I’m working on projects or working on myself.

It’s understandable, then, why scriptural references to late night activity grab my attention. Jacob’s life and name were changed because he wrestled with God (Gen 32:28). Samuel, even as a child, heard the voice of God and entrusted with His message (I Sam 3:10). David wrote many Psalms of pain turned to praise, anger turned to hope, and fear turned to trust (Ps 16:7). Even Jesus communed with His Father and walked on water (Matt 14:25), all in the night season.

The sixth chapter of Esther also has such a reference. The very first sentence of verse one reads “on that night, the king could not sleep.” Some versions translate this as “sleep deserted the king” or “the sleep of the king fled.” What initially disturbed King Xerxes’ rest is not explained. But what we do know is that God was involved, for a key element in the story of Purim hinged on what happened next.

With sleep elusive, the king tried reading, and then decided to get some work done. Xerxes discovered an oversight in his record books while pulling this all-nighter: his loyal servant, Mordecai, was never rewarded for preventing an assassination attempt against him. Filled with gratitude, the king ordered immediate public recognition for this deed. Mordecai received the king’s timely favor through the hand of his very own enemy, Haman, who was hung from his own gallows. Just think: the annihilation of an entire race was prevented in part because Xerxes couldn’t sleep.

I’ve conducted some major late-night heart-to-heart business with God, much like Jacob, Samuel, and the psalm-writing King David. If I cry out in fear, pain or anger, the Lord never condemns, flinches, or yawns. He always listens and comforts. While He doesn’t always stop my tears, He always hands me hope (if I’ll take it), which is admittedly better than handing me a tissue.

While the Lord created the day, He also created the night—primarily for sleep, of course, but let’s not put God in a box. Important stuff can happen in the middle of the night. His watchful eye over the Jewish people through the story of Purim reflects that “He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps 121:4) I’m grateful a dream can be given, a name changed, a prayer prayed, or a destiny determined through an encounter with God in the night season…and I’m sure Mordecai would agree.

The Lemba Jewish Tribe

By on September 26th, 2017
Posted in Featured Articles

It’s said that once you’ve been to Africa, the continent is locked in your heart forever. The deep cultural heritage is unmistakable, and unchanging.

The same can be said for the Middle East, where the people of Israel have passed down their traditions for centuries.

But the Lemba are something completely different. This tribe, who live in Zimbabwe and South Africa, claim they are direct descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Is it possible they are who they say they are?

Astonishingly, the facts support their miraculous oral tradition.

Key Moments in Israel’s History

When the nation of Israel was formally reestablished in 1948, there was the hope by some that Jews everywhere would become unified once again. After all, God is faithful to his promises to the people of Israel, specifically:

“I will watch over and care for (Israel), and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them.” Jeremiah 24:6 NLT

Inspired by this prophetic promise of God, a great pilgrimage began. It was a journey made by Jews across the globe to mend a fracturing of people that occurred centuries ago.

In the eighth century BC, as noted by historians and the Bible in I Kings, the Assyrian empire conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, captured its people, and dispersed them over Assyrian territory. Historians say some were killed, many were blended into other cultures, and others fled. Thus began the tradition of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

The Lemba Tradition Begins

Lemba oral tradition, passed on through generations, says they came from the Rabbinical Tribe, the Levites. The Lemba say they fled their original home and traveled to Sena, in modern-day Yemen, where they became traders and craftsmen until they were forced to escape war or natural disaster. This drove the Lemba across the Red Sea to Africa.

During their journey down the African continent, tradition says the Lemba built great cities of stone. This is where science comes in.

Archaeologists have verified the existence of these cities. In addition, at these stone city sites, many artifacts have been discovered. These facts are a direct tie to the oral tradition handed down by generations of Lemba.

Tribes all over Africa have kept their traditions and customs, but the Lemba are like no other tribe. Strict adherence to Jewish customs have been watched over by Lemba rabbis. Despite losing their original Torah on the journey from Israel to Zimbabwe, all oral teachings and traditions have been maintained, the same kind of oral teachings described in the Old Testament.

Dietary laws, including kosher standards and restrictions on meat, are obeyed. Circumcision is performed, intermarriage has been strictly forbidden to preserve the culture and bloodline, and traditional rabbinical clothing is worn.

In a place thousands of miles away from Israel, detached from all Jewish culture, these African Jews, who call themselves “Original Hebrews,” are committed to their way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Eventually, DNA testing advanced to the point where the Lemba’s claims could be put to the scientific test. University of London scholar, Dr. Tudor Parfitt, swabbed a cross-section of Lemba tribe members, and the results were astounding.

The Y chromosome, passed on by many males in the population, proved to contain the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Among Jews, the CMH marker is most prevalent amongst Cohenim, or hereditary priests. In addition, this marker is one that only emanates from the Middle East and is not found in any identifiable African roots.

Even more astounding are the following stats:
• The CMH marker shows up in 50% of the Lemba tested.
• The same marker shows up only 3-5% of the time in the general Jewish population.
What could just be tradition, lost through generations of translation, has proven to be quite the opposite. These stories, passed on by generation after generation, have now been backed up by scientific proof.

The Lemba: a Modern Miracle

The Lemba are indeed astonishing. Some claim they are one of the Lost Tribes of the original Israel. Others say they are another piece needed to assemble the puzzle of Jews scattered all over the world, until Israel became a nation again.

MJBI learned of the Lemba, and has been involved on the ground with them since 2012. At that time, there were no Messianic congregations amongst the Lemba.

Today, just five years later, there are now 72 congregations of people meeting on the Sabbath to worship Yeshua the Messiah. Each of them are led by some of the 140 MJBI Lemba graduates.

God is faithful to His ancient promises. He is regathering his Covenant People from the four corners of the earth in preparation for the return of the Messiah. MJBI exists to train leaders for this great restoration around the world because every revival has influential leaders, and every influential leader needs to be equipped.



DNA Backs a Tribe’s Tradition Of Early Descent From the Jews
Lemba History and Resources

Help Houston’s Messianic Community

By on August 29th, 2017
Posted in Featured Articles
Help Houston's Messianic Jewish Believers

Hello Friends,

I’m sure most of you have been glued to your televisions or computers lately, watching the tragic images coming out of the Texas Gulf Coast region in the ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

In times like this, we all wonder what we can do to help.

Our mission at MJBI includes working with local Messianic congregations to train leaders for Jewish ministry all over the world, the United States included.

Two thriving Messianic congregations in Houston are located in the midst of some of the hardest hit areas of flooding so far – Beth Messiah and Beth Yeshua HaMashiach.

We are close to the leaders of these congregations, and have been in contact with them. Many families from their congregations are currently evacuated from their homes, and others will likely face monumental clean-up needs in the days ahead. Thankfully, everyone is safe so far.

There are many great organizations to donate your money to in disasters like this, but…

We would like to provide you with an opportunity to give direct relief to the local Messianic Jewish community in Houston.

MJBI is joining with Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue in Dallas, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, and Jewish Voice Ministries to raise funds and support local relief efforts for these two Houston congregations.

100% of all donated funds will be sent to the congregations in order to bless and care for their families and community members now and in the many days ahead.

As these families return to their homes once the flooding subsides, they will have substantial clean-up efforts, as well as needs to help them find temporary shelter in hotels or other places. The synagogues, too, will likely need clean up and repair.

Please pray and consider donating to help these Messianic congregations in their time of great need.

Give Now

You can also mail a check, or call our office to give a donation:

PO Box 610105
Dallas, TX 75261
(817) 864-9300
(Please include a note for “Houston” with your checks)

As we partner to bless and support them, it gives them the resources they need to rebuild, and then reach their community members with the love of Yesuha – both the Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Houston.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.

May the LORD richly bless you as you stand with these beloved brothers and sisters in this tragic time.


Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeister Signature
Nic Lesmeister – President and CEO


P.S. If you are unable to give financially, please commit to pray for these wonderful Jewish believers in Houston. They have an amazing opportunity to be the hands and feet of Yeshua to the Houston Jewish community in the days and months ahead! Your prayers are so valuable!

The Joy of Sabbath

By on March 1st, 2016
Posted in Jewish Holidays

The Shabbat has undoubtedly come down the corridors of history to be the most important Jewish institution, even exceeding the significance of the synagogue. The Shabbat is the “Bride” or “Queen” of Judaism. Around the Shabbat is the religion of Moses, David, Isaiah, Nehemiah and Yeshua based. Everything in Judaism and certainly the entire Bible orbits the Shabbat.

Shah-BAHT (Hebrew), SHA-bas (Yiddish), or Sabbath (English) means “to cease working, to rest” or “to keep a Shabbat.” The Shabbat is found as early as the Genesis creation account where God Himself is seen as resting and finding refreshment. We secondly find Sabbath-keeping among the socially mandated Ten Commandments given at Sinai.

The first occasion would suggest a pattern for all the created order to follow, e.g., taking a day for spiritual refreshing after six days of labor. The second cause for Shabbat (Ex 20:8-11) was uniquely the heritage of the Chosen People. Those whose ancestry had been liberated by God from Egyptian slavery were privileged to forever commemorate that liberation from unrelenting bondage by honoring the rest day of freed men. This is one reason we find the Passover Exodus experience and the keeping of Shabbat so intertwined both in Scripture and Jewish liturgy.

The Shabbat as issued by God and honored by Israel was a sign of the perpetual Covenant relationship between God and His liberated Chosen People (Ex 31:12-17). By mandating Shabbat observance, God was sending a dual message: (1) He was concerned about every member of society, and (2) All Israel and all mankind should recall that God frees the slaves and stands ready to redeem the peoples of the earth (Deut 5:14-15). The neglect of honoring Shabbat greatly offended God who calls for the death penalty for violators. It seems Israel’s disregard for the Shabbat is viewed as contempt for the covenant-making God of Israel (Ex 31:14-15; Num 15:32-36).

The Hebrew prophets rehearsed the same twin themes for Shabbat-honoring: (1) God rested on Shabbat; (2) the importance to recall God’s liberation of Israel from slavery. But casualness toward Shabbat observance caused Ezekiel (22:8, 15-16) to cry out in holy protest, “You have…profaned My Sabbaths.” Jeremiah (17:21-25) likewise encourages Judah to counteract their forefathers who “did not listen or incline their ears.” A God-honoring Jewish nation should rather “keep the Sabbath day holy.”

Rabbinic customs associated with the Shabbat developed in ancient Israel, during the intertestamental period, in Yeshua’s own time and in the early centuries of Rabbinic Judaism alongside its chief competitor, Jewish-influenced Christianity. Yeshua took issue with rabbinic notions that actually violated the plain teaching of Torah. But Yeshua Himself honored the Shabbat and fully embraced its significance within faithful Jewish life experience and freely administered both instruction and healing within the Sabbath context. The early Messianic Jews and Christians long honored Yom Shabbat without qualm or dispute until the subsequent Christian philosophical resolve to first separate from and then divorce Israel.

The rabbis seized upon the few examples of Torah work prohibitions for Shabbat such as the gathering of manna (Ex 16:22-26), collecting sticks (Num 15:32-36), and lighting of fires (Ex 35:3). The rabbis carefully extended the field of restrictions to larger spheres. In time any thinking that could lead to work was improper as was the wearing of work clothes on Shabbat which suggested work. Shabbat became regarded as the only uncoupled day of the week and therefore eligible to be the Bride of Judaism.

With such emphases upon stripping even provocative thoughts of work from Shabbat, and the positive call for pure joys on Shabbat including conjugal practices, Yom Shabbat became the exalted day of every week—the day the balance of the week’s activities worked toward. Total refreshing in honor of God’s Covenant and gracious deeds became the mainstay of traditional Jewish life.

With the communal sounding (often the blast of the shofar), labor and commerce ended, housewives lit the Sabbath candles, and soon a luscious and peaceful meal, replete with blessings over the bread (challah) and wine, was served. During and after the meal happy Shabbat songs were interspersed with prayers and Psalms. Reading Scripture, singing Psalms, and communal prayers in the synagogue were carried home for family Shabbat celebration on Erev Shabbat (Friday evening) and then after each of the worship services on Saturday. All combined to foster a climate of restfulness to be enjoyed through sundown on Saturday.

In Israel today, the Shabbat is honored like a national holiday in spite of the lack of religious commitment of the majority of Israelis. Most will play, hike, go to the beach, or just lounge while the religious neighborhoods are more greatly impacted by the presence of the Bride of Judaism. Of course, apart from the Jewish religious neighborhoods, most American Jews and other internationals feel little constraint on Shabbat from engaging in all their weekly activities.

With all that, most Christians would do well to refuse to simply live like the pagans within our respective societies and rather make the deliberate effort to keep a refreshing day every week set aside for spiritual pursuits. Although only All Israel is expected to gratefully express their covenant faith in God and their gratitude for His mercies every Yom Shabbat, it is equally good for all of us to remember that even the Creator found refreshing on the seventh day.

For Zion’s Sake – Spring 2016

By on March 1st, 2016
Posted in Uncategorized

One of my favorite aspects about the MJBI’s ZEALOUS magazine’s format is the opportunity it affords to highlight events through field photos as well as text. Pictures do bring people and situations to life. That is why I am so happy about this issue!

Last spring, we were honored to have Casey Cook, a videographer and photographer from Gateway Church, travel with us along with Pastor Jon Dunn from Gateway Global Ministries. Casey’s pictures depict some of the scenes we experienced during these significant graduation ceremonies in Ethiopia. Pastor Dunn has written an overview about the experience that serves as our feature article this issue.

Nic Lesmeister has an interesting update on the MJBI’s online education opportunity, the School of Messianic Theology (SMT). You will be stirred about how God is using the program globally, and you may want to sign up for a class or two yourself!

My wife, Bonnie, will offer up some photos and an update of our recent and wonderful “In His Steps” tour to Israel that MJBI co-hosted together with Pastor Olen and Syble Griffing from Gateway Church.

Along with you, I always greatly anticipate and learn from Dr. Ray Gannon’s academic articles. This issue’s offering featuring the history and purpose of Shabbat sounds compelling. I know you will be inspired.

Our 2015 RESOLUTE banquet was an evening to remember, and we are eagerly planning for our next event that will celebrate MJBI’s 20th anniversary. More details are coming!

Lastly, the Jewish festival Purim is around the corner and gives us all opportunity to remember how God sometimes uses the smallest, most insignificant person to change the course of eternity! Queen Esther’s story of deliverance never grows old as we cry out for the same kind of saving power in modern times for God’s ancient people.

For Zion’s Sake,

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

Ethiopia: Ancient Land, Timeless Faith

By on March 1st, 2016
Posted in Zealous Magazine

I had the privilege of attending special graduation ceremonies last spring in Ethiopia along with Dr. Wayne Wilks, Jr., MJBI President, and Casey Cook, videographer from Gateway Church. From Addis Ababa, the ancient city-state capital, we prepared for 3 wonderful MJBI graduation celebrations in the schools and villages of Gondar, Hosanna, and Woliso.

The MJBI Ethiopia is led by Derese Yohannes, who serves from the national office in Addis. Leaders are equipped that will establish Messianic Jewish congregations and ministries in the Ethiopian communities of the Beta Abraham, Beta Israel, and the Gafat Jewish communities. Along with equipping Messianic Jewish leaders, Derese serves as an emissary to encourage the Church in Ethiopia in its responsibility to take the Good News to the Jew first according to Romans 1:16.

There is a strong Hebraic influence within Ethiopian culture dating back to Solomon’s time. From primitive villages to cities, it is not uncommon to find Stars of David engraved on buildings like Orthodox churches or attached to grass huts. The national language, Amharic, is a Semitic language with Hebrew root words. There is also a Jewish community in Ethiopia who have kept Jewish traditions for centuries, and others who have embraced the Orthodox Church and mixed traditions.

One of those Jewish communities is in the city of Gondar which previously served as the capital of the Ethiopian Empire. The city holds the remains of several royal castles, for which Gondar has been called the “Camelot of Africa.” Here in this historic northern city, we celebrated the graduation of 84 students that successfully completed the MJBI course of study for Talmid Alef (beginning student). Since few from this community have had the opportunity for higher education, this ceremony was an important event and was well attended by family, friends, and local church pastors and leaders.

From Gondar, we made our way south to Hosanna—a city in southern Ethiopia that serves as a center for Protestant Christianity and provincial administration of Kambata. Here among the Gafat Jewish Community, 200 students also completed the Talmid Alef courses and were honored and celebrated, led by their local school leaders. As in Gondar, the graduation was well attended and the graduates joyfully received diplomas, recognition, and honor for completing the 2-year-course of study.

Next we traveled to Woliso, a town in central Ethiopia, which also functions as an administrative center for its region. In addition to the second largest flower-farm in Ethiopia, Woliso is also home to a significant hydro-electric power plant as well as the Multipurpose Community Telecentre and a 150 bed hospital. Here 99 graduates received diplomas.

Following each graduation ceremony celebration, halls were rented and meals shared as students, family members, and friends celebrated with exuberant joy and experienced the blessing of moving forward in the purposes of God together. All over Ethiopia a sense of increase and expectancy is coming to life as Messianic Jews and the body of Messiah are coming together in unity.

Currently discussions are in process that are moving toward the Messianic Jewish congregations and communities being given official recognition as a part of the larger Evangelical Community of Churches within Ethiopia. These graduates anticipate a hopeful future as they embrace their calling to share Messiah. Their faces are radiant with a supernatural Light from above as they move forward to “freely give as they have received.”

Pastor Jon is currently serving on the Global Ministries’ staff at Gateway Church. He is married to Laurinda, who serves as Ministry Coordinator in Parenting Life. They recently celebrated 35 years of marriage and have 5 children. During his leisure time, Jon enjoys training for marathons and triathlons.

The Stunning Global Impact of SMT

By on March 1st, 2016
Posted in Uncategorized

Online education has become a staple in the modern world. Whether you are looking for an associate’s, bachelor’s, or even a graduate degree, you can complete almost any of these online today. But beyond that, the Internet is swimming with videos, podcasts, blogs, and resources that many access on a daily basis to enhance our education on numerous subjects.

When it comes to Messianic Jewish education, there are few resources more robust and thorough than MJBI’s School of Messianic Theology (SMT). Officially launched in 2011, SMT has been an incredible tool in the Lord’s hand.

Today, 20 professional courses are offered online to anyone in the world through You can even watch and take these courses on your smart phone in the bush of Zimbabwe! With plans for 28 additional courses in the future, the SMT will eventually be the most complete online library of Messianic Jewish education available in the world.

But that is not the most exciting part! The MJBI has been diligently working in Ethiopia, Ukraine, and Hungary over the past year to translate many SMT courses into the native languages of these countries. In the past, teachers would have flown in from the West, spending up to two weeks teaching these courses in our international schools – a very costly and time-consuming process.

In Ethiopia alone, the translated SMT courses have propelled MJBI to scale our growth to 7 schools and 450 students! Moreover, the students are absorbing the information even more deeply now that it is in their native tongue. And in Ukraine, 20 SMT courses have been translated into Russian. A dedicated Russian website is now available to our students in Russia, Ukraine, and even Israel.

It is truly amazing to see how the Lord has exploded the reach of the MJBI through the SMT in the four short years of its existence. MJBI is training leaders all around the world because of this powerful educational tool.

Finally, if you’re like me, you will enjoy seeing the compelling impact of these SMT statistics:

527 students individually enrolled online in SMT
450 students in 7 locations in MJBI Ethiopia schools
203 students in 10 locations in MJBI Zimbabwe schools
37 distinct countries from where online SMT students are enrolled
20 courses translated into Russian
15 different professors and lecturers
4 translated languages

Miraculous! The impact MJBI is seeing through the SMT is immense! Your generous support has made it possible. Please continue to partner with us as the SMT advances around the world!

For Zion’s Sake,

Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeister Signature
Nic Lesmeister – President and CEO

“In His Steps” 2015 Israel Tour Report

By on March 1st, 2016
Posted in Zealous Magazine

From the beautiful shores of the Sea of Galilee, to the synagogue ruins of Capernaum, to the Dead Sea, Mt. Zion, Gethsemane, Calvary, the Upper Room, or the Garden Tomb, it would be a hard task to pick a favorite place in the Holy Land. The “In His Steps” tour last November led by Dr. Wayne and Bonnie Wilks and Pastor Olen and Syble Griffing quickly became a life-changing experience for the 43 pilgrims who journeyed together as one sweet community through the ancient and modern land. The Bible sprang to living color with each site we visited. One moment I will never forget was the baptism at the very spot where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. It barely rains in Israel, maybe 2 inches a year. But it poured rain during the baptisms and afterword a glorious rainbow appeared. It was a blessing sent from heaven.

For Zion’s Sake – Winter 2015

By on December 1st, 2015
Posted in Zealous Magazine

With wars, political unrest, planes disappearing or exploding in mid- air, and unbelievable atrocities, it feels like the world is in chaos. Daily the news becomes more shocking underscoring the fact that we need a Peace Maker. It is wonderful and reassuring to know that with all the turmoil, believers have a refuge and a reason to go on living in joyous victory. Yeshua, Messiah of the Jewish people and the nations, has it under control. The whole world wonders the same question: What will come next?
We at the MJBI press forward with great excitement looking with anticipation to the things He has called us to in 2015. That is why I am excited about this issue of ZEALOUS! You will find some news about our ever-expanding School of Messianic Theology online school — we are in Russian now! Dr. Gannon has a captivating academic article, “Yeshua the Law of God.” My wife, Bonnie has an inspiring article about the blessings that take place from Mt. Zion. We have some fun photographs and a short recap of our happy banquet featuring Phil and Alan Robertson and Matthew West.

You will find a spring schedule enclosed for those interested in taking Messianic courses at The King’s University, online or at the Gateway campus in Southlake, Texas. Details are also enclosed concerning our 2015 tour of Israel in November. We would be honored for you to join us in the Holy Land. This will be unlike most tours, including some off-the-beaten-trail sites and meeting local Messianic believers.

I want to extend our most joy-filled greetings for the New Year. We have every reason to hope! The world groans for the revelation of the Sons of Light, and Scripture says we purify ourselves while we hope for His soon return! Be encouraged today amidst the challenges of a world gone wild, and purify yourself with this promise. We keep you in our prayers and hearts as you step into 2015 that hope would be a tangible joy and part of your lives.

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

Blessings From Zion

By on December 1st, 2015
Posted in Zealous Magazine

Israel is the home of three major religions, and each is fighting for position and power. There are thousands of tourists who walk through her streets daily, and numerous thriving businesses. One of the key spots in the ancient city of Jerusalem is Mt. Zion, located within the Old City walls. With the sounds of city life, the religious, tourists, and businesses — each endeavoring to stake a claim or take something special home from the Holy Land — it can be a very noisy place.

Sometimes the sounds of the city, Mt. Zion, and the Hinnom Valley below compete. It is possible to hear a Jewish bar mitzvah and an Arabic wedding echo simultaneously across the city. The Dormition Abbey Church bells from the mountaintop ring out several times a day. The cheerful sound of children playing on the street is always present and welcome. Islamic prayer-chanting is blasted on loud speakers, and sirens wail just before the sun goes down on the Sabbath. On a mid-summer night, the music of the valley is often just for pleasure in the form of a concert, a wonderful way to escape the pressures of life in Israel.

Psalm 134:3: “The Lord who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion.” Throughout scripture and history, “Zion” is a metaphor for many things -— the holy mountain of God, the place of His presence, the Promised Land, the dwelling of God. This sacred peak is very special to God and man.

It is exhilarating to think of a blessing coming from Mt. Zion. All of those metaphors are beautiful and encouraging. Sadly, “blessing” has become a tired word in English. It needs revitalization. “Favor” may be better, but it is broader than that. It is taken from the Hebrew root barak meaning “knee.” And I believe that is important because the definition demonstrates the perfect attitude in which to receive any kind of blessing: with humility, on bended knee. In that stance, one is truly ready to be blessed.

Gary Smalley and John Trent wrote an amazing book a few years ago, The Blessing. They explored the power of our words to bless others, especially our children. It revolutionized family and community life and underscored the parents’ obligation to speak edifying words to their offspring regularly. But this concept is as old as time. Blessings have been spoken in Jewish families from the time of the patriarchs.

One of the reasons I love the Erev Shabbat liturgy before the Sabbath meal is that it contains so many important blessings essential to life. God is blessed for the light of the evening, the bread, and the wine. He is worthy of blessing because He gives us life, food, and rest. The husband also blesses his wife and then his children. These edifying statements are spoken weekly.

Billy Yount heads up an outreach to prison inmates, “Behind the Wall.” He understands the importance of blessing and often asks the men in prison if they had received a kind or encouraging remark from their parents as they grew up. Over and over the answer remains no.

Yount encourages those men to change the course of their own children’s lives by speaking good words over them, emphasizing potential and character qualities. He says, “I have been in prison ministry for twenty-three years throughout the state of Maryland. I never met one Jewish boy or man in prison in all those years!” The percentage of Jewish men in prison is only about one percent nationwide.

Scripture tells us the heart is desperately sick and wicked. Every person has the potential to end up in prison for law breaking, but it has been proven that the spoken blessing of parents does create a healthy environment for good citizenship and well-adjusted personal lifestyle and practice. Children thrive where there are positive expressions of love and affirmation.

Our words bless and so do our prayers. Through these vehicles, we have the power to set in motion life and not death to those around us. I choose words of favor, encouragement, and joy to be a blessing. I am changed in that the Lord God who made heaven and earth deigns to bless me from Mt. Zion, to bless you from Mt. Zion.

There is a blessing promised to those who love and are good to Israel. I encourage you to come visit her sites and meet her people. The miracle of ancient and modern Israel has the power to bring you to your knees in awe of a great God who keeps His promises to the Seed of Abraham. It is the place you should be to receive a blessing from Zion!

It Was a Happy, Happy, Happy Night!

By on December 1st, 2015
Posted in Zealous Magazine

Our annual fall-fundraising event has become a staple in the lives of faithful donors. This November’s event, “Inexpressible Joy,” was a bit different. Yes, it was a memory-making, fun-filled event designed to connect people with the mission and vision of the MJBI, but what made it even better was opening the event program up to the public through the generous sponsorships of KLTY radio, “Let the Lion Roar” and Schaefer Advertising. So many new people were able to hear, in a variety of unique ways, who MJBI is and what we do.

We were able to use the draw of the wildly popular TV series Duck Dynasty and other public names to bring those in who might not have ever come. The all-star lineup included Phil Robertson, Ms. Kay, Alan Robertson, comedian Dennis Swanberg, recording artist Matthew West, and comedian Mike Williams (who served as emcee). The crowd was laughing, never knowing what was coming next, from start to finish. Dennis Swanberg kept us rolling with his impressions of Billy Graham and John Wayne. Mike Williams had us taking “selfies” wearing cardboard cut-outs of Phil’s beard that ended up blowing up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for days after the event. Alan Robertson entertained us with dog images portraying his family members, Phil showed off his duck calling skills, and Ms. Kay even gave us a surprise visit. In the end Matthew West and his band had us singing and proclaiming we are a “Child of the One True King.”

There were, however, a few moments of serious contemplation, such as when Phil quoted passages of scripture and stunned the audience with his on-point message about our Jewish roots. Another one came when Matthew West ended the night with “Forgiveness,” a moving song/story about the power in forgiveness.

For those who attended, we hope that the special memories (and photos) you made have continued to warm your hearts. But most of all we hope that the work of MJBI around the world will continue in your heart—and prayers—for years to come.

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  • Zealous Magazine

    Winter 2018