“J e s u s = M e s s i a h”
The first time I met a Messianic Jew was November 1988 on a military post in the Negev desert, Israel, where I had just completed training as a tank crew member. I asked him what he was reading and he showed me his "Brit Hadasha." (New Testament) When he told me what it was I became infuriated. After all, as a Yeshiva graduate I could not understand how a Jew could believe in Yeshua (Jesus). Wasn't Yeshua a gentile concept. I told him that he should be ashamed of himself and that I hoped some Arab would catch him with his guard down and teach him a lesson. He responded that he wished me the best and hoped that -some day I would come to know Yeshua. I was so shocked by his calm and polite response that I just walked away and pitied him as a lost soul.
The next time I met Believers was on the Auraria campus where I attended Metropolitan State College of Denver (1989). The first time I saw their sign which read "Jesus = Messiah?" I freaked. A few weeks later a friend of mine was approached by Messianic Jewish Pastor Reuben Drebenstedt. That was it! I went to Reuben and told him to leave her alone and that if he refused, I would see to it that he would never bother another Jewish student ever again. Reuben walked me to the door and continued to talk to me in a cordial manner. As I departed he wished me a good day.
"*\* ! *", I thought. Why did they have to be so nice about things especially after I had been so nasty? So without returning the greeting I walked away.
For the next several months I walked past that sign and every once in a while spat a few nasty words in Reuben's direction. Reuben always wished me a good day. I couldn't stand his niceties anymore and decided not to speak to him.
The school year ended & I didn't think I would ever see Reuben again. However, as sure as the sun rises in the east, Reuben was there again. This time I was no longer angry. Rather I was curious as to what made "those people" so good natured. But my Orthodox upbringing prevented me from having the courage to approach Reuben for purposes of inquiry. A few months later, at a meeting of student clubs, I met the president of the Menorah Ministries student organization. She offered to sit down & speak with me.
A lack of commitment on my part prevented this from happening even though I was not happy with the fake attitudes and hypocrisy of mainstream Judaism and I did not want to become a Christian. On the other hand, these people seemed so nice and non-threatening; maybe God dwelled among them. I began to think. Fear of the unknown and a busy schedule prevented me from pursuing after my curiosities.
I don't think I would have never thought about Yeshua again but for two college students from Congregation Roeh Israel attending a Holocaust Memorial function that I was directing for the University of Denver Hillel House. I became friendly with one person and thought she was really an okay person. However, after attending a movie at the Tivoli and more conversation, she told me she had been involved in a non-mainstream religious movement.
"Which one?" I asked. "Guess." "Buddhism?" "No." "Hari Krishna?" "No." "Jews who believe in Jesus?" Silence. "No way, you have to be kidding!" "No, I'm not." I was in shock. I wanted to get up and run away. I didn't know what to do. She told me that since she had come to know the Lord she had found inner peace. Probably drugs or something, I thought.
She asked me if I was willing to meet her pastor and I agreed to hear him out. I met with Pastor Burt Yellin a week or so later and quizzed him as I had so often done with my professors. After three hours of intense Q&A, I decided to look further into the notion of Yeshua as Messiah. The more I ventured into the issue the more I realized that Yeshua was the Messiah. That realization was on an intellectual level and I would not let it in my heart. I did, however, agree to attend a worship service. The presence of the Lord filled the room, there was no escape. It was then that the Lord entered my heart and made Himself known to me.
Since accepting Yeshua as my Lord, I have lost my family and some of my friends. However, the price is well worth the peace of salvation and of knowing the truth. My walk with Jesus has just begun, but at least I know where to look for guidance and spiritual peace. Praise the Lord!-Pray for Joel.
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