I was born in the city of angels (Los Angeles, California). My parents, both holocaust survivors, had just immigrated from Israel with not much more than the clothes on their backs. John Kennedy was just elected president of the United States. Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was captured by the Mossad and brought to trial in Israel. Racial segregation laws were declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. Dr. Seuss published his first book - Green Eggs and Ham (admittedly not very Kosher). The Flintsones aired on television for the first time. The Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series and it was the first year for the Dallas Cowboys.
Seventeen years later as a pre-med college student, I started on a mission to deepen my Jewish faith. I began to study scripture, read books, take part in deep discussions with people much more learned than I. Along the way, that quest led to a dilemma...what about this most famous of all "Jewish" figures - this Jesus? You see, as a Jew I partook in and perhaps even won many debates with my "Christian" friends. But I always walked away wondering...who was this Jesus? What about Isaiah 53? Daniel 9? For a long time, I didn't waver in my public stance against this mystical figure - the founder of the "Christians" who persecuted my people for nearly 2000 years. But, in Jesus himself, I found an intriguing individual and I found those who were humble and sincere believers in him to be just as intriguing.
In reading more about this Jesus that I had been so curious about, I found someone who was far different than the one that I had grown up to believe was an anti-Jewish rebel. Through a process of seeking God with an open heart, studying scripture and shedding much of the prejudice I grew up with, I realized that I had found much more than just my Jewish roots. I had found my Jewish Messiah! And with it, my life would change dramatically.
At first, I was shunned by my family and criticised by my Jewish friends. At the same time, I was encouraged to become less "Jewish" by my Gentile friends, which I believed was required to be a proper follower of Jesus. Life became a tumultuous journey of hills and valleys, victories and defeats. I did want God to be the centerpiece of my life, but in so many ways I struggled with my identity. In fact, I knew that there was a calling on my life and from that I ran...hard and fast. I had become a successful medical doctor, a professor of medicine at the top of my profession. But, I was often defeated in my personal and spiritual life. I believed in God but really had no idea who I was in Him. I was involved in ministry and at the same time I struggled through two failed marriages, wrestled with sin and rebellion, and experienced heartbreak, much of which was my own doing. Unfortunately, in the process I also caused heartbreak...and for that I struggled with significant guilt. I knew two things: I had a tremendous amount of soul-searching to do; and, I absolutely had to finally and completely let go of control in my life. As the saying goes, "The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome." And with that, God began to redeem the "years the locust had eaten."
Through a series of divinely inspired events over time, I had already begun to rediscover my Jewish roots. With it, I also began to slowly tap into my true identity in the Messiah - the Jewish Messiah - Yeshua. Finally committing to a life fully surrendered to Him and having begun a time of repentance for my years of straying, God began to completely rewrite the story of my life. First, He brought Tracey, my wife, my amazing helpmate and forever true love to me. Ultimately, I accepted the calling 35 years in the making - to express my purpose through loving God's people in ministry and through the gift of shepherding and teaching. Am I deserving of such a calling? Not a chance. I have made so many mistakes, been disobedient so often...even as a believer. But, God doesn't pick the deserving, because ultimately none of us are deserving of anything He does for us. It's by His mercy, His grace. I keep that reality in the forefront of my heart and mind every single day.
All in all, life is a journey of daily choices. Every one of us must come to the realization that God is the only One Who can instill in us our true identity. Only He can lead us into a place of peace and contentment. We must give up trying to run our own lives and surrender completely to Him.
God has brought me full circle back to my Jewish roots, only to find that He was always there - He never left. Five years later, God has by His overwhelming grace allowed me, the most imperfect of His children, to become rabbi (small “r”) of this beautiful congregation. Join me, join us, as we follow THE Master Rabbi (capital “R”) – Yeshua – on a journey of obedience and trust…to become more intimate and to fall more deeply in love with the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.