My testimony most properly begins with a brief look at my family background. My Jewish great grandparents came from the city of Kiev in the Ukraine. One great grandfather was a horse trader and the other an accountant in a flour mill. Both families immigrated to New York City where my mother was born. My mother grew up in New York City. She was a very bright woman who was studying for a Masters Degree in Mathematics during her university days. She also observed the practice of traditional, Jewish, religious customs. However, she felt that she needed to know the reasons behind the rituals and customs. Upon inquiring of a Rabbi, she received an inadequate, but typical, Rabbinic answer, “Don’t ask questions, just do it.” She didn’t feel she could just do it; she had to know why. As a result, she made her break with Rabbinic Judaism and began a search for a religion broad enough to include everyone. During those years she also married my father, an agnostic Gentile, which was another break from Jewish tradition.
Shortly after their marriage, my twin brother (fraternal) and I were born. We were both circumcised in accordance with the Biblical mandate (Genesis 17:10). I was the firstborn, so I was symbolically bought back (redeemed) from a Levite (Numbers 3:40-41, 18:15-16) in a ceremony known as the Pidyon Ha Ben—The Redemption of the Firstborn. My brother and I were raised in a socially Jewish manner only. My mother would take us to the Jewish Community Center, so we were familiar with Jewish celebrations. She wanted us to identify as Jews, but she also wanted us to choose our own religion.
The first result of this upbringing was a definite belief in God, although He was distant and vague. I can remember coming out of a Junior High biology class one day and marveling at the fact that I could flex my hand. The teacher had just taught about the multitude of complex electro-chemical and mechanical activities that were going on, unconsciously, whenever I chose to do that simple act. I was awed and remember thinking my hand was an incredible machine that did not come about by accident. I knew it was created by God. God existed, but to know Him personally was beyond my capacity.
The second result of my upbringing was the fact that I did not understand, and therefore rejected, my Jewishness. I did not know the definition of a Jew, nor did I understand the meaning or relevance of who I was. Being Jewish was just something I was born with and nothing more. I remember having an argument with my mother during my teenage years. I do not remember what the argument was about, but I do remember her strong, emotional response, “But you’re Jewish!” That response shocked and confused me. What did being Jewish have to do with anything? What was the definition of a Jew anyway? Did it mean we went to a Synagogue? I did not remember ever doing that. Did it mean we lived in Israel? We lived in Seattle, WA. Did it mean we spoke Hebrew? Not a syllable. Finally, and quite by accident, I stumbled upon the correct answer. Did being Jewish mean that I had certain genes flowing in my bloodstream? Now that was true. If that was what it meant to be a Jew, fine. But so what? How was that relevant to anything? Being Jewish was just a meaningless fact-of-life that I happened to be stuck with and preferred to forget, or at least ignore. The fortunate thing about this kind of upbringing was that when I came face-to-face with sin, salvation, and Yeshua (Jesus), I did not have any Jewish smoke screens to work through. The issue was just me, Yeshua, and salvation. I did not have to deal with all the objections I deal with now when I speak to Jewish people about the Lord.
When I entered the University of Washington, I believed that God existed, period. However, during that time God brought genuine Christians across my path. The first was a missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ. I was eating lunch in the Husky Union Building when a stranger came up to my table and asked if he could sit in one of the empty chairs. I said yes. He then struck up a conversation with me and maneuvered the conversation around to God. I was quite comfortable with that subject because I had a respect for God. Eventually, he brought out the tract called, “The Four Spiritual Laws.” We read through that tract together. When we got to the prayer of commitment, he asked me if I was interested in praying that prayer. My reaction was negative. Yeshua was a nice guy and I enjoyed talking about Him, but the only way of salvation?—not likely. This response came because I did not understand my need for a Savior. The missionary was too narrow in his thinking by saying Yeshua was the only way to God. He gave me the tract which I was happy to receive because I had an interest in God, and he said he would pray for me. I appreciated his concern for me and the fact that he would pray for me, and I kept the tract.
The second person God brought across my path was a Christian student. I met her because we had a few common classes. We began to date occasionally. Eventually, she asked me to go with her to the meetings of a campus Christian group. I remember two things about that group. First, these kids had a love for each other that I had never experienced in my family or from my friends. Second, these kids talked with God. Now, I knew God was the creator and that God was out there somewhere, but these kids talked with Him personally in prayer. That was amazing to me, but I knew that Yeshua was involved with the way they lived. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was smelling the aroma of “life unto life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
One night, alone in my bedroom, I was pondering all this. I pulled out the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract that I had received six months earlier. I had acquired a lot of information from the campus ministry that caused the statements in the booklet to make sense. The first principle was the fact that God had a wonderful plan for my life. That was a positive message, and I hoped it was true for me. Next, the booklet stated that we did not experience that wonderful plan because we are sinners. I had shoplifted small items from a store or two. I knew that stealing was wrong, and I agreed I was a sinner. The tract went on to say that God was absolutely holy. If God existed—and I believed He did—if God could create my hand—and I believed He had—then He must be an absolutely holy being. I agreed with the type of God that was being presented in this booklet. Next, the booklet said that an absolutely holy God has nothing to do with sin. A sinner could only stand before God in judgment. I had accepted the logic up to that point, and this conclusion was inescapable—it was the truth. Suddenly I saw my need. I saw that I was in trouble. The booklet continued by stating that Yeshua was the solution to the problem. He had dealt with the sin issue, and I could be reconciled to God if I wanted to be. All I had to do was receive Yeshua as my Savior through faith. Then I came to the prayer at the end of the booklet which I had refused to pray before. Now it reflected my heart. A spiritual struggle ensued, but finally I prayed the suggested prayer of commitment and received the Messiah into my life. I count my salvation from that moment. I was approximately 19 years old.
I had received the Lord alone and didn’t know what to expect after I had prayed. Unfortunately, I received no discipleship follow-up at all. And being Jewish still had absolutely no meaning or relevance for me.
Let me back track for a moment. I had accepted a summer job as a counselor at a co-educational, summer camp for children. There I met Susan Voss who was one of the girls counselors. We became friends and when camp was over our interest in each other deepened, and we began dating.
I eventually decided to discontinue school at the end of my Sophomore year. It was the middle of the Vietnam draft, and I knew my student deferment would disappear as soon as I quit school. I decided to enlist in the US Army as a helicopter mechanic. Eventually, I was sent to Vietnam. Before I left, I asked Susan to marry me, and her response was “Yes.”
Upon returning from Vietnam, Susan and I were married. We traveled across the United States to Fort Eustis, VA for my final 15 months of duty. I was assigned as an instructor of helicopter maintenance. One of my fellow instructors was a civilian instructor named Don. He was a Christian who loved to talk about the Lord. During lunch periods, we would all talk about the current news. Don would insert his Christian opinion. Since I was a Christian, I would often continue the conversation with him. One day he invited us to a home Bible study. It sounded interesting and I accepted. When I got home and told my new wife of my acceptance, she wasn’t too happy about the idea. Susan was not a Christian and was not interested in a home Bible study. I agreed to think up an excuse for not going, but when the evening arrived and I had not come up with a reasonable excuse, we decided to go just once and then not go again. Don and his wife took us to the Bible study, and we were goners from the word go. The study was taught by a Baptist pastor. He was in the Book of John. I can still remember his opening words. He read John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then he asked why John called Jesus the “Lamb of God.” He answered his own question by taking us back to the sacrificial system in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and to the sacrifice of the lambs. Finally, the Bible began to make sense.
Surprisingly, Susan enjoyed the Bible study. She had been raised in a non-believing home of church-goers. She enjoyed that church and the people, but she had never heard the Gospel. In college, she drifted away from that environment. The people at the Bible study reminded her of that early church experience, and we decided to continue attending the Bible study. She was drawn to the group because of their love for each other, for us, and for God. We did not want to go to church, so we decided to go on Sunday morning breakfast picnics. We would get up early, go to a park, cook our breakfast, and then read the Bible until people began to show up around noon. When we could not understand the Bible, Don and his wife would help us out. Susan was now smelling the aroma of “life unto life.” Eventually, alone in our bedroom, she too committed herself to Yeshua.
Upon completion of my military service, we returned to Seattle where I started a school program in Commercial Photography. We decided to attend a Baptist church and obey the Lord by submitting to baptism. After being baptized, we became members of that church. I soon discovered the nation-wide Bible study program called Bible Study Fellowship and began attending. The first full program I went to was called “Israel and the Minor Prophets.” As I participated, I suddenly realized that the Bible was a Jewish book! Since I was Jewish, this was my book. Yeshua was not only my Savior but He was also my promised Messiah. Suddenly, being Jewish meant something and made sense. Through a study of God’s word, I embraced my Jewishness.
Eventually, we became members of an independent, Bible teaching church. When our pastor attended Dallas Theological Seminary, he had been the roommate of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Aware that Arnold had started a Messianic ministry called Ariel Ministries, he had Arnold in to do his five-session prophecy conference. That study of the Bible changed my life. I saw, for the first time, God’s plan for Israel. I saw that the Jewish people were headed for the horrors of the Great Tribulation. God burdened my heart for my people. I decided to start attending a synagogue in the hopes of witnessing to those I met. I attended every adult education class I could and began catching up on my Jewish education. Eventually, I had an opportunity to witness to the Rabbi. At the same time, I became involved in Messianic Jewish activities and saw that the need for discipleship was great.
Since Ariel produced solid, practical, and useable discipleship material, I approached Ariel with the idea of starting a volunteer Beth Ariel Center. The proposal was approved. Susan and I ran the Beth Ariel Center-Seattle for three years. During that time, the needs of the Center grew, and I realized I had to get into Jewish ministry. We approached Dr. Fruchtenbaum regarding full-time work with Ariel. He said that would be fine, but I needed to go to seminary first. That was a big decision for a 35-year-old man with a family (by now we were the parents of two children, David and Jenessa). After carefully seeking God, we felt led to move to Portland, OR and complete a program of studies at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. With God’s obvious help and provision, I earned a Masters of Divinity Degree with an emphasis in Jewish studies in 1988.
Upon completion of seminary, the Lord led us to plant a Messianic Congregation in Portland. It began in our living room with 15 people. I was ordained the Teaching Elder (Pastor) by the core group. Seven years later the congregation had grown to 140. We saw seven Jewish men embrace Yeshua as their Messiah during that time.
Ariel Ministries Home Office
In 1997, I was asked to come to the Home Office in Tustin, CA to oversee a restructuring program that would position Ariel for further growth and effectiveness. Upon completion of that assignment, I was asked to begin a new department, The Department of Missions and Training. The purpose for this department was to build up and equip Ariel’s missionary force. That assignment was completed in nine months and turned over to the Home Office for administration. Next, I fulfilled the position of Field Representative, a teaching position.
HaDavar Messianic Ministries
In April, 2001, my church, Irvine Community Church of Irvine, CA decided to expand their ministry by establishing an outreach to the dense Jewish population surrounding them. The result was HaDavar Messianic Ministries. HaDavar is a Hebrew term that means “The Word.” The name identifies the focus of the ministry. We want to encourage the Body of Messiah in Orange County, CA to get excited about the Word of God and to be stimulated by the Jewish background that permeates the entire Bible. The Jewish perspective complements Bible studies by adding depth and color to the Bible’s timeless message.
Presently, I am serving the Lord in the capacity of Director. This is an administrative and teaching position. My teaching ministry occurs locally and around the country in churches, at conferences, and through classes in Orange County, CA.