Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics need your help as we enter into 2020, and the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. This new decade is going to see the Messianic movement have theological and spiritual issues thrust upon it that most are not ready for. We have been preparing for this time for the past several years, and now it is time for us to speak out.
Our overarching ministry theme for this next decade is: How do we not lose the next generation?
by Mark Huey
For the faithful follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, twenty years might represent less than a wink of time in the eye of the Eternal One. But from our limited human perspective, given the possibility of longevity noted by Moses in Psalm 90:10b (“Or if due to strength, eighty years”), a score of years could be as much as a quarter of a physical lifetime, or even a third of life after one matures. Several verses later in Psalm 90:12, Moses reminds people to number their days, so that they might present a heart of wisdom to God. This exhortation recognizes that every day is a precious gift from our Heavenly Father. Hence, when the twentieth anniversary of Margaret and me being married was reached this Summer, I was prompted to pause and reflect not only upon what has transpired, but also the remaining trajectory of our lives dedicated to serving the Lord. After all, when you have accepted the call to minister to the Lord, as the Messianic restoration of all things unfolds (Acts 3:18-21), it is prudent to review where you have come from, in order to evaluate where you are and where you are going. In doing this, if needed, any adjustments can be made, to keep our eyes focused on Him (Hebrews 12:2), as we day-by-day compete in the fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).
Providentially, during this season of reflection, we were given a book written by a contemporary Messianic Jewish evangelist and ministry leader, to read for discussion about how to strategically preach the gospel to the Jew first (Romans 1:16). This book, Isaiah 53 Explained by Mitch Glaser, deals principally with Jewish outreach and evangelism by referring primarily to the text of Isaiah 53. By focusing on this profound prophecy of Isaiah, which categorically points to the Suffering Servant Yeshua and His sacrificial work, the Jewish author shared about his own unique call to witness to his fellow Jewish brethren. Based upon the writer’s upbringing and his testimony of salvation, it was evident that the Holy One of Israel had clearly predestined his life work to be devoted to evangelize his fellow Jews. As a result of this emphasis, the author recommends employing the Word of God declared by Isaiah, coupled with personal testimonies of salvation about the blood sacrifice of Yeshua, which just happen to be some of the Scriptural methods to reach the lost, as mentioned by Isaiah and also found in the Book of Revelation:
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, NASU).
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11, NASU).
Using the prophecies of Isaiah made perfect sense when it came to evangelizing the Jewish people, and being reminded of this approach greatly blessed me while reading this short book.
However, as I pondered this author’s testimony and reminisced about our own unique walk with the Messiah of Israel since our marriage twenty years ago, I realized that our non-Jewish background and what the Lord had prepared for us to do in the work of His Kingdom, was not necessarily dedicated to simply evangelizing the Jewish people. This is not to say that exposing Jewish people to the good news of Yeshua the Messiah is not important—because it absolutely is! But instead, because of our own talents, skills, and experiences, the Lord had equipped us as non-Jewish Believers, to principally perform another task and mission in the work of His Kingdom on Earth.
In many regards, our specific “Kingdom work” has been related to what the Holy One of Israel has been doing in recent decades to bring His faithful Jewish and non-Jewish followers back together in a harmonious, loving, and restored relationship of mutual blessing. This eventual “restoration” of all things is what the Apostle Peter refers to in the Book of Acts, noting that it was prophesied by all of the Prophets of old:
“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:18-21, NASU).
Margaret and I are not Jewish. We came to faith in separate evangelical Christian environments, years before we were drawn into the Messianic community. Margaret grew up in a Methodist milieu, thinking she was a Christian from her youth, until she was truly born again at the age of thirty. On the other hand, I had attended a number of Protestant congregations (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Episcopalian) up to my teens. But, I was not born from above until I was twenty-seven, while attending a conservative Bible Church founded by graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. Neither one of us could necessarily relate to being raised in a Jewish home with regular attendance at a local Synagogue. However, we both had Jewish friends, and were each positively enriched independent of one another prior to our marriage, by the Messianic Jewish ministry of the late Zola Levitt.
Subsequently, during our fervent pursuit of the Lord God after our marriage in 1994, while on a tour of Israel led by Zola’s ministry, we received the strong impression from the Holy Spirit that we were to participate in the Feasts of the Lord when we returned to the United States. Several months later, the Spirit of God led us to a Messianic Jewish congregation in Dallas, where we quietly began to visit during the Shabbat and Erev Shabbat services. Our hearts were particularly moved by the music, which was predominantly lyrics from Scriptures found in the Psalms and Prophets, and the teachings which often centered around the Torah of Moses. After several weeks of attendance, the Holy Spirit made it abundantly clear that our family (including three children, ages fourteen, twelve, and three) was to discontinue attending the more familiar church of our background, and become members of the Messianic Jewish assembly. In short order, we innately knew that it was in this Messianic Jewish setting where the Lord wanted us to grow in our walk of faith. Over the years we have realized the blessing of pursuing the Messianic lifestyle, in order to know and abide in the Messiah Yeshua, so as the Scripture states below, we might walk in the same manner He walked:
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6, NASU).
After all, Yeshua is not only the Jewish Messiah, but He grew up some two thousand years ago in an Hebraic culture which revered the writings of Moses and the Prophets of Israel. For the overwhelming majority of His life, apart from the times conveyed in the Gospel accounts when Yeshua corrected or admonished misunderstandings of the religious leaders of His era, He essentially adhered to what their interpretations and conclusions were. Yeshua’s walk or halachah would have been relatively consistent with the perspective of the Pharisees. He would have known when the weekly Shabbat was to be remembered, when and how the appointed times or moedim were to be commemorated, and He would avoid deliberately consuming things that are not considered edible food—to name just some of the Jewish cultural and societal mores developed predominantly from the Torah of Moses that He followed.
Unsurprisingly, before we were introduced to the Messianic community of faith, our understanding of historical Christianity was somewhat skewed by the conclusions of various Christian teachers and popular teachings. Over the centuries, Christianity had generally developed a faith system that had substantially relegated the lifestyle or halachah which Jesus would have followed, exclusively to the Jewish people. Almost simplistically, non-Jewish people like us had to only walk by faith in Jesus, loving the Creator God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), because Jesus had fulfilled the Mosaic Law to the point of becoming a sacrifice for the sin of humanity. It was commonly taught that the Messiah “fulfilled and thus abolished” the Torah. In our blissful ignorance, we did not question the distinctions between the Jew and the non-Jew, because the common arguments from the Christian perspective seemed sound. But quite frankly, we never thoroughly investigated the other side of the debate, because for the most part, we did not know it even existed. However, once the Lord led us to a place where we were shown the truthful testimonies found in the entire counsel of God from Genesis to Revelation, we could not return to institutional Christianity. Living a life like that of Yeshua and His first followers became imperative for us. Despite the ongoing perplexed looks and comments from family, friends, and even some in the Messianic Jewish community—we pressed on to the call that the Holy One had for our family.
In retrospect, despite the rather dramatic family decision to transition away from a traditional Christian lifestyle, and to pursue a Messianic lifestyle in order to walk more like Yeshua walked—the move into ministry was a much slower developmentary process. It began innocently by producing some conferences which were geared toward prophetic events involving Israel and the Feasts of the Lord that were compelling in the mid-1990s. This was eclipsed by a simple desire to study and be properly prepared for the weekly Torah teachings at our local Messianic Jewish congregation. But in researching various Jewish sources for insight on what the weekly Torah readings were emphasizing, I found it difficult to find many Torah commentaries written by Messianic Believers. This was quite disturbing, because almost all of the commentaries I had been consulting were written by Jewish authors who did not believe that Yeshua was the Messiah of Israel!
In my basic understanding, this meant that the authors of these commentaries had not been born from above and filled with the Holy Spirit of God, but instead, were often antagonistic toward Yeshua. While many of their comments were filling in some of the historical gaps with the interpretations and conclusions of some Sages and Rabbis on certain texts, I was convinced that a new generation of Messianic Believers would benefit from additional commentaries written via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In my heart, I was hoping and praying that other born again Believers would be encouraged to write commentaries, so that future Messianic people would have a wealth of resources to draw upon for Torah study, insight, and wisdom. Hence, with the sole desire to be prepared for the weekly teaching fostered by the discipline of writing a commentary on the Torah portions, my TorahScope commentaries materialized.
When I first committed myself to writing these commentaries, as the late 1990s were turning into the early 2000s, we were doing ministry consulting work with some Messianic oriented ministries. These ministries had been conceived in the 1990s, as the Spirit of God was actively leading Jewish and non-Jewish Believers into the Messianic movement. Despite some differences of opinion on certain issues, these ministries were definitely convinced that the restoration of the House of Jacob (Ezekiel 28:25-26) and the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16) was a work in progress, as the prophesied “restoration of all things” was occurring (Acts 3:18-21). From our firsthand experience in the Messianic Jewish community of faith, and our exposure since 1994 to the early years of the 2000s, we would agree that the stirring of hearts around the world to embrace a Messianic lifestyle or pursue the Hebraic and Jewish Roots of the faith was certainly a unique work of the Holy Spirit. The enhancement of communication among people by the rapid growth of the Internet allowed testimonies from all over the world to abound, with an overwhelming emphasis on the Spirit of God moving people during the years 1995-1997. Providentially this “restorative” move of the Spirit was not necessarily being promoted or orchestrated by the huge, well-financed ministries that owned or dominated Christian satellite, cable, or television networks. But instead, the Spirit of God was prompting people seeking Him from the grassroots level up, and establishing a whole new generation of teachers and leaders, who were not beholden to these recognized Christian ministries.
By 2002, when we were commissioned to launch Outreach Israel Ministries, the explosive growth of the Internet meant that we could economically develop a website in order to post the weekly commentaries that I was writing. The concept was simply, “freely you have received, so freely you give” (Matthew 10:8). By the end of year one, after we were joined by J.K. McKee by incorporating TNN Online (Theology News Network) into the ministry, we had developed an e-mail group that we used to send out our combined teachings. Over the next year, as our commentaries and writings became more popular and readily reproducible in book format, TNN Press was established, as the publishing entity for Outreach Israel and TNN Online. While we continued, and as is witnessed even today, to e-mail our teachings out freely, we did realize that we could not afford to just give away our books. We not only needed to recoup expenses, but also find a way to support ourselves, if we were going to devote all of the time and effort to research and produce the materials that the Lord was putting on our collective hearts to help others. So from the onset of our ministry efforts, I got part time jobs to support our efforts, and have continually been open to consulting opportunities as they have come our way.
On the other hand, we were cognizant of the relative lack of sound Biblical scholarship apparent in some of the materials being produced, by some of the authors influencing the Messianic community of faith in the 2000s. Some of these writings were contributing to confusion, strife, and dissension among Believers, while also damaging the trustworthiness of the Messianic perspective to those in Christian environments, who might be taking a look from a distance at some of the Messianic claims. There are a huge number of people in the Christian world, who, we believe when properly approached with sound exegesis of the Scriptures and logical arguments, will recognize the merits of what the Holy Spirit had shown our family. With this conclusion, we realized that John, who already had a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma (2003), needed go to Asbury Theological Seminary to get a master’s degree in Biblical Studies. It was there from 2005-2008 that he received proper theological training that enhanced his gifting for approaching the Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, and engaging with contemporary theological discussions in Christianity and Judaism. Needless to say, the investment in his education has helped John become a prolific writer, recognized as an effective apologist for the Messianic perspective—not only among his peers in the Messianic community—but also by a number within evangelical Christianity. However, as John’s body of work continues to grow, we are all prayerfully confident that in the Father’s time, his dedication and work will pay great dividends to further advance the Messianic restoration, as the End of the Age approaches.
During our years in the Messianic community of faith, we had each recognized that there was a genuine need for loving, balanced, and scholarly written books to address any number of issues that were being hotly debated among the Jewish and non-Jewish brethren that populated Messianic congregations and fellowships. Initially, we experientially knew that from the mid-1990s forward, as the Spirit of God was prompting people, a large majority of people being led into the Messianic Jewish congregations were non-Jewish. We understood that like our family, these people being drawn in, had not only not regularly attended synagogues in their youth, but many had little if any exposure to Judaism or Jewish people. We innately knew that the transition from evangelical Christianity to the Messianic movement, needed some publications which would help accelerate this process, navigating through the many questions and complicated issues that would arise.
Understandably, our first book was elementary and entitled, Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study. It was written as a twelve week course on the foundational aspects of what it means to embrace a Messianic lifestyle. This was later followed up with the much more detailed Introduction to Things Messianic. Once people have digested these books, then they are ready to read, perhaps, the extensive study The New Testament Validates Torah, which goes through many of the Bible passages commonly used to claim that the Law of Moses has been abolished. Along the way, we developed the Messianic Helper series, which is intended to assist Messianic people with how to handle the various seasonal holidays, as well as aspects of Torah obedience such as the kosher dietary laws (soon to be released) or Sabbath (planned 2015). Of course, the TorahScope commentaries on the Torah, Haftarah, and Apostolic Writings have been a mainstay from our inception, along with some other devotionals which are useful during the Omer Count from Passover to Shavuot. Additionally, our Practical Messianic commentary series presently composes an array of verse-by-verse examinations of complete books of the Apostolic Scriptures, along with surveys of the Tanach (OT) and Apostolic Writings (NT), as well as specialized studies. The Confronting Issues volumes deal specifically with controversial subjects such as the nature of the Messiah, the afterlife, and various negative influences present within the Messianic world. Needless to say, as people who have been led into the Messianic community of faith, our ministry has been called to produce written materials which are intended to help others understand what the Lord is doing, so that they might be a blessing to the Messianic congregations they attend.
In my review of what has transpired over the past twenty years in our walk, in light of what others have been doing—such as those specifically called and chosen to evangelize the Jewish people—I came to realize a few things about what the Father is accomplishing at this point in salvation history. First, it is critical to note that without a concerted effort by Jewish and non-Jewish Believers to take the gospel to the Jew first, by organizations called to this work, there would not be as many Jewish people coming to faith in Yeshua. But because the Spirit of God has inspired many true Believers to witness to Jewish people, the dramatic exponential growth of Messianic Judaism over the past four decades has taken place. This has resulted in the formation of Messianic Jewish congregations and fellowships, which have adhered more closely to the ancient synagogue orthopraxy that was practiced during the period when Yeshua was ministering. These Messianic Jewish assemblies have been relatively safe havens for many new Jewish converts to faith in Yeshua. At the same time, the Spirit of God has been drawing an increasing number of truth-seeking non-Jewish Believers into these assemblies, with the intention of seeing the one new humanity emerge, which is more fully explained by the Apostle Paul:
“Therefore remember, that once you, the nations in the flesh—who are called ‘Foreskin’ by the ones called ‘Circumcision,’ which is in the flesh, made by hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off, have been brought near in the blood of Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the religious Law of commandments in dogmas, that He might create in Himself the two into one new humanity, so making peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the enmity by it. And HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR OFF, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR [Isaiah 57:19; 52:; Zechariah 9:10]; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-12, PME).
This passage describes what should and would be taking place, as the Jewish Believers and Believers from the nations, came together—and are currently coming together—in the Lord, to become one new humanity, destined to bring glory to the Creator, as the Body of Messiah expands throughout the world.
However, as many in the contemporary Messianic community of faith have experienced, the desired unity has been lacking at times. In some respects, we are witnessing some similar, adversarial restoration challenges, which previously took place in the First Century, when Greeks and Romans were being drawn in to a Jewish community which was often suspicious of them. But without delving into a topic which we have written about extensively (see the commentary Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic), suffice it to say, the Lord has called different people with different giftings to bring about His desired results.
We are all called to witness or evangelize the Jewish people, and for that matter all men and women who need redemption. But as in the case of the Jewish author mentioned earlier, being primarily prepared and called into a Jewish evangelistic ministry, is something that the Lord will reveal. On the other hand, as noted by our family testimony, while we witness and minister to both Jewish and non-Jewish Believers alike, we do have a major job in helping many of the latter group, using our own experience in coming into the Messianic movement, to help them in what to expect when being drawn in as well. In many respects, each of these ministry callings compliment one another, and work together for the mutual service of the Kingdom.
As Paul alluded to in the passage above, we are all to be a part of a building or a holy temple which is being built on the Cornerstone of Yeshua. Peter elaborated on this concept as well, indicating that each Believer is a “living stone” being built into a spiritual house:
“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED’ [Isaiah 28:16]. This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone’ [Psalm 118:22], and, ‘A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE [Isaiah 8:14]; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are A CHOSEN RACE [Isaiah 43:20, LXX; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15], A royal PRIESTHOOD [Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6], A HOLY NATION [Exodus 19:6], A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION [Isaiah 43:21, LXX; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2], so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him [Isaiah 43:21] who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY [Hosea 2:23]. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:1-12, NASU).
With the limited number of days remaining in our lives to serve the Risen Messiah, Margaret and I have concluded that we need to continue doing what we have been uniquely called to do to help in the Messianic restoration of all things, in order to advance His Kingdom on Earth until the Messiah returns. Our prayer is that every follower of the Messiah discovers his or her own “restoration call,” as the day of Yeshua’s return approaches. After all, when the number of our days is complete, we all want to simply hear from the Messiah, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” And our response without hesitation will be:
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11, NASU).
We welcome the partnership of others, with their unique gifts and talents, who support us in the work our family has been selected to perform. Maranatha! Come quickly Messiah Yeshua!