The pulsating sound of the sirens couldn’t pierce the blackness of my mind. Where had I gone so wrong in my life that I had come to this point? At 22 years of age I should have had the world and its limitless opportunities ahead of me. Life should have been a challenge, a joy, a world to conquer. It seemed, though, as if someone had pulled the plug on my life. I was caught in a whirlpool of rejection, despair, and hopelessness. Life had become a struggle – a battle to just survive my day- to-day existence. My life had become empty – worse, unlivable – with no answer or purpose in sight.
It had been two weeks since that horrifying night. Unconsciousness had gripped me during that time as blackness in a windowless room. I had attempted suicide! What had led me to the brink of death? What would cause me to slice my wrists numerous times in an attempt to end my life?
In the Beginning
The excitement of this April morning was different than any other morning of the year. Relatives from New York and outlying areas would converge at my grandparents’ home for the annual Seder.Their spacious apartment on Park Avenue would have 50 to 60 family members and friends to celebrate the redemption of our ancestors out of Egyptian bondage. As a young boy, every Passover was an electrifying time of anticipation – one of the highlights of my year.
My upbringing was probably not much different than that of the average American Jewish youth. I was raised in a middle class family. Supported and loved by my parents, I was encouraged to do well in everything I attempted. As with most Jewish families, education became very important.
Religiously, I was probably less trained than most Jewish children, not having attended synagogue regularly or had a bar mitzvah with its accompanying training. Passover was regularly celebrated with a Seder and the usual reading of the Haggadah. Yom Kippur was celebrated with a few halfhearted prayers in the home but negligible explanation. My Jewishness eventually became important to me in my life. The religion of Judaism did not.
In 1967 I entered college. The pursuit of education, to prepare for a career, seemed to be the only avenue open to me. After one semester of honors work, though, school and its demands became a burden.
My desires, thoughts, and pursuits turned to the metaphysical realm. The philosophical questions that have plagued man for ages started to interest me. What is the purpose of life? What is truth? What happens after death?
Although agnostic in my outlook, common sense, as I perceived it, seemed to cry out to me that there was much more to life than I understood. As I pondered the universe in its totality, the immensity of it all with its design and power helped me to realize that there is more to life than man and his self-deifying philosophy.I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that I wanted to find out.
Drugs and Cults
Truth and knowledge – these seemed to be exactly what I was looking.As my brother shared with me that he had found just that in Zen Buddhism, my search actively began.
This pattern continued throughout my college years. Whether it was Zen Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, or whatever religious belief someone was willing to share, I searched andquestioned. Life must have a purpose, a meaning beyond what I knew, and I was determined to find it.
It wasn’t long after I entered college that I was introduced to drugs. The initial high of drugs was exciting. It seemed to open up avenues of spiritual thought and philosophical truth that I had never encountered before. Instead of helping answer my questions though, it made all the issues more elusive. It helped lead me to the very edge of the pit of hell.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
My eyes slowly opened, and I started to focus on the room. I was obviously in a hospital but I could not remember why. The electric shock treatments used to bring me to a conscious state had effectively wiped out weeks of my memory.
The following weeks of recuperation were some of the most difficult times of my life, but they had a profound effect on me. I should have been dead! From all that I was told, there was no reason at all for me to have lived. Yet I did! For the first time in my life, I could, with the totality of my being, say I believed in God. I knew it was a supreme being who had spared my life. The relief of being able to unashamedly, with all my heart, proclaim a belief in a living God was medicine to my soul. The knowledge that there was a God out there who loved me and had a purpose and plan for my life was the motivation I needed to recover.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob became my God. The peace and contentment produced during this time lasted for a number of years. Inwardly, though, many of the old philosophical questions still raged. I continued my search for answers. What I thought was peace from God would turn out to be delusion – nothing – a will- o’-the-wisp – a mirage without substance.
Confrontation with the Bible
The long awaited day finally arrived. I was graduating from college. As my thoughts projected into the future, I decided that I first wanted to see the United States. Shortly after graduation, I set out to travel around the country.
Although I now firmly believed in the existence of God, there was something missing. When I prayed it seemed as if the prayers I spoke got no higher than the ceiling or were blown away by the wind. God seemed to be up on His throne in Heaven and I down here on earth, with the distance unbridgeable.
My travels eventually took me to the Los Angeles, California area. It wasn’t long before I was confronted with the Bible as God’s Word. Visiting with a friend at his friend’s home, my eyes were attracted by a book on the living room table. As I read the back cover of the book, my pulse quickened, and my desire to read it increased. “This was the generation,” it read, “that the Hebrew prophets foretold centuries ago.” This book offered me my first real hope that I could learn about God and what He wanted for me.
As continued to read the back cover, it told how the prophets of Israel had prophesied the rebirth of the nation of Israel, the coming of the Messiah, and much more. I opened to the table of contents, noticed a chapter titled “Israel 0′ Israel,” and because of my love for the nation of Israel I started to read there.
As the author explained the present situation in Israel and the world, he quoted verses from the Old Testament showing the events as fulfilled prophecy. I couldn’t refute the literal words of the prophecy and the obvious fulfillment in history, nor did I want to. The Scripture was clear and the fulfillment in today’s world striking..
Only one thought gave me problems. The author, quoting a verse from the Old Testament, said the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. He then said Jesus, born in Bethlehem was the fulfillment of the verse and was the Jewish Messiah. My response to this statement was not untypical of a Jewish person. “I’m Jewish and Jews don’t believe in Jesus. He might be the Messiah of the Gentiles, but He is not for the Jews.” I knew, though, that the clear teaching of the verse couldn’t be refuted and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. One day, I mused, I will get this book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” and read it in its entirety.
The Bible a Closed Book
It was 1974, almost two years. since I had graduated from college. My life still had no real direction or purpose. “Dianetics – the key to mental health and happiness.” That provocative statement was the impetus which caused me to get involved with the organization known as Scientology. As I studied with this self-proclaimed religion, I would always ask about God in their beliefs. Finally the teacher commented, “Don’t worry about it. L. Ron Hubbard [founder of Scientology] has God in a shoe box” The God I believed in created the universe. No shoe box would hold Him. My quest had reached another dead end.
It was shortly after my experimentation with Scientology that I obtained a Bible to read. For one month I struggled through chapter after chapter.Never had I encountered such difficulty with something I greatly desired to read. The Bible, essentially, was a closed book to me. The one Book that I thought could help me ended up on my shelf collecting dust.
Critics might deny, skeptics might doubt, but I know God orchestrated the events that would have an eternal effect on my life. My mother corresponded late every year with some friends from New York. She mentioned in her most recent correspondence that I had been studying the religion of Scientology. In the providence of God, this couple had just recently become “Christians.” Concerned for my spiritual needs, they sent me a tape about a Jewish man who had become a believer in Jesus, and a book.
The book was “The Late Great Planet Earth.” God had used this couple to get the book to me at a strategic time in my life. I hungrily read it and reread many sections to see what it had to say.
I was more convinced than ever that the Bible was the Word of God. The book set forth scores of prophecies and clearly showed their fulfillment in history. I was challenged to find out more about the person of Jesus and His claim that He was, indeed, the Messiah of Israel.
Confrontation with the Messiah
I decided that it was time to settle down and start a career.Although my pursuit of God became secondary in my life at this point, my desire to know God in a personal way was not quenched.
After a couple of years in the retail business in South Florida, I decided to start my own business.In introducing a new seafood product into the South Florida area, I met with moderate success.I had what I always wanted, though, my own business.
The freedom and purpose in life I had expected to have by being self-employed were nonexistent. I was faced with the reality, at this time, of the emptiness of my life. The religious cults I had studied, to the education I had received, to the drug induced highs and the business-oriented goals I had pursued – all had left me empty and disillusioned.Even my belief in the existence of God seemed to be nothing more than an empty shell.
As I knelt next to my bed that June morning in 1976, my heart was broken before God. With the knowledge of my rebellion against God and in utter dependence upon Him, my prayer was simple but effective, “Lord I need you.” After years of searching, I was finally home.My acceptance of Jesus as my Messiah and Redeemer would produce a remarkable change in my life.
During the following weeks that transformation manifested itself in a variety of ways. The Bible became a book that I loved to read. No longer was there a problem in reading it. It became a priority – it was like feasting at a king’s banquet. Sometimes as many as six or seven hours each day, I would read its illuminating truths.
When I prayed now, I knew my prayers were getting through to God. Answers to prayer became a regular part of my life as I communicated with the God of Israel and Savior of the world. The joy of the presence of God in my life and the knowledge that my sins were forgiven were exhilarating. Never had I experienced anything like this.
It was shortly after I accepted Jesus that I headed out west to visit my brother. My business was shut down, never (little did I know) to be operated again. God was about to lead me into the most exciting and purposeful venture I could ever hope for.
As I was visiting with my brother, God began to redirect my life. My one desire was to serve Him. I planned to attend a Bible college to study His Word. God, though, had other plans.
As I contemplated what my future held, I was burdened with one thought. To my knowledge, I was the only Jewish person in the world who believed in Jesus. Ignorant of the fact that there are tens of thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus, I was overwhelmed with love and concern for the people of Israel. The transformation in my life had been so radical, the evidence of Jesus as Messiah so plain in the Scriptures, that my one desire was to share Jesus with my people that they might know Him as I knew Him.
It was a bright, sunny day as I drove through the heavily wooded country roads. The meditations of my heart became the prayer on my lips. “‘Lord, I want to serve you – anywhere, to whomever. My great desire, though, is to share the gospel with my Jewish people.”
Back in Florida, the Christian bookstore in Fort Lauderdale had much to offer in the way of literature. It was an article in a free newspaper, however, that God used at this time. Arriving home from the bookstore, I started reading the newspaper. It wasn’t long before my eyes were attracted to an article about a group in the area sharing the gospel with Jewish people.
A ministry to the Jewish people! I didn’t know any existed and wasn’t sure what they did. To me the article was a definite answer to prayer. My subsequent meeting with the leaders of the work resulted in a four and one-half year working relationship as I learned the Bible and how to effectively share my faith.
My business was shut down and my creditors paid, so with no money and a genuine, though untried faith, I started to work, with no salary, at the place where I believed God had led me. My only source of supply was a sovereign God. I believed with all my heart that He had led me to this ministry and thus, if I were correct, He would meet my needs.
Income, obviously, was a genuine need to meet the necessities of life. I cut back on everything,trying to conserve the little I had.In my arrangement with my roommate, I had worked out a plan for my rent to be only $25.00 every two weeks in exchange for doing odd jobs and all the work in the house.
It was on a Thursday when my roommate called me in and said I would have to pay the rent by the weekend or move out. God’s promise was that if I sought His kingdom and righteousness first, He would provide all my needs. Believing I was doing just that I asked Him to provide the $25.00 needed for rent.
That Saturday night I met a couple for the first time. As we talked into the late hours of the night about God and His Word, they were rejoicing in my recent acceptance of Jesus as my Messiah. As I got up to leave the woman said, “Here, I believe God wants you to have this.” Stunned, but thankful, I put the money in my pocket without looking at it. Having not shared my need with them, I was excited when I got home to find that the total was the $25.00 I needed for the rent. This type of thing went on for months. Time after time God provided. His faithfulness in meeting my needs was thrilling to experience.
The Word of God
My great concern and burning desire was to understand the Bible.Being a volunteer with the ministry to which God had led me enabled me to spend many hours in study. I couldn’t get enough of the glorious truths found in God’s Word. Regularly, now, three or four hours a day were devoted to the study of God’s Word.
Eventually, I became a staff member of the ministry with which I had been working. Much of my responsibility was in administration, with very little time spent ministering the Word of God and sharing my faith. The years of training were invaluable. The foundation had been laid for my future service. Increasingly, though, I was becoming restless with the need to get out of an office/administrative capacity and teach the Word of God as He had burdened me.
The Friends of Israel
I had become acquainted with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. through some of their missionaries in the South Florida area. After being invited to attend a Friends of Israel retreat, I was convinced of God’s hand in the work of the Mission, and I became convinced that God wanted a change in my ministry.
As I talked to the leaders of The Friends of Israel, God started to work in my heart. After a number of meetings over a three month period, the door was opened, and I joined The Friends of Israel as a missionary in South Florida in 1981.
I didn’t realize the exciting adventure I would be undertaking when I received Jesus as my Messiah in 1976. Not only have my sins been forgiven and an eternal home in heaven awaits me but life has been a fascinating journey with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In 1984 God provided a lovely wife for me. Cheryl has served in Jewish ministry and is a vital part of my life. In 1988 our daughter Deborah was born and she continues to bless us.
In the fall of 2000 I started Shalom Outreach Ministries through a local church in the San Diego area and in October, 2006 I became the Executive Director of Jewish Awareness Ministries. God has continued to allow me to reach out to the Jewish people.
God has opened many doors of ministry through the years. What the future holds is unknown. There was a time in my past when doubt, anxiety, and lack of peace and purpose controlled my life. Not now – since I accepted Jesus as my Messiah. He controls the future, and I belong to Him. “…the peace of God, which passes all understanding…” (Phil. 4:7) is truly mine.
What a Savior!!!