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The Strangest Scripture in the New Testament.



As a Jewish person, I can tell you that the word baptism conjures up horrible images for my people. From the early years of Catholicism, Jews were forced to be baptized as Christians. Sometimes it was under the threat of death. Other times the consequences of not being baptized was “merely” being thrown out of your home and country.

For example, the Spanish Inquisition declared that Jews who would not convert to Catholicism (and thus be baptized) must leave the country.

In some cases, Jews were kidnapped and forcibly baptized—one being the son of a rabbi in 1762. The worst case was in Russia just two centuries ago. The Russian empire kidnapped Jewish males from the age of 12 for military service. “The number of forced or virtually forced baptisms which resulted, probably exceeded all similar cases in other lands throughout history.”

He Did What?

Because of this thuggish history, Jewish people tend to cringe when they simply hear the word baptism. When news gets out of a Jewish person coming to faith in Yeshua and willingly getting baptized, they are disgusted. And it’s understandable, based on the history. But it wasn’t always like that.

And that leads us to what I consider to be the strangest verse in the entire Bible:

“How can anyone object to these people being baptized in water?” (Acts 10:47).

Who are “these people,” and who is talking? The speaker is the Jewish apostle Simon Peter, and he is referring to Gentiles at the home of Cornelius. It was a major controversy for Gentiles to be baptized as believers in Yeshua. This had not yet been done. For the first nine years, the gospel was preached exclusively to Jews.

Simon Peter, after a vision and a word from the Lord (Acts 10), slightly confused, goes to the house of this Roman soldier and shares with the people in the house the message of Yeshua. The Holy Spirit falls upon these people in the midst his sharing. The Jewish believers witness this and are stunned—Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit!

Simon Peter declares, “How can anyone object to these Gentiles being baptized in water?” This was a major controversy that wasn’t settled for another 10 years at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).

Reverse Controversy

But since when is baptizing Gentiles controversial? Can you imagine someone objecting at, say, First Baptist Church that they are baptizing non-Jews? That would be ridiculous. However, if they were baptizing large numbers of Jews, that might make some waves.

What most people—Jews and Gentiles—do not know, is that baptism (or water immersion) is Jewish. Long before Queen Isabella sought to compel the Jews of Spain to convert and be baptized, the Jews of Israel would wade through the waters of immersion.

When John the Baptist, the Jewish prophet, came preaching repentance through baptism, we have no record of anyone protesting, “What is this strange new tradition you are evoking?”

Water immersion was already a major part of Judaism. The Torah teaches that priests would need to be immersed in water as part of their consecration (Ex. 29:4-9). Before any Jewish man could bring a sacrifice to the temple in Jerusalem, he would first have to walk though a mikvah, a water immersion tank, to symbolize ritual cleansing.

Immersing 3,000 People Without a River

Furthermore, have you ever wondered how Simon Peter and the apostles immersed 3,000 Jewish men in one day in Jerusalem? Jerusalem is not Tel Aviv or a city in Galilee, where the Mediterranean Sea or the Jordan River could be utilized. Jerusalem sits on a mountain. There are no lakes, rivers or seas nearby. However, archeologists have unearthed nearly 50 mikvot—immersion tanks—that were used in temple worship. With 50 tanks receiving 60 people each, 3,000 could be immersed in a matter of hours. Without these Jewish mikvot, it would have been impossible.

Today, mixing Judaism with an act of water immersion, as we see among the Jews of the New Testament, is like mixing oil and water. But in the first century, it was not like that. The controversy of their day had nothing to do with Jews being immersed, butGentiles! And Simon Peter heard from other Jewish people almost immediately after he did the “unthinkable”—baptizing Gentiles into the body of Yeshua.

The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:3)

How strange is this?.


Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, released last year. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

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The Mystery of the Hanukkah Menorah.

Jewish menorah.
Jewish menorah.

The Bible speaks of the menorah, or lampstand, on three levels: one in the Torah, one in the Prophets and one in the New Covenant. Moses was commanded to build a seven-branched golden lampstand and place it in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:31-40).

The priests were required to take care of the lampstand, but there was no clear teaching as to the spiritual meaning of the menorah. When there is no clear teaching on something in the Torah—such as the Feast of Trumpets—it is often because it can only be understood in light of the New Covenant.

In the Hanukkah story, the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee and his small army, defeated the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanies. It was considered a miracle that this tiny army of Jews could defeat the massive Syrian force.

Antiochus Epiphanies “devastated Jerusalem in 168 B.C.E., defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship [sacrifices], forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion.”

The Menorah

After the surprising Jewish victory, the temple, including the menorah, was rededicated by the Maccabees as they celebrated the new holiday of Hanukkah. (Hanukkah means “dedication.”) The lampstand at Hanukkah is called in Hebrew a Hanukkiah. It has nine lights that represent the eight days the menorah in the temple remained lit, despite having only enough oil for one day (according to tradition) and an extra candle, called the shamash, that is used to light the others. Though most American Jews call this a menorah, it is not a replica of the tabernacle menorah. Nevertheless, it was clearly meant to represent the temple menorah in Jewish religious tradition, as it commemorates the miracle of the seven-branched menorah during the temple’s rededication.

A Sign of Restoration

On the second level, the prophet Zechariah saw a vision of a mystical menorah with two olive trees—one to each side. This symbolized the Lord restoring Zion and the temple by the power of His grace and Spirit (Zech. 4:1-10). This vision became the basis for the symbol and seal of the modern state of Israel.

The Body of Messiah

The third level is found in the book of Revelation, in which John has a supernatural vision of Yeshua in a glorified form, standing in the midst of seven lampstands. It is more likely, if we are going to be consistent with Scripture, that it was either a menorah that John saw, with seven branches, or seven menorahs with 49 lights in total. The word for lampstand in the Hebrew Scriptures is almost alwaysmenorah, a seven-branched candelabra. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word is used for menorah as John used for lampstand in Revelation. In the Hebrew New Testament,lampstand is translated as menorah. Furthermore, the menorah(s) in Revelation are made of gold, just as God told Moses (Ex. 25).

Each branch of the menorah (or each menorah) represented the seven churches or congregations of Asia Minor (Rev. 1:12, 20), which are symbolic of all types and streams making up the internationalecclesia, or body of believersAnd let’s not forget—everything in the temple was an earthly shadow of a heavenly reality (Heb. 8:5). The menorah represents the worldwide body of believers.

As the Mosaic lampstand found expression in Jewish religious tradition, Zechariah’s prophetic vision found expression in modern Zionism, and John’s vision pictures people of every tribe, tongue and nation being glorified by the power of God.

Unity Brings God’s Fire

We know that the menorah in the temple had to be built according to the pattern God gave Moses. (“Be sure to make them according to the plans you were shown on the mountain” [Ex. 25:40].) So if John’s vision of a seven-branched menorah was representative of the united body of believers, then fire must also have meaning.

Without the menorah, you cannot have fire—certainly not a contained, managed, focused fire. Once the menorah was built, it could be lit. In the same way, when the believers gathered on Shavuot (Pentecost) in unity—with one purpose and focus, waiting on the Holy Spirit—they became that spiritual menorah that could be lit, and the Spirit came as tongues of fire. In fact, the image of the 120 with flames of fire upon them is an image of one menorah with many branches. Each branch is on fire, doing the will of God.

With the menorah is in place—just as Yeshua instructed (“But stay in [Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high” [Luke 24:49])—the fire or Holy Spirit could not only fall upon, but also function through each believer. The fruit was that 3,000 men, plus women and children, were born again that day.

The lesson is that like the menorah, the body of Messiah must be built according to the heavenly pattern. Yeshua tells us in John 17 that His deep desire is for unity. Only when the body is in unity can the Spirit flow as He desires (Acts 2). Gossip, backbiting, dissensions, jealousy and the like all work to thwart the authentic fire of God.

Only the Servant Can Light the Candles

It is interesting that in Jewish tradition, it is that one special candle, the shamash, that leaves His special position above the other candles to come down and give light to the other unlit ones. Shamashmeans “servant.” Once the shamash has brought light to the other candles, He then takes His place, once again, above the others. Unbeknownst to most religious Jews, this is played out in Philippians 2:

“Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant [Shamash!], being made in human likeness.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:6-10).

Shine Your Light!

One more thing. According to Jewish tradition, we are to take the lit Hanukkiah and place it in a window to declare the Hanukkah miracle to all who would see it. Was Yeshua thinking of this (even though the tradition came later) when He said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16)?

Or, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12)?

You also might find it interesting to know that Yeshua himself celebrated Hanukkah. In John 10:22, it speaks of Him being in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). What is the lesson?

  1. Strive for unity (Phil. 1:7).
  2. Expect the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
  3. Let your light shine (Matt 5:14-16).


Asher Intrater is the apostolic overseer of two congregations in Israel. He also leads Revival Israel and international prayer ministry in Jerusalem. He is the author of Who Ate Lunch With Abraham? andCovenant Relationships.

Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, was released April 16. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

Where Your Israel Donation Really Goes.

Where your israel donations really go
(© istockphoto/ewg3D; morguefile)

At a time when Israel is facing the threat of nuclear annihilation and many believe the world is nearing the midnight hour on God’s prophetic clock, millions of evangelical Christians are rallying to support Israel. Even the Jewish community—long suspicious of conservative, Bible-believing Christians—is beginning to notice.

The support comes in many forms, from increased travel to Israel to thousands journeying to Washington, D.C., for a festive “Night to Honor Israel” event as a part of Christians United for Israel’s annual summit—and staying the next day to lobby on Capitol Hill and ensure the United States remains a strong ally to Israel.

Many ministries have tapped into this groundswell of support. They’ve learned that if they highlight end-time Bible prophecy or anything related to Israel, people seem to rally more than they do for other pressing issues, such as the sanctity of life or traditional marriage—or even righteous living, for that matter. Other ministries have sprung up to take advantage of this newfound interest in the six decades since Israel became a state. As a result, an estimated $210 million a year flows into Israel-related ministries.

Yet Christians’ interest in Israel is varied and complicated. Much of it stems from an understanding that Israel’s formation fulfilled the prophet Isaiah’s 2,600-year-old prophecy that a nation would be born in a day (Is. 66:7-8). Most believers also carry a biblical understanding that Israel is key to God’s end-time plan, which includes many Jewish people becoming believers in Jesus as the Messiah. While Jews appreciate support from anyone in a world where they have few allies, it is this last part that gives most in the Jewish community heartburn.

At the same time, Christians’ increasing support parallels the noticeable rise of the Messianic Jewish movement in the past few decades. When Derek Prince, the late Bible teacher, lived in Israel after World War II, there were almost no Israeli-born believers in Jesus. Today the latest reports estimate almost 20,000 and 150 congregations in “the Land” (as Eretz Yisrael is called), while globally the reports range as high as 300,000 Messianic Jewish believers. (For more on this phenomenon, click here.)

Into this complicated milieu have popped up Israel-related ministries as diverse as Jews for Jesus, whose purpose is to evangelize Jews, to Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which promises its Jewish friends they don’t need to fear being proselytized at events. There are compassion ministries, such as Vision for Israel, and there are “activist” movements such as United With Israel. Between these extremes are ministries that focus on everything from prophecy and end-time teaching to media and publishing.

This report aims to sort out the basics of who’s who and to diminish widespread confusion over what some of these ministries actually do. Indeed, there are considerable differences among the motives of these organizations. Yet the average Christian who has a heart for Israel and wants to bless the Jewish people will often send a donation to a ministry that touts its support for Israel without having any idea where that money actually goes. Worse still, many Christians never bother to bless Israel because they fail to recognize the importance of doing so—and the confusion over which ministries do what becomes an easy excuse not to give.

After being aware of these factors and making many inquiries, Charisma decided to shine a light on some of the major Israel-related ministries and, specifically, their financial stewardship. We researched—as much as we could, with the ministries’ cooperation—where money is actually going by conducting interviews and pulling financial records, all so you can make informed decisions with your donation.Charisma’s readership has historically been among the most loyal and giving Israel supporters in America, and we want you to be wise stewards as you sow into what God calls His people and His land.

The Misperceived Rabbi

Wisdom requires discernment. And when it comes to being wise stewards of what you give toward Israel, it’s crucial to understand some of the glaring misconceptions among Christians. Chief among these is the belief that when you give to help the Jewish people, your donation actually aids believers who administer those funds to further the gospel. The truth is, some organizations—including ones in this report—not only fail to support Messianic believers, but often use donations to support initiatives that actually hinder those brothers and sisters in Christ.

One such example is International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), led by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, chief executive officer of the Chicago- and Jerusalem-based ministry, who is among the most familiar faces on the Israeli ministry scene. Eckstein is an orthodox Jewish rabbi from the Windy City who launched the Fellowship in 1983 with support from well-known Christian leaders, such as Total Living Network founder Jerry Rose, the late author Jamie Buckingham and late Christian publisher Robert Walker.

With the help of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Eckstein also tapped into the interest on Christian TV for information on Israel and became a fixture at the annual National Religious Broadcasters convention, pitching his various programs, from 30-minute infomercials to teaching series such as Journey to Zion.

Today, programs such as On Wings of Eagles and Guardians of Israel tie directly into supporting IFCJ’s outreach initiatives while being seen by millions on more than 25 Christian stations in the U.S. (and dozens more around the world).

For most believers, these programs come across no different than watching Perry Stone or Benny Hinn on a broadcast airing from Israel, complete with a Bible teaching about the Holy Land. Eckstein has a charming demeanor, is telegenic and is an effective communicator. When he talks about the Torah or Jewish customs, his teaching comes across like something you might expect from a Christian teacher.

That’s part of the problem. Many who support him think he’s a “nice Messianic rabbi.”

“Our biggest concern is that a lot of Christians support his work, thinking they are supporting Messianic Jews and Messianic ministries—but he’s not a believer,” says Sue Perlman, associate director of Jews for Jesus. “He has forthrightly said he opposes Jewish evangelism, and when we tell Christians that, they are shocked because they have been sending money to him [thinking] that in Jesus’ name all this money is going to help Jews come to Israel.”

Reaching out to the Christian community and tapping into its deep love for Israel has not been a wrong strategy for Eckstein, even if he is an Orthodox Jew. His organization claims to have raised more than $600 million since its inception, and it has expanded recently to generate more than $110 million per year in donor money.

Meanwhile, according to 2012 tax returns, Eckstein raked in more than $530,000 in salary and $670,000-plus in benefits last year. His total pay is almost five times the average direct compensation that executive directors at similar-sized religious organizations earn, according to a compensation comparison generated by Linda Lampkin, the resource director at Economic Research Institute in Washington, D.C. (For more on this, see “Worth His Weight in Gold?” on p. 54.)

In addition, Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries in New York City, says both his organization and Jews for Jesus have a global scope unlike IFCJ.

“Both [Jews for Jesus] and I lead organizations that do a lot more than work in Israel and in relief, and Eckstein and some others only do Israel-related work,” Glaser says. “Eckstein is not a believer in Jesus, and his organization should be viewed as a secular nonprofit organization. This is reflected in his remuneration. Believers simply need to understand the difference. If Christians want to help Jewish people both physically and spiritually, there are a number of good options to choose from.”

Eckstein did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

“People need to be discerning and listen to God, knowing He is going to bless their heartfelt gifts to reach Jewish people in Israel—even if they are misplaced in organization’s like Eckstein’s,” Perlman says. “But it’s incumbent on us to help inform Christians that if they want to see Jews come to faith in Jesus, they should be praying and giving to those organizations that have that as their No. 1 priority.”

Straddling Community Lines

Another example where many unwitting Christians think they are helping Messianics in Israel is Christians United for Israel, headed by founder John Hagee and its executive director, David Brog.

Hagee is undoubtedly the most public face of Christian support for Israel. Respected in both the evangelical and Jewish communities, he’s even garnered support from national media celebrities such as Glenn Beck. Politicians recognize his influence and curry his support, though this backfired for him when then-presidential candidate John McCain famously threw Hagee under the bus when a left-leaning Jew accused the pastor of being anti-Semitic. The charge was entirely unfounded and based on a fallacious misinterpretation of an obscure comment Hagee made in a sermon years ago.

Interestingly enough, leaders in the Jewish community were the first to jump to Hagee’s defense. They know he actually may be—as conservative Rabbi Aaron Rubinger from Orlando, Fla., said after attending a CUFI event—the best friend Israel has in America. Hagee has long been an avid supporter of Israel and was influenced by Derek Prince and other believers in the 1980s. Since he launched “A Night to Honor Israel” in 1981, the events have raised almost $80 million for humanitarian aid in Israel.

Charisma publisher Steve Strang attended “A Night to Honor Israel” in 2004 and was dumbfounded when he saw checks presented to three groups totaling $2.3 million.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” says Strang, who was sitting close enough to the recipients to see their emotional reaction to getting the checks.

To show his love and support for Israel, Hagee gives the raised money to charities that help the Jewish people. He makes his decisions on donations with the advice of Jewish friends. But it’s well known that none of the money gets to believers in Israel.

It’s a tightrope Hagee has walked for years. He’s friends with many Messianic believers and is quick to say he is supportive of believers in Israel. (In fact, several Messianic leaders were part of CUFI’s founding meeting in 2006.) But to publicly maintain peace with the Jewish community, which generally rejects Messianics, Hagee keeps his distance, much to the chagrin of the Messianic believers in Israel who often struggle to raise funds for their ministries.

Hagee also gets Jewish advice from CUFI’s own executive director. Brog is the powerhouse behind the Christian organization, yet he’s also a conservative (non-Messianic) Jew. He brought two other Jews on board: Shari Dollinger from Atlanta as one of his coordinators and Ari Morgenstern as communications director. Morgenstern ensures CUFI’s messaging is consistent with what Brog wants—which is to convey that evangelical Christians support Israel, yet (to his Jewish supporters) are also “safe” because CUFI will never proselytize.

Brog, who was chief of staff to liberal Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania for seven years, is said to run CUFI like a political campaign. He has talking points, stays focused and rallies his constituency. He’s well liked by those who work with him and known for being a brilliant strategist. But one by one, the higher-profile Christian leaders who helped Hagee start CUFI are dropping off as the organization becomes more focused on political lobbying.

It’s no secret that one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, D.C., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has long wanted a “Gentile arm,” and some believe they now have it in CUFI. Jewish leaders and philanthropists love to attend CUFI’s events to see the genuine enthusiasm and love expressed for Israel. Though there’s still rousing Christian music and prayer at these events, there’s most certainly no proselytizing. As a result, many wealthy Jews have pumped tens of thousands of dollars into CUFI.

Like Hagee, Brog has learned how to straddle the line between the evangelical and Jewish communities, and it shows in CUFI’s growth. The organization boasts of having more than 1 million “members,” though insiders know such membership consists of nothing but CUFI having your email address. There’s nothing to pay, nothing to sign. And even if you drop out, you’re still counted as a member. Given this, insiders say the number of actual donors is closer to 30,000 to 50,000.

Meanwhile, little is known about CUFI’s finances other than funds raised. The organization says neither Hagee nor his wife, Diana, receives any compensation from CUFI. Yet when Charisma asked CUFI the same questions asked of other organizations in this report—particularly about administrative costs, leader salaries and budgetary breakdown—Morgenstern declined to comment beyond the following: “The focus of Charisma’s article is on organizations whose missions center on ‘ministry programs in Israel and humanitarian aid to Israel.’ Having served as one of CUFI’s regional directors, Mr. Strang should be well aware that CUFI’s mission is entirely different: CUFI’s focus is on educating Christians in America about the biblical mandate to stand with Israel. CUFI simply has no place in this article.”

Given the support Charisma readers have given CUFI since its inception, that’s hard to believe.

Faithful With What You Have

What’s equally difficult to believe for most Christians is that there are now more Jews living in the 8,000-square-mile Holy Land than in the entire 3.8 million square miles of the U.S. For evangelistic ministries like Jews for Jesus, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in September, that recent demographic shift and the “spiritual openness of Israelis to the gospel demands that missions to the Jews make Israel their No. 1 priority,” Perlman says. “We have more missionaries in Israel today than any other branch of Jews for Jesus around the world, but we don’t have enough.”

Because of this need, raising sufficient funds to serve the vision and recruit additional missionaries becomes even more vital. And with President Obama calling for limits on charitable tax deductions, Messianic leaders say it’s crucial for Israel-related ministries to be good stewards of donations and to operate without even the appearance of impropriety.

Although an exorbitant salary and benefit package is an easy abuse to spot in the world of religious nonprofits, more difficult to determine is whether ministries are actually being good stewards of the donations they receive.

“I’ve been working with religious nonprofits for four decades, and I can tell you that the vast majority of [them] operate with a genuine commitment to financial integrity and appropriate accountability,” says Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). “But there are a few exceptions. We say to the public that when a religious organization spends money in a manner that may reasonably be perceived by the public as benefiting its leaders in lavish, extravagant, excessive and unreasonable ways, that several bad things happen. First, that kind of conduct damages the organization’s credibility and mission. Secondly, it impacts the credibility of other organizations and raises the risk that legislators and regulators will pursue more burdensome legislation.”

Busby says it’s often difficult to determine how and where ministries spend their funds because there is little consistency in how the organizations report how much is spent on administration, fundraising, ministry programs and humanitarian aid. Lampkin agrees with Busby, saying there appears to be a bit of “creative accounting” going on.

“Different organizations tend to allocate differently among programs and administrative expenses because the incentive is to reduce your administrative expenses and allocate it across all your programs—because everybody wants to pay for programs and nobody wants to pay for administration and management,” Lampkin says. “They have an incentive to report things so they look as efficient as possible.”

Yet as Perlman points out, “When it comes to providing financial information, there is always a danger of comparing apples and oranges. What one organization understands as salary and benefits may be different than how another interprets those categories.”

For example, Charisma’s analysis found that within the category of “program services” commonly listed on Israel-related ministries’ financial records, the percentage of expenses ranged from a low of 54 percent (IFCJ) to a high of 92 percent (Dugit Messianic Outreach Center).

“In the case where [IFCJ] reported spending 54 percent on programs, if we knew they used the same methodology as [Dugit] that spent 92 percent on programs, then we might be able to draw some conclusions,” Busby says. “We might be able to say that one uses their resources more efficiently than the other. But since the data is so soft, even the country’s top nonprofit attorney testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee last year suggesting the IRS drop program spending from Form 990 because it was so ineffective.”

The List

As difficult as it may be to compare efficiency among ministries, donors can at least be knowledgeable not only of the types of initiatives covered, but also how money is being spent. So to help readers pick the best ministries to support financially, the following list of 17 Israel-related ministries highlights how these organizations break down the dollars Charisma readers often give to them.

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

For organizations that operate with a budget well over $100 million, higher compensation packages among top leadership is to be expected. But beyond Eckstein’s $1.2 million salary and benefit package ($530,514 in base compensation; $673,176 in other benefits), as well as at least eight leaders earning around $200,000, critics say their broader concerns about IFCJ involve the percentage of donations spent on fundraising and a mission that has “nothing to do with reconciling Jewish people to God.”

Though officials at IFCJ ( did not grant interviews or provide financial information to Charisma, the organization’s 990 tax return shows it collected $113 million in contributions and grants in 2012. In its most recent evaluation, the independent nonprofit company Charity Navigator reported 54 percent of IFCJ’s income went to programs, 7 percent to administration and 39 percent to fundraising. Charity Navigator gave the organization 43 out of 70 points for financial health and a perfect 70 out of 70 for financial accountability and transparency. Combined, IFCJ received an overall rating of 51 out of 70 points (three out of four stars).

Yet not everyone is convinced these ratings accurately reflect IFCJ’s financial stewardship.

“How can this charity get such a high rating when over [39 percent] of the funds raised go to fundraising expenses?” one reader on Charity Navigator’s website commented. “This is certainly not efficiency.”

In an auditor’s report posted on its website, the IFCJ states its mission is to promote “understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians and to build broad support and other shared concerns. It is the Fellowship’s vision that Jews and Christians will reverse their 2,000-year history of discord and replace it with a relationship marked by dialogue, understanding, respect and cooperation.”

Aside from media programming, the Fellowship’s main projects include helping Jews make aliyah (return to Israel), aiding needy Israeli families, assisting the Jewish poor in the former Soviet Union and mobilizing Christian support for Israel. Yet in a Jews for Jesus newsletter in 2007, Executive Director David Brickner questioned why so many Christians respond to Eckstein’s appeals for projects that have “nothing to do with reconciling Jewish people to God.”

“I can understand it to a certain extent, inasmuch as Eckstein’s approach to Christians, in my opinion, is ambiguous at best and has misled many in the church who think he is a Jewish Christian,” Brickner wrote. “They do not know that some of the funds Rabbi Eckstein collects go to groups that oppose efforts to tell Jewish people that they need to know Jesus as Messiah and Lord.”

Jews for Jesus

Celebrating its 40th year of existence, Jews for Jesus ( reaches out to both Jews and Gentiles with the gospel through one-on-one evangelism.

“Our mission statement, our purpose, has not changed over all that time,” Perlman says. “We exist to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people worldwide. Jews for Jesus is best known as a proclamation ministry—whether it’s in the public area, on street corners, on billboards, one-on-one, on campuses, downtown areas. We are out there meeting the people who have questions about Jesus, and many of them are Jewish people.”

In 2011, according to an auditor’s report, Jews for Jesus received $20 million in donations. Of those funds, 16 percent went for administration, 9 percent for fundraising and 75 percent for evangelism and other ministries.

The ministry uses creative means to find those who are interested in hearing the gospel, including handing out more than 8 million hand-lettered pamphlets—such as I Thought I Was an Olympic Superstar and Jesus Made Me Kosher—each year on the streets. Jews for Jesus also places ads in secular magazines and newspapers and on billboards, and publishes evangelistic books such as Jewish Doctors Meet the Great Physician. The organization has also released books on prophecy, includingFuture HopeA Jewish Christian Look at the End of the World, writtenby Brickner. Perlman says Jews for Jesus has its best, brightest and youngest staff in Israel today, and the ministry is committed to growing its presence there as God provides resources.

“People are desperate to hear a message of hope,” Perlman says. “For those of us who know Jesus, we have that message. Our staff is fearless in getting that message out to others, particularly in places where it can be quite a challenge at times.”

Chosen People Ministries

Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries (, has a simple rule about how it spends donations designated for Israel benevolence: “We feed thousands of poor Israelis every month. If somebody gives $100, $90 will go toward our project of feeding poor Israelis. It’s as simple as it sounds.”

Founded in 1894 by Rabbi Leopold Cohn after he heard the gospel on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the ministry began by offering food, education, job and English language training programs to poor Jewish immigrants.

“Chosen People Ministries from the beginning always wedded both benevolence and direct gospel preaching, as well as planting Messianic congregations,” Glaser says.

Today the ministry serves in 13 countries as it evangelizes, disciples and serves Jewish people. In Israel, a nation where 1 in 5 Israelis lives below the poverty line, the ministry has several centers that provide food to elderly and low-income people. It also engages in various evangelistic outreaches, including efforts on social media and an Isaiah 53 campaign that features a website (, free book (Isaiah 53 Explained) and other resources to educate Jews about the chapter in Isaiah predicting Jesus’ crucifixion hundreds of years before it happened. And then, of course, there’s the massive awareness campaign they launched right in the heart of NYC.

“We had a 20-by-80-foot billboard going into the Lincoln Tunnel,” Glaser says. “We had billboards in Times Square and big signs at bus shelters that said, ‘This chapter will change your life.’ We had almost 5,000 people request the Isaiah 53 Explained book, and we had 10 times that number come to our website. We’ve been following up and have had a wonderful opportunity to minister one-on-one, and some Jewish people have come to the Lord through this.”

With $12 million in revenues in 2012, the ministry spent 71 percent on program services, 11 percent on administration and 18 percent on fundraising, according to ECFA.

Christians United for Israel

Despite describing the ministry as the “largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over 1 million members,” officials with Christians United for Israel ( in San Antonio declined to release any financial information or do an interview for this story.

Charisma was also unable to locate any financial information on CUFI’s website or through GuideStar or Charity Navigator. The organization, whose purpose is to “provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues,” is not accredited by the ECFA.

Jerusalem Prayer Team

Led by founder Mike Evans, the Jerusalem Prayer Team (jerusalemprayer​ is one of many Israel-related initiatives under an umbrella organization called the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship. While this fellowship holds weekly church services in the Dallas area, the Jerusalem Prayer Team is essentially comprised of an extensive mailing list that solicits prayers and donations.

Evans is himself half-Jewish, yet he was educated at an Assemblies of God college. Early in his career he was known as a Jewish evangelist and once during the 1970s had the Jewish community in Long Island, N.Y., so up in arms that his mentor, Jamie Buckingham, had to fly up and help quell what nearly turned into a riot. Since then, he’s morphed into a New York Times best-selling author who prides himself on being a journalist.

Yet consistently, those who’ve worked with Evans claim he’s hard to nail down. He appears to lead multiple nonprofit organizations in the U.S., Netherlands and Israel (according to legal documents), and he has a track record of reporting on larger-than-life encounters with world leaders while promising big ventures. His latest is the Jerusalem World Center, a $15-million, five-story building in the heart of Israel’s capital scheduled to open in September 2014.

What funds are needed for this project, however, is a confusing, albeit frequently highlighted matter—much of the Jerusalem Prayer Team’s monthly magazine, Called, is devoted to plans and finances surrounding the Jerusalem World Center. In the July edition, Evans stated the building was completely debt-free; the following month, he was again petitioning partners to give whatever they could—even admonishing those who were cash-strapped to “know that if you have appreciated assets—something such as stocks, coins, precious metals, art or real estate—we encourage you to consider gifting these directly to the Jerusalem Prayer Team. This can provide you a substantial tax liability savings while blessing our ministry and the Jewish people in a great way.”

It’s confusing, often donation-oriented messages like these that make Evans somewhat controversial and keeps other ministries at bay. Many charismatic leaders are quick to say Evans has burned relational bridges with them—often by threatening to sue.

One such instance involved the late Freda Lindsay of Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI). Lindsay was on good terms with Evans until he purchased a key ten Boom property that CFNI had planned to use for outreach just as the school was closing the deal. When Evans heard that Lindsay had publicly criticized him for this, he threatened to sue her. Though he didn’t, the conflict resulted in CFNI’s board voting that they would never work with Evans again.

Neither Evans nor any officials with the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship, which lists addresses in Phoenix, London and Colleyville, Texas, responded to requests to provide financial information or to do an interview with Charisma. However, the ministry, which has a mission to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” did submit financial information with the state of Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State showing an operating budget of almost $10 million in 2012, of which $7 million was revenue. The report indicates that 96 percent of its $8 million expenses went to “program services” and that no one had received contributions that year, though the state would not verify any of this information.

On its 990 tax return in 2011, the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship reported nearly $5 million in donations, of which 88 percent was spent on program services, 3 percent on management and general expenses and 10 percent on fundraising. Though this same tax return listed Evans as unpaid while his wife, Carolyn, is listed as president and reported $2,605 in compensation, the Evans’ upscale home in Colleyville, Texas—where neighbors clearly make multiple six-figure incomes—indicates what’s on paper isn’t the full story.

Christian Friends of Israel-Jerusalem

As one of the three largest pro-Israel ministries in the world with headquarters in Jerusalem and representatives around the world, Christian Friends of Israel-Jerusalem ( serves as a ministry of reconciliation with the Jewish people. It has welcomed more than 250,000 Jewish people to their homeland through the organization’s distribution center near the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

The ministry, founded in 1985, was present in Israel “when the ‘dry bones’ began to walk home—especially from the ‘land of the north,’” says Sharon Sanders, who co-founded CFI with her husband, Ray.

“After 2,000 years of Gentile Christian persecution of the Jewish people, often in the name of Jesus, we are the face of Jesus which they have never seen,” she says. “Our compassion, service, love and care reflect Him and the love of God, something they have never very often known in the past. We are undoing damage done by the historical church to the Jewish people in the name of Jesus. We are moving out of the way the stones of stumbling that have been placed there by the historical anti-Semitic church and are preparing the way for Him. We believe that true believers in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua [Jesus], have come into the ‘commonwealth of Israel’ [Eph. 2:12] through Him and that we are to provoke the Jewish people to holy envy [Rom. 11:11-14].”

The ministry declined to report how much in donations it receives each year. However, Sanders says 47 percent of the budget goes toward humanitarian aid; 26 percent to outreach projects; 22 percent to overhead (including 3.7 percent for Ray Sanders’ salary and 2.7 percent for her salary); 6 percent for publishing and media products; and 1.5 percent for development and public relations.

Vision for Israel

Operating a multifaceted ministry dedicated to the physical and spiritual restoration of Zion, Vision for Israel ( and the Joseph Storehouse distribute humanitarian aid to poor people and those devastated by rocket attacks while offering biblical education, praise and worship music, and news through the Jerusalem News Network.

“Since 1998, we’ve helped over 600,000 Israelis, both Jews and Arabs,” says Barry Segal, president of Vision for Israel and the Joseph Storehouse, which is based out of Jerusalem and has an office in Charlotte, N.C. “A lot of people in previous years have perceived Israel as a modern, wealthy nation that doesn’t have social problems and poor people. A lot of Christians we have met, especially in America, who fall in love with Israel … it’s almost like Israel can do no wrong and doesn’t have any problems. That’s not the truth. In Israel, 1 out of 3 children is living under the poverty line, and about 1 in 4 adults are living under the poverty line.”

To fund its ministries, Vision for Israel receives about $3 million in annual donations. Of this money, Segal says, depending on the ministry’s branch, 2 to 11 percent is spent on administration, 4 to 6 percent on fundraising and the rest goes to humanitarian aid and other ministries. Segal says 100 percent of designated income goes to designated projects.

“I think it’s important for people to partner with Messianic Jewish ministries in Israel because it holds up our arms to do the work, whether it’s humanitarian aid, teaching the Scriptures, being a blessing to our neighbors or being an example in business or military service or any other segment of society,” he says. “This strengthens the testimony of who we are—that we’re not just doing physical acts of good deeds, but we are also expressing our faith as the opportunities arise.”

Jewish Voice Ministries International

A multifaceted Messianic ministry, Jewish Voice Ministries International ( formed through the merging of two distinct ministries from two distinct Messianic ministers: the late healing evangelist Louis Kaplan, who launched a radio and TV ministry in 1967, and Rabbi Jonathan Bernis, who held mass evangelistic crusades throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. Since Kaplan’s death in 1998 and the merger in 2001, Bernis has expanded Jewish Voice Ministries International (JVMI) to include a weekly TV show airing around the world; various media outlets (magazine, newsletter, books, CDs and DVDs, and social media); medical, dental and eye clinics in Ethiopia and India; Jewish music and dance festivals; church plants; and a network of ministry speakers.

“Our first objective is to proclaim the gospel to the Jew first and also to the nations, according to Romans 1:16,” Bernis says. “Our second objective is to equip you, the church, by providing education about the Hebraic roots of your faith, your responsibility to Israel and the Jewish people, and how you can share Israel’s Messiah with the Jewish people.”

JVMI brought in more than $21 million in 2012 from donations, products and other sources, and an auditor’s report lists almost $32 million in total assets (which includes property and investments). The same report shows the ministry’s program services account for almost $11 million of last year’s $16 million expenditures—approximately 69 percent. Administrative expenses account for almost $2 million (12.5 percent of total expenses), while the Bernis-led organization spent $3 million in fundraising (19 percent).

For the past two years, the ECFA-accredited ministry has been among the highest-ranked organizations by Charity Navigator, and it earned an overall score of 61 out 70 in 2011, the most recently ranked year.

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem ( is a global ministry representing churches, denominations and Christians worldwide who share a love and concern for Israel and who seek to repair the historic breach between the church and the Jewish people. From its Jerusalem headquarters, the work of the ICEJ reaches into more than 140 countries, including established branch offices in more than 70 nations worldwide.

For more than 30 years, this work has impacted villages and cities across the Holy Land with a “benevolence ministry that has helped the poor, ministered to the sick, housed the lonely, encouraged the children and cared for the elderly,” according to Daryl Hedding, the ministry’s U.S. deputy director. “Our Feast of Tabernacles celebration, Israel’s largest annual tourist event, has impacted more than 100,000 Christians with the biblical perspective of recognizing the hand of God in Israel’s modern-day restoration, as well as the need to work with what God is doing and bless it. We’ve also assisted more than 120,000 Jews in making aliyah and immigrating to Israel.”

The Christian Embassy is known for its exceptional educational work. Through a team of international speakers, its publications and website, as well as an array of seminars and small-group study curricula, it has provided the global movement of Christian support for Israel a firm biblical foundation and understanding of the complex issues regarding Israel, anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations and Middle East events. In fact, through a special partnership with Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial and Remembrance Center, the ICEJ is educating Christians to recognize anti-Semitism and how to stand against it.

The ICEJ’s infrastructure includes independent branch offices, and so assessing overall financial numbers for the ICEJ is difficult. The U.S. branch, with offices in Murfreesboro, Tenn., raised $1.5 million in donations in 2011, according to the ministry’s 990 tax return, and spent 68 percent on programs, while 24 percent went to administration and 9 percent to fundraising.

Charity Navigator awarded the ICEJ U.S. branch 50 out of 70 points for financial health and 37 out of 70 for financial accountability and transparency. Overall, the ministry earned a score of 43 out of 70 points.

Susan Michael, director of the ICEJ’s U.S. Branch, said, “It’s a shame that by limiting a ministry to a point system, people aren’t getting the full story not only of what each branch office does, but also the entire scope of the ICEJ, which is powerfully impacting thousands of lives in Israel and providing a critical voice in the nations on behalf of the Jewish people.”

Maoz Israel Ministries

Headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, since 1976, Maoz Israel Ministries ( is one of the pioneering ministries of Messianic Judaism in Israel. The ministry, led by Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram, is committed to reaching every Israeli with the Good News of their Messiah.  Their tools: publishing books in Hebrew, CDs by contemporary Messianic worship artists, evangelism outreach, video productions, social media, humanitarian aid through local Messianic congregations and leadership training.

“This is the best time in our lifetime to reach Israelis!” says Ari Sorko-Ram. “We now are able to partner with leaders all over the nation to help them reach our next-generation leaders, impact Messianic music, sponsor leadership conferences and provide practical assistance to those communities under daily duress of attack. We now are making inroads to touch Israelis in the marketplace—Knesset members, firefighters, IDF soldiers and poor immigrants—as well as through our benevolence outreach,”

“We also help support Arab and Ethiopian congregations, as well as our own Spirit-filled, Hebrew-speaking congregation in downtown Tel Aviv,” he says, adding that after 18 years of pastoring Tiferet Yeshua, the couple has passed the baton to Asher Intrater and is now developing an online Hebrew outreach site ( to reach Israel’s tech-driven younger generations.

Leaders across the globe depend each month on the Maoz Israel Report, still written by Ari and Shira, to get in-depth understanding of current events in the Middle East from a biblical, political and cultural perspective.

The ministry, which also has offices in the U.S., Canada, England, Germany, Brazil and Mexico, received nearly $3.7 million in donations in 2012. Of those funds, 5 percent went to administration, 5 percent to development and 90 percent to program services.

Eagles’ Wings Ministries

More than just an Israel-related ministry, Eagles’ Wings is a global missional community that serves to “touch Israel and the nations with the hope and love of God, to train the next generation of Christian leaders, and to unite and empower believers to make a difference in the world.”

Based outside Buffalo, N.Y., the ministry has hubs in the New York City area, Karlsruhe, Germany, and Jerusalem, and includes nearly 40 full-time team members and an international family of partners, volunteers and friends. Though Eagles’ Wings is involved in “a variety of strategic projects around the world, with a unique emphasis on interfaith dialogue and humanitarian care,” its Holy Land ties include a “Watchmen on the Wall” program that equips Christians to be articulate spokespeople for Israel and furthers their education through prayer pilgrimages to “The Land.” Founder and Executive Director Robert Stearns also launched The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem in 2003, which is now observed every year on the first Sunday in October by millions of believers in more than 175 nations.

Eagles’ Wings’ latest 990 tax returns from the previous two years were not available through GuideStar; however, its 2010 form stated the ministry brought in $2.4 million in donations that year, of which 67 percent went to program services and 24 percent went to overhead.

Messianic Jewish Israel Fund

As a unique ministry that supports Jewish believers in Yeshua within the Messianic body in Israel, the Messianic Jewish Israel Fund ( functions as a vehicle for Messianic believers in the Diaspora (those living outside Israel) and Christians to join with Jewish believers in Israel to provide the assistance they need. Donations to the fund go toward temporary living expenses for poor families, job training, medical and emergency funding, a women’s shelter, soup kitchen, school supplies, Holocaust survivors, support for struggling congregations, spiritual and financial support for the poor, and so much more.

“What makes the MJIF so unique is that nearly all of the funds it raises go directly to believers in Israel,” says Executive Director Dotti Solomon. “Many organizations raise funds that go to the general population, which is also important. However, the believing community in Israel is in great need of support, as it is very difficult for them. The MJIF is there for these brothers and sisters to lend a helping hand. Support has gone to not just one Israeli ministry, individual or congregation, but hundreds over the years. All is done with the accountability of believing leaders in Israel.”

The Roswell, Ga.-based MJIF is actually a semi-autonomous subsidiary of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) in Philadelphia, which is accredited by the ECFA. According to 2012 records, this parent organization brought in more than $9 million in revenue, of which 83 percent went to program services, 10 percent for administrative costs and 7 percent for fundraising. Since its inception, the MJIF has seen more than $3 million raised to bless believers in Israel.

Bridges for Peace

As a Jerusalem-based, Bible-believing Christian organization supporting Israel and building relationships between Christians and Jews worldwide, Bridges for Peace ( offers 14 different ministries. These range from several tangible projects, including food banks in Israel that provide food to 30,000 people every month, to a program that helps new immigrants during their first year in Israel.

“Bridges for Peace has two areas of work that our board has determined are important,” says Jim Solberg, the U.S. national director of the organization. “One is showing unconditional love to people in the nation of Israel and Jewish people around the world. And the other is an educational ministry, reaching and teaching the church around the world to highlight the importance of understanding the Hebraic roots of Jesus and the New Testament.”

In 2011, the ministry collected $4.3 million in donations, according to its 990 tax return. Of those funds, 7 percent was spent on administration, 11 percent on fundraising and 83 percent on ministry programs. Charity Navigator gave the ministry 48 out of 70 points for financial health and a near-perfect 67 out of 70 for financial accountability and transparency. Overall, the ministry earned a score of 54 out of 70 points (three out of four stars).

“Our overall target is to spend about 10 percent of the dollars on what we consider overhead,” Solberg says. “The other thing important to reference is that we totally honor donor designations. If a donor says, ‘These dollars are given for food,’ then those ministry dollars go for food.”

One for Israel

One for Israel (, a ministry uniquely designed to support media evangelism among Hebrew-speaking Jews and Arabs in Israel, shares the gospel in Israel via the Internet and multimedia projects.

“We believe that it is very important to feed our poor and stand with Israel politically,” says Eitan Bar, co-founder of One for Israel and media director at Israel College of the Bible. “However, the single best and most important way to support Israel is by sharing Yeshua with Israeli Jews and Arabs—and that is what we at are all about: Israeli Jews who share the gospel with our own brothers and sisters in a relevant way via media.”

In an email interview, Bar said the ministry spent $229,445 over the last three years on online Web ads, evangelistic advertising, conferences and training, travel, equipment, and other expenses.

“None of our donations go into salaries or anyone’s pocket, for that matter (I think we are pretty unique in that matter),” Bar said. “All our staff is in charge of raising their own support.

Dugit Messianic Ministries

Dugit Messianic Outreach Center ( operates in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv and reaches out to the “lost sheep of Israel” by sharing the gospel.

According to the organization’s website, its business is to “minister to the mass population of Israelis who bring a wide spectrum of views and beliefs of their own, thus making them open to receiving the gospel.”

Launched in 1993 by Avi Mizrachi, Dugit supplies free Bibles and evangelistic materials to unbelievers in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian. Its Agape Distribution Center provides food and clothing to more than 80 Israeli families in need each month, and the ministry runs in conjunction with Adonai Roi Congregation, which Mizrachi pastors.

Although the ministry did not follow through on requests for an interview and financial information, its 990 tax return shows that in 2011, Dugit received $564,550 in contributions. Of its total budget, 8 percent was spent on administration and 92 percent on program services.

American Friends of Leket Israel

Dedicated to supporting Leket Israel (, Israel’s largest food bank and food rescue network, American Friends of Leket Israel has a mission to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity through the rescue and redistribution of excess food to benefit Israel’s needy. It is not affiliated with Jewish or non-Jewish believers but is simply a relief agency with major influence in the Holy Land.

Like other ministries featured in this story, officials with the Teaneck, N.J.-based organization declined to be interviewed for this story or provide other requested information.

Its 2011 tax return shows it collected almost $3.5 million in donations. Of those funds, 5 percent went to administration, 9 percent to fundraising and 86 percent to programs.

Holy Land Community

The late Arni Adams founded the Holy Land Community (holyland​
), a social network of pro-Israel Christians who, together with Israelis, “are creating a worldwide alliance, with the purpose of saving Israel and helping the children of God to live in the Promised Land.”

Officials with Holy Land Community in San Bernardino, Calif., could not be reached for comment. The GuideStar database lists the ministry as a registered nonprofit but includes no 990 tax returns. The website mentions the ministry’s funding comes from donations and land it sells on the shores of the Sea of Galilee as gifts for silver weddings, births and other occasions.

An award-winning reporter and editorial writer at the Los Angeles Daily NewsThe Press-Enterprise and other newspapers for two decades, Troy Anderson writes for Reuters, Newsmax, Charisma and many other media outlets. He lives in Irvine, Calif.


Writing out Scripture Can Be Good for the Soul.

While reading Deuteronomy 17 today, I came to the passage where God instructs future kings of Israel. In context he’s really telling the people, “If when you get to the Promised Land, you decide you want a king, make sure you get a good one. And here’s how to get a good one.” That’s a loose summary of Deuteronomy 17:14-20. After laying out certain qualifications in Deuteronomy 17:14-17, the Lord explains how the new king is to begin his reign:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

I had never noticed the first part of that passage before. The king has a huge writing assignment. He is to write for himself (his servants can’t do it for him) “a copy of this law.” Most commentators think it means the book of Deuteronomy, but some think it refers to the entire Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy). Either way it’s a lot of writing. Sort of like an Old Testament term paper.

And this was long before the days of personal computers.
Or typewriters (remember those?).
Or ballpoint pens.
Or Number 2 pencils.

Writing out the entire book of Deuteronomy would take days of work. Line by line, word by word, letter by letter, making sure he got it exactly right. And you can be sure the Levites would be double-checking his work.

Not an easy assignment.

Writing it down meant the king was forced to think about the law of God he was sworn to uphold. He would go through every part of it, painstakingly writing it on a scroll, thinking about what it meant. That tedious exercise would tattoo the truth on his soul. We can see a clear progression here:


Maybe we can gain something from this today. Pick a verse and write it down word for word. Or pick a whole chapter and write it down—that will take a lot longer. But the very act is likely to make you think more carefully about what it says. And that’s the whole point. Writing slows us down, and slowing down is the first step in hearing what God is actually saying.

    • By Ray Pritchard Keep Believing Ministries

Used by permission of Keep Believing Ministries.

Should Gentiles Keep Torah: Part 2.




Last week’s blog received more attention than any blog I have written since the one on the fact that Israeli teachers don’t carry firearms in schools. There were more than 200 comments on Facebook, plus lots of likes and sharesCharisma posted it on both its news and magazine sites as well. I had no idea that the topic would attract such interest.

But not all of the response was favorable. One self-proclaimed authority, with an alarming number of followers, wrote me and said:

“REPENT and start teaching the TRUTH: TORAH to the NATIONS. You are a FALSE teacher. Just as is Michael Brown and every other Messianic Jewish rabbi who teaches like you.”

Just in case I was not taking him seriously enough, he sent me another message, stating his credentials:

“I am a Levite Cohein. I read Torah and ALL of Scripture in Hebrew, not English. I teach from Hebrew. You would do well to learn from my teachings … Read my WRITTEN teachings. They will blow you away and astound you …”

Confident? Yes. Humble? Hmmm ….

Well, first of all, it is an honor to be included in the ranks of the foremost Messianic Jewish apologist in the world, Dr. Michael Brown. Secondly, anyone who uses ALL CAPS that much, should NOT be taken seriously.

He was not the only one that responded in disagreement. The arguments went like this: Yeshua told us to make disciples, to teach His commands, Yeshua kept the Torah and said He did not come to take it away, so “clearly” we must teach Gentiles to keep all of the Torah, as there is one law for all people. Other passages were quoted regarding the alien living amongst Israel—that they were also expected to keep the Torah in ancient times.

Let’s Deal With the Alien Passage

This is shoddy scholarship at best, that picks and chooses passages that seem to support their theology, while excluding others. The One Law Movement seems to have key Scriptures that appear to prove their point, regardless of context or full exegesis, no different from Jesus Only Baptism movements or even Mormons, who memorize specific verses for purposes of outreach—without really being familiar with the Scriptures.

For instance, one verse pointed out to me over and over by probably more than a dozen people was:

“One Torah shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” (Ex. 12:49)

Seems clear until you look at it in context.

1. It is referring to those in Egypt who left with the Israelites. These were non-Hebrews who became convinced, probably during the Ten Plagues, that it was time to hightail it out of Egypt. (Ex. 12:38) They recognized that Yahweh was God and united with the Hebrews. The Hebrew word (גר) translated stranger or alien, can also mean convert in Modern Hebrew.

In other words, they were non-Hebrews seeking to be one with the Israelites. God was merely saying, okay, if you want to be part of my people, you have to go all the way.

2. The One Law folks (or at least the ones who responded to my blog) seem to entirely miss v. 48, which sheds great understanding on v. 49.

“And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it” (Ex. 12:48).

We see here that in context it is referring to non-Jews who were living amongst Israel wanting to keep the Passover. So the inference is that non-Jews living amongst them could choose not to keep the Passover, and not be circumcised nor required to adhere to all ceremonial customs in Torah.

3. But even looking at v. 49 alone, “One Torah shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” it is clear that is not referring to the entire Gentile world, but those “who dwell among” Israel; who live in an Israeli community. I doubt that even one person who challenged me lives here in Israel! Or, is even part of a Messianic Jewish community!

A Fundamental Change

Nevertheless, as stated in the previous blog, there was a fundamental change after Acts 15, that permitted fellowship among believing Jews and Gentiles without the Gentiles being expected to follow all of the Torah. This was a revelation from God to the Apostles. Paul refers to the fact that the Nations are heirs together with Israel as a mystery in Ephesians 3.

With the coming of the New Covenant, there is a change of relationship between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Since the New Testament teaches specifically on the relationship of Jew and Gentile in the new reality of the body of believers, we cannot simply transfer the practices of pre-Yeshua times into the New Covenant period. (Dr. Daniel C. Juster)

While I have fought long and hard against Replacement Theology (the Church is the New Israel), there were some changes between the Old and New Covenants. Under the Old Covenant non-Jews who wanted to be part of the people of Israel had to convert to Judaism. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, this was changed in Acts 10 and 15, and restated in Acts 21:

“But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality” (Acts 21:25, emphasis mine).

Let me state again, Gentiles believers are free to be circumcised, keep the feasts, keep kosher and embrace all 613 laws identified in traditional Judaism. (To be clear, many of the laws are impossible to keep today—such as laws for owning slaves or making sacrifices, laws for the Levites and priests, laws for making war, and ones that only apply to a Theocratic state, etc.) But once we start compelling non-Jewish believers to do such things as God’s perfect plan, we head off into error.

What’s the Big Deal

“What do you care Ron, if Gentiles feel compelled to keep Torah?”

This is an important question. Messianic Jews are often accused of going back under the Law. We are often misunderstood in our desire to both serve Yeshua (enjoying the FREE gift of God, not obtained by keeping the Law) and live as Jews according to Torah.

It is very unhelpful to our cause, and the cause of the Lord, for non-Jews and even some misguided Messianic Jews, to pressure Gentile believers to do what so clearly the apostles told them was not required.

I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered people with only a peripheral knowledge of Messianic Judaism, who assume that we want them to live as Jews. I get emails regularly, hearing stories of families split because one member decides not merely to keep the Sabbath, but goes on to condemn the rest of the family for not. That is why this is a big deal.

Next week, I will post 13 points displaying the error of the One Law Movement. To be clear, I am not saying that these folks are not in the fold. Other than a few crack pots, most of them love Yeshua and want to please Him. While in my opinion, this error needs to be addressed, I am by no means saying that those who embrace the One Law theology are not believers.

Let us continue to strive for truth.

Part 1 is here.



Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, was released April 16. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

Egypt’s Mubarak Released From Prison After Court Order.

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison in a development that may inflame tensions as the nation grapples with violence following the deposing of his Islamist successor.

Mubarak, 85, was taken from Cairo’s Torah prison by helicopter to a nearby military hospital, a day after a court ordered his release in relation to a case involving accepting gifts from a state-run organization.

The move marks a staggering development for many Egyptians as his critics and those who took part in the 2011 uprising against him had demanded he be brought to justice for abuses and corruption they say he committed during his 29-year tenure. While Mubarak is unlikely to find a place in Egypt’s new political order, his release may inject more tension into the violent standoff between the Muslim Brotherhood and the government the military installed after deposing Mohamed Mursi.

Footage aired on the private al-Hayat satellite channel showed a helicopter landing near the military hospital and a gurney wheeled alongside it. Mubarak had spent time in the same facility previously, amid reports of his ailing health.

The Brotherhood, facing a government crackdown since Mursi’s ouster in July, has argued the new military-backed government is little more than an extension of Mubarak’s police state. The group also says so-called “remnants” of the old regime played a pivotal role in deposing Mursi, the country’s first freely-elected civilian president.

“Mubarak is flown out of Torah and reports of being transported to military hospital in Maadi. Mubarak is free, while free men are imprisoned,” read a posting today on the Twitter account of the main alliance backing Mursi.

The cases against Mubarak, including a retrial for his alleged role in the death of protesters in 2011, will continue. He’s also standing trial for at least two other corruption cases.


© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Should Gentiles Keep Torah?.

Jewish Torah
Jewish Torah

“Are you telling me that as a Gentile believer, I don’t have to keep the Sabbath or eat Kosher in order to be saved?” That was the question that a precious young believer asked me at the end of my message a few weeks ago.

I taught all week at Blue Mountain Christian Retreat through my book Identity Theft, taking a hard look at the early communities of 1st-century believers and how they lived.

This woman had been taught in a Messianic congregation—I don’t know where—that God calls Gentiles to keep the Torah, just as Jews. Before I go further, let me make two points:

1. I do believe that Jewish believers are called to live a Jewish life according to Scripture as a matter of calling (Romans 11:29).

2. It has no bearing whatsoever on our salvation, which is obtained solely through faith in Yeshua alone.

Having said that, there are some congregations that teach that God’s perfect plan is that the Gentiles also keep Torah. While I do believe there is freedom for any believer to keep the entire Torah, it is not required. Let’s take a look at the word of God.

1. The Jerusalem Council. The very first theological council was over this very issue. In Acts 15, Messianic leaders that has been preaching the good news to the Gentiles gathered together. The issue at hand: Do Gentiles have to convert to Judaism in order to be saved?

After hearing impassioned testimony from Shimon Kefa (Peter), Jacob (James) ruled:

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.  For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. (Acts 15:19-21)

Some have claimed that the last part “Moses … is read in the synagogues” meant that the Gentiles could grow in their Jewishness over time. It is more likely that Jacob’s intention was to show that the four things that they were forbidden to do, were universally immoral ways to worship the one true God, and Torah would back that up.

First, it is important to understand that the four prohibitions addressed how the former pagans, now believers, could worship. Obviously they would adhere to other universal laws found in the Old Covenant (Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt not steal, etc.), but in their liturgical life—how they worshiped—they had to forsake certain pagan practices, such as the drinking blood or lying with temple prostitutes, as these were clearly universally immoral worship practices to both Jew and Gentile. The Torah, which was read weekly, would affirm this, hence v. 21.

Biblical scholar Richard Bauckham has argued that each of the four prohibitions can be found in Leviticus 18-19. He claims that these practices are moral issues (even though the context is liturgical) and that they were abominations by which God cast the Canaanites out of the Land. Jacob is merely saying, “Torah backs up this decision.”

2. God has called Israel to be a separate nation. Israel was chosen from among nations to be a light to the rest of the world (Ex. 19:5-6, Is. 42:6, Gen. 12:3). This calling is not voided by the New Covenant. Paul says referring to nature Israel, “God’s gifts and call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29) But nowhere does the New Covenant command Gentiles to live as Jews.

As the Jews embraced God’s Law, His anointing would attract the Gentiles.

May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. (Ps. 67:1-2)

3. Paul’s Words to Gentiles. When Gentiles were being taught that they had to be circumcised in order to be saved, Paul blew a gasket! Paul who taught us that it is “faith alone, through grace” that we are saved (Eph. 2:8), could not have been clearer regarding the Gentiles being required to keep the law of Moses:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Yeshua the Messiah was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?  So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?(Gal. 3:1-3, 5)

And then: For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”  (Gal. 3:10-11)

While it is clear that the new believing communities sprouting up in Gentile nations were aware of the Jewish roots of the faith (1 Cor. 5:7), where does Paul or any other New Testament writer encourage Gentile believers to live as Jews?

Why Then Are Jewish Believers Commanded to keep the Torah? Good question. First of all, let me repeat it, no one will be saved through works of the law—Jew or Gentile. However Jews are called to live as Jews as a matter of eternal calling (not to obtain eternal salvation). I can eat a lobster tail today and it will not affect my salvation, but I would not be staying true to my calling as a Jew. In the Acts revival the new Jewish believers were portrayed as being “Zealous for the Torah” (Acts 21:20). And this was a good thing!

However, while Gentiles are certainly free to keep the Torah, it is not their calling. Gentile believers should not be made to feel guilty for not worshiping on Saturday or keeping kosher. They certainly can, but they are not compelled. Ronin Parry says it well: “Gentiles were granted the status of full membership of the end-time community of God’s people without having to convert to Judaism.

One of the greatest examples of this in the New Covenant can be seen in the lives of Titus and Timothy. After coming to faith Timothy, who was Jewish through his mother, was circumcised. Whereas Titus, a Greek, was not. “Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised” (Gal. 2:3). In fact, Paul circumcises Timothy just before going on a journey to tell the Gentiles that they are not compelled to keep the whole Torah. “As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.” (Acts 16:4).

Imagine locking yourself in a room having never read the New Covenant. Then, without commentary from me or anyone else you read the New Covenant. I am confident that you would come away with these two New Covenant truths:

1. Of course Jews who find the Jewish Messiah are still Jews.

2. Gentiles believers become one with Israel, but are not required to live as Jews.



Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, was released April 16. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

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Israel and Palestine: Here We Go Again.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (left) and Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (left) and Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Israel and the Palestinian Authority were back in Washington last week as the long-dormant peace talks resumed, prompting some observers to ask, “Why are these peace talks different from any other peace talks?”

I think it can be fairly stated that no people have spoken about peace so often, written about it so extensively, but experienced so little of it in recent history. Israel’s intense thirst for peace coupled with the Jewish state’s lack of it is indeed one of the great paradoxes of modern times.

Peace is, at its core, an essentially biblical concept, deeply rooted in the ancient religious texts of Israel. The word shalom is found 376 times in the Torah, or the Tanach—the Jewish Bible, known to most of the world as the Old Testament.

The word is used in many different contexts with a variety of meanings. However, the sheer number of times the word shalom appears in the Bible makes it abundantly clear that peace is a central biblical and universal value that all nations are advised to pursue, but specifically the nation of Israel, who presented the Torah’s lofty concepts to the entire world.

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14, NIV).

With the return to the peace table, Israel seems to be acting according to its biblical instructions by seeking peace. The problem with this perception is that the biblical guidelines don’t encourage peace negotiations that are based on faulty premises, such as handing over Israel’s God-given land to an armed band of terrorists.

Secretary of State John Kerry has called for Israel to accept the establishment of an additional Arab (primarily Muslim) state based on the indefensible pre-1967 borders, which would place Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport easily within range of enemy missiles.

According to this proposal, in exchange for freeing terrorists now and eventually surrendering its high elevations, the mountains of Samaria and the Judean hills (often referred to as the West Bank), Israel would receive written promises of peace from the Palestinian Authority, backed by the Obama administration.

This “land for peace” formula has been the standard for some 40 years of summits, talks, negotiations and shuttles that seem to go nowhere and have only increased the ravenous appetite of Israel’s enemies, resulting in a sharp increase in terrorism and the frequency of war.

The new talks are destined for a similar fate, despite the promotion and despite the hype. Apparently, we will continue to play this dangerous game for a few more years, until we start listening to the following words that were spoken long ago in anticipation of today’s events:

“For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’—when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11, NKJV).

“Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” —Thomas Jefferson



David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh, Israel, is founder and president of the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund,, established after he and his 3-year-old son were wounded in a terrorist shooting attack. He is the author of three books, including his new book, Peace for Peace: Israel in the New Middle East, available on or at

Oldest Known Torah Scroll Discovered in Italy.


Torah scroll
An Italian university professor on Wednesday said he has found what is believed to be the world’s oldest complete Torah scroll. (Photo courtesy Mauro Perani)

An Italian university professor on Wednesday said he has found what is believed to be the world’s oldest complete Torah scroll.

Mauro Perani, professor of Hebrew at the University of Bologna, said the scroll originally was believed to be no more that a few hundred years old.

But new studies and carbon dating tests suggest it was written around 850 years ago.

The scroll had been stored for centuries in the university’s archives, but had been mislabeled in 1889 as dating from the 17th century.

When Perani re-examined the scroll, he realized that it used a script of the oriental Babylonian tradition, hinting that it must be extremely old.

The professor then had the scroll carbon-dated by laboratories at Italy’s University of Salento and at the University of Illinois. Both tests confirmed that the scroll dated from the second half of the 12th century to the first quarter of the 13th century.

“This was a scroll for liturgical use in the synagogue, with just consonants spelled out,” Perani said.

The scroll is made up of 58 sections of soft sheep leather. It is 36 meters long and 64 centimeters wide.

Ancient Torah scrolls are rare because when they are damaged they stop being used for liturgies and are buried.



Stones of remembrance…

By Bobby Schuller, Hour of Power Pastor

“He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ …He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”-Joshua 4:21-22,24

There are many life stories in the Bible. The Bible is all about remembering.

In Jesus’ day there was Decapolis, an area of ten cities in which the Jewish children were trained to memorize Torah. The Jewish people loved Torah, the first five books of the Bible. To them, it is the core of who they are, and they taught their children, both boys and girls, to memorize it – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. They considered the Torah the greatest treasure that was given to them by God. It was the story of how God brought them out of Egypt, gave his instruction, protected them in the wilderness, and gave them the gift of the Promised Land. They believed that, if one generation ever forgot these stories, they would not exist ever again.

The centrality of Jewish life and religion was to memorize the Torah so that they never, ever would forget the stories of their people – stories of why they shouldn’t have idols , stories that supported their values, stories of great battle victories won through God’s help.

One story encouraged the Jewish people to establish piles of stones called an Ebenezer: Eben-Haezar. It means “stone of help.” The idea is that every time a traveler would see this mound of stones, it would communicate that there is a special memory there, something that should never be forgotten, that in this very place, God came and God helped, and it was not to be forgotten.

Remembering each story is the thing that holds people together – then and today.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the stories in the Bible that guide our lives every day. Thank you for showing us how you never leave us or forget us, but love us generation to generation. Amen.

Devotion: Describe how one of the stories in the Bible has affected you positively.

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