Ihave had a very interesting life, with some unique experiences. I was born andraised in a middle-class, Jewish home. Though not very religious, we wentto the temple for most of the holidays, and kept many of the Jewish traditions.I was BarMitzvah'd at age 13, after years of Hebrew school and religioustraining. My religious training consisted of bouncing superballs, trading comicbooks, and flipping baseball cards. We read Bible stories in books about Jewishpeople, but I never owned nor even saw an Old Testament. I saw the Tenach,(torah), first 5 books of Old Testament and we had prayer books as well. Myreligious books were a joke. They made Bible stories sound as believable as AESOPs'fables, very liberal teaching.
Iwas a teen; I had no need for religion I figured anyway. I supposed if there wasa God, and a life hereafter I would go to the good place cause I was a good guy.If not, I figured my body would make good fertilizer when I died. The only timein my whole life unto adulthood, I heard the name of Christ as a curse word. Ialso was called a Christ killer in elementary school. I had no idea who Christreally was, only that I didn't kill him. I knew Catholics and some people fromother religions. But, I was taught if you were not a Jew, you were a Christian.I knew Christians hated and persecuted Jews all throughout their history. So allmy friends were people who kept their religious beliefs to themselves. I justgrew up doing my thing, being a bit of a troublemaker in school. I thought I waskind of slick, managing to get away with all my antics. I was a smart mouthed,trouble making punk.
Theonly time anybody ever tried to tell me about Jesus was my junior year in highschool. He was a Catholic that told me he had been born again, and was now aBaptist. I mocked him and wanted nothing to do with some crazy religiousfanatic.
Iwanted to be rich, to have new cars, travel, etc. My God was money. I couldn'twait to graduate and find a good paying job. I figured if I had money, I'dsurely be happy. I found a good job and spent money like it was going out ofstyle. I ran up debts like my job and bank account would last forever.Unfortunately work became slow and I was laid off.
Ihad a scam going with a buddy. We went into stores and changed price tags onitems to real cheap prices, purchased them and sold them as at a profit. I thoughtit was just getting a bargain, not stealing; the store could afford it. One daymy buddy said it was wrong, it was stealing. He said since he is a Christian, itmust stop. I was livid. He was messing up my money making scheme.
Thatstarted a very intense period in my life. I started challenging him on what hebelieved and why he believed it. He had few answers. This angered me even more,that he'd give up our scam for nothing. Although I'd never admit it to him, Ifelt empty inside. I had chucked Judaism and tried worshiping things but theydidn't satisfy. About this time he started going to college so I figured I'dcheck out college too. Why not? Maybe the answers I was seeking could be foundin knowledge.
Itook some courses in Philosophy, Psychology and World Religions. I wasinterested in what was going on out there. I was surprised to see that therewere some differences in religions. I had thought they all believed the samething. I checked out some Korean religion where they prayed to this thing on thewall called a gonyo. But nobody could even tell me what they were saying exceptit was supposed to make you rich and all that good stuff. I also checked intosome other religions like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, but they didn't seemright to me. I was on a quest for "truth" and would leave no stoneunturned on my quest, except Christianity. I knew Jews don't become Christians.
Myconversations/arguments with my friend increased about Christianity. Thissearching process continued over a couple year period. I decided one day to seewhat was in this Bible that I had heard about. There was a Christian bookstoreat a local mall, and I decided to go in and buy this Bible. I remember beingvery cautious, as I went into the bookstore to be sure nobody I knew was around.I'd hate to been seen in that place, I was shocked that there were so manyBibles. This search sure wasn't getting any easier. The manager helped me pickout a Bible and I went out in the mall to start reading it. I had many questionsand few answers. I figured I could debunk this Christian stuff and move on tothe next step. I decided I'd start at the beginning of the New Testament, withMatthew. I challenged God before starting. And said, "If you are who yousay you are, then show me why the Jews don't believe in Jesus." Achallenge I assumed He couldn't answer. When I read Matthew 28:11-15, I wasshocked. God answered my question and I knew all those years I had been lied to.I then told God I believed in him, and Jesus.
Ihonestly didn't know what I believed in but knew truth had just smacked me inthe face, and woke me up. My next concern was whatdo I do next?
Mybuddy was going to a Catholic Church and so I wound up there. My first mass feltvery strange. I knelt on the floor the whole time. I had no idea they hadkneelers. This was the first time I had been in any church in my lifetime. I wasbaptized, confirmed and had first communion after going to some religiousclasses. I really got into novenas, prayers to saints and Mary, and every otherritual I could find. I had no idea what I was doing but the church said it wasthe thing to do so I listened.
Catholicismwas very much like Judaism, with a little of Jesus thrown in with many rituals,prayers and much tradition. I assumed all churches were the same anyway. Duringthis time, while going to school at Cleveland State, I became involved in theNewman Center. It is an on campus group of Catholics. They were people my agethat I could talk to and they even had guitar mass, which I really enjoyed
Inretrospect, like my ancestors after being set free, I returned to slavery. I wastrying to earn my salvation, hoping I was good enough to get to heaven. I readmy Bible less and less. I had no concept of grace. Ignorance is not bliss.Religion is the opiate of the masses.
Ibegan to have discussions with other students and the Priests, and had morequestions than answers. I was confused, things just didn't seem to agree withthe Bible, at times. I saw the hypocrisy in the priests and others andespecially myself. One day I walked down the street to downtown Cleveland andmet a man that would change my life.
Itis amazing how God can change a person. It is also amazing how He puts people inour lives at just the right time, coincidence, nope Godincidence! If I had metthis man before I would have mocked him or at best ignored him. Yes, me, Mr.Cool, became a fool, a fool for Christ (1 Cor. 1:18-25). This middle-aged blackman was standing outside May Co. on Public Square in downtown Cleveland,preaching and singing with his guitar. I had never met anybody so bold in mylife, so I stopped to talk to him. His name was Orris Price and he ran aDowntown Bible club. I thank God for this man because I don't know what wouldhave happened to me, if I hadn't met him. This shows the importance and impactone person can have on another. The other thing I'll never forget is that Godcan use anybody, if they are willing. If God used a donkey to talk to Balaam, Hecan use me. (Numbers 22:23-25.)
Mr.Price took me under his wings and mentored me. I felt like a fish out of waterat first; I had never heard all these hymns before. I had many questions - Whythis? Why that? Is the Catholic Church teaching me the truth? The Lord equippedhim with wisdom. He'd say, "Read your bible, what does it say?"He forced me into the word. He challenged me, "don't just tell what youbelieve, tell me why you believe it." He taught me to street preachwearing a sandwich board on the streets, with Isaiah 53:5 on one side andanother scepter on the other side. I began to visit many of the Black BaptistChurches in the area wearing my Jesus made me kosher (kasrite), clean fit forservice.
Throughthe years as I grew in the Lord many doors have opened, many dealing with teens,which is my heart's burden. I was never told as a teen about Jesus and havededicated my life to giving teens at least the opportunity to hear the gospel. Ihave worked for inter-varsity, campus life and was even youth pastor for a fewyears at a Baptist church. Through the years the Lord has continued to work inmy life, and has taught me very much. I have had the privilege to be blessed bymany great friends on and off-line. I have traveled all over the USA, seeingthis awesome country. I am under construction, and unsure what is in store forme next. I have no bible degree, but attend the school of hard knocks. I am aGraduate in heaven. I have completed some series from Moody Bible correspondenceschool. And would enjoy taking more classes when able to. My life is an openbook, if anybody has any questions, ask me and I will answer. I am available tospeak to any group anytime and anyplace that the Lord leads.
Inmy years as a Christian, after not growing up in the church, I have a fewobservations. I am saddened by many who have never read the Old Testament. Ifyou want to understand the Church you need to understand Israel, and if you wantto understand the New Testament you need to understand the Old Testament. Also,the Church has lost its Jewish roots, I was shocked to find out that Jesus andthe disciples were Jewish. If the church has any intention of reaching theJews it needs to understand Jewish holidays and basic Judaism. My life versesare 1 Cor 9:19-23. If we want to win someone to Christ we need to understandthem, walk a mile in their shoes. We need not be so quick to judge each other.We need to be known for our love. It has been said that the Christian army isthe only army that shoots its wounded.
Alsothe lack of money spent on reaching the youth is shameful - they are our mostprecious resource, There is a great battle going on for the minds of our kidsand we are not winning. I call myself a completed Jew because, Jesus made mewhole before Christ; I knew part of the story but when I accepted Jesus into mylife He completed me. I read the New Testament and read as they say 'the rest ofthis story."Shalom,Jeff