Thursday, March 30, 2017

Melanie's Testimony

 

Background

I was born in 1955 in Santa Monica, California, the only child of parents who were in their forties at the time. We belonged to a reform temple when I was a child but stopped attending services almost entirely before I finished elementary school as we felt that we were getting no spiritual nourishment from our participation. As a result, I never learned Hebrew or was Bat Mitzvah’d. We celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas in a secular way, merely for the presents and decorations.

Early Beliefs

My family always believed in God. There was, however, nothing personal or passionate about that belief. There was a Bible in our home, but the only way I recall its ever having been used was in playing a game that required a thick book in which to hide slips of paper. I saw God only as Creator and as the rescuer of my people; He had made the universe and everything in it and miraculously freed us from the Egyptians, but then stood back and let things happen as they might. I prayed when I felt like it, but not daily.

Home Life

My parents’ marriage was not a good one. My father was verbally—but never physically—abusive, controlling spiteful, and stubborn. He often reduced my mother to tears. Perhaps two or three times, when she couldn’t bear his treatment, she was hospitalized; once a doctor had him removed from our home for several weeks or months.

I grew up emotionally strong in defense against him, but he could hurt me by hurting my beloved mother. I became physically ill in response to his behavior when I was in fourth grade and had to miss so many weeks of school that I was eventually assigned a home teacher so that I might be promoted with my classmates. Occasionally my mother would escape her torment by taking me with her to some sort of religious service. I thought at the time that the venues to which we fled were churches, but I’ve come to suspect that at least some of them did not belong to mainline denominations but to cults.

New Interest

I was perhaps in junior high school when I discovered a religious television program that interested me. A faith healer by the name of Katherine Kuhlman, whose trademark apparently was slowly intoning “I belieeeeve in miracles,” hosted a talk show on which she interviewed people regarding miracles that God had performed in their lives. I was fascinated. The idea that God was still performing miracles now—for regular people on an individual basis—was novel and captivating. I became an avid fan, and my mother joined me.

After a number of weeks, however, it seemed that all of her guests were former alcoholics whom God had set free from a self-destructive lifestyle, and I lost interest due to the redundancy I had observed. I stopped watching the program, but my mother continued.

The Happening

Some time later, my mother learned that Katherine Kuhlman was going to appear at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. She decided that she would attend the meeting. What was remarkable was that she also decided that my father and I would attend it with her. I can recall no other instance of her imposing her will on us. Reluctantly, I went along, taking my knitting to keep me occupied while I sat and listened.

After awhile, an elderly lady in the row behind my family tapped me on the shoulder. The clicking of my knitting needles, she explained, was disturbing her ability to hear, and she requested that I put away my project. Grudgingly I complied.

When the meeting ended—after we had “gone forward” for healing, the lady again tapped me on the shoulder. This time she asked me whether I believed in Jesus. I truthfully told her that I didn’t know. As I suspect is not unusual among Jews, I thought that there were two kinds of people in the world—Jews and Christians. The difference between the two was that Christians “believed in Jesus,” while we didn’t. The reason I couldn’t answer the lady’s question was that I had no idea what it was that Christians believed about Jesus—or who Jesus was, for that matter.

The lady handed me a little booklet entitled “Now I’m Free” and asked me to read it. Frankly, I didn’t want to read it, but being an extremely conscientious fourteen-year-old I accepted her recommendation as I would have accepted a school assignment. I sat on my bed that evening and read the booklet in its entirety.

It was the spell-binding story of a young man’s life which was as unlike mine as any could be. Tom Skinner, a black teenager, had become a gang member. After some time, he decided that he no longer desired that lifestyle. The problem was that gangs don’t look kindly upon those who wish to leave their ranks. Just as an act of violence is required of a potential inductee, an act of violence typically accompanies his departure: he is killed. God, however, had other plans for Tom Skinner, and He miraculously enabled him to escape with his life.

In the process of telling his gang story, Mr. Skinner also explained who Jesus was and what Christians believed about him. He was the Son of God, who left Heaven and came to earth for the purpose of dying so that His perfect, sinless life might substitute for the sinful ones all of us owed to God as our penalty for not having lived according to His Law. So this was what it meant to believe in Jesus! It made sense to me, so alone in my bedroom on the evening of November 16, 1969, I became a believer.

Next Step

Nothing really changed in my life as a result of my new understanding and belief until the next year, when I read a paperback novel belonging to my best friend. The author was Catherine Marshall, the daughter of one minister and wife of another, and the book was Christy. I loved this story of a young woman who courageously left her home to live among and serve strangers in what seemed like a completely different world from the one she had known as a society girl. This book changed my life, though in a way that I’m certain Mrs. Marshall never would have imagined: the mention in it of Christy’s reading her Bible was a radical new idea to me. I had never thought of the Bible as something that people read, and I became curious about what it might contain.

The same friend who had lent me Christy now lent me her Bible, convinced that my mother’s copy, the King James Version, would be too hard for me to understand. For some months I carried my friend’s Revised Standard Version (actually not very different from the King James after all) wherever I went, reading it whenever I had a few minutes. I began at the beginning with Genesis and continued all the way through Revelation.

The summer between tenth and eleventh grade, I was taking my first college class at a community college. A girl in my Music Appreciation class noticed that I was carrying a Bible and asked me if I was a Christian. I told her that I didn’t know, as I was Jewish but believed in Jesus. Based on this information she informed me that I was a Christian and invited me to her church’s weekly Bible study for college students. I didn’t really want to go, but I had overheard her telling another girl how disappointed she was when someone else she had invited had refused to go, so I accepted her invitation. This was the second turning point in my spiritual life.

At the study I discovered that the Bible contained a wealth of information about God and what he wanted from me and for me, and I was way behind in learning it! I met other young people who had grown up in Christian homes and had been learning about God from the Bible all their lives, and I had a lot of catching up to do. As I was not yet old enough to drive, I engaged my mother’s willing service in driving me to a different Bible study every night of the week so that I might devour all the spiritual information I could as quickly as possible.

My spiritual appetite was insatiable, so my next move was to choose to attend a Christian college upon graduation. I selected Biola College (now Biola University) in La Mirada, California, and graduated in only three years.

Fast Forward

After decades of church membership and attendance, I have found a home at Ben David Messianic Jewish Congregation. I had no problem with being in a church—once I got used to how things worked, as it was all foreign to me when I first ventured in as a teen. After all, I had only the weakest of Jewish roots. What eventually attracted me away from churches and into the Messianic movement was the depth of the Messianic teaching.

To graduate from Biola in 1976, one was required to take thirty units of Bible and Doctrine. By the time I had completed my degree, I found that few church sermons taught anything I didn’t already know. Messianic sermons, in contrast, were delivered by men with a deep understanding of the cultural context in which “Jesus”—really Yeshua—lived and taught. At last I was again learning about God on a weekly basis, as I had in my teens. Learning, I have found, is the most fun, rejuvenating activity in life, so I can whole-heartedly recommend that everyone, whether Jew or Gentile (not all non-Jews are Christians after all!), believer or “pre-believer” (as our congregational leader Doug puts it) come out and visit us at Ben David and see what you’ve been missing.

Oh—and, by the way, don’t worry about not fitting in if you’re a non-Jew. One of the other exciting things about Messianic congregations is that they’re inhabited by individuals of all races and nationalities! I’ve found them to be so much more heterogeneous than churches. You’ll find Latinos, Blacks, Koreans, Filipinos, Africans, Romanians, Germans, French, Brits, and more in Messianic congregations around southern California. Try them all, and like me you’ll probably decide to make Ben David your home.


 Jerry's Testimony

 Michael's Testimony

 Heather's Testimony

 

Weekly Scripture Reading

For
Shabbat HaChodesh
The Shabbat of the New Month

 

Parashah: Vayakhel - "And Assembled” & Pekudei — “The Reckonings”

— Torah:
Exodus 35:1 – 38:20 & 38:21 – 40:38

Chazak! Chazak! Venischazeik! (Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!)

— Haftarah Shabbat HaChodesh: Ezekiel 45:16 — 46:18


From the fact that the commandment to observe the Shabbat precedes the building of the Mishkan, the sages concluded that labor is of value only if it can have a sacred as well as a secular purpose; otherwise, it is innately trivial - all our labor for the earthly things is just vanity and striving after wind...

Read More ...

 

Tzedakah

TzedakahS

Please consider making a contribution to support this ministry.
Thank you!

Read More ...