By Sam Nadler
It had been a normal marathon weekend. I had taught a 9:30am membership class on Jewish customs at Hope of Israel Congregation, Charlotte, then spoke at the Shabbat service on “Sukkot in Prophecy” from Leviticus, Zechariah and Revelation (to download the message to (www.hopeofisrael.info). It was a special celebration as Marianela Leekley along with some helpers made 300 lulavs (‘branch bouquets’) so each person could rejoice before the Lord as we thanked Him for His provision and protection in Messiah our Sukkah.
As some of you know, the mainstay of the work of Word of Messiah Ministries is Jewish evangelism which leads to planting and developing Messianic congregations worldwide. But on Sundays, we’re usually in churches asking for prayer for the other six days. So, while my wife, Miriam was teaching from her book, Eternally Desired at a church’s special mission’s Sunday, I flew to Richmond, VA to teach God’s Word.
On the way through the airport I was thankful to be able to share encouraging words about my faith to not only the security officer but also to the man sitting next to me on the flight to Richmond. I had the privilege of praying with him for the healing of his sister who had just suffered a stroke.
Upon arrival in Richmond I spent the evening with Pastor Tim White and 5 leaders from Calvary Chapel discussing the Biblical values of leadership, discipleship, membership and balancing family and service for the Lord. I really love these guys, and it’s such a privilege to be of some encouragement to them and their congregation. The Sunday morning ministry at the church was richly blessed and my heart was full of praise as I boarded the plane for home.
When Mike* sat down in the seat next to me, I asked him if he was going to work or going home. He said, that he on his way to Houston for work. And then he asked me the same question. Thanking the Lord for this open door, I explained to Mike that as a Jewish man, my work is to see Messianic congregations established worldwide, and I was returning to Charlotte from Richmond where I spoke at a church that loves and prays for the Jewish people.
I mentioned how, as a Jewish man, I had initially resisted the message of Jesus, not understanding what the Hebrew Scriptures say about the Messiah, and not appreciating the importance of personal faith. I asked him if he ever considered Jesus and His message of salvation. Mike responded that he had gone to church as a child, but as a teen everyone in his family became less interested. Now In his family neither he nor his adult sons consider church relevant. I told him that I could identify with his disillusionment of religious matters because though I had been raised in Orthodox Judaism, I too had gotten far from religion. We laughed together as I shared how I resisted and tried to disprove the message of Jesus. But to my chagrin as I considered the Bible I discovered that the Scriptures are filled with objective proof of who Jesus really is. “God was confusing me with the facts!”
This led to a deeper discussion about the human condition that is arrogant against God and spiritually apathetic to God or the horror of sin. “Though most people think of sin as committing wrong” I explained, “the fact is, that not doing what is right are sins of omission and just as offensive to a Holy God.” To illustrate this human condition of arrogant apathy I told him about the account of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16. I shared that by the sin of omission, the rich man had apathetically ignored the poor man, Lazarus, who begged at his doorstep. After the rich man died, he awoke in hell. The rich man’s sinfulness was seen by his omission to help the poor man. His apathy toward Lazarus expressed his rebellious arrogance against God. I went on to explain, “People don’t realize that ‘It is appointed for people to die once and then comes the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27), that physical death is not the judgment; but that eternal judgment follows physical death for non-believers.”
Mike was listening intently, and asked me, “What about when believers in Jesus die? Do they just wait somewhere?” I said, “No, not at all. The Bible is quite clear on these matters, for as surely as non-believers go to judgment following their physical death, the believer in Jesus goes to be in God’s presence. And I quoted 2 Cor. 5:8, “To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.” Jesus died for sins, and all who believe on Him have forgiveness and assurance of being with Him forever.” Mike was seriously thinking about this.
I said to him, “The week the World Trade Center went down, I was able to be at ‘The Pile’ and minister to the emergency workers there.” “Oh,” he said, “what was that like?” “It was overwhelming for people.” But I went on to ask him, “Don’t you think it would have been better to have a warning 5 years too soon, rather than a warning 5 minutes too late?” Mike smiled, and said, “Sure… but that would apply to what you’re speaking about, too, right?” I agreed and responded, “But let me tell you something awful: imagine having that warning in advance, and not acting upon it? Wouldn’t that be foolish? That’s the problem of spiritual apathy.”
As the plane was getting closer to Charlotte, I asked him, “Mike, can you think of one good reason why you shouldn’t trust in Jesus right now?” I sat there for that extremely long moment praying. Then he replied, “No, Sam, I can’t think of one reason.” Are you ready to pray right now?” “Yes”, he replied.
I leaned in towards him, “Pray with me in your heart to simply trust Jesus as your Savior.” As I led in prayer, he prayed out loud in agreement. I then asked him to confess to God silently every sin of commission and omission he could think of, just to thank Jesus for forgiving him of all that and more, and to say amen when he was done. I then prayed for him to grow in Messiah. He was smiling with real joy. I assured him, “All of eternity has changed for you, Mike. You are forgiven through Jesus!” We exchanged contact info, and he said it was fine for Tim White in Richmond to also pray for him and with him as well. He thanked me for taking the time to talk with him. I told him that I was thankful to be there for him. We’ve been texting back and forth, and it seems he’s doing fine in Messiah.
I continue to praise the Lord for His divine appointments. Thank you for continuing to under-gird our ministry for Messiah in prayer.