I sat there staring at my computer amazed at what I was reading. I had no clue this stuff was out there. After reading for a few hours I called my wife into my study and began to show her what I had found.
Here before us was everything that we were raised in but with a Jewish explanation. My interest in the discovery I had grew every day I would do more and more studies. I began to order books on the subject of what was called Messianic Judaism; these were Christians who kept everything and more of what I grew up doing but from what appeared to me was in a more biblical way.
Several months of studies had gone by and our desire and inward craving to return to the Sabbath grew within my wife and I; finally on Saturday while down at the church I approached my pastor and told him that my wife and I wanted our Sabbath back. He informed me that we were in the ministry and we did not get a Sabbath. This did not set well with us but we went on continuing to serve the church.
The inward draw to Jewish things and observances continue to grow and I tried to figure out what I was to do with it. So I again approached my pastor told him more about was going on and suggested that maybe God was calling me to Jewish evangelism. He poured on the questions, do you know any Jews? Do you know the language? And so forth he beat the idea out of my head. I knew I was on to something but could not figure it out to save my life.
By the time April rolled around the church was preparing for Easter. We had informed the pastor and his wife that we were not doing any egg hunts with the kids for it was full of pagan symbolism – that did not go well and they became more determined to do it. My wife and I were trying our best not to even be there on Easter but we were forced into some duties on that day. We did not want to have anything to do with that day. Since we had to be there and we were tore up inwardly about having to take part of something we did not believe in; that day we resigned our position and agreed to work out a month of finishing up our duties.
In April of 2002 I resigned as associate pastor and my wife and two daughters came home to study on our own and began keeping somewhat of a Sabbath again. By October I mailed in my credentials along with a letter to the headquarters office and thanked them for letting me serve God in that capacity but I was resigning my ministerial license for I no longer held those beliefs.
As time passed I had learned more about the Passover seder and I wanted to do one since it was inline more with our beliefs than Easter. I studied up on it, downloaded a copy of a Messianic Haggadah, bought me a small seder plate and matzo cover. We spent several hundred dollars preparing for our seder and wanted to share it with people we knew. We had invited 10 people who we thought were our friends. The day of the seder they all had called and canceled. So it was just the 4 of us, my wife, our two daughters and me. We sat out to do our first seder; my oldest daughter asked that since it was just us, could we do it by the candle light and so we did and we were all in tears.
After coming home to worship God in the way we felt led to, several months went by and we became lonely and needed fellowship of some kind. Church had always been a part of our life. We were the type that was totally dedicated, we were their when the doors were opened and we left as they were locked. We were always active with anything that was going on. So we sat out to find a Messianic congregation in our area. There were none.
So I did the next best thing I knew of. There was this world famous preacher in our town. He was a preacher of the Church Of God and spoke many times at the congregation we went to when we had first come to the COG. His name was Perry Stone and he knew all this deep Hebrew stuff, he taught on the mysteries of Hebrew and all the symbolism of the Jews. One day I went out to his ministry offices that housed all his books, tapes, TV program sets, it is a large place. I went to set an appointment to have a talk with him.
The receptionist looked at me and said, “You’re a COG preacher aren’t you?” I said well sort of but I had resigned and was looking for a place to worship that was more Jewish based. She told me to contact another person who actually taught Perry a lot what he knew. Then she gave me this other guy’s number.
I contacted him asking him if there was a group locally that he knew off that did anything like I had described. He tried to blow me off but I would not give up. He finally asked me if I knew a certain person. I said yes we went to church together at North Cleveland COG, I knew his wife and kids. This guy told me that he was holding a Jewish bible study on Saturdays at a Bed & Breakfast that turned out to be about 3 miles from my house.
We made contact and went for our first time. When we got there the room was full of COG people I had known, they all came to study Torah together. It was there I was introduced to the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. That week I went to Barns and Nobles and picked one up for myself.
After a few months most of the Christians wore thin with all the studying of Torah so we moved what was left which were the leader’s family and mine to his house. They had asked us if we had ever brought in the Sabbath, I was not sure what he ment so they invited us over on a Friday afternoon and they lit the candles and said the blessings over the bread and wine and we had a most wonderful evening.
Somehow people began to hear about our Friday night Torah studies. The group began to slowly grow again; one Friday night after everyone had left, Al asked me if I had a passport. I said no, why? He then told me that he was going to talk me to Israel with him. I said, “No way!” He said if I would get my pass port we were going. It was 2003 and times were rough in that part of the world as usual; he told me that his family had planned on going but every tour they scheduled kept getting canceled. Then he got a phone call from an Israeli friend who lived in California that told him of a small tour that was put on through the Ministry of Tourism in Israel, it was a solidarity tour for ministers and it would not be canceled. It was only a 7 day tour. Well, I got my passport and in February 2003 we took off from JFK on El Al Airlines.
It was three of us, Al his oldest son and me, I sat in the middle of the plain – oh by the way just getting on the plane was an adventure in itself as I was detained and thoroughly checked out – I will share that story some other time.
Anyway I sat in the middle of the plane; I had not been around that many Jews in all my life. After the plane took off many of the Jewish men got up and prayed – I had never experienced anything like it, a voice in my head spoke loud and clear – “These are my people”, tears flooded my eyes and several times during the flight I wept like a baby.
The next morning as we were approaching Israel, Al called me up to his seat to show me something, when I made my way up he had pointed to a crack in the curtain that separated first class, there was an elderly man setting there with his Tefillin on doing his morning prayers, it was the first time I had seen it in person.
I made my way back to my seat with so much n my mind I could not process it all.
The next part will have more of my experience in the Land.