I have had a very interesting life, with some unique experiences. I was born and raised in a middle-class, Jewish home. Though not very religious, we went to 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 religious training. My religious training consisted of bouncing superballs, trading comic books, and flipping baseball cards. We read Bible stories in books about Jewish people, 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. My religious books were a joke. They made Bible stories sound as believable as AESOPs' fables, very liberal teaching.
I was a teen; I had no need for religion I figured anyway. I supposed if there was a 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 time in my whole life unto adulthood, I heard the name of Christ as a curse word. I also was called a Christ killer in elementary school. I had no idea who Christ really was, only that I didn't kill him. I knew Catholics and some people from other 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 all my friends were people who kept their religious beliefs to themselves. I just grew up doing my thing, being a bit of a troublemaker in school. I thought I was kind of slick, managing to get away with all my antics. I was a smart mouthed, trouble making punk.
The only time anybody ever tried to tell me about Jesus was my junior year in high school. He was a Catholic that told me he had been born again, and was now a Baptist. I mocked him and wanted nothing to do with some crazy religious fanatic.
I wanted to be rich, to have new cars, travel, etc. My God was money. I couldn't wait to graduate and find a good paying job. I figured if I had money, I'd surely be happy. I found a good job and spent money like it was going out of style. I ran up debts like my job and bank account would last forever. Unfortunately work became slow and I was laid off.
I had a scam going with a buddy. We went into stores and changed price tags on items to real cheap prices, purchased them and sold them as at a profit. I thought it was just getting a bargain, not stealing; the store could afford it. One day my buddy said it was wrong, it was stealing. He said since he is a Christian, it must stop. I was livid. He was messing up my money making scheme.
That started a very intense period in my life. I started challenging him on what he believed 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, I felt empty inside. I had chucked Judaism and tried worshiping things but they didn't satisfy. About this time he started going to college so I figured I'd check out college too. Why not? Maybe the answers I was seeking could be found in knowledge.
I took some courses in Philosophy, Psychology and World Religions. I was interested in what was going on out there. I was surprised to see that there were some differences in religions. I had thought they all believed the same thing. I checked out some Korean religion where they prayed to this thing on the wall called a gonyo. But nobody could even tell me what they were saying except it was supposed to make you rich and all that good stuff. I also checked into some other religions like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, but they didn't seem right to me. I was on a quest for "truth" and would leave no stone unturned on my quest, except Christianity. I knew Jews don't become Christians.
My conversations/arguments with my friend increased about Christianity. This searching process continued over a couple year period. I decided one day to see what was in this Bible that I had heard about. There was a Christian bookstore at a local mall, and I decided to go in and buy this Bible. I remember being very 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 many Bibles. This search sure wasn't getting any easier. The manager helped me pick out a Bible and I went out in the mall to start reading it. I had many questions and few answers. I figured I could debunk this Christian stuff and move on to the next step. I decided I'd start at the beginning of the New Testament, with Matthew. I challenged God before starting. And said, "If you are who you say you are, then show me why the Jews don't believe in Jesus." A challenge I assumed He couldn't answer. When I read Matthew 28:11-15, I was shocked. 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.
I honestly didn't know what I believed in but knew truth had just smacked me in the face, and woke me up. My next concern was what do I do next?
My buddy was going to a Catholic Church and so I wound up there. My first mass felt very strange. I knelt on the floor the whole time. I had no idea they had kneelers. This was the first time I had been in any church in my lifetime. I was baptized, confirmed and had first communion after going to some religious classes. I really got into novenas, prayers to saints and Mary, and every other ritual I could find. I had no idea what I was doing but the church said it was the thing to do so I listened.
Catholicism was 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. During this time, while going to school at Cleveland State, I became involved in the Newman Center. It is an on campus group of Catholics. They were people my age that I could talk to and they even had guitar mass, which I really enjoyed
In retrospect, like my ancestors after being set free, I returned to slavery. I was trying to earn my salvation, hoping I was good enough to get to heaven. I read my Bible less and less. I had no concept of grace. Ignorance is not bliss. Religion is the opiate of the masses.
I began to have discussions with other students and the Priests, and had more questions than answers. I was confused, things just didn't seem to agree with the Bible, at times. I saw the hypocrisy in the priests and others and especially myself. One day I walked down the street to downtown Cleveland and met a man that would change my life.
It is amazing how God can change a person. It is also amazing how He puts people in our lives at just the right time, coincidence, nope Godincidence! If I had met this 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 black man 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 my life, so I stopped to talk to him. His name was Orris Price and he ran a Downtown Bible club. I thank God for this man because I don't know what would have happened to me, if I hadn't met him. This shows the importance and impact one person can have on another. The other thing I'll never forget is that God can use anybody, if they are willing. If God used a donkey to talk to Balaam, He can use me. (Numbers 22:23-25.)
Mr. Price took me under his wings and mentored me. I felt like a fish out of water at first; I had never heard all these hymns before. I had many questions - Why this? Why that? Is the Catholic Church teaching me the truth? The Lord equipped him 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 you believe, tell me why you believe it." He taught me to street preach wearing a sandwich board on the streets, with Isaiah 53:5 on one side and another scepter on the other side. I began to visit many of the Black Baptist Churches in the area wearing my Jesus made me kosher (kasrite), clean fit for service.
Through the 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 have dedicated my life to giving teens at least the opportunity to hear the gospel. I have worked for inter-varsity, campus life and was even youth pastor for a few years at a Baptist church. Through the years the Lord has continued to work in my life, and has taught me very much. I have had the privilege to be blessed by many great friends on and off-line. I have traveled all over the USA, seeing this awesome country. I am under construction, and unsure what is in store for me next. I have no bible degree, but attend the school of hard knocks. I am a Graduate in heaven. I have completed some series from Moody Bible correspondence school. And would enjoy taking more classes when able to. My life is an open book, if anybody has any questions, ask me and I will answer. I am available to speak to any group anytime and anyplace that the Lord leads.
In my years as a Christian, after not growing up in the church, I have a few observations. I am saddened by many who have never read the Old Testament. If you want to understand the Church you need to understand Israel, and if you want to 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 and the disciples were Jewish. If the church has any intention of reaching the Jews it needs to understand Jewish holidays and basic Judaism. My life verses are 1 Cor 9:19-23. If we want to win someone to Christ we need to understand them, 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 is the only army that shoots its wounded.
Also the lack of money spent on reaching the youth is shameful - they are our most precious resource, There is a great battle going on for the minds of our kids and we are not winning. I call myself a completed Jew because, Jesus made me whole before Christ; I knew part of the story but when I accepted Jesus into my life He completed me. I read the New Testament and read as they say 'the rest of this story."Shalom, Jeff