Author and Founder of Bible Study Project
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
~ Galatians 2:20 ~
You have every right to know who is offering the studies of the Bible Study Project. Hence, this brief description of my pilgrimage.
I was born in 1944 in Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan into an orthodox Jewish family that lived in Brooklyn, New York. For the first eight years of my education, I attended Yeshiva Avrohom Zvi in Brighton Beach. During the first half of the school day, I was taught to read Hebrew, which I do with ease if the vowel points are included. The rabbis also tried to teach me to understand and speak it, but were not nearly as successful. They also tried to get me to learn portions of the first six books of the Old Testament in Hebrew with commentary by the eleventh century rabbi, Rashi, also with limited success. One might say I wasn't particularly motivated. I also studied portions of the Mishna and Gemara, which are writings of the rabbis, and how to observe Orthodox Jewish law, which I observed at home, at school, and at elderly Rabbi Horowitz's synagogue, but slacked off on elsewhere. During the second half of the school day I learned the standard secular subjects.
After my enrollment at Abraham Lincoln High School - Abraham was Jewish but Lincoln wasn't - I continued my Hebrew language study, but only because foreign language was a requirement; and because I was equally as unmotivated as before, I did equally as well.
I stepped off the treadmill of empty religious observance as early as I could and began to explore the world beyond Judaic circles. I suppose my Bar Mitzvah, the coming-of-age ceremony of a 13-year old Jewish lad, was the turning point. Although I had rehearsed the expected speech, which began with the traditional "Today I am a man," when the rabbi asked me if I had a speech, I replied rather meekly, "No." Perhaps I was turning into a man after all!
After my less than illustrious four years of high school, I began a pre-medical course of studies at Brooklyn College; but deep stirrings within me made it impossible to focus on the complexities of organic chemistry, histology, and other strictly factual and memory intensive subjects. I switched to an English major so I could simply read and enjoy and consider the outlooks of the writers and formulate my own world view, for which I also took courses in philosophy and comparative religions.
I loved my four-year college so much that it took me only five and a half years to graduate. My professors were so impressed with my work that they insisted that I take more than a few of their courses more than once! The fact is, I was more interested in reading a few books of my own choosing slowly and appreciatively rather than sprinting through the impossible volume of literature assigned with the depth of thought and appreciation of a stone skipping on water.
I must say, however, that there was one "course" that I absolutely loved. For the last four and a half of the five and a half years, I was a member of the Brooklyn College Chorus, one of the top choruses in the country. For hours every week, our chorus rehearsed under the baton of Robert Hickok, a very gifted and demanding conductor. We periodically performed at Carnegie Hall and other venues accompanied by professional soloists and full orchestras when the music called for them. During those years I became infused with sacred words of holy writ set to the most beautiful of melodies, harmonies and counterpoint by Palestrina, Monteverdi, Schütz, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms and others. Little did I know, but God was planting His Word deep within me just as He did back in Yeshiva - but this time, from the New Testament as well as the Old.
When I graduated college, I kissed society goodbye as I knew it and embarked on a life of pleasure, adventure, psychedelic drugs and further explorations in the religions, philosophies and lifestyles of the world - this time with my legs as well as my mind. When I was twenty-three I met Suzanne, the young lady who was soon to become my wife. Before long, we were hitchhiking up and down the West Coast and over to New Mexico from commune to commune and New Age festival to ashram with a golden thumb for hitching rides, a baby girl, and a duffel bag that contained all our worldly belongings - mostly diapers and blankets - often not knowing where we would spend the night, whether it be in a crowded city crash pad, the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico, an ancient, abandoned cabin in the woods of Oregon, the palatial Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles, a hotel in which the Salvation Army put us up, or the farm of a kindly family who took us in. One memory that will remain with me forever in this life is my wife and I standing on the side of a highway in the black of night holding our baby girl, drenched with rain and trying to catch a ride, with hundreds and hundreds of cars, specters in the night with headlights glaring, passing us by.
Those days opened our eyes to many things, but our quest for the world view and lifestyle we could call our own met with disappointment after disappointment. We finally flew to Hawaii to live on four hundred fabulous acres we heard about where one could live off the fruit of the land for free. There was abundant and good fruit on the land, a wondrous thing for a Brooklyn boy to behold, but the four hundred acres had magically shrunk to four, we lived in an old shack with no running water or electricity that we shared with others, it rained heavily much of the time, and as we feasted on the fruit, mosquitoes the size of horses feasted on us. I became skinny, developed deep staph sores on my legs, and our marriage turned to ice. I fell into a depression that wouldn't quit and hoped that a tsunami would overwhelm me or a nuclear bomb would fall on my head and end it all. At this point, the Lord must have looked down from Heaven and said, "He's ready."
I attended the most beautiful flower-bedecked oceanside wedding in an old floorless, roofless stone church under a beautiful blue Hawaiian sky. The bride and groom testified of how they came to Christ and of the wonderful changes He had wrought in their lives. The minister, dressed in jeans, spoke of how a marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church - how Christ sacrificed His life for His church because of His infinite love for her, and how the church loves and serves Him because of His loving Self-sacrifice for her.
Though I had been disillusioned by spiritual movements and leaders in the past, after the wedding, I was moved to suggest to the minister, "Perhaps you could help me." I interrogated him about Jesus; and with every question and challenge that I posed, he turned to a page in his Bible and read; and with every passage that he read, something rang true in my heart. I attended their meetings and Bible studies and often asked questions that ran far afield of the subject at hand; but the minister gave me his full attention when I did, and answered them with great respect and gladness. After a couple of weeks, I yielded my life to the Savior and was baptized in the blue Hawaiian waters near that old stone church. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus breathed new life into my dying spirit; and hope, optimism and joy returned to my soul.
I have never gone to Bible college or seminary, but I have paid a price for truth. Upon hearing that I became a Christian, my mother almost lit a memorial candle. Thankfully, my brother talked her out of it. In 1979, after a year of discipleship and leadership training at Youth With a Mission's Kona base just minutes from our home, Suzanne and I sold our house, moved to YWAM Holland for a year of evangelism training and then a year of outreach in Holland, Belgium and Germany where, in addition to general street ministry, I ministered the love of the Lord from the heart of a Jew to Germans and Muslims. And, I must say, after speaking on the last few verses of Isaiah 19 in a Coptic church and washing feet, a Muslim, an Egyptian sailor, decisively and joyfully gave his life to the Lord - a true highlight of my life. After the two years, it was back to Kona with a wife, two kids, no money, no home, no job; but God made a way in a hurry - but that's another story!
During an early period of my walk, I was in training for a pastorate with the Assemblies of God, whose doctrines I held to, but began to question. After an extended and agonizing mental struggle over their key doctrinal distinctive, I realized that I could no longer hold it or represent it in good conscience and withdrew. Instead of entering the pastorate, which I longed to do, I continued my employment at a job that I hated. Several years later I was in attendance at an evangelical church of the United Church of Christ, and learned that although the UCC may be the most liberal denomination on the planet, its pastors still retained the liberty to believe and preach what they wanted; and so, I entered training to take over the pastorate of that church. Here again, I was put to the test. I represented our church at a statewide meeting and was stunned to behold the worldly atmosphere and purposes of the gathering, the anti-biblical positions held by the top state leaders, and the utter absence of the Holy Spirit in the proceedings; but the moment of truth arrived as follows: The fellow who was second in charge in the state was administering communion, and I had become convinced that He did not know the Lord. As the elements made their way up the rows, I realized that if I were to partake I would be publicly testifying that this counterfeit Christian was my brother in Christ and that he had the authority in Christ to lead communion, both of which would have been lies. I let the elements pass me by, and that was the beginning of the end of my career with the UCC.
Prior to my involvement with the Assemblies, I led a little group in Hawaii called the Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) Fellowship. It was during this period that I met the now Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who was on one of his teaching jaunts and sat in on one of our meetings. After several months of correspondence, we agreed that I would take his home-study course in systematic theology, which I subsequently completed under his more than able mentoring. It was Arnold's teaching that sabotaged my career with the Assemblies, and I thank God for it. Certainly God is using the Assemblies, but I am convinced that I am now walking a much straighter path.
I think I have made the rounds. As a boy, I was inculcated in Orthodox Judaism. In college and beyond, I studied philosophy and many of the world's religions, often absorbing portions or entireties of their "holy" books. My use of hallucinogenic drugs, compounded by a pantheistic world view and fascination with sculptures and paintings that glorified man and his false gods, led to intense involvement in occult practices and infillings by demons. For a while I studied an advanced form of yoga whose purpose was to raise one's spirituality, and then taught it near a university in Portland, Oregon. As a young Christian, I studied the works of Hagin, Copeland and Prince, and walked the walk that they espoused until I realized that I was walking in serious error on several significant counts. Now, by the grace of God, while realizing that any man is subject to error, I am confident that I have been walking on solid doctrinal ground since I took the course with Arnold in the late eighties, and am privileged to offer what I have learned for your consideration.
So what might you gain from this little exposition beyond a cursory knowledge of one who presumes to teach God's Word on the internet? For one thing, if you have not been accorded the great privilege of attending a good, doctrinally sound Bible college or seminary, you may still learn the Word of God well - and more accurately than many theologians! Do the research, walk the walk, pay the price. God will come through for you! If your gift is in an area other than teaching, God will likewise come through for you if you learn the Scriptures as well as you can and walk them out, for Scripture is the key tool that God has given us for our development (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Let's remember what that former Pharisee and persecutor of the church, the apostle Paul, said after the Lord opened his eyes to the truth: 13. forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
I write this in September of 2014. Suzanne and I are approaching our 46th wedding anniversary and are amazingly happy together thanks to some wonderful, Bible-based marriage counselors that God brought into our lives early in our Christian walk. We are the parents of two daughters and five grandchildren, all of whom love the Lord right down to our three-year old granddaughter. To God be the glory!
If you happen to be one who does not yet know the love of God in a personal way, believe me when I tell you that the Light of God can break forth in your heart just as He broke into the darkness of mine. The sinless Son of God loves you with a divine love and paid for your sins on the cross with His own blood. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:19, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. What is left for you to do is to be reconciled to God (verse 20). He opened the gate on His end of the bridge. What you need to do is open the gate at your end and run into His arms. Trust in the Good News of Messiah's sacrifice for you and God will forgive you of your sins, enter your heart, transform your life into a godly one so that you might faithfully serve Him, and endow you with the infinite blessings of eternal life in His presence, never to cease.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ~
Christ died for our sins . . . was buried, and . . . was raised on the third day. Have faith in this truth and be
saved. Just as Christ died for your sins, your faith in His sacrifice for you will move God to put to death the guilt and power of sin over your life and bury them as Christ was buried; and just
as He rose from the dead in victory over sin, Satan and death, so you too will be raised by God into a victorious, new, resurrected, eternal life in Him. Be
reconciled to God. Trust in the Son of God's sacrifice for you, and be saved.
For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
You made men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water,
Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
~ Psalm 66:10-12 ~
At wedding before salvation, 1971
Blessings to you in the wonderful Name of the Lord and Savior,
Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah