One day at a Student Life meeting, I met Joel.
Joel’s been involved with Student Life for a number of years, and although I had not met him until this moment, I felt like I already knew him.
Joel has left quite a legacy in Student Life.
He is an unquenchable, untamed fire that burns in passionate exultation for Christ.
His knowledge for the Scriptures is unprecedented and only barely eclipses his knowledge of The Muppets history – of course I was drawn to him.
Joel is a Messianic Jew.
One day I asked him how a Jew such as himself could come to put their faith in Yeshua.
He shared this story with me:
Both my parents have a Jewish background but my mother only discovered hers later in life. She discovered after her teens that her father had a Jewish mother and her mother had a Jewish father. My parents met through a group that is designed to network Jewish people who believe that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah.
My grandmother died when I was a toddler. The Pastor’s wife comforted my mother by explaining to her that my grandmother was now in hell. My mother’s way of responding to this was by shutting herself off to her faith in Yeshua.
My mother began to lose her faith. She went to conversion classes. She was declared to be Jewish by the Sydney Beit Din. She was going to go through with the Mikvah – a Jewish ceremony where a woman is immersed in water – and complete her conversion to Orthodox Judaism when something stopped her.
She told me that a variety of things came together during this time that made her feel that the living God was reaching out to her through Yeshua. Friends she had not spoken to in years sent her messages with substantial gifts saying that they felt like God had put it on their hearts to do so.
My mother told me that at the time where she was about to give up her faith, the Lord sent me. She said that I would go around the house every day as a young toddler singing praises to God.
My life started with praises to God! From infancy, I have had a heart that seeks and yearns for the living God. My dad recently told me that that’s why he named me Joel.
However, as I grew up, I began to lose the passion that had characterised my childhood.
It took two events in my adolescence for God to reawaken my desire for Him. The first happened when I was a young teenager. My father felt one evening that the Lord wanted him to show my brother and me a Christian movie about the end of the world. One part of the movie that stood out was when the Antichrist challenged God and a hail stone hit the building he was in.
After the movie finished, my father told me to go take the bins in from the curb. It was raining very heavily when I finally went out to do this and I became quite angry. I grabbed the bins and, as I got to the shelter where I needed to put them, I stopped, looked up at the sky, and said, “God, if you are really real, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? Why is the world so screwed up?” I took another step and said, “If I were you, God, I would be doing a better job!” I took one last step and that image from the movie of the Antichrist flashed through my mind. With all the conviction I could muster, I raised my hand to the sky and said to God, “I challenge you!” The air around me erupted in thunder.
My father told me later that he saw a white light flash across the window. He thought I had been hit by a lightning bolt. He thought I was dead. He ran down the stairs to find me huddling in the bin shelter.
What happened that day I will never forget.
The thunder roared and I lept into the shelter. The thunder went on and on. Once it finished I had a profound realisation that if the God who I was taught about as a child was real, then these things do not happen by chance. I had just challenged the God who made everything, and lived. He spared me.
Straight away something burst in my life and I experienced the love of God for the first time. It was powerful and incredible.
Years later I found myself at a camp for young people. I came away with the profound realisation that anything that this world could offer is nothing compared to a moment of knowing the Living God.
For the first time in my life I began to study the Scriptures for myself. When I read the Bible I realised that I had never really known God until I met Him in His Word. My life was transformed forever. I was born again.
Then came one fateful night.
When I was at university I was invited by an Orthodox Rabbi to come to a Jews For Judaism event called, “What the world does not know about the Messiah.” None of my friends would come with me but, as I prayed about whether or not I should go, I had a strong sense that the Lord would come with me.
So I went.
The speaker was Chabad leader Dr Rabbi Immanuel Schochard. He is renowned for being the expert at countering Messianic and Christian Missionaries.
At the end of the night, I asked him a question and I identified that I was a Messianic Jew. He got into me a bit from the podium as he answered my question. As the night closed, I decided to thank him before leaving. As I went to thank him he grabbed my hand and for about two hours he spoke to me in an attempt to convince me that Yeshua is not the Messiah.
I have never been so traumatised in my life.
That night began years of doubt where I encountered the objections of Judaism to Yeshua. For a long time, I had no answers. I didn’t know where to go. I spent a long time seeking God and at times not knowing who He really is. After years of struggle, the Lord brought me through.
I had been through a fire, but had not been burnt.
Through the whole process, I’d never left the Lord. However, I made myself as objective as possible while looking into answers for the objections I was facing. After years of searching I realised that I couldn’t just keep chasing my tail in this. I needed to make a choice — did I believe this or not?
At that point I realised that all the Jewish objections had ever really done was cause me to be confused and to doubt, but I could never walk away.
The evidence in my estimation clearly and decisively weighed towards Yeshua being the Messiah and the Son of the Living God. But the evidence in my heart was stronger. He was and still is more real to me than the air I breathe.
I had struggled with God and found Him in the light of His Son – the One I had known all along, who had walked with me hand-in-hand and allowed me to go through this journey so that I’d become something useful to Him.
“Then the Lord said to Job: ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!”
– Job 40:2 (KJV)