The story of where I came from and how the Jewish Messiah came to be the center of my life is, perhaps, unusual. I am open about who I am because I know so many people struggle with their identity and I do not mind being forthright about mine. I was not born into a religious family and I was not born Jewish. I am a Jew by choice.
How did that happen to me? It began in college, when I suddenly came to believe in Jesus after reading much of the “Old Testament” and then Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. The way I see it, God found me when I sought him.
But coming to Jesus soon meant coming to Judaism. I read the first sentence in the New Testament and found out Jesus was “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” When my brand new church friends could not explain to me how a Jewish man started Christianity (that’s the crude way I saw it at first) I set out on a quest. I dropped out of college (Georgia Tech) and used my tuition refund to take a tour of Israel. I was seeking the origins of it all.
Life for me became a confusing blend of Christian beliefs, church life, and a few Jewish practices mixed in. I had some associations with Messianic Jewish congregations. For a long time I was convinced I needed to turn Jews into Christians by preaching salvation to them.
But I was drawn to the Jewish people, to the history and culture and matzo ball soup and music and holidays of Jewish life. I met hundreds of Jews (often in order to “witness” to them). I became increasingly convinced that missionizing Jews was the wrong approach.
In nearly total ignorance I formed a Messianic Jewish congregation in 2001. Fortunately I had a new denomination in which to learn what Judaism is all about, the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations). I trained to be a leader and sought ordination as a rabbi. It would have been perfectly acceptable for me to earn the qualifications as a rabbi without ordination and simply to remain a Gentile. I would have called myself “Congregational Leader.”
But I felt in my soul that I was meant to be a Jew. My colleagues and numerous Jewish friends would tell me I had a Jewish soul. I sought and received conversion through the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council in 2010. I was ordained by the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council shortly afterward.
I am an amateur scholar of the Hebrew Bible. My graduate degree from Emory University (1998) is in Hebrew Bible. Though Hebrew Bible is my first love, I often find myself writing about the Gospels, Yeshua, Paul within Judaism, and related topics. Isaiah is a particular love and I have a separate Isaiah blog. I teach Hebrew grammar to online students via directed self-study. I blog also about Hebrew grammar elsewhere.
You can contact me at thehebrewnerd at gmail.