"Don't think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete."  Matthew 5:17

Kehilah Portland

 

A Messianic Jewish Synagogue

 
     
"For I will take you from among the nations, gather you from all the countries, and return you to your own soil. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit inside you; I will take the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit inside you and cause you to live by my laws, respect my rulings and obey them. You will live in the land I gave to your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God." Ezekiel 36:24 - 28
     

About Jewish Heritage Revival & Kehilah Portland

The ministry of Jewish Heritage Revival was founded due to a need.  

How did JHR come into existence?

In order to answer this question, we must first go back to the beginning, or what someone recently asked me...

My Damascus Road Experience!!!

Before going forward, for those who are not familiar with this term, it was the road Saul was traveling when he had his first encounter with our Messiah:  Acts 9:1 - 18

his transformation of someone who persecuted Messiah and all those who followed Him, into one of the most influential disciples who would proclaim to the His encounter lead to world, both Jewish and gentile, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God.

The truth of Jesus is revealed by the Holy Spirit, prior to coming to acceptance.  It is by God Himself who reveals the truth.  This is what happened to me, on my road to Damascus.  However, unlike the road that Paul was on (Straight) my road was a circle that lead me back to my youth.

I was born Jewish, and went through many of the traditions growing up, including Hebrew school (for a brief period) and my Bar Mitzvah a week prior to my thirteenth birthday.  Our home was primarily a reform Judaism home, whereby we would attend synagogue during the "High Holidays"  My grandparents lead a "Conservative" Jewish life.  It was during my childhood that I experienced many of the traditions, including our Passover Seder each year.  Little did I know then, that what I was experiencing would come full circle some 20 years later, and be the missing pieces that would in essence explain everything.  The majority of my friends growing up were Jewish, (and a few Christian friends) so I was familiar with little else.  Therefore, assimilating the two would not happen until later on in life. 

During this time, we moved to the United States from Canada, for which I had become more of an agnostic, not honoring or practicing my Jewish faith...desiring more evidence that God existed.  The pieces were there to be assembled but it would be some time before that would occur.   During that time, I would go through my Cancer experience.  One would think that something like that would lead you back to God.  It didn't.  I have been in remission since April 1991.    

We are now in the year 2000, whereby, I am corresponding with my future wife through the internet.  She was a believer who was attending a Pentecostal church and kept telling me about Jesus.  My experience with Jesus was minimal, I knew Him to be a "minor prophet", but was unaware of His Divinity.  With regards to the church, my experience was also minimal, but was aware of some of the history, primarily the persecution of my people by the church.  Needless to say, my overall knowledge was minimal.  

After many discussions, my future wife had filled in some of the gaps.  It was after nearly three months of discussions that I decided to attend a church.  My first visit was a Wednesday evening Bible Study.  I believe we were looking at the first epistle of John.  I didn't even have a Bible with me.  I had called ahead, to find out times, and the church secretary left one for me that evening.

The feeling that I had when I walked through the doors for the first time was that I was home.   There was such a peaceful feeling that I had.  It was hard to understand.  Here I was, in a strange place, yet totally at peace.  

I can even recall my first conversation with the Pastor, whom I met that evening..."I have just begun a journey...where it takes me, I have no idea."

My first Sunday service was May 14th, which was Mother's day.  The service started off by a gentleman blowing a shofar.  If that wasn't God's hand at work...Directing me to attend a church whereby they called their service to begin by the blowing of the shofar.  This would be my first experience with the closeness of the church and my Jewish heritage, and most certainly not the last.  At the end of the service they were also doing baptisms.  A very full day for a first visit, that left me with much to think about, and much to discuss with my guide otherwise known as my future wife. 

I would spend four years at that church, studying and growing in God's word, moving ever closer back to my heritage...in essence coming full circle.  During that time, God revealed many things to me that in conjunction with my youth put together many of the pieces of the puzzle that were jumbled.  It was at this first church that I did two Passover presentations, a Hanukkah presentation, a study of the month of Tishri and a presentation of the association of Passover with our Messiah's resurrection.  

Each year that Christmas and Easter would role around, there was an uneasiness within my Spirit about these times that I couldn't explain.  Little by little God let me experience them, and revealed a little more of His truth to me.  It was these years that lead to uncovering the truth about them...that they were not of God.  I truly believe, that in allowing me to go through these times, created the foundation for where God would continue to take me.

Other significant events during these four years included:

  • Acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and My Savior - June 18, 2000

  • Baptism of the Holy Spirit - August 28, 2000 

  • Baptism - February 11, 2001 

  • A surprise ceremony before the congregation of the church that my Pastor used to correlate the "rapture" and  Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (a common church teaching / belief at the time for which I now have much different views)  He asked the congregation "How many of you were surprised when you came to church and saw that there was going to be a wedding?"  "This is how it will be when Jesus returns for His bride."  The sanctuary was completely decorated by us the evening before.  The altar also included a chupa that my wife and I built.  

My last day at this church would be July 25, 2004.  My wife and I had decided to leave due to issues with the state organization and the new pastor.  This date is significant in that it began what I have called:

"Our Wilderness Experience"

Again, I knew we would be going on a journey, with our final destination being unknown.   

Our first step was to heal from our last experience.  Prior to leaving, we had attended the evening services of another Pentecostal church because our church didn't offer an evening service.  We had developed a relationship with that Pastor, and decided that this is the place we should go. (We didn't believe that this was a permanent stop, but merely temporary)  The Pastor that we were serving under decided to move on to another position, which meant that there was going to be another change in Pastors, for which we didn't want to be part of this time.  In praying about it, our wilderness experience was to continue through 2005 when during that summer we visited a dozen different churches.

During our "summer tour" of churches, we experienced various interpretations of God's word.  It was during this tour that God started putting the pieces that would become JHR together.  Two significant occurrences were:

1.  We had visited a Baptist church that were preparing to witness during the July 4th holiday.  They were going up to Lake Ontario and hand out tracts to many of those in attendance.  During the evening service the Pastor was preparing the congregation on how to witness.  He expressed a different approach in witnessing to someone who was Catholic vs.  someone who wasn't.  It was during that time that God began speaking to me about how one would witness to someone who was Jewish.   It would be different...more on that in later articles.

2.  We attended another Pentecostal church whereby the pastor was delivering a message that included the premise that the church had replaced Israel and that the Tenach (old testament) no longer had any significance.  This was my first taste of "replacement theology".  Needless to say this got my Jewish blood boiling.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  I had to ask my wife, if he really said what he said.  She confirmed that I wasn't hearing things.  The next day, I wrote a letter, correcting him on many of the things that were said during his sermon.  To this day, I have not heard back from him.

These were two quite memorable experiences, that during our wilderness experience, lead to the creation of JHR.  Over the last part of 2005,  I delved into God's word.  Many times, during my study, His Word spoke to me, regarding where the church is today, and just how far it has strayed from its roots.

Through every experience, the heaviness was on my heart to do something about the disparity in where the church originated from, and where it is today.  

The symbol you see at the top of every page of this web site was actually revealed to me about two years prior to the creation of this web site and ministry.  I had seen the fish symbol that you see on the back of cars, in many different varieties.  One day while I was driving, I had a vision of a fish with the star of David as the eye.  I showed my wife and a friend, but at the time didn't know what the significance of it was until later on.

Through much prayer, I finally took the steps forward in creating what you see today.  Prior to the final decision to move forward, there were many discussion with my wife, not to mention God.  She would question what I was telling her about the feasts, christmas and easter.  We have had some very interesting discussions regarding this.  

The other obstacle standing in my way was me.  Asking God, who am I, that you would call me to address these issues?  Confronting men and women of God who were much more experienced than I was.  Through much prayer, the heaviness that I described earlier did not subside, but grew greater.  

I would ask God - you want me to confront an institution that is 20 centuries old and tell them that what they are doing is wrong and not supported by Your Word?  I would be lying if I said there was no trepidation in me, because there was.  But, when God calls you to do something, if you decide to run, you might as well submit, because you cannot outrun Him.  

Each time I would seek God's direction, He would show me three of His prophets - Moses, Paul and Jeremiah.  Each went against the popular opinion of the day, and did according to what God had instructed them to do.  I can truly identify with these great men of God and do not in any way consider myself to be in the same league as they were, but will do as they did - do what God has instructed me to do. 

The primary purpose of JHR is to proclaim that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel promised by the prophets. Further expressing that to be Jewish and trust in Messiah is part of our God given heritage.    We will also do the following:

We will boldly proclaim the truth about where the church is today and where it needs to be.  It has lost site of its very origin...its Jewish origin.  There are many leaders teaching God's congregation incorrectly...false doctrines

JHR's intent is not to create another denomination, but to work within the Messianic community and further strengthen its vision.  Our journey will take us to both the Jewish person and the non-Jewish person.  Within the church realm, many have forgotten that after Jesus ascended, there was a Messianic community that began in Jerusalem, with one doctrine.  The Jewish believers did not split when Gentiles began receiving Messiah.  They dealt with the differences.

Every article will be thoroughly thought out and prayed over, before being posted.  Each article will be thoroughly supported by scripture...not merely one verse taken out of context, but entire passages...and in some cases, several passages.

So, you now have my testimony and an understanding of how and why JHR was created.

I ask for your support in prayer of this ministry.  There is a great task at hand, and an even greater obstacle to overcome...that being man's created church tradition...not the one that God created, as found throughout His Word and upheld by the first church.

Update - May 2010:

For one, I didn't When first writing this testimony, establishing a foundation for Jewish Heritage Revival, the vision of an actual, physical congregation was not even on the consider myself to be a congregational leader type, let alone someone comfortable speaking in front of many people.  It is truly amazing what has happen since the launch of this web site ministry four years ago.  

For starters, in June of 2007 we finally settled at Lockport Wesleyan Church.  Both my wife and I didn't know anything about the Wesleyan church but decided to go one Sunday.  Without a full vision of what was to happen, we came back the week after we returned from Maine.   What would happen over the next two years would lead to where our ministerial skills would be developed.  Many things would transpire...

1.

From the day we walked in we would sense that something was either happening or about to happen.  It was a strange feeling we both had but couldn't explain.  It would take nearly three months to get together with the current pastor, for a get to know each other meal.  What we would later discover from the pastor was that he was experiencing some personal challenges.  These challenges would ultimately come to affect the health and well being of this congregation. 

2.

Several months would pass whereby, a need for a Sunday school class was discussed but there was no one willing to do a class.  One day in service my wife passes me a note saying why don't you teach a class from a Jewish perspective.  I started thinking about it and created a lesson plan - ROOTS (Rediscovering Our Origin To Salvation).  We would start at the beginning - Genesis 1:1 and go forward.  This is where I would further develop my basis of teaching, relating the Tenach to Brith Hadoshah (New Covenant Writings) and ultimately presenting God's progressive revelation through His people Israel.

What I didn't realize at the time was that in starting in Torah, I was in essence doing Parshah teaching, although not in the same time table. 

In preparing for this presentation, I gave the board members the JHR web site to review as background regarding the perspective for this class.  We presented our concept to the church board, but received a rather cold reception because it was viewed that we might be stepping on some church traditions.  The issues specifically revolved around easter and christmas.  It wouldn't be until March of 2008 that I received authorization to proceed with the class.

During this time, my wife took charge of the lady's meetings.

3. Issues relating to the pastor and his personal life would lead many to leave the congregation, culminating in the pastor stepping down to pursue another career path.  By the time the dust had settled, there were a dozen people who remained.

We had considered leaving as this split was happening because it hit close to home with my first church experience.  However, we decided to stay because in addition to the pastor leaving, the entire board and leadership of the congregation had left due to differences with the regional overseer.   We worked in conjunction with the interim pastor who was on loan from another church.  In actuality, he would shepherd two congregations for seven months.   During this bleak period, I continued teaching, while my wife took on other responsibilities.

Aside from preaching, we were running this congregation from top to bottom.  

It would be this interim pastor, with a push from my wife to get me out in front and actually preach.  It turned out to be the best setting for me.  A small congregation, comprised of people I had come to know and who were already my students.

4. In December of 2007, we met with Rabbi Lowinger with the intention of coming under him and his congregation to gain the knowledge and experience that we would need for a Messianic congregation.  There were aspects that I had not experienced from a Jewish perspective in quite some time, for which I needed to relearn.  

It would be March 2009 that we would begin attending Brith Hadoshah and winding down our time at Lockport Wesleyan.   We would attend both congregations (Saturday and Sunday) for a month, preparing the people at Lockport Wesleyan for the responsibilities we had been responsible for, while at the same time becoming acquainted with a new congregation family.  

5. The time at Brith Hadoshah has prepared me for the liturgical aspects of a messianic synagogue, teaching, preaching, while allowing us to further develop our skills and talents within the congregation.

All of these experiences have prepared us for what is next to come...a move to Portland, Maine with the vision for a Messianic congregation.  Our intended start is Spring 2011.  More information will be provided later, as we get closer.

Check back for news and updates for this exciting new dynamic of the JHR ministry.

God Bless,

Stephen Luft

More to come..

 

 

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