It’s not the end of the world
The 24th chapter of Matthew opens with Yeshua shocking His disciples with the news that the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem that they admired so much would be utterly destroyed. If this centerpiece of Jewish faith were to disappear, surely it would be the end of the world. Therefore, their logical response was, “When will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming and of the consummation?” (Matthew 24:3).
There were six components to Yeshua’s answer to the disciples’ questions. Knowing them helps us realize that whatever crises we may face, it is not yet the end. And if that is so, the grace to overcome is yet available.
First, Matthew 24:4,5,11,23-28 speaks of rampant deception in the world and even among believers. False prophets and false messiahs, whether secular or religious, will lead people away from the one true God of Israel, and from the knowledge of Yeshua HaMashiach who has purchased redemption for mankind by His sacrificial death and resurrection. Yet, we are not to despair or desire to escape, but Isaiah 60:1-3, tells us that in the midst of the deep darkness that clouds the minds of the whole world we are to stand and shine with the glory of the Lord.
Second, Yeshua said there would be wars, rumors of wars, and a proliferation of natural disasters like famines and earthquakes. (Matthew 24:6,7) But He told us in verse 8, that these were not the end, but just the beginning of birth pangs. We have certainly seen enough bloodshed just in the “enlightened” 20th century. This combined with the staggering death tolls of events like the major earthquakes in Iran and the Tsunami in Southeast Asia make us ask how it can possibly continue. It may be the end for the dead, but the living must move forward in faith knowing that “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear” (Psalm 27:1,3), and “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1,2).
The third thing to which Messiah alerted us was the coming apostasy among His followers and persecution upon those who would stand for Him (Matthew 24:9-12). Already in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 “the mystery of lawlessness” had begun to permeate the believing community. Rav Shaul warned of the spirit of anti-Christ rising among them.
Historically we’ve seen the church take extreme detours, far from its roots and foundation. The consequence was the persecution of true followers of Yeshua down through the ages, not just by pagans, but by those who claimed to represent Him. There also came persecution upon Yeshua’s earthly brethren the Jews. They were hated for the name of Yeshua until His name became hated and feared among them. Yet suffering for the Lord is not the end, but a means to demonstrate faith until all things are accomplished. Hebrews 11:36-40, says that those who “experienced mockings and scourgings… chains and imprisonment… death with the sword … being destitute, afflicted and ill-treated… gained approval by their faith.“
Fourth, Yeshua said the message of the Kingdom of God must reach into the entire world before His return. This is a message not just of personal salvation – “Believe in Yeshua and you can go to heaven.” While that is true, it is only the first step in impacting a lost and dying world. In the midst of false prophets, bloody conflicts, out of control nature and persecution, there needs to be a people with a different Spirit. A people whose lives demonstrate that their “citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach”(Philippians 3:20).
Matthew 24:15-22 along with parallel passages in Luke 21:20-24 give us the fifth point. It begins with what Yeshua spoke of at the beginning of this discourse – the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the subsequent scattering of the Jewish people throughout the world. Forty years after He spoke these words, the armies of Imperial Rome began their work of destruction, dispersion and death. Sixty years after that, the failed last attempt to defeat the Romans by Bar Kochba resulted in the utter devastation of Jerusalem and more exile and death followed by nearly 1900 years of tribulation for the house of Israel. It had been warned of in Deuteronomy 28 and in Leviticus 26. Yeshua pointed out that this was not the end but a sign pointing to the future as Leviticus 26:40-45 promised that even in the land of their enemies the Jewish people would not be utterly rejected by their God.
This brings us to the sixth and last point. Matthew 24:32 and Luke 21:24 speak of the fig tree once again bringing forth life and the exile coming to an end. The restoration of the people of Israel to the land of Israel connected to the God of Israel by the Messiah of Israel is the sign that He is very near. Acts 3:21 says that “heaven would receive Yeshua until the period of restoration of all things… spoken by the prophets from ancient times” We don’t know how much time is left, but we do know that in spite of great challenges and difficulties ahead we are in the “period of restoration” and it’s time to “straighten up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
When we feel overwhelmed it’s good to remember that it’s not the end of the world until it’s the end of the world, but then it is the end of the world! And, halleluyah, He’s here!
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, March 27, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Moshe founded and lead Rosh Pina Messianic Congregation in Maryland until making aliyah with his family in the early 90's. He's been an elder at Tents of Mercy Messianic Congregation for the past 20 years.
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Preparing for persecution
According to global statistics, over 200 million followers of Yeshua are undergoing high levels of persecution today–primarily in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. But, I believe the Scriptures teach that the time is coming when such persecution will be the norm in every country of the earth.
As a new believer in my early twenties, a leader in my life once spoke prophetically over me: “Cody, go deep in God’s word NOW because there will be a time in the future where it will be taken away from you, probably because you will be put in prison for your faith.” What an encouraging word for a new believer right?!!! Actually, I took that word seriously and have continued to devote much time to meditating in God’s word almost daily for the past decade.
As I study the end times one of the themes that continues to catch my attention is that of persecution. More and more in my quiet times I have been picturing myself being arrested, beaten, put in prison and even martyred for my faith. I am training my heart now to walk in love for Yeshua and stand up for my faith when those times of extreme pressure come.
My sense is that this heart posture is almost nonexistent in most of the Western Church today. Even If you and I don’t end up facing high levels of persecution, I believe it is wise to prepare our hearts, and the next generation, for what is coming.
What is Coming?
So, what should we be preparing for? Here are some scriptures I have been meditating on:
- “But before all these things (read verses before – false Messiah’s, wars, great earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful sights…), they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons…” Luke 21:12 If you think you will get raptured out before persecution and trouble come, you will be in for a BIG shock.
- Luke 21:16 warns us that biological and spiritual family and friends will betray us and put some to death.
- “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” Luke 21:17 Consider this word – All. Atheists, people of other religions and humanistic, secular society may tolerate us at some level today, but this tolerance won’t last forever. Are you ready to be hated by all?
- “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think he offers God service.” John 16:2 The deception will be so deep that people will think they are doing God’s will by killing us.
- Before Yeshua returns, new laws will be passed against believers, making us to be the criminals in the eyes of the world. Calling the nations to turn from their sins and not budging on Yeshua being the only way to God, will be seen as major obstacles to global peace. Because lawlessness will abound and the love of many will grow cold, we should not expect human help or mercy when attacked, but instead the plundering of our possessions, major lies and attacks through media, lawsuits, fines, imprisonments… (Is 24:5-6; Matt 24:12; Heb 10:34)
- The antichrist will be granted to make war with the saints and overcome.(Dan 8:23-25; Rev 13:7) I believe prophetic patterns in scripturelike in Esther 3 and Daniel 3 where laws were passed forcing people into false worship and the destruction of the Jewish people, will emerge again before Yeshua returns.
- As it was in the days of Noah and Lot, so it will be also be in the days of the Son of Man. (Luke 17:26-30) The wickedness, violence and sexual perversion seen in the days of Noah and Lots are rampant again today, and will continue to be directed against believersin an ever-increasing way (Gen 6; 19).
In conclusion, Jews and Christians will be the most hated people on the earth. But do not despair about the future, there is good news! The greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit and harvest of souls will be happening simultaneously with this global persecution (Acts 2:17). There will be a remnant of faithful believers in every nation who will obey God over man (Acts 5:29), and not love their lives unto death (Rev 12:11).
Lord help us to apply Yeshua’s exhortation to watch and pray always that we would be strengthened to resist compromise, sin and fear (Luke 21:36).
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, April 3, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Cody served on staff with YWAM for four years before moving to Israel. He joined Revive Israel's staff in 2013. He and his wife, Liat, help lead the youth group at Ahavat Yeshua Congregation and work together in Revive Israel’s international department. They have a passion to see the word of the Lord go out from Jerusalem through media and by going out to the nations themselves.
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Revelation: Crisis reveals
“Even sinners love those who love them.” – Yeshua
The Gospel is not made for a perfect day in the Garden of Eden, but for the day of trouble. A picnic on a perfect spring day in the park with plenty of fried chicken, furnished by Believers on one side, and the Mafia on the other, all arrayed with friends and family and children, might appear completely identical to the eye. One might be hard put to distinguish between the two groups- until crisis arises.
When the foot of the Mafioso is tread upon, love evaporates and is replaced by its vengeful counterpart, often with tragic results, whereas in the other group of the Devout, when the same occurrence arises, the Gospel of forgiveness, love and reconciliation then comes into play- or theoretically should. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case. The human condition, being what it is, has left the believing community with as many broken relationships, divisions, divorces and even tragedies as in the world of those we call unbelievers.This ought not to be.
It is the crisis that reveals if the fabric is dyed-in-the-wool and woven into a firm garment, or if it is merely a surface print on thin fabric that tears asunder at the first strain. The two may appear identical while sitting folded on the shelf, or in the pew, just as do the wheat and the tares that grow up together in the field. But in the end it is only the true wheat that will ultimately prevail and be garnered to the Kingdom, and that by the grace and mercy of God.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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Israel’s missing milestone or, whatever happened to the real “Rosh Hashana”?
The Biblical New Year, Rosh Ha-Hodashim, fell this year on April 6 (beginning sundown April 5).
And as it rolled past again, the Jewish community made no attempt to honor or keep it.
Learn why the followers of Yeshua can and should restore this neglected commandment.
Nearly everyone who knows anything about Jewish tradition has learned that the Talmudic sages fixed the first of the Seventh Month, or Tishrei 1, as the primary New Year observance for the Jewish people, based on a non-Biblical teaching that “on this day the world was created.” Those 1st and 2nd -century rabbis are also credited with agreeing to ignore the Biblically commanded New Year (the first of the First Month, or Nisan 1) – not quite cancelling it, but downgrading it to an insignificant status where it was soon forgotten.
Oddly, the Talmud itself says otherwise.
The tractate Rosh Hashana 10b-11a documents such strong rabbinic challenges to the Tishrei narrative that the controversy was left unresolved: Does the Jewish calendar properly begin on Tishrei 1, or on Nisan 1? The dispute was settled among later sages by trying to accommodate both sides: The world was created in an “embryonic state” on Tishrei 1, but it could not be “birthed” until Nisan 1. Or alternately, the world was fully created by God on Nisan 1, but it didn’t physically appear until Tishrei 1. Either way, they implied that the creation in Nisan was stronger.
Their favoritism was justified by the wall-to-wall rabbinic agreement concerning which New Year has more importance for the Jewish people. It’s Nisan – past and future: “On New Year the bondage of our ancestors in Egypt ceased; in Nisan they were redeemed and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the time to come.” (Rosh Hashana 11a)
In addition, God’s Torah is explicit about where the year begins for the sons of Israel: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” – Exod. 12:2 (JPS, the English version used by the Jewish community) The Divine command gave rise to the Talmudic admonition about counting the years (RH 2b):
“But how do we know that the years from the Exodus from Egypt itself are reckoned as commencing with Nisan? Perhaps we reckon them from Tishri? — Do not imagine such a thing!” On this issue no controversy existed. While the Seventh Month might serve to log the years for the world and its kings, the First Month (starting from that first national obligation in Year One) would always be used to mark Israel’s history and the reign of YHVH as Israel’s King.
And so it was… until an era came when both Torah and Jewish history were gradually repackaged, and the unimaginable became the norm. The Talmudic sages themselves set the pattern; by rejecting the Divine Voice in favor of clever human interpretations of Torah, they provided later sages with the justification to reject their voice as well in favor of other clever interpretations. Jewish authorities today not only reckon the Jewish years from Tishrei without question, they long ago stopped counting “the years from the Exodus from Egypt” at all. Instead, they record the Exodus as occurring in “the Jewish [sic] year 2448.”
Meanwhile, what became of that God-given milestone in Nisan called the “beginning of months”? All rabbis acknowledge that it’s still in the Bible, but its only importance is to help us date Passover. Many have asked: But if it’s “the first month of the year,” why doesn’t it date the beginning of the year, and the beginning of all years? “We don’t need it,” they explain; “the year-marker for the world, the new year of Tishrei, has become ours.” When and why did we replace our Jewish marker with the Gentile one? “Well… it’s complicated… the answer is lost in history.”
Indeed. The theory that the Jews adopted it from Babylon while in exile (597–539 BC) cannot be documented. On the contrary, post-exile Jewish texts (like Jubilees and Maccabees) don’t mention a “Rosh Hashana” at any time of year. The mention of one in Tishrei doesn’t appear anywhere until 70 AD, after the second Temple was destroyed. Yet even in 94 AD, when the Jewish historian Josephus wrote his epic work Antiquities of the Jews, his detailed descriptions did not include any new-year customs added to the Feast of Trumpets on Tishrei 1. And as we saw above, the Talmud (compiled 200-500 AD) made a strong case for the Nisan New Year, which is disregarded by today’s Talmudic community.
When (and more importantly, why) did later rabbis decide to rewrite their teachers’ legacy and reduce Nisan 1 to merely the rosh hodesh (new moon) before Passover? Why have they instituted a range of traditions honoring the “new year for trees” (Tu B’Shvat), but none at all to honor the “new year” that God Himself instituted?
If you have been redeemed by Yeshua the Messiah, the answers have a lot to do with the Torah foundations of your faith, and with our early history as a community of Jewish believers in Israel who were “all zealous for the Law.” (Acts 21:20)
This begins a series of articles showing how that history, those Torah foundations, and Jewish teaching about Nisan as “the Month of Redemption” all intersect. Like so many other Jewish traditions that harmonize with the Scriptures, these carry rich Messianic messages that unintentionally but unmistakably point to Yeshua. As you might imagine, the resulting dilemma for the rabbinic community helps to explain the mystery of Israel’s Missing Milestone and other riddles surrounding Nisan.
Reflections of Redemption in Nisan, Part 1
Rosh Ha-Hodashim: New Month, New Things
The Biblical command that identifies the first month of the year (Exod.12:2) reads this way in English translations:
“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.” (NASB)
“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (NIV)
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (KJV)
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (JPS, the English version used by the Jewish community)
But there are some interesting problems with these renderings which Hebrew readers will understand best. Here is the original (unpointed) Hebrew of the verse, as it appears in a Torah scroll (emphasis added):
החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
First, there is no vav in any of the three repeating words (the bold type) that would make this word חדש – “hadash/new” – into חודש – “hodesh/month”. The vav was inserted centuries later by using nikud (the Masoretic pointing that inserted vowels around 800 AD). And even then, only the first occurrence was made into “hodesh”; see the vowel-enhanced Hebrew below (found in all printed Jewish Bibles).
הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה
The two words “hadash” and “hodesh” are of course related, coming from the same root. This gave rise to the concept of the “new” moon marking the first of the “month”. In fact, the word spelled without a vav is assumed to mean “new moon / new month” elsewhere in Tanach. But we know from Yeshua’s teaching that every letter in the Torah and Prophets is important enough to stand unchanged until the end of this creation (Matt. 5:18). So, there is a reason why the Holy Spirit guided Moses to leave out the vav three times in this verse in Exodus. We will explore that reason in a minute.
More interesting problems: There is no future-tense of “to be” anywhere in the Hebrew verse; yet all the translations make it future. And there are some definite articles inserted into all the translations, in places where the Hebrew lacks them. Both kinds of changes are identified by the italicized words in the English (see above). What might we see if we peel away those ‘helpful’ interpretations?
A straightforward translation from the unpointed Hebrew, and without changing its given word order, could be:
“This new thing [or, month] is for you a Head [or, uppermost / a leader] of new things; it is first [or, a beginning] for you for new things of the year.”
The verse can be read several ways, especially since “rosh” can have additional meanings (beginning, chief, most important). Like Yeshua and His apostles, we accept the Jewish approach that the words of God can say several different things simultaneously, all of which enrich our understanding rather than force us to choose “one best answer.” (For more details, see our article at the Restorers of Zion site, “How to Read Hebrew Scriptures through Jewish Eyes”.)
Therefore, each “new month” – but especially “this” one – can be assumed to symbolize, demonstrate and/or bring Israel to experience a new thing, a supremely important thing, and/or a groundbreaking thing that God is establishing, in a continual, timeless and personal sense, “for you.”
And since every letter of every word is important, why are “you” (plural) mentioned twice? The New International Version blurs the second occurrence, but the New American Standard preserves them both:
“This month shall be the beginning of months [new things] for you; it is to be the first month [first of new things] of the year to you.” (NASB)
On one level, we see that the Covenant-obedient people of Israel should be celebrating the “head” or beginning of “the year” (Hebrew: Rosh Ha-Shana) in the first month, and not in the seventh month which begins with a very different observance commanded by God. But there’s more to learn, for you are being addressed twice. This is not only the beginning of “the year to you”, but also of His “new things for you”.
Because Messiah taught that “heaven and earth will pass away” before one word of Torah fails (Matt. 5:18), we must understand this not only as something that “was” new at the time God first spoke it, or “will be” new at the end when all is fulfilled, but is new continually. As the words of Torah present it, this declaration by the living God is like Himself: unlimited by time, and an active reality wherever and in whatever condition “all the congregation of Israel” (Exod. 12:3) may be found.
Moreover, we see our verse twice emphasizing something that is initiating this year of God’s new things:
“This new thing is for you a Head [or, uppermost / a leader] of new things; it is first [or, a beginning] for you for new things of the year.”
God doesn’t keep us guessing about “this new thing” which is the first priority for Israel and brings other “new things” in its train. Starting from the very next verse, it is revealed and described:
“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb….”
The Heavenly Lamb symbolized by that earthly Passover lamb is truly the “Head of new things”. Without the reality of His Headship being established “uppermost for you” as the “beginning for you,” God implies here that none of His other “new things of the year” will make sense – or maybe that none of them will even be possible.
To be continued….
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.
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The great escape
We were all excited! Driving down to Ft. Lauderdale early in the morning, anticipating our cruise was making us all punchy! We pulled into the parking lot and were directed to a spot towards the back, when we saw them. Monkeys! Two adult monkey’s and a baby were sitting there looking at us. At this point there is no way that I am getting out of the car. Monkeys scare me. Then we noticed that there were several more and they are encircling us. Visions of “Planet of the Apes” are flooding into my brain. As we make our escape into the shuttle, we find out the story of the monkeys.
Several years ago, the monkeys (African Vervet) were at a research foundation that used them in a breeding facility, and a tourist attraction that was open to the public. The story told to me by the shuttle driver was that a fire occurred at the tourist attraction and the monkey’s escaped into the mangroves around them. I’m still having flashbacks of “Planet of the Apes”! Many years later, here they are thriving in those same mangroves.
My eyes teared up as I heard the story about those monkeys. Their escape to freedom reminded me of Psalm 124:7, “Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; the snare is broken and we have escaped.” I couldn’t help but think of that moment when they made the decision to escape from their captivity to their freedom. The fear that they felt as the fire surrounded them, and that moment when you have no other option but, the one that creates a new life.
When we accept Yeshua as our Messiah we are given a new life in Him, and that new life is one of a free person and not of a captive. In Luke 4:18-19 Yeshua reads prophetic verses (Isaiah 61:1-2, Isaiah 42:7) to those in the synagogue which tells us what His purpose is, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” As we study these verses we will be looking at the Hebrew and the Greek to dig down deep at what the Lord is trying to show us. First of all, “the gospel” in the Greek is “eugangelisasthai” meaning “good news” and in the Hebrew it is “basar”, meaning “to bear tidings”. So, He is bringing us good news that we should pay attention to because it will be beneficial to us. Also, the Lord didn’t come just for the financially poor, He came for the poor in spirit. In Isaiah 61:1, the word for afflicted is “anav” which means, poor, afflicted, humble, and meek. So whether you are rich or poor, we all have a spiritual poverty that He has been anointed to attend to. There are five points, in these two verses that are declarations that Yeshua is making of Himself, let’s take a look at them:
- Healing- He was sent to heal us from our spiritual poverty. In the Hebrew this verse is so powerful, “to heal” is “chabash”, to bind, to bind up. The word “brokenhearted” is “shabar” meaning to break, break in pieces, crushed, shattered, bruised, fractured, and disconnected. Our Messiah came to bind us up, to bandage us up so that we can be whole and no longer broken in pieces.
- Liberty- He offers us a release from the place of captivity that we are in to a place of liberty. Liberty in the Greek is “aphesis” which means dismissal, release, and pardon. Captive in the Greek is “aichmalotos” and it’s defined as a captive/conquered in war and the word derives from “aichme” a spear. So, in this spiritual war that we are in we have been taken captive violently and our Messiah brings offers of release, liberty and pardon!
- Recovery- When you are blind, there is not usually anything that can be done to heal you. You are in a situation where there is no solution. In our spiritual poverty where we are disconnected from God and do not have a path to Him, God provides the path. God provides the way to recover from our sickness of independence from Him to restoration where we can see Him and His glory.
- Oppressed- We don’t think of ourselves as oppressed. The idea of oppression is that someone exercises control over you and uses their power over you. But, when we look at this word in the Greek it is “thrauo”, meaning to break in pieces which reminds us of the word for brokenhearted which we discussed earlier. So, being oppressed actually means to be broken, crushed, and bruised. Aren’t we all in this position? Earlier in our second point the Lord says in v.18 that He has come “to proclaim” liberty now He says “To set at liberty”. He is not just proclaiming but actually giving us the liberty that He has proclaimed to us.
- Acceptable year- When Yeshua states this He is declaring a very important point. He is referring to Leviticus 25 and the year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee is celebrated every fifteen years, and has certain regulations such as: all slaves are to be set free, all debts are forgiven, land was allowed to rest, and it was a fresh beginning. This is what He has come to give us! We are no longer slaves but are set free. Our debts (sins) are forgiven, we are given rest in Him and we have a new life that He provides us!
Those monkeys we talked about in the beginning left their captivity and started a new life in those mangroves. Generations later we see them flourishing in their freedom and their offspring not even knowing about captivity! Let’s accept Messiah’s offer for freedom from captivity and live as free men!
Diana Levine is the Rebbetzin of Kol Mashiach Messianic Synagogue in Melbourne, Florida. She has spoken at national conferences, regional conferences, women's retreats and bible studies. She is also the co-founder of the Daughters of Righteousness Conference.