In November 2001 I sat across from Jhan Moskowitz in a Chicago Starbucks and I could see the frustration in his eyes. We weren’t friends yet. I was in my first semester at Moody Bible Institute and Jhan was my supervisor in the Jews for Jesus Approved Student Program. I was 19 years old, and had already spent 3 years meandering through life after graduating high school early, having started college in Sacramento as an Electrical Engineering major then changing majors twice (Computer Engineering, then Computer Science) before becoming convinced that God wanted me to go to Bible school. My parents had discouraged me from leaving my Computer Science program because they saw an unhealthy pattern in my life of quitting things as soon as I lost interest. I didn’t listen to my parents, but instead moved as fast as I could to begin Bible school. But the pattern my parents recognized held true, and by November I was ready to call it quits again.
Jhan listened patiently as I talked, trying not to show his disappointment. “What if God doesn’t want me to go to Bible school?” “What if God really wanted me to finish my Computer Science program?” “What if God is punishing me for not listening to my parents?” “What if God isn’t calling me to be a missionary?” “What if God is calling me to work a regular job and just support missions?” At some point Jhan couldn’t take it anymore and he interjected loudly, “Aaron, What if God doesn’t care what you do for a living or what you study in college?!” I didn’t know what to say because I’d never considered the question. Like many second generation believers in my age group, I had always assumed that God had a specific plan for my life, and that my job was to discover that plan. “God’s Perfect Will.” I lived in fear of missing God’s plan, and by doing so, living a wasted life. As I reflected on Jhan’s question I thought about my motives for coming to Bible school.
I had a deep rooted faith in God, and a solid conviction that my own Jewish people needed to hear the Gospel; I had amazing opportunity available to me; but something was missing: Passion. I had no passion for ministry or for studying the Bible, and I felt guilty about it. With all the conviction about ministry, and all the opportunity presented to me, it seemed selfish for me to resist the call to ministry simply because I felt no passion! And yet, I sat across the table from Jhan, admitting failure and hating myself for not being strong enough to force myself to love Bible school. As we continued talking, Jhan’s expression softened. I wasn’t just an employee he was supervising; I was also a wayward youth, caught in the ramifications of decisions made through the application of bad theology! Jhan recognized I had come to Bible school for the wrong reasons, and advised me to leave the program if I couldn’t stay for the right reasons.
Seven years later, in 2008, Jhan and I sat across from one another again. A lot had changed for me since our previous meeting: I was married, I was working as a software engineer having completed a Computer Science program, my wife and I had suffered through a stillbirth pregnancy, and I had matured significantly. Jhan was visiting Los Angeles where my wife and I were living, and we met to catch up and mend our relationship. My wife and I had just volunteered to lead the Jews for Jesus Massah program in Israel and India, taking a break from our careers to serve God in ministry. I could tell that Jhan was suspicious, and I knew he had every right to be! But something was very different for me in 2008, and Jhan quickly recognized it: Passion. The conviction about Jewish Missions had never faded, and once again I was presented with opportunity for ministry, but this time I had a deep passion for serving God. Losing a baby had changed me; through suffering my eyes were opened and I caught a glimpse of eternity. My understanding of God’s Will had matured, and I no longer was pursuing ministry out of guilt. Our meeting went well, and I left with Jhan’s blessing on my involvement with Massah.
After our initial summer of ministry with Massah, my wife and I felt called to continue serving God in fulltime ministry with Jews for Jesus, and we continued leading the Massah program for the next several years. Our understanding of God’s calling had grown to include three critical components: Conviction, Opportunity, and Passion. We recognized that all three are necessary, each contributing a vital aspect to the sense of calling: you can’t have a “calling” without the conviction that God is real and the Gospel is True, you can’t have a “calling” without any open doors of opportunity, and you can’t have a “calling” without an authentic passion for the work. In the summer of 2012, my last year leading the Massah program, Jhan and I sat across from each other in Tel Aviv and reflected on our relationship. Jhan’s eyes held nothing but warmth and camaraderie. We were soldiers together in the trenches, and we knew we had each other’s back. We shared a common conviction that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and that our Jewish people needed to hear the message of the Gospel, we both served God as He opened doors of opportunity, and we both had fire in our eyes for changing the world. Jhan had become a mentor, a friend, and a trusted colleague. He had helped me understand God’s will for my life by challenging my core assumptions.
Today I often find myself sitting across from young adults who are trying to discern God’s Will for their lives. I try to do for them what Jhan did for me!
This Blog was first written for the Messianic Times