Israel My Glory : In Depth with Lorna Simcox & Steve Herzig
The gospel changes lives. Paul called it “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, you know how powerful the gospel has been in your own life.
The newest issue of Israel My Glory magazine features inspiring stories of people who have been forever changed by God’s gospel of grace. Lorna Simcox, editor-in-chief of the magazine, shares her heart for this topic on this week’s program. We’re also joined by Steve Herzig, whose letter to his father included in the magazine is a powerful message of evangelism. The gospel is the most effective tool we can use to help bring people to know the Lord, and this week’s program will solidify that beautiful truth in your heart!
Take a look at Steve Herzig’s article, “A Letter to My Dad.”
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. I'm really excited for today's show for you. We have Lorna Simcox, editor in chief of Israel My Glory magazine, she's with us, and that's in our IMG in-depth segment, as well as frequent guest and director of North American ministries Steve Herzig.
Chris Katulka: So Steve, every time a new Israel My Glory comes out we're fortunate enough here at the headquarters to get the very first copies. They land in our mailboxes and I'm giddy when I see them. And I knew that this was a good one. We've been talking about this one for a long time, The Power of the Gospel. It's all these fantastic stories of testimonies of Jewish people coming to faith here in the United States and in Israel, about how Gentiles have come to faith. It's an amazing issue that I think is going to touch your life. We're going to actually have Lorna Simcox, as Steve was saying, in talking about why this particular issue is so important.
Steve Conover: Here's what's happening in the news. 35 minutes before a midnight deadline Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Wednesday night informed Israeli president Reuven Rivlin that he's able to form a government in which he and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett will rotate as prime minister, positioning themselves to replace Israel's longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Chris Katulka: Steve, this is big. It's finally happened. Democracy in Israel is incredibly vibrant, but Netanyahu's been able to hang on as prime minister for 15 years. But it looks like we are now heading into a new government, but this one's interesting because it really invites a wide array of coalition parties together that normally wouldn't come together.
We have a very conservative Naftali Bennett with Yamina party meeting with Yair Lapid, which is a moderate party. These two were always opposition parties with one another. And then there's the Islamist party Ra'am that are all gathering together to oust Netanyahu. The Israeli people are probably pretty happy this is happening. I think a lot of them are ready for change after 15 years. But the reality is this. This is a very fragile government. With this kind of coalition there's a lot of opposition, disagreeing points of view, all it takes is for one disagreement and this whole thing could fall apart. Israeli people will be back in elections.
It's a joy to have Lorna Simcox in the studio. Lorna is the editor in chief of our flagship magazine, Israel My Glory. And Lorna, I was just thinking about you this past weekend. I was in West Virginia in Huntington and speaking at a fantastic church, Lewis Memorial Baptist Church. And people come down to me, Lorna, and I know that you don't see this side, but when I'm out speaking, people come down to me in the most amazing random places and they go, "I love Israel My Glory. I've been getting it forever. I just can't get enough of it. I have to space out the time to read it or I'll gobble it up at one time." What does that make you feel like when you hear that?
Lorna Simcox: It is so encouraging. It's so encouraging, especially because when you're an editor and a writer you lead a rather isolated life. You're sitting at your computer the whole time and you're looking at a computer screen, and I don't often get to interact with the people who actually read the magazine. So this is just such great news to hear this.
Chris Katulka: Well, I know we get that all the time, and you organize, you edit, you structure, you lay out the topics of Israel My Glory. And in our most recent issue, which is called The Power of the Gospel, I wanted to ask, what made you go, "You know what? This is something we need to be writing about for Israel My Glory"?
Lorna Simcox: Well, I wish I could take credit for that topic, but that really came from Jim Showers.
Chris Katulka: Oh, good.
Lorna Simcox: Who felt that we needed to write about the gospel and the transformative power of faith in Christ. And I can't think of anything better to write about.
Chris Katulka: I was just thinking of Genesis chapter 12, verse three, something that we cling to here at the Friends of Israel, which talks about the fact that God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. So we support Israel for that. But then in the exact same verse he says, "And through you, Abraham, all the families of the earth will be blessed," which is a major part of the gospel, that God would use the Jewish people to bring the gospel. So in one little verse you have support for Israel and in another verse you have the gospel, which is a great reason for us at Israel My Glory to be sharing about the gospel. I want to ask you, what is the heart of the gospel to you? Or better yet, what's the power of the gospel to you as we talk about this?
Lorna Simcox: For me, when I think about it, it's really all about God's love.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Lorna Simcox: I think that John 3:16 does a really good job of summarizing the gospel, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. I think the power is, the love of Christ is so powerful and so strong. And when he draws you to Him, He can completely change your life.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Lorna Simcox: And He can change your life no matter who you are, rich, poor, young, old, it doesn't matter what background you come from. It doesn't matter what nationality you are. The gospel is the same for everybody.
Chris Katulka: When I think about the gospel too, and gospel meaning the good news, the good news to me, especially when you quote John 3:16, is that God has been fighting for his creation. He could have packed the bags after Adam and Eve and said, "I'm out of here."
Lorna Simcox: How true.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, he could have, Think about it. He gave one rule and we broke that one rule. But instead what he did is he's been fighting for us from the very beginning to provide a way for us to have a relationship with him. And to me that's the good news, that he provided forgiveness, salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. But that makes me think, though, as we talk about the power of the gospel, my mind immediately goes to Romans 1:16, which says this. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek," Romans 1:16. And this issue is great, our recent issue of Israel My Glory here, because it highlights Jewish people who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus. And I wanted to ask first of all, why do you think Paul said to the Jew first? What do you think the essence of that is?
Lorna Simcox: Well, I can tell you that verse was really important to me. And when I first came to know the Lord, being Jewish, I was overcome with guilt. I thought, "Oh no, I'm going against everything my parents taught me, everything. I went to Hebrew school, I'm going against my people. My people are going to hate me. I'm becoming a traitor." That's the feeling you get. And I started crying and I was really upset. And I was praying, and I said, "Lord, I don't want to feel this way. I don't know what to do. You've got to help me. You've got to help me." And I didn't know the Bible. I didn't know where anything was. And the Lord told me, "Open the book to Romans." And I opened it and I read Romans 1:16, and that's when I realized that God had intended the Jewish people to believe the gospel all along.
He gave it to us first. He promised it, he sent it to us first. Jesus said he came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We had everything first, and I was doing what God had wanted all Jewish people to do all along. I wasn't a traitor. I have finally understood why people sometimes use the term, I'm not fond of it, but they'll say “completed,” because you've completed the circle. You've come full circle. You're finally doing what God had intended for Jewish people all along. And that's what I think it means.
Chris Katulka: That's fantastic, because sometimes I know that word first can even mean especially, the idea of, "especially to the Jew," because if there's one group of people that should understand what these prophecies are, that should be able to root themselves. Because when Paul and the apostles who are writing the New Testament are arguing for the cause of Christ or they're arguing for the Messiah, they don't use some random ancient texts. They use the Old Testament texts, they use the Hebrew Bible. And so for them it was very ... And so if there's anybody that should understand the Hebrew Bible and the prophecies of the Messiah, it should be especially first to the Jew. So yeah, I love that. And I love that this issue deals with some of these moments of salvation for Jewish people. Is there one in particular? We're going to talk with Steve Herzig soon, so don't give that one away, but are there other ones in the issue that drew you in, that you connected with, when you think about these powerful stories of people coming to faith in the Lord?
Lorna Simcox: The story that really touched me was Sarah Fern. Because growing up Jewish, I remember my mother, my mother would say any time there was somebody Catholic on the street or somebody, we had the first congregational church was big where I grew up, and anybody who was anybody went to that church. She always said, "Well, they're Christians. They're Christians. They're Christians." Everybody was a Christian. Anyone who wasn't Jewish was considered a Christian. If you went to church, you were Christian. And that's how I always looked at it.
And Sarah is such a good example. As a pastor's daughter, she was not a Christian. She grew up in the church, she knew the Bible, she knew verses, memory verses. She knew all these things, and yet she came to realize that she was not a Christian because being a Christian involves a personal relationship with God. It's not just religion.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Lorna Simcox: It's not just catechism and studying rules and things and being obedient. It's a heart thing. God changes your heart. He transforms your heart. And she realized that she had never had that conversion experience, even though she was a pastor's daughter. And I loved her testimony.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, it's being born again.
Lorna Simcox: Yes.
Chris Katulka: Even though you're born into a pastor's family, or maybe you're not born into a pastor's family, maybe you're born into a very difficult situation, a difficult family, a broken family. It doesn't matter, because at some point you've got to come to the realization that you need to be born again, born anew, born from heaven. And that really sets apart the fact that all of us come, it doesn't matter what your background is, whether you're Jew or whether you're Gentile, we all come to the Lord in the same way.
Lorna Simcox: That's right.
Chris Katulka: We all come, we all need to be born again. And you know what? I always like to say that levels the playing field. No one can say, "Oh, I'm better than you," or, "I did this." We're all born again.
Lorna Simcox: We're all the same.
Chris Katulka: That's right. We're all born into the family through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the power of the gospel. As we close, Lorna, I'm interested to know if there's one thing that you can say to maybe somebody that doesn't get Israel My Glory. Maybe they don't get it. What would you say is a good reason for them to sign up for a one-year free subscription?
Lorna Simcox: Well, you're asking the editor, right?
Chris Katulka: I know that's what I want to do.
Lorna Simcox: I think it's the best magazine out there. I've had so many people say to me, "I've canceled all my subscriptions to everything except Israel My Glory. I read it cover to cover." And I'm always thrilled to hear that.
Chris Katulka: That's great. Well, listen, we just heard from Lorna Simcox, editor in chief of Israel My Glory, talking about this latest issue, The Power of the Gospel. We're going to share with you in a moment just how you can get your hands on this issue. If you've never subscribed before, we're going to give you an opportunity to sign up to get a one-year free subscription. Lorna, thank you so much for being with us.
Lorna Simcox: Thanks for having me, Chris.
Chris Katulka: It's always an honor to have you in studio, honestly. Thank you.
Just wrapped up with Lorna Simcox, the editor in chief of our flagship magazine here at Friends of Israel, Israel My Glory. Israel My Glory is an award-winning Christian magazine that we've been producing since 1942. It's a great way to keep up with trends that are happening in Israel and the Christian world, to understand why God loves Israel and the Jewish people from a biblical perspective. That's so important because it goes over politics. It's not about politics. I support Israel because God loves Israel. That is something that's rooted and grounded in Israel My Glory, it's something that we believe in. And this particular issue, The Power of the Gospel, as I was saying to Lorna earlier, the amazing thing about Genesis chapter three is that it tells us that God would bless Israel and anyone who blesses Israel will be blessed and anyone who curses Israel will be cursed.
That's the reason that we support Israel and the Jewish people, but then there's also that promise in there that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. The gospel is rooted in there as well. So supporting Israel and sharing the gospel is what we're all about here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. And you can find that in our magazine, Israel My Glory. If you have never subscribed before, Steve's going to share with you a way that you can get connected. But I also want to make sure that you are aware that we have coming up on July 18th through the 22nd, we have an amazing conference on Jerusalem coming up, an online conference where you can get information by simply going to foiconferences.org. But Steve, how can our friends get their hands, if they've never subscribed before to Israel My Glory?
Steve Conover: Yeah, you can simply visit us at our radio website, foiradio.org, to learn more or to get your free one-year subscription if you've never subscribed. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Well, I want to welcome to the program Steve Herzig. Steve is usually in studio with us because his office is right next to mine, but he is currently not with us. He's on the phone. And I asked him to come on because he actually wrote an amazing article in this most recent issue of Israel My Glory, which is The Power of the Gospel. And it's titled A Letter to My Dad. And Steve, it's the reason I wanted to bring you on short notice to talk about this. Great to have you on the program.
Steve Herzig: Hey, great to be here, Chris.
Chris Katulka: Steve, A Letter to My Dad. It's not easy to tell your parents they need Jesus. That's what it's titled. And I want to remind our listeners, maybe they don't know this or not, but you grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. And I know that on this program you've shared your testimony before growing up in an Orthodox family. But I don't think we ever highlighted the backlash that you received from your family after you told them that you trusted in Jesus as the Messiah. What was that like for you?
Steve Herzig: Well, I fully expected to have a bad reaction from my family, because when I first heard the gospel I gave a bad reaction. It's an affront to Judaism, at least modern Judaism, not biblical Judaism. And so I was upset the first time. The idea of believing in Jesus is an anathema. So I knew that when the Lord persuaded me through his Word, I knew the reaction I would get from my parents. And Jesus told me, you have to hate your mother and father. He didn't mean really hate them, but in comparison you have to be willing to abandon what you love and what you cherish if it contradicts what the Lord wants. So I was prepared for that. Doesn't make it necessarily easier, but at least I was prepared.
Chris Katulka: What was the backlash like, though? Did they excommunicate you from the family?
Steve Herzig: No, actually it was interesting. I was going to volunteer with Friends of Israel and I was coming from California where I'd been living, and I called my parents to ask them if I could visit before I went on to Atlantic City. And they agreed, and so I set the tickets, I arrived in Cleveland. My parents came to pick me up. I had sold everything I had in California. I had a duffle bag and I'm waiting for them, and they come and I get in the car, and my father said, "You've got to leave." And I said, "What?" He said, "Get out of the car." And my mother said, "What are you doing?" And he said, "I can't take it. I don't want him home." And my mother said, "You promised him, he called and asked." My father was so angry, I had so made him ashamed. So he said, "Get out." So I said, "Well, Dad, my flight to Atlantic City is three weeks from now." "Get out." My mother said, "Just give me a minute." So I just sat there and she yelled at my dad, and I stayed the rest of the time.
Chris Katulka: We know who wore the pants in that family, right?
Steve Herzig: That's right.
Chris Katulka: Right at the very end.
Steve Herzig: That's right.
Chris Katulka: Well, I want to fast forward a little bit here because I'm going to date you here, Steve. So I'm sorry if I'm outing you here.
Steve Herzig: No problem.
Chris Katulka: But when you turned 40 in the early '90s you wrote your then 73-year-old father a letter. And it was for Father's Day. And in the letter you seem to want to tell him, "Dad, I get it now. I get you now. You get what it means to be a man," you're writing him, "A father, a husband, an employee, and even what it means to be getting older." Why did you do that when you wrote this letter to your dad?
Steve Herzig: Well, as the letter states, and by the way, I completely forgot about that letter until my mother showed it to me. But I wrote that letter because 40 is a big age for people. I had children, I had a teenage daughter and three other children younger. And I wanted him to hear afresh the gospel. It had been 18 years since I trusted Christ. I had lived away from home that whole time. I was living in Chicago at that time. And I wanted him to know that I loved him, appreciated him, and I wanted to give it another shot in the context of just living and what he had done for me. And so I just wanted to tell him I loved him and cared for him. It's hard, Chris.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. I was tearing up too when I read this this morning, to think how much your father meant to you. The pictures in this particular article have pictures of you as a young boy with him doing a bar mitzvah, and he's proud. And I can only imagine what it was like to feel that, but you used it as an opportunity to share the good news of the Lord Jesus. Could you share what that moment was like? Was that the main goal, to be able to talk to your father through this outlet?
Steve Herzig: Yeah, Chris, I wanted another shot. We chose pictures of my bar mitzvah. That was a great, a bar mitzvah's a rite of passage time. But now I'm a Christian. And I'm 40 years old, my dad's 73, and in the letter I wrote, "He could have died in World War II. He had cancer, he survived that. He survived life." And we don't know how long we have, and I wanted to give him another shot. I knew he was ashamed. I knew he was embarrassed. I knew that this was his only son, I have two sisters. This was not what he thought in his latter years he would have, "My son, the Christian." Just not a good thing. But from my point of view, I believe that unless a person trusts Jesus Christ as their savior they're not going to be with God. They're going to hell. And to think about your parents spending eternity apart from God, I had no control of that but I did have control of opportunities.
And so I used it. I used my place in life as a 40-year-old thinking about what my dad had done for me. I wanted to give another opportunity. Maybe the Lord would use this. As it turned out, it didn't seem like he used it in my dad's life. But Chris, this article, I have gotten, I know you mentioned it, I've gotten people who have written to me incredible things. I had a woman who told me, "I'm estranged from my son. I read your letter. I'm writing my son a letter." And she's a Christian. I had people telling me, "This was so important for me. It was so personal." I had a Christian guy tell me his mother who's in hospice, he's writing her a letter because he just loves her and felt that a letter for her to read was better than just saying it. So God's seen fit to use the letter that I hoped would change my dad's life, and he's used it to change the lives of other people. I'm thankful.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. I love the one line that you have, and we only have a few moments here left, but you said, "Dad, because you taught me that when I believe something is right I should do it, that's the way you had lived and I agree with you wholeheartedly." And I think that's one of the reasons that you took such a bold stand for the Lord Jesus. And I loved what you did with your dad there. You gave him the credit for the man that you are today, which is just an amazing testimony, Steve.
Steve Herzig: Well, Chris, you yourself know personally, your dad passed away a believer, but he passed away. And for me, believe it or not, it's the end of the letter that was meaningful. Not the actual end of the letter, the end of the article, because I learned this from Zvi Kalisher. And you and I know Zvi, he's with the Lord. He's written at the end of Israel My Glory for years, and his parents, through no fault of their own, abandoned him because they were killed in the Holocaust. And I end the article by quoting his favorite verse. And his favorite verse was, "When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me." And I wrote that at the end to tell people who don't have fathers or mothers that God is with them. And that to me is the most encouraging thing. In Christ, even if our father and our mother forsake us, we have the Lord. Isn't that great news?
Chris Katulka: Amazing. Amen. It's the power of the gospel. That's what this entire issue is all about. I'm tearing up, Steve. I'm telling you, my friends, get your hands on this copy. You need to read Steve's letter to his father. I promise you'll be crying like I was earlier today, crying like I am right now. I'm crying like a baby here in the studio, Steve, but I really appreciate that you used this opportunity, something personal, something really personal, Steve, to connect our readers and our listeners to the power of the gospel and how it's changing people's lives right now. Thanks, Steve, for sharing that, and thanks for being on the program.
Steve Herzig: Glad to do it, Chris, thank you.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today. It was great to hear from both Lorna Simcox and Steve Herzig as our guests. Next week we begin a two-part series looking at Christ in the Psalms. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO box 904, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. One last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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