Israel Always: Interview w/ Author Chris Katulka
You know our host, Chris Katulka, is the man with the answers to all things Israel. Now, he’s written a book about Israel! This week Chris is in the hot seat as our special guest to talk about his new book, Israel Always: Experiencing God’s Pursuit of You Through His Chosen People.
Chris takes you behind the scenes on his writing, discussing his background and the factors that led him to pen the book that every Christian who wants to understand the Bible and Israel’s role in it better should read. By diving into Israel’s past, present, and prophetic future, he shares the wonderful story of the Jewish people, God’s love for them, and His love for you too! With relevant insight for today and biblical truth that will always matter, Israel Always will help you understand the Lord and your relationship with Him better. Enjoy Chris’s interview this week!
To learn more about Israel Always, visit foi.org/israelalways.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover.
Chris Katulka: I'm Chris Katulka.
Steve Conover: And I'd like to remind you to visit our website foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. We have something special planned for you for today's program. But before that in the news, Israel is the sixth most expensive country to live in. So in an effort to combat the high cost of living, the Israeli government announced a new set of import standards that will bring more variety to store shelves. Israelis should see more options for food, produce, cosmetics, and appliances, which will create competition and drive down prices.
Chris Katulka: Steve, here's my take. Year after year, Israel becomes more capitalistic economically, but that's not the economic philosophy the country had at its birth in 1948. Israel was very socialistic in its early years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a graduate of MIT in Boston, and actually somebody who grew up not far from here in the Philadelphia area, helped transform Israel's economy to a free market starting in the 1990s when he served as finance minister. Hopefully these new import laws will ease the financial burden many Israelis carry living in one of the most expensive countries in the world.
Steve Conover: Chris, I want to turn the tables on you and dedicate today's program to celebrating your new book for Harvest House entitled Israel Always. We'll get into the book, but I want to start by giving our listeners, especially those new to our program, insight into who you are, how you came to love Israel, and your motivation for writing Israel Always. So you're the host and teacher of this program, but it's not the only thing you do, is it here for FOI?
Chris Katulka: No, I've been associated with Friends of Israel since 2004 as an intern, and then part-time doing ministry in Dallas and then full-time in Dallas. And then when I was asked by Dr. Jim Showers to come up and to be a part of the radio ministry. But today I'm the director of North American Ministries, which means I get the great privilege of overseeing all of the outreach efforts that are going on in North America. In the US and Canada. And we have such a superb team of representatives who are serving the Jewish community and who are entering into churches and teaching about the significance of Israel and the Jewish people to believers all around the US and Canada, but also going into the Jewish community to let them know that there are Christians who love and support them biblically. And so it's really a great honor to be able to not only host the Friends of Israel Today radio program, but to also be able to lead the team that's reaching out and ministering to people all throughout North America.
Steve Conover: It's an exciting area of our North American ministries. I'd like to just take a moment here, if you could, just help our listeners understand some of the great work that's happening in North America.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, I can think of one of my colleagues, Paul Scharf, who in the course of one year in 2022 spoke 170 times all throughout the United States representing Friends of Israel, sharing about the ministry, sharing about ways that the church can get involved in Jewish ministry, and also connecting people with the Jewishness of the Bible and the promise that God made to Abraham. I think of some of our field workers like Fred and Eva Schweig who are down on college campuses in Florida who are connecting with Jewish students and sharing the good news of Jesus, the Messiah with Jew and Gentile alike. But the college that they're at in Florida actually has the largest Jewish population of college students outside of Tel Aviv, so you can imagine what that's like. It's a great place for conversations about sharing the gospel to Hanukkah basket deliveries where our representatives all around the US and Canada are knocking on doors during Hanukkah to their Jewish friends and letting them know, “Hey, we love you, we support you.”
It's actually very uncommon for a Jewish person to hear “Happy Hanukkah” from a Christian during the Christmas and Hanukkah season. And so we show up with a basket of delicious Israeli goodies to just say “Happy Hanukkah,” to show love and support for Israel and the Jewish people. And so that's really the kind of thing that we do in North American ministries to reach out not only to the church, but to our Jewish friends as well.
Steve Conover: And you are working with Holocaust survivors?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, we work with Holocaust survivors. We do bible studies with them. We go to their homes and care for them if we can in any way possible. One of the other components to our ministry is online as well. We have a new ministry called FOI Equip, where we're seeing thousands of people tune in from all around the world for Bible studies on Thursday nights. And through that it engages these believers from all around the world to maybe take another step and to consider Jewish ministry.
Steve Conover: You mentioned your early years here at FOI, but I'm guessing there's something before that that really sparked your heart for Israel. So how did you first come to learn about the significance of Israel in God's program?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, it actually still is connected to Friends of Israel because there used to be this program that they had called the Institute of Jewish Studies. It was started I believe in the 1980s. It was originally called the Institute of Biblical Studies, and I dedicated my freshman year to one year of learning the Bible from a Jewish perspective with the Friends of Israel. In fact, it was our good friend Steve Herzig, who was kind of discipling me at that time and encouraged me to do IJS. And so it was during that year, I was there to learn the Bible. I wanted to do ministry, but I didn't know what I wanted to do yet. And my friends were in IJS as well. So of course it was a nice match.
But that year the Lord really grabbed my heart because I realized something that year, and it's this, it's that the Bible is a Jewish book and I love the Bible and I love reading the Bible. And also my Savior who I love and worship and adore is Jewish. He's a Jewish Messiah. And it took a moment, but when that started to sink in and I began to realize all of these, the entire Scriptures are Jewish through and through, it made me see that most Christians don't realize this, and that's okay. I wanted to dedicate my life to teaching believers about the Jewishness of who Jesus is, the Jewishness of the Scriptures, the importance of Israel, because I believe when that happens, just as the Lord deepened my relationship with him through that teaching, I believe other Christians relationships with the Lord will deepen when they realize exactly who Jesus is, the Jewish Messiah, the King of kings, where does all that come from?
It's rooted in the Old Testament. And so those are all important aspects that really drove me to want to serve with Friends of Israel, but enlightened me to the significance of Israel in God's program.
Steve Conover: Chris, our audience can always sense your passion for the things of God and your love for Israel. And you talked a little bit about motivation, but specifically for this book, what motivated you to write Israel Always?
Chris Katulka: Well, the first motivation was at Harvest House called me and said, "Would you like to write a book about Israel?" And that was a big motivation and it was very nice of the team at Harvest House to even consider me. But I really am thankful that they asked me to write this book. I believe it was providential that God would have me write this. Because Israel Always is something that is near and dear to my heart, because it tries to show Christians that Israel isn't just a people group or a nation from the Old Testament that's stuck in the Old Testament.
And when Jesus came all that was abolished and made something completely new. In fact, the point of Israel Always is to show a continuity of God's faithfulness. That when God chose Abraham, and we actually, if you remember we've been doing a four-part series on Abraham, we just wrapped it up. We looked at the promise that God made to Abraham, that when you see how that promise works, it's not just a promise that's stuck in Genesis. It's a promise that goes all throughout the Old Testament, all throughout the New Testament, even to this very day and even into the future. So Israel Always, the thing that motivates me is the fact that God's plan for Israel and the Jewish people still stands today and has a direct effect on my life as a believer. And when I think about Israel, what hits me the most is that if God can be faithful to Israel, I can be certain that God is faithful to me and that his Word is trustworthy, because there's that tangible evidence, if you will.
Sometimes our faith needs a little sight, and Israel is that sight to our faith that God is at work. And so what motivates me to write Israel Always is the fact that my passion, I believe my calling is to connect people with the continuity of God's plan for the Jewish people.
Steve Conover: Today we are interviewing the interviewer, because Chris has written a new book and we're celebrating Israel Always, Chris's new book by Harvest House, and you can purchase your copy at foi.org/israelalways. You'll see this beautiful book there, foi.org/israelalways. Now, Chris, you break your book up into three sections, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The first part covers the biblical history of Israel through the Yom Kippur War. In between, you cover a lot of intriguing topics like the exile, Israel at the time of Jesus, the Diaspora, the Holocaust, but one topic that greatly interests me, and you spend a chapter on this, is the time between the Old and the New Testaments, often called the 400 Silent Years, but you show that the Lord was at work during the time.
Chris Katulka: This is such an important part of Scripture that's often jumped over, and I don't blame people for jumping over it because there was no inspired text that was written during these 400 years, and we're talking about the time period between Malachi and Matthew, and the only thing that a Christian has in the Scriptures between Malachi and Matthew is one tiny page that introduces you to the New Testament. It's that page in your Bible that says the New Testament. But that one page covers 400 years of history that's ultimately going to set up the environment, the world that Jesus is going to enter into at just the right time. And so when we look at those 400 years, it really gives us an idea. If you remember when you read through the New Testament, you get Pharisees, you get Sadducees, you have this religious world that Jesus is entering into. Well, where did Pharisees and Sadducees come from? They weren't in the Old Testament.
Steve Conover: Rome shows up.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, Rome appears out of nowhere, and then you also have these people being called rabbis. You don't have rabbis in the Old Testament. Where does all that come from? All of that is developed in those 400 years of history? I always tell people, a lot changes in 400 years. I mean, think about technology in the last 50 years of our life. I know my wife's grandmother was born I think in 1919, and to think of what the technology that she saw develop, she lived to be a hundred years old. Just think of all the changes that happened in 100 years, 400 years though, God was at work in that time period, developing the world for Jesus to enter into at just the right time.
And so those 400 years become incredibly important to how we understand Jesus, how we understand the Jewish people, how we understand who he was speaking to, who he was criticizing. If you notice, Jesus never criticizes Rome. He actually criticizes his own people. Why is that? Well, all of that is developed during that time period between Malachi and Matthew. I think that's an incredibly important part of history. It's called the Silent Years, because there was no revelation given from God, but that doesn't mean that God wasn't acting in developing and shaping the world for the coming of Jesus.
Steve Conover: Does that period also give us insight into some of the ideas about who the Messiah would be? Even his followers seem to have different understandings of who they expected him to be?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. There's that great saying when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of man is?” And they all have a different opinion. “Oh, some say Jeremiah, some say it's John the Baptist.” Yet there, the thing that's important to understand is during those 400 years, there was a lot of Jewish writings coming out that help us actually understand what the Jewish people were thinking during that time, and there were Jewish people, leading up to the birth of Jesus in that time period, who were writing about the coming of the Messiah. They were writing about their expectations of the kingdom. They were writing about Gentile oppression, all of these things that are being developed and leading up to the coming of Jesus, even to the point where there was no Hanukkah in Malachi's day, but when you get to Matthew, you get to Mark and Luke and John here we see Jesus celebrating Hanukkah. That all gets developed during that time.
Steve Conover: In the second section of your book, you talk about Israel today, one of the chapters is about the miracle of Israel. This section goes into the incredible advancements being made in Israel right now. Why is this important to our understanding of Israel?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, there is a great line that Golda Meir said. She was a prime minister of Israel there during the development of the modern state of Israel. Very influential woman. And she basically joked and said something along the lines of “Moses could have brought us to anywhere in the Middle East, but he brought us to the only place in the Middle East where there is no oil.” And it's true. Israel didn't have oil for many, many, many decades, but there's Saudi Arabia and those Gulf countries that live off of that energy and make a living off of it. So Israel, in the face of opposition, had to live not on the easy oil that's coming up from the ground, but on the ability to work in adversity, which means to learn and to grow and to take the education that they have.
They really value education and to develop technology that not only benefits them, but benefits the world. One piece of technology that I talk about in the book is drip irrigation, you know would never think about this, but drip irrigation was actually invented by the Israelis, and it's because they noticed that there was a crack in a pipe in the desert and water was dripping and there was a tree that was growing in the desert, and this one man, his name was Simcha Blass, he decided, this is amazing. If just a little bit of water can make a whole tree grow, what would it be like if we spread this all throughout the desert? And because of that, the deserts in Israel bloom. And that technology has been spread to Third World countries where there's very little water to develop crops for people who are living in Third World countries. That's just one. But even down to your cell phone, your computer, all of these things, Israel's not only a spiritual blessing to people around the world, it's also a physical blessing to people.
Steve Conover: Before we wrap up, I want to spend a little time in the last section of your book. It's where you cover the possibility of peace in Israel Sunday and the connection to Bible prophecy. What is the connection there?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, it's a tough one. There's tension, because what we're seeing develop today is a new Middle East. I write about this in the book and I talk about the fact that the Trump administration definitely changed the outlook of the Middle East. Israel has strategic partners in the Middle East now with countries like the United Arab Emirates, even Saudi Arabia. These countries that were once considered absolute enemies, would never partner with Israel are all of a sudden strategic allies and security. They trade ambassadors. Israelis are flying to Qatar for vacation. You would never think you'd see those kind of days coming, but here they are.
But at the same time, there's still this tension in the Middle East against Israel. On the high levels of leadership, there is real peace happening, but when you get down into Main Street in the cities of UAE or Egypt or Jordan, the reality is that there's still an animosity toward Israel and there's still an animosity toward the Jewish people and antisemitism. And we have polls that prove that through and through. And so is there peace today? Yeah, there's an amazing peace that's going on, but there's still a tension in the Middle East, which still means we're waiting for the ultimate peace to come. We're waiting for the Prince of peace to arrive, and that's why we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Because honestly, as I say in the book, only peace can come globally, not just in the Middle East, but globally.
When Jesus sits on his throne, and he's not sitting on his throne in Philadelphia or DC or London or Paris or Shanghai or Singapore, he's coming to Jerusalem. That's why Israel matters. When Jesus returns, he's coming back. It says in Acts chapter one, “In the same way you watched him depart as he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father,” it says, “He will return in the same way.” Which means he's coming back to the Mount of Olives, he's coming back to Jerusalem. That's incredibly important for how we understand what God is going to do in the future kingdom and how peace will reign. Shalom will reign through the whole world because Jesus is coming back. That's something I talk about and Israel plays a major role in that as well.
Steve Conover: And I would say that's one reason why prophecy plays a major part in our organization's teaching.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, exactly. Israel is connected to God's biblical plan for the future. That's why the devil hates the church and there's Christian persecution, and that's why even today in America, antisemitism is on the rise and you see hatred toward the Jewish people. Why is that? Because Satan hates whatever God loves and God has a plan for the church and God has a plan for Israel and all of that matters.
Steve Conover: Well, thank you, Chris. I enjoyed this so much. To purchase Israel Always or to learn more about the book, visit foi.org/israelalways. There you can see a video interview Chris did with our director of marketing and communication, Karen Katulka, who incidentally also happens to be, as you might have guessed, Chris's wife. You can visit foi.org/israelalways. I encourage you to purchase this book.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Here in Israel, the people are very tired of war as I am. Russian immigrants living here want to know how we can live in a country that has been so long without peace? "Don't you grow tired?" They asked. "Yes, I am tired of war.” I replied, “but I have peace in my heart." They wondered how this could be when we don't know what tomorrow will bring. “How can we have peace in our hearts? It is impossible.” I told them it is possible, but if you want peace, you must first let the peace of God rule in your heart. "How can this be?" They asked. "How can we know that God is in our hearts?" "Pray in His name and you will see God change your life." "How can we know that God is in our hearts?" "Pray in His name and you will see God change your life as he did mine."
You will receive blessings from above because it is written, "Without me he can't do nothing." They asked me how I came to know all of this and I responded. "I came to believe through faith in the Lord Jesus. It is the fact that without him, we cannot have peace in our hearts, in our homes or in the streets with our friends." "How do you know that this is true?" That questioned. "Did God speak to you?" "Oh yes." I answered. "Through his Word. God is my Father and when I pray to him, I find rest and have great joy in my heart. If you have joy, you will also have peace." The conversation continued and I shared with him that the Lord has given me peace and great happiness. No one else can give these things except him. I gave them each a Russian Bible and told them that everything they wanted to know could be found there.
They were happy to receive the Bibles and promised to read them. I told them to pray to the Lord for understanding, for without the Holy Spirit's guidance, we cannot comprehend anything. "Zvi" they asked, "are you a Christian?" "Yes." I replied, "I am a Hebrew Christian." "Ah, now we know to whom we are speaking." They said, "How can you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Is this possible? If so, can you prove it?" "Yes,” I answered. "It's possible." In Genesis 1:26, "God said, let us make man in our image." Jesus was a man. In Psalm 2:7, God said, "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee." These things are in our scriptures. "Why have we lived so long without receiving him as our savior?" They asked. "That is a good question." I replied, "Many times Moses told God that his chosen people were stiff necked, but God in his mercy gave his only begotten son to die for our sins and to rise again. Through Him we can receive forgiveness of our sins."
"But if we receive Jesus as our savior, we will no longer be Jewish." They argued. "Look at me." I told them. "I believe in Jesus and yet I am still a Jew. In fact, I have served in the Israeli army since 1948 and have gone through all the difficult times. I am doing the very best I can for my country. I try to give my testimony to all those who have never heard about the Lord. It's only through him that we can receive blessing." These men were extremely interested in our conversation and in my faith in the Lord Jesus, which brought about such a change in my life. I feel that the Lord is speaking to them. It is my prayer that they will come to know him as their Savior and Lord.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life and ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine and clothing and we even promote the safety and security of the state of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. So when you give to The Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you'll check out Chris's new book, Israel Always at our website, foi.org/israelalways. You can read a sample chapter or purchase a copy at foi.org/israelalways.
Chris Katulka: Steve, next week we're going to be back in our Israel My Glory In Depth episode. We're actually going to be looking at our most recent issue of Israel My Glory, which is called, There is a Certain People: A Biblical Look at Antisemitism. Now also, listen, even the most faithful believers have questions about the Bible, do you? Well, guess what? You're not alone. That's why I want you to join us on March 10th and 11th for our free Lookup Virtual Conference where we're going to Unravel the Mysteries of the Bible, from the Signs of Christ coming to the Millennial Kingdom. Learn more by going to lookup.foi.org.
Steve Conover: 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. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And I'll give you 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.
Israel Always is a sweeping journey through Israel’s prolific history, its modern-day influence, and its promised future, highlighting the continuous throughline of God’s provision for His people. Insightful and informative, Israel Always will enrich your understanding of the Bible, enhance your appreciation for Israel, and elevate your awareness of God’s steadfast love for all His people—including you—today.
Apples of Gold: Why Have We Lived So Long Without Him?
Peace is something all are looking for in Israel. While Zvi was talking to Russian immigrants, they asked him how he had been able to live in Israel for so long without peace. Zvi was able to use his experience in Israel and the wars he had been a part of to show how the One who gives peace that passes all understanding is available to all men. Although Zvi was often met with opposition when sharing his faith with others, this time was much different.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us to continue proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.