Jewish People Telling Their Stories
Testimony of Daniel Muller
The last thing I ever wanted to be was a Jew who believed in Yeshua, the Hebrew way to say Jesus. However, what I wanted and what God wanted were two different things!
I was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario to Jewish parents. We were actively involved in the Conservative synagogue there. I was circumcised, went to Cheder (Hebrew School), had my Bar Mitzvah, and attended Shabbat services weekly from the time I was six or seven years old until I was well into my teens. As I got older, however, I noticed a discrepancy between the relationship to God as spoken of in the prayer books and Hebrew Scriptures and what I saw around me. The prayer books talked of a God who loved us, and who we were to love. In the congregation I grew up in, though, I saw little to reinforce the importance of a relationship with God, or even to reinforce an actual belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I had no doubt of a spiritual world around me, but I began to doubt that it was centered around the God of the Bible. As I reached my late teens and early twenties, I began a spiritual quest which took me far from God. It began with my first university class – a philosophy course that surveyed many different belief systems, including the Eastern philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism, which attracted me. It was from there that I began to develop a New Age spirituality based on eastern philosophies, my own imaginings and, eventually, occult practices (Tarot reading, candle magic, Ouija board, etc.). I was Eastern in belief and pagan in practice.
In my early twenties, I also became heavily involved in theatre, using the art of the actor to give me a sense of spiritual fulfillment. Acting was an outlet for me to deal with the emptiness I felt inside. Reading, music, gaming – I tried so many ways to comfort the spiritual gap I felt, but none of it was enough to make me feel spiritually fulfilled.
At 26, I married my first wife: it was a union that would last six years, and which became quite rocky. I confess that I was not mature enough to do a good job as a husband although, like all marriages, there were mistakes on both sides. I was intrinsically a selfish and self-centered individual, full of pride and unable to be magnanimous to others. The marriage broke up, thankfully with no children to complicate matters. By then, I was living in Toronto and struggling to find work.
By the time I was 32, I had under my belt a botched attempt at university, a failed marriage, no career, and I seemed to be going nowhere. I was not unhappy, but at the same time, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, I felt something was missing.
It was around then that I met a Christian woman who began telling me about Jesus. I didn’t believe in God, let alone Jesus. “Even if I did believe in God,” I said, “you can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus.” I began to ask her all kinds of questions to prove how stupid Christianity was and how brilliant my own worldview was. Her responses were surprisingly compelling, and led to more questions that brought about more compelling answers. Eventually, my scathing questions intended as ridicule became genuine questions seeking understanding.
I started to read the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures, referred to often as the Old Testament), and saw many places where they talked of a Messiah whose promised coming could only be filled by Yeshua. I began to read the B’rit Hadashah (the New Testament), and saw the Jewishness of Jesus and its congruency with the Tanakh.
One day, while driving up Yonge Street in Toronto, I caught myself doing something which surprised me. I was talking to God. I remember saying to myself, “Wait – you don’t believe in God!” That was when I recognized that, while my head was saying one thing, my heart was saying something else. I decided to determine which was right. I look back at that moment now and recognize the hand of God’s Holy Spirit upon me. It was from that point that I began to turn from skeptical questioner to earnest seeker for the truth about Jesus.
That Christian lady I’d given such a hard time to about her faith was herself struggling with how she was walking before God. She was not doing it well, and she knew it. She also was aware that she should not have been dating me since I was not a believer in Jesus like her, but she did so anyway. She also knew, a few years later, that she should not marry me for the same reasons, but she did. There is ample warning from the Word of God that believers in Jesus should not marry non-believers, but I am so happy that my wife, Lynda, did so. God used her to bless me with the knowledge of God, and in so doing, God used me to bless her by forcing her to go back into the Word and become more convicted of His truths.
Eventually, I started going to a church with Lynda. At that time, she was pregnant with our oldest son, Aaron. My experience at the church was so different from my experience with the synagogue I grew up in. There was no doubt that God was a real presence to these people. They were quite genuine in their love and worship of Him and in their love and care for each other. They seemed to have something special, even though they had their share of troubles and concerns. Their pastor helped as I tried to understand the things that I was reading about in Scripture. For that first year I spent at the church, I came to really like Jesus and appreciate the things He taught.
There came a point, near the end of that year, when I recognized that I wanted to have what these people had, but I also understood that I could not have what they had till I knew what they knew. I had come back to faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but, as much as I liked Jesus and His teachings, I could not reconcile the idea that he was God. That was, after all, a central belief of my Jewish upbringing, but I also acknowledged that Christ was a central part of what made these wonderful church people so special.
To complicate matters, during that year at the church, I had three quite remarkable dreams. Now, I seldom remember dreaming, let alone remembering the dreams I have. Those that I do recall quickly fade from memory, but not these three dreams. They were so clear that when I immediately woke from each one, I had trouble discerning what was dream and what was reality. There was a tingling all over my body for several minutes. What’s more, each dream had a spiritual component that made me recognize that these images were special. Someone was knocking at the door of my heart.
Then came the fateful night of October 31st, 1998. It was Halloween, and the trick or treaters were safely back home. Lynda and I were both lying in bed, reading. I was perusing a book that the Pastor had loaned to me. The section I was reading at the time had the prophecies from the Tanakh, and their fulfillments in Yeshua. While going through these, I came across Jeremiah 31:31-34 which begins, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” It suddenly popped into my head that Yeshua was that new covenant through whom the Jewish people would be blessed. Suddenly, it was like there was a whirlwind in my head, and all the information I had been gaining over the last six years was suddenly put into perspective, like God was taking the pieces of a puzzle and putting them together before my very eyes.
I do not know if it was five seconds or five minutes but, at the end of it, I came to understand who Yeshua was, and what He meant to me. I recognized how He was God come as man (not man becoming God) to sacrifice Himself for my salvation. I came to see that he was real and alive and longing for me. I came to understand all that the Word of God said about Him and about God’s plan for my life and for the world.
However, even though God showed me these truths, I still struggled. I tossed and turned all that night, not saying a word to my wife who was lying right next to me. After all, I am Jewish! I recognized that to have a relationship with God through Yeshua was to cause problems. How would it affect the relationship with my family? How would it affect my relationship with my Jewish friends – and my other friends who did not believe? It was a momentous choice. Culture, family ties, my social network: all gave me reason to hold back.
It just so happened that the next day was a Sunday. As usual, Lynda and I went to adult Sunday school before service. During that time, as the pastor taught, I recognized that what he was teaching was clearer and more understandable than it ever had been before, helping me to recognize the genuineness of this transformation of understanding about Messiah Yeshua. I purposed to go immediately to the pastor after class to talk to him about what had happened and what I should do about it.
At the same time, however, there were still all these objections going around in my head. “It’s 20 minutes before service…. not a good time for the pastor.” “Anyway, what’s your rush? Let’s just think about it for a couple of weeks.” “What are my parents going to say if I believe in Yeshua? And the rest of the family?” So many reasons to hold off on the matter! But then a voice within me cried out,” No! I have found salvation, and I want it now!” it was like a door slammed on all those other niggling voices, and they were silenced.
So, on November 1st, 1998, at the age of 38, I prayed to God, confessing my sinfulness and my yearning to turn away from it. I asked Christ to come into my life, that I might serve the Lord through Him who died on the cross that I might have forgiveness of sins. I recognized and accepted Messiah Yeshua as both my Saviour and my Lord.
As I write this, twenty years have passed. I don’t feel any less Jewish for believing in Yeshua who is, after all, my Jewish Messiah, but my life has turned around. I still have challenges with self-centeredness, but I have become a much better person – and that not by effort but by the transforming power of Messiah in me. He has given me a wonderful marriage, because He made me a better, if not a perfect, husband. He has given me two wonderful boys, now young men. Through my relationship with them, and they with me, I have had a better understanding of my relationship to God, my Father in heaven.
In January 2000, I began going to Tyndale Bible College where I received a Bachelor of Religious Education degree. Furthermore, I have been blessed by God to serve him in an ever-increasing capacity. For 13 years now, I have brought the message of the good news of Messiah Yeshua to my own Jewish people, first through the ministry of Jews for Jesus and then as director of New Covenant Forum. I was ordained as an assistant pastor by that first church, Scarborough Baptist, in 2006 and served on staff from 2011 till I left in 2017. Since June of 2017, I have been blessed to pastor Parkland Baptist Church in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
All my accomplishments are because of God. From a college drop-out with no prospects, He created a servant of the Lord. He changed me, and He uses me to His glory, and I have truly been blessed as I have followed Him. By serving the Lord, I have had more and more opportunities to study the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, and am more convinced than ever that the most Jewish thing a Jewish person can do is to believe in their Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus. It is only the lack of understanding of Scripture and of our God-ordained faith that prevents so many of my Jewish people from meeting Him and receiving Him, and I pray that this testimony will bring many to seek and understand.