I was born in 1980 to a Jewish father and a mother who was nominally Christian. My father’s parents were Orthodox, and my mother’s father was Jewish. As a young child, religion was about holidays, and holidays were about family. So, religion was just about family having an excuse to get together and enjoy each other’s company and exchange gifts.
We celebrated the Jewish holidays with my dad’s family, and the “big one” was the seder meal. We got together with our family from Dallas. There were, and still are today, about 50-70 of my family members who gather in a hotel in Dallas to eat some stinky fish, look for some crackers in a napkin, and sing some crazy songs at the end. We had to prepare to read the four questions on the way over to Dallas. Why was this night different from all the others? I knew the answers early on. I won the race to find the afikomen about 50 percent of the time, but I never knew why it was hidden in the first place. Also, Elijah never seemed to show up, and that became a joke around the table. “Can’t believe he didn’t make it this year. Must have been some traffic on I-35.”
As I said, my mother was a nominal Christian, so we celebrated Christmas and Easter with her side of the family. Christmas was about presents, stockings, Santa and food. The sweet potatoes were great, and we always had stacks of packages to unwrap. Thanksgiving was the same as Christmas, only without the gifts. Easter was about baskets, bunnies and lots of candy that would end up making my stomach hurt the next day. There was no real meaning to the traditions we were carrying on. We just went through the motions year after year.
During high school, I was a good student and much more of a homebody than most of my friends, but my passion was golf. I kept improving and finished second in the state. Unfortunately, some of my teammates made many derogatory comments about Jews. I would tell them I was a Christian because it was easier than taking grief for being Jewish. One of my teammates (who was not anti-Semitic) was a close friend, and he was killed in an automobile accident. That got me questioning and thinking about eternity.
In 1998, I entered the fall semester as a freshman on the Texas Christian University golf team with dreams for golf, girls, and partying. The funny and fortunate thing for me was that I was terrible at all three. I say “fortunate” because I was preserved from making some really awful decisions. I wasn’t cool enough to hang with the golfers. I wasn’t cool enough to make friends with the frat guys or sorority girls. I really didn’t fit in anywhere. That was a very tough year for me. The only place that I seemed to be able to hang out was at a Bible study hosted by College Golf Fellowship (CGF). Why would I go to a place like that? My impression of Christianity at that point was an old guy with white hair, a brown suit, a yellow shirt, and glasses. Oh yeah, and he was always saying “No.” But as I attended this Bible study, I saw that Christianity might look boring, but these guys weren’t. That got me curious. These guys were Christians and they still laughed and had fun! That didn’t match up with my stereotype at all.
I still wasn’t convinced there was any merit to the philosophy or belief system of Christianity. I asked question after question. Most of the time I didn’t even wait to hear a response. I either wanted to just be heard, or I was too busy wanting to be my own boss that I rarely even listened for the response. These guys kept loving me and including me when any normal human would have been sick of me and would have stopped inviting me to hang out.
My whole life changed in the spring of 2002. By this time, I had been listening to some of the arguments for Christianity. A pretty strong case was beginning to build, but I still wasn’t convinced. Brad Payne with CGF took me to Dallas to hear a man named Dan Korem speak about the Passover, which was coming up. Dan was born in to an Orthodox Jewish home and started having questions about Judaism at the age of 18. His parents didn’t know how to handle the situation, so they sent him to the rabbi for “fixing”. After a long conversation, the rabbi decided Dan needed to become a Christian!
Well, that night in Dallas, Dan went through the seder meal from his perspective as a Jew who believes in Jesus. He explained dozens of amazing things that foreshadowed Jesus’ coming. The seder foretold of his death and his resurrection. Jesus was the Passover lamb! I understood the hiding of the matzah: middle of the three pieces taken out (Jesus), hidden (buried), found by the children, receive a reward (heaven). That night, I came to believe that Jesus was in fact the Messiah foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures.
My life has new purpose and a sense of urgency. Urgency, because if at the end of this life, there’s either heaven or hell, it’s time to tell the world. However, I’ve learned to be patient when telling others about Jesus. I recognize that God had been preparing me for some time to receive his message. It didn’t happen over night. And while the change was sudden, it took a while to get to that sudden change.
By the way, I did eventually become a pretty good golfer. In 2003 I was chosen as captain of the U.S. Palmer Cup team and I was selected to the U.S. Walker Cup team. These are the highest honors an American amateur golfer can receive. I went on to play on the PGA Tour, the Nationwide Tour, and various mini-tours across the country. I have recently left the world of professional golf to pursue my role as a husband and father with much more regularity. I live in Fort Worth, Texas, with my wife, Tori, and our two young children, Sami and Ben.
On the journey to becoming a professional golfer, I discovered something more thrilling than the fleeting fame of celebrity and tournaments. That is the fact that there is a God who loves me and cares for me, and that he wants to be involved in all the details of my life.
My hope for all reading this is that you will take a serious look at Jesus. God loves us enough to have paid our penalty for us. This is all as plain in the Hebrew Scriptures as it is in the New Testament. It’s really all one book. If you haven’t come to know the Messiah for yourself, please read the Scriptures and consider Jesus’ claims. I know that for me, a better understanding of my Jewish heritage made it simply natural for me to accept “the rest of the story.”