When Brothers Don’t Get Along

On December 4, 2015, the B’Ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas, for the purpose of bringing together people in the central part of the United States to seek YHVH’s direction about His Kingdom work at this time.  The initial concept was to continue in the spirit of the First B’Ney Yosef National Congress in the interest of building Ephraimite (Israelite) identity among believers in Messiah Yeshua.  The Holy Spirit quickly expanded that concept into a call for repentance within the Hebrew Roots/Two House movement and reconciliation with other parts of the body of Messiah, particularly with our Christian brethren.  That was the motivation for this address which opened the conference.

BFB151204 MNF-IThe best boss I ever had was the man under whose supervision I served the last time I was in Iraq.  He was also the most profane man I have ever met.  The name of Jesus Christ was for him but one weapon in a formidable arsenal of expletives.  Not a single day passed that some outrage did not fall from his lips, causing my ears to burn and my heart to wonder how long I would have to endure such offense.  And yet I continued in his service, not merely because I had no choice (both of us, after all, were soldiers assigned to serve together), but because God gave me grace to look beyond the offense to see and benefit from the substantial qualities he possessed.  Those qualities included an encyclopedic knowledge of intelligence functions and procedures based on decades of hard experience.  He possessed as well a dogged determination to persevere through all opposition and achieve success in whatever goal he or his superiors established.  That determination sprang from his undying loyalty to the United States of America, and to his belief in the ultimate good of our mission in Iraq.  Yet none of that would have mattered in the least had this man lacked the greatest quality of all:  he regarded every person as having intrinsic value, and as a potential ally in achieving the goals set before him.  He may have spoken roughly, and even in private moments vented his frustration and anger, but he never diminished the value of the human beings in his charge, nor of those under whom he served.

We had occasion to work with military and civilian officials from a number of services and agencies.  Whether they were Army like us, or Marines, Air Force, or Navy, they were all “great Americans” in my boss’s opinion – if for no other reason than because they had volunteered to wear the uniform and be deployed to a Middle Eastern war zone.  He could not call our British, Australian, and German colleagues “great Americans”, but he did hold them in high esteem – while at the same time recognizing that the highest priorities for each of them were the interests of their own nations, not those of the United States.  The true professionals among us, regardless of nationality, recognized this.  We knew that at times there would be questions we could not ask and answers we could not give, but whenever and wherever possible we helped one another.

That “great American” description did extend to the civilian intelligence professionals we encountered.  Those men and women represented nearly all of the 16 agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  The ones you would expect were all there:  each of the agencies of the military services, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State Department.  Our office dealt mostly with the CIA, whom my boss lovingly called, “Klingons”.  Like our foreign counterparts, they, and all the other intelligence agencies, had their own priorities which were not necessarily the same as ours in the Department of Defense.  Their vision of how to support the national interests of the United States sometimes clashed with ours, and the means and resources at their disposal often put them at an advantage over us.  We had much reason to distrust them, but we had even more reason to work with them – just as the Start Trek heroes found reason to cooperate with the Klingons to defeat their common enemies.

We laugh at the description of the CIA as Klingons, but long before I arrived in Iraq I understood exactly what my boss meant.  Early in my tenure in Washington, DC, I had occasion to work with the CIA on a joint project.  Most of the people with whom I worked were intelligence analysts, people not very different from myself.  They were well educated, often from privileged backgrounds, highly academic (a reflection of the CIA culture), and professionally courteous.  As part of our project we had to consult with a different type of CIA employee.  This person was not an analyst.  Intelligence analysts look at information from various sources and put it together in different ways to understand what it means.  They are the friendly face of the CIA.  There is another face, however, and it is not very friendly.  That face belongs to the operators, the men and women who go about the difficult business of collecting the information.  They are consummate professionals, very good at what they do, but they are not the kind of people you would want in your social circle.  Quite often the name by which they introduce themselves is not the name their parents gave them at birth.  In the course of their duties they will have to do some questionable things, and perhaps even some very unpleasant things, to acquire information their agency has commissioned them to gain.

This was the kind of person with whom we met in that office on the CIA campus in Langley, Virginia long ago.  He was an impressive man, and one whom I admired for his courage and devotion to his country.  I could tell without asking that he had suffered much personal loss in service to the nation, and that my own poor service paled in comparison to his.  Yet we could not be friends, and we would have difficulty working together as colleagues.  His world was one I could not enter, and my world was one he would not find comfortable.  Nevertheless, my work could not continue without him, and without me his work would have no meaning.  That is why I have never forgotten the man, although our paths have never crossed since that day.

BFB151204 US Intelligence CommunityWhat would happen if this vast intelligence community in the service of the United States of America ceased to function as designed?  What if the various individuals and organizations within it forgot that they were all Americans, and instead placed their own personal agendas, or the name and reputation of their own agencies and services, above the interests of the country?  That is not a rhetorical question; I can tell you what would happen.  I have seen it.  What happens is a fragmentation of the national intelligence establishment. 

For the most part that establishment consists of good, honest people trying to do the best they can with limited resources and time.  They have a tendency to focus exclusively on the work right in front of them, whether it is office administration, counterterrorism analysis, national technical means of information collection, the number of tanks in the Russian Far Eastern Military District, or poppy production in Afghanistan.  They forget that there is a wider world out there, and that their work is but one small piece in a very, very big puzzle.  It does not take much to convince them that their piece is the most important.  Once convinced, it is but a small step toward competing with others to gain a greater share of attention and resources.  Having entered that arena, it is nothing to begin pushing others aside in ever more aggressive ways, taking resources and people away from them so that one’s own piece of the puzzle grows in size and importance, and the competitors’ pieces shrink, or disappear altogether.  In time the picture that emerges is distorted at best, magnifying certain things to the extreme, diminishing others, and ignoring important bits that would otherwise tie together the seemingly contradictory reports from various sources.  That is the picture which goes before high level decision makers like the commanders of our forces in the Middle East, and even the President himself.  Is it any wonder, therefore, that we have national disasters such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?

My lesson from this should be clear.  National defense is a team effort.  I know my part of the effort, and my job is to do it to the best of my ability.  I do not know most of the millions of others involved in the effort, nor do I understand what they do.  I could not do what most of them do, nor could most of them do what I do.  Very few of them could be considered my friends, and most of them would probably never want to associate with me anyway.  Nevertheless, we need each other:  every warrior, every clerk, every mechanic, every technician, every lawyer, every cook, every aviator, every logistician, every sanitation worker.  If we do not find a way to cooperate, then this living, breathing organism we call the National Defense Establishment will fail, and with its failure the United States of America fails.

Is this any different from the living, breathing organism known as the Body of Messiah?

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Fox Byte 5775 #38: Korach (Korah)

קֹרַח

Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.  After the painting by J. Mund.  (Illustration from Beacon Lights of History, Vol. XI, "American Founders.", John Lord, LL.D., London, 1902).  Accessed on Wikimedia Commons.)
Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. After the painting by J. Mund. (Illustration from Beacon Lights of History, Vol. XI, “American Founders.”, John Lord, LL.D., London, 1902).  Accessed on Wikimedia Commons.)

What would happen if the Vice President of the United States committed murder and got away with it?  It is not a rhetorical question; such a thing happened long ago, in the early days of the American Republic.  On July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed fellow New Yorker Alexander Hamilton.  The two had been adversaries for several years, and eventually their enmity resulted in a duel at a neutral site in Weehawken, New Jersey.  It is unclear who fired first, but it is certain that Hamilton fell mortally wounded, dying the next day in New York City.  Burr fled, facing charges of murder both in New York and New Jersey, but later returned to the city of Washington to complete his tenure as Vice President.  In time the charges of murder were dropped, but Burr’s political career was over.  Thoroughly disgraced and out of favor with President Thomas Jefferson, he moved to the West in search of new opportunities.

The American frontier in those days separated the United States from the Empire of Spain in Florida and along a continental-sized line from Louisiana to what would become the Oregon Territory.  It did not take long for an enterprising man like Aaron Burr to create opportunities for himself, whether legal or not.  It is said that he intrigued with Spanish and American officials on a scheme to separate Mexico from Spain and the western territories from the United States and establish a new empire with himself as its chief.  Although the full extent of Burr’s plans will never be known, there was enough truth to the allegations of intrigue to result in his arrest and prosecution by the Jefferson Administration on charges of treason.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, personally presided over the famous trial in August 1807.  The Chief Justice had instructed the jury that conviction required testimony by two witnesses to a specific, overt act.  When the prosecution could not meet that standard, the jury declared Burr not guilty.

Aaron Burr, 3rd Vice President of the United States, by John Vanderlyn.
Aaron Burr, 3rd Vice President of the United States, by John Vanderlyn.

In the election of 1800 Aaron Burr had come within a whisker of winning the presidency.  By 1808 he was a political outsider living in exile.  By 1812 he had returned to the United State, but he never returned to power.  His family, his law practice, and his health deteriorated over the remaining years of his life as he watched his nation grow in size and power without him.  Although endowed with considerable gifts and abilities to govern, his grasp for power ensured that his legacy would not be as one of America’s great men, but as a byword, a legal precedent, and a footnote in history.  Yet from him, perhaps, we can learn something more about what Yeshua of Nazareth meant by His cryptic observation:

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  (Matthew 11:12 NASB)

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Comment on Peter Vest’s Review of Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell

BFB150428 Orthodox Messianic Judaism - Mt SinaiRecently Peter Vest, author of Orthodox Messianic Judaism, reviewed my book, Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell.  His is the first critical review of which I am aware.  Critical, that is, but not scathing.  His perspective provides ample opportunity for discussion and refinement of our understanding, and much room for agreement.  Peter invited me to comment on his review, and I am glad to accept the invitation in hope of advancing a very useful dialogue.  Here is his review.  My comments follow.


My Review and Response to McCarn’s “Give Me a Place Where I May Dwell”

Posted on Orthodox Messianic Judaism, April 19, 2015

by Peter Vest

I just finished reading a book that is attempting to do for the Ephraimite Movement what Theodor Herzl’s book “Der Judenstaat” did for Zionism.  Some of what it says is good…other portions are very troubling indeed.

First, here’s the author, Albert McCarn:

110811 AJM DA Photo

As you can see, he is a well-decorated ex-military officer.  And we can all be very thankful for his many years of service to our country.

Here’s the book which, you will note, displays a proposed national flag for the Ephraimite Nation:

Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell is a meticulously researched book that makes a compelling biblical and contemporary case for building a global consciousness among Hebrew Roots believers—and eventually finding a homeland for these Ephraimites in Israel.

So let’s get into it.

Every book is about a problem and a proposed solution.  This book frames the problem something like this:

You very well could be a descendant of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel which means that you’re living in exile from your homeland (the tribal territories of the Northern Tribes of Israel), deprived of a sense of national community with your people–the Ephraimites, suffering from the onslaught of increasingly hostile, anti-Biblical culture in your host country or even outright oppression.

But there is hope for you to rejoin your lost community and reclaim your birthright to the Northern Tribal Territory of Israel:

You can help restore national consciousness to Ephraim by (1) envisioning the kinship you share with other Ephraimites all over the world and (2) joining many others in a mass exodus from all of their various host countries as they embark on an epic quest to reclaim the “land of the fathers.”

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Fox Byte 5775 #26: Shmini (Eighth)

שְּׁמִינִי

Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice by Alan Rickman) escorts Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, a prototype ship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  (Photo:  TheGuardian.com)
Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice by Alan Rickman) escorts Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, a prototype ship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Photo: TheGuardian.com)

The problem with great satire is that it can be so irreverent.  Then again, that is the strength of satire:  using humor and ridicule to point out something (usually a shortcoming, hypocrisy, or vice) often overlooked in the routine of living.  Satire can be cruel, and thus must be used with great caution.  If employed properly, it moves the audience to laugh loudly in genuine humor at their own or their society’s expense, and plants seeds for reflection that hopefully will bloom into motivation for positive change.

Or perhaps not.  Sometimes humor exists only for humor.  That is one way to consider the works of Douglas Adams, the late English author best known for his satirical science fiction works, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It is quite possible that Adams and I could have been good friends, although our worldviews would have generated a continuous wrestling match between us.  To the end of his life he remained utterly convinced in the nonexistence of a Creator, even as I am utterly convinced that there is no god but YHVH.  And yet I can appreciate his masterful use of the English language, his clever story lines, and his penetrating wit, all of which he employed to point out things worthy of our consideration.  Here is one example from the first Hitchhiker’s Guide novel:

The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.  For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?.

This is Adams at his best, using seemingly trivial questions with simple answers to provoke a deeper level of inquiry on the very nature and meaning of human existence.  Perhaps he would be surprised to learn that the Lord God does the very same thing.  The small, simple, seemingly insignificant things are what He uses to test our hearts, to discipline us, and to mature us so we can exercise greater responsibility, and all the time He magnifies His glory through us and through these processes.  Thus, when it comes to distinctions between believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the differences usually are much smaller than we may think.  Consider, for example, the attitudes of believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) regarding the Law, or Torah, of God.  To define this difference, we can use the same pattern Douglas Adams used by asking three simple questions:

When are we to worship God?

How are we to worship God?

What does God say is food?

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A House Divided

In June 1858, at his nomination as candidate for the Senate from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln invoked the words of Yeshua in admonition to his fractured nation that "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  His warning is one that followers of Yeshua should heed.  (Photo:  Gregory F. Maxwell, via Wikimedia Commons.)
In June 1858, at his nomination as candidate for the Senate from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln invoked the words of Yeshua in admonition to his fractured nation that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” His warning is one that followers of Yeshua should heed. (Photo: Gregory F. Maxwell, via Wikimedia Commons.)

What happens when the Holy Spirit enlightens us to some deeper truth of Scripture?  In my experience, there is a profound sense of awe at the greatness of our Creator, followed by heartfelt expressions of thanks and praise, and then by petitions for grace on how to apply the newly learned truth.  Then comes the urge to share this truth with others.  When they get it and grasp the revelation, then of joy enhance our fellowship as this new bit of learning strengthens our connection to each other and to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But what if they do not get it?  What if those with whom we share this newfound truth not only fail to see it, but have no desire to hear anything about it?  What if they reject the messenger because the message conflicts with their perception of God and His reality?  How is a disciple of Yeshua to act in such cases?  Tragically, our answer all too often is to break fellowship with the “unenlightened” and move on our own path.  That is how divisions begin, and that is how the heart of Holy God is broken and grieved.

These are the questions Ken Rank addresses in the article reproduced below.  A major thrust of Ken’s calling is to facilitate cooperation within the Body of Messiah and with our brethren of Judah to smooth the way for YHVH’s work in restoring His Kingdom.  This is an Elijah task of the first order, lifting up every valley and making every rough place plane to prepare the highway of our God.  May the Lord communicate His desires for the shape and work of His entire Body as you read Ken’s article, recently posted on Messianic Publications.

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