Israel 2016: The Kind Face in the Hijab

For three consecutive days in this Holy Land called Israel I have become acquainted with the immense progress of YHVH’s Kingdom plans.  Over that same period I have become acquainted with how utterly inadequate I am in this process.

Inadequate?  Yes.  Indispensable?  No. 

Jerusalem's Light Rail, venue for more miracles than can one might expect.
Jerusalem’s Light Rail, venue for more miracles than one might expect.

Moses, by his own confession, was inadequate, and the Almighty did not deny his protests.  Yet no one would argue that Moses was indispensable in the process of bringing our ancient people out of Egypt in the First Exodus.  So am I no less indispensable to this process of bringing home the rest of YHVH’s covenant people.

The truth is that everyone is indispensable.  Each man, woman, and child who steps up to the high calling of bringing tangible reality to the Creator’s Kingdom is indispensable.  Each one who shirks that call diminishes the Kingdom in ways that at the moment only the angels know – and weep over.

As I am learning, this is not simply a Christian kingdom, nor a Jewish kingdom, nor a Messianic or Hebrew Roots kingdom, but the Commonwealth of Israel instituted by Holy God.  His revelation comes in multiple pieces and levels and ways.  It comes to Jews, Christians, Hebraic believers in Yeshua, and many others we may not now recognize as fellow Israelites.  It is bigger than we think, but its glory wanes when we think we have it figured out and insist that others endorse our singular view of it.

It is a miraculous Kingdom.  Perhaps not the miraculous that we may expect, such as oceans dividing to make a dry path, or mountains crumbling, or masses of sick people instantly healed.  Those miracles have, do now, and will occur.  Yet the miracles all around us are hardly recognized as such today.  I lived through one a few nights ago, when ten of us Hebrew believers of Christian backgrounds shared a fine supper in the Orthodox Jewish sukka of my new friend Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz.  

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In Memory of Someone I Never Met

Haruka Weiser, 1997-2016. (Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert / Dance West, via CNN.com)
Haruka Weiser, 1997-2016. (Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert / Dance West, via CNN.com)

About 6,000 years ago, so the Scriptures tell us, our first ancestors chose to put their trust in their own senses rather than in the counsel of the Creator Who made them.  How else do we explain the statement that our first mother, upon examining the fruit of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise”?  Why else would her husband, our first father, take the sample of the fruit she gave him and join her in a forbidden snack (Genesis 3:6-7)?  In that moment their judgment trumped the word of the Almighty, and instead of inhaling the life He had breathed into them, they embraced the death He warned would follow their disregard of Him (Genesis 2:15-17).  In a very real sense, by choosing to be their own gods, they separated themselves from the only Source of life and made a covenant with death.

This is the account I believe as to why this world is so messed up.  Others may not believe it, but they can at least agree that we reap the bitter fruit of the bad choices made by our fathers and mothers extending back to time immemorial.  Our agreement is cemented in shared grief and suffering when that bitter fruit robs us of a human package of abundant gifts just waiting to bless the world.

Such was Haruka Juliana Tsunemine Weiser.

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Fox Byte 5775 #53: Ha’azinu (Give Ear)

הַאְַזִינוּ

In this scene from Empire of the Sun, Jim (Christian Bale) sings the Welsh lullaby Suo Gân in tribute to Japanese kamikaze pilots. The song of hope and of peace carries him through the tribulation of war. (Video via YouTube)
In this scene from Empire of the Sun, Jim (Christian Bale) sings the Welsh lullaby Suo Gân in tribute to Japanese kamikaze pilots. The song of hope and of peace carries him through the tribulation of war. (Video via YouTube)

The one element of Steven Spielberg’s movies which has remained just beneath my consciousness for nearly thirty years is not his stunning cinematography or compelling drama.  It is a song; a simple Welsh melody which carries us through Empire of the Sun.  We first hear Suo Gân (Lullaby) as the movie opens.  British choir boys sing it in church in the compound reserved for foreigners living in Shanghai.  The soloist is Jamie (Christian Bale), a boy of about 10.  He is British by birth, but he has never set foot on his parents’ homeland.  Jamie’s family live as privileged foreigners have lived ever since China capitulated in the First Opium War a century before.  They take no notice of the Chinese except where their own wants and needs are concerned.  Jamie, a son of privilege, knows no other way than to lord it over the natives beneath his station.

Change comes quickly when the Japanese attack.  China and Japan have been at war for years, but Shanghai is undisturbed until December 8, 1941.  As America’s Pacific Fleet burns in Pearl Harbor, Japan’s legions occupy Shanghai.  Jamie’s family flees, but in the confusion he is separated from his parents and left to fend for himself, eventually landing in an internment camp adjacent to a Japanese airfield.

By 1945 he is no longer Jamie, but Jim, a rough lad learning to survive among the mixed multitude in captivity.  Jim can hold his own, having grown accustomed to lying, stealing, cheating, and other mischief.  His innocence dies bit by bit, not only through the tribulations of war, but through betrayal by men he trusts.  Yet Suo Gân remains with him.  One morning he awakens to see Japanese aviators participating in the ceremony of the kamikaze.  Jim comes to attention, salutes, and sings the lullaby in tribute to these men who will soon die in the service of their Emperor.  Their deaths come more quickly than expected.  At that instant, American P-51 Mustangs, the “Cadillac of the sky”, attack, rapidly transforming the airfield into a smoking ruin.  In their wake Jim pauses to consider the dreadful price he has paid to survive.  With despair he confesses, “I can’t remember what my parents look like.”

At war’s end Jim finds himself in an orphanage among children awaiting reunion with their parents.  Tears of joy flow, but he stands in shocked silence.  His father passes by, not recognizing the hardened youth as the beloved, if rebellious, child he knew.  It is his mother who sees him, first as the Jamie she loved, then as the Jim she does not know how to love, and finally as a young man with gaping wounds in his soul who desperately needs the healing that only a parent’s love can bring.  He looks into her face and four years of pain and death wash away in peace beyond hope – the peace promised in the strains of Suo Gân.

BFB150926 Suo GanAll Jim can remember is the song, but it is enough to set him on the path of healing and reconciliation.  So it is with the exiled, destitute people of YHVH.  He also gave a song to them – a song that would carry them through time to peace beyond hope:

Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.  (Deuteronomy 31:21 NASB)

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When Presidents Speak Prophecy

Mount McKinley, now named Denali, is the tallest peak in North America and is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)
Mount McKinley, now named Denali, is the tallest peak in North America and is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Photo: Becky Bohrer, AP)

What does it matter to the world if the President of the United States decrees a change to the name of North America’s highest mountain peak?  Perhaps it is merely a tempest in a teapot, ultimately signifying nothing of importance.  Or perhaps it is far more significant than we may imagine.

For 98 years Americans have referred to the highest mountain on the continent as Mount McKinley.  It is not the original name of the mountain.  Since time immemorial the Athabaskan people of Alaska have named it Denali, which means Great One in their language.  In 1896, a gold prospector in Alaska attached the name McKinley to the mountain, thus declaring support for William McKinley of Ohio, the man who would be elected as the twenty-fifth President of the United States later that year.  Since then a controversy has bubbled along regarding the name of the peak, with native Alaskans asserting the original name, and most other Americans who bothered to think about it going along with McKinley.  In 1975, the Alaska Legislature officially requested that the United States Government change the name.  The name of the national park over which the mountain presides was renamed Denali in 1980, but the mountain itself retained the name of McKinley.

Until now, that is.  The administration of President Barrack Obama has announced that the President will use the occasion of his visit to Alaska to bring an end to the dispute and rename the mountain Denali.  Alaskans and many others applaud the change, but others have denounced it, particularly the Congressional delegation from McKinley’s home state.  Ironically, the entire Alaskan Congressional delegation and most of the Ohio delegation are Republicans, a fact that renders meaningless any charges that this is a political decision by President Obama, a Democrat.  Yet it is political, as is everything that a sitting president does.  And it is also prophetic.

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I

When Empires Die was originally published June 28-July 28, 2014, as a six-part series.  The original six part format is accessible here.

I.  THE ROAD TO SARAJEVO

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910

The world took a giant step toward death on June 28, 1914.  On that day a young atheist shot and killed a prominent Catholic and his wife in an obscure Southeast European city.  Within five years, four world empires were dismembered and two new ones arose in their place.  Within 40 years, three more global empires breathed their last as the new world system spawned in 1914 grew to maturity.  Today, one hundred years later, that world system wheezes with its own death rattle, soon to expire in the process of giving birth to yet another global system which may be the last – and worst – of its kind.

As a historian, a political scientist, a soldier, and an intelligence professional, I cannot let the centennial of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination pass without pausing to remember what his life and death meant to the world.  The circumstances that brought the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, to Sarajevo, Bosnia, are not difficult to explain, but to understand the significance of their deaths, both in their day and in ours, requires a detailed explanation.  If that explanation seems too focused on Europe, the simple reason is that Europe in 1914 ruled the entire world.  No nation outside Europe – neither ancient India, nor populous China, nor even the rising powers of America and Japan – was immune to events that shook the state system of the Continent.  If we are to know why the world went to war in 1914, we must look at the major players of that state system.  Only then can we begin to discern what happened to the world in the summer of 1914, and what is happening to the world now in the summer of 2014.

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