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.
The 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.
What 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?
The “Jewish” High Holy Days begin at sundown on September 24, 2014, with Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. It is also called Rosh HaShanah, the Head of the Year. Many people call it the “Jewish New Year”. But what exactly is this festive day? And should Christians even care about this “Jewish” holiday?
According to Hebrew understanding, Yom Teruah is the day God completed His work of creation by making human beings, the crowning achievement of His work. In the agricultural cycle of the Ancient Near East, where the Bible was written, this day points toward completion of the growing season when the long-expected “latter rains” come. It is the completion of the civil year, a tradition even the United States government has adopted. These are all good reasons for God to command His people to set this day apart by blowing trumpets and observing a special Sabbath day of rest.
Yet there are some confusing things about Yom Teruah. This “Head of the Year” happens on the first day of the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. One would expect that the New Year would be in the first month, but God Himself directed that the first month would be in the spring (Exodus 12:1-2). That month, called Nisan or Abib in Hebrew, is the month of three great feasts of the Lord: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. In that time long ago God delivered His people Israel from bondage in Egypt. Yet the First Month is not the same as the Head of the Year in the Seventh Month, Tishrei. Both months have prophetic significance according to God’s plan for the redemption and restoration of His creation. Through the Feasts celebrated in these months the Lord tells a prophetic story. In the First Month He redeems and delivers His people, and in the Seventh He restores them. One might say He is pressing the reset button to get things back to the way they were before sin caused all this trouble. But why is this “Jewish” feast of Yom Teruah, or any of these “Jewish” feasts, important to Christians?
The answer to that is quite simple: These are not Jewish feasts.
One of the most familiar Bible stories is that of Yeshua (Jesus) feeding the five thousand. This amazing and encouraging story is the only one of Messiah’s miracles recorded in all four gospels. Since all four gospel writers deemed this event significant, there must be some deeper meaning to it than is apparent in a casual reading. Yeshua demonstrated His compassion and ability to meet human needs, but He also taught His disciples a valuable lesson in faith and in doing the will of God. By satisfying the hunger of 5,000 men and the women and children with them, Yeshua brought the Kingdom of God into their midst in ways none of them had experienced before, and He did so in a demonstration of Holy Spirit power. What more could there be to the feeding of the five thousand than this? Much indeed. In this one miracle, Yeshua provided a sign of His Messiahship, a teaching on the seven thousand year plan of God, and a prophecy about the end of this age.
This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.
Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue. Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it. Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.
My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries. The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This journey is beset with many openings for offense. Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended. I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.
This is the first of a series comparing the words of Yeshua and Paul regarding the Law (Torah) of God.
Should God Have The Last Word?
A very strange thing happens when I encounter others who share with me a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ (Messiah Yeshua), but do not share the same regard for all the commandments of the Lord. These brothers and sisters do have regard for His commandments, but draw a line at things like observing Sabbath on the day God specified, keeping the Feasts of the Lord, and eating only the foods God placed on the menu. The strange thing is the reactions that come with the understanding that we have disagreement on these points. Sometimes the reaction is silence, as if some of the brethren just want to make the issue go away by ignoring it. Sometimes they react in disbelief, wondering how I can be “bound up” in all that old Law. This perception of the Law, or Torah, as bondage comes from what people think they know of Judaism and of the Jewish practices Yeshua and the Apostles addressed in the Scriptures. For example, one person indicated she considered it bondage to legalism when a Jewish friend of hers had to cut short a phone conversation to prepare for Sabbath. There is a vast difference between what God commanded about Sabbath and the excessive regulations added by Rabbinical Judaism, but I wonder if by the standard of this particular example it is also legalism to cut short a phone conversation to prepare for church on Sunday.
This is the second in a two part series on why Christians should celebrate the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
The Real Passover Timeline
Christian tradition says Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. However, that is not quite right. Jesus Himself explained that He had to be three days and three nights in the grave, according to the sign of Jonah which He gave to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-42 and Luke 11:29-32. Here is how that worked:
This is the first in a two part series on why Christians should celebrate the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
What is Passover?
Passover this year begins at sundown on Monday, April 14 According to Scripture, all of God’s people should be celebrating Passover. As explained in Leviticus 23, the Passover season consists of three distinct feasts: Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Matzot), and First Fruits. Here is what God said about them: Please click here to continue reading
A Jewish friend once told me that in some Jewish circles the way to celebrate Purim is to drink so much at the party that it becomes difficult to distinguish Esther from Haman. I have not been to such a Purim party, but I do understand (thanks to certain indiscretions in my misspent youth) what it means to forget what happened at a party. It seems to me that God wanted His people to observe the events of Purim, but probably not in that particular way.
This is the second in a two-part series offering a Hebraic view of the miracle of feeding the five thousand.
But what is the connection of fish with Yeshua? To understand that, we must delve into jots and tittles. Yeshua brings these things to our attention:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading
This is the first in a two-part series offering a Hebraic view of the miracle of feeding the five thousand.
One of the most familiar Bible stories is that of Yeshua (Jesus) feeding the five thousand. This amazing and encouraging story is the only one of Messiah’s miracles recorded in all four gospels. Since all four gospel writers deemed this event significant, there must be some deeper meaning to it than is apparent in a casual reading. Yeshua demonstrated His compassion and ability to meet human needs, but He also taught His disciples a valuable lesson in faith and in doing the will of God. By satisfying the hunger of 5,000 men and the women and children with them, Yeshua brought the Kingdom of God into their midst in ways none of them had experienced before, and He did so in a demonstration of Holy Spirit power. What more could there be to the feeding of the five thousand than this? Much indeed. In this one miracle, Yeshua provided a sign of His Messiahship, a teaching on the seven thousand year plan of God, and a prophecy about the end of this age. Please click here to continue reading